The tears that I struggled to suppress while on the MRT home from my closure-seeking conversation with Mark proved me so very wrong.
In all honesty, I don't begrudge him for anything. I don't think he behaved badly. I don't think he is a jerk. Apart from some obvious OCD health issues and reading problems (he still thinks that he can catch herpes from kissing someone with genital herpes), I think he's a decent guy. He didn't have to meet me at all, and I'm sure there are numerous guys out there who wouldn't even have given me the courtesy of being a decent human being about this.
Still. American Mark is my Lesson Learned - and it has to be a lesson learned, or else. As much as I understand why he doesn't want to see me anymore, especially since this flirtation or whatever one wishes to call it was never going to be a long-term thing, sometimes, despite the ability of the head to calmly process information to reach a cognitive equilibrium, the heart is nevertheless unable to prevent the bruises from forming. All it can do is stop itself from scarring.
I finally understand what it feels like to be burned by an unnecessary and unfair social stigma. I don't know if I can properly put into words how insulting and demeaning it feels (note that I don't say it is) to know, however obliquely, that the only reason a guy who was so into you, and who claimed to be crazy about you, no longer wants to see you is because of something trivial that sounds disproportionately worse than it really is - and it wasn't even your fault that you contracted it. I didn't get herpes because I slept around; I got it because one of my ex-boyfriends went down on me while he had cold sores. I guess my only mistake was being so ignorant that I didn't know what cold sores looked like, and so I never noticed anything. How does that justify me having to live with this stigma for the rest of my life?
It doesn't, but that's the way it is. There is nothing fair about life. I consider myself privileged and lucky that of all the problems that I could be moaning about right now, I am whinging about having Type 1 genital herpes. In essence, however, what I am really pissing and moaning about is the fact that the herpes has robbed me of the choice to engage in casual sex. Talk about utterly self-absorbed and ridiculous first world problems. Of course, my justification is my usual high-minded crap about how autonomy and freedom are the most important values in life, and it's not casual sex per se that is the issue, but the fact that I am robbed of the choice, which diminishes my autonomy and restricts my freedom...
I should try to put a positive spin on things for a change. How about seeing it as a means with which I become more discerning and more selective of who I choose to share parts of myself with? How about learning from this Mark debacle and not being so careless with myself next time? By that I mean more than just my body; I'm also referring to my pride, and my heart. While I didn't think that we were getting married, I still genuinely liked him. I liked talking about tennis with him. I enjoyed his company, and I glowed in the attention that he lavished on me. The operating factor that attracted me to him was his sense of humour and his ability to make me laugh - and I have demonstrated in the past how easily I fall prey to that and pick all the wrong guys based on a trait that isn't even indicative of other things that are equally important in a man (intellect, good character, have I mentioned intellect?).
I have to guard myself more jealously. I cannot let myself be caught off guard again; allow the guy to get me to exactly where he wants me, leaving me flailing about, babbling out a personal part of myself over which I should always have full control on when I share it, and with whom; and I have to be more discerning. I don't know what more I can say to myself anymore. I need to stop making these mistakes. Stop falling for cheap stunts - a flippant compliment, a foreign accent, an attractive age gap, verbal sleights of hand, hollow sweet words that anyone can say to anyone else at any given time. And if old habits indeed die hard - don't feel bad when actions diminish into a mere whisper. Don't descend into self-loathing and self-accusations. Resist the temptation of the emotional self-flagellation. More likely than not, it's simply not worth it.
What struck me, too, was how different he was. The jokes no longer came fast and easy; he was no longer trying to impress me. There were no more light touches either. It was just him across the table from me, talking to me as if I was just another person, and not the girl that he was supposedly crazy about just a few days ago. (Of course, like I said already, I didn't really believe it; but I guess I am rather astounded by how easily the words slipped from his mouth.) He didn't even have to say anything about what we were really there to talk about for me to know that the intrigue was totally over for him. It was all in his demeanour, in little things that he did differently today than those previous times we went out. They were so subtle that I can't pinpoint them with precision; they were things that made me just...know. And yet, there were snatches of moments during which I found a treacherous part of myself wishing it didn't have to be this way (when he was talking about how he was 'anal retentive' - and he said this phrase really slowly, as if I wouldn't have heard of an American saying - about taking in sugar and sugary drinks, and I thought, Wow, me too), and moments when I felt like getting up and walking away because talking to him reminded me of why I was attracted to him, and I hated that it was over.
Stop this weakness, this childishness, this foolishness. I will forget Mark, but I won't forget this lesson. I won't be so careless again.
As usual, I couldn't think fast enough in the moment and I found myself having questions on the train - questions such as, So was it your plan all along to just sleep with me? Why did you even bother going out with me if you are leaving Singapore at the end of the year? I nearly formed the urge to ask - but it's not worth it. As Julian Barnes wrote in England, England: Oh, forget it, Martha. Let it go.