Stories That Breathe

To Forget You

Tan Zhi Jie

To forget you: That is the most impossible thing to do.

Memories of true love can never be wiped out. Time does not devour memories; it just slowly, painfully, converts them into fragments of a dream. Occasionally, something will spark the soul of the dream, and the dream will resurrect into a memory again.

To forget you—is not to remember you. Every single detail in life reminds me of you: every MRT station I see, every drink I have, every shirt I wear. But to forget you; what I have to do is not to remember you. Not to remember that we once kissed at this MRT station, not to remember that we once shared that drink, not to remember that you once bought me a shirt.

For now, drowning into the memory of one of your gentle touches, I cannot remember the physical touch, but I can remember the sentiment of it.

Have I forgotten you, Superwoman? When I try to forget you, I have just thought of you again. Are you thinking of me now, as my mind revolves around your image, again and again?

* * *

It is not a decision compromised by emotions when I decide to break the news to you. I have thought about it for months. The happiness that we share; it is never going to last. If that is so, why still pursue a love that is going to wither away? Why create more happiness, when I know that these smiles are going to be part of a memory that you will miss dearly, and I will forget heartbreakingly?

Before I met you, I wondered why all the lyrics in love songs were so exaggerated: Why do lyricists create such mushy and over-emotional sentences? Why can’t they just write a good melody without those melodramatic lyrics? That is plain exaggeration.

Before I fell in love with you, I thought romance novels were just so silly: Why would a person cry for another person for hours? How could a person wait for his or her lover for years? That is plain silliness.

Before we became a couple, I thought romance movies were just so stupid: How could a person love another person so deeply that it became an obsession? How could one sacrifice so much, even to the extent of his or her own life, for his or her lover? That is plain stupidity.

When I realized I had fallen so deeply in love with you, I finally understood that songs, novels and movies are just reflections of life, inspired by the writers’ true stories.

Because when I decided to end our relationship, I realized our story mirrors a love song that I once heard, a romance novel you once read and a romance movie we once watched.

When I step out of the main door, I love you deeply, yet I am going to tell you that we are going to separate soon. The pain is not the separation: The pain is the love that we share—the love that was once so blissful—is never going to be felt again.

The pain is that we are still so much in love, yet we have to let go now. Only someone who has experienced this will understand.

Isn’t it ironic? It is my love for you that brings us together. Now, it is the same love that will split us.

* * *

We’ve known each other for two hundred and thirteen months, and have been together for ninety months.

You should have seen it coming, right? For the last few months, I’ve been exceptionally quiet. It used to be me calling you in the night more than you calling me. But, last month, I didn’t even give you a call. You were the one who called.

You can feel it, right? We used to meet at least four times a week. Last month, we only met once a week. You scolded me, but you could tell that I didn’t feel anything, right?

“I’m sorry,” I start, my voice cutting through the tranquil night. I’ve come not to explain, but to inform. I stand outside the gate with my bike parked near the road, an unfamiliar parking position.

“What? For being late again? I’m used to it, Superman. What’s the thing that you can’t say on the phone?”

“I think…we should break up.”

You smile: the smile that used to melt my heart. I look away as your voice rings into my ears. “Yeah, me too.”

Maybe there’s a laugh; I can’t tell. “I’m not joking,” I say. You’re still putting on that smile. It must be hard for you to digest this, for I’ve never cracked this kind of joke. There’s a silence, and we’re like two trapped butterflies in a bottle, waiting to be experimented on.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Sorry.” I step back. “Sorry,” I say again, and you become farther away. “Sorry. Sorry.” I forget how many apologies I make.

The gate is between us. What you need to do is to press a button on your remote key and the gate will swing open: But, if it swings open and breaks the barrier between the both of us, the gate will hit me as it needs to swing outward.

Isn’t that a cruel analogy of our relationship? Breaking the barrier will allow us to be together, but one of us will be hurt. One of us has to give way, and I’ve volunteered to be the one.

I turn and walk towards my bike. Maybe you’re crying. Haven’t you seen it coming? These few months, our conversations were like two new friends. Six steps later, I finally turn my head a little to steal a glance—a final glance, perhaps—at your beautiful eyes. I can’t see you clearly because in front of my eyes are my own tears.

Are they tears of sorrow, or tears of relief?

“Come back, you stupid idiot!”

I turn the key on my bike and the headlight shines. Then I press a button and the bike roars.

“Why?” After you said that, the sound of the gate opening echoes. As you march towards me, I can hear your every step. “Please tell me why. It’s a joke, right? Right?”

I fix my eyes on the bike, not wanting you to see my red eyes.

“Stop right there!” you say and grab my hand. I push you away gently.

I can remember the sentiment, but not the touch. I’ve forgotten the touch, but not the sentiment.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Forget me.”

“I can’t!”

“But I have,” I whisper.

“I’m crying,” you say. Blood. Blood? Why do I think of blood when you say that you’re crying?

“I’m sorry.”

“You don’t remember your promise?”

I sit on my bike and put on my helmet.

“How about Superland? How about our promises? How about our time capsules? We can work things out, Superman!”

Superland. Our promised land. Our time capsules. We will be married. Apples’ Day. Super Day.

I step on the clutch and kick into first gear. Your eyes are red and you’re blinking fast, waiting for an answer.

Through my helmet, I just say sheepishly, “I’m sorry. Please don’t look for me anymore.” Maybe you haven’t heard that, for my voice is soft with despair.

I turn the throttle and lift my legs up. “Come…back, you stupid idiot!” But your voice fades off, just like our memories.

Before I left my flat, I’ve already discarded all my emotions: I’ll no longer be controlled by my emotions, or by you.

Don’t you understand, Superwoman? I’m doing it for you. Why would I want to break up with you when happiness rules our love? Because I can no longer provide you with the same bliss; I’ll be late for our dates for two hours, four hours, eight hours, sixteen hours, days and months. Because if we need to cry, I want to be the one who cries louder; I want to be the one who takes a longer time to recover. I want to absorb all the sorrow from you. Why don’t I disappear instead, so that you’ll find another Superman who loves you truly?

The pain is not about breaking up with you: It’s about remembering the love that we once shared, yet having no chance to revive this love.

I don’t remember the tears; I only remember the pain.

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