“Searching And Still Haven't Found That Someone Special? Don't spend another day alone. Make the call now."
She’s sitting in the corner by herself, looking out the window at the beautiful crippled light of another day ending, a scene from a movie or a real moment you can’t place but recall watching. It’s not as if she’s waiting for something in particular, except for her beverage and her thoughts to cool, or that she seems especially sad or even lonely. Her hands are slightly dry, not quite cracked, just creased enough to scatter the dusk into shadow with her fingers curled around a coffee cup, stroking the smudged curved lip of it, over and over. A blue Toyota slides by outside, then another. You realise she could be anywhere (and perhaps so does she). And if so, how would you ever find her?
She returns home early for once, thoroughly exhausted from a blinding day of work, where even the leftover roses she bought to cheer herself up cringed into the vase from heat and fatigue. What is she doing and why is she keeping it up? Right now she has no words, no intimate insights to spare. Without even changing out of her crumpled, sour office wear, she collapses into the sofa and dozes off, snoring tears into the striped mauve fabric. The clock, its battery failing, adds one more minute to its repetitions, stops. However much love there is, you know, she will not change her life for your sake.
Her mother has told her, don’t come home so late, yet she’s put on her make up, bundled her hair high above her neckline in a tousled french twist, added a failsafe dose of Chenin No. 27 and a dash of her father’s recklessness, gone clubbing with the gang. If you could be there you’d follow her with eyes thirsty as any, the casual grace of prey in the spring of her gyrations, an eddy in a swirl of white music. But then you are on the wrong shore of this sea of hungers, of faces and abandonments, when you sight her in the orbit of another; the furtive embrace and smooth motion towards the door. They will forget to exchange real names or call -- a mistake you’d never have made, had you been the one with her that night, been sufficiently close to trade the breath-scent of vodka and implicit need, a companionship warm and intoxicating enough for the dark, a morning worth waking up to, quietly and more than once.
As soon as she answers your email, she will take the first step towards a better life. She will find the courage to leave her husband, the bloody bathtowels after every quarrel, the long, cheap window-bars and listless laundry. She will walk out one afternoon with nothing but her favourite dress and shoes, an umbrella and a purse, leaving behind a trail of shredded photographs on an otherwise spotless floor, and dinner ready-to-heat in the microwave. She will take your arm and laugh for the first time in years at the feel of rain on her unbrushed hair, as she lowers her umbrella to kiss you, at a mutually convenient location, out of sight of everything that ever registered her existence.
After dinner drinks on the Titanic II and reprising the king of the world scene on the prow, you dance till the stars yawn into a flawless ruby dawn, as you dock in an exotic foreign port filled with friendly locals offering bizarre but tasty sweetmeats and fabrics made from the threads of rare spiders and wine brewed from ancient grapes and spiced with a mild aphrodisiac venom. You make love for hours on the soft cushions stuffed with the feathers of extinct birds, sequined with gems and mystic calligraphy auguring an eternity of ecstasy and good fortune. Languid with desire and in the thick honeyed light of dusk, you promise her anything her heart desires before dozing off, forgetting, for this one night, to lock her chains. When you wake, she is still there: an answer of sorts, you suppose, gratefully.
You already know her, have known, will know her. She’s been waiting all her life, or for as long as it’s realistic to wait, if waiting is what one does, until eventually she settles into someone of whom she is mostly fond, someone kindly and to her eyes secretly dull, who knows neither the key to her secrets nor what to do with them. She is content not to be alone, and to be cared for dutifully, might even come to call it, loosely, love. You might think nothing of her, browsing through your database of faces. You might screw up, let yourself go, even almost hit her once and she’d forgive you, no questions asked, she would have loved you that much. You could spill the milk, forget the detergent, drink as much beer as you want, see other people, stay up late watching movies: there is nothing she could not overlook save your absence, replete as she is with the simple fact of you. Such ease with which you make her preternaturally happy, a carelessly tender word, the accidental brush of your fingers, a distracted smile between the shower and the morning papers. There is nothing you would need to understand, no lock you need to pick with care and patience, nothing to be said or unsaid. It would have been perfect. If only she were someone you could bring yourself to love.
By Alvin Pang
QLRS Vol. 2 No. 4 Jul 2003