I woke up the next morning when the sun was already high in the sky; not quite noon but getting close to.
I felt dazed, totally hungover, and when I managed to pry my eyes open, the light blinded me and the air seemed suffocating, even fourteen stories high. There was a rank smell and that’s when I realized I had vomited last night, on myself. Good thing I had passed out in a sitting position, lest I choke on my own puke. I tried to get up, and used my hands to steady myself, when a new pain raced up my right arm. I brought my hands up to my face and saw a wedge of glass stuck in my right palm, with smaller shards peppering the skin. Blood had congealed around the edges of the wound, already dry and crusty. I saw on the floor beside me bloodstains and more shards of glass. A few feet in front was the shattered whisky bottle.
Carefully, I got up, only to fall forwards on groggy legs; as I landed I used my hands to brace myself, and that just sent new shards of glass slicing into them. I yelled in pain and anger. Then slowly, I steadied myself, and went to my kitchen sink to clean the wounds. Needless to say, it was excruciating.
I called in sick to work, showered, dressed, downed four aspirin pills and tried calling Damia. But no dice. Her cell was still switched off. I called the office, where Shima, her assistant, picked up. She told me Damia was on emergency leave.
“Are you with her right now?” Shima asked me.
“No. Are you?” I asked her back. I could imagine Shima looking flustered at the question being thrown back at her.
“Er, no?” she said.
“Ok,” I said and hung up.
Next, I dialled her house. After a few rings, someone answered.
“Hello,” said a soft voice I recognized as being Dalilawati, Damia’s youngest sister.
“Hello, hey, Dal right? It’s me, Dhani,” I said.
“Oh. Abang Dhani,” Dalila paused. “Uhm, I don’t think you should be calling right now..”
Fuck that. “Is she home?” I asked.
“Uhm…” Dalila hesitated.
“Abang Dhani, I’m in no position to say anything, but – oh, wait, kejap..”
I heard some rustling, and then a new, familiar voice spoke into the phone. A voice that I had gotten used to for months now, and had grown to love and feel comfortable with. But now the voice seemed cold and distant. The voice of a strange. It was like talking to someone from a past long ago; your mind recognizes the tone and key, but can’t quite connect the voice with the owner.
“Dhani…” Damia said. “Please, leave me alone for now.”
I shut my eyes and slammed my fist into a wall and felt something snap. “Damia, can we just talk?”
“I don’t know if I can, Dhani,” she said.
“Please… I can--”
“Can explain? What is there to explain Dhani?”
There was a pause from both of us.
“Damia,” I said. “Please.”
“You can tell me on the phone,” she said.
“I’d rather not. Please, let me see you.”
Another long pause. “Do I have to hear it?” she asked.
“I’ll pick you up in a couple of hours,” I said, feeling a weight off my chest. Well, a little.
“No. Just meet me at TWG,” she said. I had no choice but to agree, or risk incurring more displeasure.
And there she was, walking into the café. She was in a yellow hijab tied around her head, exposing her long neck, and she wore a baby blue turtleneck sweater with a pair of black jeans. She had a pair of oversized sunglasses on, and that was something I rarely see her wear, especially indoors. She saw me and made her way to my table.
I stood up and pulled out a seat for her. “I ordered you a tea… but I didn’t know which one you’d like, so I just took a random guess.”
“Ok,” came the curt reply. She sat down and I took my place in front of her. Inside my heart my nerves were going crazy and I just can’t shake this feeling of… of unfamiliarity that is so bothering me. All of a sudden, overnight, the woman I loved more than anything and anyone else in the world is making me feel like a complete fucking stranger and I hated it.
She still had her sunnies on. In an attempt to lighten the fucking sombre mood, I said, “Silau?” and smiled. It must have been the most stupid looking smile ever, bereft of whatever charm I ever had.
Damia just took off her sunnies and let me see why she was wearing them: her eyes were puffy, and those lovely grays were reddened and bloodshot.
She smiled, humorlessly, and said, “Tak silau. Hujan.” I was struck into silence.
For awhile we just sat there, quiet. She held a packet of tissues in her hands, and I saw tears running down her cheeks, which she wiped away. She kept her gaze downwards, as if she was reading a book. Her tea lay untouched in its cup.
“Why are you quiet, Dhani?” she said, still not looking. “I thought you said you wanted to explain why I had to see pictures of the man I love in the arms of pretty naked girls.” She looked up, and wiped stray tears. “So please explain why the man I love is not all he seems to be.”
The blood was pounding in my temples and I could have sworn I felt a vein a pop. I tried to gather words, fumbled, and started again, only to fumble again. Damia had crossed her arms across her chest. She didn’t seem angry. She just seemed… defeated.
“Damia, I’m sorry,” I said. She just stared at me. I sighed, and began again.
“I will not deny that they weren’t pictures of me,” I said.
“Evidently,” she said.
“But I’ll have you know that those were pictures of me from another time.”
“Before you. Before I met you.”
I paused. “I don’t know. A few months before we first went out.”
“I’m not that guy anymore, Damia.”
“Believe me. Please.”
“I want to.”
“But?” I asked.
She took a deep breath. “Dhani, you think I could digest it as easy as that? That I’d look at my boyfriend, whom I love, in the arms of another girl, even if it was months ago? And it isn’t just one girl, Dhani. There were several. And these are the ones that I know of.”
