The first time I met Evan was on a right swipe.
I was drained from a day of work as I lay in bed, swiping on Tinder just to kill some time before I hit the sheets. It was dark all around me, with my blanket wrapped around my body.
I felt alone tonight, and was desperate for some conversation. Usually Keith would be here for me, on the nights that I felt alone and tired. But Keith was gone now, and I could only seek comfort in these people who weaved in and out of my life. My friends laugh at me when they hear about me talking to a “new guy,” always claiming that I am just “using people to fill a gap.”
Then I swiped right on Evan.
It’s a match! the screen fanfared.
Hey Nicole! A message popped up from my screen, nice picture you got there ;)
And we hit off, really well. We chatted the night away and decided to meet the following week.
I’m looking forward to meeting you! That was the last message I got from Evan that night.
The second time I met Evan, we were sitting by a swing at a nearby park around his place. We’d been hanging out for awhile now – dinners, movies, random strolls around town. It was a cool night; the wind softly caressed our skin. We’d just finished dinner at one of my favorite places – Makisan. Evan decided the mall was too crowded (he knew I didn’t like crowds), so he brought me here. It was a tiny little “park” with a tiny little swing and slide set just along the road, with trees and bushes all around.
I ran to the swing once I saw it. Evan always joked that I was like a 7-year-old, and I guess I knew why he would think that way.
I’m so exhausted from school this week, all these tests are gonna drive me crazy man, I said as I heaved a sigh. The tests were starting to come at me, one by one. Being clueless in school did not help much with my tests. They felt like punches and slaps to my face, in my moments of panic as I desperately tried to figure something out.
Remember the teacher I told you about, Ms. Sim? She talked to me today after my chem lesson, told me I “really needed to buck up.” Ugh. As if I’m not trying already! I recounted to Evan about my day in school. Evan listened to me attentively, he nodded when it was time to nod, smiled when he knew I needed encouragement and assured me about the things I did that I was unsure of. Evan listened to me. Not many people listen to me, but Evan did.
He always reminded me of a calm ocean. He was the one that always stayed cool when I seemed much more explosive. He was the one that was rational and grounded while I would sometimes fizz and float around. We made a good pair, the two of us.
Aiyo, it will get better, don’t worry too much. If I can make it through that hellhole of a JC, you can too. Evan reassured me with a smile.
So how was your week? I asked him, trying to take the attention of the conversation off me.
Mine ah? Okay lor, the usual shit in camp. Sergeant bad mood this week so we all kena. Got turned out like 3 times this week. Damn shag.
Evan shared with me the stories of his platoon mates in army, which always had me laughing. His stories from army really got me smiling.
Silence lingered between us for a bit, as we both breathed in the fresh cool air of the night.
How’s things at home then? Evan asked me.
Oh yeah, I told him about that the other time.
Ah… same shit I guess. My dad’s still texting that bitch… He’s probably out with her now. I don’t know what to do about it lah, I want to do something but really, I’m just a kid. What can I do? I said, as I felt my stomach twist into knots.
Evan knew how affected I was by it; that it was something that I struggled to wrap my mind around. I always thought my family was “perfect.” We had occasional arguments but I was so sure that nothing like this would happen to my family. To find out about it really crushed me. I looked up to my dad immensely; he was my idol growing up. But finding out about that? I don’t know if I could ever think the same of my dad ever again. I swung on the swing slowly, rocking myself ever so gently; almost as if it was a way of comforting myself.
Hey… Evan said softly, as he touched my shoulder.
I looked up and Evan was right in front of me. His brown eyes pierced through mine and I saw all the worry that was in it.
If it makes you feel better, my family’s pretty messed up too. Evan whispered, as he forced a fake laugh, trying to lighten the mood.
He never told me this before.
I never felt like my parents loved me, he explained. It’s like, sometimes I feel like they care about money more than they do about me. He said it with a laugh, but I saw the hurt in his eyes.
That night, I felt like I really knew Evan – the things he kept to himself and never told anyone; I felt like he was an ocean, calm on the surface, but with so much more going on below the surface. He had his good times – corals and colorful fishes and seashells that people admired and enjoyed looking at. There were things below the surface too, like the dangerous sharks that lurked in the ocean, the things that sent chills down people’s spines, the dark parts people usually avoided.
The second time I met Evan, he opened up to me more than I ever imagined. Evan suddenly felt as though he was more than the amicable boy I was talking to the past two months.
I felt like I really was getting to know Evan, and I did want to know more about him. After I met Evan the second time, I got more keen on knowing him. I wanted to see him, to know him, to dive deeper into this ocean of his.
But Evan began to get busy with army (or at least that’s what he told me). He started drifting from me. It started out with small things – he would turn me down when I asked him for a meal, or he’d tell me he was busy. And I was fine with it. He still texted me as per usual – a text of encouragement from him on some days, or he’d tell me about his day on others.
Maybe I was just naïve, but I feel like I should have seen the signs. Messaging became less frequent, and the excuses became recurrent. Slowly but surely, I was definitely drifting away from the shore I felt comfortable with.
Sorry nic, don’t think I can make it this weekend. got guard duty again ☹ another time ok
So that night I went out with my girlfriends for some partying. I was starting to get used to the constant rejection by Evan, though it did hurt a little, for him to feel nothing like the boy I used to talk to.
The third time I met Evan, he was at a bar. His hair was tousled like it always was, and his eyes still had that spark. He was laughing with his friends around a beer tower, as they downed their beers.
Then I saw her, the female next to him. His arm slung around her all-too-small waist, as if to say she’s mine. She was the only girl there, and she laughed along with him.
I was confused – wasn’t he out on duty this week? I felt my stomach do backflips. I thought I saw the wrong person; I tried convincing myself that it wasn’t him.
He won’t lie to you Liz, he won’t I’m sure.
Our eyes met. I recognized those eyes. The eyes that used to stare at me so intently, that used to hold stories and emotion. The eyes were the same, but not quite either. They were glassy, and hard to read. I no longer saw emotion in those eyes. It felt like I was looking at a stranger, his eyes empty and hard to read.
And Evan turned away, as if I wasn’t even there.
The third time I met Evan, I wasn’t sure if I knew who Evan really was in the first place.