wondrous, glorious, but brief
(writing this post while listening to adele's love song.)
like all encounters, it was short and sweet.
i will always remember it. and you. especially you -- your smooth, milky white skin. the curly, shoulder length hair and the way you combed it with your hand. it was a nervous gesture, i later learned. the awkward smile when you asked for a lighter. your tiny lips holding your cigarette. your voice, it was something else, soft and melodious, as though you were still in your bed, dreaming, kissing your lover.
i was standing outside of my favourite hunting place in lkf. a favourite past time. looking at the party people in their friday night's best -- hopping from one bar to another. lovers holding hands, embracing each other, kissing on the streets, unmindful of those eyes around them. what is it about love that makes us brave? stronger? shameless? then there were the vampires like myself, searching, looking for the next prey. hungry, but trying to suppress it with their sweet smile.
it was around ten, i think, still early for a kill. i was adjusting my scarf (the nyt was biting cold), tightening it further on my neck, as if afraid that someone might bite me from behind.
then you appeared right in front of me, like an apparition. your curly hair a bit messy and so you tried to smooth them out with your hand. (i wanted to tell you right there and then to let it be, you looked even better with your messy hair). then you looked at me and smiled.
cigarette safely tucked between your index and middle fingers, you asked: "do you have a lighter?"
if it were another person, i would have thought it was some cheesy, rehearsed pick up line. tired and no longer effective. as my bitchy fierce editor friend used to quip when presented with old news on her desk -- it's too old, it should be buried in payatas (a wasteland in glamourous manille)!
but you looked, how do i say it, earnest. like you really mean it. of course you do.
"i am sorry i am a bit drunk."
i smiled when i noticed how nervous you were. i mean, isn't alcohol suppose to shed some of our inhibitions. so why are you nervous?
"it's alright, there is no law that prohibits drunk people from asking for a light from strangers."
this made you smile. i called the waiter and asked for a lighter.
"oh yes, i should have asked the waiter."
cute accent. i was guessing french.
"i am from shanghai by the way, but i was born in france. i am half chinese, half french."
ok. i thought. he must be drunk to volunteer all those information.
"i am a musician."
"cool," i said.
"what about you?"
i told you a little about myself and what i am doing here. i am secretive. unlike you, i don't easily share personal information. even with my closest friends. i prefer to be mysterious. a tom ripley minus the criminal past.
"oh so you are a financial journalist?" you seemed pleased. now relaxed. it must be the cigarette.
"you should meet my friend. he works in a bank here. come join us at our table inside."
after you finished your cigarette, you went inside and rejoined your friends. your table was not so far away from where i was standing. in fact, even with the dim lights, i could see the three of you very clearly: two guys and a lady. you were wearing jeans and a shirt. very casual. in contrast, your male friend was in a gray business suit, while the woman was in a black jacket, yellow blouse and black skirt combo.
i followed you with my gaze and saw you talking to your friends and then you pointing at me, a clueless stranger outside of the bar. looking lost and dazed. i already had three bottles of stella and two mojitos. it was a cold night and i needed alcohol to warm me up. to ease the reds.
later, much later, you were outside again. this time, your cigarette already had a light. you offered me a stick, but i turned it down politely. i told you, i quit a long time ago. bad for the skin.
you laughed. i like your smile. your teeth, white and even. like that of a dentist. or at least my dentist, a sixty-year old chinese man with soft, gentle hands and soothing voice.
"i play the saxophone and compose music," you volunteered again.
"wow!" i said, truly impressed. i have always wanted to be a musician. it's always been my dream to be able to say this -- "thank you for coming tonight. this next song is for all of you. i love you all" -- to a live audience while i am on the stage with the round spotlight on me.
suddenly i found the courage to confess: "i tried playing the guitar once, but i didn't like it. it hurts my fingers. i tried singing too, but it did not agree with me as well," i continued. "so i.." then paused for dramatic effect.
but you quickly filled the silence -- "it's alright. to each his own."
what else can i say? i was already in love with you by then, a few hours after we met.
you were wearing an old pair of jeans, what fashion bloggers called soccer dad's jeans. it's not the skinny, crotch tight pair. then a white long sleeve shirt, untucked. the outfit, the endless cigarettes, alcohol breath and unruly curly hair completes the look -- so artsy.
at around eleven, you and your friends left.
but before you left, you embraced me and kissed me on both cheeks. then on the lips. wet kiss.
"when you are in shanghai, please look for me."
we were holding each other tight. both drunk. both lonely, perhaps. two souls longing for the warmth of another creature even for just one night. in a strange city full of people talking in strange accents.
but your friends were already calling for you. someone was grabbing your hand. i let you go.
i watched you leave.
you didn't even look back.
your stride was unsteady. your banker friend was already holding you, afraid you might fall.
that's how we first me. that's how i will always remember you.
the nervous stranger who needs a light.
i wonder what was your impression of me. how you saw me.
how you would remember me?
perhaps the more important question is -- will i ever see you again?