Saturday, February 04, 2006

His name is Jehahn. He is 31 years old. He has right side paralysis. He cannot speak. He flirted outrageously with me during the Cross Country at the MacRitchie Reservoir, when the OCIP/OSLE team held a Chinese New Year celebration for the disabled people of the Cheshire Home.

Jessica pushed his wheelchair and I walked beside him. He motioned to his face and moved his hand up and down in front of it. I couldn't understand. He took out his handphone and wrote, "You are pretty. Like an angel." I heard he flirts with everybody- I'm not the first victim who felt instantly happy at being praised to the skies. But I was still very much taken aback by him. A few moments later he pointed at his eyes. Jessica read his expression, looked at him for confirmation, turned to face me and said, "Her eyes are nice?" He nodded eagerly. I marvelled at his... what do you call it? His guts. His confidence. His happiness in spite of all. His ability to enjoy life- well sort of.

He enjoyed the Chinese New Year songs. He enjoyed the snacks, the tidbits, the small talk, the praises we showered upon him because that was all we knew how to do, to a man who smiled with so much exuberance, and who wanted some bit of attention as a decent, normal, human being. He said he wanted to marry me, and did I mind that he was malay? I played along, because I could see he was enjoying himself, and perhaps that was all I was capable of- playing along.

When it was time to go, he keyed something into his handphone and showed me the screen. The words were, "Sheesh I feel like kissing you now." I laughed even though there was no humour left in me. I was drained from this little charade, and I wondered if I had gone too far or if it was he who had gone too far. But how could I stop? It was too awkward, too embarrassing, too crazy and too mean for me to take away his source of pleasure. I guess within that split second itself, I made the decision that I couldn't bring myself to say anything. I joked around and let the words slip away.

He messaged me the next day, "Good morning darling. I miss you. Sincerely, since I first met you, I fell deeply in love with you. Forgive me, I cry."

I messaged back, "Do I know you? I just got back from China yesterday." Yuan Yuan's idea.

"I'm Je my dear."

"I'm sorry. I think you have the wrong number."

"Don't lie to me."

I never replied. And I'm sorry. For shattering your dreams, your hopes, your hallucinations, your impressions, however false. You must wonder why this girl who spent a whole entire day laughing with you gave you the wrong number. You must feel tricked. You must feel you were such a fool. You must have realized you had been pushing it too far. You were too much. Your jokes were too painful to bear. It was pure leisure for you. But it strained my nerves, it sapped my energy, and believe me, it stripped me of my pride and made me disgusted about myself the more you praised me. And yet if I were you, I might have wanted that much too. Life is too selfish. Perhaps you wanted to feel. What were you expecting? Whatever it is, how could you have thought it could come from me?

Every day I wonder if I made you cry.

Of course not?

I hope you laughed at your own foolishness, and mine too, for following you into it.

I hope you fell asleep and flirted with another the next day.

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