This is a piece of autobiographical fiction. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.
This story is written as an example to anyone who wants to believe that we are more than the patriarchy deems us to be, more than our limitations, and more than our fears.
[In a parallel universe]
23rd December, 2029. Singapore
We are at that restaurant you like in East coast – Smokey’s BBQ @ Joo chiat
It’s been at least 10 years since our marriage separation, 7 since we last had contact with each other.
You’re wearing a white shirt again, with khaki berms, and you’re smoking on whatever newage device they have in 2029.
Your hair is still the same as always and you’re wearing an expensive watch – one that’s more suitable towards your mid-life preferences.
You’ve put on quite a bit of a belly, but you look healthy, strong, calm, and contented.
– “How have you been?” We both speak at the same time.
– “How old are they now?” I ask
– “1 is 6 now, and the other one just turned 3” you tell me.
– “Cute ages! Clarissa’s kids are also around the same age” I tell you excitedly. We exchange photographs.
You show me the photographs of your children, and I show you the hundreds of photographs I have with my good friend’s children.
We eat. You order a plate of ribs with a side of fries and a pint of beer. I order a plate of grilled vegetables with a side of garlic bread.
– “You order garlic bread now? You used to tell me it was a waste of money” You ask me with a small laugh.
– “Living in Europe for 3 years can do that to you. You start believing in bread religion. I once went 40 days without eating rice. Can you believe it?” I say. We both laugh.
In our voices you can hear how much we’ve grown – not just in age but the way we talk. Our words are now driven by self-confidence. Our pauses, sighs, laughs, and nods all show signs that we’ve matured so much more now.
– “You know, Jane. I always wanted to tell you this but y’know, you’ve always been the wiser one…..
– I’m really sorry. Truly. For everything that happened between us. I’m really sorry.”
I let your words seep into my being and I allow my body to take in your words. I push my mind aside for a bit and I feel the sensations within my body, letting them tell me how I truly feel.
After a deep certainty of feeling only happiness, I look to you and smile.
– “I can’t lie. Marrying you was the greatest mistake of my life.” And I look straight into your eyes – dead pan.
After a few seconds, I start sputtering laugher and we both break out into fits. We’re laughing so hard we’re crying. Your head is thrown backwards towards the sky, you clap your hands hard as you do that. I bend forwards clutching my gut because the laughing is making my abs ache. We’re sharing this moment of pure joy, putting aside all the bitterness that’s left unsaid, the anger that once filled us with hatred, the sadness we both caused our families, and the unforgiveness we didn’t want to cede to each other.
For those few moments of laughter, we became of one mind again.
And that’s when I break out of laughing and struggle to keep a straight face while saying
– “No but seriously. I’ve learned so much about myself and found my direction in life, all because of that mistake we made.”
You straighten up a little, upon hearing my words and we both get ready to have the discussion we’ve been waiting to make all evening.
– “Gideon. First of all, I really need to acknowedge your apology. Thank you for that. For a good 3 years after we separated, that was all I wanted to hear from you. I just wanted you to admit you lied to me and truly apologize for it.
——– Neither of us say anything.
For all the things that have happened, I just wanted you to acknowledge your actions. Because I was really trying to do that for myself. But you know, that’s where I went wrong. I shouldn’t have imposed expectations on you. Especially not when we were already separated. ”
– “Hey, thanks for saying that by the way. The whole pressure, expectations thing. I might have once, okay haha many times, made you feel like you expected alot from me. But I also want you to know that it wasn’t just you I thought this about. I thought this about everyone around me. My mum, my bosses, my dad, friends, people around us. I grew up being conditioned to think I have to live up to expectations of me, so yknow – anyway. Continue please.”
– “Ah okay, I guessed but didn’t wanna assume. Anyway yeah, I know that I expected alot out of our relationship and you. I know now, that it was because I was expecting so much of myself, and I didn’t even know how to show myself empathy – let alone you. I just really loved you, yknow? It’s been years and I know how I felt. I loved you Gideon. Not in the way I should have, because I always loved you more as a friend instead of a romantic partner, but I loved you so much and just wanted you to be the best version of yourself.”
