Continuation of Karat Romance #6.
Turns out, my friend told Stephen that I wasn’t feeling the peachiest, so, he thought it was appropriate to send me a little motivation.
“Success is determined on how much effort is put into what we’re working on,” the text read.
Before I could hit send to my carefully composed “who dis” message, I received another text saying, “Hey, it’s Stephen, just wanted to check in to make sure everything was okay.”
This weirded me out for two reasons: #1 he was concerned about me and #2 he remembered my existence.
I don’t have terribly low self-esteem but let’s just say that if a guy reciprocated to my not-so-platonic feelings, I’d immediately think one of his friends dared him to take me out on a date.
Anyways, going back to Stephen’s text, I appreciated the random act of virtual kindness.
We texted regularly after that but our schedules hardly synced for us to meet. After months of sending each other jokes and attempting to get to know one another via Whatsapp, we had the same day off.
Fun fact #1601 about me: I love spending my Saturday mornings in Bangsar.
It’s a great place to people watch, treat myself to Devi’s nasi lemak, have my face threaded of all the excess hair that my genetics blessed me with (#CurryScentedBitchProblems), and catching up with the fast world of publishing seems easier to accomplish at The Daily Grind over a bottle of cider. “Real” alcohol consumption can only start after lunch.
He didn’t feel the same about my happy place, though.
He said it’s “where people with sticks up their asses go to feel better about themselves.”
Sure, that’s a valid point because there are many of those type of individuals around the area. However, I persuaded him to get to know Telawi in the mornings to be able to see what I see.
I suggested we meet at Devi’s at that crack of dawn — in my world that means 10 a.m. — but I was slightly nervous. I hadn’t seen this person for almost a year, and even though we had pleasant conversations over the phone, that didn’t guarantee that it would happen in real life.
But thank ‘Ye, it went better than I expected.
He mentioned that he was single but was working on winning the trust of his ex-girlfriend back — he didn’t cheat on her but he couldn’t keep his promise of spending time with her. This is because he was consumed with work and she couldn’t put up with his absence any longer.
By the time he concluded the story of his breakup, his face was polishing Devi’s floor whereas mine resembled a sad puppy.
Breakups are hardly ever easy to get over, especially when it’s with someone you wanted to spend the rest of your life with.
Nobody wishes this upon anyone they care about. Since this guy was somewhat of a cheerleader when I wasn’t feeling the most motivated, it was only fair for me to do the same for him.
Stephen is someone who wouldn’t hesitate to pay a little more for something that had guaranteed durability. Coincidentally, there was a market dedicated to handcrafted goods and independent businesses in Bangsar Village on that same day.
Seeing as how we both needed a bit of retail therapy, I thought it’d be a good idea to check it out.
His face was brighter than a Christmas tree just looking at everything on display at the market.
There were tons of vendors selling everything from stationery, leather goods, skincare products to some even giving demonstrations on letterpress and calligraphy.
I’m the worst person to take to a bookstore or a stationery shop because I will buy shit that I won’t use immediately. Yet I convince myself that I will in the future aka I am a potential hoarder. I walked straight to the table that had stacks of planners on it and began flipping through each one.
“What are you looking for?”
“I need a planner but I want one that isn’t dated and has ample space so I can use it as much as I like — ooh this one is pretty, right?”
“Yeah, it’s a pretty colour too. Do you want it?”
“Yeah, I’ll get it when we’re about to leave. Let’s check out the calligraphy!”
We head over to Inez Tan’s booth and Stephen was captivated by her handwriting. I asked if she could write his name, and she did, of course.
She wrote it using the most beautiful shade of metallic gold ink I’d ever seen — I think I was more excited about it than he was but then again, my middle name is Easily Amused. Hence, I am guaranteed to be more enthusiastic.
By this time, I had completely forgotten about the planner. We were done browsing through every booth and proceeded to exit the market space.
My bank account was pleased.
I turned to look for Stephen, who then passed me a paper bag. Inside was the planner I had looked at and the card that Inez wrote his name on.
I was trés confused.
“What is this?”
“It’s the one you wanted right?”
“Yeah, but why did you get it for me?”
“Because I knew you wanted it — and knew you’d forget to buy it because you’d be distracted by everything else happening here,”
“Very funny. And the card?”
“You can think about me every time you see it.”
“Now, before you begin arguing with me about paying for it, do you like dessert?”
“Let me take you to this restaurant that serves pretty good tea and Italian desserts,”
I didn’t ask any questions because who the fuck refuses desserts?!
We walked over to Palazzo Viva in Telawi 2. I fell in love with it after seeing all its pastries and chocolates displayed across a counter — a counter big enough for 5 people to lie down on, mind you.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating but everything was laid out so beautifully, I could have stared at (and eaten) the desserts forever.
“You have the task of choosing the desserts, I’ll get us a pot of tea,”
“What do you like?”
“It doesn’t matter, choose what you like and we’ll share it,”
As I attempt to complete the challenging task of selecting something he would not disapprove of, it hit me that I was having what was possibly the most civilised date in my 23 years of living.
Here is the girl whose most romantic date up to this point in her life was having beers at a taman. Now she’s sharing a pot of tea with someone who seemed like his worst trait was that he worked too much.
Just as I thought he wouldn’t be able to intrigue me anymore, he hit me with a, “What’s the last book you read?”
So, not only does he play squash, is ambitious, loves his family, dresses well, has great taste in food and fashion, he also reads?!
This wasn’t happening. I don’t meet guys like this.
Take me back to guys who thought replying a text message after two days was healthy, ‘cos this isn’t a scene I was used to.
“I was reading a book that explored women’s insecurities. It said that no matter how good a woman feels about herself, there’s always a time where she feels like she’s not as good as she is. Like, when a guy watches porn, they look at the girl whereas if a girl watches porn, she looks at both guy and girl because the woman in the video is who men fantasise to be with, so, they feel like that’s what they have to live up to too. Do you think that’s true?”
“Yeah, it happens. Sometimes it’s not very easy to get over ‘cos those thoughts haunt you whether you allow them to or not, you know?”
“And not having a good support system doesn’t help either, right? It’s crazy how much women have to deal with — how do you do it? Guys are terrible,”
“No, they’re not –”
“We kind of are — we are attracted to what our dicks like and sometimes that means not being interested in the coolest girl in the room which sometimes makes girls feel like they’re not good enough, but it’s really not the girl’s problem,”
“Do you think you’re terrible?”
“I couldn’t even make time for my girlfriend because I was busy working, so, you tell me,”
He poured the last bit of tea into my cup and said, “I really hope you don’t succumb to your insecurities or what the voices in your head say to you because you deserve better,”
Before I could think of a response, he excused himself from the table to pay for the bill.
I was uncomfortable with the gesture since he had already taken care of breakfast and bought me a planner. So, I asked if we could go Dutch at least.
“I don’t have plans to travel to New York in the near future, but you do, so save money wherever you can. I’m glad to have spent time with you,”
As someone who has met guys that are as interesting as lectures every student sitting for SPM has to endure, his kindness and attentiveness were very new to me.
For once, I felt like I had met someone on my wavelength. And I didn’t know what to make of it.
Yes, the title is a Queen reference. Karat Romance #8 will be out next month if you ask nicely. Follow the writer on Instagram at @lxxvi__.