It is widely known that when I first met Dickson (broady: short for broad shoulders), it was on the tarmac in Penang- as depicted in our wedding video above. I took over his aircraft, he thrust his entire chart pouch into my arms and raced off like Cinderella at midnight. Here I stand, with his chart pouch, my own chart pouch, a nav bag and an overnight bag. Needless to say, I was 10 shades of annoyed.
The second time we met, CK took us out for lunch (10 minutes before, CK says: “oh! Btw, Dickson is coming too). Broady and I had bladders that were bursting but no available toilet. So, we peed on the floor of a tiny room that could pass for a bathroom if they tried. (Guilty, guilty, guilty)
Eventually, I forgave him for the chart pouch- but mention it regularly- just because.
And this is the tale of all that follows.
It all began with a beer mug.
To be precise, it was a 1-liter Oktoberfest beer mug. One of those you can fit, like, 8 golf balls into.
But before I proceed, it is fair to note that a significant event like this has every making of a flashbulb memory. In that, the strength of the memory is greatly fueled by emotions at the expense of the peripheral truth. The feelings are prominent, but details- blurry. Couple that with vision through broad-shoulders-goggles*, and my tendency to romanticize, circumstances render me an unreliable narrator.
*For the unaware, I have a radical obsession with broad shoulders.
It was a dark and stormy night. I’ve just got home after a flight. My rented minimalist apartment glow with seductive allure. Finally, me-time! I give my hair a thorough shampoo and a healthy coat of conditioner before curling up with a book (Vampire Academy was all the rage then) and a cup of steaming hot chocolate.
I crack the AC up a notch and gather my hair into a ponytail when my phone buzzes to life. A group of colleagues are grabbing a drink at Beach Street. Do I want in? Typically, I pull every excuse in the book to stay rooted in my introvert little bubble. So imagine the surprise when I pull a black tank top over my head against a pair of old jeans and run a brush through my unruly waves.
Half an hour later- because Penang island (where we were based then) is tiny- I walked through the jingly doors of a poorly lit bar. A few people are watching football on the television set. Others clump in groups of threes and fours. The largest group present occupy a long rectangular table, and from the looks of it- very unconscious about their volume. And at this table, HE sat, broad shoulders apparent in a black Nike T-shirt, face evident of his very recent round at the Oktoberfest.
I squeeze into a chair not far from where his broad shoulders protrude out like a different kind of tangible sexy. I gladly accept a pint of beer. He’s playing a card game, or something- the unreliable narrator has boosted an extra pair of beer goggles.
Everybody is talking. My girls’ trying to shaft drinks down every available throat. Cute shoes! Omigawsh! Drink!
I gladly play the role of supportive bystander while nursing my drink- allegedly nursing my drink. The card game takes a turn for the intense.
I put an elbow on the table and rest my chin on the palm. I’m on my fifth (sixth?) pint. He says something- funny, assumedly- and I burst out laughing. Broad AND hilarious?!
He takes another swig of his beer. I sense slight drumming between my ears. The rhythm is picking up, drowning out my surroundings. I take another gulp from my glass.
They’re still at that game. Somebody makes a passing remark. Now he’s laughing hysterically. Love how the corner of his eyes creases when he chuckles. Gosh, what a funny bunch.
“Drink this water,” my friend says out of nowhere as she placed a glass of warm water into my hands. “You need to sober up.”
What? I’ve only had 3 tiny glasses. Maybe five. Eight tops.
“I’m driving both of you home,” she gestures at broad shoulders and me.
“I’m not drunk. I can walk straight. Look!” I demonstrate. A tightrope walker has nothing on me. I think. I think?
We pile/ get piled into her backseat. A loud buzzing pierce my temple. In fact, it’s coming from inside my head. There’s a bee in my brain! My skull feels heavy, and vision blurring. Stay awake, Chow Ping! Don’t die!
I lean sideways… And hit solid. My head fit perfectly onto… a shoulder?
-A broad, broad shoulder.
