Monday, September 03, 2007


by Xiang

His watch pointed to 12 noon. He was just on time. He was well-known for his habitual lateness, but with her, he was always miraculously punctual. They had a lunch date at Mum's Place, a restaurant well known for local delicacies, and the place where he first held her hand. Knowing her, she should be there waiting by now. His feet felt light as he walked towards the destination, a smile carved on his face. Meeting her has always been the highlight of his day.

Thinking back, they were not the most likely of two people in the world to become a couple. She had a tomboyish demeanour around her, frank and straightforward. And she was not one to take to fashion or make up. Not the kind of dainty ladies that he used to hope his girlfriend would be. He had always eyed the pretty girls in dresses and long hair. She only wore T-shirt and jeans.

There were often times when he wondered how it was that he came to be with her. They were not in the same faculty and never had same classes. She stayed in campus, and could be seen bustling all over it organizing events anytime of the day. He was the kind who stayed off campus and would only appear if he feels like attending classes, not that it was that frequent anyway.

However, on one rare occasion when he did come for class, he stepped out of the lecture hall only to collide head on with her running late for class. She bought him dinner that night, to apologise. They became friends after that. And much more after that.

She was there as he expected. She looked beautiful as always. He has learnt to appreciate her natural beauty, without makeup or trendiest of fashion, but it always warmed his heart when he looked at her. Being with her this past one year, he had come to appreciate her as she is. Dainty ladies? They probably wouldn't be as fun to hang out with as with her. He felt comfortable with her, just being himself.

He hid his right arm behind his back, concealing the flowers he had picked up on the way. She always said she never fancy flowers, but when she got them, it was as if he had given her a diamond ring. The way her face just sort of shone with happiness. He loved seeing that. He loved making her happy. And just thinking of that, his lips began to twitch upwards. It's so easy to smile, just thinking of her.

"Hello." He greeted her.

"Hello." She answered, with a polite smile. Then she looked away again, to some undefined focus in the space before her.

His mood weighed down a bit. Something didn't feel right. Other days, she would have leapt up to him, prancing around like a little girl and beaming all over as she replied 'hello'. Today... it felt formal, cold. Yes, she has always been fastidious about punctuality, but she had never been seriously angry with him on that before. Normally she would just nag him half-jokingly... Today, she looked more distracted than angry.

"What's wrong?" He sat down beside her as he had always done when she was feeling down. She looked a bit startled and shifted slightly further from him. Hurt pierced him like a knife in his heart.

"Do I know you?" She asked gingerly, with an apologetic look on her face. A kind of numbness sank in. It was the kind you feel when one receive news that someone close had passed away. Or the kind you get as you grazed pass a lorry on a highway in a narrow escape.

"I am waiting for someone here. It says so on my diary. This place, this time, today. But I can't remember who. I woke up this morning, and I couldn't remember anything at all. Then, I remembered some. I remembered a case when I was in high school, a girl suddenly lost her memory. Just like that. She spent three years to relearn everything from scratch again. I remember my name, I remember my parents. I remember half a dozen people who greeted me just now. But I can't remember who I was waiting for. And I can’t remember anything about him."

He sat there quietly, listening to her, not sure how to react. It was as if, like in the movie, a hideous alien had smuggled into his chest, slowly tearing it to shreds as it struggled to get out. A form of helplessness trying to get out. "She had forgotten me." he thought to himself.

"It felt as if I had lost something precious, important. And I couldn't find it again. A sort of emptiness ate at my heart. I found diaries written about this person. Full of happiness, fear of uncertainty and sometimes a little heartbreak now and then. But there was no name. I don't know this person that I felt so strongly about." She went on, eyes still focusing before her.

An urge to tell her that he was the one she was waiting for bubbled in his throat. Maybe she would remember. But on what basis was she to trust him if he told the truth? There was no name. She had mentioned heartbreaks. He would not want her to remember the heartbreaks she had regarding him. What about the happy memories? Those memories that he so treasured ...

"He must be someone very important to me. If so, why is it that he is the only one I forgot?" She was wondering out loud. He caught her eyes, deep with emotion, glistening moist, pining over the loss of someone she didn't know.

He remembered times when she cried. Their parents didn't approve of them being together. There were too many complications, they said. "She would not be happy if she married you," her parents said. His parents pointed out a lot of other girls that they deemed to be better, why choose this particular girl? And he had silently wished that she had never known him so that she would be happier. He would make himself go on without her, as long as she could be happy. Would she be happy? Seems not.

"It's strange." She smiled at him. "I don't know why I am telling you all this. I hardly talk to other people about my personal feelings, especially to someone I just met." She paused and looked into his eyes, with a sort of trust. "You just feel safe to talk to." When she smiled, her eyes looked like upturned crescents. He used to make her smile just to see that.

"Thank you for listening to a stranger rambling, I think I have to go now." She stood up, dusting her jeans. "It's been one hour since the appointed time, whoever it was must have already turned up and left by now." She said before walking away.

He panicked! If he let her leave, she wouldn't remember if he tried to ring her on the phone later. He jerked upright, and called after her. "Well, I've been listening to you for so long, I think I could be considered a friend? My name's Adrian, and you are?" He hurriedly offered his hand to her, but a bunch of flowers came out instead. He had forgotten them.

And she laughed. For a moment he was lost in her laughter, the usual carefree laughter, loud and clear. It always made him feel good when he made her laugh. She was still her, although she had forgotten him.

"Erm ... these flowers were for someone I'm going to meet ..." He rummaged through his brain for something convincing to say. "I think she's not coming today ... Would you, erm ... do me the honour of accepting them?"

"I can't ..."

"Really, I mean it. And you know what, I booked the table. It'll go to waste if I don't use it, and I seriously don't fancy eating alone. Would you care to join me for lunch?"

To his delight, she nodded.

She does not remember him, but he was determined to rebuild the relationship with her, even if it meant starting as friends again. He now knew that she was important to him, and he was as important to her, even if she didn't know it. He wanted to make her happy, just as he had tried all these years. For her, he was willing to take the chance.