Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chapter 15


Time flies by when you’re having fun, they say. They might just be right. It’s been six months since Damia and I officially (sort of) went steady. Six lovely, joy filled months. I, myself, couldn’t believe it. Perhaps a year ago I wouldn’t even dream of having a relationship. But now I do, and I’ve never looked back ever since.
Yet if time flies by, I’ve also discovered that it can dilate and slow down… well, at least, I feel that way sometimes when I’m with her. To make you understand, sometimes, quite often, actually, I feel that whenever I’m with Damia, time seems to stretch.
When I’m with her, it’s like the whole world fades into nothingless, and becomes a watercolor painting of featureless shapes. Things seem to happen in slow motion, and the only things that matter are her voice, her eyes, the touch of her hands.
Sometimes it feels like I’m in hypnosis. Not that I mind. Not one bit.
In the past six months, I’ve had several changes happen to me. Other than the very fact that I’m steadily seeing someone and I feel in love (geez, what a fucked up word that was a year ago), my lifestyle has adapted somewhat. I no longer check out girls… well, not like last time anyway. I do not deny (and neither can any of you ‘guys’ out there) that a pretty girl is a pretty girl is a pretty girl, and men everywhere, myself included, are almost always inclined to look.
But no more do I imagine any pretty girl as inherently fuckable; I don’t imagine about taking off their multi colored bras anymore, or fondling different sized breasts from different girls or yanking off panties with my teeth. Well, most times, anyway. Not like before, at least. And I do not deny that I have had, and still have, sexual desires or fantasies involving my girlfriend. Come on, no men doesn’t have these thoughts. It’s just whether you act on it or not.
I’ve decided to take the huge and significant step, for me, to not indulge in what the (impressive) member between my legs seems to want. That was, for me, an achievement worthy of celebration. I didn’t of course.
I do not deny, too, though, that I do wonder about what lies beneath the clothes Damia puts on. Sometimes my imagination gets too far, admittedly, and I get that familiar stiffening and warm sensation in my loins… but thinking of her that way always, always, makes me feel guilty  (that’s another first) and… dirty, so I stop before I get ahead of myself. This new, relatively celibate, life was difficult to adjust to at first. Yes, there were times, especially at the beginning of our relationship, when I had the urge to pull a ‘Dhani’ on Damia and get her to fuck me but thankfully that hasn’t happened. I had compensated with some personal happy time, but even that became a bit gross.
That is to say, I haven’t fucked or even wanked for the past few months. A record.
Isn’t it weird that love does that to you? I mean, what is sexual attraction if not an innate desire to mate, to fuck, to ‘make love’ to the object of your affections? So I thought, a few months ago. Now, I guess, Damia has made me realize that there is more to relationships, and love, than just The Monster With Two Backs.


As I was sorting out my wardrobe the other day, I stumbled upon a box; the Hermes box. A fine layer of dust, not too thick, had somehow settled on it.
I frowned, remembering that months ago I had bought that, intending to give it to Damia, then thought I shouldn’t and stashed it inside my wardrobe (along with some other unused apparel and accessories; I saw two old watches, a Tissot and a Tag Heuer, some wallets, scarves and four pair of shoes that I had thought to sell off but forgot) and promptly sort of forgot about it.
I opened the box and was glad to see the contents were unsullied and untouched by dust. The cluth purse, the one Damia had adored and gotten misty eyed over, was still there. It was still beautiful, resplendent in its mustard yellow leather and shining clasp.
I carressed the soft leather and smiled. Had this been a foreshadowing of what was to come back then? I didn’t know, and now I didn’t care. Because it didn’t matter anymore, didn’t it? Damia was mine now.
I brought the box back into my room and wiped the dust off it. I rummaged in my office and found some chiffon cloth, some excess from a table liner I had bought some months ago. The chiffon was maroon and I wrapped the box (with the purse inside) with it and tied a neat ribbon using silver twine.
I suppose now was a good time to finally present the gift to Damia. I bet she would love it.

