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.

*