Letters by Kenny Mah

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Missing pieces

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January 31, 2013

Hey you,

We’ve all heard this story before. Our friend has recently returned from the States and is hungering for decent Asian food. Wichita has the worst Chinese food ever, she tells us, and even worse for dating. We nod in agreement though we’ve never been to Kansas before but the dating scene’s the same, more or less, everywhere.

She doesn’t believe in Prince Charming, our friend says, but surely she doesn’t have to settle for frogs? I ask if she’s tried going out a bit more, knowing what a wallflower she could be and she admits she hasn’t much. The right one will come along, she says finally, almost believing her own words.

We’ve all heard this story before. I ought to know; I’ve certainly lived it.

Dating ought to be officially recognised as one of the nastiest methods of torture widely available in this day and age. Don’t believe what popular music and romantic movies would have you swallow as gospel: Dating’s not fun and it most definitely isn’t funny.

(Folks these days browse profiles on dating apps, each profile describing a rather smashing specimen of desired gender and persuasion, only to be dismally disappointed upon meeting the actual person. No one considers this lying; instead it’s merely sprucing up one’s profile, as it were. I call it cosmetic surgery without the benefit of the actual improved appearance and personality traits.)

And even when we do go beyond the first date, the cracks soon begin to show. They always do.

It starts with the smallest things: That habit of hers to take an hour and a half to get ready before going out. His predilection for digging for gold in every exposed and available orifice every other minute. And so on.

What was charming before (“He’s so bohemian and carefree. Such an artist.”) loses its lustre with time (“Why doesn’t he get a job? Such a bum.”); it always does. Things are never what you want once you have it.

Why is it though, if I may ask, always someone else’s fault? What about, you know, us?

The happiest person I ever met was a sprightly Scotsman, 74 years old and still backpacking all over Europe. We met in a hostel in Paris; it was the cheapest place available for a poor student like me and with strict rules to match. No guests, no alcohol, no fun.

The Scotsman wasn’t having any of it, of course. He smuggled a bottle of Merlot in and proceeded to share it with those of us who didn’t have money to go drinking in the bars. He told us the most outrageous and ribald tales (and I believed at least half of them); he always had a twinkle in his eye.

I remember asking him how he managed to be so happy. That’s a rather funny question, he replied, but I have my health and I enjoy my life. What more do I need? I’m not lacking anything. Why shouldn’t I be happy?

We spend so much time believing that we’re missing something, that special something that would make us happy. But what if we are not missing anything at all? What happens when we no longer have an excuse not to be happy?

My friend asks us for advice. We’re her role models, she tells us. We start telling her how she’s mistaken, how she doesn’t see the fights we have, the stupid arguments, how it’s not easy at all… but none of that’s going to help her, really. She will see what she wants to see and want what she wants. There’s no helping it.

I know because I used to want to be in a relationship so badly myself. I know dating can be awful because I used to date all the time. I know relationships can sour because I have been in relationships that soured. There was no helping me; I wanted what I wanted.

Somewhere down the line I must have given up on relationships and dating. I did. And then I found someone. (That’s how the fairy tales and romantic movies go, you see.)

I found you.

See, there is no romance in our life together. No dramatic expressions of love. No need, really. What we have is the two of us sitting on the sofa in a café and you reading from a picture book about missing pieces and big O’s. I listen and look at the pictures. I don’t know about missing pieces, I say, but we sure look like Big O’s ourselves. We pat our bellies (which certainly have grown since we got together) and laugh and laugh.

With you, I’m not missing any pieces, that’s for sure.

Yours always and always,

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