by Deborah Wong
You could not sleep. It was an hour before the weekend’s morning. You were slow dancing under the moonlight. Anita Mui’s voice was on the radio. You wished to turn it off. But she was singing your story.
The delivery boy had just parked his Ducati at the basement. You turned away, refusing to look into that haemorrhage face yelling in an alien language at the other line. You stood at the balcony. A woman waved at you, calling you another name. At the same time, your housemate wanted to know whether you packed any shark fin’s leftover at your best friend Peter’s wedding.
You walked into your bedroom, stripped that Miss Selfridge dress down to your feet made sure not to step on the bejewelled waistline. You picked it up and hung it against the wall as careful as possible. You leaned closer and inhaled; that scent belonged to your part-time lover, whom you danced chest-to-chest and feet-to-feet with at your best friend’s wedding.
The shower was pouring. You closed your eyes and wondered; trying hard to reminiscent your part-time lover – his touch and breathing. Your fingernails you’ve wished to penetrate onto his athletic back, now becoming soggy. You then let the water rained like machine guns. And then you were lost against time. Your mind was all about him. But you shivered thinking of your best friend’s lips on his wife’s.
After shower, you reached for that white soup mug and indulged in a cup of coffee. You were hypnotised by the steam and drank it plain because your best friend liked it too. Raven black is sexy-back. Those words he’d said; choked you.
Now, your phone is vibrating but you are busy shaving your legs.
“You’re so beautiful tonight.” It was a message from an unknown.
One fine day, your schoolmates Sissy and Lola asked you out. You found them giggling and finger-sliding their Samsung Galaxy tablet. Out of the blue, Sissy waved at the waiter for a cup of iced water. You spotted a burned-mark at her armpit. Both were scavenging information about the mysterious man you brought to Peter’s wedding.
Sissy looked at your direction. “Why so quiet?”
Lola tapped her finger on the table. “We’re talking to you.”
“What did you say?”
“Your handsome partner at the wedding,” Sissy repeated, impatiently.
They gave you the most horrendous smirk.
“What kind of human are you?” Lola said.
You were exceptionally, perpetually nice. “No chemistry attraction.”
Sissy laughed. “Why there’s a need for chemistry?” she laughed. “Grab him and get a room. Need us to teach you?”
You were overlooking a row of Asian Heritage shop-houses, feeling like a clown. Rapid KL buses went by in layers. You missed the underlying buttercream in Peter’s wedding cake, spreading like Sephora’s concealer.
The bartender was looking at you, while he was lip-syncing one of Christina Perri’s songs. You closed your eyes, pretending to listen. You opened your eyes and your part-time lover was in front of you.
“Sorry, I was on a mission.” He said.
You continued eating and sipping that cold cup of coffee.
“So you like it black,” he ordered a glass of sky juice.
“I think black is nostalgic, like a tangled heart.”
“That’s very artistic.”
“How’s your mission so far?”
He chuckled and looked at you. “It was clean and fast.”
“Do you name your mission?”
“No, but I already have for the next one.”
“What’s it?” You said, playing your gothic ring.
He leaned closer. “Operation Black-tangled Heart.”
Your body was being occupied but your mind pulled in the thought of only him. It was warm before your clothes were off. He held you like a bolster, fingers were burying inside your head, tangling around the strands of your hair. His vacuum breath and movements completed your loneliness, temporarily.
He moved away and grinned. “You’re always ready.”
You did not answer. He sighed, went to the bathroom and left the door opened. You walked straight to the window and pulled the curtains apart. You heard stray dogs’ barking and the smell of the after rain. KL Tower and other cityscape then became the backdrop of such gloomy sky. Your mind had diverted to elsewhere more productive for you. Your eye sight spelled darkness, almost dying. And that soreness between your legs did not do any justice, after all.
“Look what I mean. You’re always ready.” His lips were on your neck and hands on your delicate skin.
Yesterday evening, you cut your hair in a layered bob and then this morning you got up and headed down to Suria KLCC. You walked into Gap store and then bought a dress you’ve been thinking since last month. You saw Peter at the paying counter.
“Hey,” he said.
He asked you out for a drink at the nearby café. You watched as he ordered your favourite bubble milk tea with twenty-percent less sugar, and with an additional one and a half scoop of tapioca pearls.
