The obsession began that night as I sat inside my car, parked in a random corner 20 minutes away from my apartment. I remember how bright the sky looked on that evening. The moon shaped round and perfectly, glowing yellow in front of my windshield. I opened the window just a couple of inch lower to let a bit of air in. The wind grazed through my disheveled hair. Stroking my hair with one hand, I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window. Two scruffy, hazel eyes stare back, looking tired as hell.
Last night took most of me. I do not recall the last time I had my father over at my place but he seemed obligated to be there. And as always, there was nothing much but awkward single sentences and fake coughs coming from both of us as we quietly gobbled down cheap meals he bought from one of those stalls on the side of the road.
At the corner of my eye, I could see him try to open his mouth to talk, pauses for a while, and then continues eating a large chunk of meat. Every now and then, he would look at the empty walls of my apartment and I'd notice he would shake his head slightly as if he was disappointed that I had nothing there that showed pictures of him and mom.
"Son, I need you to come back home." Those were the only words floating repeatedly in my head as I sat uneasily on the driver's seat.
The clock blinked 10:35 and it was as if on cue that I looked out the window and saw this girl pass by. No, she was probably running and then she stopped and took a breath near a lamp post a few meters from my car. It was clear from my angle that she might have been crying, although her face showed no concrete emotion that indicated this. I could have been imagining that part, but I'm not so sure. She was looking ahead, staring blankly at the sky and I remember that it was then that I saw her profile and how the outline of her hair glimmered under the moon. She had wavy hair falling on her shoulders and neatly tucked behind her ears.
I hid behind the shadow inside my car as I continued to observe her--how the light captured her features perfectly, how her blank expression showed much more emotion than a dying mother holding her first born child, how she would tuck a few strands of hair behind her ears every now and then. It wasn't that bright I think, but I noticed that she was wearing a dress in such a cold evening. I assume that she had come from a party of some sort.
Suddenly, she turned her head towards my car. I'm not sure exactly if she saw me from the shadows but she looked straight at me, flashed a smirk and then turned and left. The image followed me the rest of the night as I lay in bed staring at the white ceiling. I replayed that hint of a smile exactly as I'd seen it over and over. Every detail, the shadow cast from the flickering light above her, the faint blow of the wind whisking her hair in this very dramatic way, the slow and playful movement of her lips as they slightly pulled towards the corner of her cheek.
The next day, I woke up from a dream I could not remember. The sun had found its way inside my window, casting a triangular glow in my bed. I squinted my eyes for a second.
Did she catch me looking at her last night? Shit.
I went inside the kitchen. The plates from last night were still in the sink. Last night was a tragedy. I had not prepared myself from my father's visit. What did he mean by those words? I realized I was jumping from one thought to another and confused myself in the process. I proceeded to wash the dishes as my mind drifted back and focused into the scene from the car.
Why didn't I act like a normal person and introduce myself? She seemed like a nice girl. Oh yeah, that's right, she would've ran away if some random guy--who looked like he had not been sleeping for days approached her on a half-lit street at 10 in the evening. Christ, I might have ended up in jail while my parents lectured me about growing up and acting my age. That would clearly have ended up a disaster.
I headed back to my room. The view from my window showed a slow-moving traffic with 10 or 15 people crossing the street. Opposite to my apartment, there were several windows open and one with a broken pot sitting next to several ones that seemed ok. From where I was looking, I was not so high up from the ground so I couldn't see exactly what were in those open windows.
My laptop woke up from its trance state as I opened it and started browsing through some photos. I worked as a photographer for a local magazine, taking pictures of people's houses for a living. The thing about shooting inanimate objects is that they are not obligated to talk to you. They just lie perfectly still and let you do your work. And I think houses feel like the perfect subjects to me. They have so many stories to tell. The possibilities of having several interesting stories living in them sparks my imagination.
The phone rang. I picked it up and it's the office telling me that I had a couple of new projects. Two houses--one on the upper side of town and the other a few blocks from my apartment. Since I didn't feel like doing much today, I decided to work on the nearest one first and scheduled the second one on the weekend.
"Why don't you take pictures of people?" Gary puts down his bottle of beer on the table. It was suddenly Friday night and we were celebrating on his latest success of running an advertising firm that generated more than it should on its first quarter.
"I just don't."
"Is this some sort of insane-artist-phase-thing you're doing then?"
"What do you mean by insane-artist-phase-thing exactly?"
"You know, the kind of people who do their own thing because they don't like being told to do things. Avoiding something, you know. You get what I mean Levi."
"I just prefer houses s'all. What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing man, let's leave it at that. Maybe you just haven't met the right girl to take photos of."
I smiled wryly. And in a blink of an eye, she's back in my head flashing that mischievous smirk.
"Listen, don't you think it's time you settled with someone Levi? It's been years man."
"That's ironic coming from a guy who's dating two girls at the same time."
"Ouch, not cool man. Ok, I give up." Gary raises his bottle gesturing for me to do the same. "Cheers to a good life."
"I still think you're being unfair to Amy." I mutter after I took a quick sip at my bottle.
"Ok, ok. I'm no Saint. But I'm not married aren't I? Why do we have to follow rules from other people?"
"Because they are there for a reason?"
Gary laughs shaking his head sideways. I gave up pestering him for the rest of the night. There was no point in arguing with a man who was convinced on his ideas of how to live life. Who was I to judge him? I wasn't a Saint either. Well, not that I'd date two girls at the same time. I've never even really been in a serious relationship as far as I remember.
There was this girl in College--Lena. She was very attractive. The kind of girl who kept her dark hair wrapped behind in a ponytail and had bangs hanging on top of her eyes. She had beautiful round eyes that looked at you intently from a few meters away. I saw her every now and then looking at me in class and I never really gave it much thought until she approached me one day after class and gave me her number. For some time, I considered calling her but ended up losing the note intentionally for fear of going through a commitment that seemed to me like a waste of time. Don't get me wrong, she was very beautiful. I just wasn't sure there was anything I could do to keep her around.
Eventually, she asked me out herself. I never really understood what she saw in me but I decided to give it a try. She was surprisingly easy to talk to and laughed at all my absurd attempt at joking. She mostly did the talking but I was happy with that. I liked listening to how she would giggle every time she thought of something funny to say.
Anyway, it didn't really work out well. In the months to come, we realized we really didn't have anything in common and I was too tired to work on our relationship. It was probably mostly my fault because I couldn't do the things she wanted me to do like meet her parents or plan all the things she wanted us to do after college. She broke up with me and ended up dating Gary--who was then just another student in our class. He seemed like the guy who had everything figured out--even women. He probably felt sorry for me because he started talking to me in class and telling me about all these girls he wanted me to meet. I really never cared except for this one girl he introduced me to.
Her name was Mika. She was sweet, shy, and really cute. Unlike Lena, she wore her hair short--pixie short and she liked to dress in bright colors. We were mostly quiet when we were together but our moments alone were intimate. No one, not even me expected for such a shy girl to be quite…how should I put this, "active". But a couple of months later, that didn't work out either and Gary was back to hooking me up with more girls.
I decided to stop dating altogether. It wasn't that bad. I had no interest in committing on something unstable. I had yet to figure out how humans work and for the meantime I'm focusing my energy on things like spending half of the day conceptualizing the next project and making sure there are clients coming in every few weeks or so.
Finishing my bottle of beer, I left Gary and found myself back in bed staring at the white ceiling. My last thought before drifting into sleep was whether I'd find some way to see that girl again.