It happened quickly, over noodles. At Mr. Wong’s.
“Kiko, want the hakaw?”
“Go ahead, Jen, it’s yours.”
“Nah, it’s okay.”
She’s looking pretty. We’re the only ones in the teahouse, aside from the waitress, who as of the moment, is lost adding up the figures of the day’s sales.
“So, will you have sex with me?” she said between mouthfuls of shrimp.
“Say what?” A gulp. I think I tasted bile.
“Will you have sex with me?” she said, this time without the shrimp getting in the way.
I hadn’t met Jenny in years. We were the best of friends in high school but she got to college a year before I did. When that happened, she started drifting her own way, as I found mine.
When time and space dull a friendship, it’s an insidious thing. You see less and less of each other and the next thing you know, you’re strangers again.
Like that last we saw each other: she was a sophomore Chemistry major and I was a bleeding freshman. It was nothing, just old friends passing in the hall on the way to somewhere else. Isn’t life just like that?
And then nothing. Not a single peep. That is, until I bumped into her flatmate at work.
“You went to the University? Batch 1995, you say?”
“I went too. Bounced around much. How about you?”
“You don’t say.”
Dinner usually means a lonely trek from the office toward Mr. Wong’s teahouse. It’s easy to get used to eating noodles by yourself.
“That’s no way to eat dinner,” flatmate interjects while I tell her about my daily dinner routine. “We’ll go with you to Mr. Wong’s, Jenny and I. I’m sure she won’t mind. After all, you two were close, right?
At the teahouse, flatmate receives a message. By the look on her face, I doubt it came from somewhere unexpected, but she manages to use it as an excuse to leave us alone to savor Mr. Wong’s noodles. No skin off my back.
Talk drifts this way and that, but we’re still strangers. We’ll always be strangers.
So I tell her about the last time we saw each other.
“Was that the last time? God, that was so long ago.”
“You’re telling me. I’m the one with white hair.”
“That wasn’t there before, was it?”
“Nah. That just happened last year.”
She’s got this green thing hanging by the side of her front tooth, but I don’t tell her. A long time ago, I guess I could just flat point it out, but now it would just make things even more awkward.
As if things weren’t awkward enough already.
So we catch up. She’s had a zillion boyfriends in that span. Me, I’ve dated far less. More like just one person since then.
“So how many people have you been with?”
“One. Met her in a writer’s workshop. Went out a week, but that was it.”
“Okay, you caught me. Two. The other one’s a hulking lesbian.”
“Just one. What the hell would a lesbian want to do with me?”
More silence. Humor wasn’t her particularly strong point.
Back at her place, lights down low, vodka my hand, beer in hers.
“I hate him,” she said between swigs of her beer.
“And that’s why you want to sleep with me.”
“That’s about right. Besides, I remember you to be cute.”
One less bottle of beer on the wall, one less psychic defense I have to worry about (this according to Mike, whose sole aim is to sleep with every available woman under 25 within a 20 kilometer radius).
“That’s it? Seems like a pretty flimsy excuse to fuck someone.”
“Do you want it or not?” Off go her clothes. Off go my clothes.
So it was that I, mythical superhero of lore, entered the gates of hell.
— Beware all of you who enter here.
She started snoring after two cigarettes. I took that as my cue to leave. Back in high school, it took four girls pretending to take her jammies off to wake her up. Now that she didn’t have any clothes, I figure that waking her up would not be an easy thing.
Exeunt, stage right.
I didn’t know what to think. It’s not that it was bad, in fact, it was fucking great. It was rough, violent, angry sex. Scratch that. We were fucking. It felt dirty. It WAS dirty.
It was weird, though. How the hell are you supposed to have fun with a big picture of ex’s face staring down at you?
You don’t. It’s funny, when you think about it. I’m a guy who just had fantastic sex, but the only thing I could think about was getting out of there. Something about walking, talking bad news.
What did I think? I’d get brownie points for giving the first mercy fuck of my life? If that’s good karma, the payback sure is taking an eternity to get here.
Or was the payback in the sex itself?
Spent an hour in the bath, rubbing my skin raw. Didn’t work.
You know how some people cut their skin just so they can feel alive? It’s not that they want to kill themselves, it’s just that pain is all that they can feel at that point.
I never understood what that meant until today.
Next day at work, I bump into flatmate at the water cooler.
“You left early.”
”Err. Had some work to wrap up.”
She knows I’m lying. I’ve always been a bad liar.
“She’s sick, you know.”
“Right. In the head. Tell me something I don’t know.”
“Not up there, you dummy. She’s REALLY sick. That’s why he left her.”
“Again, something I don’t know, please.”
“Silly guy.” Giggles.
It sounded more like a cackle to me. I’m sure she knows more. I’m not sure I want to know.