To be sure, I'd wanted a pre-Cambridge (read: pre-ShittyEnglishWeather) beach holiday long before I met G. Nonetheless, one of my stated aims of this trip, which I made explicit in recent entries, was to take my mind off him, detach myself from the situation by immersing myself in a semi-paradise, letting my love for the beach and the sea remove the load from my heart. I wanted to be able to see clearly, to make a decision with my mind, and on a more basic level, to feel as if I could be okay with not having him in my life.
Instead, the sea and the sun and the sand between my toes reminded me so much of our perfect date in Sentosa that I could not stop thinking about him. I got to Padangbai after a 90-minute drive from the airport, went down to Blue Lagoon beach after checking in, was dismayed at the sight of the massive, forbididng waves, and sat down on the sand and took out my notebook and started writing about him. I should not have been indulgent like that, but there was nothing else that I could have done. I could not swim because the waves were too strong; I had no one to talk to to distract my mind from my thoughts; and the natural thing to do, therefore, was to write about my feelings. My poor, stupid feelings. My insistent, pathetic feelings. Oh, give it a rest already.
Except, of course, I didn't. It was not too bad when I had company; but company arrived only after 7pm. Before that, I was starving and I went for dinner at about 6pm. I went to a random restaurant along the tourist stretch, not knowing where else to go, and the sight of a bench and a table for two facing outwards to the sea induced a pang of longing in me. How nice it would be if he were here, I thought.
It - 'it' being a messy combination of longing, missing him, a sadness that steadily graduated from melancholy - became worse when I got to Gili Trawangan. I stayed in a separate hotel from the girls (their hotel was too expensive for me, but mine was pretty amazing too) and after checking in, I walked out to the beach to take in the view.
The view was breathtakingly stunning. It was unspeakably beautiful. It was perfection. There were no ships, no people, no boats, just sea and more sea speckled with sunlight, the horizon separating cleanly the light blue of the sky and the deep, almost Aegean blue of the water.
This picture doesn't do it justice
It suggested endless, infinite possibilities, something larger than life itself. It should have made me feel invincible; it should have imbued in me an unrestrained freedom, a sense of the 'there is' of the greatness that could potentially become my life. After all, I am on the cusp of a new phase of my life which, in theory, will lead me to achieve greater things. My life, therefore, and its potentiality, are like this achingly beautiful ocean that seems to stretch outwards with no end point in sight. It has no limits. That is how I want my life to be; that is how I want to live my life, unlimited by pedestrian fears and self-imposed boundaries that falsely tell me that I can go this far and no farther. I want to go this far and then some; further beyond, plus ultra.
I felt small instead. I felt limited. I felt caged in, my heart seemed to shrivel in the presence of the majestic sight before my eyes, and the reduced capacity of my heart was occupied by one person, and an incessant longing caused by him, created by his absence, for him. The uneventful events of the rest of the day did little, or nothing at all, to take my mind off him. I became increasingly convinced that I wanted to - had to - reach out to him. I considered sending him a picture of myself with the sea in the background, cutely captioned, 'This is me saying hello.' Later on that night - in fact, at about 1 in the morning - I had our Whatsapp conversation opened and I had typed out a whole message: 'Hello from Gili Island. I have missed you. I trust that you are having a good time in Berkeley. How are you?'
I deleted this. I tried again: 'Hello from Gili Island. This paradise reminded me of you.'
That was as far as I got before I deleted that, too. Eventually, I closed Whatsapp on my phone and went to bed. Whatever I thought I wanted to say - whatever I felt like I had to limit myself to saying - felt too trite and felt like I was saying too much all at once. I was too tired to make a proper decision, and so I told myself that I would make up my mind one way or the other in the morning.
