I came to Singapore as an exchange student running away from my horrible school in Lyon in August 2014.
Three weeks after my arrival I went to a Startathon weekend in my university. I needed to meet people because I was getting as depressed and anxious and obsessed with food here in Singapore as I was in France. I understood it was not the place that made me restrict but myself. I felt lonely again so I was letting me starve again.
So I found myself in an event on weekend in the university in a team with 3 guys and a girl. Their reaction when they saw me was the usual one, suspicious, surprised, uncomfortable, but not for one guy that just didn’t talk to me. He was in my class; his name was J.
I enjoyed the weekend and became very interested in an attractive Thai guy . He was huge and muscled but actually very kind. The two others were Chinese and I had trouble remembering their names. They were very kind too, one of them, my classmate J., seemed to have plenty of things to say. We all exchanged our phone numbers.
The next week J. sent me an SMS. We could meet in the university to chat. And so we did, quickly. He wanted me to try some spicy chicken in a special canteen. I said I was not hungry, I said I didn’t like cold meat, and it was over. We had some time to talk about Cantonese food, that he felt so proud of and I admit that I enjoyed the company. I think I missed him that evening. I think I regretted being so impolite and cold to him. He was careful and generous, and interesting.
At the end of the evening, he said that maybe I wanted to go out with him on the weekend to the mid autumn festival fair and EAT mooncakes?
The day after the fair I was leaving for a 10 day school to Sendai (Japan), and it turns out that J., had just come back from Japan. He knew Sendai and he thought he could give me some tips.
I felt scared but accepted the invitation. I asked another friend to come with me.
So there I went. I was very excited before. I thought my stomach was playing me a bad trick to make me eat those mooncakes that seemed so delicious. But this anxiety was different, it was… butterflies in the stomach?
He was late. He called me to say that his friends were still in McDonalds, and he had to wait for them. My heart was broken. His friends? I thought he was only coming for me.
Was I unconsciously wanting this to be… a date? It didn’t matter to me if I had also invited friends. I felt betrayed and annoyed. Angry and furious. Lonely and stupid.
Thinking back now I believe it was good. Because only that way could I realize how important he was to me for now reason. Even if I was still unable to remember his name, I became aware of the huge place he had in my heart (and my stomach, he was more present than food or hunger!).
I left for Japan and in the plane, I could only think of how I had binged over mooncakes samples in the fair, and how worthy it was if I could see his delighted smile, because I enjoyed Cantonese creations.
I started to compulsively text him, and he seemed to equally compulsively reply. Every word was a bullet to my fear of others, every word melted the ice I pretended to be, unlocked a door of the bunker I had asked my heart to be.
After a week in Japan I understood that I was in love even if I didn’t want to believe it, even if I couldn’t believe it.
I couldn’t be loved. I was not attractive. I was boring. I was ugly as a person and as a body. I loved him, but he didn’t love me.
We kept chatting. I could feel anxiety and insecurity growing and my obsession with him grew too.
It didn’t bother him, all this nonsensical conversation, because he kept replying and in just one week, we were both dependent on the other’s words. Time would fly, it was never enough, we were too curious, too excited to have finally found another lonely soul that enjoyed being with us. We would talk physics, philosophy, travel and food. Not too much about ourselves. But there was this layer of loneliness and thirst for attention and feeling of worthiness in both of us.
Maybe only he could see it, only me could, because we were just the same.
On the last night he asked me when was my plane reaching Singapore. He wanted to pick me in the airport. I couldn’t believe. Until then I thought all that was just a dream. Maybe I never turned the phone off at 4 am, I was probably asleep at that time dreaming those conversations that never happened.
He insisted and promised to come.
I was confused. I was drowning in tears of happiness and fear.
And I was ravenous to hear it. I needed a proof that us was not a creation of my head, a fantasy to keep me away from the pain I was already feeling in the new place.
So I forced the conversation a bit until, after a while I got that message. “Yes, I think… I love you.”
If he came to the airport, the magic would be broken. He would see me, the hideous person I was. I was already suffering seeing his face of disappointment and disgust.
My head was a ticking bomb of explosive thoughts, my body was trembling, my heart was beating again.
It didn’t matter. I had the feeling that the arms of this man, when ready to hug me, would be my home and shelter forever.
I saw him in the airport. He seemed nervous, scared, not confident, but pretended to be strong and sure. He was my mirror.
I approached him, too close I think, because when I wanted to kiss him in the cheek, he stepped back, and I could just say, since my mouth was already open: “Hi, thanks for coming.”
He got in the taxi, both sitting in the back, the furthest away possible. I would move my hand away from my legs, I would try to talk, buy I just felt so painfully stupid. He was cold. He was not interested. He was… terrified.
I stayed in his room that night, he slept on the floor. We fell asleep quickly, nervous, exhausted, confused.
Nothing seemed to matter, all the words that were never said, all the caresses that were never given, because our hearts knew that that night was the first one of our eternal life.
PS: If you love the cover photo as much as I do, please check the profile of my kitten guide. She has plenty more! I thank her, and her personal angel, for encouraging me to write this.
Su Li-zhen Chan: Why did you call me at the office today?
Chow Mo-wan: I had nothing to do. I wanted to hear your voice.
– Wong Kar-Wai, In the mood for love (2000)