Escaping from Cambridge to London for pretty much the whole day was one of the best things I've done for myself ever since my parents' visit. Granted, it hasn't been that long since they were here and I was on holiday with them; but time has a curious way of passing rather insignificantly and without note in Cambridge, creating a false impression of a multiplicity of time that cannot logically, realistically or factually exist. I felt like I had spent too much time in Cambridge. This is because I do spend too much time in Cambridge. Cambridge, indeed, has caused me to suffer from Stockholm's Syndrome, such that I found myself feeling too lazy to get my ass to London.
But plans had been made, and I am not one to change them without a good reason, and so I brisk-walked my way to the train station, almost running, to catch the 11.15am (I think) train to London Kings Cross, walking so quickly that I was a bit of a sweaty mess and feeling very annoyed at myself for perennially taking way too long to get out of the house. I hate rushing for the train - given that I know myself well enough to know that I hate rushing for the train, for it means brisk walking a distance that takes me 30 minutes to cover at my normal walking speed, the rational thing to do is to leave the house earlier, is it not? My idiocy knows no bounds.
Anyway. The plan was to meet Sixuan for lunch, then hang out with Etienne, then meet Elissa for dinner. The train pulled up in London at 12.13pm and I felt the familiar sense of freedom and aliveness that I always feel when I exit Kings Cross and take the stairs down to Kings Cross St Pancras, the Tube station. The Tube is how I know that I am in a big city again, in the heart of a civilisation of sorts, blending once more into the mosaic of variegated faces and accents and cultures and sub-cultures, the diversity that feeds the heart of the city. I exited at Old Street, had a flat white at Shoreditch Grind - my Fitzbillies when I lived in London, except I didn't go there even nearly as much as I go to Fitzbillies now. I had a flat white, and I read Virginia Woolf's The Waves, marvelling over her genius; this novel confirms her genius for me, for it is even more complex and fragmented and yet strangely whole, even more creative and deconstructed and yet perfectly ordinary, than To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway.
When it was time to meet Sixuan at Dirty Bones in Shoreditch, I walked through Old Street, down Great Eastern Street, past Floripa where I went a couple of times with some LLM friends, to Shoreditch High Street station and the Boxpark - and the grime and dirt and grit of this eastern side of London was, ironically, a breath of fresh air. I don't know if this is who I am, or if I am more the sanitised Cambridge sort; I don't know. I know, however, that I gravitate towards that which I do not currently possess, wanting the gritty sub-culture of east London when I am surrounded, on a daily basis, by the conservative, stately timelessness of Cambridge. These two contrary impulses (assuming they are necessarily mutually exclusive) beats within me. Is it any wonder that I am often lost, restless, confused, conflicted?
Lunch with Sixuan was fun. We went to the Columbia Road Flower Market. The first and only time I went there was during the first few months of my arrival in London, tagging along with a Singaporean guy and his International Relations friends because I had nothing else to do. I'd never gone back since. It was a shame that I didn't spend more time exploring Shoreditch when I lived in Old Street, save for the requisite Friday night LLM parties that sometimes took place in a random pub/club in Shoreditch. I definitely loved being able to just walk home after that.
I walked around with Etienne - along the Thames, across the Millennium Bridge, along the South Bank, and finally, across Westminster Bridge. Oh, the Houses of Parliament, so regal shimmering like this above the river. Not even the ugly scaffolding surrounding a part of it could mar its beauty. My feet, encased in a pair of heeled boots that were normally comfortable, were in a lot of pain at the end of this walk; but it was worth it anyway.
Dinner with Elissa was enlightening in many ways: a blast from the past that should have unsettled me more than it did; some solid advice from her regarding my haphazard love life; and finding some inspiration in the way she guards her heart jealously, zealously. It was good catching up with her. I'm glad she's relatively settled now in her new relationship. At least one of us has moved on to greener pastures after having had the misfortune of dealing with, and giving a shit about, an emotionally unavailable man.
The Situation with Matt
I am gradually discovering that I am not a quitter in many ways: I don't quit academic programmes, I quit jobs only after I have given it a genuine shot, and I don't quit relationships until I have nothing more to give, or until the relationship is doing nothing for me anymore. This has made me fail to exit romantic situations that were simply not worth my while in a timely manner. See, for instance: the Gareth Saga. Even when I thought I'd made up my mind to end things with him, he reeled me back in anyway with a soft touch, some casual comment about what I really should be doing instead of law, some observations about literature.
