The (Not-So) Platonic Before Trilogy

Five and a half years later after that ordinary day when the 6 AM train departed from somewhere in hinterland Argentina. The one time I got to engage in what felt to be a strictly platonic scene out of a non-explicit, PG-rated, real-life version of Before Sunrise. Those six uninterrupted hours were filled with flowing conversations with someone who held a passport that looked exactly like mine. It felt like reconnecting with a good old friend, who’s got a face of a complete stranger.

How did it not? We happened to grow up in the same Javanese town, albeit nine years apart. Attended the same state school before we packed all our belongings and built our next life chapters halfway around the world all by ourselves. Boston to him is essentially Montréal to me. Then one casual day in June 2017, threw ourselves onto two separate flights to check out the Patagonian sceneries, where we happened to share two neighbouring seats on the train home.

I can’t recall any other specifics about that particular day, except that I regret not asking for a contact, and immediately forgot his name because my mind was hurried with the thought that I might miss my flight to Buenos Aires, and subsequently to Mexico City.

Besides, this man in question is probably now married with one or two kids anyway – although I still wonder about his whereabouts every once in a while, when I feel like flipping through the random pages of a photo album from that solo trip.

This morning, I was jotting down the itinerary for my next month’s travel plan to cruise off the Mediterranean charms. A rather impromptu trip, but a much-needed one after two years being confined into one’s 50 sqm studio apartment thanks to the strange years that are 2020 and 2021.

There’s an old acquaintance in Sicily I’d like to see, or shall I say, I’d like to make amends with. And despite the nerves, I’m genuinely looking forward to that meeting too. After seven years of losing track of each other’s milestones, here we are again, trying to salvage whatever might still be left from the brief, on-and-off interactions we had for a while back in 2015.

None of us knows if we are still the same persons we used to recognize in our late teens – although most probably not. But perhaps at least we’re hopefully better suited for each other now that we’ve grown into two equally awkward young adults, both trying to find closures from whatever it was that we always left undefined ages ago.

Whether or not this would be a chance to partake in a more pragmatic version of Before Sunset – I guess both of us have to collectively decide.

Tonight though, I had a fight with someone I cared about deeply. I was complaining about his lack of common sense in certain recurring problems that were never fixed for once in the four years we’d been together. And before I knew it, my brain started to feel like exploding from having to reiterate sentences I’ve mentioned, emphasized, and yelled about way too many times in the last few years.

Naturally, my worn-out defence mechanism told me to just run.

So there I was, escaping on the spur of the moment to a nearby riverside next to a public park, ignoring the fact that the watch he gave for my 25th birthday said it was already 11:23 PM – meaning it wasn’t quite the best time for a completely unarmed petite lady to cry outside and be vulnerable by herself.

Twenty minutes had perhaps gone by, by the time I was having my last few teardrops.

Then there he was, approaching me after silently watching me weep for too long from behind the trees next to this bench I was sitting on. Pretending as if he was a charming, friendly stranger from outside of the town who was trying to find an address in the middle of the night. Jeez, I thought. Now? Really?

“What’s in the address?” I asked to merely entertain, remaining uninterested in his silly, unnecessary, and seemingly childish acts.

To which he replied, “I don’t know. Maybe you can come with me so we can find out together?”

I sighed, looked him in the eye for a minute while secretly applauding his irresistible wit.

But I eventually gave in. He’s too smart for me to ignore the entire night for he would just quickly find another way to lure me.

Another night, another scene. The time in his smartphone said 11:55 PM.

And so the final not-so-platonic Before Midnight scene materialized, as I dried my dampened cheeks with his crumpled handkerchief and he offered his hand. We walked together back to the car, his tired arm around my stiff shoulder. I leaned in to show my intention to reconcile, too shy to admit through verbal words.

We drove into the midnight, him muttering sincere apologies responded by my lengthy one-sided conversation about whatnot.

We made peace, again, like we always did.

I fell asleep and only woke up when the delicate sunrise peeked through the clouds along the horizon, its rays falling onto the car’s rear. Five hours later on a Sunday morning.

I guess I’ve had my fair share of these rom-com scenes for today.

A Memento

Freezing palms, a tiny blackbird sitting on an outcrop, a literal deer in the headlights. All the cues to replay my recollections of you. Hints of cedar and patchouli when your wrist rested on my shoulder. The contrasting tones between your ash-coloured tees and ivory skin.

You were so judging, so blunt, so awfully young. All the things I should’ve never yearned for. But I dug it. Still do. Morning disputes when you misplaced my butter knife, an afternoon debate about which track was the better one in the last Beirut’s album, and a nighttime quarrel after you forgot to water my calatheas again.

We were so presumptuous about our future that we just let ourselves be, the way we wanted us to ever be. Yet now so distant, so parted, so sudden—can’t even fit the two of us in the same side of the tiny globe that you put on my office desk before you left so abruptly. I smell notes of blooming daffodils while you’re frantically trying to cross the slippery street amidst the snows. Sunrays peeking into my bedroom while you’re heating your leftover dinner. I spend my rare weekends in nearby tropical islands while you’re off climbing another peak of the Alps.

We met not long after you got your driver’s license, and all we ever wanted was to drive around that foreign, lusterless city that we barely understood, the city that we called home for a little while, before our time ceased and we had to watch each other sleep their weeping away for weeks. Two Cathay Pacifics heading to opposite routes on that night of November 9th, 2018. One bent promise that we knew was never supposed to withstand the time and distance.

I was so reckless, so mad, so saturated with the quarter-life crisis. All the hints meant to throw you off. But we were so annoyingly stubborn about: “Enjoying things while they last.” The most unwise, immensely naïve advice ever conveyed, and yet we lived by that motto for a while.

How are you now?


Fireflies between your fingers, flaring, twisting twilight—I am caught in moonlust; eerie lull over my collar, I’m all conquered by the absence of the day.

My syllables are such disarray, that I translate into songs to preserve the thoughts of you—that sickened me last night, tonight, and every night after. I spell your name backwards. There’s teardrop from below. My Sun descends eastward.

Dear Carrie, said Lowell,

There was a history before us, with tales never before told, pieces never before seen. We’d senesce and eventually perish, with our ideas petrified, and our preexistence either forgotten or unfortunately celebrated. But together—you and I—we’d perpetually coexist.

Dear Lowell, Carrie said,

Here I am, unbounded and infinite. Untangled and invincible.

To write or to writhe.