All of us hope for and believe different things about love. And likewise love.. happens differently to and for every single person as well. Sometimes, love just happens; in an unexpected moment, place or person. Sometimes, it develops over time. Sometimes, love mysteriously builds up to a perfect moment where all factors seem right.. and usually at this point, this is where the guy will go down on bended knees to pop the question. The thing is, whatever the context, there will come a point where love will present two people with a decisive moment of choice.. a moment that will either decide the continuation of love between two individuals or the end of it.
And it is this unpredictable unknown that’s the scary part.. because in the same way that love happens unexpectedly or mysteriously.. we may never know for sure how things might end up or why.
“Excuse me.. is this seat taken?”
He looked up from his book to see this girl standing beside him as if she was expecting something.
“Sorry.. what?” he asked, plugging out his earphones.
“Is there anyone sitting on this seat? The bus is kinda full,” she explained looking down on the empty seat beside him.
“Oh.. nah you can sit here if you -” she did without a word of thanks and before he even finished answering her.
And this.. was how he met her the very first time. There were no sparks. No initial physical attraction of any sort. No indication of love at first sight or ever will be. Just two random strangers seated beside each other on a long bus ride from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.
There were no further conversations over the next two hours. He was plugged in with his earphones reading his book, she was watching some show on her iPad. Eventually, the bus pulled up at the first rest stop. And he needed to pee. But the girl was sleeping and there was too little space to squeeze past her.. he had to wake her.
“hey, sorry.. erm, I have to get out”, he said tapping her on the shoulder.
She awoke from her slumber and moved aside allowing me to pass, mouthing a “sorry” as he did.
This was their second “interaction”. Still nothing but two strangers.
About 20 minutes later when the bus had to continue on it’s journey, she was already in her seat munching on some sandwich and again he had to awkwardly cross her to get into his seat. This time he was the apologetic one but she smiled knowingly and made room for him to pass.
The bus moved off and not too long later, the smell of her sandwich triggered a loud growl from his stomach. He was bloody embarrassed and tried to ignore what just happened but she heard it, giggled, and turned to him asking, “would you like some?”.
This was their third interaction. Neither of them knew then, but this moment was the beginning of conversations that they were to continue sharing..
Throughout the rest of the bus ride, they talked. They smiled. They laughed. They exchanged stories, ideas, opinions, introductions.
Sophie was studying in one of the Universities in Singapore but her family lived in Kuala Lumpur so this was her term break trip back to spend time with her family. Whereas Matt was on the beginning leg of a six months backpacking journey enroute KL heading further up North of Malaysia.
But anyway, this was how they met and this was how they became from strangers to acquaintances who were comfortable with each other.
When the bus finally pulled up at the KL bus terminal, Sophie and Matt promised to keep in contact and to meet up for coffee someday when they were both back in Singapore.
Over the next six months, they kept their word to each other and stayed in touch through Facebook. Things started off casually where it left off when they parted at the bus terminal.. he’d share with her about his adventures from wherever he was at the point in time while she’d tell him about her days in school.
Soon though, their online conversations became like a daily routine. There’d be a new message to and from each other almost every day. The length and depth of their exchanges were also growing with each reply. Matt didn’t actually realise what was happening till it started to feel odd on the occasional days when his inbox was empty from her hellos.
It was on one of those days that it all started to come to him that he actually looked forward to these conversations with Sophie and especially her replies. He was actually making an extra effort to find internet access wherever he was on the road, just to write to her or to check if she had written to him. He looked forward to her messages. And only hers. With each new reply, he became increasingly curious and interested to know more about her. When the replies came, he paid attention to all the things and details she shared about her days and life. Somehow, it mattered to him. He too, shared his secrets and dreams with her that he did with no other.
As their conversations started getting more personal, he began to notice all the other things between the lines.. he discovered how affectionate and compassionate she was in the way she sees the world and did things, how understanding and caring she was to the people around her. The “i miss you” and “when will I see you again” that she sometimes wrote after not writing to each other for days which Matt initially brushed aside as nothing more than flirty banter started to mean something to him..
Matt was falling for this girl that he had only ever met once.
As soon as he realised that, it scared him. He was afraid, not of what he was starting to feel for her.. but rather, what she might feel towards him or not at all. Because the fact was, they were mere stranger who had met only once and just for a few hours on a bus. Matt was afraid she’d get bored of him. That she’d wake up one day tired of their conversations or deciding that he was nothing more than a stranger she once shared good conversations with. He started to get scared that perhaps she might meet someone else in school who’d capture her attention, or maybe someone from the past will try to win back her heart. What terrified Matt the most was that he would lose the girl he was starting to have deep feelings for.
None of these mattered though, because Matt and Sophie hit it off the day he finally came back to Singapore and she was there at the airport to receive him with open arms. For the next two weeks, they hung out every single day, sharing stories and enjoying the moment of being physically in the presence of one another. They didn’t kiss or even hold hands but there was this sense of intimate bond and boundless joy that Matt felt towards Sophie whenever he was with her. He thought she felt the same. He hoped he felt the same. He wanted to let things develop naturally..
But on the third week of being back in Singapore and together with Sophie, Matt received a message in his inbox that would change everything.
“I’ll see you at 8pm tonight, k? I have something to tell you,” Matt spoke nervously on the phone with Sophie on the other end of the line.
“Yeah alright! I have something to tell you too! See you at 8 then!” Sophie replied rather cheerfully before hanging up the phone.
