Saturday, November 2, 2013

Chapter 27


 *

As the sun disappears from the sky, the bright lights of my beautiful city come alive. The buildings burst into their neon glow and the streetlamps turned the roads of Kuala Lumpur into living, breathing veins and arteries. The flash of headlights and brake-lights danced their way along these roads, and Kuala Lumpur’s night crowd begin to throng it’s streets.
It was Saturday, after all.
Down Jalan Bukit Bintang, the people were an eclectic mix; rich Arabs, tired looking Bangladeshi and Burmese workers, and China doll hookers selling their wares from stair-wells. Local kids, wet in the ear but already acting like they knew the world, joined into this crowd.
My city sings and dances with it’s people in an never-ending waltz and bump and grind.
Yet here I am, on a park bench in KLCC. I’ve been sitting here for the past… 4 hours? 5 hours? It must have been that long, since the sun was gone and above me, the skies were darker gray and blue with starlight trying hard to shine through. I was unaware of all the flurry of activity around me; people still walked this park at night, of course.
But I didn’t see them. I seemed to have zoned out and left the world behind. It was like I could see myself from above, a man, sitting alone, with a bouquet of flowers by his side on the bench he was on. A man sitting still, unmoving, one could almost believe he was one of those wax-model street performers.
Only if one would look into his face and see the reds rimming his eyes, would one understand.
I didn’t even feel the fatigue of sitting in one spot for hours. All I could feel right now was that blinding, crushing pain. It was so large it made everything else insignificant by comparison. My mind was still trying hard to comprehend the words I heard coming from her. Actually, not comprehend: I fully understood all she meant.
It didn’t mean I could accept them though.
So I sat.
Alone.
Unbelieving but having to.


4 – 5 hours earlier
“I am getting married, Dhani. To a man, the son of my father’s friend, whom I’ve known for quite some time since we were little. They came over to merisik a month ago, and my family accepted. I accepted,” Damia said.
I was stunned to silence, and it immediately felt like someone had stabbed me with a rusty knife between my ribs and was merrily sawing through my heart. I looked at her, and I could feel my lip quivering and my hands starting to tremble. The enormity of what she just said seemed to have borne its full weight on my heart.
I looked into her eyes to determine if she was bluffing. She looked directly back at me, her grey eyes watery but lovely, pools of serenity in the waves of emotion on her face. I looked to see a hint of a lie, a trick, a deception. But all I saw was a steely, frightening resolve.
She wasn’t lying.
“You’re not lying,” I said. “Please tell me you are.”
“No, I’m not. I wouldn’t,” she said.
“Damia, NO!” I said. I fought hard to resist the panic surging through my veins. I tried to reach for her hands but she flinched and got up on her feet.
“Dhani, please,” she said. “Don’t. Just, don’t.”
I stood up as well. “You can’t do this, Sayang. You can’t.”
She squinted her eyes, queerly, at me. “I can, Dhani. And I will. It is my life, Dhani. I get to make the decisions concerning it.”
“Damia, I love you. I have been waiting months for you. I’ve been wishing damn hard for us to be together again.”
“The best plans of Mice and Men often go astray.”
“I don’t care about the plans of other men! I care about you, only you. Damia, you can’t do this to me.”
“I’m not doing anything to you, Dhani. I am doing what I think is best for myself, for my future.”
“How do you know it is for the best?”
She looked at me. “Because I must.”
“Then,” I said. “Why can’t ‘for the best’ include me in it?”
“Dhani,” Damia said. “I’ve told you earlier. I cannot un-learn what I’ve learned about you. The way you were, the way you’ve treated women. How could I believe you’ve changed, and that you no longer see women as objects? When I found out about who you were, Dhani, my whole perception of you, of us, changed. I couldn’t get past the doubt.”
But I have changed!! Look at me! Look how I’ve pined for you and waited for you! Look!” I hissed, trying to keep my voice as low as I could as to not attract too much attention. There were already some people looking and pointing our way.
“The man I’m marrying is a good man,” Damia said, seemingly ignoring my words. “He is a doctor, a UIA graduate as I was; he is a family person, God-loving, God-fearing. He is… he is someone I believe will be a good family head, and a good father to my children.”
I glared at her. “Your point being?”
“My point being,” Damia. “I do not see that in you.”
That hurt me more than I thought it could. “But I can be that guy; I can be who you want me to be.”
“You can’t, Dhani,” Damia said. “It’s not who you are. Changing yourself for another person is not a good thing. It’s superficial. And this man is already the man you say you want to change into.”
“But do you love him then?” I said. “Do you love him like I know you love me?”
Damia turned away from me. She looked at the Twin Towers. “Love isn’t the answer to everything, Dhani. Sometimes love is the problem,” she said. Then she turned to back to me. “He might not be the man I love, or want. But he is the man I need right now. And I didn’t come here to negotiate, Dhani. I came here to tell you, as I wanted to be honest. I wanted this to be over with so both of us can move on with our lives. I know I am.”
“What if this is a mistake, Damia?” I challenged her, but there was no conviction in my voice.
“Then one day I’ll learn from it. I said I didn’t want to repeat my mistakes. But I have faith; I don’t have doubts that this is what needs to be done so I can let go of all my past, and start anew.”
Damia came closer to me. “I’m sorry, Dhani Ibrahim,” she said. “I have to go. Take care, and goodbye.”
With that, she just left. I had nothing more to say. So I sat down, with my head between my knees.
And wept.


