“Blah, Monday again. 😦 ” I whined to Johan during one of our back-and-forth messages since Saturday.
“How bout we make it better by having something to look forward? Free for lunch on Friday?” He messaged back.
Fridays are half days anyway, so I agreed.
“Any cravings?” He asked.
“Honestly? Being in China for so long, I kind of crave Western food.” I confessed my love for white people food.
“Hmm, I don’t eat a lot of Western food here. But my sister and I both love Mr. Pancake House.”
“I’ve always wanted to go there!” I remember a Swedish friend raved about it. I love Ikea, so I trust his people’s taste.
Even though we’ve already hung out twice and drunkenly made out once, I was still nervous when Friday came around. What if we have nothing in common once alcohol and other people are removed from the equation? That was always the case in the past. Meet at party, have great convo. Go on date, nothing to say.
I put on light make up and a nice-but-casual top that’s appropriate for daytime dates. When I got there, I noticed that he wore a white sweater over a dress shirt. Slightly formal for pancake, but I secretly thought it was cute.
“Hi!” We greeted each other with a hug.
“Shall we?” He held the door open like a gentleman, and we went inside.
The service was quick since it was lunch. And soon enough, we finished ordering and were left to our own devices.
The dreaded silence never came. Our conversation flowed from small talk but quickly graduated to more personal topics. Unlike other guys, he seemed more interested in peeling back the layers of my character, than just my clothes. Not that I would mind…
“I went on a lot of first dates in the first year.” He said when I asked about his dating history in Shanghai. “But it rarely went beyond that. I got tired and decided to stop going out of my way to date.”
“Sounds like you gave up.” I commented.
“Yes. I would go for coffee dates in the end.”
“Why coffee?” I asked.
“Because it was the quickest. Dinners take too long. People are boring.” He said matter-of-factly.
“Guess I should never talk about the weather then?” I teased.
He laughed “I’m sure people find me boring too. Especially Chinese girls.”
He went on to imitate himself speaking Chinese on a date. It consisted of one word sentences.
“I gave up on dating in Shanghai too.” I confessed, “I’ve just seen too many expats do too many questionable things. You know what I mean?”
“Yes. My previous roommate used to tell me all the dirty tactics he used to get girls.” He said, knowing exactly what I was referring to. “He got angry when I wasn’t interested.”
“He sounds like Charisma Man.” I chuckled to myself.
“Nevermind. Go on.”
“He used to bring back a different girl every night. And berated me for not doing the same.”
“So what did you do?” I was intrigued.
“One day I just told him that, ‘Hey, we’re all adults, you do your thing. And I do mine. So don’t worry about me.’” He recalled.
“Oh my…what did he say to that?”
“He got pissed.” He said then smirked. “But he never bothered me again.”
“Awesome.” I laughed, then asked timidly “But… so many guys fall victim to the life style here…. How come you didn’t get corrupted?”
Or did you?
“I think, the reason that most expats do those things here, is due to a lack of repercussions.” He said thoughtfully “Back in Canada, people have set social circles. If you cheat, and people find out, there’d be social consequences. Here? Not so much.”
I nodded in full agreement.
“For me, I don’t believe in such inconsistent behavior.” He continued “If it’s something I wouldn’t do back home, I wouldn’t do it here either. Being overseas is not a valid excuse.”
We then went on to our passions and dreams.
“My dream was to coast through life.” I half-joked “Heck! I went in accounting coz I thought it wouldn’t require me to write essays! God I hate writing so much!!!”
“Seriously?” He asked.
“Well, sometimes I joke so much I don’t know what’s true and what’s not.” I avoided the question by making another joke.
“Sometimes I don’t know when you’re joking and when you’re not.” He chuckled.
“Here’s a rule of thumb: Assume I’m joking, unless I say otherwise.”
“Why do you joke so much?” He asked in all seriousness.
“Because I’m funny.” I said deadpan.
“Haha…True that!” He laughed.
I smiled and said “But seriously, I was definitely a slacker. I took keyboard because it was such a bird course!”
“Computer keyboard?” He asked.
“Music keyboard. We had to write a song, so I wrote about that time George Bush choked on a pretzel.” I reminisced to my high-school days “I called it ‘George Bush choked on a Pretzel.’ I got 90%!”
He laughed and said “So is that how you still feel about life?”
“I don’t know…” I admitted solemnly “It’s easier to not care sometimes…But being a teacher, it’s hard not to care.”
It got a little too deep for me, and I don’t like seriousness. So I turned the table on him.
“Well, Mr. Question Master. What are your hopes and dreams then?”
He thought about it for a second and said “I’m applying for a Masters in Social Work.”
“Social Work? I thought you wanted to do computers?” I recalled from our conversation at KTV.
“Preferably Social Work with a dual degree in Web Design to supplement my income.”
“I didn’t know you were a do-gooder!” I joked again.
He told me about his background in business, and how money used to be his passion. Only he found it extremely unfulfilling and himself deeply unhappy. A series of events led him to packed his bags and come to Asia. After travelling the poorest areas of the world, he realized that he was deeply passionate about social justice.
“You know the quote by Steven Jobs?” He concluded his story.
“Probably not. But I’ve heard of him…”
“Well Steve Jobs said: We’re here to put a dent/ding in the universe, because otherwise why be here?” He spoke passionately “And that’s what I want to do.”
“To ding the universe?” I raised an eyebrow.
“To ding the universe.”
And we both laughed.
“Speaking of which! I just bought the new Steve Jobs movie!” He said excitedly “Wanna come over to my place now and watch it?”
Oh, he good…