Tales of Longing and Loathing 1



This is the first of a trilogy of unrelated short stories. Any semblance to real persons is purely coincidental. However, living conditions and related references that sound familiar are indeed inspired by real-life situations/occurences. This writer shall not be clarifying further. Enjoy!

Photocredit: Pexels

Anne’s POV

I have always been scared of rats for as long as I can remember. I hated the sight of them, loathed the pervasive smell of their odure, could not stand hearing their scurrying feet, and of course, their destructive nature did not help matters. Yet, since casually running into them became my lot as an occupant of this hall, I had learnt to bear their sight, smell, sound, and scattering.

I had learned that before I attempt to ascend the stairs at C block at night, especially during a power outage, I had to shine my light on the stairs and if our little hairy mammalian friends were approaching, to let them descend the stairs first whilst simultaneously jumping out of the way with a screech I couldn’t help even if I tried. Then to take the stairs in twos, with my light shining above and my feet tapping the stairs loudly to alert our friends of my presence. I had learnt to keep to the middle as the rats were more likely to descend/ascend through the sides of the staircases. And most importantly, I had learnt to hold my breath (or at least try) until I got to the second floor, lest I lose my sense of olfaction altogether from a repeated exposure to the terrible smell of rat piss and poo.

The first time I saw you, there was yet another blackout. I was frustrated having had to spend my day on 4th floor in a bid to be a tad bit productive with my day, and successfully failing at it. To make matters worse, a rat had chased me on C block ground floor and I was trying to recover when you appeared on the mixed volleyball-basketball court. There was no light, no sparks, no jitters, no butterflies. It was just you and me… But Matthew, the important thing is that I saw you.

You were panting like a Stampede United player in a heated match against Blazers FC, losing 1:nil at the ABH League finals, with only 4 minutes left to change his fate. I was torn between asking if you were asthmatic or if you were in the middle of a panic attack. I eventually asked a different question, and it changed the trajectory of my life for the next year;

“Are you okay?”

“Ye-s (huffs and puffs), y-es… I am”; you answered amidst laboured breathing.

As I struggled to call up medical knowledge to address the situation, and realized it wouldn’t come, or more accurately, was not quite in my brain, I decided to carry out the first action on the algorithm: call for help. However, as I made to leave, you grabbed my hand, took a few deep breaths and reiterated,

“I am okay…really.”

“Uh, are you sure? What happened to you?”

“Well, I went for a run and I may have overdone it a little.”

Having realized that I had essentially made a big deal of nothing and that my burning cheeks (thankfully concealed by melanin) needed a place to hide, I again made to leave. And again, you stopped me, with your words this time;

“What is your name?”, you asked.

“Anne. What is yours?”, I queried.

“Matt. Matthew. My name is Matthew.”, you responded.

That short conversation marked the beginning of our friendship, and we moved from strangers to best buds rather rapidly. We would meet every other day, vent about school and life, occasionally share a drink or meal, peoplewatch and exhange theories, munch on suya after a walk whilst willing the TV room guys to be quiet. On a good day, we’d go on a run together and I’ll slow you down with my snail’s pace, but you did not seem to mind much. On a very good day, you would make me your signature chicken-vegetable sandwich and I will be generous with my compliments. On a bad day, I will attempt a new recipe in a bid to reciprocte, botch it, and settle for buying you Aina’s pasta instead, while you again made fun of me in a way that left me gasping for air by the end of it, belly hurting from using all my abdominal wall muscles to laugh for ages.

Our official rendezvous venue was the mixed court. It was our spot. We would colonize a concrete seat for hours and I would forget all about my troubles and struggles long enough to almost leave them behind when I returned to reality. All was well and good… until I told you I liked you… before you told me you liked me too… after you ruined it by asking for a purely physical relationship of convenience… when I declined because I wanted more…

That was the beginning of the end of our story. I saw you less frequently. We took fewer walks and runs. You never made me your sandwich after that. I didn’t attempt to cook for you again. We became grateful for football matches that broke the uncomfortable silence we shared. Our seat became my seat or your seat as we both stopped showing up on the same days. Then I stopped showing up altogether, and our friendship was gradually reduced to awkward hi’s and hello’s when neither of us could avoid the other fast enough.

Regardless, I could not hate you. Not until I started seeing you with her, hands always clasped together, eyes all lovey-dovey, sharing laughter and sandwiches, kissing at our spot, getting nominated for Couple of the Year… I just knew; You didn’t want a relationship of convenience. You just didn’t want me.

So Matt, forgive me if I’d rather see the little mammals than bear witness to your continued existence… Or actually, don’t.


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