Now as night came into full-swing, I finally got off the bench. My buttocks were sore and I felt tired and hungry. My eyes hurt. I still couldn't believe this turn of events. I wanted to believe this was all just some fucking dream and none of this ever happened.
I wished I never met Damia.
I wished that I never took her out.
I wished we didn’t talk.
I wished that I had worked somewhere else, even, so I didn’t come to get to know her.
I wished for a lot of things that could have happened so I didn’t have to had fallen in love with her this hard. I wish I could just have gone on being the Dhani Ibrahim that fucked left and right and didn’t give a shit about love.
More than anything, I wished I could still be with her now.
What now, Dhani? 
What now?


*

Friday, November 1, 2013

Chapter 26


 *

Days turned into weeks, and the weeks snowballed into months. And within this time, I have very little from Damia. What I do hear from her are things I don’t want to hear; ‘K’, ‘Thx’ and worst of all, ‘I wanna be alone for now.’
No amount of sighing or wallowing in self pity is going to fix all that. I truly have run out of things to do. There are no flowers, or messages, or attempts at romance that seem to be working. But I refuse to give up, because I know, I fucking know, that she loves me. And as long as I believe in that, I will not stop.
Nissa thinks otherwise, of course. “You should though, Dhani,”  she told me one day over lunch. “This isn’t doing you any good. Please don’t be that guy.”
“What guy?” I asked, more defensively than I intented.
Nissa flung her hands up. “This! Moping, sullen. It’s not you. The Dhani I know is confident and sassy and smart, and takes care of himself.”
“Maybe I’m not that Dhani anymore, then,” I said.
“No. You still are. You just need to get out of this… this rut, you’re in. Come on. Bunga bukan sekuntum.”
I knew that. But it doesn’t change the fact that Damia is the only bunga I want right now.
If only she would say something, at least.


