Separate Ways

23

“Hey! Long time no see!” he shouted. From afar, I saw him waving and quick-walking toward me.

“Hey! Oh my God, how long have it been?” I said, still surprised. He seemed different. His hair had grown longer, his smile was broader than the last time I saw him. However, he was still the same person as the one I met three years ago. The same quirky funny tall guy.

“Umm.. was it… wait… umm… oh God, I can’t remember! It must’ve been such a long time ago, wasn’t it?” He sounded a little apologetic, probably for not remembering that tiny detail. However, I wasn’t even mad; I did forget too.

“Yeah, it was.” I know, I’m terrible at small talks.

Both of us still stood in the middle of the crowd, watching the star of the show as it entertained those party-goers.

Suddenly, with a cup of whatever he had in his hand, he turned toward me and said, “Anyway, from now on, it will be longer, isn’t it?”

“What?”

“Us. All of us. We won’t meet in a very long time, are we? We’ll be going on our separate ways.”

And that’s all it takes to break my inner layer of walls down. He’s right. That day might be the last day I saw him for a very long time. That day might be the last day I saw anyone, forever. Who knows.

“I’m going to quote Charles Dickens: is it better to have had a good thing and lost it, or never to have had it?” Kinda rhetorical, I just wanted to know how he react to it.

“Sometimes it is better to be lonely since the beginning than to be lonely twice. But… I don’t know. Hadn’t I have the chance to be a part of this, whatever this is-life maybe?-, I wouldn’t have met her, the love of my life, my wive,” he pointed her, the gorgeous and perky soon-to-be-ex roommate of mine. “So, maybe this is not too bad?”

I shrugged, “I think it is better to be lonely since the beginning. Being left alone sucks, you know? I love leaving waaay better than being left.”

“Hey, I know you’re upset to have her moving out to move in with me and I know you hate this kind of goodbye-apartment shindig, but let me tell you this: people will always come and go, you can’t have control on it. However, people with great distance between them can still keep in touch as long as they care for each other. The deal is not to go on an extra mile in keeping touch with everybody; the deal is to get some people who will also reach to you,” he said, lecturing me in the middle of this crowd, “And… we will always reach to you, you know that. The awful feeling of being left sometimes worth the experience.”

His answer still couldn’t comfort me as I know that people will also change as time goes by. Soon they will forget me and I will forget them too. Human relationship is nothing more than about having people to talk to for a while and then loosing them for the rest of our lives.

But maybe he had a point. Maybe all of this is worth the experience.

“Thank you, Tyler. Love Tanya for me, will you?”

“Sure, Aislinn, I will. See you later?”

“See you later, someday.”

Arranging A Bouquet

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“What is love to you?”

I once asked that question to Aislinn out of the blue several weeks before I proposed her. Her sudden facial expression was priceless: amazed yet somehow confused. I didn’t blame her as my question was kinda cheesy that day.

Aislinn put her favorite ice cream sundae down next to her and she gazed at the horizon. The thick and humid November wind blew her hair towards the land as we were sitting facing the sea. She went silent for a while, probably arranging words inside her head. And I was there, enjoying my vanilla ice cream sundae.

Several spoons of ice cream later, Aislinn answered my question. “Instead of giving you a detailed and structured definition of what love means to me, I’ll tell you a story. Well, not really a story, but you’ll get the point!”

“Okay.”

“So, I got this story from my first visit to a flower shop in the suburbs. You must notice that I had never bought a flower before because I didn’t really get the point of buying one. I mean, buying flowers are a waste of money although I’d love to get one,” she said. “Well, however, that evening was different. I had to visit my grandma at the hospital and it was raining cats and dogs that time. My family had already reached the hospital and I’m the one who was still outside. They forgot to bring something for grandma, and so they told me to buy a flower on the way there.”

“I found a small tidy flower shop on my way to the hospital. The place was so nice. Its wooden walls were painted sky blue and it smelled so good. I entered that shop to find an old man sitting on a tall wooden chair with his back hunched. By the time I entered that shop, he was arranging a bouquet-which I thought was for a wedding as it was so gigantic. He was so focused that I was pretty sure he didn’t notice me coming.”

“I approached him and asked him whether he could help me or not. I told him that I knew nothing about flowers and I really need his help to arrange one for grandma. He was really nice and gallant. Within a minute, he picked some pink roses. He asked me whether I’m okay with his choice or not. After I told him I’m totally fine with his choice, he headed back to his work desk.”

I’m not really sure where her story was going, but okay, for her, I’d love to stay longer even if it just for listening her silliest dorkiest stories.

“Before I saw him arranging a bouquet, I always thought that arranging a bouquet was a piece of cake. I thought that everyone can do it. I mean, what’s hard about picking a flower and sticking it together with a ribbon?” she said rhetorically. I could see her eyes was full of excitement like what a professional storyteller has. “But then, the magic happened. I saw him gently cutting thorns from those pink roses. He cut those thorns with full concentration. When he was done, he arranged those roses and cut the stems to adjust the height. He made the stem on the center of the bouquet a little longer so it appeared a little higher. He made sure the leaves that were left on the stem were still fresh and perfectly arranged. After he was done with the roses, he took a strap of pink ribbon and tied the roses with it. He looked at it for a while before giving the bouquet to me. That stare he gave to the flower was like the stare of a mother to her newborn baby, you know, so full of love.”

Aislinn’s tone was telling me that her story was over, yet I hadn’t understand the moral value of the story. “And so?” I asked.

