9. the second year
Posted April 2, 2014on:
what the new might bring
so while it’s 2002 still
happy old year it is 🙂
[ happy old year it … ]
[ was ]
I sent this poem to him to wish him a happy new year the winter we drove down together but came back up separately. He liked it a lot, and said he’s always liked my writings. The few days I waited for him to come back up crawled by like an eternity. Later, when we were already married, whenever he came back home from doing clinical rotations in Southern California, I felt like a wad of gum, sticking to him and not letting go. Yet that winter, when he came back, all I did was looking up from my computer and said, “ah, you’re back?” got an “Uh” from him before he disappeared into his room and closed the door. He came out later with our first 3-cups rice cooker, something his mom shoved into his hands the day he left. I made dinner, we ate…
One of the reasons why I enjoy watching shows or movies with cohabitation hijinks is because I have experienced it first hand in a less usual setting. We looked like two free adults whose feelings grew for each other while living under the same roof, and we behaved like a couple; that’s what everybody thought. But the reality of it was frustrating, sometimes depressingly lonely, other times funny, all around ridiculous and fraud with tension. For one thing, we couldn’t touch each other. We went out of our ways to avoid physical contact. Later, that rule eased somewhat because he requested back scratching in exchange for god knows what, I can’t remember now, but that was it. Then there was an agreement about open door vs closed door. If the door was open, then we could come into each other’s room. He kept his door closed 80% of the time. We couldn’t talk about our feelings toward each other, because we had agreed to move in as friends… bah, rules.
The day that I declared conquest on him was the day I started acting and he became my audience. Clothes that I put on myself before seeing him, things that I said, gestures that I made, a lot of those things went through thorough analysis and sometimes rehearsal. Moving into the same house with him meant I had to constantly monitor myself and watch my steps. It was tiresome, but these things helped me cope with depression or the pains I felt when he said something harsh to me. Or kept on telling me how he liked one of my friends. I would plan my next move with the thought “I’m going to get you good, and someday when all this crap is over, you will have to pay me back with some interest.”
I told him about this later on, he just smiled his helpless smile and looked a bit embarrassed. Sometimes he scoffed. Another time he said a cheesy line while laughing, right before I attacked him “You have my heart, my body, my money, what else do you want? ?”
It was better for my sanity once we were under the same roof, because then I didn’t have to wonder where he was most of the time anymore. He was such a homebody. Aside from going to work and going to his martial arts class, he was mostly at home. He had an ancient laptop that was only good for typing word documents, so most of the time we hung out together around my computer. We quickly eased into a routine where I would come home from work and make dinner while he kept me company or surfed the web in my room. On the days he had class, I walked to the grocery store to stock up. Money flowed between the two of us without any calculation. Whoever felt like paying could pay. We ate together in the livingroom that had just an old dinning table with four chairs. We sometimes would talk, other times each of us would bury our heads in a book through our meals. Afterward, he typically did the dishes and took out the trash, and then each of us either retreated into our respective rooms or both of us would hang out in my room with our faces glued to the computer screen. We also frequently watched DVD’s together in his room. Nevermind what the 3rd housemate was doing. We lived as if she didn’t exist (we weren’t being jerks to her, but in our memory, we barely recall a handful of things we did do with her, mostly just sharing a meal).
When we moved in, we didn’t have much furniture of our own. The landlord left a clean twin mattress for us, which he used in his room. I myself still had a futon mattress, but it was giving me back pains. There was a Saturday in early November that I didn’t feel well at all, and I pleaded for him to stay at home with me, but he reluctantly left the house promising to be back as soon as he was done with his business. He was acting very mysterious instead of telling the who, what, when, where, and why as he normally did. Two weeks later I came home and saw a nice bed in my room. He said it was my early birthday present, that he had contacted some of my good friends and had a meeting that Saturday he left me at home. He’d collect contribution, then he and another close friend footed whatever was left on the bill. He was all proud of himself and asked if I was happy. He confused me with things like that.
Both of us had lived on our own for awhile, but this was the first place that felt like home for us. So we bought soil and herbs to plant. We invited friends over for dinner, cooking up elaborate meals. I wanted an aquarium – we got that too, shopping for fishes and plants, decorating the aquarium, taking care of sick fishes sometimes. On Sundays we went to the laundry mat together to do our laundry. On Saturdays we went to the volunteering site, then grocery shopping as needed. We flew kites by the marina with the crowd on afternoons when the weather was warm. I learned how to cook well in that apartment, testing out different recipes on him, or sometimes he would cook the few dishes that he knew. We laughed a lot together that first year, even when we were arguing, inevitably one of us would start saying something funny or outrageous, and then the other would match wit for wit, and soon we were laughing again. We were endlessly teasing each other, good god all the teasing. How could he say that we didn’t have a future when that future was happening right then ?
He said he just didn’t see me in a romantic sense. Friend, yes, but when he tried to imagine me by his side, he just couldn’t see that future. He said it wasn’t that I am not an attractive person, or my personality is lacking. It was just, to him, when he thought about me, he drew a blank. He isn’t someone who lies, I can’t remember the last time I caught him lying to me. His sincerity and honesty were among his many his attractions. When asked about something, he either refuses to answer, or he answers truthfully, even if the truth hurts. At first I doubted him and second guessed his motives, but after he blew up at me maybe 3 times, I had learned that he really meant what he said. His few words are meant to be taken at face value. He said repeatedly that he hated himself everytime he took advantage of me, and many times he said “Let’s stop this.” I was cooperative. Then as soon as he said that, within 24 hours later he would eat his own words when I wasn’t even trying to sabotage him. It proved he wasn’t NOT physically attracted to me. So what gave? Arghhhh.
The night I moved into our new place, the plan was he and a bunch of my friends would help me move in first, then he would move himself in the next evening. I had a cold, and I really milked that cold for what it was worth. My typically healthy constitution only comes down with a cold every 2-3 years, but when I do come down with one, it’s something to write home about. It’s impressive. That year’s cold was gold; my cough alarmed everyone who witnessed it. I swear it wasn’t pneumonia, but it was bad, and when he was around, it was terrible, poor kid. At the same time, I walked the fine line between exaggerating and not making things too over the top. So I would have these fantastic performances and then immediately after the coughs had subsided, I went right back to running around, packing and hauling stuffs, joking and talking with my nearly nonexistent voice as if I was perfectly fine. I recommend such combination, because it would throw your audience off and amuse them at the same time, making them think “how can she act like this? She’s totally sick!” Huge protective instinct trigger.
It worked for me. He grew increasingly more concerned by the hour, and after he dropped me along with the last few boxes off at our new place, despite his telling me that he must leave soon because all of his stuffs were at his old place, he sat around. He said he would stay until I settle in. Then I settled in, he said he would watch TV with me for a bit. Each time I whined for him to stay with me, he would refuse. By midnight, he was still refusing, but finally we just turned the light off and he held me.
just for tonight
because you’re sick.
Then he spoke Vietnamese to me for the first time. I mean, he had spoken Vietnamese to me before, but this was different. We changed the way we communicate from then on. To this day, we still use this language between us and with our children. It was the Vietnamese passed down from those who love us.
He probably said what his mom used to tell him.
Close your eyes and go to sleep.
We barely slept at all that night and he got sick right after he moved in.