The morning came. I woke up late. I paid 100,000 rupiah for a crummy buffet breakfast that was worth it only for the amazing view of the sea that made me not want to leave. The issue of 'to text or not to text' was on my mind the entire time. I started typing the same opening line, then it felt like too much; I felt like I couldn't handle it. On the one hand, the urge to talk to him was so strong that it manifested itself as an unstoppable force, which then collided with an immovable object: fear. Fear, that is, of his possible indifference, his probable change of heart, and of the power that he continues to hold over me, whether he knows it or not. Inertia eventually won, and I went over to where the girls and I were the day before. I laid on a deck chair and wrote about G; halfway through, tears appeared in my eyes.
After lunch, Alexandra, Catia and I said goodbye to Raquel (who was booked on a later flight on Friday and could afford to spend one more night in Gili), and the three of us took the uncomfortable 'fast boat' back to Bali. Some weird dude from Jordan chatted up Catia. I found him completely annoying and desperate. Maybe that was just my own sadness making an unfair snap judgement; but then again, when I was asleep on the boat, he walked past me twice and bumped into my arm and woke me up - and he didn't even apologise. What a douchebag. When the boat finally arrived in Padangbai, the first thing that he did was not to gather his things, but to ask Catia for her number. Seriously? This guy works in Dubai and he wanted the number of a girl who lives in Portugal? Like I said, what a loser.
I checked in to my hotel for the night, a simple guesthouse that was the cheapest place that I could find for that specific night. I got to my room and connected to the wifi. I opened Whatsapp...and saw a message from G. I could not believe that he texted me. True to his form and style, all he said was, 'How's Bali?'
It was sent about an hour and a half before I saw it; when I saw it, it was almost 6pm, i.e. 3am his time. I didn't expect him to be awake, but I should have known that it was an entirely off-base expectation since he hardly seemed to need sleep during the one month I spent getting to know him in Singapore. I replied saying that I was still in Bali and it was nice; and asked if he wanted to see some pictures.
He replied almost immediately. 'Of course,' he said. 'Good. Berkeley is nice. Too many things going on at work. How are you? Do you like Bali?'
I had a quick and too-brief swim in the sea while waiting for the boat and I didn't bother changing out of my wet swimsuit. As a result, I was feeling wet, clammy and sandy, and I also really had to pee. I texted back rather hurriedly, saying, 'I am trying to send you some pictures. Not sure if it will work. Glad to hear Berkeley is nice. Good things going on at work? Anyway, be right back; I am in a dire need of a shower.'
He was still online. He wrote back, 'Dire need. :-)'
'I am all sandy and gross!' I locked my phone and headed to the shower without waiting for a reply. When I got out, there were a number of messages from him. Only the picture of me on the swing in the water got through and he commented on that ('Arty. Who put the swing there? Facebook?' He still makes me laugh); he said that it was 3am and he was going to bed; he thanked me for the picture; and he said that he will take some pictures of Berkeley for me.
Perhaps most importantly, he said, 'I have missed your statements.' This referred to my being in 'dire need' of a shower. I read that message and I saw in my mind's eye an image of him smiling at his phone, reading one of my messages. On one particular Friday sometime in August, we met in Buona Vista. He waited for me in a Starbucks and, after telling me that he was inside, went on to specify that he was 'sitting' inside. I texted back, 'As opposed to what? :D'
He read that message after I'd arrived. I went to get some water and when I got back to the table, I saw him smiling at his phone. 'What are you smiling at?' I asked.
'I just saw your message,' he said. He went on to attempt to justify why he felt the need to say that he was 'sitting' in Starbucks. The justification completely failed. It was adorable.
Therefore, when he said that he'd missed my statements, I saw him smiling at his phone while reading about my 'dire need' of a shower. It was just like him to notice these things. Once, I told him that my heart was 'constitutionally unable' to listen to reason (or something along those lines), and despite the fact that we were in the midst of a serious conversation about us, he picked up on it anyway, and repeated the phrase with a smile.