On Saturday I woke up groggily to see the sun was already up and getting hot; a quick glance at my bedside clock showed it to be almost noon, and apparently I had slept through the alarm. Not for the first time in recent times, either. This is so unlike me. I used to spend my Saturdays up and ready by the break of dawn, with a girl (or two) by my side. I’d wake up, look at that nude body next to me and either wake her up so I can send her home, or giving her a good-morning-fuck as a ‘thank you’ before sending her home. Then I would shower, go for a jog or a swim, or hit the gym to work out a little before running some chores or shopping. Then when the day gave in to night I would be out hunting again, ready for the next pussy to bring home and let my lust take over.
But for the past few months, while I pitifully wallowed in this maudlin coccoon, I have been waking up late, never before sunrise and many times after 12pm or 1pm. I’d spend half an hour in bed playing with my phone, trying to get to Damia, then I’d shower, eat something I’m actually too lazy to prepare, then take another nap. When night comes I ride or drive around aimlessly in Kuala Lumpur, stopping by bars for one drink too many, and I’d stare at all the stupidfucking young couples who walk hand in hand, so clearly in love. I felt this profound disdain for them and their happy lives. A malevolent, pregnant sort of envy would fill my heart and I find myself inwardly cursing these people: WhythefuckareyousohappywhileI’msittingherewishingIwaswiththegirlofmydreamsyoufuckingidiots… and it goes on. Then I’d just go back, and sleep. I wouldn’t even be in the mood to jerk off, because even when I tr, instead of thinking about some unlikely sexy situation, I’d end up thinking about Damia, and start to wonder what it’s like to be hers, and to be with her, and what would her breasts taste like and what would she feel like down there if I were to touch her, and to have sex with her, and that’d make me feel so ashamed I’d just lose the mood and fall asleep instead.
So it was this morning. I rubbed the gum out of my eyes and stretched, trying to smooth out the kinks in my joints. I checked my phone and there was one message. From Damia. I fumbled and dropped the phone, cursing loudly.
Dhani, the message said. I checked the time and it showed the message was sent about 10am, a couple of hours ago. Should I call her? After deliberation, I decided not to. I needed to play it cool, even if inside, my heart was racing like mad.
Damia, was all I replied. My hands felt clammy and a knot formed in my stomach. Soon, she replied.
Can I see you? She said. We need to talk.
I was overjoyed, but cautious. Perhaps she’s come to her senses and ready to be with me again? I sure hoped so. But I needed to be careful and not show her how desperate I was to see her.
Of course. Where and when?
Bzzt. KLCC. 3pm. Where we used to meet. Is that alrite? I’ll drive myself.
I took this as a good sign. Where we used to meet. Surely that’s a good sign? A good place to rekindle a romance. I replied yes to her and immediately showered and shaved afresh. I dressed in this light blue shirt she had given me, and a pair of white jeans with white sneakers. I decided to ride my bike over, and reached that bench overlooking the fountain at KLCC park two hours earlier than the agreed time. I decided to buy her a bouquet of flowers (lame) and just wait. I needed to gather my thoughts and contain my eagerness.
A couple of hours later I saw her walking towards me. She was in a light olive green hijab, as usual wrapped artfully around her head neck, and a pretty long sleeved white blouse matched to a wide green belt with an oversized buckle and black jeans. She looked tall and splendid. As she came up to me I saw the black camisole she wore beneath the blouse, and the turqouise straps of her bra. She looked pale, and, like me, seemed to have lost some weight. Her lips were pale pink, but the swirly greys of her eyes were as beautiful as ever. I cannot fathom how I have gone by a few months not seeing her. I felt a pang of hurt when I realized I missed her so much.
I handed her the bouquet of flowers, sheepishly. I tried to smile but it came out as a grimace instead.
“Thank you, Dhani,” she said, in that husky, sexy voice I had come to know and love. She took it, but seemed very indifferent. I couldn’t tell her emotions, as she avoided looking at me directly in the eye.
There was this silence between us that I found not settling at all. I could almost feel the ambient temperature surrounding us drop a few degrees. It was so unlike… unlike, before, when we were happier. Back then, I’d feel warm and loved the moment I saw her face, let alone when we linked hands or when she’d put her head on my shoulder. Now it’s like an invisible forcefield (I have no other way of saying this) has enveloped her and prevented the love she has (I know she has!) from reaching me.
“How have you been, Sa--, I mean, Damia?” I asked, trying to start a conversation. The words seemed to stutter and stumble from my mouth.
“Okay. I’ve been okay. Let’s take a seat, please,” she said and sat down on the bench. I watched to my dismay as she just placed the bouquet I gave her on the bench, without really caring for it. I dropped myself beside her, close, but she coolly shuffled away. Another pang of hurt struck my heart.
“Alright,” I said, clasping my hands together. People passed us by; families, groups of friends and couples, all strolling around the park on a balmy Saturday afternoon. What did they see when they looked at us? A couple, fighting? A couple, in love? I had no way of telling, because, truthfully, I had no idea what we were too.
“I missed you Damia,” I said, not able to hold it in anymore. “So much.” I tried to touch her hand but she pulled away, albeit hesitantly. My heart sank, again.
“I know, Dhani,” she said. Another awkward silence.
“We used to come here a lot, right?” I said, motioning to the park. “After work, you and me. We’d come here with drinks and snacks and just… be with each other.”
Damia sat quiet. She seemed to be furiously thinking about something; but she said not a word. She just sort of just clammed up, and refused to speak anything. She wouldn’t even look my way.
“Damia,” I said. “Please. I thought you said we needed to talk. But you’re not even looking my way.”
This time she turned to me. Her grey eyes were rimmed with tears, but through some force of will, they didn’t fall. I didn’t know what to make of it; did she miss me, hate me, was angry at me?
“Damia, come on. Talk. I’ll even stop the whole ‘I miss’ thing if you would just talk.”
She seemed to consider this, and bit her lip. She turned herself to face me, her small hands fiddling with the edge of her blouse.
“Dhani,” she started. “I am sorry for everything that has happened in the past few months. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
This was good, I thought. I let her go on.
“And I also want you to know,” she said, “that I forgive you for everything as well. We’re human, Dhani, we make mistakes. I make mistakes.”
I nodded, encouraging her. Maybe my hopes were not in vain. My heart was pounding like a hammer on anvil.
“These past few months, I’ve been doing just that: going over mistakes. Thinking about them. About why I made them, why it happened. And I have come to understand that I couldn’t run away from them. They’re done, and whatever has happened today, to me, you, to us, is a direct result of those past mistakes.”
I couldn’t tell where this was going. But I let her speak, if only just because this is the first time in months she’s actually speaking to me.
“What I can do with my life—no, with our lives, is to not repeat those mistakes. Do you understand me, Dhani?” This time she held my hands, and the touch of her skin on mine was pure ecstacy to me. I savored the way her tiny, slim fingers slipped so easily between mine. Maybe this was going somewhere good. God I hope it’s going somewhere good. From what she’s said, I was beginning to believe she wanted a fresh start for both of us. And for a split-second I saw myself changing for her; becoming a better man, a better human being, for her sake. For our sakes. That’s what she said, right? Our lives. I began to feel the fire of hope rekindle inside me. Damia was looking into my eyes, and as ever, I drowned in hers.
“I understand, Damia,” I said, and brought up her hands to my lips to kiss them. But she pulled away.
She pulled away.
“Dhani, I no longer want to repeat my mistakes,” she said, and brought her hands to her heart. This time, tears did fall down. “And this is why I came here, to see you, to tell you, that I cannot be with you, Dhani. I cannot. I cannot un-learn what I’ve learned about you, and even if I forgive it, I cannot forget it, and it gnaws at me so much. You were a mistake, Dhani. A beautiful mistake, and one I don’t want to bear the rest of my life. And I’m moving on Dhani. I came here to say goodbye.”
I was too stunned, too shocked to hear all this. Too shocked to even say a word. I could almost see my walls come crumbling down, burning down and falling into ashes. I just sat there, my mouth slightly agape, and looked at her.
But she wasn’t done.
“I am getting married, Dhani. To a man, the son of my father’s friend, whom I’ve known for quite some time since we were little. They came over to merisik a month ago, and my family accepted. I accepted.”
The pain was blinding, crushing. It was all I could feel.
Pain.

