“She knows how to get here?” Jacky asked me for the fifth time.
“Yes,” I answered impatiently. We were at the waiting area of CGC waiting for Landy. Jacky and I had come down directly after school. Landy said she had applied for leave just for the appointment.
The lift door opened and, finally, Landy appeared. She was wearing a body-hugging T-shirt and jeans. “Landy, this is Jacky,” I said. Jacky’s eyes were wide open, looking at the wall behind Landy. Landy smiled broadly and held up her hand for a handshake.
“Hi, Jacky. I’ve heard a lot about you,” Landy said, obviously trying to tease me.
Jacky looked surprised, as if Landy was some superstar. Have they met before? His eyes did not meet Landy’s. Instead, he kept on staring at me, then at the wall behind Landy. He seemed to be avoiding Landy. “Oh, Landy.” He shook his head for a while. Landy’s hand was still up. “Oh, Landy, Landy. Hi, Landy,” he said, waving to Landy instead. Then he massaged his forehead for a while.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Jacky whispered, “just another headache. Landy is too beautiful, she’s giving me a headache.”
Landy laughed and we went to the waiting area. Dr Ong came out shortly, inspecting Jacky. Landy greeted Dr Ong, but he was too intent on studying Jacky.
“Dr Ong, this is Jacky.” I pointed at Jacky, then at Landy. “And this is Landy.”
Dr Ong turned and looked at Landy for a while, then said, “Okay, Landy, can you follow me to the room?”
“What?” Jacky whispered. He crossed his legs and bit his teeth, looking uncomfortable. Dr Ong then smiled at Jacky. I patted Jacky’s shoulder. “It’s going to be okay. Dr Ong is a nice guy.” Dr Ong then went to the room with Landy.
Jacky remained silent, as if he was deep in thought. I had never seen him so quiet before. However, since there was nothing I could do, we just sat staring into space. A few minutes later, Dr Ong came out alone.
“Jacky?” Dr Ong called. He held up his hand and, this time, Jacky shook it. “Come this way, please. Joanna, you stay here for a while, okay? I need to talk to them alone.”
I killed time by drinking water from the water cooler, reading magazines about parenting and counting the chairs in the waiting area. About half an hour later, I was summoned to the room. Landy had left, leaving Jacky alone in the room. Strangely, I had not seen her walking out. But she had sent me an SMS, explaining that she had something on.
“Jacky, you may go out now.”
I nearly laughed. Just when I thought things were going to be exciting, Jacky was sent out. In any case, I felt more comfortable with Dr Ong alone.
“I’ll assign another therapist for you,” Dr Ong said.
“I cursed the previous one. Told him that he would break his arm. He asked for it. That’s why he’s on long-term MC.”
“He had malaria, Joanna. He didn’t break his arm.”
I said nothing, knowing that he must be lying to make me feel better. Doctors always lie, right?
“It’s true. Anyway, I’ve decided to increase the dosage of your antidepressants. Don’t keep yourself hungry. Have some carbohydrates, like rice or noodles, when you’re hungry. It’ll make you feel better. Don’t let your stomach yell for food.”
“I’ll call you again after I’ve assigned another therapist for you.”
I was desperate to get out of the room. To meet Jacky, perhaps. After Dr Ong was done, I dashed out and, as I predicted, Jacky was relaxing on the sofa, reading one of the parenting magazines upside down. But he was not smiling. That was not normal. In fact, that was very abnormal.
He wanted to take a taxi. After much discussion, I agreed. His stern expression somehow made me weak, as if I had to give in to his every request.
When we were inside the taxi, Jacky said, “West Coast Park.”
I protested, but he said nothing. And when he said nothing, it meant something. So I went with him.
Oh, gosh, where the hell is Landy when I most need her?
* * *
We took a long walk along the beach, looking out at the sea.
The sun was setting, leaving a breathtaking image on the horizon. The sea seemed to be slowly devouring the yellow light at the horizon. The tide was high, constantly threatening to push the sea to our feet.
