The first time they had a fight, he went out of the room and lit up a cigarette. At the flip of the lighter switch, he felt better already, inhaling and exhaling the smoke. Nicotine doing its almighty work, subtly but powerfully altering his mood. He took comfort in the floating cloud of smoke swirling around him and his own argument, impervious to anything outside.
On the other side of the door, she put together all the clothes in a basket and did laundry. She had to cleanse her and her clothes of these frustrations. Some things are not so grey. They are black and white and you can see who’s right clearly. Why can’t he? And she wondered what nicotine had on him that her logical explanations did not. Meanwhile, the laundry machine whirred cycles after cycles until it washed and dried the clothes of excessive water.
Then he came back into the room and they hang the washed clothes together.
He must have had some hopes when he pursued her. She was cordial, chatty and told him that the thought of seeing him at the end of the day was getting her through work. He imagined her typing away at her computer, surrounded by the immediate misery but with a hopeful expectation to get out in a few hours. Into pleasant evenings with him, after work, he had hoped. His place in her life would not just be assured but would become a necessity. He probably believed that he would also end up better than he was before. And he did in certain ways.
They went for a dinner at a restaurant of her choice. She sat next to him, instead of sitting at the opposite end of the table, like she usually did with other people. He loved his friends, she found out. He took joy in talking about his childhood as she ate and listened. It was not so much of a conversation where information of each other was exchanged. He would not ask her many questions. He would just tell her about these people that he loved, his family, friends and the life that he led. The full and happy childhood. Like hers.
Plenty of people talk about getting comforted by food. But that night, she really felt it, having a warm bowl of soup next to him. The soup had Enoki mushroom, lotus roots and dried tofu in it. All he was doing was cluelessly slouching, talking and putting more sushi rolls onto her plate. Eat more. Eat, eat. And he talked on and on. Comfort was so simple with him that the reciprocity of the information exchange in this conversation, became unimportant.
Later, she would suggest that they both should go take a train ride on Yangon Circular Railway. It would be nice to just sit on a train and gaze out into parts of Yangon that they never seen. They would firsthand see the actual commuting of Yangon people from here and there because trains are not a form of transportation in Yangon that was commonly talked about or thought of. Not to them anyway. The government subsidized the rail transportation so they could buy the best seats on the air-conditioned train and it would still cost them very little.
It was during the rainy season so he preferred not to go in the rain. Next week might be sunny. Let’s go then, he said. That year, it rained for so many consecutive weekends and they eventually forgot about the plan altogether.
Instead, during those weekends, they would learn about each other over breakfast. He would choose sleeping in over breakfast most of the time but what say would he have on this now? They would shop together. She just started her first job and getting a sweet taste of earning her own money and spending it. The fridge, the washing machine, the kitchen tools, they would go buy together. He helped her accessorize her house. She would teach him how to get rid of a cockroach that’s running around in the bathroom. He needs to know such practical things, she said. She also made him watch horror movies with her. All the gory details in the movies, she could look at. That was her favorite because it was a release of her fears, imaginary or real. She could face those terrors in his safe company and it liberated her.
They kept themselves busy that way. She kept them busy.
The last time they had a fight, she drove to where he was and returned all of his things. On the way back, she made a list in her head of all the things that she was going to do that she hadn’t been able to for a while. The lampposts lining up on both sides of the road seemed to be leading to her liberty.
She told herself that he would never meet somebody who fixes his resume as well as she does. There’d never be somebody who cares about his future and potential as much. He wouldn’t meet anybody like her who still understands as much as he does the meaninglessness of it all in the end.
And he wouldn’t. Instead, he’d later meet somebody who holds his hands when he was cold. Somebody who takes care of his well-being and bundles him up with blankets and love when he was sick. Someone who makes him feel at peace, as everyone should.
She would forget right after she got home that all of this happened. How do you remember the memories you made with a stranger? One late evening, after a busy day at work, she would come out of the office building and step into her car. The relief of solitude after all day interactions with people reminded her of him and the way she had felt around him. She was grateful that he loved her with a love that was unguarded. In a world where she made herself rush through things, he made her walk a little slower, worry a little less and a tad happier. And that was all she needed. And that peace is what is remembered after the relevance of each other in his and her separate lives has been erased.