“Come have dinner with my sister and me, tomorrow,” I said to Damia. We had just finished work, and were sipping tea at TWG in Pavilion. A plate of macarons, blue, black, red and violet, sat on a plate.
“With Nissa?” Damia said, rhetorically. She had actually met Nissa a few months back, over dinner, too, and they had gotten along fine. Nissa was particularly adoring of her, and showered her with affection that time. Damia had told me she liked Nissa when I sent her home that night, and I received a text from Nissa saying ‘KEEP HER’ at about the same time too. So that was okay. Even better, the twins, Yasmine and Jasmine, adored ‘Aunty Damia’ and Damia adored them back.
“What’s the occasion?” She asked.
“Nothing; just dinner. Can you?” I said.
“Sure, of course. It means I get to meet those babies again! I love your nieces!”
“I noticed. Eheh. But on one condition, though,” I said, in a slightly ominous manner.
“Condition? There are conditions now?” Damia asked, smiling and took a sip of tea. Her grey eyes swirled and sparkled over the rim of the porcelain cup.
“Yes, conditions,” I said, and ate a macaron. Bourbon vanilla with kaya, one of my favorites. Though Nathalie’s, over in Dutamas, still held top spot in my favorite macarons list.
“Okay, name it, Sayang.”
I leaned forward on our table and cupped my chin in my hands. “You have to wear that yellow blouse. And the yellow shoes.”
She raised her eyebrows. “That’s it? Why?”
“No reason,” I shrugged. “I love seeing you in it.”
Damia squinted her eyes and crinkled her nose. “Are you going to tell me what color pants or skirt or tudung to wear too?”
“No,” I laughed. “Just make sure your blouse and shoes match.”
“You’re weird,” Damia said.


