Continuation of Karat Romance #8.
“People always make time for who or what is important to them,”
I don’t know which side of the fence I stand on in regards to the aforementioned quote. Somedays I am overwhelmed with work and myself, that I spend any free time for myself instead of socialising — be it virtually or physically.
Stephen reached a point of Busy that it’d take a couple of days for him to reply to my texts, so, whenever my friends asked about him, I’d have very little updates to share with them since my material was limited. This made them a little less optimistic about him, of course.
“If he was really interested, he would make time,”
“Yeah, if he really wanted to talk to you, he wouldn’t take this long to reply you,”
So, I did what any other person in my situation who was terrified by the idea of actually asking the person they were infatuated by what was up would do: I put myself in his shoes.
But it didn’t work.
There’s no way I could see things from his perspective because I was still looking at it from my eyes — worse yet, I was making conclusions using my brain — and you have followed these stories long enough to know that it isn’t wired properly.
At this point of us knowing of each other’s existence, I hadn’t completely made up my mind if I did have deeper feelings for him or if it was just a crush. Sure, I was attracted to him but I wasn’t doing anything that was unhealthy, i.e: overthinking, overcompensating — if anything, I felt I was under performing.
A good friend of mine always encourages crushes and stresses to erase any ideas of a relationship, because we should “just have fun with it,” but I can’t do that.
This is a flaw. I latch on to a person that makes me feel better than I am capable of doing by myself. I then begin to hope for him to stick around so I don’t have to deal with myself on my own but he doesn’t. It’s not his error, though, this is my flaw; and I don’t know how to make peace with it.
Stephen’s never given me any reason to doubt his intentions — mainly because he does not hesitate to speak his mind. So, I was assured from the first time we met that he wasn’t one who fancied playing the toxic game that is manipulation.
Whenever he didn’t text back, I didn’t immediately think he didn’t care enough to want me around. However, after speaking to a few friends about it, paired with my ridiculously high self-esteem, I started to give into the idea that, “yeah, maybe I’m not interesting enough for him to think about.”
Self-inflicted pain is the worst one to heal.
Not only does one-half of your brain say “but the problem isn’t you,” the other part goes, “but it has to be because if not you then who?”
To intensify the situation just a little more than it already is, it’s not like I could have just picked up the phone to call this person I met merely a year ago to ask him for assurance that his absence was because he was busy and not because I was not an attractive Asian girl. I refrained from doing this because I didn’t want him to think (or know, rather) that I was a different kind of crazy. So, I dealt with it on my own.
I dealt with it the best way I know how: put it in a box, keep it in the back of your mind until it doesn’t hurt anymore.
I called him a few weeks after he got his results for the exam to check if he had passed or not. It’s no surprise that he did, of course. He then suggested we meet since the last time we saw each other was close to a century ago — okay, I’m exaggerating…half a century.
He asked if I had another happy place besides Bangsar, so I suggested Kinokuniya.
There’s a running joke — but it’s not funny because it’s a fact — in my family that if nobody was able to find me, they should look in Kinokuniya.
There’s something very comforting about being surrounded by books. Although that can’t say the same once I head to the cashier with 5 books in hand, it’s still a place that cheers me up like no other one can.
He said that’d be perfect, ‘cos he wanted me to try an expensive cup of teh tarik since we constantly binged on tea together. Coincidentally, this place was also located in KLCC.
Once again, I was nervous as all hell to see him.
He was part of a league that I could only dream of being in. He carried himself the way executives at JPMorgan Chase would do; his idea of a good time included using brain power while mine meant having one too many cosmopolitans.
I’m not selling myself short, but I couldn’t disregard the different lifestyles we both practiced.
I was browsing through the literature section in Kinokuniya, making notes of all the Murakami books I had not read yet — it was my 2015 goal to have read at least 10 of his stories — when a familiar voice asked if his books were any good.
“You’ve not read any?”
“No, I usually read business or self-help books.”
“Stephen, are you joking?”
“No… should I be?”
“I am going to faint.”
“(laughs) So, which is your favourite?”
“South of the Border, West of the Sun. The line “But I didn’t understand then. That I could hurt somebody so badly she would never recover. That a person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair,” will be in my heart forever.”
“Okay, I’ll get it.”
“Yeah, I want to get to know what you like,”
We then headed to Aseana Café Bar to try an overpriced glass of teh tarik. But before I get into how dreamy this day was, I must entertain you with another story.
I have mentioned at least once in my previous Karat Romance stories that the Universe uses me as its comedic relief, here’s why I am convinced that is the case.
When we were ready to order, Stephen waved for the attention of the waiter to attend to us, the waiter walked over and Stephen listed what we’d like for tea, however, this guy paid no attention to Stephen. My focus was solely on the menu throughout their exchange but I could feel the waiter staring at me, I turned to look at his face and it was my ex-boyfriend from high school.
Yes, of course, it had to be this person I swore I would love until the end of time when I was 15, but then broke up a year later because I realised we were on different paths.
The waiter/my ex-boyfriend repeated our orders and briskly walked off into the sunset that was Aseana’s kitchen. Stephen, obviously unaware of the history this boy and I shared, joked about the hostility being caused by me going out with someone out of my race.
“Maybe he didn’t like seeing you with me, you know because you’re an Indian girl sitting with a Chinese guy,”
“No, it’s not that,”
“I’m sure it is because –“
“We used to date (laughs)”
“Say that again?”
“Yeah, a long time ago — like when I was in high school,”
“It’s true, my dating history is pretty colourful, but thankfully a lot has changed since then,”
“Yeah, like at least you’re with a banker now (laughs),”
I see how pretentious that could have come off as but trust me when I say he meant it as a joke — but he wasn’t wrong.
I was not (immediately) attracted to boys who thought the best relationships were the ones that consumed a person, made them feel handicapped without their partner or had no proper plans for the future anymore; I was attracted to this guy.
I liked what he brought to the table — often times it was tea, a good book, and humour — and I wanted to sit there for as long as I could.
But this is me, it never works out in my favour. Or could it?
Karat Romance #10 will be up sometime next month. Until then, follow the writer on Instagram at @rathikasheila.