“So, I finally realize that to love is like being a florist. You arrange things so beautifully. You take care of it with your heart. You put all your effort on that beautiful thing to maintain it. However, you must be ready to let it go. You cannot hold it forever. At a particular time you never know when, you must let it go,” she said.

“Does that mean that you’ll let go everyone you love?”

She frowned at me. “Of course not. I’m a selfish florist, I’ll keep those bouquets I have arranged by heart. I’ll be ready to let my bouquets go only when they died or are better off without me,” she answered. “Don’t get me wrong, I really love keeping bouquets. However, if I’m bad for it, I’ll let it go so it has a better caregiver.”

The Break

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In every long-lasting relationships, there must be a break between the people in it. Long time lover sometimes needs time to figure things he or she can’t figure when his or her lover is around. Insecurity are being built by the distance between them. Trust to each other is being tested by vicious prejudices our own mind creates. The break is an unavoidable phase which every relation must go through just to face two choices in the end of the journey: stop or continue.

I and Aislinn had one, and it was because of me.

See, I’m not really good at maintaining a relationship with anyone because simply I’m an introvert who had little experiences in dating. I tend to keep things in mind rather to boast it around. I’m quite shy too. Even though I had known Aislinn for 9 months, sometimes I was still running out of words to say to her. Not only because she’s too breathtaking, but also because I was more likely to enjoy the moment without saying anything.

What I thought as my regular habit went like a boomerang to me one day.

In the midst of June 2007, Aislinn asked me to be her company when attending Tanya and Tyler’s wedding. Indeed, it was a magnificent wedding held on a rooftop in one of New York City’s skyscraper. The food was delicious, the decoration was elegant; it was quite perfect. I thought that day was perfect too because my appearance at Tanya and Tyler’s wedding was a sign that Aislinn trusted me and I was accepted in Aislinn’s inner circle. For a moment, I felt relieved.

However, that peaceful feeling in my heart didn’t last long. Well, as an optimistic perky girl, Aislinn was surely standing among the crowd behind Tanya when she threw her bouquet. Luckily for her, she got it. I could see from afar her lips turned into a bright smile. Her eyes were fulfilled with hopes a myth had given. She’s expecting a serious relationship; a marriage.

I, as someone who had just lost my job six months ago, wasn’t sure to continue what I and Aislinn had. I’m not ready to start a serious relationship. I barely can afford living for my self, how was I supposed to afford a living for another human being? I mean, love is not enough to start a serious relationship! I won’t be a hypocrite, although money is not everything, money is important to keep us (and a relationship) alive.

Since that day, I started avoiding Aislinn. I let her calls fell into my voicemail, I told her I was busy pursuing a decent living (which was true). I focus on my career and let my love life crumbled. Aislinn was asking tons of questions, of course. She texted, called, and mailed me; she even sent Tanya to my apartment to set things straight. However, I remained silent. I love her, but I didn’t want to spoil her. Plus, I didn’t know what to say.

On one fine day on September 2007, I walked home from my second workplace (yes, I had to have two small jobs to keep my self alive) through Central Park. I’m not sure why, well, maybe because of the universe or simply because of a nostalgic feeling that I suddenly felt, I went through the place where I first met Aislinn.

The sun was on the verge of setting, but I could still see things. My eyesight was still normal, but I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: Aislinn, sitting alone on a bench where an old couple sat when we met. She was leaning backwards while staring into the void.

I was still avoiding her, but I couldn’t help saying, “Aislinn?”

In a second, Aislinn turned her sight to me. I’m not sure how should I describe Aislinn that moment, but all I could get from her was a surprised look. “Wow, the universe is really on my side,” she said.

“I’m sorry, did I interrupted you?” I asked, hoping she would say yes so I could leave immediately and regret this decision my whole life. “If yes, I’ll go.”

I thought she would be angry at me for abandoning her for almost three months. Well, she deserved to slap me in the face and yelled at me; I even expected that (that’s why I hoped she say yes to my question). Surprisingly, Aislinn stood and hugged me. “Are you okay? I’m so worried.”

And I was standing there like a stupid pole being hugged my the world’s warmest hug giver. Her red hair below me smelled like honey and cinnamon; the scent that had been too familiar to me.

“Wait, why aren’t you mad at me?” I asked.

Aislinn released her hug and said, “What for?”

“For abandoning you! For not picking up your calls and replying your messages!”

She shrugged, “I’m pretty sure you know what you were doing.”

What?! I didn’t even know what I was doing!

“Well, yes, I’m quite mad at you for not letting me know what happened,” she said. “However, since the beginning, I know that there must be something in your mind that you didn’t want to share. I thought that I could help, but your rejection of me was clearly a sign that you didn’t trust me. So, I get it.”

“But, why don’t you slap me or yelled at me? I made you mad.” Honestly, I was so surprised by her reaction. She never failed to surprise me.

Aislinn shook her head, “Peter, we are adults. Real adults don’t do that.”

She left me speechless. Neither I nor her talked. All I can hear was just the wind of Central Park in September and my own heartbeat.

“So, I understand if you still need time to be alone. I’ll wait for you.” she finally said.

The next thing she said gave me two opposite things: chills and reassurance. The next thing she said made me feel like a dumb trash who had just realized that communication is the key to every relation. The next thing she said made me realize that her patience was what made her worth everything.

The next thing she said was “However, next time you do this to me, if there’s even a next time, at least tell me what you’re up to. I don’t need details, I just need to know what you are doing so I can step out of your way. I need a reason to hold on. Because, Peter, having something to hold on is always better than guessing what’s in other people’s mind.”

She gave me a firm squeeze on my arm and then left.