But she complied to my request. I have no idea if she knew what my intentions were. But if she did, it didn’t show.
When I picked her up to go Nissa’s, she was wearing that yellow blouse, with the billowy sleeves. It was slightly see through, so I noticed she wore a sleeveless white top on the inside, that covered the rest of her body. Damia paired the blouse with a dark blue, pleated long skirt, a matching wide black belt and her pair of yellow, shiny PVC heels. Her hijab, done in that Hana Tajima style she seemed so fond of, was also dark navy blue. She accesorized with a long, mock black-pearl necklace, a small black canvas handbag, and a cute pink flower brooch pinned her hijab. Damia had put on minimal make up, opting for a nude look, with the exception of black eyeliner and mascara that made her eyes stand out.
She looked, to my eyes, gorgeous.
Dinner was great. Nissa had asked her what was her favorite food the last they met, and she had said it was Gulai Lemak Daging Salai, and so Nissa had prepared just that. Damia looked ecstatic but also embarassed.
“You didn’t have to, Kak Nissa,” Damia said when my sister had brought the dish to the dining table.
Nissa waved her hand dismissively. “It’s not always. Besides, you’re special,” she said, and looked at me and Damia meaningfully.
“Aunty Damia Aunty Damia do you want to bring us go jalan-jalan to the zoo or we can go shopping look at toys and books and dresses so we can play princesses and fairies and..” went the twins, seemingly telepathically connected. They had taken so well to Damia. Almost as if… it was meant to be? Heh.
“Haish, don’t bother Aunty Damia, eat first,” Nissa hushed them. Damia laughed and said if they were good girls, she’d bring them jalan-jalan, if it was okay with Nissa. This made the twins go “pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseMommypleaseplease” so much that Nissa just said “OK! OK!” and we had laughed.
The dinner was lovely and conversation was good, even with the little girls talking about fairies and ponies and dolls. I was really, inconceivably glad that Nissa and Damia had hit if off. I knew Nissa very very well, and she is quite protective of me. So for them to get along was a huge plus in all our favors.
How amazing is Damia?
After dinner we had tea and coffee and played with Yasmine and Jasmine until they fell asleep. Damia helped me carry the girls to their bed, and they woke up briefly and insisted that Damia sing them a song and kiss them goodnight. Nissa was so touched to see this she teared up a bit, though she hid it from Damia. Damia, herself, was more than happy to oblige my nieces. Then we talked a bit more, before I finally asked to excuse ourselves as it was getting late and I had to send Damia home. The ladies hugged and told each other they would hang out, even if I wasn’t there. Crap. But good crap.
I drove her home, my left hand in her right. She looked out the window and I could see her through her reflection that she was smiling.
“Damia,” I said.
“Hm?” she turned to me, still smiling.
“Are you happy with me?” I asked.
“Yes, Dhani. I am. Are you?”
I kissed her hand. “Yes.”
About forty minutes later we arrived in front of her house. It was dark. I parked the car and let it idle.
“They’ve gone to sleep I guess,” Damia remarked, referring to her family. She looked at me again. “Thank you, Sayang, for a lovely night. I like Nisa sangat-sangat. And I love the twins! I really want to bring them jalan-jalan one day, can we?”
“Of course. You’re paying,” I teased. She pinched me gently. Then she frowned.
“I still don’t get why you insisted I wear yellow, though. I felt like I was overdressed,” she said.
“You weren’t. You look amazing. And I wanted to see if your dress would match this,” I said and reached backwards, grabbing the wrapped box I had neatly hidden behind my seat. I handed it to her, and she cocked her head to the side.
“Sayang, what is this?” She seemed to genuinely not know.
“Unwrap it,” I coaxed. “I think, or rather hope, that you’re going to love it.”
She untied the ribbon and then gently unravelled the chiffon cloth off the box. When she saw the box-lid, her brows furrowed, and when she made out the letters in the dim light, her lips saying the brand voicelessly, I saw her eyes open wide and jaw drop.
She looked at me, disbelieving. “No. Sayang, no.”
“Yes,” I said.
“This is a joke, right? Inside is a spider or a card or a USB thumb-drive or something right? Tell me!”
“Damia, just open the box,” I said, gently.
She lifted the lid off the box with, I noticed, fingers that trembled slightly. Then she unfolded the layer of protective lining to reveal the mustard yellow clutch purse inside. She squealed and brought her hands to her mouth.
“Sayang, no,” she said, looking at me with tears welling up in her eyes.
“Damia, baby, yes,” I said. I was feeling very good, so good. This was the first sincere, genuine gift I’ve given to a girl in years.
“Dhani, no, I couldn’t possibly,” Damia said, shaking her head. “You have to take it back.”
“I can’t. Or I don’t want to. I bought this… eight months ago? When you had first seen it.”
“Dhani, no. Oh my God.”
“Take it out, Damia.”
“But why? And eight months ago… we weren’t even dating back then? How could you have…”
Then I put a finger to her lips. “Because I think maybe even back then, I sort of knew I would fall in love with you.”
She held my hand in hers, and said, “But this is too much, I KNOW how much it must have costs you.”
I shook my head. “I don’t care. It’s worth it. You’re worth it.”
She wiped a single tear that had made it’s way onto her cheek. She gingerly took out the purse from the box, her eyes wide with admiration. It struck me then that this was probably her first time ever holding a haute couture item. She was a regular girl, after all; a beautiful one, but your girl next door. She didn’t wear designer clothing, or lived in a fancy condominum. She lived here, in Setiawangsa, in a simple but comfortable linkhouse with her family. But that didn’t stop her becoming special and beautiful in all ways; mind, body and heart. I felt humbled and slightly ashamed of my own life.
“Dhani, it’s beautiful. Thank you, thank you so much,” she threw her arms around me and embraced me fiercely. I wrapped an arm around her slim waist.
“You like it,” I asked. I felt her nod. “I love it, Sayang,” she said.
I was acutely aware of her breasts pressing against chest. I rubbed the side of her waist. That familiar hardening was making its way back to my loins. Her perfume; not the one she had put on, but her natural, sweet musk, was intoxicating. I inhaled deeply in the crook of her neck. Then I pulled her away from her embrace. She looked at me with a puzzled light in her eyes.
I put my lips on hers; they were tender and warm, tasting like spiced honey. I kissed her, but she was still, unsure how to react. Her heartbeat, though, was telling a different truth from her still lips. For a moment, as if in a trance, we were locked in that kiss. Then my hand slid from her waist to her breast, and that broke it.
Quickly, but not harshly, she pushed me away. She adjusted her hijab, and straightened the creases in her skirt. I looked away, suddenly feeling incredibly embarrassed, and ashamed, and furious with myself. A very awkward silence encapsulated us.
“I have to go… it’s getting late,” Damia said, finally. She didn’t look at me. I nodded. I wanted to apologize, but the words didn’t come out. She gathered her handbag and opened the car door.
But wait she forgot her gift! I called out to her.
Damia came back, then she quietly wrapped  the purse back in its box and chiffon cloth. “I don’t think I should take it.”
“Damia? No, it’s a gift,” I said. “Please, for me?”
She considered it. I knew she wanted it. But something made her feel that this was wrong, I think.
“Baby, please? Ikhlas,” I said, pleading. Finally, after a few minutes thoughts, she relented and accepted it from my hands again. She smiled at me, blew me a kiss and went inside her house.
I drove home feeling angry, and feeling like I screwed all this up. I reached home and slammed the door and felt like pulling my hair out. I wanted to call her but felt too fucking ashamed of myself. So I waited at the balcony with phone in hand.