*

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chapter 25


*

How do you win back the heart of the girl you love?
Sacrifice? Re-building trust? Proof of dedication and loyalty?
I decided it would be all of those.
I needed to win Damia’s heart back. I needed to be inside her love again, where we were just a few months ago: happy, contented and looking forward to a tomorrow we could build together. I needed to be there, with her, and bring her towards the future where both of us could leave all the shit we’ve gone through behind, and just spend the rest of our lives in each others arms.
I would ignore her statement that I could get any girl I ever wanted.
I only want her.


I texted and e-mailed Damia everyday. I would wish her good morning, good night and sweet dreams, and I would tell her I missed her and I would be waiting for her. I just wanted to reiterate and re-emphasize that I was there, waiting for her to come back. I wanted to assure and re-assure her that I wasn’t going anywhere, and that I would hold on to this love, and that I would keep faith. I would also send her pictures of us from the months before, always the ones where we’re together, and sometimes just pictures I took of her. There was one particular picture that I had taken as my favorite: it showed Damia, adorable in a pink blouse and light blue hijab, pouting and holding up a little flag that said ‘I’m yours’. I sent her that picture with a text saying, ‘I’m yours.’
She never replied those messages.
Then I started to send her flowers. A bouquet of red roses, with a little card saying “I love you Damia”. I sent them to her home, and this went on for nine days before the florist called me up to say that the house refused to accept anymore, and they didn’t want to waste their delivery men’s time for refusals. I took the hint and quit. It was becoming a bit impractical, I suppose.
I tried calling her, of course. She never answered.
These material endevours might be in folly, you might say. Perhaps you might be right too. But it’s what little I can do to show Damia that I’m here. That I exist, and that I love her truly, and that I no longer am the Dhani Ibrahim of old. I refuse to be compared to her ex-fiancee, and I will defiantly deny her accusation that him and I are the same person.
No, no.
I am in this for real.


