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Friday, May 15, 2009

A dream of a love story from my past, and the girl who went to Yokohama

I seem to dream a lot lately. Yesterday was strange. I woke up from a dream, and when I dozed off again later in the evening, I had another dream again.

After coming to Tokyo, once or twice I had thought of a girl I knew from secondary school, S. No, not another story of teenage crush or unrequited love, she was just a classmate I had in Form 3 ten years ago (has it really been that long? Unbelievable...).

Bespectacled, snowy fair skin, short-haired, dark luminous eyes and very pretty, S had a rather low and whispery voice that contradicted her delicate features and petite figure. She was quite quiet, but had a deadpan sense of humour, I guess that added to her appeal.

Some silly boys from neighbouring classrooms used to drop by during recess to catch glimpse of her. But they were normally too unsophisticated or uncouth to really start a conversation with her. The deceptively cold demeanour she seemed to give out was too intimidating for them (and also because she was in the taekwondo club). All they had was false bravado.

After Form 3, she moved to Yokohama.

We used to get along well enough, but I never heard from her since then. Except for some occasional updates of her from Ben. He was another classmate of mine in Form 3 and the year before, and was also a good friend.

He had loved S back then. They hung out a lot, and on the day she left for Japan, he was at the airport to see her off. As she was about to go, he gave her a piece of paper that asked "Will you be my girlfriend?"

Moments later she wrote "Yes."

Their bittersweet parting was followed by exchange of emails and the like.

Ben had told me about this whole incident few weeks after she was gone, and both of us were in Form 4, and different classes. I listened to him then with a mixture of indifference and amusement. Matters of adolescent romance wasn't that interesting to me then. He was blabbering happily, and I was happy for him, but I was unable to connect. That was what I was like then.

Less than half a year later, Ben told me that he and S had stopped writing to each other. Something had happened, but his explanation then was too convoluted for me to really follow. I remember it had something to do with another douche we both knew and hated, Ben told me the douche bragged about turning her against him with his own amourous advances through ICQ.

Whatever it was, I cannot remember clearly, and I doubt Ben was thinking clearly too, all those years ago. How rational could you be with such matters when you were at the age of fifteen? I myself would fall even fall to a deeper trap half a decade later, a curse that stayed with me until this very day.

Over the past ten years since I last heard of her, I had visited Japan a couple of times, and often when I heard the word 'Yokohama' being uttered, or when I passed by the actual place during a family vacation, I would wonder, in curiosity, whether she was still around.

And because of that, simple-minded as I was, even when I moved to Tokyo last April, the thought of her crossed my mind once or twice, as I wondered whether she was still in Yokohama. It never occurred to me that maybe her stay in Japan was a short one, and that she could have already returned to Malaysia, or had gone somewhere else for her university studies.

Last week as I was in a train on the way back from Toho Station, I thought I caught a glimpse of her through the window. I was a little shocked. But as I looked more carefully, I saw that it was someone else. A Japanese woman who looked nothing like her.

Two nights ago I dreamed that I was in a party. The party was held in a large mansion, and everyone was dressed up as if they were in the 50s, or rather, the image of the 50s that had formed in my mind through photos and movies. Men in tux, women in gowns, and it was a cacophony of sounds, a kaleidoscope of whimsical chaos. I heard a Jazz band performing, but their music was drowned by the sounds of those around me who were talking at once. So... bourgeoise.

Not a fan of crowds, I waded through them and found myself running into her. She looked the same as she was in my memories, the glasses remained, and when she said something to me, it was too soft for me to hear, but then I noticed that she wasn't really speaking to me, but to another.

I moved on and saw another familiar face. It was Ben. He was grinning happily.

"Welcome to my party." He said.

I wondered how he managed to get such a huge mansion for himself.

He offered to give me a tour. As we walked about, we chatted.

We were good friends during our two years in the same class, and remained in good terms during our final two years in secondary school when we ended up in different classes.

After secondary school ended, I never heard from him again. Despite having his phone number, I never called him either.

The tour and conversation we had together in the dream didn't last long. I woke up to the soft sound of bossa nova music playing from the web radio. I was befuddled by my dream of Ben and S. Did I dream of a reconciliation between them that might not have happened in real life?

In truth, this wasn't the first time I dreamed of the reconciliation between long-separated couples of my past.

Last year, just a day before the CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY shoot, I dreamed of my dear fat friend Wai Kong visiting my house with his ex-girlfriend, Sereen, just like how they always did all those years ago when they were together. I remember them making breakfast for me on the morning I was to leave for Perth in 2004. I think that was the last time I had french toast in my own house.

They broke up few years ago. Sereen had married another and is now the mother of a cute little girl. Earlier this year Wai Kong hosted a Chinese New Year celebratory feast in his house, many friends came, and Sereen brought her daughter along. It was the first time I've met or heard from her since their breakup. They all seemed happy. Wai Kong's parents played with the child as if she were their granddaughter.

My dream was a like a bigger-budgeted version of what had occurred on Chinese New Year earlier this year, with different "cast members".

I spent the rest of the day burning DVD copies of my newly-completed Japanese short film KINGYO in my university lab, and then sending them out at the post-office. I stayed around briefly as my Thai coursemate Kong was discussing about his upcoming film project with Maiko the Producer, who is going to produce it now that KINGYO's done.

When I walked home, it was half past six and the sky was darkening. Reaching my room, I dozed off in front of the computer and dreamed that I spotted numerous amateurish editing mistakes in KINGYO, the split screens weren't in sync, the cuts were out of rhythm, the transition was bad... I woke up. The sky had turned dark. It was fifteen minutes before nine. I thought that was probably the closest thing I had to a nightmare.

I always thought that as we grow older, we start to forget about our dreams, I wonder why my dreams had gotten more vivid recently.


Retaining the mystery of S's whereabouts would have been tragically beautiful. I'm not one who likes to dwell in the past, but shadows of it usually linger. Often plagued with the curse known as curiosity, Curious to know whether S had really disappeared for good, I Googled for her. I found her inactive Friendster page, found out about her Anglicized name (I only knew her by her Chinese name), saw a more recent photo of her and realized that she had dumped her glasses, her hair had grown long, and she had moved to Canada for her studies. Then I typed her name on Facebook... only to see that numerous friends of mine whom I still hang out with recently have her on their lists.

I almost ended up feeling disappointed that it was so easy to track her down.

UPDATED (Nov 3, 2015):

I don't understand the sudden traffic I've been getting for this post in the past few months. Six years have passed since I've posted this. Many things have changed.

Aside from finding S on Facebook, I also ran into Ben almost 1-2 years after this at a Starbucks in Malaysia. It was an interesting way to run into each other again, I was ordering drinks, he was seated by the window, waving at me. The afternoon sun was strong then, so I saw merely a silhouette until I walked closer. Then I realized it was Ben.

We quickly reconnected. Wanting to know what happened to each other after high school, more tales of past love, more discussions of our current jobs. He had started a business, I was there for a production meeting. Occasionally we spoke on Facebook. I made no mention of this post. In fact, when we met, I've forgotten that I've written this. Sometimes, when the so-called journal of my dreams are just as fleeting as the dreams themselves. But then, so is life.