1.2: The First Love
John looked at his phone. Amy was late. Again. He felt ridiculous in his Mandarin shirt and tailored pants, all dressed up proper for the concert, carrying a bouquet of flowers that had cost him one week of wages. Leaning against the pillar, he avoided the glances from curious passing strangers by constantly checking his phone.
Amy’s mom was the church’s librarian and John’s mother’s first friend when his mother sought refuge in the church from his abusive father.
“Lisa should stay here permanently, ” Arthur, the church’s secretary remarked when Deborah walked into the room.
“She won’t, ” Deborah, the church’s librarian replied, as she walked towards the sink.
“Why not, ” Arthur asked, “He keeps hitting her.”
“She loves him, and according to her, the Bible says a good wife must honor her husband, ” Deborah replied in a tone that betrayed the repetitive nature of this conversation.
“Only when he …”
“honors her first, ” Deborah completed the sentence for Arthur, rolling her eyes. Turning on the tap, Deborah placed the blood soaked towel under the running water.
It was easy to offer solutions and advice when outside of an abusive relationship. But usually for the person in it, for the person being abused, being asked to leave was more than just being asked to abandon the only relationship, albeit a highly dysfunctional relationship, he or she may know; you were asking the abused to abandon the last shreds of hope he or she was clinging onto and finally agreeing to let the last embers of promise in the relationship flicker and die.
“We can’t ask Lisa to give up hope in this relationship, ” Deborah tried to explain to Arthur, knowing too well what Lisa was going through, “without first giving her something else to hope for. Now, the only thing that is preventing her from killing herself is the hope that the marriage she had committed to will become the one that held such promise.”
“She’s dumb,” Arthur said, “every guy will promise to be better when the girl threatens to leave. It is always the same stupid cycle. You threaten to leave, he promises to be better. Begs you to stay, promises to change. So you stay. He becomes awesome for a while. Cooks the meals. Even washes the dishes. Massages your feet without needing to fuck after. Maybe even buy you that nice set of jewelery. Once you unpack the bag, he starts putting his feet on the table and demands food served. No more romantic massages, just straight rough fucking in the ass. Once you start putting the clothes back into the closet, he pawns the jewelery. Before long, you become the punching bag, again. Women don’t get it. Men will never change. We just do enough so you won’t leave.”
“As long as her husband treats little John well, ” Deborah said, wringing the towel dry, “she won’t leave. She will be able to tell herself that the family is doing well as long as John’s happy.”
One morning, when John was seven, his father left home for work and never returned.
Deborah got a job for Lisa in the church. Each day after school, John would play with Deborah’s daughter Amy at the back of the church’s office. As they grew older, both Amy and John grew closer, becoming the best of friends.
“Hey you, ” Amy’s voice interrupted John’s reminiscing.
John looked up from his phone and smiled at the face he had seen every day since that afternoon his mom brought him to the quaint church on the top of the hill.
“You’re late, ” John couldn’t resist saying, “the flowers are almost dead.”
“I’m sorry, ” Amy apologized, kissing John on the cheek, “the movie Septius took me to was longer than normal.”
“Septius, ” John mockingly repeated, “what a pretentious little name.”
“Don’t be envious, ” Amy took John’s hand, “we better hurry.”
“I’m not envious. I don’t care for being an Elite. I’m jealous.”
“Don’t be pedantic then, ” Amy said, giving John a little pinch on the arm, “and don’t be jealous. I’m yours.”
“Are sure you don’t want to do this, ” Amy asked, pulling the dress up to cover her breasts.
“Yes,” John replied, stroking Amy’s cheek, “we shouldn’t do this until we get married.”
“John, then let’s get married now.”
“We can’t. If we get married now, we won’t be able to qualify for Partner status.”
“We can do something else during National Service. We don’t have to be Partners.”
“We will lose the privileges.”
“Fuck the privileges. We’ve known each other since we were seven. Been together for five. We are practically married. Forget about the Partner status. We don’t need it. Let’s get married now.”
“Amy, you know I love you, but Mom needs me to be a Partner. If not, the State won’t allow her to withdraw her CPF savings for her retirement funds.”
“Ok, then if we can’t get married, why can’t we at least make love now.”
“The Bible says it is wrong, ” John replied, “Even what we just did was wrong. We shouldn’t have seen each other naked.”
“I can’t believe you gave him a blowjob,” John shouted at Amy.