I Said “I Do”

Holding Hands #1

Night had fallen and the heater had been turned on to anticipate any cold that somehow managed to sneak in through the door. It was Monday night, Aislinn and I had just arrived from work.

As usual, I picked her in her office just to walk her home safely. Whenever she saw me ready to pick her up, she always waved her hand happily as if she didn’t have any deadlines. Aislinn would jolt out from her desk, say goodbye to her colleagues, took my hand, and pace happily to our apartment.

However, that evening was different.

When I coped my arms around her and walked her to our apartment, she just gave me a weary smile. She wasn’t as talkative as usual. Her eyes were pinned to the ground and she leaned closer to me than usual. I tried to talk her out but she just answered in short answers.

After a few minutes walk from her office, we arrived at our apartment. Our apartment was still dark. The curtains of the gigantic window with the skyline view were not yet closed. In any other days, I was the one who turn the lamps, closed the curtains, turned the heater on, then took a bath while Aislinn cook us dinner.

However, that evening was different.

Seeing Aislinn’s gloomy face, as her husband, I didn’t want her to bear any more weighs.

“Hey. I know you’re not feeling well for some reasons you don’t want to tell me for a while. Why don’t you take a bath-a long shower if you think you need it-while I prepare our dinner?”

For the first time in this evening, or night, she looked me in my eyes and said helplessly, “…the lights? …the curtains? …the heater?”

“I’ll take care of those.” I gave her a peck on her forehead. “Now off you go! Pamper yourself! And when you’re done, dinner will be ready.”

“Thanks, Peter,” she said weakly. Contrary to her perky personality, she walked to the bathroom like a zombie who hadn’t eaten brains for decades. Something was surely not right.

Once I heard the faucet was turned on, I quickly did my chores. I cooked fettuccine aglio olio as it was her favorite food. I also baked some chocolate lava cake, the dessert we ate on our first date. In 30 minutes, I managed to get my chores done perfectly. I even managed to set the table with candles and hot chocolate drink to indulge her.

However, there was no signs of Aislinn getting out from the bath.

“Aislinn?” I called from the couch. No answer. “Aislinn?!” I shouted. Still no answer.

Panic started crawling inside my brain. What had happened to her? Why she was so weak and gloomy? Was she sick? Or…!

“Aislinn?!” I called as I entered the bathroom.

Aislinn was still there, sitting in the bath covered with bubbles up to her lips. Her eyes were closed. I hope she was just fallen asleep.

“Aislinn?” I shook her shoulders gently.

She didn’t move. Was she unconscious? “Honey? Are you awake? Can you hear me?

For a moment, I thought of loosing her. I thought about her laugh whenever she was making me do something silly. I thought about her high-pitched shriek I used to hear whenever she saw a cockroach approaching her. I thought about her gorgeous smile she gave me through the sheets every morning as a greeting.

I thought of simple things I barely recognized she gave me everyday and the absence of it. It gave me a pain in my heart. It created a hole in my soul I could never close.

To my surprise, Aislinn gasped in a sudden. “What? What? Where am I?”

“Oh my God, thanks God you’re alive! You’ve fallen asleep while you were taking a bath,” I said. “C’mon, Honey, let’s get you out of there.”

Aislinn nodded helplessly. I reached the closest towel and wrapped her with it when she finally stood up. Gently, I carried her on my arms. Her weight felt less heavier than the last time I carry her. As I walked to our bedroom, she curled in my arms and leaned on my shoulder.

When I let her sat on the edge of our bed, she suddenly asked, “Pete, where is my sweater?”

“Wait. I’ve seen it somewhere. Go put on your undergarments and I’ll be back.” I went to search in the living room and found her favorite sweater, a well-knitted white and purple sweater. “Got it! Do you need help to put thi on?”

“Nope, thank you, Pete. I’ve troubled you much this evening,” she said as she struggled putting her sweater on. She somehow got her head stuck beneath the fabric. Clumsy.

“Don’t tell me you don’t need my help, Aislinn,” I said as I kneed in front of her. I gave her sweater a little pull downwards and her head popped in front of me.

She pouted her mouth in front of me. “Sorry… and thanks.”

“Don’t say sorry. It’s my job-no, it’s my pleasure-to do this,” I said.

“Really? Is this your pleasure?” she asked me, somehow sounded sarcastically.

“Aislinn? What’s wrong?”

She stared at me sadly like a duck being an outcast among herds of gooses. “Is this what you want? Is this your pleasure?” she asked.

“What? Taking care of you?” I asked. “If that’s that, sure it is.”

“No,” she said with a long tone. “Well, yeah. I don’t know. Yeah,” Aislinn exhaled a deep breath. “Is marrying me before you turn 25 is what you want?”

“What? What kind of question is that?” In my entire existence, I had never thought that someday the love of my life would ask me this kind of question.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “I don’t know why I get this mood swing. Maybe it’s my PMS or something, I don’t know. Just answer the question!”

“Well, there must be something that triggered you to ask that question to me. Tell me.”

“Well… I heard the boys’ convos in the office today. Dave, the guy I’ve told you once, was getting his bachelor party tonight. Out of nowhere, Alan, my other colleague, ask him ‘Why do you get married so soon? You’re not even 25, you can still hit on other girls’,” she said. “So, I just kept thinking about it. Do you regret marrying me in your early 20s?”

I let a giggle out of my mouth-I couldn’t help it. I thought she was having a major problem or hiding a big secret that could take her away from me. Thanks God I was wrong.

