Tuesday, February 05, 2019

NO GREATER LOVE

Today I recalled again that time is not a measure of love, that I was with a guy for close to two years, and I didn't really feel much for him, that I liked being liked, and he was the first person who said they liked me.

I love Tina, and I am profoundly glad we got to know each other through a Facebook group for feminists, perhaps two years ago. We never really spoke to each other, and in fact I deleted my Facebook last year, so it was like we weren't even in each other's lives, just strangers who could have unfollowed each other on Instagram, but didn't. Tina has an exceptional memory, so she tells me what she learned in linguistics, about Kachru's concentric circles of English, how some Americans tend to be surprised that I speak English "very well", 'cos I don't come from a Western country. Singapore is English-educated, we were colonized by the British, so whether I like it or not, I speak English just as well as the British have taught me to. She tells me about Frankenstein, how Mary Shelley had written about it for her pain of having lost a child, and Frankenstein was basically her way of using pain to birth something greater. Tina talks about all these feminist notions and feminist writers and she also talks about her previous dating life. She tells me about when she was in more "fucked up" times, or at least about her misadventures in dating, and it helps. I feel like with Tina, I have found my tribe. She's half-Filipino so she understands the pressure of conservative Asian cultures, and yet she also lets me know if I have anything sexual I want to ask about, I can ask her. It's one thing to have friends back home in Singapore tolerate or give me just enough room to talk about sex or the like, but it is another to have a two-way conversation, to know that I'm not just being not-judged, but that I have a listening ear as well as someone else's stories to take away and learn from. Tina is sentimental just like I am, we feel so much and she reads a lot and she somehow knows the right thing to say or the right book or film or whatever it is to point me towards, so I can relate to something greater than I am. She likes silly things like astrology and she also literally serenaded me with How Do I Live at karaoke while kneeling on the ground, she's so melodramatic. She's so fun and live-in-the-moment I admire her so much and want to be her in those moments. I look at her and her boyfriend of four years, Sean, and I think, one day I will live with a long-term boyfriend and we will be like them. I'm so happy that she's found Sean, I'm happy that she does things like get balloons for him after a bad work day, and that they go bird-watching and lose their city stresses to the park, and they love each other in a comfortable, safe way even though they've both been through shit before this. In New York, as it is in other places, it is difficult to find love, and perhaps like anywhere else, it is also difficult to make real friends. I'm grateful that I found a sister in Tina, and I love her.

On our first date, Bennett ordered a grilled mac and cheese sandwich, which means yes, there is macaroni and cheese between two slices of bread, which is then grilled, because this is America. I noticed that he wasn't eating much while I was almost done with my food, which apart from being caused by him telling me about his life, he also said was due to the fact that he was nervous, and he gets nervous when you know you like someone new. I thought it was adorable he said it, men don't generally speak to me so candidly like that, I wear my heart on my sleeve but it is rarely reciprocal. Ben has two and a half cute somewhat-pixellated hearts tattooed on the left of his chest, like when you have three lives in a video game and you're midway through your first life. I have never met a man with such a dorky tattoo, and I have never liked any tattoo so much, as much as my own. (This is not to say that I saw his tatts at the diner, it is winter and we were both sensibly clothed in layers.) We walked around Manhattan, talking about sci-fi books, him gushing about Westworld, myself trying to take in his story as well as I was taking in every new view I'd not yet gotten accustomed to. He is the first person to have brought me into Central Park, that night there looked to be some sort of commotion going on, there was a South American country's flag being carried on but neither of us recognised what it was, though I think I guessed Venezuela. We talked about productivity, and trying to define what we each meant by productivity. At the park, before he asked if I wanted to make out (leading me to guffaw for a good three minutes), he told me something very tender. Sometimes I can tell when people say things 'cos they've been reading what I write, and sometimes I know that they try not to fall into that trap of just being what I'm seeking, and with Ben, I just felt like I'd met a male counterpart of myself. He's honest and vulnerable because he's honest and vulnerable, and I like it that he wasn't trying to hide it, nor was he trying to play it up like some kind of get-in-my-pants badge either. I talked to him about my life story, which we joked about quizzing him on because I'd embellished it with so many details, and then when I asked him questions I hadn't even mentioned in the story explicitly but just during our rambling conversations, he remembered all of them. He told me about his life story, and I remember all of it, and I won't put it here because those details are for me and not for you, but I found it the most endearing because men don't usually share their life stories so easily, you have to work for it, you get to five dates, you get one nugget of important information, etc, but Ben told me his life story, like I'd told him mine. There is a comfort I feel with him that I don't ever want to forget, I trust him so much, we did something together for the first time and I was loud in a way that I didn't even think about and embarrassed his housemates would hear, and I was like omg what is going on. We talked about good things and bad things and things we were good at and bad at, and he has the most gorgeous curly hair, and pretty eyelashes. He spent the first three nights saying "I really like you, Sarah" and saying good and nice things about me, without an agenda beyond wanting to let me know he felt it. I like Ben a lot, and you might doubt it but I wouldn't, I do love him. We played word games, because he also studied linguistics, and there is a point when chemistry usually ends and you're left hanging for the right words to say to each other, but I never felt it with Bennett. 

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