“Why, why can’t you believe? Do you lack such imagination with things nothing to do with your god. Haven’t you seen a girl put a cock in her mouth. I put his cock in my mouth. It wasn’t that hard.”
“Why, ” John asked desperately, grabbing onto Amy’s shoulders and shaking her, “Why? We are a couple.”
“A couple that doesn’t fuck.”
“No, we can. You won’t,” Amy shouted venomously, “You won’t fuck your own girlfriend so a man had to do the duty you as a boy won’t do.”
“You know why I won’t. It is wrong.”
“What’s so wrong about having sex before marriage with the woman you love. Just because the Bible says so, ” Amy paused, twisting the last sentence into the gaping wound, “just because your Mom says so?”
“We can’t because sex is supposed to be done between a husband and a wife. After marriage.”
“Why,” Amy asked angrily, “Tell me why is it a man and woman who loves each other should only have sex after marriage.”
“Because then they would have officially committed to each other.”
“What sort of relationship does one enter in if not one that he plans to be committed to? If you need the stinking law or god to make our relationship a commitment, it is just a burden, a fucking obligation,” Amy screamed at John, years of frustration unleashed.
“I’m committed to you,” John pleaded, “not by obligation! I made the choice! It just isn’t official.”
“Official, ” Amy laughed, “You’ve already changed your Facebook status to be attached to me. To the whole world, that’s official. If one of our friends saw you out with another girl, they would shame you on Stomp. They would share the news on Facebook. Our whole fucking social circle will castrate you online, maybe in real life if you cheated on me. That’s fucking official.”
John sighed. Amy still didn’t understand. Once they were married, they couldn’t separate easily. By the sheer force of inertia and paperwork, they would have to work to make their relationship work, regardless of what problems may come. Marriage would narrow their options. People change their minds easily when they think there are easier options as solutions to a problem. If they have had sex previously, what then if they faced an issue in the relationship. There would be nothing to hold them together; the both of them could easily walk away from each other at the first sign of real trouble in the relationship and they would both be worse off after losing their purity by giving their virginity to each other.
“People do leave each other after marriage,” Amy continued, as if she had managed to read John’s thoughts, “they call it divorce. Sure, it is troublesome, and some privileges are lost from the State but people do it. Tediousness of separation should not be the only reason to keep two people together.”
“It isn’t just that. Sex before marriage makes us impure.”
“What the fuck logic is that,” Amy asked, raising a fist to hit John, “one does not become impure by sticking a penis into a vagina. It isn’t the fucking action that counts. It is what’s happening in the heart and mind when the action occurs. How can you, such a fucking intelligent scholar not see that. Impure is when you take a girl’s virginity just for some inconsequential scoreboard. Impure is when you think about another girl when you are with me. Impure is a whole host of things you fucking do behind my back to deal with repressed emotions of not being able to have sex with me just because your mom and book says so.”
Amy’s words stung. But John knew there was no point arguing. He knew he could never convince Amy that his way was the right way. But John knew he still wanted this relationship; Amy and him had been together for so long, and known each other longer. To end the relationship now would have been a waste of those years.
“I still love you Amy,” John said, reaching out to grab her close to him, “and I forgive you.”
Amy pushed John away. “You don’t get the right to forgive me! This is your fault.”
John looked angrily at Amy. He had been trying to be magnanimous in forgiving her and now Amy had the audacity to say her sucking and fucking another guy was his fault.
Staring chillingly at Amy, John asked, “Are you fucking kidding me! Are you sure all this is my fault?”
Amy froze. For a while Amy stared blankly at John, then she started crying.
“You right John, ” Amy said between her tears, “this is all my fault. I should have understood you. Should have waited dutifully beside you. Instead I went to behave like a slut and gave my precious virginity to a man who doesn’t care for me beyond being a point on his scoreboard. I’ve let you down. I don’t deserve you. You’re right. This is all my fault. I should have been stronger. I’ve ruined the relationship. My actions will always be a blight on our relationship no matter how much better things get.”
Amy turned from John and started walking away.
John knew he should have stopped her, but he was taking perverse pleasure in Amy’s concession. Finally Amy was expressing guilt. John told himself he would call on Amy the next day with some flowers and everything will be fine.
That day was the last time John saw Amy alive. Later that night, Amy hung herself.
Her suicide note was, “John’s right. This is all my fault.”