Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quizás, quizás, quizás...

Siempre que te pregunto
Que, cuándo, cómo y dónde
Tú siempre me respondes
Quizás, quizás, quizás

Y así pasan los días
Y yo, desesperando
Y tú, tú contestando
Quizás, quizás, quizás

Estás perdiendo el tiempo
Pensando, pensando
Por lo que más tú quieras
¿Hasta cuándo? ¿Hasta cuándo?

Y así pasan los días
Y yo, desesperando
Y tú, tú contestando
Quizás, quizás, quizás

Y así pasan los días
Y yo, desesperando
Y tú, tú contestando
Quizás, quizás, quizás

Estás perdiendo el tiempo
Pensando, pensando
Por lo que más tú quieras
¿Hasta cuándo? ¿Hasta cuándo?

Y así pasan los días
Y yo, desesperando
Y tú, tú contestando
Quizás, quizás, quizás
Quizás, quizás, quizás
Quizás, quizás, quizás

She received an email with an all-too-familiar address. He's back. They arranged to meet up for lunch. They went back and forth a bit over the date and time, all the while keeping the tone light.
She started to worry about what to wear, and was paranoid that he might drop in unexpectedly at the office. Instead of leaving the door at the last minute, grabbing whatever half-decent clothes she could, she started preparing her office wardrobe the night before.

She booked a hair appointment the day before, so that her hair would be freshly cut, but not so fresh as to make it seem like she had it done especially for him.

The day was forecasted to be sunny and bright. She wore a white v-neck fitted top with three-quarter-length sleeves, paired with a flared light denim skirt. Casual and summery. She spent a long time agonizing over what shoes to wear, and stepped out in the end in a pair of leather strappy sandals she bought a month or so ago when she was in Spain. They had yet to be broken in properly, but they looked so good on her feet. He is worth sacrificing a tiny bit of comfort, she considered in the end.

He came to pick her up at the office, arriving just slightly later than the appointed time, just when she was starting to fidget a tiny bit. The secretaries waved goodbyes, with a knowing half smile on their faces. Why are they smiling like that? She wondered. It would surface in conversations afterwards that he had indeed dropped in on her at the office a couple of times, and both times she was (mercifully) out. He didn't leave a name, or a message, so she never found out that he had been there before.

Which is just as well.

The day was indeed bright, the air even a little balmy. A perfect day. They decided that it would be lovely to grab a sandwich and eat at the park. They started walking towards the newsagent, chatting casually about how the other had been. It had been more than a year since they last met. They exchanged emails occasionally, but nothing too serious. They knew the outlines of the other's life, not the details.

No, the details are where the heart is. No amount of the written word could convey that, so why start at all. In any case, look, they finally meet again, face to face.

She looked at him properly in the sunlight. Gosh, how thin he's become. She wanted to ask him if he's looking after himself properly over there. But somehow she didn't. Or couldn't? She had to consciously restrain herself from reaching up and brushing over the hair on his forehead. He looked somehow vulnerable, and she kind of felt protective towards him.

Since when have they switched roles?

He still had that same sparkle in his eyes though. His lovely, intelligent eyes. She remembered the first time she really looked into them. The memory was like an electric jolt, amazingly vivid. And painful.

She understood then that she still hadn't quite gotten over him.

They walked all the way to the fountain in the middle of the park, and sat at the fountain's edge. They unwrapped their sandwiches, and she immediately regretted ordering the roll with the grated cheddar filling. There was no way she could eat it and remain graceful in front of him. She took a few bitefuls, and sipped soda.

They talked and talked. She couldn't remember about what precisely, only a distinct feeling that they were both skirting around, like ice-skaters marking circles in the rink, dancing around but not with each other. He told her about his academic successes abroad, and she told him about her amazing conference trips. A few times he started to veer into his life outside of academia, but each time she started asking him about his paper plans instead. She couldn't help herself. It is a disease, I'm sorry, she whispered in her heart.

The weather suddenly turned overcast, and before they could even gather their things, heaven opened and rain started pouring, relentlessly. They were completely soaked within a couple of minutes. Typical Irish weather. Neither of them had an umbrella, and like many of the other formerly leisurely strollers in the park, they started running to seek shelter.

Trouble was, they were in open space, there was no shelter. He pointed to the nearest big willow tree. Let's run over there, he said, putting his hand around her waist and guiding her over. She tried to run, but her feet, being wet, were slipping from the strappy sandals. Damn these shoes! She cursed inwardly, berating herself for her earlier vanity. He kindly pretended to ignore her shoe situation, and walked with her to the willow tree.

Even as they walked, she couldn't help but notice what a comically cliched situation they have found themselves in. Like a standard romantic plot device, the rain came to bring them together just as they couldn't be trusted to do it themselves. What irony! To think that she used to study - and sneer at - these plotlines during an elective course as an undergrad.

They looked at each other as rain continued to drip down on their heads from the willow branches. Well, I definitely can't go back to the office now for another good while, she said. He didn't reply, and just kept looking at her, smiling rather mischievously. What's wrong? She asked. I'm sorry, but I can see your bra, he laughed. She looked at her own bedraggled self, momentarily embarrassed, but burst out laughing, You don't look so well yourself, Mister-I-can-see-your-bra, look at the state of you!

She gave him a friendly punch on the shoulder. He leaned into her, in the way meant for a kiss. This would have been just what a third-rate romance novel ordered. And it would have been perfect too, she knew in her heart. It had been so long... But that would have been too neat, and too cliched, and her pride and her self-sabotaging tendency simply wouldn't have allowed that. So she stepped back, and pretended to smooth over her skirt. He pretended to brush something off her back.