Matt is different, however. I have tried many times to rationalise this to myself: why Matt, why am I so drawn to him, why does the soft spot that I have for him exist at all, why did it not fade in a significant manner (or at all) after Wednesday night? It is an intellectual curiosity, of course; it is also an immensely intriguing relationship from a story-telling point of view. The writer in me is salivating - constantly - at the discordance upon which we have built some sort of a romance: the fundamental clashes in our personalities, the mismatch in socio-economic backgrounds, and since we're in England, the possible class difference (which would be more acute if I were English, but alas, I am but a lowly citizen of an ex-colony). There is so much material here to mine into multiple stories, or even a novel.
But there is a little bit more going on here, something along the lines of opposites attract; but then again, I have not been attracted in a more-than-physical manner to someone who is virtually, if not completely, the exact opposite of me in a really, really long time. Besides, have I not always banged on about wanting to date the male version of myself? Why Matt, then? I don't know.
So despite the angst and the melancholy and the previous entry in which I genuinely questioned the point of a short-term relationship, despite my uncertainty over whether I can handle it, despite all of that, I decided in the end that I wasn't ready to stop seeing him. That was it, then. That was the only thing that decided this for me. I wasn't ready to stop seeing him. I didn't want to quit just yet.
We met for a short while on Monday evening. I first ascertained that we were on the same page regarding the weirdness of Wednesday night, then explained to him that I hurt by what he said. I thought that when he said that he was seeing how things went, it meant that he was open to the possibility of something long term; but it turned out that he wasn't at all. He said that it wouldn't be fair to do long term now because he'd be going travelling at some point (he was vague on this; it's likely that he has no idea himself), and now the duration of his travelling has morphed into 'a year and a half or two years'. He doesn't do long-distance, he added.
I wanted to say, 'Yeah, and I'm not going to wait for you', but I decided it was a bit harsh and kept it to myself. In any event, if he's going to be gone for two years, I may not even be here anymore when he comes back; in fact, I'm highly unlikely to still be in Cambridge when he comes back. So long term is a moot point.
Why should it matter right now, though? It is pretty simple, isn't it? Boy likes girl, girl likes boy - that's it. Admittedly, I did wonder if he was only interested in sex; but I cannot help but always question a man's interest in me, wondering if he just wants to sleep with me and isn't interested in anything else. And so it was sweet and unwittingly reassuring when he said, 'I like you too. I enjoy spending time with you.'
Today, I worked on my neverending and terrible 377A paper at Fitzbillies because I didn't feel like going to the library (I haven't felt much like going there ever since Barry left, to be honest). When the cafe was a little bit quiet, Matt came over and sat with me for a while ('a while' here means maybe a minute; he was interrupted by a couple with a baby stroller). Then before he left for work, he came over just as I was packing up and getting ready to go, said that he was getting a drink across the road, asked if I wanted to join him.
So we sat together for about an hour and a half. It was nice. I don't know how we have things to talk about, but we do. He asked to see my paper. We talked about tennis which I play, squash which he used to play, the mental aspect of these sports. He said that he used to get angry at himself the way that I always get angry at myself when I mess up (which is most of the time). He didn't have a very strong mental game; neither do I. I guess it's nice that we have something else in common to add to the list of, I don't know, four things.
Sometimes, when I listen to him talk, I don't know why he'd ever say the things that he'd told me about himself - that he's the 'epitome of average', that he's 'common as muck' next to me. Nobody I know uses the word 'whilst' in conversation. Nobody I know says 'however' in real life. He described having a large bunch of keys in his pocket as 'cumbersome'. Of course I picked up on all these things, repeated them back to him. He thought I was picking on him in a bad way, but I wasn't - and I clarified this when he said 'cumbersome', and I said 'cumbersome?', and he said, 'I'm getting the impression that you spend a lot of time with uneducated people.'
'That's just the way you have portrayed yourself to me,' I said.
He's not as average as he claimed to be. On Saturday, when he decided that he didn't feel like meeting me to talk about Wednesday night, I sent a rather long message about how I was bothered by what happened and needed to talk about it, perfect grammar and punctuation and all.
He sent back two messages. Perfect grammar. Proper punctuation. Definitely in sharp contrast to the lazy way he normally texts. Then I said that he was confusing, and naturally, he asked why. I said that I couldn't presently explain it but I do tend to live in my own head too much.
'Right,' he said. 'Would it be better if we stopped seeing each other?'
I cannot remember if I noticed the perfect grammar in the moment. I suppose not, for I tend to notice immediately only when it is flawed. But after he clarified that he didn't want to stop seeing me, I thought about the message and saw in my mind's eye these two words: 'would', 'stopped'.
I am such a weirdo.
I am so tired right now. I played a lot of tennis this evening to prepare for a league match tomorrow. I played a set with Jay. We were both shit. I won 7-5 in the tiebreak. I couldn't serve properly towards the end. My backhand still sucks.