We chatted as we walked. Jacky told me more about his childhood and his mother. He said that he felt compelled to help others when he was young due to his father’s death. His father was his hero. I, having nothing to say about any hero, just told him more about Landy. I was about to mention one of Landy’s funny habits when he suddenly interrupted.
“Can I hold your hand?” he said.
I wanted to smile, to jump around in ecstasy and hug him tight, and then kiss him and tell him how delighted I was. However, I just balled my hands into fists and whispered, “I only allow my boyfriend to hold my hand.”
“Can I hold your hand?”
I looked away from him, trying to find something to say. “You can’t be my boyfriend. You said that before. You’ve got your…reasons.”
“Can I hold your hand?”
That was when I felt like punching him. “No. Because only lovers hold hands. And we are not lovers.” Not yet.
“Can I hold your hand?”
“I am not your girlfriend. I cannot be because you’ve got your own reasons. And I’ve got this curse.”
“Can I hold your hand?
“Only if you’re my boyfriend and I’m your girlfriend, then you can. You’re not my boyfriend.”
“Can I hold your hand?”
“Remember what you once said?” I bit my lips. I was staring at the ground, my heart beating a lot faster. My body seemed to jerk and I was blinking fast. “If we hold hands, my reputation will be tarnished. You…don’t want that to occur.”
“Can I…hold your hand?” he repeated, this time a lot weaker.
I continued walking. That was getting nowhere. I turned to him, ready to scold him aloud when I saw the most heartfelt emotion in a person.
His eyes were red, and a few tears were rolling off his eyes. He was breathing deeply. For the first time since I had known him, the tough and jovial Jacky was crying in front of me.
And he did not hold my hand. Instead, I held his and wiped off his tears. Once I took a deep breath, tears rolled out of my eyes as well, and I began to tremble.
We were like two scared, crying school kids who were lost. But whenever I felt his hand on mine, I felt no fear.
* * *
We held hands till we reached my house. Throughout the journey, we were silent, as if words had suddenly vanished from our mind. But when we arrived at my void deck, he released my hand and said, “Joanna, I’m always here. I’m always here, if you ever need me. Here.” He pointed to his heart.
I could no longer resist the urge to hug him. I wrapped my arms around him. The introvert Joanna was crying for the second time within a span of an hour. “Thanks,” that was all I could manage to say.
Jacky released me gently and used his fingers, ever so tenderly, to wipe off my tears. “Remember this. If you ever need me and I’m not around, just wait for me. Because I’ll always be here.”
“I am just like the sun, and you the flower. I’ll provide sunlight for you to blossom. Sometimes, clouds will prevent me from reaching you. But you’ll know that I’m always trying to reach you. Just wait for the clouds to clear if you can’t receive my sunlight.”
I nodded. If he continued, I could flood the void deck with my tears.
“Remember: To be happy, you either change the world, or you change the way you do things. To be realistic, you have to change your thinking by changing your behaviour to be happy. But, me…me. Joanna, I will change the world for you. So that you will be happy.”
I said nothing because my throat was choked with my sobbing.
Gosh oh gosh. Don’t wake me up. Please, let time come to a standstill now. Right now. Gosh.
* * *
Landy was munching biscuits on the sofa when I reached home. I had always envied how she could eat a lot and yet maintain her weight. When she saw my red eyes, we started our girls’ talk again.
And I told her what I felt.
“I’ve fallen in love with a guy. His name is Jacky Wu Zhong Xian. But I don’t know if he likes me or not,” I said. I was lying on the sofa, still in my uniform. I did not feel like bathing, as if the water would wash away Jacky’s hug.
“Of course he likes you! I mean, he held your hand, he said all those…mushy, yet romantic things. Don’t tell me he says that to every girl,” Landy said. She seemed to know everything.
Although she made sense, I still could not forget what had happened that night. “But that day, he said that I could not be his girlfriend. For some reason.”
She sighed. “Guys. Maybe he wasn’t ready that day. Now that he is ready, what are you waiting for?”
What am I waiting for?