The Confessions of a Lover
Relationships are composed of nothing but fleeting visions and brief encounters—when we started reaching for them, they ran away … and then, we fall. For me, the fall began on one fine November afternoon last year.
I first met Kirsten inside a locker room in the Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Yes, it is a chance encounter in front of an electric locker that started all. Likewise, our acquaintance itself is one of the most chancy and singular episodes in my life. I was lining for a locker directly behind her, and she was having trouble with the malfunction locker. I tried to help her, but we ended up queuing for another locker. We started talking and I insisted upon sitting beside her in the ride (which happened to be The Mummy so it is not exactly romantic stuff).
This is the point where those writers usually say smugly, the rest is history. No, it isn’t. Both of us independently decided to go on a studio tour. However, seeing a long line wait, we gave up and settled on a cup of mocha in a nearby café. We talked for nearly two hours—until the last studio tour beckoned us.
That is over the Thanksgiving. By Christmas, we were talking on phone and via chats. Before Easter, she has extended me an invitation to spend a week at her house in Denmark, and we have arranged (actually she arranged, and I concurred lackadaisically) a humanitarian volunteering in Africa. My friends said it is damn chancy to spend a summer with someone whom you have met for only a couple of hours, but it was a chance I was willing to take.
On my arrival in Copenhagen, I was pleasantly astounded. I knew that she belonged to landed gentry and that her father was a junior minister in the Danish Cabinet (who also was instrumental in arranging my travelling plans), I didn’t know that they also owned a billion-dollar fishing boat empire. At the airport, there were just her and her chauffeur waiting for my arrival, but back at her home (which is an understated term for a four-star hotel), the staff outnumbered the family.
Today, we widely frown upon the elitism practiced by the aristocracy, but Kirsten is a prime example that the aristocratic education has their own pluses. She is fluent in five languages, is knowledgeable in Latin and Ancient Greek, and is currently learning her eighth (Arabic). She rides, fences, dances and hunts better than I do. Her musical talents in viola and piano are only surpassed by her athletic acumen in hockey, polo, swimming, tennis and billiards. Never before in my life had I seen a person, let alone a woman, as well-rounded as she is.
Her education and upbringing do define her world, but they don’t—and can’t—limit it. Kirsten is a person whose CV won’t do her justice; you just have to meet her, and you will see how inspirational she can be. Self-conscious and introverted, a good orator she was not, but she knew how to express her views and justify them. Her world is built around a single word, “others”. Despite belonging in the topmost echelons of her social hierarchy, her compassion and altruism for those less fortunate than her are astounding. At the age of twenty-one (the age at which most of us are still hectically updating our facebook profiles and playing on our Wiis), she had already been in Serbia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Timor and now with me in Central African Republic.
I may not be exaggerating if I say that this last summer totally changed my views. In the middle of Africa, between fights and cleansing in Chad, Sudan and CAR itself, I found my own solace in her comforting eyes. Both of us gazed unwittingly into the very whites of the Evil’s eyes when we volunteered for the African mission; I admit I volunteered for my own reasons to embellish my resume, and to be together with her. She, however, had a nobler reason—to offer.
Offer and dedicate, she did. In the process, we had our private moments. During our stay together, I came to understand the human nature that lay hidden under her otherwise cool and logical veneer. She slowly recounted her trials and tribulations one by one—her private personal tragedies, which are no less or lenient than the tragedies of the African continent and her people. In those moments, her discernable frailty and fragility was so markedly different from the aplomb and self-assurance which radiates from her during day. Like the African Sun under which we toiled, she is a symbol of light and warm for many, but at night, her life is as empty and cold as an uninhabited cave.
My friends told me that I don’t care much about my girlfriends. Sometimes, it is true, but Kirsten, she is a different story. I didn’t spend entire days (let alone the entire summer) with my other girlfriends, nor meet their parents and families. During our stay in Africa (in which we alternately pretended to be a honeymooning or affianced couple), I came to know her in a different light—she is more personal, more humane, more compassionate, more … vivid.
When I am writing this, one of the best relationships I had ever—and will ever—had has come to an end. It didn’t ended with a loud and acrimonious quarrel that plagued my many another relationship; disquietly, it ended with a long and heartbreaking silence that seemed like an eternity. The hardest thing with the relationships is not how to start one, but how to live on after conclusion of one. In the term of angling, it is all about catch and release. You must know when to release your other half so that he or she can fly freer, see further and soar higher.
So it ended, with each of us deciding to let the other to freely fly. It was a classic parting of the ways moment—both of us reflected upon our futures, our careers and our respective chosen paths. With smiles, we admitted the relationship is not ideal or feasible under such conditions; gracefully, we embraced each other as friends. It is a moment I anticipated ever since the beginning of the summer. It is also the moment I have been dreading.
As the Bard would say, All’s well that ends well. However, memories live on—memories that l will cherish forever. Weeks before, a friend compared my tale with the one in Out of Africa, where a Danish noblewoman apparently has a doomed love affair. I replied, it is not the outcome, but the experience and memories that mark, define and immortalize a love. I am just glad that I live up to my words.