I told all about what I’m doing to Nissa one weekend. She listened intently while she prepared lunch for the four of us: white rice, chicken soup (the Twins’ favorite dish), spicy stir fried kangkung, ikan masin goreng. She didn’t say anything, just listened, and nodded to show she was listening.
“So yeah. I’m just doing that, for now. I hope little by little, she’d see that she means so much to me and that I want to be the person she wants me to be,” I said, munching on a piece of fried ikan masin, a habit of mine since I was little. I liked the salty stuff.
“Stop meratah the lauk!” Nissa said. “How is she responding to all this?”
I paused, and swallowed. “She isn’t.”
“At all?” Nissa asked, looking at me with her eyebrows raised.
I shook my head.
“And how long has this been going on?” Nissa asked.
“Couple of weeks. A month,” I said, suddenly feeling a knot forming in my stomach.
“I see. And how long do you plan on doing this?”
“As long as it takes, Nissa. As long as it takes.”
Nissa looked at me thoughtfully while wiping her hands on a kitchen towel. “Dhani, you know you can’t force this, right?”
“I’m not forcing it,” I said, a little defensively.
“It seems to me that you are. Don’t you think you ought to give her some space? I told you this before, but you have to realize it’s not easy for her, you know?”
“But it’s been a damn month,” I said with a sudden vehemence. “A whole damn month. Tak cukup ke?”
“Only a month. A month isn’t enough, Dhani, to quell her doubts, her fears. Believe me, as a woman, I know.”
“Thanks, Nissa, I really needed to hear that. I thought you were supposed to be on my side, and be supportive to me.”
A flash of hurt rose to my sisters eyes, and I realized I had unfairly said that to her. She didn’t say anything, and just turned away and started to clean some dishes. My shoulders slumped, and I sighed.
“Nissa, I didn’t mean to say that. I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m just… angry, and… and… desperate, to get her back. I want her back with me as soon as possible.”
Nissa put away some dishes and stood in front of me. She put both hands on my shoulders, and looked at me eye to eye. It struck me then how alike we are in terms of looks.
“I forgive you for your outburst, because I do understand what you feel,” she said firmly. “You are my brother, Dhani. My only sibling. I love you, and I don’t want to see you get hurt, again. I only speak harsh truths because you need to hear just that: truth. I can’t, and don’t want to, sugar-coat things because it’ll bring you down. You need to be realistic about this.”
I looked down, like a child reprimanded for being disobedient.
“I’m not telling you to give up,” Nissa said. “Nor am I telling you to go all out. You can do whatever you wish, you’re an adult. But as your sister, I am just telling you to be prepared, and to be realistic and strong to face whatever outcome this might bring. I do not want you to float on castles in the sky, only to come crashing down. I’ve seen enough of that happen. Are you listening?”
I nodded, feeling depressed and stupid. Nissa kissed me on the cheek and hugged me. “I do wish every happiness for you, regardless,” she said. “Now let’s eat. The Twins are too quiet and you know that means they’re up to something.”


The following night, after work, I was in an irritable mood. I came home feeling exhausted, and famished, but the thought of eating didn’t cross my mind. I just made myself a cereal drink, downed that in four hot, painful gulps, and tore open a pack of cigarettes and started to chain-smoke at my balcony. I gazed far into my city, not even sure of what I was looking at. I tried to feel her presence in the wind, maybe just a hint of her perfume, but that was fucking stupid thinking. All I smelled was cigarette smoke and ozone. Without realizing it I broke into cold sweat and suddenly started to feel nauseous. I doused my seventh cigarette of the night, calmly walked to the bathroom and vomited whatever there was in my stomach. The acid stung my throat, and the smell was rank. I cursed loudly as I rinsed down the toilet, and then I saw my own reflection and was, for a brief moment, shocked.
I haven’t shaved for two weeks, and now a rough goatee and moustache had taken place. My cheeks were sallow, and I could see my ribs. Have I really forgotten to take care of myself? It seems so, in my thoughts of winning back the heart of Damia. Now I saw even my shirt fit me more loosely, and my trousers had some slack in it. Hating what I saw, I showered, shaved and freshened up. I dressed in a t-shirt and a pair of cotton boxer shorts, and went back to my balcony.
A long, exasperated sigh escaped my lungs. Today, I haven’t messaged Damia yet. I was trying to not try too hard. I was trying to follow Nissa’s advice to ‘be realistic’. But it felt like I wasn’t trying enough. It felt like, with every second that passes where I don’t try to convince Damia, I was losing whatever grip I had left on her. I grasped the railing of my balcony so tight my knuckles turned white; I looked at my hands and imagined Damia’s hands in them. How they had fit so neatly, like a glove. I closed my eyes and images of her flashed by in my head, like a speeded up montage, like turning the pages of an album so quickly you could only ever see flashes and glimpses of memories, and never the whole picture. My mind travelled through time, to those halcyon days I had spent with her in my arms. Then my mind travelled further back, to the time before I even knew her name. Those times when I was still Dhani Ibrahim, Flower Heart.
Those times now seemed so much simpler. And suddenly I felt angry. I felt angry at this sorry, maudlin state I was finding myself in. This pathetic pool I was wallowing in.
“I was fucking fine!” I screamed into the wind, fourteen stories above ground. “I was fucking fine, living my life. I had everything planned out! I had girls, I had time, I had everything I could ever wanted! Then you came along and ruined everything! You came along with your beautiful grey eyes and your smile and you fucking made me fall in love with you when that wasn’t what I fucking wanted!”
I crashed myself on the sofa I kept at the balcony. My eyes still were open now, and I gazed into this emptiness that I had built for myself.
Now I love you and  suddenly you mean everything to me. Now you’re the ONLY thing that I want,” I said, this time whispering into the wind, and wondering if it’d carry these words to the one I was yearning for.

