I had an argument last night. Well it’s not really an argument, more like a disagreement in opinions. For the sake of this post, I will call him Maverick. He was a bit incoherent when this disagreement takes place but the whole point of this blogpost is about the things that we disagreed about, not the outcome or his and my state of mind when the disagreement took place.
A little background. Maverick is a successful, smart, good looking guy. This is not an exaggeration. I have known him since I was in my early teens and he was cute then, he is still cute now. There is no shortage of girls throwing themselves at his feet. This too is not an exaggeration.
I like Maverick firstly for his mind. It’s razor sharp and he is always looking for new ways of doing things and new things to explore. Sometimes his ideas are so far-fetched you wonder how he even hatches them. But yes, his mind works on the overdrive. If you need someone to critisize your ideas, or help to navigate your way out of murky corporate waters, Maverick is the guy.
Secondly, Maverick is effortlessly thoughtful. For instance, the first time we met after many years, I was late and was stuck in a traffic jam. He waited for close to an hour, and instead of being annoyed, called me to ask what would I’d like to drink so that when I arrive, my drink would be waiting for me. I know as you read this you would go, ah that is normal; but think of it carefully. How many times have you been annoyed when the person you were supposed to meet were late; and how many of those times did you call that person and offered to buy him/her a drink instead of screaming “you’re fucking late!!”?. My point exactly.
To other friends, I speak highly of him, with respect and a little awe sometimes. Respect, for obvious reasons. Awe because his brilliance can really be astounding. I have a lot of friends and he is among the handful few who is really driven and ambitious about his work and his future; in a selfish no-apology kind of way. Meaning, there is no hidden agenda. It’s ruthless and cocky, but he is upfront about it so you know what is what.
Now, I tread carefully where his personal life is concerned. Angel can vouch for this. I am the kind of person who, unless it is absolutely necessary for my sanity, will not ask any personal questions. If I do, I always preface it with the reason why I need to know. Nothing is an accident. Everything is deliberate.
A few years ago, I took personal offence at something that Maverick did. It wasn’t something that he did to me or for me, in fact it was probably something trivial but I took a deep personal offence. As a result, though I tried to brush it off and went about business as usual, eventually I found myself less and less inclined to speak to him and the relationship just tapered off. Ok ok. I refused to take his calls, or reply his emails, or meet up etc. Mutual friends tried to patch us up as well, but when Ijah is on her I-am-not-talking-to-you mode, no amount of persuasion could change my mind. Eventually, he just stopped calling.
During this incommunicado period, sometimes subconsciously I would mention his name in conversations and said, Maverick would know how to weasel his way out of this. People would always ask, who’s Maverick?; and I would catch myself and said, oh he was just a guy I used to know but we’ve lost touch. True I have changed homes, jobs, phones and hairstyles since we last spoke, but Maverick wasn’t hard to find. If I had wanted to, I know where to reach him. I just didn’t want to.
Then late last year a friend said enough is enough. She dragged our butts to Alexis in Bangsar, and forced us to face each other. When she first tried to arrange this meeting, I told her, I have nothing to say to him lah. She told me to get over myself and get down from the high horse that I was sitting on. You miss him, she said. He was a good friend and you miss him so stop acting like a child. He doesn’t even know what you’re mad at him for. You’re 35 for fuck’s sake so act like one (yeah she says fuck all the time).
So we met.
Ok, that’s the end of the background story. A bit long I know, but necessary to set the stage.
About last night. We got to talk about relationships and loyalty and what it means to us 10 years down the line. Maverick said, in his matter-of-fact way, relationships to him is long-term insurance. At the end of the day, I need someone for support and reassurance. What happens in between doesn’t matter. If she wants to see someone else, or if I want to see someone else; the important thing is we understand each other and we still go back to the same home. Loyalty is overrated, he said. Why would you want to be loyal to a ghost of someone who is 10,000 miles away, knowing fully well that he is, at this very moment, not being faithful.
This was while we were having a karaoke session in red box singing sloppy Indonesian rock songs, half of which I haven’t even heard before. Yeah, I have the strangest conversations with the strangest people in the strangest circumstances.
I gave him my you’re-fucking-crazy-out-of-your-mind smile. That is immaterial, I told him. Loyalty is not reciprocal. I can’t control him and what he does. And yes, I admit at this very moment he is probably doing the exact opposite of what I am doing. But I can only take care of myself, and that is by not stepping out of line, and so that is how I am going to operate.
That’s stupid, he said. You’re denying yourself fun and freedom for a person who probably doesn’t even care or understand your definition of relationship and loyalty. Why put yourself through a wringer when you can live a carefree existence and just do whatever that you want to do.
I thought about it for a moment. I understood what Maverick meant. And I know it was not a bad way to live. But it is not how I want to live.
Well, I said, I have no morals but one thing that I am is that I believe in fidelity. Maverick opened his mouth to interrupt and I held up my hand. I know the concept may be antiquated and impractical and it is setting me up for a devastating heartbreak down the line, but it is important to me. There are certain lines that I will not cross, temptations be-damned, and this is one of them. Unlike you, I am not 5 years old.
Maverick shook his head. I am not 5, he said. If only you know how many girls throw themselves at me (I laughed at this and covered my ears mockingly). Despite all that, I choose who I want to be with. I don’t go out with people just because they are there and willing and available. But it is not dependant on another person, or an existing relationship that I am in. It’s a conscious decision, not one borne out of sentimentality or delusion of loyalty.
Isn’t that the same? I asked. I too choose who I want to be with.
Even if he is not loyal and doesn’t care? Maverick interjected.
Even so, I said. It is not the most careful way to take care of my heart, but it is the way that I choose.
Sure? Maverick asked.
I nodded. Yes I am sure, I said.
The karaoke session ended, he sent me home and said our good nights.
I don’t know if he understood my point of view. But that’s ok. Where matters of the heart is concerned, I am a dying breed. I know that. And that’s ok too.