After our almost breakup but immediate makeup at Costa Coffee, Johan and I had to go our separate ways. Thinking that I might need a distraction post-breakup, I made plans to go caroling around Shanghai. It was an impulsively conceived idea by some expat friends, with minimal planning and no prior rehearsal.
We were predictably bad and horribly out of sync. Nonetheless the locals cheered us on, and we got filmed by a television crew. I also performed a cringe-worthy solo of Last Christmas on the metro, as a dare. I’m sure there were pointing and laughing. It was glorious.
I needed to leave for Chinese New Year soon, but luckily we managed to squeeze in one more day together.
Johan invited me to celebrate Christmas at his place with his sister and her friend. Instead of turkey, we made Vietnamese Spring rolls. Instead of pie, we bought baked sweet potatoes from the street guy and improvised a casserole. We also watched a bootlegged copy of Enchanted because it was his family’s tradition. They reminisced about their mother’s cooking and we laughed as my rolls kept falling apart. His sister was always civil but cool towards me before and this felt like an acceptance into the family.
Right before I had to leave, Johan pulled me into his room and handed me a giant blue box with a big bow on it.
“Oh, ha…is this to make up for my birthday?” I teased.
“No…I got it awhile ago.” He said bashfully. “Before your birthday, I considered getting you a frozen yogurt machine, because that’s all you ever talk about…”
I did? Ok, I may have once chosen froyo machine as one of the items I would bring to a desert island.
“But I didn’t know if that would be too much too soon. Given our relationship status at the time…” He muttered.
Hmm… I guess guys worry about these things too.
“So I talked to my sister, and we decided it’s best if I get you something for Christmas instead.” He continued. “Of course this was before we almost broke up…”
I tried to hide the disappointment knowing I could have had a froyo machine. Instead I smiled and said “Aw, but I didn’t get you anything…”
“Oh, I don’t want anything… Just open it!” His urged as his face lit up with anticipation.
I opened it and…how can I put this nicely?
It was an ugly sweater.
“THANK YOU!!!” I did my best fake enthusiastic squeal followed by a hug to avoid direct eye contact.
“I picked it out myself!” He announced proudly while letting out a sigh of relief. “I thought the ruffles match your jacket!”
“I love it…” I looked at it some more, trying to make that true. So frilly…
I gave him another hug, this time genuinely touched. I suppose guys also have insecurities when it came to relationships. I never knew he put so much thought into my birthday. Just bad execution I guess.
“So, I’ll call you once a week?” He referred to our plans while I’m gone for a month.
“And we’ll text over Wechat everyday.” I confirmed.
We hugged again at the door and held on for a few seconds too long, both reluctant to let go. This would have been the first time we were apart and a month felt like such a long time. As I walked away, I felt myself missing him already and wondered how people in long distance relationships do it.
Gosh, I thought, I could never do that.