Every Saturday and Sunday, we took Hanna, Hasya and Haifa for their swimming lessons. Last Saturday, I was sitting on a plastic chair by the pool, reading Jodi Picoult’s Mercy with Hanis coloring away on a bathrobe next on the floor when this guy came to me. I know him as “Joe” (not his real name). Joe is 22, a 6-footer. He’s a lifeguard/rescuer at the pool. I talked to him many times before, but never about personal things. So when he came to me with this question, I was a bit surprised.
“Kak, I’d like to ask for your opinion. It's a long story. I hope you’ll bear with me.”
I put down my book. I thought this must be interesting. “I’m all ears. Is it about a girl?”
“Yes Kak, and I hope you could give your opinion on this. I just don’t know what to do.”
So he began his story. Apparently he’s in love with this girl, Sue (not her real name). Sue, according to Joe, was the prettiest girl he’d ever seen. So mesmerizing, he said - glowing skin, face of an angel, petite body and was a princess everybody was dreaming about. To make matters worse, they sat next to each other for three years – when they were in Form 1 until Form 3. He said he liked her a lot until it hurt so much inside, but he didn’t have the nerve to let her know. After all, they were like buddies, and Joe said he was a very very chubby giant when he was at that age and was sure that she wouldn’t like him the way he wanted her to be. He also used to be a postman for other boys who were interested in her.
He kept his feelings all to himself for three years. He said he understood that he was in a different league altogether and knew for sure that she’d laugh at him if she knew of his true feelings.
When they went to separate classes in Form 4 and Form 5, Joe became restless. He couldn’t think straight for this dream girl of his was no longer there in the classroom with him. It was so bad that his parents saw the changes in him and brought him to see the psychiatrist. He said he played along with the psychiatrist but he didn’t reveal the real reason why he has changed. He couldn’t let his secret be read like a book. He loved Sue too much to get her involved in the turmoil he was in.
So, Joe kept on seeing this psychiatrist until he finished his secondary school. Right after SPM, he left home. He said he needed the vacuum to forget Sue since he couldn’t let her out of his system. But he told no one the actual reason why he left. Since he believed that he was a born-rescuer since he was 6yo (remember the movie “The Guardian”?), he left for the islands and places which had oceans attached. He went on learning oceanography and perfected himself to be a true rescuer.
He was away for 4 years. Different islands and different places. He thought he could forget Sue, but he couldn’t. Sue still sits on that pedestal that Joe has created ten years ago.
He came back to his parents last year in January. That was because he didn’t want his mom to cry for him anymore. He didn’t want to hurt his parents no more. And he realized that being 4 years away didn’t even diminish his feelings towards Sue. In fact it was still there, occupying his heart in whole. And according to him, it was achingly painful just to think of her.
His exact words - "Kak, it's like a dagger punched thru the heart, everytime I think of her".
Ten years, and he said he loves her even more. For ten years he couldn’t see any other women at all, although opportunities were there. For ten years, he’s still at the same point where he left before. His heart still yearns for her.
Five months ago, he met Sue on the train. He said she looked as pretty as ever. And his heart went thumping like crazy when their gazes met.
They had a small chat. He said he stuttered. From then on, he tried to avoid her everytime he saw her on the train. And she looked so lovely from afar. When a week ago he couldn’t avoid her, they talked a while. She gave him her name card and asked him to call her.
The question that Joe’s been meaning to ask me was : “Should I call her, Kak? Yes or No?”
I looked at him straight in the eye and said – “Yes”
I told him, it’s not everyday that a person gets a second chance. Opportunity seldom knocks twice. This is the time for him to get to know her. But don’t rush into anything. Go slow. And be ready for disappointments for she may only be asking him to be her friend, nothing more. But most of all, I said to him, you’ll never know until you try... and putting yourself in a different league makes it even harder.
She might have liked him since she was 13, but he was too oblivious to notice it. There’s a possibility of that. If he were to pass this opportunity, he’d never know for sure.
Opportunities lost will be opportunities lost. Then regret will haunt him forever.
When I met him again the day after, on Sunday, Joe came to me and said – “Kak, I texted her. She asked to meet me for dinner. I’m meeting her tonite. And I’m nervous as hell.”
I’m really happy for Joe. I don’t know how the date went yet. I’ll know about it tomorrow. I just hope that he’ll be able to accept whatever the outcome is. I kept reminding him to be ready for a letdown, to be strong when things didn’t go his way. And I also told him, if that were to happen, remember that Soulmates don't always end up together.
What amazes me of the whole situation is, I’ve never thought that a young man like Joe can have this love so great that it hurts him inside out. When he said that his heart felt like being stabbed everytime he thought of her, I was speechless. I thought these things only happened in movies.
I guess Nazareth was right – Love Hurts after all.