An hour passed before my phone rang. It was her. But when I answered, she didn’t say anything.
I sighed. “Sayang, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. I got carried away.”
A long silence. Then her voice came. “Dhani, I love you.”
“I love you too, Damia.”
“But I don’t want… I mean, I don’t want what just happened.”
“I know, I understand. I’m sorry.”
“And I hate myself for thinking this because I trust you and I really do love you, but for that one moment when that happened, I thought you were buying your way into my panties,” she said.
That was blunt. She continued, “That’s why, for that one moment, I felt like I didn’t want the purse. Even thought I really wanted it.”
“Sayang, I,” I stammered, trying to find the right words. “Damia, I’m.. I’m sorry.” That was all I could say and I felt lame and stupid.
“I forgive you. But please, Dhani. Don’t do that. Not ever,” Damia said. I said yes to her.
“Dhani,” she said, “I don’t know your past… dating history, or who you went out with before. I don’t know if you think that sort of thing was okay. And I do not deny that your kiss felt wonderful. But I don’t think it’s okay. I mean, I make mistakes, and in no way am I saying that I’m more righteous or anything, but I do know when to draw the line, Dhani. I do hope you understand. I love you, Dhani, I really do.”
“I love you too and I promise it won’t happen again, Damia. I promise.”
“I trust you. And please, I plead, don’t fail that trust, Sayang? Please?”
“Promise. Promise.”
“Okay. Okay. Thank you, Dhani,” she said. “Let’s forget about it, it’s done. Okay?”
“I really do love the gift, Sayang,” she said, her tone softening. “I could never be able to afford you a gift like that.”
I managed to smile, feeling a bit relieved. “It’s okay. You don’t have to. I have your love. It is worth more than anything Paris or Milan, or the world, can offer.”
She laughed a little. “Thank you again, Sayang. I feel tired.”
“Let’s get rest,” I said.
“Okay. Dhani?”
I love you with all my heart, Dhani Ibrahim, and I want nothing to ruin it. Goodnight, my love. Sweet dreams.”


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Internal Monologue I

From The Desk of Dhani Ibrahim:

I thought I knew all there was to know about ‘love’.
After all, I went through several phases, relationships with some people. I got my heart broken in all of them. I remember, throughout those four relationships, how it felt, very clearly. It felt like drugs, drugs that keep you high all day and all night. And just like drugs, I guess it was addictive. How else could I explain why, after the first failure, did I choose to go through three more?
In the end all I received was pain, and withdrawal.
So I thought I knew all there was to know about ‘love’. So much so that eventually I derided and dismissed it as nonsense. And the day I did so was the day I closed off my heart to all, so it may never be hurt again. I built unbreachable walls and kept my feelings inside, locked away and bottled up, so I would never make the mistake of falling in love again.
I succeeded, of course. But looking back, I wonder at what cost did I succeed? I might have turned myself into a monster of sorts. I never really thought about it until recently. Until Damia.
I’m not much of a romantic. More of a blunt instrument than a sharp, witty poet. That’s why I can’t really convey how this predicament came to be.
Damia… what was it about you? How could you have made your way through the walls I put up? How did you manage to unlock this heart and make it yours? Can it really be that easy, or was there something greater at work? You shook my beliefs, you brought down my walls and you made me question my own convictions. And for that, I love you. I love you like I never thought I would love someone ever again.
I don’t remember falling in love with you. As in, I couldn’t pinpoint when, or how. All I knew is that one day I woke up and I realized that I loved you. I just knew I did. And the hardest part was actually admitting it to myself. But when I did, when I thought in my head ‘I love Damia’, the rest just came to be.
Damia; you’re beautiful in every sense of the word. I love our conversations, our long walks together and the lunches and dinners we share. I love holding your hands and I love just… just being there with you. Every second we spend together is vivid in my memories and thoughts and I don’t feel like I ever want it to end.
I guess it’s okay to make mistakes. I did so, about love, about relationships. And if Damia is my chance to right my wrongs and compensate, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
Wherever you are at this moment, I like to believe you’re thinking of me because I am damn fucking sure thinking about you.
I love you, Damia, because I now believe you’re going to change my life. For the better.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Chapter 14


