January 12, 2009

Afterwards We Went For Coffee

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They were at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf outlet.

Evie sunk herself in the comfy chair, gently stirring a mug of coffee. She had managed to change into a pair of Levi's but kept her kebaya top on; she thought it looked nice, a fusion of East and West. She knew for certain that the guy manning the counter had given her more than a second glance when she and Rafar had walked in; in fact she could tell the guy was still checking her out.

She let it be. Rafar sat in front of her, currently on the phone ("Sorry, excuse me, I gotta take this"), his one free hand fiddling with a packet of sugar. Evie took this moment to look at him, while he was distracted.

Evie didn't know if she was feeling upset or just surprised at the revelation that Rafar was seeing another person. Part of her felt a twinge of jealousy; he was, after all, her ex-husband. He was someone she had lived with, had made love with, had shared her most intimate secrets with and likewise. She supposed it was only human to feel a tiny bit of envy.

At the same time she reminded herself constantly that she should not have been surprised at all. Rafar was young, and good looking and successful. Plus, he had that appeal of working in a glamorous job, often rubbing shoulders with celebrities and the like. In fact, she should have expected him to be dating someone. Maybe it was just her feelings that decided to rewind 4 years back.

It did not matter anyway.

Rafar finished his brief phone call and put his cell phone on the table. "Work. Follows me around"

Evie said nothing, taking a sip of her drink instead, her eyes peering over the rim of the mug. Rafar leaned back and stretched his legs; he cracked his knuckles and took a swig from his mug of coffee as well.

"Still taking it bitter?” Evie said. Rafar nodded.

"Bitter as ever. How about yours? Or do you just want me to cut off your leg now?"

They laughed. For a moment Evie felt, and she was sure Rafar did too, awkward. They were like long lost friends - no, lovers -, forced into a situation they did not expect. She thought about the things she could talk about. After all, was that not the reason both of them were here? To talk? But nobody said it was going to be easy. In the end Evie started by asking him an obvious question.

"So tell me about Farihin"

"Farihin?"

Evie rolled her eyes. "Farihin, your current squeeeeeezee”

"Well", Rafar cleared his throat, as if the bitter coffee he was having suddenly stung. "For starters, she's younger than we are; 25 this year. I met her about a year ago during KL Fashion Week; she's another photographer. Young, perky; she was like a pack of Smarties: colorful and sweet"

Evie nodded, smiling her approval. "What does she look like? Any pictures?"

Rafar handed her his cell phone; the screensaver was a picture of him and Farihin. Evie studied the girl; she had short brown hair, skin the color of light honey, and wore glasses. Her smile was shaped like a cupid's bow: curvy, almost sensuous.

"She's gorgeous", Evie said, handing Rafar back the phone. He took it back and stuck it in his pocket.

"Thanks... she is.” he said, and sort of trailed off. He seemed to stare off into blank space, which Evie found amusing.

"And.?” Evie said, grinning, coaxing him. Rafar snapped out of his momentary trance, and blushed just the tiniest bit. He shook his head, smiling in spite of himself.

"And I guess she's amazing, you could say. We’ve had great times thus far"

Evie began asking Rafar more questions about his new love, and Rafar obliged. As he told them about himself and Farihin, Evie felt the rift that had come between them grow further and further apart. She supposed she was happy for him. She wanted to be. But she also realized she was asking herself if she was really happy. Was she where she wanted to be?

Their talk turned to their jobs, a welcome change of subject as Evie suddenly felt she had had enough of listening to Rafar talk about his new girlfriend, even if she was the one kept asking. Perhaps people passing by would think of them as friends, having a chat, without any idea of the history between them. That was okay, Evie thought. It seems much more appropriate that way.

The chatter slowly winded down. They looked at each other, smiling, both of them feeling glad for this moment, and yet, though they did not know, both of them feeling a bit sad. Here was something they had lost years ago. Now it was very different indeed. Rafar sank back in his chair, his face thoughtful.

"What about you?” Rafar asked.

"I already told you about me" she replied.

"You told me you were not seeing anybody"

"Yes"

"And?"

"And what? I'm not seeing anyone"

"Why?"

"Because...”

Because of what? Evie suddenly realized she had no idea, no definitive reason as to why she was not seeing anyone. Yes, people have asked her out, and yes, she had gone out with those people on occasions.