“Hey,” I said as I lift her chin so that her eyes were on mine. “Don’t be silly. Do you think that I want to spend my early-adulthood gallivanting around every corner of the town to hit on girls which is not you? I finally found you, the love of my life. What can I regret if I got the chance to marry the love of my life?”

“B-b-but.. what about the freedom of being single? I don’t like being alone but I suppose men do,” she said.

“Yeah, maybe some other men do, but I don’t. I’ve been single my entire life and I know it better that it’s better to have someone than being alone,” I said. “Aislinn, when I said that I will always be by your side in good and bad ’till death do us part, I really mean it. When I said ‘I do’, I really meant ‘I do’. I don’t care if people say that single life is much happier than marriage life. It may be true to them but not to me. To me, happiness is being beside you and it will always be that way.”

“Really?”

“Sure.”

For the first time in those few past hours, Aislinn left a hint of smile on her lips. She rarely got insecure and when she did, the world seemed gray. To be precise, my world turned gray.

“Thank you, Peter,” she said. “I love you.”

“And I love you too,” I said as I landed a peck on her chin.

As I stood up, Aislinn hugged me from behind, making me unable to move. “I love you and I’m hungry,” she mumbled with her face on my back. Yeah, sometimes she went that absurd.

“I’ve cooked you fettuccine aglio olio. You can eat while I take a shower.”

“No, I’ll wait for you. I’ll just lay myself on bed,” she said as she flounced to the bed. Against all of the odds, Aislinn buried herself beneath the sheets.

“Don’t fall asleep and scared the hell out of me again, okay?”

“I won’t,” she said, her voice was muffled. “Now go get a shower so we can eat!”

My Silver Lining

New York 6

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there’s a proverb which says “Ignorance is bliss”. Almost everyone believes it. I was too, until the day I met her. Why? Because the idea of not knowing her was, is, and never will be bliss.

December 31th 2006 should be the best night of my life yet it turned out to be the worst. I started the day with a recently brewed coffee in my right hand. I was gazing out of my apartment window which gave me the view of a snowy New York skyline when my telephone rang.

Far away across the phone, I could hear my boss’ heavy bass voice, “Peter Goode?”

What was he doing on New Year’s Eve with his employee? “Yes sir? What can I do for you?”

“Can you come to the office at 3 pm today?” he asked.

“B-b-but Sir, isn’t it right that I have my day off today? It’s New Year’s Eve, Sir,” I reminded him in case he forgot.

“Well, yeah, I know. But I need you to stop by here at 3 pm. It’s urgent,” he argued. “Anyway, I’m sure you have nothing to do on New Year’s Eve. I mean, what does a single man going to do on New Year’s Eve? You don’t even have a girlfriend to kiss at midnight.”

My ears redden hearing his sarcastic statement. That’s impolite, you know? I knew I didn’t have any girlfriend at the moment but at least he shouldn’t emphasize that!

“Hmph, okay. I’ll come around by 3 pm.”

I quickly closed the phone and checked what time was that, 1 pm. I lay myself down on the couch, staring at the ceiling, enjoying the last cold day of 2006. After I was done lying without any purpose, I took a bath and walked in the snow.

New York in December was my favourite view of the year. The way the thick snow covered the streets and the cold froze the Central Park’s lake always amaze me. Apparently, my apartment was quite far from my office. So, I could enjoy my day off before going to the office for whatever reason.

When I arrived at the office, my boss –Richard- and my colleague –Damien- were gathering around the meeting table. When I entered the room, they quickly turned at me.

“Peter, can you explain this to me?” asked Richard to me with a paper on his hand to show. Richard’s face was red and I didn’t know why. Was it possible that he’s mad because he must go to the office on his day off too? I don’t know and I don’t care.

I took the paper on Richard’s hand. It was a screenshot of a leaked program’s codes. The codes felt familiar to me before I realized that I was the one who created those codes. The program’s codes were uploaded on someone’s private blog and it was indeed an urgent problem since those codes were the core of the company where I worked.

“What’s wrong with you, Peter? Why did you upload this? I know this blog is yours!” accused Richard.

“Of course not!” I shouted right into his face. “I never owned a blog! And I’m not a fool, Richard, you know that. Never in a million years will I upload those codes.”

“But you’re the one who own the full accessible version of those codes. It can’t be anyone else,” he said.

“So you’re accusing me as the one who leaked the company’s most precious treasure?”

Richard sat back on his chair and twitched his moustache. He really seemed like Hercule Poirot from Agatha Christie’s novel adaptation, but the difference was the fact that Richard was the antagonist one. “Well, no, Peter. But can it be anyone else other than you?”

It’s sure that I wasn’t the one who uploaded the codes on the blog, but Richard seemed that he would never trust me. Well, it was not really impossible for someone to break the company’s system and took a peek of the codes and shared it on a blog. Even if I explained it to Richard, he would still never trust me. He’s just a bossy boss without any knowledge about coding and programming.

“It can. If you don’t believe me, I’m out.” I couldn’t believe I had just said that.

“Well… I don’t believe you,” he said.

“Fine, then. I’ll pack my things right away.”

I felt like I lose. I couldn’t believe that I had just got fired by the most stupid boss ever existed. I quickly exited the room and went straight to my desk. From the corner of my eyes, I could see Richard and Damien smiling. Maybe they were actually planning to fire me. Maybe they’re the one who uploaded the codes to frame me. I don’t care anymore.

After packing my things into a box, I rushed my walk outside the building. I inhaled and exhaled long deep breaths. I should by happy on the last day of 2006 but I just got fired. It was so hard looking for a job in New Year. Companies won’t open any employee recruitment in the beginning of the year.

