His deep breaths fill the dark silence. They are good company for these rat-a-tat-tat on his Mac Notebook. At least at twenty to eight on a cold Bristol morning, my fingers have company as they try to tell how I feel.
I am happy, I guess. It still feels a bit unreal. But, I am happy, no less.
Because I love him too.
London was not at all how
HappyHarry Potter and the English nursery rhymes cracked it up to be. There was no “London accent” nor were there “Englishmen” with top hats and matching penguin suits. Nor were there tall and thin beauties. Or people minding their “Ps and Qs.” Or something. I can’t think of more stereotypes and myths right now.
Then again, I am a romantic. I am always (not-too-secretly) hopeful. So there.
Though, I have to give credit to those who have warned me about the horizontal extent English girls can achieve. English people here refers to people who have been brought up in England, regardless of ethnicity, though, I must say that for
lazinessconvenience sake, when I say “English people,” I refer mostly to Caucasians unless stated otherwise.
London town is probably one of the most culturally diverse cities I have ever encountered. One cannot really guess who is from where by mere once-overs and brief small talks. Lest we ask for their life stories. Then again, people can lie.
I used to say that I was the last Innuit in Afghanistan. Or a Mongolian refuge in Tahiti. You may not believe the number of people who asked me to elaborate with seemingly innocent, genuine interest.
Anyway, I digressed. So I arrived at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday morning in all my post 6-hour flight glory. The first meal I had was unfortunately from Starbucks. In times of need, pounding hunger prevails over personal ethics. My host, my cousin sister Irene, was 20 minutes late, but it did not matter. My croissant and Toffee Nut Latte were on her.
A half hour of catch-up later and down the tube we went. The Underground trains were impressive. They were by far more efficient than all of the public transportation I have taken in Malaysia, Singapore, Bloomington, Seattle, and Florida combined. You can pretty much go anywhere in London as long as you are willing to have skin-to-skin contact with random pub goers and uppity immigrants for five minutes or an hour or more.
The trains waited for no one, too. And none of that “late trains” bullshit KTM and LRT in good ole’ Malaysia were so well-known for.
Only that I wondered if the train doors could be more human. Their sense of timing was practically (forcefully) fatal. That man with a single luggage could have been sliced from the side profile had he persisted to be the last person on board.
Of cobbled streets and English pubs, I am still in awe of how almost all road signs and public service announcements here managed to squeeze in the legendary English politeness. ‘No Smoking,’ a sign said outside a large brown building, “because you will damage your lungs and others’ too.”
It was all very prim and proper. Even their grammar and spelling were impeccable. They actually spelled “Magistrates’ Office” with the god damned often-misplaced-or-omitted apostrophe. Unlike my dorm, Collins Living Learning Center, which sign on the computer lab door says, “Colllins LLC Computer Lab.”
Ah, the difference between British and
AmericlishAmerican English education.
‘It is a stereotype,’ the white man said. He sat next to me during our two and a half hour ride from London’s Victoria Coach Station to the one in Bristol. This was two mornings ago on Christmas Eve. ‘That proper-ness.’
I smiled. I love it when people challenge my preconceived notions of stereotypes. Especially when I am a tourist and the critic is a local.
‘Still,’ I replied, smiling. ‘I can’t help but feel a lot more cultured when I see that I’m in London, or England. I feel a lot more polite.’
He chuckled. His layers of chin slightly wobbled. He struck my mind as a “jolly good fellow.”
‘So how are you going to spend Christmas Day?’ I asked. There was a brief silence, in which the rumbling of the bus engine reveled in.
‘In a war,’ he replied. ‘My in-laws don’t get along very well with each other.’
I laughed. He then told me how he would be visiting his parents-in-law with his wife and three kids first, then his parents elsewhere.
“At least it will be more peaceful there,” he said. “Hopefully.”
“I am sure it will be.” I gave him a kind smile.
“So what are you traveling to Bristol for?”
And there came the rush of adrenaline—warm, slow, and fulfilling—as I was pulled back to my cousin’s house twelve hours ago in London, where I recounted to my cousin and her husband how it all started, where this was all headed, or rather, where I hoped this was all headed to. All my hopes and dreams on a silver platter over dinner for three.
For this was it, this was what I have been waiting for; this was what we both have been dying for: The proverbial silver linings amidst the clouds of our dark past. “Happily-ever-after” was what the skeptics tried to murder for us. Too long was our physical separation of two years and more. Our meeting was “long overdue,” as he put it. We were going to meet again, at last, finally.
I could barely believe myself.
And so, in that bus, upon reaching the coach station in Bristol, I smiled to the man next to me.
“I am going to see the love of my life,” I declared.
Who, for the first time since we met more than three years ago, since we clicked more than two years ago, said that he loves me.
He first said it to me, out loud, on Christmas Day, yesterday.
I did not even need to ask.
Ah, he is awake now, my sayang.