Half of the time, they turned out to be shallow pricks that could not take their eyes off her chest when they had dinner, or whose hands kept brushing the wrong way during a movie. The other half? Evie dismissed them as too old, too chauvinistic (one of them, an obviously rich and young Malay golfer named Sharif, had told Evie that "pretty ladies like you shouldn't bother with politics, that's a man's job" when she talked about the current political climate; Evie was instantly appalled and angry at herself because he had seemed so nice and sweet before that she agreed to go out with him), or just plain horny.

"I don't know" she finally said to Rafar. "I guess there was nobody I fancied"

Rafar cocked an eyebrow at her. "Seriously?"

"Well there was one, this guy, named Ezra; he was a TUDM Pilot. We kept in contact for a while, and saw each other often. He was sweet and handsome. But...”

"But what?"

Evie took another sip of coffee and shook her head. "I just wasn't ready"

"Wow", Rafar leaned forward a bit in his seat and smiled. "I guess nobody came close to me huh? I have to admit it feels kinda great to be the best you ever had..."

Evie froze, her jaw slightly open; she couldn't believe he had said that, and she knew Rafar regretted it as soon as he said it. He rubbed his face with the palm of his hands and took a deep breath.

"Look, I'm sorry, that was uncalled for” he said, but Evie was already getting up from the chair to leave. She felt a burning anger in her heart, a fire that was maybe ignited four years ago. She got up to leave.

"Evie, stay”

"And what?” she said. "Listen to you come up with another quip like that? You think you're such a wise guy. Or are you so fulfilled and happy right now that you didn't give thought that it was you who left me four years ago?"

Rafar sat quiet. Evie blew a strand of hair that had fallen on her nose.

"You know what, I don't even know why I agreed to come for a drink with you. Maybe it was because I still cared for you, or maybe because I just wanted a goddamn coffee with six sugars in it. Either way, I'm not like you, talking to me as if nothing happened"

She held out her left hand in front of Rafar and showed him her ring finger. On it was a simple gold band with a sparkling white diamond on it: her wedding ring, which she had never taken off.

"I still wear your ring,” she said. "When you left me I had to rebuild my life from scratch, and just when I thought I had finally got there, you come sauntering in with your oh so casual good looks and your wise guy remarks. What do you want? Why did you ask me to come for a coffee with you?"

Rafar just sat silent; he was clearly embarrassed. A few of the other patrons were staring at them, although Evie was not speaking loudly. In fact, she was speaking very calmly despite the cold anger in her eyes. It was a voice and tone Rafar knew all too well.

"You know what? Forget it. I don't think we should see each other ever again. It's just...”, Evie said, looking for a perfect word. "It's just too much for me. I'm glad you're happy now. I really am. Farihin looks like a great girl. So go on, I'm past all this. Four years ago we went separate ways. Maybe it's better to keep it that way"

Evie walked towards the exit and stomped (not literally, of course) her way back to her car. Outside it was a hot and sunny afternoon in Kuala Lumpur. She put on her sunglasses and searched her handbag for her car keys. A group of men who walked past her whistled their appreciation as she walked by.

"Evie", she could hear Rafar call out from behind her. She kept on walking.

"Evie, stop, please"

Evie just walked, ignoring him.

"Evie, please, stop”

Evie paused in her steps. She took off her sunnies and turned around. She walked towards Rafar and stopped right in front of him. Evie stared into his eyes, the eyes of the man she had once loved, and probably will love in one way or the other until she dies. She sighed.

"Rafar... when you left me four years ago I thought I could never have gone on with my life. Every bit of me felt that it was bound to you. And that when you left, a part of me was torn away, abruptly, from myself. But then I realized it wasn't you who tore me apart"

It was I, me, myself. I realized then I was in charge of my own life, and I was not bound to you. When I realized that, I felt.. I felt free. I felt better. I began to heal. And that's the way it has been for four years. Then you show up, so nonchalantly, and ask me out for a drink, and think that we can joke about it now"

Evie paused.

"What do you want, Rafar?"

Rafar just stood there, silent. Evie shook her head. She turned away.

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4 comments:

nurdini izni said...

yeahh, go evie! :D

Mardhiah said...

This is a very familiar scene in my life :)

"What do you want?" is a question 'he' will never find the answer to. Spoken from experience :)

Another glorious episode! It's getting mature, and I'm liking it.

nuraainaa said...

i wonder where this is heading..

..will they get back together?


i hope so.

Francesca said...

go evie!! XD
i like the part at the cafe where she gives it to him nicely after what he said.