I was quiet.
Damia wiped her eyes again; they were getting quite swollen. “So what does the Flower Heart mean, Dhani?”
I hesitated. “Tell me,” she said. So I explained to her how that name was given to me by this Chinese girl a few years ago. I told her how I had broken that girls heart and she had cursed me, calling me a useless ‘Flower Heart’.
“So it means player. Playboy,” she said. “And apparently you’re.. or rather, this ‘Flower Heart’ is quite well known among the girls in KL.”
I kept quite, my lips pursed.
“Isn’t it a wonder then, that Amir knew you?” Damia said.
That irked me. “Now don’t associate me with that rat-bastard! We’re not the same!”
“How?” she asked.
“I love you, Damia. I quit that life for you,” I said, almost vehemently. “I changed for you.”
This time it was her that remained quiet. “I never asked you to,” she said after a few minutes.
“You didn’t,” I said. “I wanted to. I love you, Damia.”
“I know, Dhani Ibrahim. And I love you, too.”
“Then can we put this behind, and start over? Please, Sayang?”
Damia took a deep breath. “Dhani, I… I don’t know. It’s not easy for me, to be assaulted with this, this ‘history’ of yours.”
“I know it’s not easy, Damia, but it’s in the past; it’s something that has kicked the bucket; that Dhani doesn’t exist anymore. The Dhani that does is yours, only yours,” I said. “And he’s not the Flower Heart. He’s just a guy trying to make up for past mistakes with someone special.”
“I don’t know if you’re just saying that,” Damia said, much to my disbelief. “I need to know that I can truly, honestly, trust you, Dhani. That you won’t be another Amir.”
“I’m fucking not!” I said, angry. “Stop comparing me with him!”
Damia was surprised at my outburst and I softened my tone. “I’m not him, Sayang. Please. I’m sorry.”
She sighed, and without looking at me, said, “People don’t change that easy, Dhani.”
“I did. I’m here, telling you, I did! Damia, come on, if I just wanted to get in your pants, I would have done so already. If I was still that damn Flower Heart, I’d have done so. But I’m not! I’m here because I want to be here, because, dammit, I actually want to be with you, to love you and for you to love me.”
She refused to meet my eyes. She kept fiddling with her now crumpled tissue. “Dhani, please… I think.. I think I just need some time,” she said.
“For what?!” I snapped. “I accepted the fucking fact that you fucked around with Amir before! You can fuck around but when you find out I did, ‘it’s not easy for me’?” I immediately regretted saying it. Hugely regretted saying it.
This time Damia looked into my eyes, and fresh tears welled below her lovely greys.
“I am sorry then, for being a hypocrite,” she said. Fat, heavy teardrops fell on her cheeks, flowed down to her chin and dropped onto her hands. “I am sorry, Dhani.”
I ran my hands through my hair. “Sayang, I didn’t mean to say that… Please, Damia, I’m sorry. Forgive me.”
Her lips quivvered and her hands trembled. “That hurt me, Dhani.”
I tried to take her hands, but she pulled away. She put her sunnies back on, and got up. I tried to pull her towards me but even I knew the conversation was over.
“Damia, please,” I said. Though I wouldn’t let it, I already felt an ache in my heart and tears choking my throat. She turned to look at me, and again, I could see tears fall down her cheek.
“I want to be alone, Dhani. Please.”
She walked away, left, without turning back. My heart felt as cold as our untouched teas.
I reached home dejected, angry, sad and moody. The evening was hot and humid, and I stripped down to just my jeans. Again, I went to the balcony, again, with a bottle of liquor. This time I didn’t even bother with a fucking glass; I just downed it by the bottle and let the fiery liquid sear my insides. I drank looking at my city bathed in sunshine. It looked so deceivingly serene.
My phone had rang a number of times for the past couple of hours but I had ignored it; now it rang again and I answered.
It was Sharmini, asking me if I was at Carcosa Seri Negara because the place had called the office looking for me. I said no, I was home, and for a split-second I thought why the fuck would Carcosa call me, and then it hit me:
The proposal. In my distress I had totally forgotten something I’ve been planning for weeks. In my distress, I had completely forgotten that today was supposed to be the day I'd ask Damia to be my wife, my love, for all time until the rivers run dry and sun no longer shines.
But that wasn’t going to happen now. I abruptly told Sharmini to cancel all the plans, and to tell the hotel and the band and whatever that I’ll still pay them in full, and no, I am not rescheduling for now. I hung up the phone, tossed it on the sofa and fished the lovely Cartier solitaire ring out of my pocket, where it had been since yesterday. I toyed with it in my fingers, before going to my dresser and keeping it back in its box. It was too painful to look at. I went back to the sofa, liquor bottle in one hand, and grabbed my phone.
I tried to call but her phone was switched off, again. I thought of calling the house… but decided against it. So I texted Damia; I love you Damia. Please forgive me. I’ll be waiting.
And I meant it; I will wait. And I will fix this fucking mess we’re in so I can be happy with her again, so Dhani and Damia could be an item again. So we could be in love, free from doubt, again.
But she didn’t reply. At every sound of my phone, it wasn’t her. Finally, now drunkenly, I took the phone and smashed it against my living room wall.
Then I fell into a thin, uneasy, and haunted, sleep.