“Stay here, you need me”

Inspired by a true story

That feeling…….of being desired. That high I get from being needed and wanted. 

I don’t necessarily like it. But it exists within me. 

I remember the way he rolled over to face me.  I remember waking up in a blur, feeling his lips hot on mine. His hands caressing my breasts with the sound of the ocean purring in the background. I remember all my senses heightened, how sensitive I became to his every movement and sound. How his moans would melt against my lips, how loud they seemed to be and yet only loud enough for me to feel on my skin. 

He was a family friend, a year older than me. Our families would go to this kelong. A kelong is an offshore platform primarily made from wood. This one was big enough to fit about 100 people. There was a restaurant that cooked all of our meals, bunk beds that lined up next to each other, and toilets that were basically a hole into the ocean. I loved growing up going on kelong trips. I loved sleeping under the stars, lying on a hammock trying to catch a breeze. There was nothing else to do on a kelong except eat, sleep, play mahjong, and fish. 

Most of the customers were men who brought their friends or families along. My uncle had brought my dad here first. Later, my dad would bring others. It was a recurring event for us to come here, and that’s probably why my idea of an escape is always to be close to the sea, or literally in the middle of the ocean. 

I first met him when I was 9. He was 10. 

We were children, and as children, all we cared about was fun and games. He taught me how to play ‘Big 2’ and for those few days that we spent together, each time our families went on holiday together, we were inseparable. 

From the moment we woke up, till we went to bed, he, his brother, me and my brother would spend all of our time together, except for when our brothers would go off to fish with our fathers, leaving him and I alone. 

We even needed to take our showers at the same time, splashing water over the divider onto each other. At night, we would all take our pillows out onto the platform, listen to the waves and talk. 

I didn’t see him again until I turned 16, and him 17. 

This time….we were older now. Teenagers in our prime years, just before we got old enough to know of consequences, yet not young enough to hold back on our impulses. 

When I first saw him get out of the car at the breakfast meeting point. My heart skipped a beat. He was so handsome. And much taller now. He had lost his baby fat and had a chiseled jaw. Immediately, I started feeling insecure whenever he would glance in my direction. Why did I wear my hair this way? Why did I not look more fair or feminine?

It took a while before we finally exchanged words. 

It was on the ferry that would take us from Mersing to the kelong. 

We sat next to each other, awkwardly glancing around to avoid eye-contact. I don’t remember who started the conversation but I remember feeling like nothing had changed between us in those 6 years of not meeting. 

Yet, everything had changed. 

Once we got to the kelong, a thought crossed my mind – would we be sleeping next to each other just like we did when we were young? My stomach turned over in nervousness at the thought but I brushed it aside. He’s already told me of a girlfriend he has. They’re in love – he says. He tells me that when they first met, they were enemies. He couldn’t stand her, she found him annoying. Soon after, they got to know each other more and have been together for a year or so now. Knowing he had a girlfriend didn’t quite affect me. He was a little more than a stranger to me now. Besides, I didn’t know him in “real life”. All my interactions with him were in this fantasy world where no pain exists – only peace and dreams yet to be fulfilled. 

After dinner, the few of us “kids” started playing cards. I observed his every move and facial expression. How his eyes would sparkle when he spoke about something he liked, how he would playfully nudge me with his shoulder every time I said something stupid. He would tell our younger brothers how to play a better strategy at the game too. 

The time came for everyone to take our night showers. 

On kelong, you had to fetch your own water. That meant lugging a 10-kilo barrel of fresh water into a pail, and then using a bucket to scoop water out. I couldn’t lift mine of course, and so he helped. Watching him lift the barrel so easily and smoothly, my eyes hungered over his strong arms and for a moment, I imagined his skin naked, his fair skin dripping wet…..beads of water dripping off his hair. With that image in my mind, I awkwardly thanked him for helping me and immediately realized my face was getting hot. We were in the same bath cubicle and it was all too much for me. I shoved him out of the cubicle and locked the door, pressing one hand to my chest, willing my heart to slow down. It was beating so loudly I feared he would hear it. 

All freshened up with damp hair, I step out of the cubicle in my pajamas and see that he’s just stepped out too, with no shirt on and a towel covering him waist-down. “Fuck me…..no,” was all I could think of then. 