*

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Damia II


*

As soon as the clock struck 0700hrs, Damia pulled on a t-shirt, a simple slip-on hijab, track bottoms and her worn down green hoodie to go for a jog. When she put on her running shoes, she saw how used (‘dilapidated’ even) her they were, and made a mental note to get a new pair. She drove the short distance to Taman Tasik Titiwangsa, her favorite park in the city, and already she saw early-morning runners pacing themselves. This early on, the air of Kuala Lumpur was still cool, still touched on by the breath of last night. A faint breeze even made it chilly, and Damia zipped her hoodie all the way up below her chin.
Damia started to run. She was a good, not great, runner. Back in her school days, she regularly got into the top ten at every annual merentas desa she participated in. She always maintained a steady pace, controlling her breathing, and today was no exception. Damia circled the lake, and within half an hour had already done three laps. A few young male joggers threw her admiring glances, and one even ran up beside her and asked if she wanted to run together. She had politely declined, and stepped up her pace.
Damia wanted to be alone with her thoughts. Staying at home wasn’t helping. By running, she felt freer, more at ease with herself. As she ran, she thought about the events of the past few weeks. How it had snowballed out of the blue, and caught her off-guard.
Her younger sister, Dianna, had been shocked when she told her that she was going to call it off with Dhani.
“But why?” Dianna had asked. “Wait, what happened?” So Damia recounted a more condensed tale of what went on, choosing to leave out the more lurid details.
“But he seemed so sweet and nice. And hot too. Aw, cripes,” Dianna had said.
Damia had bit her lip thoughtfully. “They all are.”
The sun started to show it’s face over the jagged skyline of Kuala Lumpur. Damia figured she could run for another hour or so before it got too stuffy and hot.
She wondered about her luck with men. Dhani had been only her second boyfriend, and he, too, turned out to be just the same guy Amir is. Maybe she was attracted to these jerks? No, no, that wasn’t it. She supposed it was just bad luck.
But Dhani said he changed because of me, she thought. Then dismissed it. It seemed too cliché. 
Who knows what lies in the hearts of men, especially men like Amir and now, it seems, Dhani. She recalled all those other cliches about men that cheat, and men that treat women like disposable toys rather than meaningful pursuits. Damia almost wanted to believe that all men are like that, even when she knows that simply isn’t true.
In truth, she missed Dhani very much, because she loved him very much. She missed Dhani to the point where she shed tears at night, thinking about him and missing him with every minute that passes by. But she was too proud to admit it to him, and too angry to have found out about his life before her.
That was before me, Damia thought. Maybe he really meant it when he said he’s a changed man.
This thought, too, was dismissed as quickly as the wind that rushes by her ears as she runs. The dismissal was either by her anger, or her pride. Maybe even both. She couldn’t believe that someone could change so easily.
Human beings are creatures of habit; it’s impossible that Dhani, that so called Flower Heart, could turn a new leaf overnight over one girl. Over her. She recalled those damned pictures Amir had sent her. They were so obscene, so lurid, so… pornographic, yes, that’s the word. Those pictures had offended her beyond measure.
Suppose she was being self righteous? After all, her own history wasn’t drawn on clean sheets either. But, in her defence, she thought, she had been faithful to just one guy. Not that that was a good argument, but she had been in it for love. I didn’t spread my legs for any guy that passed me by, and believe me, people have tried. 
Her point was, she felt betrayed, by Amir back then, and by Dhani now.
But he didn’t cheat on you… right? Right?
Damia didn’t know, and would rather not know.
So why can’t you forgive him?
She was perspiring heavily now, the sweat dripping off her brows and nose, and she could feel her clothes sticking to her skin. But she didn’t stop running. She kept on, not even feeling tired.
I can’t forgive him because I am scared. I am scared if I forgive him and carry on, I will end up loving him too much, so much, and then one day wake up only to realize that history has repeated it self, and that I will find or catch Dhani with his pants down, thrusting away at some tasty little tart he picked up at a restaurant or off the streets of KL. I am scared that I will never be enough for him, and that I will just be one of his disposables, to be put down on the wayside once he’s done. And worst of all, I am scared that, if that happens, I will just let him.
So she couldn’t forgive Dhani. Maybe it was self-righteous, and selfish of her. Maybe Dhani would end up hating her. She didn’t know.
She didn’t know anything right now.
She just kept on running.