I walked back to my apartment to put my box. After snacking for a while, I got up and strolled down New York City. I wandered around Central Park with my beloved camera hanging on my neck. I always got calmer once I had my camera on my hand.

I was trying to capture the view of an old lady sleeping on her husband’s shoulder on a bench surrounded by doves when someone ran into the doves and shoo away that beautiful view.

“Are you serious? I’m trying to capture a good view here!” I shouted to her.

She was surprised by my existence. I couldn’t blame her for I was hiding behind a white tree in black coat. She walked to me. I could see that she’s way shorter than me –her head was as tall as my shoulder. She had a red hair hanging on her back. I could see her as an optimistic and a perky girl.

“Oh, hi! I’m so sorry, I didn’t know that you’re trying to capture the view,” she said to me. She gave her hand towards me, “I’m Aislinn. Aislinn Aldrin.”

I shook her white delicate hands gently. “It’s okay. I’m Peter. Peter Goode.”

She smiled and I could see her eyes got bigger as enthusiasm flowed to her. “So, what are you doing back here, Peter, other than taking pictures?”

“Trying to regain my sanity,” I said.

“What?!” she shrieked in surprise.

“I just got fired from my job. Well, technically I’m the one who resigned after being accused of leaking one of my past company’s secrets.”

“Oh my God, that’s bad,” she mumbles. “You resigned on New Year’s Eve?”

“Yup.” Then I told her the whole story. I rarely shared my secrets to strangers but I guess telling her my story won’t bring me any harm. She seemed like she won’t spoil my secret.

“That’s pretty bad! Didn’t they realize that they just lose their best employee?” she said. Her eyes widened and her lips turned into a disgusted smile.

“I guess they didn’t. But thanks anyway,” I said.

Again, she smiled. She was sure was a perky girl.

“And then I got back to my apartment, put my box, took my camera, tried to capture a great view but then you ran into the doves.”

Hearing my tease, Aislinn grinned. Her circular white face redden almost as red as the edges of her hair. “Sorry, I didn’t know that you’re taking pictures. I just like running into flocks of birds and see them leaving in a rush.”

Hell, she was so cute. “It’s okay, I’m just making a point there.” I gave her a smile to assure her.

“So, I make your day worse by running into the doves,” she said. “To say sorry, I’ll accompany you till the end of the night and make this night the best day of your life!”

What did I just heard?

“You don’t owe me anything, Aislinn. Trust me.”

“Yeah, I don’t. But I insist,” she boldly said.

“Don’t you have anything to do on New Year’s Eve? Don’t you have a boyfriend to kiss tonight?” I asked. Wait! Why did I asked the last question? Was I asking for a hint?

“Nope, I don’t,” she confessed blatantly.

“I don’t believe that!” I said in disbelief. Seeing my reaction, she shrugged shyly. I was afraid that I somehow made her uncomfortable, so I asked another question, “No work to finish?”

“Technically, I’m a college student, so, no,” she answered. “Why don’t we just go somewhere and be happy?”

She sounded interesting. I’m so amazed by her ability to trust strangers. There was a possibility that I was a serial killer and that I would kidnap her yet she still trust me.

I checked my phone. It was already 7 pm. “Okay, then. Where do you want to go?”

“How if we go to a deli and buy sandwiches?” she said.

“Okay. Do you know that deli near Times Square? I love it there.”

“Do you mean that Mr. Bradley Deli? I love it there too!” she shouted. “C’mon!”

She ran before me and I could see her hair twirled around. Honest to God, she’s beautiful. She’s a beautiful stranger who was willing to accompany me for the rest of the year and I’m thankful for that. I followed her a few steps behind just to enjoy the view of Aislinn. And I felt like I was coming home.

On December 31th 2006, I quit my only job. On December 31th 2006, I was a lonely single man wandering hopelessly on the romantic snowy New York’s Central Park just to make my heart better. But I met a perky girl who should’ve ruined my day too. I met a perky girl who was willing to accompany a stranger just to make her happy. Perhaps that New Year’s Eve wasn’t so bad.

A year later, I realized that the last day of 2006 wasn’t the worst day of my life. I met her, my undeniable beautiful gorgeous wife. Perhaps the last day of 2006 was the best day of my entire existence. After all, I came to realize that if I was a dark cloud, she’s my very favourite silver lining.

A Stupid Thing Called Jealousy

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Jealousy is a funny yet stupid thing. Believe it or not, that time was the first time I had ever felt jealous in my whole life. To be true, I’m not proud and I’m ashamed of it.

My Saturday nights is always my quality time with Aislinn. Every Saturday nights, we put aside our works and have a couple time inside the apartment. We usually cuddle on the couch while watching How I Met Your Mother, the sitcom that brought us together.

But for whatever reason, that saturday night was different. I arrived at the apartment from my workplace around 5 pm. Usually, when I arrived from my workplace, I smell the scent of an overcooked popcorn Aislinn made and hear Aislinn’s high-pitched shriek welcoming me. But that evening was so different. I came to an empty apartment. There were no overcooked popcorn nor Aislinn’s voice.

At first, I thought Aislinn was stuck in the traffic. I took a long hot shower to relax my tense body for sitting in front of the computer the whole day. After I felt like I was boiled, I got out, put a sweatshirt and a baggy short, and then tidy the apartment. I also cooked popcorn for our How I Met Your Mother marathon that night. Just as I poured the apple virgin mojito to a pitcher, my phone rang. I immediately picked my phone up. It’s Aislinn!

“Hey, honey. Where are you?” I asked.