Matt had received an email a few days ago. It was a dream job offer. The only problem was, the job required him to relocate to New York and he had just one week to accept or reject this position. It was what he wanted to talk to Sophie about later that night.. he was already so sure of how he felt about Sophie that he had mentally decided to forgo this opportunity and to instead be with Sophie on this side of the world. He wanted to ask her if she felt the same and would want to be with him as much as he wanted to be with her..
“So what was it that you wanted to tell me?” Sophie asked.
She was looking exceptionally beautiful tonight Matt thought to himself as he smiled back at her beaming face.
“I thought you had something to tell me too? Ladies first,” he teased back.
After a little half-hearted protest, Sophie gave in.
“Okay fine. So there’s this guy.. I think i’m really in love him..” Sophie started.
Matt didn’t really hear the rest. He became numb. His head was spinning. Surely this was not happening?
“.. what do you think I should do?” Sophie ended.
“Huh?” Matt was still in a daze.
“Should I wait for this guy to make a move or…?” Sophie asked eagerly.
“hmm do what makes your heart happy I guess. I just hope this guy loves you too,” Matt replied in a painful whisper.
“You’re the best,” Sophie said happily as she leaned in to kiss Matt on the cheeks. “So what was it that you wanted to tell me?”
Trying to hold back a tear, Matt looked up at Sophie and said, “nah.. it’s nothing”.
In his head and heart, Matt cried the final words he’d never say to Sophie, “I love you, but I guess i’ll need to get over you,”
Sophie was devastated.
She didn’t know how or why but she knew what she was feeling.. no wait – does she really? Secretly, she hates the not knowing. She actually even hates what she’s feeling.. how she no longer seem to have control over her own feelings for him. Especially when she had no idea what happened. What didn’t happened. It’s like a spell had been cast on her. A spell she hoped the potion read “love”, but most nights now, it felt more like cupid was stupid and had gotten it absolutely wrong– he is male after all. Her own feelings that once excited her now confused her, scared her.. she knows she’s feeling all these emotions. She knows she’s not mad. She knows what she feels is very real. What she doesn’t know but wants to know, wanted to know.. was how he felt about her. It was this not knowing that was killing her. Thoughts of him consumed her days and kept her awake at nights and yet.. he doesn’t know. He mustn’t know.
She did try to tell him. Tried to ask him. In fact, she tried many times and things for him. She always tried so hard to make time for him, to be supportive of him, to be there for him online when he was traveling the globe and even in person during the days when he came back to Singapore. She tried to do meaningful things for him, tried to show him how much he meant to her, tried to let him know how much she had fallen in love with him.
But a week after that night they last met, Matt flew off to New York and had stopped talking and messaging her completely since. Sophie didn’t understand why. She thought he loved her too. That night, she tried to confess that she was in love with him.. but she wanted to know and had to know first if he too wanted to be with her too. Somehow, everything seem to have turned out horribly wrong.
He was gone. Maybe he never loved me.
Sophie missed him.
She remembers when and how they first met. She misses that. She remembers how special he made her feel whenever he wrote a new lengthy message to her from different parts of the world. She misses how important and beautiful and happy she felt whenever he was with her in words and person. She longed to be in his arms again where she felt loved and safe.
Sophie couldn’t bear to imagine a life without him anymore. She had shared some of the most personal secrets and happiest memories with him. He had become a part of her. The way she lived, the way she made her decisions with him in mind, the way she’d come home everyday feeling loved just by a message in her inbox knowing that wherever he was, he still thought about her.
But now that it’s all gone, she felt so empty.
It’s going to take awhile to get over this void. No more messages. No more conversations. No more love. Only memories. But it’s going to be so hard and painful to pretend as if nothing had happened or that the feelings weren’t real when it was do intense and deeply felt by her. It’s hard enough for her to get over anyone when she had become attached to a person; Matt was different.. her life and love had centred around him – he was her first love after all and he will always be.. but now she had to let go and move on.
(a decade later at a bus terminal)
“Matt! Matt! Come back!”
Matt turned around towards the direction of the person calling his name only to be met with a woman crashing into his arms. As he steadied her to her feet, he cried out in surprise, “Sophie??”.
The woman looked up at him in shock and gasped upon recognising him. Still in his arms, it instantly came back to her like it was just yesterday.. the times when he embraced her, giving her comfort and warmth, not just from the closeness of his body but what he ignited in her heart.
Sophie broke from her own trance and pulled away from him, “Matt! How? Is that really you?”
Matt stared at the beautiful face of the girl that he loved and secretly never stopped loving, “How are you! I mean.. hey.. you wanna-”
“Mummy!” a little voice cried out from below them.
Sophie and and Matt turned down towards the little boy tugging at her skirt.
“This is M.. Matt.. Matthias. My son.” Sophie stammered bending down to pick up her boy, “Matthias, say hi to Uncle Matt,”
After a brief hello, Sophie and Matt bid farewell.
As they parted ways at the very place where they first met, there were no promises to keep in touch this time, instead both of them made a silent confession in their hearts.. “I still love you, but now I need to get over you forever”.
To whoever reads this, as Valentine’s Day comes around again.. I hope you’ll remember to not just love, but let the one you love know (or fight for the one you love), not just on V’s day but every day while you still can and have him/her. Because sometimes, all it takes is a moment of needing to know, wanting to know that you care, that you’re interested and you want to be with your special someone because you love him or her.. to continue or end a genuine love and shot between two people.
I sincerely thank you for taking time to read this and if you haven’t yet, I hope you find your love and happiness someday.