*


Monday, October 7, 2013

Chapter 24


 *
 
It has been four, close to five, years since anyone has ever made the decision to leave me. And I have spent the past four years being unbreakable, untouchable and invincible. I had carved a legend out of my own name, so much so that I have gained a hallowed name: The Flower Heart, they called me. I have, over the past four years, made girls wet their panties and tremble on their knees as I swept them off their feet and made their eyes roll up so far they could have sworn they saw heaven.
But now I am sitting on my bed, feeling angry and maudlin. I am angry at the fact that that fucking dickhead of Damia’s ex-fiancee decided to show himself and disrupt my relationship with her. I am angry at the fact that Damia refuses to see that I am a changed (?) man and that I would give it all to be with her. I am furious that for the first time ever, I feel I am not in control of events, and I am not dictating how my life is flowing.
Sitting alone at home wasn’t helping. I put on a white button down shirt and a pair of jeans, whipped out my helmet and went down to my parking lot. There, gleaming in an angry yellow and looking like a robotic wasp, was my Ducati Streetfighter. I had bought the bike two years ago, almost on impulse. Many sexy asses had graced it’s pillion seat, and I have ravaged them all. I mounted the bike, fired up the engine, and went to my old hunting grounds.

***
 
But not to hunt. Rather, for a drink. And maybe a smoke. I’m not usually the smoking type, but somehow this… predicament, I suppose, warrants it. When I had pulled up in front of Casa del Loco, one of my most frequented clubs, a dozen eyes looked my way. I saw some familiar faces, not that I knew them, but familiar enough for me to acknowledge. The bouncer, Victor, a tall, slim but tough Chinese dude who had the Muay Thai skills to clout your ass backwards, greeted me warmly, noting that it’s been awhile since I’ve been around.
“Busy, Vic.”
“I thought you got married or something,” Victor said, laughing as he let me in. I left my helmet with him and walked straight to the bar, where I ordered a whisky and a pack of Dunhills. I lit a fag and sipped my whisky. Already I felt calmer. Angry, still, but calmer. I wanted to gather my thoughts, in a place where the silence wouldn’t be so loud and agonizing. Behind me, the dance floor was packed and the music loud. I swirled the fiery liquid in my glass, thinking about Damia.
Why me, Dhani? What’s so special about me? Said a ghost voice, ringing in my ears (or so I thought). You could have anyone you want, Dhani. Why do you want me?
“I don’t know,” I said out loud, loud enough that the bartender came to me and asked if I called for her. She was a pretty Pinoy girl, who went by the name of Marcella. We’ve flirted, before, but I’ve never actually went in for the kill with her. Mostly because this was a place I came often, and I never liked bumping into playthings. So Marcella and I were just casual, flirty customer and server. I asked her for another whisky and she put out two glasses.
“One is on the house, D,” she said and I thanked her for it. Something must be showing on my face. Whatever.
The ghost voice spoke again: You can have better than me. Why me, Dhani?
I closed my eyes, took a shot of the whisky and let it burn down my throat. I followed this with two long drags on the cigarette, and I blew smoke in a steady stream into the air. I kept my eyes closed and I thought of Damia. My lovely Damia. I saw the curves of her body and the sparkle in her grey eyes, and at once I felt her hands in mine and heard that husky laugh.  I could relive the conversations we’ve had, and the things we talked about.
I heard her ghost voice saying I love you, Dhani, like she always says when she wishes me goodnight, and how everytime she says it, my heart gets warm and my cock stiffens, not out of lust, but out of a strange sense of arousing pride and love and gratitude.
“And I love you,” I said, out loud but this time not so loud that people would hear. And I did; I do, I love her with all my heart, more than I’ve ever loved anyone before, more than I’ve loved the last girl that broke my heart and turned me into the monster I had become before Damia came along. I loved Damia with a  passion I can’t explain.
Why me, Dhani?
“I can’t explain, Damia,” I said, again, just under my breath. The drinks were making their effect known. Already I felt relaxed, less angry.
I thought of a moment I had with Damia, a few weeks, perhaps a month ago.

