Sometimes when you’re sleep deprived, you start imagining things and seeing stars before your eyes. That’s what I thought the first time I saw them.
On the way back to Indonesia I stopped over in Singapore to see my best friend from high school, who’s heavily pregnant and ready to explode any day now. I landed in Singapore at 6 AM and headed for shower room on the second floor in attempt of keeping myself awake. I couldn’t sleep on the plane: the first 4 hours a passenger seating next to me was talking nonstop of being a Jewish and Jewish tradition (my fault, I asked. I should’ve known better about old people, they’re chatty!), and the next 8 hours were spent on watching movies. I was thinking about sleeping for a few hours until the shops open at 11 AM but the transit hotel at Changi was fully booked, and another place offers non-private napping rooms, and the thought of sharing a room with other 7 strangers immediately put me off, so after early check-in for Jakarta and left my hand luggage, I went for Starbucks instead. By 4 PM when heading back to airport after sushi overdose and another cup of coffee, I realized that I had been up for 31 hours and couldn’t wait to go home. I went to boarding room the minute the gate was open, so I could sit down and doze off. But just before I decided which song in my ipod I would use to help me sleep, a lady in red walked toward me and I realize it was Monika, my ex-colleague.
And she’s not alone. There were at least 5-6 of my ex colleagues and bosses who were on the same flight as me (I have a theory that half of Singapore is occupied by Indonesian, and this is the proof) and we exchanged some words before boarding. I was ready to sleep (it had been 33 hours by then), but I must wait for other passengers to seat next to me (a downside of choosing aisle seat), so I spent time by looking around, and there, right across the room, seating on the same row as me, I saw…. them.
I thought I was mistaken. I thought my sleep deprivation had taken its toll. But I know I am good at remembering face. And it’s not that I don’t know them. I know them too well I couldn’t be mistaken, even if they turn up with mustaches or red hair. So after a few blinks and seconds of stare, I knew it’s them.
My first posting back in April 2005 was about her. About them. Back then she and I were joined at the hips and best friends. That until she decided to date him, a married guy with a kid. It’s not like she was my first friend who did it, nor she was the first person who did it in the history of humankind, but the matter became complicated because it involved work, and rather than being smart and handled it with dignity and pride, they decided to run and hide – cut off all contacts with me and other friends – and pretend we never exist. The declared a major cold war with everybody else, rather than tried to gain some sympathy by trying to explain the situation from her point.
Their decision has made people never stop talking about them and decide to dislike them. It was tough situation in the office for her, and for me because I kept bumping into her on the corridor but must stop the urge to ask how she was because she always pretended she didn’t see me. The talk behind her back kept on and on, especially because they noticed she was suddenly loaded and the gossip had gone from bad to worse. Rather than facing the reality or trying to tell their side of story, she quit and changed job. She could vanished from the office, but bad memories and reputation linger. I had tried to keep the story balanced in the beginning but have long stopped doing it because she betrayed me as a friend and thought I was with others who condemned the affair (she’s right) hence I was the enemy (she’s wrong. I was still her friend even when she stopped talking to me).
Years later both of them sent me text. She said she’d missed me, and although she didn’t say sorry, the entire message was very apologetic. He sent the similar one 30 seconds afterwards. Apparently their affair has grown to be a real relationship, and it’s serious. He got divorced, and had introduced her to his family. When the texts went to my inbox, I was in Singapore with other colleagues from 9 Asian countries, having a very important meeting, and didn’t want to deal with it. But afterwards I decided not to reply the texts: I was too busy and had no energy for their extracurricular activity, plus I don’t know what they expected from me. I don’t think they need my approval or acknowledgment for their love, so I sensed they needed me because they were about to go public with their relationship, and might need my help to broadcast the new fact to my and her ex-colleagues in a positive mode – but hey, I might be wrong and thought myself to be more important than what they thought about me.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hold any grudge. I don’t have any regrets or resentment. I don’t hate her for what she has done to me, although throwing me away in the garbage bin then decided years later that I was actually worthy, wasn’t really my ideal friendship concept. I simply believe that life goes on and I have been miles away from the issue which I am no longer interested in, and from the people whom are not important to me anymore. So this lucky couple could do it as well. Move on. Face the public with chins up. And do it alone without my help. Until yesterday when I saw them sitting only a few meters away, I never bumped into them even once after they performed their vanishing act. We definitely hung out in two totally different crowds, even though Jakarta is a small village.
However I couldn’t stop myself from smiling yesterday. Of all flight schedules back to Jakarta, they chose this one, with me and other ex-colleagues – who, of course, remember her, him and the affair, very vividly – in it. Their pants must be on fire! Isn’t it ironic, too see everything they have concealed for years, and from everybody, just flashed right there before everybody’s eyes. If meeting me probably wasn’t an ideal situation, meeting these people must be their worst dream.
He sat on the aisle, and I could feel he glanced at me many times. I am sure they know I don’t live in Indonesia anymore, so they couldn’t be sure whether it was me or just someone who looked like me.
But their doubt was vanished when we’re queuing for custom check. My (her) ex-colleagues were standing right next to them and I was on the next line, so they called my name and waved. He, being very tall, could easily turn his head and found the tiny me in the middle of the crowd. He looked at me. I looked past him.
I didn’t see them on baggage collection area. I didn’t even bother to look them up. I was too tired as I hadn’t had sleep for more than 35 hours. I gave my luggage tag to a porter – something I had never done before – and waited for him to collect my luggage.
I went home. I drank from the tap before realizing I was in Indonesia. I took a shower. And slept like a baby.
I guess no matter what they have tried to mend this friendship, it wouldn’t work. I couldn’t care less, and she’s too proud (and maybe doesn’t give a damn either). But isn’t it weird, to stand only few meters away from someone we know inside out and pretend they don’t exist?
But, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?
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