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.
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.