It has been a month since that night in Putrajaya. A month of rediscovering myself, and discovering Damia.
That is not to say I didn’t have any doubts. In fact, my heart and mind was screaming the moment I had let go those words telling her I loved her. Inside my head at the time alarm bells were ringing and I was boundering on a complete emotional meltdown. My head was screaming WHATTHEFUCKAREYOUDOING and I honestly had felt like getting up and leaving her alone to watch those fireworks.
But when Damia had put her head on my shoulder and softly said to that she loved me too, the screaming voices and the ringing alarms inside me were quelled and silenced. They never made a reappearance ever since. When she had proclaimed her reciprocation of what I felt, everything just felt… right. No other words were spoken after that; we had watched the show end, applauded the winners, and, for the first time in four years, I took a picture with a girl. Damia had taken the camera, turned it to face us and told me to smile, so I had, then she pressed the shutter and ta daa, Dhani and Damia in a picture, smiling and being happy.
When I had driven her home that night, she held my free hand in hers, caressing it gently, even when she mostly looked out the window until I dropped her off at Setiawangsa. Before she had gotten out, I kissed her hand, gently and she had smile-smirked and just said a soft “Goodbye. I’ll see you Monday.” Later that night we left each other goodnight wishes on our phones.
Even on the Monday that had followed that weekend, at work, we sort of didn’t speak to each other. We bumped into each other in the office, but all I did was nod, and she had blushed and smiled, but no words. Yet, in that silence was said everything. We had lunch together, quietly, then spent the evening together at the movies and just… being there, with one another. Her hands seemed small and delicate in mine.
But our fingers interlocked beautifully.

And the days that passed by over the past month were balmy and serene. I slept soundly at night, always feeling her love with me, and I duly hope she felt the same way every night. My dreams were sweet and I woke up every morning in anticipation of seeing her in the office.  And while at first we tried to keep hush about our new found relationship, eventually we stopped caring, and held hands in full view of the office when we left work. The guys were insanely jealous, I knew, and the girls frustrated that after four years, Dhani Ibrahim finally decided to date someone. Sharmini was happy, of course, and she was one of the first to know and congratulate us.
When I told Nissa about me and Damia she hugged me and had tears in her eyes. I had asked her why it was such a big deal. But she had remained quiet, and just said she felt happy for me.
“I really am, too, you know,” Nissa had said.
“Thank you, sis. I appreciate it,” I had said while playing with the twins.
“So what made you realize it?”
“Realize what?”
“That you were in love with her. What made you realize it?” Nissa asked.
I thought for a moment. “I’m happy whenever I’m with her.”