“I’m in the cafe right now.”

“Are you buying truffles for us?” When we run out of popcorn, we eat a box of assorted truffles and eat them like playing Russian Roulette.

“Well, I was, Peter. But guess who I bumped into?” Aislinn’s voice sounded full of made-up neutrality with a hint of love and disgust.

A few names flashed on my head as I tried to connect the dots between Aislinn’s tone and the name the person she bumped into. “Drawing blank.”

Shortly, she said “Tanner Creek.”

Tanner Creek, Aislinn’s former boyfriend who was still trying to get her attention. Tanner, the one who nearly ruined our wedding. I tensed and I felt I’m about to choke.

“Peter, are you still there? Or did you passed out?”

I gulped, cleared my throat, and went, “I’m here. Why?”

“Umm, would you do me a favor? Postpone our HIMYM marathon for 30 minutes, 45 mins tops. Tanner said he have something to talk to me.”

Postpone our quality time for someone who nearly ruined my wedding day? For God’s sake!

“Well.. the popcorn will be cold and the virgin mojitos will be warm.”

“I know, babe, but please? I know you and I hate him for what he have done but I think he deserves a chance.”

I felt something cold in me and I guess that’s climbing up to my tongue. “Well, he never asked one.”

“He did, he just did. Please? I’ll be straight home after that and it’s not like we’re going somewhere private. We’re hanging here. Pleaseee?” she begged. And yeah, she held that ‘please’ for ten seconds. I don’t know why she always do that -holding the vocals in a word long enough- when she’s begging. While men have that three day rule to call a woman, do women have a ten seconds rule to bribe a man? If yes, I’ve never heard of it.

I was considering it for a while. My brain told me that it’s okay to let my wife clean the mess she made with her former boyfriend but my heart told me to be selfish and make her go straight home so that there will be no possibilities for Tanner to steal my wife.

“Well, yeah okay sure, at least you asked so I won’t caught you there then scowl at you this whole night. But 45 minutes tops, okay? See you, Aislinn.”

“Okay, thanks. See you, over-protective and jealous husband.”

And then she hung up the phone. Just like that.

“What was that supposed to mean?!” I shouted to the void. Nothing answered my disappointment except the buzz of the coffee brewer. And acknowledging that I was alone there when I supposed to be with her made me more disappointed. So, I flounced my self to the sofa, grab the remote, turned on the TV, and watched an action movie.

Have you ever heard Einstein’s theory of relativity? My professor in college once told me about that in the simplest way. He told me a story about two different people and a train. The first person was on the station, waiting the second person who was in his way in a train. On the other side, the second person was on the train rushing to the station where the first person was waiting. My professor asked us whether the time they both spent to reach each other were the same or not. We answered yes but then he said that it depends.

“You all see it in a way that copes all of it. Yes, it is true that they spent the same time. But have all of you ever heard the quarrel of two people insisting their belief? ‘I have waited for you for 30 minutes!’ replied with ‘No, you don’t, I was on my way for 20 minutes!’ while the fact is they both have spent the exact 25 minutes to met each other. I present you the theory of relativity,” he said proudly. “Well, it actually depends on the point of view. The person who was waiting tend to feel that the time that has passed is longer than the person who was rushing.”

And that was what I really feel when I was waiting for Aislinn to come home. I was lying on the couch like a big old sheriff on his day off. I wrapped my self with a blanket and had my eyes glued on the screen. I also started snacking the popcorn and crumbs were all over the blanket. I sipped my apple virgin mojito little by little till I realized that I had drank the half. Waiting Aislinn to come felt like ages and then all I know was that I was awaken by the sunlight.

“G’morning, honey,” called out a sleepy voice I reckoned as Aislinn’s. Yeah, I mean who else would be there?

“Aislinn? Where are you?” I looked around. The TV was no longer on, the table was already cleaned.

“Umm, look below here.”

I rolled my self to see the floor and saw Aislinn was lying there, bared to the air only with her shirt and knee-long shorts. “Oh my God, what are you doing? Why don’t you sleep on the bed? I could have stepped on you!”

“I’m sorry, last night I thought you’d be awaken and watch HIMYM with me. So, I decided to lay here in case you want find me easily.”

“Well at least you can bring some blankets to prevent cold, Aislinn.”

There was a short awkward silence between us then. She was just lying there staring at me with her warm hazel eyes and I was staring at her back from the sofa.

Out of nowhere, she accused me, “You’re disappointed at me last night, aren’t you?”

“How could you say that?”

“I know. I just know.”

“Ha, such a good excuse, Aislinn. You’ll be a good lawyer,” I said more sarcastic that I should have.

Hearing my answer, she instantly sat straight. Her eyes were on mine and it was no longer warm. It was cold and fierce. Uh oh.

“I have been your wife for 3 years, Peter, of course I know! Wanna know why I know? Your voice tone. Your choice of words. Last night, you suddenly changed into a sarcastic jealous husband!” she scolded at me.

“Oh, I’m a sarcastic jealous husband?! Yeah, tell me, what should I do when my dearest wife choose to spent her Saturday night with her ex-boyfriend who nearly ruined her wedding day over a quality time with her husband?”

Aislinn shocked in disbelief. “I have asked for your permission and you said it’s okay!” she said a few octaves higher.

“Yeah, 45 minutes tops! But what time did you take, two hours?”

“I only talked to him for 30 minutes, Peter, and I walked home for 5 minutes. Thirty-five minutes and I found you  asleep on the couch. Ask Tanner if you don’t believe me,” she lowered her tone and voice.