He told you Carrie was planning for the honeymoon; a romantic getaway to a place sounded like a tribal clan. He then excused himself to the jukebox and turned to you after he’d chosen the song. You prayed hard it was not that tune about Jack & Rose by the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’m glad you came to my wedding.”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“Maybe you’re still mad at me…of what I told you.”
“You’ve made it very clear, aren’t you?”
“I’m considering about relocating to Singapore.”
You stirred the tapioca pearls before sucking them.
“Carrie is based there soon and she can get a job for me easily.”
Your gaze was steadfast and your mind was wondering how is Peter now? Will he be happier dancing with Carrie in his arms? Are they kissing endlessly on the bed? Is she a good cook? And then you were too tired to decipher further.
“I guess you’re falling in love with my balcony.” Dragon said.
“Am I not allowed to stand here?”
“I don’t think the view is everlasting.”
“Nothing will.” Your eyes were blurring by filming tears.
His hand brushed on your shoulder. You turned away discreetly and forming two tight fists to withstand that overdue feeling. His cheek on yours and arms were around you. He kissed your tears before closing the balcony door. The motherly wind was babying those endearing frangipani leaves and petals away. You were contemplating whether the rain will come.
“You look tired.” He said.
“I’m thinking of someone. In fact, you’ve seen him before, the groom.” You hated to admit your weakness though at the back of your mind, Peter Pan that had chosen to fly away with his Wendy (Carrie) to his heavily-constructed Eureka.
“Is he trying to win you back?”
You shook your head and forced a smile. “I’m trying hard to forget him. Thanks for accompanying me to the wedding.”
“Don’t mention.” He traced the outline of your face and then carefully led you to the sofa. You gritted your teeth and had to admit that at the back of your head, you loved the enchanted moment after each climax. You wished this wasn’t the end whenever he moves away from you.
“Do you have a surname?”
“No,” he said, kissing your lips.
“Is Dragon your real name?”
He pondered for a while. “Yes.”
You put your hand on your heaving chest. “And your text message. You said I look beautiful in that dress.”
He turned to you abruptly and thought hard. “Did I?”
The door bell rang and you had to answer it. It was a definite surprise that Peter was at the door, holding a dark blue paper bag. He then shoved it at your face, insisting you to take it. You did what he said because you too, were astonished by his action.
“Actually I don’t want to see you again, but I don’t think I’ve made a mistake. You see, my bag was right at my side and didn’t leave it behind, until I’ve gone to the gents. And I’ve been thinking about it for two nights whether –” his finger was pointing at you, “whether you switched those bags…”
You have two choices: One; continue with whatever you have in your mind, or two; shut the door right in front of him.
You chose the latter.
He started knocking again, while you walked to your wardrobe and searched for that Gap paper bag with three of his chequered cardigans inside. You have worn one of them to sleep last night. As the matter of fact, you’ve tried them all. They were sweetly tainted with your smell.
You inspected the dress he had just returned; as excellent as brand new. You hung it inside the wardrobe. When you were about to put his cardigans back into the paper bag, you have got something in mind. You took one of his chequered cardigans out.
“Why are you doing this?”
“Anything can happen…”
“I hope you don’t play tricks again this time?”
“I did not.”
“Carrie thought I bought the dress for her and then she couldn’t fit because it is size XS. But I know what’s in your mind, Joelle. You want to see me again so you’re switching the paper bag on purpose.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Anyway, you can forget about it. Though I thank you for what you’ve done for me. I really appreciate it. But you must know Carrie is the only woman I love, always and forever…”
“We were so good together until she came…” you hissed.
“You’re undeniably my best friend. I’ve told you we’re not meant to be.”
“Yes, we were best friends with benefits,” you sing bitterly.
“We were sober that night but you…” you started to sniff.
“You were the one who seduce me…”
You slapped him across his face.
Another classmate asked you out. You knew what was been in her mind. And you were always right.
“I don’t believe it. You used to be so quiet in the class,” said Wendy.
“The moment you walked in with that handsome boy…” Clarice stopped and giggled to herself, shyly. “…everyone at our table stops gossiping and turn to him. We didn’t dare to blink also.”
“…and you’re getting so pretty nowadays,” Joanne laughed, with her eyes formed a thin line.
“I saw that dress of yours similar to the one from Warehouse. Did you buy it from there? Wait, was it from Zara?” Clarice said.