They stood awkwardly under the willow tree, waiting for the rain to die down.

After a quarter hour or so, the rain had abated just a little. Not wanting to remain stuck in the park, he said that there was a place near here that they could go to to escape the rain for a while. It meant having to get out in the rain again, but that would have been better than being stuck under a tree not knowing what to do with themselves. He led, she followed.

She remembered how he had shown her the view of city lights from a skywalk several years ago.
He brought her to the smallest pub in Ireland. Not being a tourist, she never even knew such a place existed. He took her hand and led her down a flight of stairs into a dark but warmly-lit basement. There were several elderly American tourists, wearing pastel-coloured rain jackets, with cameras still hanging from their necks, and the place was already packed. They exchanged pleasantries with the tourists about the dreadful weather, and went to the bar.

She was dying for a hot port, having shivered all the way there. Alas, the nonchalant barman said he didn't have any, not because of the lack of port, but for the lack of boiling water. Apparently the smallest pub in Ireland didn't come equipped with a kettle. Obviously, even a simple cup of tea was out of the question. He asked if she would prefer some place else, clearly embarrassed that he had brought her to a place that did not serve any hot drinks when they desparately needed one. She waved away his concern, and ordered her standard Bailey's and ice. Truth was, her feet were absolutely killing her by then, and she couldn't wait to sit down, hot port or no hot port.

They found the only quiet corner left in this tiny pub. They were both quiet, slowly sipping their drinks. He looked at her meaningfully, and asked, placing his hand on hers, So how are you really. She couldn't look him in the eyes, awkwardly retrieved her hand, and started talking gibberish, about office politics, about world politics, about anything that would distract them from the subject. He patiently listened, and nodded, and reassured. But his rueful gaze never left her face for a second.

The American tourists made a lot of noise as one of them ventured out and realised that the rain had stopped. He called back to his companions and they all made to leave. All of a sudden the tiny pub was deserted except for the two of them. I should really go back to the office too, she said. He nodded, and led her back upstairs.

Their eyes were startled by the brightness of the sun, as if nothing had ever happened and the rain was just a dream, save for the puddles on the ground.

He walked her back to the office. They said goodbye in the lobby, each promising that they would do it again soon. He gave her a quick peck on the cheek and left.

She didn't return to the office immediately, but went to the ladies, telling herself that she needed to dry her clothes out under the hand-dryer before she could face the girls, being the state that she was.

She locked herself in the cubicle, her face wet, this time from silent tears.

- Dedicated to my dear friend C -
- Story copyright: Snowdrops (c) 2008. Creative Commons 3.0.

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At Mon May 26, 11:23:00 a.m. IST, Blogger Sidney Sweet said...

Well done, Crispapples. I enjoyed it very much.

The music, the images and the words are just out-of this-world.

Is the song in French or Portugese or Spanish? Do you know, Crispapples?

At Mon May 26, 06:02:00 p.m. IST, Blogger Snowdrops said...

Thanks Sidney for your really kind comment! Although obviously I can't take credit for either the images or the music - I'm really grateful to whoever put together this Youtube video, especially as some clips are not included in the film itself (Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love). The imagery and the music from this movie are so sublime and evocative, I agree it's indeed out-of-this- world.

I can definitely tell you though that the song is Spanish (whenever you see inverted question-marks it's a dead giveaway that the language is Spanish and not French, as I learnt from seeing the many Spanish adverts in NYC's subway many moons ago). Actually there is an English version of this song called "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps", but it's not as evocative as the Spanish original. You can see the translation of the lyrics at this link:

p.s. You can call me Snowdrops, as Crispapples refer to my blog name really. I see Crisp Apple as my so-called "publication", although obviously it's nothing like the New Yorker.

At Mon May 26, 09:28:00 p.m. IST, Blogger laichungleung said...

I think 99.9% of the English writing novelists won't get published in The New Yorker.

Wong Kar Wai didn't write or sing the song. But he definitely picked all the right songs for his movies. This is American Nat King Cole singing a Spanish love song in a Chinese movie with Cantonese and Shanghainese dialects and somehow WKW makes it seem not only appropriate but inevitable.

I know you inasmuch as any stranger knows you via your writings. But I feel like the story is so autobiographical, and the character is so like you with so much pride ... anyway, need I say more. I share Sid's sentiments, great work.

At Sun Jun 01, 12:01:00 p.m. IST, Blogger Snowdrops said...

Am I really that transparent?? :)

I've always believed in the school of fiction a la Tobias Wolff (a published author on the New Yorker, incidentally) that a story needed to be true to have power. Not that it has to be literally true, but the sentiments expressed have to be real to be believable.

Sorry for the delay in replying LCL, but I've been mauling over your comment about the apparently autobiographical nature of this story, and whether and to what extent it reflected my "true self". Your comment sent me to re-read Tobias Wolff again, and I've started writing a rather lengthy comment - later into its own post - about what got me started to write it and why I chose the particular style I did (hint, it had a lot to do with the movie, thus my link to its video), but this was at a time when I precisely ill afford to do this due to my chapter deadline!

So, my self-analysis of my story has to be postponed to a later date, while I got my review of the long-awaited SATC out (for once, I think I have a steal on the HK bloggers because it was out here in Ireland earlier than over there).

At Wed Jun 18, 02:20:00 p.m. IST, Blogger laichungleung said...

I am a fan of Jin Yong (who isn't, growing up in HK?), the author of many wuxia novels (I probably got all the spellings wrong, but you got used to it already). In the preface of one of his novels, he also mentions that the story, the plot can be fake, as in all his wuxia masterpieces, but the sentiments, the human conditions and the humanity portrayed has to be real.


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