“Sorry,” I said, “Sit here.” I sat and make a room for two on the couch. Aislinn climbed up and sat next to me.

“What happened last night? Did I…?”

“I don’t know, Aislinn. Maybe I was disappointed because I came home to an empty apartment to find you spending 30 minutes of the night with someone who nearly ruined our wedding. Because from the deepest part of my soul, I hate him,” I said. “Well, anyway, tell me what happened last night so I won’t be mad anymore.”

She looked at me in the eye and then raised her body from the couch. She headed the kitchen and then showed with two recently brewed coffee and the truffle box. She put it in the table in front of the couch, gave me a cup, took a cup for her, and then sat again next to me. I always know this girl could never speak properly with an empty stomach.

“So?”

“So, I was at that cafe, buying that box,” she pointed the box,”Suddenly, a man who was behind me on the paying row tapped my shoulder and went ‘Hey, Aislinn, can we have a talk?’. When I turned around, I started to scream internally. I mean, what does he want? It was like he once made me madly in love then the next day he dumped me in such a humiliating way. He also tried to sabotage my wedding with someone I truly love, yeah that’s you. All I can say was ‘Don’t talk to me unless it’s 8 or higher,’, you know, quoting Lily and Marshall when baby Marvin was out.”

“You’re awesome. Go on,” I said. I mean, quoting a line from HIMYM to a person you hate? That’s awesome.

“And then he said that it was an eight so I phoned you to ask for your permission,” she pouted. “We sat and he had a coffee. He told me that he was finally over me. He met a girl a year ago, a nice one and he thought that she was the one. Well, they decided to get married. Apparently, his girl does have a crazy ex-boyfriend who apparently isn’t over her just like how he used to, karma huh? So, he asked for my –our, actually- forgiveness so that he won’t be jinxed on his own wedding. And I did forgive him. He said thanks and sorry again, then I headed home.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s all.”

“Whoa, thank’s God I thought he was trying to steal you again,” I sighed as my worries remained as delusion.

“Now you know what happened. Can you forgive me for postponing our HIMYM marathon?” she sulked. She leaned closer and widened her eyes, hoping I’d be tempted to easily forgive her like that. But as a matter of fact, I was easily tempted.

I was wrong for being mad but I wasn’t wrong for being jealous. If I’m not jealous then I no longer care to what happen to her. But I guess my first ever jealousy was unreasonable because I didn’t trust my own wife’s sayings and I’m ashamed of that.

“Now I know what happened. Can you forgive me for being mad at you last night?” I asked for her forgiveness.

She nodded. She took my coffee off my hand. “Okay, HIMYM marathon right now?”

“Yes please!”

She turned on the TV and picked the DVD. When the movie had been rolling, she leaned to me and said, “We have just had a fight because we postponed our HIMYM marathon.”

“I guess we love each other too much that we can’t stand the idea of not being together.”

Under the Ferris Wheel

Navy Pier

It was a bright clear Sunday when I and Aislinn decided to take a walk around the city. We rarely go out on Sundays. Instead of having a couple time outside the apartment, we are likely to sit on a couch and watch movies or read different books with our hands clutched. Just enjoying our holiday in silence since our workdays tend to be hectic.

Maybe just because of boredom or other reason, we don’t really know exactly, we decided to spend this Sunday outside the apartment. It all started when Aislinn woke up and rolled crazily on the bed and nearly fall down. I didn’t know what she was dreaming about, and with her sleepy eyes, she said, “Peter, do you want to go for a walk and grab an ice cream?”. And I said, “What?”. And then she said, “Pretty please? I think today is going to be a goooood day for a walk,”. And yes, she said that ‘good’ word for more than 10 seconds.

After we got dressed and ready, I in my shirt and Aislinn in her sundress, we start strolling down the city. We’re talking about unimportant things and though it’s a waste of energy, I still enjoyed it. Despite the fact that Aislinn is my wife (so basically I love doing anything with her), having a small talk outside the room was quite refreshing for an animation designer like me.

“Honey, what flavor do you want?” she asked me when she was about to order.

“Chocolate peanut butter,”

“Chocolate peanut butter and cranberry, please,” she said. She opened her purse, grabbed some pennies, and paid.

It might seemed weird when a girl pay for things in a date, when the boy should be the one who pay, but we both don’t care. Love is about sharing everything you want to share with the people you love. Even the silliest thing in marriage, like money. Don’t call me a chicken, I’m still a gentleman. I pay the expensive things. Haha.

“Here you go!” she said, handing me a cone of ice cream.

“Thank you!”

We started walking toward the ferris wheel near the beach. We didn’t ride the ferris wheel, we just sat under it. We have a favorite bench under the ferris wheel which is facing the sea. That’s where we sat when we was on our first date.

“So, how’s your Sunday, Mrs. Goode?” I asked.

She turned her face to me and smiled, “Until now, pretty good, Mr. Goode,”

It’s funny how when you fall in love, you’ll memorize everything about her/him. When a man stays single, he rarely memorize the details of a girl since it’s not a man thing. But when you fall in love, everything seem to be carved on your brain. You’ll memorize how her lips crooked when she smiles or how good is the smell of her perfume. Everything.

“It’s so refreshing, isn’t it? Having a walk on a sunny Sunday,” she said, and then continued her words after she licked her ice cream, “I am a little bit bored editing scripts,”

Aislinn is an editor. She often edits movie scripts. But actually, her real passion is editing novels. She once said to me ‘Making adjustments on a novel that will make a good reading feels makes me feel amazing. Moreover if the novel I edited become a best-seller! I somehow feel useful’.

