I never had a steady experience before but I understood the ups and downs. Conversely some people might be happily married without going through a stressful break-up. What would they know?
So because I have never really explained this to anybody who reads this blog (except maybe the one who was my housemate when much of this happened) I think I should put out an account before I totally forget that something like this did happen. This episode is something I would say changed me but I wouldn’t think about it all the time.
You may have seen her before, and she would make regular appearances on my previous blog. I may have referred to her before as sea bass, when anybody would have known that sea bass is actually codfish. It doesn’t matter. Maybe I’m writing this now because I’m sufficiently distant from all those matters.
I met her when I was doing a holiday job, being an invigilator. I was very insecure around girls around that time and it would never occur to me that any member of the opposite sex would find me attractive. A bit of that would linger on today - well today I think that if I put in enough effort into it I could pass off as somebody’s boyfriend. But I wouldn’t be able to do that, work, and have other ECAs at the same time. So I’m choosing 2 out of 3, which is work and ECA.
Anyway I didn’t know if I had a crush on her at that time, but it was fun hanging out after work, playing card games in void decks. It was a relief from other things that were happening around that time, which kept me in a state of constant worry. I would say those were happy days, but bimbonic happy days. There was my best friend, and she was his friend too. And she was friendly towards everybody. I felt normal for a little while, almost part of a gang.
We didn’t see each other much after that. Later on I would find out from her that near the same time she was having a very turbulent first relationship with another guy who was a geek. I would bump into her with startling regularity - around once every year - without really keeping in contact.
One fine day, when I was about to leave for uni, I went to a gathering with all the other Singaporeans who were going to the same uni. It was a fateful gathering, considering that quite a few of those people I met I still keep in touch with. And a senior walked in with 2 girls, one of them his girlfriend and the other one - codfish. We finally exchanged emails (This was 4 years after we first met - nobody has ever ever accused me of being a fast worker) and we exchanged a few emails.
I was very surprised that she replied to me, because I was still under the impression that there was absolutely nothing interesting about me whatsoever. (And I was unfortunate enough to be hanging around with people at that time who did not correct this impression.) Then we became friends, sort of. The first few conversations were awkward, stilted. I thought about her, but not very much, during my first year in the uni. It was a very very confusing year, although I did learn a lot from school academically wise.
We finally hooked up during my first summer at home. It was an amazing experience, probably my first time in contact with another girl. And she was not bad looking. I would probably rate her as being equivalent of Tang Wei (and she bears a resemblance to Tang Wei as well), although I could be biased. Some things were going right with me at last - learning a lot of interesting stuff at school, although much of this is book knowledge I didn’t strictly have to go to uni to pick up, but I was having my mind opened to a lot of new ideas. And it was possible that I could be the boyfriend of a very hot girl. We went on 1 date, and where else could it be? We were at Borders. Sorry for being so nerdy. But we felt comfortable talking and discussing ideas. And she was really hot. But it was my last week in Singapore. A few days later, I was back in school.
It was an amazing time. Everything was wide open, anything seemed possible. She was an intellectual like me, and very probably a geek too. My head was full of new ideas, and I compulsively discussed everything with her. In a way, she played the same role as my sister, somebody to bounce off ideas with. (But she is not as smart as my sister. Heh.) And as much as I was thrilled to finally find somebody I could talk to, and was attracted to, more than that I was dazzled that somebody that attractive took an interest in me.
One day, the girlfriend of that uni senior, the one that she went to the uni gathering with, asked me if I was interested in codfish. I said yes, why not? Then she proceeded to badmouth codfish in the most horrible way. And I thought that was a horribly vindictive and self serving thing to do. This girlfriend was just terribly jealous of codfish. Turns out that codfish and the uni senior had been together for a short time, and she’s probably angry that he was still besotted with him sufficiently long after they broke up. But even with those qualifications, I would say that she’s right in a lot of ways.
Among the things she told me (and I can remember it like it was yesterday - this is one of the most shocking experiences in my life. You are in a strange foreign country, you have one link to what you think is a future source of happiness, you have experienced love for the first time, and you are on cloud nine, and some bitch contrives to pour cold water over it all.) She told me that codfish was mentally unbalanced, promiscuous, self centred. How she used that uni senior and manipulated him.
I think I was a little too ego to give her up at that point. There was something fatalistic about me, that I somehow knew I was going to see this through no matter how tragically it would end. Even if she was right, I was not about to stop this thing when I had just started. What I had been told affected me in 2 ways - firstly I was more cautious when dealing with her, and secondly I told myself, whatever she gave me, I would give as good as I got.
One of the strangest things about this relationship was that it took place entirely over ICQ. People think that love over ICQ couldn’t possibly work, and if I hadn’t been through it I might have agreed. But I can assure you that the feelings involved in this one were the most dramatic emotional roller coasters I have ever experienced. I have saved the scripts and kept them locked up in a cupboard somewhere because I wasn’t sure I was ever going to live through such extremes of emotion again, and also because I didn’t think I would ever allow something like that to happen again.
But it’s there in those marathon sessions - possibly up to 2 hours every night. There was me wondering if she would be faithful, but at one point it didn’t seem possible that she could work on her degree, play those games with me, and still have enough energy left over for another boyfriend. All those flirtations, the digressions into minute details of philosophy, then the sudden declarations of love. And how we always spent 5 minutes saying dramatic goodbyes every day. When she was good - and at that time it was quite often - she could be a very tender and emotional person. I think after this I decided that if I was going to look for somebody I would make it a base requirement that she must have a romantic personality. Anything less and I would be shortchanging myself after this. But she could also be very coy about whether she was attracted to another guy, and sometimes she wouldn’t hold back from hinting something like this right in my face. Then I would respond with every insult I could think of, and then we would break off. Typically when the conversations ended I was either extremely happy or extremely depressed. I was seldom anywhere in between after each session with her.
