Thursday, October 06, 2005

Lost in New Territories

“So you like to party, you love to flirt, dance on tables, take different men home and you have an erotic blog. Actually, I’m not really surprised. But why are you telling me all this now?”

“Well now that the weekend’s over. I just want to get things straight. So you know who I am. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. Gosh, haven’t I scared you off already?” I smiled and mischievously poked him in the arm.

“It’s not making me scared. And it doesn’t make me want you any less.”

“Why not?”

“Because I think you have a heart.”

I fell silent. I looked into his brown eyes, and loved him for that instant. And for that fleeting moment where I saw myself reflected in his irises, I saw a different person, a better person. The girl with the big heart and anime eyes. Free from ghosts and any distinguishing dysfunctions.

Alas, sweet Ryan, I so wanted to tell him, I do have a heart. But I also have a body full of wickedness. And a mind full of treachery. And ultimately, I can’t give you what you want.

“You know, I’ll just hurt you. Trust me, I’m trying to protect you.” It was true, and I had said it before to men who wouldn’t listen. I didn’t feel so bad saying it to Ryan, who was also 26. He was still fresh.

“What if I don’t want to be protected? I have some say in this too you know. I’ve been hurt before. So what? It doesn’t make me want to stop trying to be with somebody,” he said. He nuzzled his upturned face right below my collarbone as we descended the escalator, and I rubbed his hair absently. “Besides, I think I can make you happy.”

A one-night stand had become a whole weekend without me realizing it. Ryan made the world feel safe and a little fuzzy round the edges – 375 degrees fuzzy in both eyes to be exact. It was funny how we realized that we were both equally blind without our contacts on. We heard the thunder roll in through the sunshine and watched the rain from his window in short-sighted fascination. And I felt like someone had sprinkled fairydust all over me.

We wandered the streets, like two fresh, well-mannered 26 year-olds, the type of couple that warms the cockles of withered grannies’ hearts. He carried the umbrella and I fitted my body close to him, happy to be the perfect elbow accessory.

Ryan lived in the New Territories, near to his job, near to the hills, and far away from the gritty quagmire of Central where I lived. He was a tennis coach who loved kids – and wasn’t afraid to admit it. I shouldn’t have stayed with him so long but besides not quite knowing how to get home, that weekend in the NT was a respite from Central, a respite from me.

I longed to tell him it was my Doppelganger in a black cocktail dress that had helped him clean his house that weekend, that had sat in the bath with him, that had massaged his injured lower back and kissed it so the pain would go away.

But all weekend, I just dodged any sort of serious conversation and I postponed exchanging numbers. And now on a Sunday evening, as he was seeing me back home to Central, he had broached the topic.

“Look, I don’t know if we’re going to last 2 days, 2 months or 2 years. But I want to see you again, to find out. If you hurt me then it’s my choice. Besides why should you care?” he asked.

Well I just do, I thought. I wanted to tell Ryan the stories of my life, but had not the words nor the context. I care that I’ve broken trust. I care that I’ve hurt people. I care that I’ve lost friends. I care that things never work out, invariably because of me. Most of all, I care that I am mutely accused of never having cared at all.

Because I warned them, as I did Ryan. But they made their own self-professed free-will decisions, lured by that same big heart and anime eyes. And I being much more careless and naïve then, had let them.

“No…sweetie. Please. I care, I do. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. I’m not what you’re looking for. And I have to go back home to what I know, to what I’m good at. But I really had a great time with you this weekend,” I said. And I meant it.

“So did I. I just want to see you again.” But he saw how I smiled at him – with my chin down, cheeks raised but my eyes steady and uncrinkled. So he half-shrugged and said: “Look, I’m going to give you my number because I know you don’t like guys bugging you. If you want to call me, call me. I’ll take the risk.”

I put his number in my phone and prayed I wouldn’t use it in a moment of weakness. He only turned back once – his thumb and pinkie of his right hand outstretched near his ear mouthing the words ‘call me’ - before disappearing into the cocooning gutter of the Central MTR underground.

I waved back, before curling my fingers into a ball and clutching the side of my dress, my hand hot with moisture. I turned and walked quickly away.