I’ll see you again

Paul Theroux meets VS Naipaul, his longtime friend of 30 years on a London street. He is relieved to meet him – the puzzling, ungrammatical letter that Naipaul’s wife has sent attacking him for misrepresenting Naipaul has been on his mind. But this quickly turns to puzzlement at Naipaul’s haste to leave.

“Vidia, did you get a fax from me?”
“Yes, now I must –”
“Do we have something to discuss?”
“What do we do then?”
“Take it on the chin and move on.”

The aching beauty of separation appeals to me because it stands out from the mundanity of life.[1] I do not end friendships with such grand declamations. The last thing I usually say is, “I’ll see you again.” Sometimes, I mean it, sometimes, the sadness lingers like the waft of familiar shampoo.

I glanced at the handphone. 9pm. Still, there wasn’t any call, but I told myself that I didn’t care.

The phone rang thrice before I decided I would pick it up.

“Hey, how are you?”
It was nice to hear that voice again, bittersweet. I rushed into my explanation.
“Ah, I have an eye infection, is N there yet?”
“No, he’s coming soon.”
“Ah, you guys have fun. I’ll see you when I see you.”
She laughed, “you mean Sunday.”

I faltered as she paused, not with finality, but with the expectation of continued conversation. Instead, I cut it short, “Bye.” Perhaps she replied, and I strained to hear if she did, but I also ended the call at the same time.

I change my mind. We dance and she spins too quickly, as she does sometimes, and I lose the beat, and we’ll pause in the middle of the song and try to catch it again, she’ll nod her head as she counts, and her hands holding mine, will tap the rhythm in mid-air. She has long thin fingers, and her arms are as thick as my wrists. She no longer exists as a friend, but as a patchwork of memories and half-truths.

[1] I should have more to say on this. This sounds like so much posturing.


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