Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship.It has been almost a year since we last saw each other. A phone call every night, frequent exchange of short messages, and an occasional love letter - these are what have been keeping our love strong. Yet at the same time, they can never appease my yearning for her physical presence.
That's why they say long-distance relationships are never easy. But the irony is, if I hadn't left to study in Japan, we wouldn't have been together. I would have forever remained that awkward teenager whom she had once rejected during high school (18 was a dreadful age). It is these five years of life overseas that made me shed my former self. Appearance-wise, I'll never star in a J-drama, and my fashion sense is still no better than a garden slug's. But at least I can now cook, handle household chores and settle the bills by myself. I keep a couple of part-time jobs to fund my retirement savings. So I guess that makes up for my other shortcomings.
Our mutual friends think it's a surprise how we got together despite the distance. That's pretty understandable - we surprised ourselves too. Instead of attributing it to pure coincidence, I prefer to read it as nothing other than a sign of romantic destiny. But even if our destinies were woven by some higher power in the heavens (10,000m up there), I believe it still takes some form of initiative from both sides to ignite a relationship. For us, it was my asking her out, and her willingness to open herself to me.
I was back in Penang for the summer vacation. Gave her a call to ask her out. We went out for dinner just like typical friends, updating each other over the meal. She just graduated a few months ago and was enjoying her last few weeks of holiday before the job hunt. Lucky for us, because otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to spend the next few weeks doing things together more than half of the time. Hiking at Penang Hill, movies at the cinema, karaoke with friends, playing badminton, photo outing at the botanical gardens, writing her CV at Starbucks (when an earthquake occurred and our parents called, asking us where we were)... And among these memories that we share, there's an episode which we still often recount fondly.
We were having a reunion with our ex-classmates in the evening at The House of Steamboat. I insisted on being her chauffeur for the evening since her house was on the way (and more importantly, because I wanted to). She gave in. Upon reaching the front of her apartment, I gave her a ring and she came down. The first thing she did when she hopped into the car was staring at me with wild-eyed disbelief.
"What? You're wearing black jeans and white T-shirt too?" she exclaimed. That, plus our arriving in the same car would surely raise some eyebrows. We decided just to play along. True enough, our friends greeted us with playful grins. And what's more, one of the girls spotted what we didn't notice - we were both wearing Nike shoes! It's amazing how many coincidences you can get in a day.
We had a splashing time together but every day we spend together was another day closer to the end of my stay in Penang. The night before the day of my departure, we sat by the seaside, shoulder to shoulder. The waves were glowing in the dark as if someone sprinkled pixie dust in it. She stared at it with the excitement of a kid who woke up on Christmas morning just to discover presents lying under the Christmas tree. I was mesmerized by the innocent look on her face. As I half-heartedly explained to her that they were caused by bioluminescent organisms in the sea, I tried to take in every detail of her visage. I realized that today might be the last chance I could admire her from such proximity.
Far ahead, lights from the mainland were glimmering as some unseen fog threatened to swallow them. I frantically held on to this moment, secretly wishing it would not be snatched away from my memory.