I was in an unnaturally good mood for the rest of the night. That brief conversation with him made me so happy that I didn't even care that Alexandra and Catia were a bit late to meet me, or that the vegetarian rendang that I ordered was terrible, or that we sat next to a group of tourists and one of the guys was annoying. I didn't care about any of that; I was just happy, unreasonably so, because he texted me and I didn't have to make the first move and he texted me and he said that he missed my statements, which, in my mind, was effectively him telling me that he'd missed me.
It's almost two days since and I have not heard from him again. He has not opened Whatsapp again after reading my replies the next day. Now I wish that I had stayed online longer that day so that we could've had a longer conversation. And yet...
The barrage of conflicting emotions that I now have to deal with in the aftermath of that brief few minutes of contact is precisely why I was so hesitant to get in touch. He continues to wield power over me despite being at the other side of the world. It is because of him that I am completely unfocused and feel emotionally unprepared to go to Cambridge. I have expended so much time and energy thinking about him and missing him and longing for him that I do not have space in my mind or in my heart for anything else. In all honesty, the thought of going to Cambridge scares the living fuck out of me. I don't know what I'm doing. I can't even focus on a short paper on judicial review; what the hell makes me think that I can do a PhD? I will be on a plane, Cambridge-bound, in a little over a week and he is still all that I can think about. Surely this is unhealthy. It obviously is. What am I still hanging on to?
Like I told Elissa though, as much as I know that there will be other men, and that I will probably meet someone who matches me intellectually, which is obviously more probable than not seeing as I will be surrounded by intellectual people in Cambridge, the thing is, these other men won't be him. This is a little bit question begging, but nonetheless: if I can replace him so easily, then he isn't that special; but he has to be special if I'm so hung up on him. That's the only way to think - that he is special - for my present predicament to make sense, for it to be non-trivial, for it to have magnitude. Otherwise, I am just being frivolous, and I don't want to think of it in that light. We were not frivolous. It was serious. There was a genuine connection. He understood me intellectually; I don't think anyone else has managed to do that. How can I just let it go as if none of it mattered? How can I just replace him with a copy of him, or a fascimile of what we had? I don't want someone like him; I want him. Him, with all his habits and quirks that I adored, his depth of thinking that I found both inspiring and intimidating, his gorgeous accent, his careful and usually precise use of language, his unfailing politeness, his random urges to buy me things, and even all his stupid annoying habits that annoyed the crap out of me.
It still does not help that I keep going to places in Singapore that remind me of him. Today, we drove past The Cathay en route to Raffles City for lunch, and I could not help but think, I really need to get out of this country. Yet, I am afraid of bringing this baggage with me to Cambridge. The hope is that I will be able to focus and let this - G - fade to the back of my mind when I get into the swing of things, but who knows? I am afraid that it will keep dragging me down. I know all the arguments about how I don't have to let it control me and that my mind is stronger than my heart, etc. etc. etc.; but I don't feel it presently. I just want to see him. It's been two weeks since his departure and I am no longer PMSing but I still cry about it. I still miss him. I am still in love with him.
I am too old for this stupid bullshit. As much as I don't regret meeting him, I can't help but wonder why this had to happen. I think fate, or whatever, is really not on our side. To think that I almost had to stay in Singapore for an additional year before Cambridge got back to me with an acceptance. To think that we could've had a whole year more. But we don't. I am going to Cambridge. It is a dream come true. Yet, I feel a subtle sense of dread, I feel utterly unprepared, I am not ready.
I went running this morning despite the haze in hopes that it would work its magic on my heart once more. Alas, it did not. The only positive take away from the run was that I forced myself to complete my route (albeit a bit truncated) despite feeling like I was on the brink of collapse 10 minutes in. Apart from that, I am still in the same place, festering in the same emotional rot.
I suppose I will figure this out eventually. Whatever. I'm sitting in Oriole at Capitol Piazza right now and I need to pee so I'm getting out of here. I will write properly about Bali when I feel up to it.