*** 

We had been sitting on a grassy knoll one weekend, at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa. My nieces were with us, and they were playing with newly bought toys, which Damia had bought for them, much to my annoyance, a few meters away. The toys had already taken over their attention, and though both Damia and I were keeping a watchful eye on them, Yasmine and Jasmine, had, seemingly, forgotten we even existed.
Damia was sat close to me, her shoulder in mine, and she was sketching the skyline of Kuala Lumpur, which, on that clear sunny day, had been as visible and picturesque. I watched her slim, urchin fingers caress the pencil on the sketch-book, moving in deft strokes and graceful wisps. Once in a while she’d put her eraser to work, and then she’d softly blow away the debris. Damia, too, seemed to be lost in her own world. I let her, because sitting there, just watching her, was heavenly enough. She was in a pastel yellow hijab, pinned artfully to her white cotton blouse, and a mustard yellow long skirt with floral motifs. I could just make out the outline of the pink bra she had on beneath her blouse.
Damia glanced at the twins. “They seem happy,” she said, without turning to me, eyes fixated instead on Kuala Lumpur’s skyscrapers and towers.
“Of course. You shouldn’t buy them toys, next time. They’ll get used to it, then manja.”
Damia laughed. “It’s okay. It’s not often, and besides, they weren’t expensive toys anyway. I don’t mind. What do you think?”
She showed me the sketch of Kuala Lumpur. It was remarkably detailed, if a bit rough-handed. I had been suitably impressed.
“Why aren’t you an architect?” I asked, inciting laughter from Damia.
“Because I hate drawing technically and numbers, that’s why,” she said.
“Have you drawn me?”
“No.”
“And why not?”
“Because,” she shifted and faced me more fully. “Because I don’t have to draw pictures of you on paper. You,” she put a finger on my lips, then put the finger to her head. “You are already here,” she said, then brought her finger down to her chest and pointed to her heart. “And here.” Damia smiled at me, her nose crinkling a bit. I had looked at her and never felt so convinced that I wanted to spend all my life with her.
“Am I now?” I said, acting unimpressed. Then she did the sweetest thing; she brought her face to my cheek and gently rubbed her nose against it. A ‘kiss’ that wasn’t quite a kiss, and certainly not the kisses I’m used to getting. But it was a sweeter gesture, a more loving act.
“I know you love it, mister. I love you, Dhani,” she said. Just then the twins came running back and crashed into me. They begin to tickle my body and I was laughing like crazy. In between, Yasmine and Jasmine were screaming with laughter and Damia only looked at us, also laughing, and taking pictures on her phone. The twins begin asking for ice cream, which I didn’t want to, and that made them start asking Damia, who agreed, but only if they gathered their toys and promised to behave. Incredibly, they did, and walked with utter obedience between us; they held each others hands, and I had Yasmine’s hand in mine, and Damia held on to Jasmine’s.
“They never listen to me, you know,” I said to Damia.
“That means they love me more already,” she said. We stopped by an ice cream stall and Damia bought ice creams for the twins.
Just then an elderly Caucasian couple, expats most likely, who were out on an evening stroll, passed us by. The couple looked at each other, then, as they passed us, the kind looking lady of the duo said to us, “What an adorable family you’ve got there, love.”
“Why, thank you,” I said, in reflex. The elderly couple smiled at us and walked along, and I turned to Damia, who was smiling, blushing, but refusing to meet my eyes. Then we had walked back to our car, in a comfortable, lovely silence. The twins fell asleep with sticky lips and cheeks almost as soon as the car got moving.
“They thought Yas and Jas were our kids,” Damia said, suddenly. Then she turned to me. “Do we already look like parents?”
I laughed. “Well. We’re certainly old enough.”
Damia didn’t laugh. Instead she said, “Maybe they were hinting at something, Sayang.”
I looked at her. She just smiled, and looked away. Then she put her hand in mine.

***
 
“Can I get you another one, D?” came Marcella’s  the bartender’s voice, and that broke me out of my thoughts. I shook my head.
“No, thank you, Marcella. I think I should be going now.”
“You take care yah,” she said. I left the bar, and thought I noticed (how could I not) some girls checking me out, and one of them even calling me out (“Hey awak, tak nak menari dengan I?”), I ignored them. Outside, I tipped Victor RM100 and rode back home.
As the Ducati roared down an empty Jalan Kuching, I made my decision.
Come hell or high-water, I will get Damia to take me back. I love her, and nothing in this world, nothing, will stop me from being with her again.
You mark my words.

*