I nestle into his shoulder. The alcohol on his breath is heavy; yet fail to burry a scent- a scent I’ll accustom to in years to come. A whiff that eventually translates to home, comfort and love. But at this point, the scent was enticing, captivating. Curious, even… Richly intriguing that alerted my senses. My subconscious scream mystery guy! Must know**!
** On a later occasion, I learnt that this intuitive scent detection mechanism ties to our ability to sough out a partner with reproductive genetic advantage.
We ride the remainder journey with my body weight on him and head snugly on his shoulder.
Then we pull up at his condo, and our friend turn chauffeur says, “here’s your stop, Dickson.”
“Don’t forget the beer mug.”
In a flash of blur, a huge beer mug is manhandled before my eyes.
Now, it is fitting to mention my uncanny obsession with de-cluttering. I have close to zero sentimental genes in me. At one point, my goal was to throw one item away daily. When we moved back to the Klang Valley ages later, I piled our respective possessions into two large piles: keep or throw out. Most things failed the cut.
But then I clutch that heavy Oktoberfest mug in my hands. Typically, an object of that size and weight finds its way into the “out” stash faster than you can say “no”. As enigmas have it, I place that humongous piece of glass into the yes pile.
-The effect of a strange, unplaced sentiment.
And to this day, this sacred relic sits by our marriage bed every night- a testament of our drunkard head nestling, a covenant of the unspoken that faithful night.
However, lets not jump the gun, and return to our (alleged) chronology of events.
As with most other blooming Gen-Y love, our days to come are filled whatsapp messages and haunted museums (what? Not that one?). But the joy has nothing on that of Butterfly Park day.
It is common knowledge that Dickson fear butterflies with every cell in his being. “The reincarnation of the devil”, he says. Despite that, he visited the butterfly farm with me. This is a tale as old as time, one widely circulated within our circle of friends.
Yet, few know of the moment he held my hand in his. For the first time ever, in that cage swarming with beautiful butterflies. My heart beat like a motorboat. *** And everything was perfect, or so I thought. Clearly, “perfect” was yet to be defined.
*** Occurrence took place not long after a captain, in his drunken state at a colleague’s wedding, blurted out “Dickson really, really likes you, you know”- cat out of the bag. He eventually broke into a quick dance number onstage (unplanned), so goodness knows how much he remembers of that bombshell. Also, moral of the story, it’s a myth that “cockpit talk stays in the cockpit”.
Cenang beach, Langkawi is teeming with tourist. In fact, nearly every restaurant within walking distance booked full to the brim. After all, it is New Year’s Eve. And what better way to usher in the New Year if not at the beach, stoned with booze, under the soothing ostinato of the twinkling stars? Somewhere, the upbeat tune of My Girl plays… what can make me feel this way? My girl… I’m talking about… my girl, my girl!
The sand is soft and welcoming under our bare feet. We buy one of those paper Kongming sky lanterns. Lighting it was hard work, but we managed with a borrowed lighter. Together, we set the lantern free. A light breeze carries our paper project over the shoreline and into the night sky. We watch, hand in hand, as our lantern huddles with tens of others, dotting the dark skyline…
… When it suddenly catches fire! What was a picture of serene bliss is now a blazing ball of flame. Our trusty lantern’s fate is sealed within seconds, as the charred remains drop like a stone into the dark waters below.
Our jaws hang with horror, hands still linked.
But then a unified voice overtakes our attention. Suddenly, we don’t care about the lantern anymore.
And the unreliable narrator notes these facts- the fireworks that burst into the night sky, an assortment of brilliant colors as the loud bangs punctuate the occasion. The cheers rising from all around us layered with gaily laughter and muffled happy new years- the sea breeze that tease my careless locks.
Yet, the whistles, the shouts and glee fade into a quiet backdrop. We stand motionless in the eye of a typhoon- indifferent to the chaos. And he leans over…
… And kisses me.
Round 2 of fireworks paint the heavens an array of lively zest. But we barely blink. Nothing tears us from this endless kiss.
This time, the unreliable narrator is confident of her event accounts.
-Because, how does one romanticise perfection?
P.S: We might sound like alcoholics here, but I promise you- we aren’t.