Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Doing what's right

Write a story that begins with: "Thirty minutes had passed and..."

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Thirty minutes had passed and still no sign of him. I glanced at my phone once again, and there wasn't any notification from him. Maybe my phone is glitchy again, so I unlocked it and launched my Messenger app. Nothing. Check my Whatsapp, nothing. My message inbox, still nothing. There isn't any traffic where I'm at, but maybe there's a massive jam somewhere nearby? I launched Waze, and find not a single red line on any road in my area. Where the heck is he?

"I'm on my way dear, wait for me at the bus stop, okay? I'll be there in 5 minutes," he said over the phone, half an hour ago. He doesn't life far away from me, a 10-minutes drive at most. So why is he taking this long again?

This was not the first time he's been late. In fact, he's been late on-and-off these few weeks, and whenever I asked about his reasons, he'd always either said that he was held up at work or brushed it off, telling me that I'm paranoid and that he didn't take that long. But I know for a fact that I did not over-react, and his constant tardiness and borderline neglectful behaviour is pushing me over the edge. He's not like how he used to be, and whenever we're together I felt more alone than all the other times that I'm actually by myself. The feeling is just different than how it was between us. 

Whenever I feel doubtful of our relationship, I've always liked to think back to how we got to know each other: We met at this very bus stop, both waiting for our respective school buses at 6.15 a.m. every single weekday. I went to an all-girls' school, while he attended an all-boys' school. I always wore my hair in a ponytail, while he'd always have his shirt just slightly untucked because he wanted to look a little less of a geek with his short spiky hair and black-rimmed glasses. We ignored each other at first, as a couple more students arrived to the bus stop for their rides to school, but one month after school reopens, he finally break the ice between us. He introduced himself then asked for my name, and I asked about which school he went to. He didn't need to ask about my school, my uniform told it all, with my red tie and red skirt. "You must be very smart then," he said. I sneered at him and told him not to stereotype me based on my school. He laughed and told me that it was the first time someone got offended when being called smart. I looked away in embarrassment. What is so good about being smart anyway, people always find excuses to make you help them do things because you're smarter than them. I hated that.

We got close over the months, and went on our first date the day after our last SPM paper. He drove his old, beaten-up Toyota to my school and waited for me to come out of the examination hall. I had told my father that I was going out with my friends to celebrate the end of our high school life after my last paper, because he wouldn't have let me stay out after my exams, what more to go on a date with a boy that I've secretly been chatting with till late at night every couple of days since months prior to SPM. Two months after our first date, I brought him home to meet my parents, and he brought me back to his home to meet his. My father was skeptical about him, but my mom liked him, while his parents took me in like their own daughter. His mother had always wanted to have a daughter, but the family decided that it would not be financially possible to do so, so she was more than thrilled to finally have a 'daughter' to have girl-talks and cook with once in a while. 

We did well in our exams, and passed the interview for scholarships to the same college. He slaved through chemistry and physics, while I was always covered in charcoal and paint from my art projects. After college, we each went to a different university; the first time we're apart. We Skyped each other every night no matter how late or how tired we were, because it's the only way we can bear being thousands of miles away from each other. Semester-breaks were bittersweet, because they were never long enough for us to be together, then we had to be separated once again. We worked part-time and saved enough to attend each other's convocation ceremonies, and decided to move to KL together for better job opportunities. Finally, we're together again. We were so excited to finally be 'adults' and take care of our own lives. We'd even talked about our plans and maybe even marriage in two or three years' time, when we're settled in with our careers. 

I got a job in an advertising company, while he worked as an engineer for a big electronics company. Although we're now in the same state, we still barely got to see each other as we were both busy with work. It was fine at first, because we've been through this. "It's just like uni all over again, but we can make it through this with no problem, right?" he asked, with a confident smile on his face and I nodded without any hesitation. We've made it through three years, what's another couple of months, right?