I think he liked it – making me uncomfortable, watching me squirm about. I think it fed his ego. 

That night, the kids had all piled up into a row of beds side by side. Him and I took the bottom ones. We played cards with the others well into midnight. And that’s when things happened. 

We must have fallen asleep because I saw that I was still holding onto cards in my hand. The next thing I realized was his face so close to mine I could feel his breath. Were we kissing? He was kissing me so gently, it felt like a dream. My mind couldn’t react and I observed my body completely lean into his. I watched us from another universe, my hands combing through his hair, his right arm wrapped around my lower back. 

I don’t remember how long we were wrapped in this embrace, and I don’t remember how long it took for me to fall asleep again. But I remember lying on his chest, listening to his heart beating. I remember the scent of his neck, and him giving me forehead kisses. He was my first love, and I never even saw it coming. There was no way I wouldn’t have given him my heart if he had asked. 

—————–

I woke up with the sun shining in my face, my left arm outstretched on the bed as if I had been stretching it over something or someone – Him. 

I heard a familiar clanging sound on the pot and knew it was the call for breakfast. Sleepily, I got up and groped around on the mattress for my spectacles. 

The minute I put my spectacles on, his figure came into vision. I thought he would realize I had awakened, and come right over. I was wrong. Something about the tightness in his jaw and the way he was trying not to look over gave me a sense of dread. What happened? Did I do something wrong last night? 

On the way back to land, he ignored me throughout the whole ferry ride. I don’t know what I was expecting, but surely, not this? Where did that passion go? Where did that emotion I felt dissipate to? 

When we got back to Singapore, I tried contacting him but he said that he was going to forget about what happened. His emotions overcame him (more like hormones) and he made a mistake. He told me that he loved his girlfriend and requested for  me to forget about the incident. 

I was 16, and completely emotionally incapable of dealing with being used like that. He was an asshole and yet, my heart pined for him for the next few months. I replayed our kisses over and over again in my mind, trying to live through them if only for just a moment. 

You can imagine how I felt, when a few months later, my father told me we were going on holiday again with the same family. From the day I knew about the trip until the moment I saw him, my entire nervous system went haywired. My body felt so rejected but at the same time, my heart couldn’t stop hoping he had changed his mind. “Pick me! Why don’t you!” 

Once we reached the kelong, it became instantly obvious that he wasn’t interested in just “being friends.” He made several flirtatious comments, found my gaze on him several times and held eye contact with me in such a suggestive manner that I just lost all sense of morality. “He should be mine,” I told myself. After all, didn’t I meet him first?! 

That night, our conversation became so much more serious than ever. We talked about where we wanted to go for school, what we would want to work as, whether we were going to have children etc. “I’m going to marry Andrea,” he told me. I looked down at my hands and looked away, feeling the pang of pain on my heart. We were under such a starry night, the breeze was strong, the ocean calm….but my body was experiencing such a cacophony of emotions, each demanding my attention that I switched off and started disassociating. 

We started talking about other things, and for some reason started talking about our sensitive body parts (don’t even, i have no idea why). I told him that my gut always felt like my most vulnerable part. I was facing one direction and he was facing the other. In one swift movement, he stepped closer to me, so close I could feel my goosebumps almost touch his arm. The heat from my body was radiating to the top of my head and I felt my ears burn. 

“You mean….like this?” He placed a warm hand on my stomach, looked me in the eyes, and that was it. I fell for that motherf*cking smooth-ass shit instantly and we locked lips again for the second time. 

We picked an empty bed, this time one that was on the upstairs bunk and lay beside each other. We made out for such a long time I had to pull away one second just to breathe. The moment my mind recognized that it was him I was kissing, I started tearing up. “Why are you with her?” I asked him. “Because she’s perfect for me. She has all of the qualities I know I’ll need in a wife. I love her.” “Then why are you with me now?” My voice croaked. I couldn’t believe how embarrassed I felt but I also needed to know. “I don’t know. I can’t help it.” He tells me. I start pushing him away, trying to get off the bed, unhappy with his stupid-ass answer but he pulls me close to his chest, close enough that I can hear his heart beat and he simply says, “stay here, you need me.” 

That was the first time I gave my power to a boy.