– “I loved you alot too Jane. But yeah, just like you said, not in the romantic way, more of as a friend way. I’m sorry I lied to you about how I felt. Honestly, at that time, I had no idea what Love is. I hadn’t experienced before, how true love feels like. So, i really did think I was marrying you out of love.”
– “No, I get it. Love is a complicated concept. People always think there are different kinds of love, like we just categorized them. But yknow, sometimes I also feel like Love is just a kind of feeling. Like happiness, sadness, anger. You can make someone feel love by doing nice things for them, caring about their needs, listening to them, you know, the various love languages. So yeah, I do believe you can love many people but not be partners with them. Cos you know, a life partner is more than just someone you love, it’s someone you’re compatible with.” I say to Gideon.
– “And my….were we uncompatible……” Gideon says with a sly look on his face and we both start chuckling again.
– “Oooofffff, come on. We had such a dramatic past together. It’s insane. I felt like our real life was a Netflix show and I wanted to go back to the day we met to check if we had agreed to create a netflix show idea instead of dating.” I lay a hand out infront of you on the table, my eyes in wide disbelief.
– “You gave me such a fucking hard time, Jane. I had to deal with Marianne being so anxious, my family being disappointed with me, my work getting sloppy because of stress. My God. I was really having the hardest time of my life back then. But you know what, that was also when I decided enough was enough. I was done with you. I was done with my past. And I wanted to rebirth. I wanted to just clean out my slate and start afresh. Because it was too hard to think that my life was tainted just because of one mistake I made. So, I’m also saying that I understand you were giving me a hard time because I had given you such a fucking hard time back then. I’m so sorry.” Gideon puts a hand on my arm while still shaking his head.
Your touch on me sobers me up a little. And I feel your energy pulsate through my veins. A worry passes my mind.
– “By the way. How are you in life? How are things? Everyone happy and healthy?” I ask with a suspicion on my mind.
– “Er…..” I see you hesitate, your eyes blanking over as you calculate the risks and rewards of telling me the truth. In the end just before your eyes glaze back, I see the real message for a fraction of a second and know enough.
– “You know. Life is hard. Life is always full of ups and downs right. But no lah, everything is good. What matters most is that we’ve got family around us to support us. We’ve gotten alot closer to my cousins. Marianne is good friends with them as well. I’m also really close to her family. We’re very happy to have such a supportive family system.” You tell me.
You smile at me with your eyes, genuinely and sincerely. And I realized this was the first time you had ever held my gaze for such a long time. You were finally ready for me to look at your truth. You were finally 100% your authentic self infront of me.
I look at you and consider you for who you are now, ignoring all of our past, all of our words exchanged, even the fact that we once got married. I look at you with a stranger’s pair of eyes and I smile back at you.
I feel only a quiet confidence within you that you have grown since our divorce. It’s mysterious to me and confirmation I never truly knew who you were back then. You were just hiding so much from me back then I never got to see who you really were.
Infront of me stands a decent guy. A guy who has made mistakes, like anyone else has. A guy who once decided to turn his life around. To stop letting his past wounds manifest into his false self. A man who loves to take care of his family and whose family cares for him too. A good, contributing, honest man as valued by society.
As we say our goodbyes and walk towards our modes of transport – yours, a mercedes but a family-sized car, mine – an electric car small enough to seat just 2 – I ask myself how I feel about you and your life now.
I feel nothing.
Really? I ask myself.
And then I asked myself how I felt about myself.
Immediately, the answer came. I felt so happy! So happy I was able to express myself in a safe and honest space. So happy we were able to have a decent conversation even after so many years. And so proud that we were both able to put our differences and history aside to show each other politeness and gratitude.
I drive back towards Tanjong pagar and park behind Duxton hill.
I walk towards the bar, a bartender raises her head at me and calls her boss.
My beautiful friend Jasmine looks over in my direction and comes gives me a hug. She then points me to where my friends are sitting at. And my girl friends and I order some drinks. We talk, we laugh, we hug, and I’m basking in the beautiful day of love.
Love amongst friends. Where good friendship is rooted from.