Some days were great, because it made us appreciate each other's presence even more whenever we got together. But some days were depressing, when I see my colleagues getting off work early for dinner with their families and loved ones while I had to work overtime due to last minute changes ordered by my boss. Sometimes when I actually got to get off work early, it was his turn to stay back in his office due to some technical issues with the machines in the factory. Most of the time when we got home from work, we were too tired to even turn on our laptops. It was hard, and eventually we got used to catering to our hectic schedules instead of each other. In a blink of an eye, we've lived like this for two years. Daily phone calls turned to weekly chats, turned to nightly 'goodnight' messages, I can't help but feel that we're drifting apart, and told him about it. So we discussed, and decided that we should try to have dates at least once a week. It worked for a couple of months, until recently when he started to turned up late to our dates or the occasional cancelling of the date altogether due to his work. 

"Does you work have to take over your life?" I asked him in one of our dates. He works in a big company, there can't be just him working on cases and tasks to fix problems. Can't he just pass some things over to his subordinates or his colleagues to handle them? He doesn't like me bringing up his work, sometimes we would end up arguing with each other because of it. 

"Do you think I just work for fun? That I can just walk away whenever I like? I don't own the company, Jane! I just do my best so I can stay employed in this economy!"

I glanced at my watch; It's been 40 minutes now, and far out in the distance a white Honda appeared and grew closer, and stopped in front of me. I opened the door and got into the car. 

"I'm sorry dear, there was some matters that I needed to settle back at the office earlier, so I was late a little."

A little, I thought.

He went on, telling me things about his work, stories about his colleagues and his boss, as if nothing was wrong. We watched a movie, had a quiet dinner and took a short stroll by the night market nearby before we called it a night. It was our typical date night: movies, dinner, a short walk, home. Except, today was our anniversary, our 10th year together.

As we sat on a bench by a playground, I reached into my bag and pulled out a small package neatly wrapped by a maroon-coloured wrapping paper. As I hand it to him, I saw his face froze upon realizing what just happened.

"I don't think I can do this anymore," I said, as I placed the present on his lap.

Tonight I finally realized that I don't have to continue to suffer from this pain and loneliness I've felt for many months. I've come to a realization that this relationship has evolved into nothing more than a burden in my heart and it messes with my emotion every single time I remember that I have a boyfriend that doesn't seem like a boyfriend anymore to me. I can't take anymore broken promises, empty words and heartaches. I can live without this man. And I finally could summon enough will power to break this ball and chain from my ankle.

He stayed quiet for a very long time, and eventually I figured that I'll just leave; I don't need to listen to any excuses from him, I've made up my mind. But as I got up he reached out to grab my arm.

"I'm sorry, Jane. I really am. I didn't mean to forget our anniversary. Please, don't leave me. I can do better. Please..."

"We've been through it many times, Dan. And every time it ended up the same. I don't want to feel disappointed anymore."

"We've been together for 10 years already, I remember this, Jane. I do. Ten years is not a short time, not many people could be together for this long. I promise I'm working my hardest so I won't have to work anymore late-nights, I will be there for you more. Just give me two more months, when I get promoted I won't have to be away as much. We've stayed strong so far, why would you give up on us now?" he asked, with a heavy voice and tears in his eyes.

"That's what you said three months ago, last December, last May. Don't you know it yet, Dan? It's never going to end. I worked hard too. I got promoted too. I'm busy too. But I made sure to make time for you, just as we promised each other. One date each week, that's all. One day, out of seven in a week. I asked for favours, changed shifts, even changed projects just so I can clear one day out for you. But you never seem to do the same. Two years we've been this way, and every year you only got more and more occupied with your work. You're oblivious to it, but it's clear to me that work is more important than the person you claimed you love. I'm tired, Dan. I've had enough."

I shook his hands off mine, and walked towards the bus stop as a bus arrived and got on it, leaving him at the bench with his head in his hands. I don't care where this bus takes me, as long as I'm moving forward towards a better life for myself.

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Word count: 1,916