It’s the 3rd day straight that I haven’t heard from Joe. I wanted to wait for him to break the silence, like he always did, but then I remembered a cheesy quote to live by somewhere saying that you should go for it before it’s too late, and even more so, I remember him always urging me to communicate, to tell stories since conversation is the key. I decided to drop him a line.
I’d been struggling a bit with what to say after such unusual silence. “How’s Florida?” may be too friendly, too naive. “Hey” was too casual and didn’t carry any weights (I usually just started my pickup trick with “hey, how’s it going mate?” and Joe said my Grindr profile sounded like an Aussie drug-addict). I settled for something that was meant to provoke some thoughts and confirm future direction. It came through. Ain’t smart phone text service wonderful? You know if the message comes through.
A guy who used to be my lecturer just came to my room in the office to return my jacket that he borrowed a while back and gave me some cigarettes. Chinese brands. Very culturally distinctive in colors and design, the boxes. I can’t recall since when I decided to collect cigarette covers. Probably it was a choice out of consciousness, to start another collection since my stamps and Pokemon card days were long gone, to make myself acquainted with the idea of effort and commitment or maybe to remember the men that went with it, to have something as a token of their existence.
Back to this guy, he’s gained weights, which made him a bit more attractive. I’ve always liked him and considered him a friend, especially when he shares the same name with my first boyfriend, Minh. We had a good time, as friends, just hanging out over smoky street beer scene and listening to his story.
I was a bit crazy back then. And that was amplified by the intention of portraying myself as a wild adventurous being in front of him. I remember pulling down my pants to water his plants with my piss (which are now dead). I remember him telling me that it appeared that I needed help, as I needed to be pulled away from the endless circle that I was in, and he was willing to do that, save me. I just laughed it away back then and break it down to lifestyle differences.
And I remember that night in the beautiful Halong Bay, in that fancy hotel room that I would never have afforded hadn’t it been for my work trip, we bought lots of beer and I woke up next to him. Shirtless. We didn’t have sex but my blurry mind that night recalled he fixed me hot water and blanket when I was coughing.
But then we fell out, or at least I had the impression that he tried to avoid me, especially after his then-boyfriend (whom I didn’t know of) was furious about him confiding in me and that boy flooded my Facebook messages with innuendo words. Immaturity, that was the first word coming into my mind. I knew they officially broke up afterwards. But I couldn’t understand why we weren’t as close as we used to be. I tried.
“You know, I’ve been quitting smoking again, 1 month now.” he said as he handed me three little red packs of Chinese cigarettes.
I felt a quickening sharp hit in the gut as at that moment, I guess I had to bring myself to fathom the reason we weren’t how we used to be. I was the one that dragged him back to smoking, and I enjoyed it as he was smoking non-stop again after a year of quitting. It was almost as if I wanted to have an influence on him, to stain him, to not be in the loop alone but with a company, which was never my intention. It hurt thinking that, if it were true, he saw what would be awaiting if he went down that road and retreated, like what a sane person would do.