“Have you been drinking Brand’s collagen and prune juice in daily basis?” Joanne held your elbow.
“You girls don’t bombard her with her beauty secrets. I tell you. She must be following Joey Yung’s regime of Lo Hong Ka’s bird’s nest,” Wendy said.
“Then I know why handsome boy is so attracted to you,” Joanne said.
“…What’s that handsome boy’s name?”
You took your purse and walked away when the server brought the drinks to the table. You had no intention to be rude but they, in unison had instructed the server to hand the bill to you. Your expression was a blank bullet; temporary hurting but non-fatal.
“Joelle, the handsome boy is mine.” Wendy shouted at your face.
These folks will only come to you when you owned a pot of golden honey. They were fairy tale’s villains, created by human nature to fool and manipulate the innocent you. They were in a forlorn state. They did not know what they were about to miss. Still, they wished to rewrite the history of subtle bullying.
The white dress of blue leaf clover patterns was seated on your bed. Leaf clover represented the clichés of luckiness.
“Carrie had put it on.” Peter told you that. His statement was repeating like a tape recorder in your brain.
You flipped the dress inside out and searched for the washing instruction that sewn to the hem. No overnight soaking, high-heat ironing, bleaching and machine-drying. But hand washable. You read aloud.
So, you filled the bucket with cold water. Your arms had grown tired of rinsing the dress a few times. You then hand-washed it again, enjoying the Downy detergent slowly crept into your senses.
“Damn, infested with muskiness. Need to soak it a little longer.” Your mind said so.
Now, you are in your bedroom, put Adele on, wearing Peter’s chequered cardigan and standing tall though the sky is falling.
It was the similar city skyline you have seen from the balcony whenever you are here. The traffic congestion along the highway and the streetlights were turned on unanimously at seven. Everything seemed to be the same.
“How your life will be without me?”
“I don’t know. It’s something never happen. Why bother asking?”
You turned to Dragon. “I don’t really remember how we met.”
You felt dizzy and ambled your way to the chaise lounge. He took your hand. You did not want his help but you were too meek to resist.
You said. “It happened very fast. I was in the bar, drinking alone. You were sitting right beside me. You were telling me about your fiancée running away with another man. And then I was talking about Peter’s wedding invitation and then how much I love him still. I was so devastated. And then what happened next was like fragments.”
He patted your head, hoping to ease your headache.
“And I keep having this vivid dream of you and me. We…”
He looked at you. “I love your leaf clover dress; sweet and sexy.”
You had the urge to smoke, which you have not had that since you graduated. Surrounded by family planning posters, awareness of a cervical cancer injection, and the white and pink uniforms, the smell of Subang Medical Centre desolated you. Peter has just transferred to the executive ward from the ICU. He was diagnosed with pneumonia.
“He didn’t want to see anybody. It was hard. Not even his parents.” You listened as Carrie spoke. “My office is at the city centre and then had to go through a made rush of traffic, all the way here to spend time with him.”
“You’re his wife.”
She rolled her eyes. “Try doing that for two weeks.”
Luckily, he didn’t mind seeing you.
You walked in slowly and closed the door. He gazed at you when you took a wooden chair and sat beside him, crossed your leg over to the other. You portrayed the impression of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct interrogation scene. He was dumbfounded by your leaf clover dress. You saw him picking up a notepad and pen. He scribbled something and passed the notepad to you. You read from it:
“This dress really fit you.”
You thanked him, verbally.
He flipped to the next page and wrote: “You’re very beautiful on my wedding night. Please retain that innocence in you.”
A stroke on your cheek had interrupted your sleep. Dragon’s lips were on your head and said: “I’ll be your asylum forever.” Your eyes closed, reminiscent his further touch.
Now, the back of your head shaped a mould on the pillow. Alone, and his scent had never left your side. Deep within, you knew it was impossible to retain that innocence in you.
Instead you rushed to the window and stared into the darkness with those grieving pupils. Your burden was lifted. Your saving breath of forgiveness had exhaled when an image of a horned and tailed creature flying towards that amber moonlight, like a plainsong sailing across the ocean.
Note on Dragon’s Lover:
Apart from Dragon’s Lover, Eastlit has published the following work by Deborah Wong:
- Fragrant Island and Other Poems featured in Eastlit May 2014.