I probably detected the end before she confirmed it. I pissed her off, we had a great quarrel, and then we made up, was OK for a short while, and then suddenly I detected a change in attitude towards me. Quite sudden. I think it was that her old boyfriend, the one she was seeing, wanted her back. Did she take up with me so that she could increase her bargaining power over him? I wouldn’t put it beyond her to do that. But it was a horrible feeling. And on hindsight, I think just a few weeks before our relationship got terminated, she did ask me how far we saw us going with each other. Even though I knew her parents were pressuring her to get married I never said that it was going to happen, that would have been completely ridiculous. OK, I didn’t say “I will never marry you because you are screwed up” even though I was thinking that way. To be sure, I also thought “... I wished you weren’t screwed up”.
I wouldn’t blame her for breaking it off. I might have made it more difficult for her to break off, but she did, good for her. Not seeing me was no fun for her. (But maybe seeing me would also be no fun for her.)
In the end, when the euphoria of the first crazy days of the relationship faded away I think it was not that satisfying. We didn’t see each other, and if we did, I doubt the relationship would not have lasted 2 days. In the event, the whole thing lasted around 6 months, and the most intense portion 2 months in the middle. It is easy to conceal your differences over a cyber relationship. But I could not stand the waiting for her and figuring out whether she was going to be there for me. I could not stand the wondering if she was fooling around behind my back. I would sometimes lecture her on the importance of having a “stable life” but I’m sure that was more than a little hypocritical.
After that it took me a few months to get over this. I tried to get my life up and running again but in those days it felt as though somebody had sucked all the blood out of me. Maybe I was paying back for all that extra energy I had spent on that crazy cyber long distance relationship. I wouldn’t say that I sunk into a deep depression but I think I was more drained than I realised. I was in a state where when you tell your legs to walk, they don’t walk. When you tell your eyes to read they don’t read. I went back home and met her a few times. By that time she had agreed to marry her boyfriend, and was engaged. Our meetings were not happy, and I would describe them as the nadir of the whole affair, but at least it got drummed into me that it was over. I have written about those days before in more harrowing detail but I will spare you the details for later.
This was already the middle of my third year. Yes, some people will tell you that in those 2.5 years I could have had 2 or 3 girlfriends. Probably not, because Asian males are not very attractive in the USA, and because the Singaporean girls there weren’t my type. Do I regret wasting my time on that one lousy person? There were things that should never have happened, but there were also parts I would never have changed. I tend to go into things very deeply and I think that you really need a few years to properly go through all the stages.
A couple of years later my 4 “wonderful” years were up. I spent the rest of my time being more of a good boy. I returned to Singapore, and then found out that codfish had done a super crazy thing by ending her marriage, ending her career, and flying off overseas to pursue some artsy PhD. I think I decided to let the relationship play out because I knew that it would never develop into something more serious and permanent. Imagine if I had reached the stage where I married her and then let her do something like this to me - it would have been a hundred times worse than anything that actually happened between us.
In this second stage, which was also long distance and online, I thought that we might get along as friends, so we talked from time to time. I think during this time I got to know her even better than when I was going after her. At least there were no illusions. But there were a few things that we both did that pissed each other off, and I never really thought of her as a really serious person. Things came to a head when she had a new boyfriend who was somebody I had known. Then one day I said something indiscreet to her boyfriend, and she got very worked up. I think maybe she was paranoid that I would badmouth about her to her boyfriend, but in fairness this fear is probably well founded - not because I would have discussed her with her boyfriend, but because I had plenty of ammo to hit her with. I didn’t badmouth her. I didn’t need to, because I heard that both of them got sick of each other eventually.
But because of my indiscreet remark to the boyfriend, we got into terrible quarrel mode. It was then that I decided to apologise to her, seek her forgiveness, and after that never talk to her again. As was decided, so it was done. After that there were 1 or 2 emails from me, and she also tried hinting on her blog that she wanted to be friends again but we don’t talk anymore. I felt it had gotten to the point where only bad things could come out of our friendship. I doubt she reads my blog anymore, but I don’t care if she reads this entry. I don’t know if she’s single, but I don’t see her holding on to a real long term relationship.
Sorry, this is a very skeletal account. I have probably left out a lot of interesting things. There were a lot of toxic emotions involved that I have had the discipline to bury really deep in the ground, like what you would do with nuclear waste. If you’re sufficiently distant to write about something like this dispassionately you can no longer describe what it feels like to have been there.
Have my experiences with her coloured my attitudes towards women? I can’t really say that I failed if I never tried. There were 1 or 2 people after her who turned me down but most of you would know that hardly counts as trying. Because I’ll never know what could have happened if I was with a nicer person, it’s hard to be conclusive. But I would not say that I’m bitter: it’s more like “what’s the point?”
When I clung on longer than I should have, it’s not because I lost my head, but because I’m a stubborn asshole who hates admitting defeat. And I never had so much of a mean streak before I decided that I was going to be tough on her. She was one of the first people I had set out to be mean to, even if it wasn’t all the time.
If I’m not very impressed with chiobus, I suppose I have seen one up close, and they tend to be spoilt brats. If you are a chiobu it would take a tremendous amount of character not to end up as a spoilt brat. If there is anything to regret in those days, it is maybe that I could have spent that time more productively, but not because somebody gave me an education in what that love thing is all about.