My Friday and Saturday nights were now no longer spent in pubs or clubs. Instead, I spent them with Damia, my girlfriend. We did a lot of stuff; hiking, cycling, shopping, or just sometimes chilling out reading books at Titiwangsa or something. I didn’t particularly care what we did, as long as we did it together. I found myself missing her the moment she’s out of my sight. When we’re walking together I could see eyes landing on her and I would feel jealous and protective. I even stopped checking out girls, and that was a strange adaptation I had to make. I wondered if she noticed the same things? Perhaps it didn’t matter.
I do realize that after four years, I am changing again. You see, despite my self professed beliefs in the romantic system, I am also smart enough to register that things change. Nissa was right; life was unpredictable. And unpredictability is sometimes beautiful, and takes on the form of a lovely woman.
I realize, now, at this moment in time, that my views on women and romance, my thoughts of it being a delusion, were, of course, shaped by the misfortunes I’ve had over the years. And I had extrapolated those misfortunes as indicators that love is a foolish affair, and that love is a state of mind for the worthy. While I had nourished and indulged my physical needs for sex voraciously these past four years, and seeing women as nothing more than as a means to an end, I had of course failed to sustain and nourish my emotional self.
So why had I let my guard down with Damia?
I really couldn’t say. It could be her beauty, but I’ve slept with and seen girls as beautiful as her. It could be that she’s smart and funny, because the last girl who was that way with me was my last ex-girlfriend. All of the others were… well, not stupid, but not smart and funny. Or maybe because I was just focused on what was below their shirts and skirts, and I didn’t bother to know their minds. It could be that I had let my guard down with Damia because she went through a terrible break-up but emerged stronger? I have no fucking idea.
All I know is that when I’m with her, I feel happy. I feel like, you know, everything is alright and there are no worries in the world. I’m speaking in cliches, but only because they’re true. She makes me appreciate companionship, and I feel her love whenever she’s with me. It’s in the way she touches my hand and laughs, and the way she speaks to me and looks into my eyes. When I’m with her, I feel serene and open, and my heart feels vulnerable, and yet, at the same time, strong and full of vitality. She is the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night.
And even all this I’ve said doesn’t even come close to envisioning what I feel for her. It’s the strangest sensation, and the most powerful wave of emotion I’ve felt in all my life. The love that I have for Damia goes so deep into the recesses of my heart, that even I can’t begin to fathom it’s depth. All I know is that it’s there, a pool of love I dive into at all times now.
I wonder if she feels the same. I really do wonder and I really do hope she does.
I thought about all the girls I slept with before. They had names I’ve forgotten, and faces I can’t quite place. Were there guys that loved them too? Or were they treated by all guys the way I had treated them? Did they love, did they have their hearts broken by me? Were they hoping for more than a fun night together when I had asked them out or hit on them? As I thought, I realized these were questions that I was afraid to know the answers to. Damia could have been one of them, I thought. She could have had her heart broken, or her body used just as I had used all the girls that had come before her. She could have been just another piece of this broken puzzle.
I resolved to never let her become just another piece.

It has been a month since that night in Putrajaya. A month of rediscovering myself, and discovering Damia. A month of being the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. A month of feeling this sensation that things were falling into place.
As I think these thoughts at my work-desk, my phone buzzed.
Are you daydreaming? It was from Damia.
I looked out the glass walls of my office and saw her talking to Afifah, one of the other investment bankers, a few meters away from Sharmini’s table outside my unit. She was in a deep purple hijab, a white blouse and black pants, matched to a pair of black heels. Her arms were crossed in front of her chest (inadvertently pushing her breasts up and making the white bra she was wearing a little more obvious; I still notice these things, of course, just not in a… well, that way. Not so much, anway) and I saw her phone in one hand. She was talking to Afifah but she kept stealing glances my way.
I replied. Are you stalking me?
Moments later her reply: I can stalk my boyfriend whenever I want.
I smiled. You should pay attention to your conversation with Fifa.
Damia said, You should be doing some work instead of daydreaming.
I can’t, there’s a beautiful girl outside my office that’s stalking me.
I saw her smile as she read the message, and that tinge of color tainted her cheeks. She finished her conversation with Afifa and passed by my office as she left. She pretended not to look at me. My phone buzzed again.
Is the girl that’s stalking you still there?
I replied, No, she just left. If you see her, tell her I said hello.
A few seconds later. She says hello back, and is asking if you’d like to take her out for dinner tonight.
Tip-tap-tip-tap. Tell her I’m sorry, but I’m already seeing someone.
Ting! She’s asking who is it you’re seeing.
Damia, from legal. Sorry.
Then she replied. Mengada-ngada.
I laughed.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Chapter 13