“But that’s still your passion, isn’t it, Honey?”

“It is.. but I guess I need something new. Something that will cause a greater impact to the world,”

“Well you can try to write seriously. Your short stories and poems are great, remember?”

She stared at me. I can see a little desperation and a glimpse of relief in her eyes. “Thanks, Honey,”

“Any-”

I hadn’t finished my words when we heard a woman scream furiously. We automatically searched the source of the sound. It was just on the other side of the ferris wheel where the source of the sound was. The source of the sound was a pregnant woman screaming while holding her tummy. Besides her, her -probably- 6 years-old boy were staring at her mom, knowing nothing to do.

In a blink of an eye, I already saw Aislinn running towards that pregnant woman. I followed her though I didn’t know what to do. Call 911? Of course, but what should I do in the mean time?

I dialed 911 and Aislinn knelt besides her. In a very weak voice, the woman said, “Bring me to the hospital. Call my husband and take care of my son,”

“Okay! My husband had called an ambulance to bring you to the hospital and please stay calm! Say, what’s your name?”

“I’m.. I’m Mrs. Abernathy. A.. Aisha,” she said. She sounded like she’s about to faint.

“Okay, Aisha. I’ll call your husband,”

I didn’t know how she did it but Aislinn acted calmly. Her hands trembled a little when she’s dialing Mr. Abernathy using Aisha’s phone, but she’s so calm. She also helped Aisha to breath properly. Different from Aislinn, I’m panicking inside. What if the ambulance took a long time to get here? What if Aisha delivered the baby here?

I felt relieved when I heard the siren of the ambulance. The nurses were coming out and helping Aisha to get in. Meanwhile, Aislinn dialed Mr. Abernathy for the second time to tell him where we and his wife was heading.

When we arrived at the hospital, I registered Aisha and Aisha was taken to another room where I couldn’t go to. I sat down on a bench beside Aislinn who was trying to distract the boy from what happened to his mom.

“What’s your name, Hero?” Aislinn asked. When he didn’t answer, she said, “My name is Aislinn. I’m a stranger but you can trust me. Your mom is okay, okay? She’s about to give you a brother or a sister!”

The little boy nodded a little and he gave a wary look at me. Aislinn said, “He’s my husband, Hero. His name is Peter. You can trust him too!”

“Hi Hero, I’m Peter!” I said.

And then the boy opened his mouth shyly, “I’m Zafran,”

“Wow, that’s such a good name, Zafran!” Aislinn praised him. “Tell me, do you like playing soccer?”

“Yes,”

“Okay. Who’s your favorite player?”

I walked to the entrance door to wait Mr. Abernathy and I could no longer hear their conversation. A few minutes later, I saw a man in a black coat running towards the hospital. I automatically said, “Mr. Abernathy?”

“Yeah! Yeah! Thank you, Peter! You’re Aislinn’s husband, right?” He was gasping so fast for air.

“Yeah. Your wife is inside and your son is with Aislinn down the hall,” I said, pointing a white and blue hall where Aislinn and Zafran was.

I followed Mr. Abernathy to the hall. Aislinn and Zafran were talking to each other when Zafran saw his dad and ran to hug him. I could see a great smile on both Aislinn and Zafran.

“Thank you so much, I owe you both a lot,” Mr. Abernathy said, tightening his hug on Zafran.

“It’s alright,” Aislinn said.

“Congratulations, Mr. Abernathy. May your baby born in a great health,” I said to him.

“Thank you so much, Aislinn and Peter. May your marriage blessed in joy,”

We nodded to him and went outside. I was about to walk Aislinn home when she grabbed my hand and asking me to sit next to her on a bench outside the hospital. She rested her head on my shoulder and I could feel her breathing fast. Her body was shaking and I figured out that she’s crying in silence. She was shocked.

“Hey, Aislinn Honey.. Don’t cry! You did good back there,” I reached her body and wrapped my arms around it.

Aislinn was crying on my chest. I could see people were watching us but I didn’t care. I kissed her forehead and brushed her red hair, doing anything to comfort her. Well, anything wise enough to be done in public.

A moment later, Aislinn said, “I know I did good.. I’m just afraid,”

“Well there’s nothing to be afraid of,”

“No, there is! What if we failed to bring her to the hospital on time? What if-”

“Honey, we succeed. You succeed. I don’t know what are you thinking about yourself, but you’re a hero! You saved someone’s life, no, two people’s life!”

She nodded. “I just want to save her, you know? Being useful to someone..”

“And you did save her. You’re already useful,”

She didn’t move in my arms. Instead, she said, “You know, Peter? I’m no Einstein. But I want to help others by what I know even though I know less. I want to do something good,”

“I know, Aislinn, I know. You don’t need to be Einstein to do something good. You can be just Aislinn and do something good. And I love Aislinn, I don’t love Einstein. So don’t compare yourself to Einstein. Be yourself, Honey. I know that Aislinn can do a lot of good things,”

Aislinn nodded. “I’m sorry. I’m shocked,”

“It’s okay,” I kissed her forehead again. And when she really stopped trembling, I let go off my hug and say, “Hey, wanna go home or grab some burgers? I’ll pay for hero of the day,”

She smiled weakly, “Burgers,”

“Alright then! To burgers we go!”

I held her hands and we went to the nearest burger shop. On our way there, Aislinn moved her hand from mine and hugged my arms. “Thank you. For everything,”

And she smiled. Her smile was so bright. That smile is the kind of smile that shows satisfaction, glad, and happiness. That smile is the kind of smile I would never stop looking at.