The Card

“It’s not love, and it’s not not-love.”

I sometimes feel like we’re in a limbo here, doing a dance in which one is confident and sure-footed, the other uncertain and stumbling.

We go through life expecting to be dealt with a few tough hands. But occasionally, life deals you with cards you completely did not expect, cards you have no idea what to do with.

Like this one card. This card that came in the form of a person.

A person who had long black hair and an undercut, who swore like a sailor. A person whom I thought would be right at home at Sungai Wang, hanging with the Cheena homebois. A person armed with a repertoire of Cantonese insults, to be used on any unsuspecting soul who dares step on her toes.

I had no interest in this person. It was a card that I’d leave in my hand, to be ignored and left aside for as long as I had other cards to play.

But then the game I thought I knew so well changed its course. We got stuck in traffic. And I found it harder and harder to ignore that one card, that card that all this while didn’t seem to fit anywhere in my game.

If I ever was mistaken about someone, this is it.

This card, my Cheena gangster, is in fact a sentimental soul who listens to songs written with emotions and pens poems about Love and other Feelings.

A person who still has a repertoire of Cantonese insults, but a rusty one that hardly sees the light of day. A person who makes people feel at ease, who jokes candidly with strangers, who makes an effort to remember names and faces.

Someone driven, with a destination.

Someone so full of love, with so much yearning for all things beautiful — art, people, experiences.

This is a person who chose to open herself to me, for me to discover her, and to discover life with her.

And in my game of life, I took the leap of faith and played this card.

This card that came in the form of a person with an undercut and who swore like a sailor.

I can’t yet know if I’ve won the game, but it has also been one of those games, you know? The ones in which you’re playing with the loveliest people and you’ve been belly-laughing non-stop and no one’s winning because no one is trying to. Everyone is secretly trying to keep the game going. Even though it’s late and you have work tomorrow, you couldn’t give a shit because you’re enjoying things as they are a little too much to want it to stop.

It’s one of those games where the process matters more than the outcome. And if the journey is beautiful, who can say that anyone loses?

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