“Come on, we’ll miss the fireworks,” Damia said as she quickly walked in front of me. She turned around and said, “Come on Dhani.”
“Coming, coming,” I said, chasing after her a little bit, as I fumbled with the heavy dSLR camera around my neck. “No need to rush.”
“I’m not rushing, I just want to catch the fireworks before they get fired,” she said.
“Nothing, haha. Come!” she said, smiling playfully and continued her brisk walk. I kept pace.
We were in Putrajaya on this balmy Saturday night, to see the Putrajaya International Fireworks Competition. Tonight was the last night. There were a lot of people around, and we had to park quite a distance from Dataran Putrajaya. We had arrived about ten minutes before the fireworks were schedule to begin.
Earlier, i had picked her up and we had a light dinner before making our way here. We planned to go for supper after the fireworks show. She was dressed in jeans, a pink cardigan and black hijab. Very casual, but she pulled it off perfectly. Her perfume, lightly applied, was a lovely peach scent.
We reached the Dataran, found a pretty clear spot on a grassy knoll, and I laid down a cloth so we could sit down. We sat cross legged, next to each other, as we waited. I could see other people around us, similarly sitting on picnic cloths or even jackets and scarves. There were families, couples and students armed to the teeth with cameras and lenses. There was this one guy, who looked kind of scruffy and tired, with something like four or six lenses with him. He wore a t-shirt that had ‘MR+EN’ on it, whatever that meant. I pointed him out to Damia, who remarked he must be a professional or something.
“Did you bring earplugs? This gets really loud, you know,” I asked Damia. She suddenly looked horrified.
“I totally forgot,” she said. “How loud does it get? Like mercun, right?”
I grimaced. “More like dynamite. REALLY LOUD.”
“Really? Then?” she said. “Do they sell any here?”
“Haha. No. I don’t think so. Luckily for you,” I said and fished a two small plastic cylinders from my jeans pocket. “I brought extras.”
She smiled as I handed her the foam earplugs and taught her how to put them on. She tucked her hands inside her hijab, and for awhile it looked very awkward. I laughed and she glared at me. Finally she got the little foam buds into her ears, just as an announcers voice echoed through the air, signalling the beginning of the competition. Ten minutes later, the first few streaks of light shot through the clear, dark night and exploded into fantastic patterns over Putrajaya. People began to applaud and shout. It really was beautiful.
But my eyes were looking not towards the skies; my eyes were looking beside me, to this excited young woman who was looking at the lightshow above us. She clapped her hands happily, a wide smile gracing her lovely pink lips. Lips I imagined myself kissing countless of times, and for the first time, I’d always feel guilty after imagining so.
“Dhani, take pictures!” she said. So I snapped photos of the fireworks, and of her, too. I was torn between witnessing the spectacular fireworks show, or this incredible woman beside me. She was laughing, gaily, and seemed so happy and care-free. I wonder if I had brought that out in her. I’d like to think so.
… because she’s brought out this happiness in me. I thought about my conversation with Nissa, just this past week when I made my usual visit to her house.

“Nissa, I feel odd,” I had said to her as we drank tea that late evening. Yasmine and Jasmine were already showered and dressed in their pyjamas, though not before throwing a tantrum about wanting to wear their Barney pjs, which were still in the washer. In the end, Sesame Street managed to calm them down, and here they are, the twins, watching Disney Channel.
“Odd about what, Dhani?” my sister asked. “Is it about the girl you told me about?”
“I… I think so,” I said.
“What was her name again? Diana?”
“It’s Damia, and you knew that already,” I said and threw a pillow at her.
Nissa laughed. “Okay. So what are you feeling odd about?”
“I don’t know how to start,” I said.
“Well, okay. How have you been, lately, with her?”
“Good, I guess.”
“Good? How good is good?”
I thought for a moment. “We see each other everyday now, almost, for lunch and dinner. She wishes me good morning everyday and even if she doesn't, I would. We text. We talk.”
Nissa smiled. “Then?”
“Then what?”
“Well, what is she like? How does she talk to you? What do you guys talk about?”
I thought again, recalling every detail about Damia that was in my head, which, admittedly, was a lot. It was like my mind was saturated with thoughts of her.
“She’s.. she’s lovely, Nissa. When she talks, it’s like a calming breeze, you know? It’s like, when I hear her voice, everything seems better. Even when we talk about stuff like, politics or business or food.”
Nissa nodded, smiling and urged me to continue.
“It’s as if we never run out of conversation. And to be honest I don’t want to. I just want to keep on talking to her, and getting to know her more and more. She’s amazing, Nissa, God,” I said, suddenly amazed and exasperated. “She’s so charming, so witty and smart. She’s not like those shallow girls I’ve.. I, uh, dated or went out with before. Every time I talk to her, I just want to keep going on, to hear what she has to say, to know what she likes or doesn’t like or whatever, anything so I could just keep on talking to her and looking at her.”
“Dhani, I haven’t heard or seen you like this, for… well, years. This Damia must be really something.”
“I don’t know exactly what it is about her,” I said. “She’s so different.”
“Is that a bad thing?” Nissa asked.
I shook my head. “It’s the best thing.”
“So what are you feeling odd about then?”
I contemplated for a moment. “Nissa, after… you know, after all that I went through with those girls years ago, and after looking at you, no offence, I don’t know if it’s something that I would want.”
“But?” Nissa prodded.
“But Damia… she’s, I don’t know. I can’t stop thinking about her. Seriously, Nissa, I can’t. I close my eyes and she. Is. There.” I sank back into the comfy leather sofa.
“Dhani,” Nissa said and edged closer to me. She held my hand in hers. “Dhani, why are you denying the fact that you’re in love with this girl? Come on, I know you went through shit, and I know you think that relationships don’t make sense. And I don’t blame you. I mean, look at mine, right?”
I looked into my sisters tender, loving face.
“But,” she said, “But it doesn’t mean that what has happened before, or what has happened to me, will replicate itself. It’s life, after all, right? We’re not always in control of it. There are things that, no matter how much we deny or try to stop it, will happen anyway. And what’s the fun in predictability? Come on. Stop denying what you’re feeling for this girl.”
“What if I’m wrong again, Nissa?”
Nissa shrugged. “If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. But more importantly, what if you’re right? This was meant to happen to you Dhani. You deserve it.”
Inside my head, I thought I’m not too sure about that. But after months, I could no longer deny that my sister was right.

