“Let’s meet at Century Ave. Please bring my curling iron.” I informed Johan over the phone. Despite my best efforts, I ended up leaving something behind after all.
I arrived a few minutes early, and paced around anxiously. After awhile, and no sight of Johan, I finally called him.
“Where are you?” I demanded impatiently, knowing his habit of being late.
I gave him my whereabouts and he tracked me down a few minutes later.
“Seriously? You’re late at a time like this?” I greeted him crossly.
“I’ve been here an hour already.” He answered calmly.
His lack of emotions did little to ease my annoyance as we walked in silence towards the closest Costa Coffee. We sat across from each other and probably looked just like any other couple on an awkward first date.
“Can I have my curling iron please?” I finally broke the silence.
“I’m guessing you’re breaking up with me.” He spoke without betraying any emotions.
“Yes,” I answered equally as cool. “But I figured I owe you an explanation.”
I tried to carefully craft my words, “You’re….I’m….I think…You’re Just Not That Into Me!”
He asked “What makes you think that?”
I immediately launched into my three-part revelation. Starting from my birthday fiasco, to my heart-to-heart with Ronnie and Charles, and to the realization that my relationship with my ex was the mirror image of this.
“I was not into him, but he was into me. So I know what it looks like when someone cares,” Then I got choked up despite myself. “And this is not it.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
I waited, trying to anticipate what he would ask.
“Are you that into ME?” He asked.
I did not expect that.
My first instinct was to deny deny deny, but instead find myself feeling tired and defeated. “Yes,” I admitted, “I think I’m starting to fall for you.”
It was more of an inconvenient fact, than a profession of love.
“If we prolong this, the only person that stand to get hurt is me. I can’t take that risk.” Admitting my true feelings has drained all the fight out of me, and I slumped down into my seat.
Now it was his turn to pause; the silence felt like an implicit agreement.
“I HAVE been treating you kind of lazily.” He admitted when he finally spoke. “But I’m not sure, if it’s because I’m not into you? Or because of my commitment issues.” He finally responded.
I made a Pfffft sound. “Who doesn’t have commitment issues these days? It’s like going Vegan.”
“I can’t speak for others, but I know I do.” He spoke earnestly. “I mean, this is the longest relationship I’ve had.”
“But see? I felt like you were constantly testing me the whole time! Like I had to prove myself to you somehow!” I let my frustrations out for the first time. “You were constantly on my case about not being ambitious enough or passionate enough. And what happened on my birthday…that felt like a test too!”
Another bout of silence.
“I think subconsciously…I was testing you.” He admitted again.
“You can’t do that in a relationship!” I got even angrier.
“I think everybody does it on some level.” He said, “But that’s not an excuse and I’m sorry. If I’m not as into you as I could, it might be because you just seem…so…docile all the time.”
I felt the heat rise up in my face as I prepared for rebuttal. I opened my mouth but nothing came out. Instead I flashed back to all the times when I thought I was being easy-going, “The Cool Gal”…Who now just seemed like a lame pushover.
“We just started dating, I didn’t want to pick fights over small stuff. There’s plenty of time for that later! And so what if I was too eager to please? Does that give you the right to act like an ass?” So I went out of my way sometimes and never complained when it wasn’t reciprocated. Kept my mouth shut if it wasn’t worth an argument. Went along with things because I was trying to be pleasant and agreeable.
Isn’t that what men want???
I expected him to have a comeback, but instead he said “I was being kind of a dick.”
God! Men can be so contradictory sometimes! You act nice, they act like crap. You get mad, and they get glad! It’s what my mother calls “贱”. (Sorry, no English translation)
“I just couldn’t tell who you really are. You act cool and talk like you don’t care, but I kept sensing fire underneath. So I might have been provoking you just to see…” He attempted to explain, then said with a bemused expression “You’re like an onion. I kept wanting to peel the layers.”
“But you can’t keep treating me like a test subject!” I spoke through gritted teeth.
“Does that mean…you want to give this another try?”
“I don’t know!” But I felt myself swaying already.
“Since we’re being honest with each other. I can try to explain why I am the way I am. Not that it excuse s anything.”
The next thing I knew, we were sharing everything from our childhood to our parents’ marriages. He told me all about his family and their unique, yet universal set of problems. I couldn’t help but spill a few beans about my family, and my deep seeded fear of becoming like my parents. We found out more about each other that afternoon than we did all 3 months that we’ve dated.
In other words: We got REAL.
“It’s just like that Toystory guy said right? ‘All unhappy families are alike’?” I attempted to quote classic literature.
“Haha, I think it’s the opposite…but I agree with you.”
There was another bout of silence, as we were both exhausted from baring our souls.
“What time is it?” I suddenly noticed my surroundings and saw completely new faces.
Johan glanced at his phone “Wow.” Turns out we bared our souls for almost 4 hours.
“Hmm…I don’t think we’ve actually decided on anything.” He pointed out the fact we haven’t decided whether to break up or not.
Something strange happened in the last few hours, I suddenly didn’t feel afraid anymore. Even if we stay together and I end up getting hurt, I knew that I could get over it. As long as I follow my moral compass, my conscience would be clear regardless what others do unto me, and I would have no regrets. Maybe it was the caffeine talking but… I didn’t want to be the person who runs away from life out of fear.
Maybe I’m not as risk-adverse as I thought.
Riding that wave of boldness, I blurted out “I would be willing to give this another try.” Then losing some of my nerves, added “What do you think?”
“I think…” He rubbed his chin as he thought intently. “That if I let this end…It would be something I’ll always regret.”
My heart fluttered in agreement.
“But no more mind games!” I quickly squeezed in an extra clause to our verbal contract.
“Ok, and you gotta do something for me too.”
“Call me out the next time I’m being an asshole.”
“So…we are really doing this?” He said it more like a statement than a question.
Feeling anticlimactic, we both sat there awkwardly, not knowing whether to hug or kiss. In a way, this was like the dissolution of an old partnership agreement, and the formation of a new one. How should we seal the deal?
Then came the infamous moment that my friends would later beg me to retell, then laugh in disbelief. I can’t quite recall who initiated it, but someone extended their hand…
So we shook on it.