The fireworks boomed and banged in the night sky, drawing intricate patterns and colors to the cheers of the hundreds if not thousands of people who were there tonight to see it. On ground level, I could hear the clicks of thousands shutters as people tried to capture the patterns on camera. Damia, too, had gotten hold of my dSLR and was shooting away. She was pretty good at it, too. Turns out she’s an avid amateur photographer with her own dSLR. She asked me to check her flickr page when I went home, and I promised I would. I was slightly embarrassed because to be honest I only have a dSLR because it looked cool.
I looked at her and I thought about the times we spent together so far. There were many now. We had gone to the zoo together one day, and had lots of fun there, taking pictures and looking at animals. We went to Broga Hill two weekends ago, where we had sat quietly next to each other and watched the sun go up. There was this time I took her to watch a play at Istana Budaya, and she had made me accompany her to a wedding of a friend of hers, and everyone at that wedding thought we were a couple, which, realizing or not, neither of us refuted or denied. We had watched more movies together, and gone on countless dinner dates and lunch dates. We talked on the phone after work, and exchanged good morning and good night wishes daily. I even stopped minding whatever office gossip existed about us. The guys have stopped hitting on her when they realized we spent a lot of time together. Even Sharmini, my secretary, gave me an approving thumbs up one day when I said I was having dinner with Damia.
I thought I was Dhani Ibrahim, The Flower Heart. I thought I was beyond love, and that love was for the weak. That love is a delusion. Was I wrong, all this while? Because all those times I spent with Damia, slowly and surely the walls I built around me came crumbling down. And all those times… all those times felt right.
I looked at her. There was something, in the shade of her eyes. In that smile that she seemed to be contemplating, whether to give or not. That smile that was also a smirk, that made her expression seem to say I know you’re looking at me, but at the same time it was as if she was holding back, holding back being beautiful because she’s actually trying to be as humble as someone like her can be. I sighed. It was more than mere prettiness, or merely beautiful. It was borderline angelic; divine.
“Damia,” I called out, quite loudly amidst the sounds of people and fireworks. She lowered the camera and looked at me, her grey eyes piercing and bright.
“Yes Dhani?”
I love you, Damia,” I said, and you have no idea how much effort it took for me to say it, how heavy this sinking feeling I felt in my stomach was when I said it. I had thought of a pre-word, a corny introduction, but in the end I just said what I felt for her. Damia looked at me, her expression slightly puzzled, but her cheeks turned rosy red. Then she took off the camera from her neck and set it down. She sat down next to me, and edged closer until she was somewhat neatly tucked into the rook of my shoulder and arm. Her perfume was intoxicating.
“I know, Dhani Ibrahim,” Damia said. “I love you, too.”