The Story of Us

G and Mirha in Seoul

📸 Silvia Falcomer – 2017, Seoul

For Dylan

G and I met in Amsterdam. I was out with a friend when we stumbled into an Irish pub called Dan Murphy’s. It wasn’t a place where we’d usually go, but we were well into a couple of drinks and resolved to wait there until the club around the corner would open.

As we fell through the doors of Dan Murphy’s, my friend swayed to a group of all-female Irish tourists on our left. I laughed, and as I looked to my right, a group of guys summoned me over in loving pity. Those lads would soon become my friends, and drinks at Dan Murphy’s a weekly affair.

When we met, G appeared withdrawn and troubled. In my odd way to get his attention and let him know I saw him hurting, I informed him he looked like 50. He laughed, and we started talking. That evening, and at least a year from then, I never thought of G as anything but a friend.

From the start, we had a big friendship with a sincere sweetness to it, unique in our affection for each other.

We’d meet up for drinks before joining the rest, go to parties, concerts, the odd exposition, and dinners at places others didn’t care for. I invited G to my thesis defense as my only friend. He brought me to his favorite trashed underground clubs and made us vodka limes at his place.

We were both in a relationship that was ending when we met. Mine sooner than his. I rebounded with one of G’s friends and made a mess. And G kept on hurting with the same woman for longer than I wished for him. Our situations kept us in the friendship zone, but I’m happy they did. It made for our foundation.

Our friendship continues to live on in our love, although ever more altered since we traded it for more. Still, I like to believe that if we’d strip away the romance, the friendship would restore itself to that initial state. It’s a comforting thought.

It wasn’t until I was traveling in India, though, that I began to realize I was missing G perhaps a bit more than just as a friend. When around the same time he commented on one of my public Facebook posts that he missed me (for all the world to see–G.), I suspected something might’ve changed for both of us.

Still, it would take me another three months to get the message, which I finally did when G asked me to come with him to Essouira. It’s a plan that we sealed the same night with our first kiss, right in front of the doors of good old Dan Murhpy’s.

Two Pops and a Knot

August 30, 2022

Mirha holding a polaroid with G in the background. On the polaroid one can see G and Mirha sitting on stairs in Fort Canning Park.

📸 Daniele Besana – 2017, Singapore

The first time G proposed, we were in Havana, sipping piña coladas at a sidewalk table in our go-to bar, Castillo de Farnés. It was 2013, and we were, like the rest of our days in the city, drunk and high on the street scenes.

In the morning, still intoxicated, we made a few costly phone calls to share the news with our friends and family. Then, spending the rest of the day enamored, we boasted our engagement with every Habanero we swayed into, most of whom, like our parents, seemed rather unimpressed.

I knew I wanted to marry G ever since we became serious. But a couple of months after he proposed, I worried his proposal was just in compliance with my wish, so I suggested he’d take it back and ask me again when he was ready (and sober).

Three years later, while catching a wave together in Sri Lanka’s waters, G proposed for the second time. Focused more on the moving water below me and distracted and annoyed about the timing, I yelled: “Yes, yes, sure!” and kept riding.1

We married in Singapore a year later, on October 11, 2017.2 I wore a black dress; G a black t-shirt, navy blue pants, and Vans. I had slid on a bracelet from mom and done my hair and make-up myself. It was us and our two witnesses, Daniele and Arjen.3

I don’t recall much from the five official minutes it took to sign the papers, except that I involuntarily choked up when G said, “I do.” That, and the yellow-gold hue and kitchy pattern of the wallpaper and curtains with the same suffocating color and print behind which may or may not have been a window.

After we were wed, we walked into Fort Canning Park, where Daniele and Arjen took a handful of polaroids and a few images of us. It was signature Singapore weather, humid and hot, and mosquitos hid in the bushes. But there was also the smell of pandan leaves and lemongrass and nutmeg trees, and the absolute dark green darkness of the jungle contrasted with the whitewashed fort gateways and twin cupolas. I don’t remember seeing anyone else but us.

We took a cab for pre-dinner gin and tonics at the obscenely grand and out-of-place Atlas bar, inspired by the 1920s art deco era. After which, we moved on to a Peranakan spread at National Kitchen by Violet Oon. The dry laksa and beef rendang and bowls of coconut rice accompanied by tall lagers come to mind. And an image of myself standing in the bathroom, overcome with an emptiness, a vacuum of a feminine force: my mother’s absence.

After dinner, we crossed the Singaporean river to Southbridge to end the evening in town with a last round of drinks and a view. An unkind waiter tainted the mood, and even Arjen’s speech couldn’t lift it back up.

Back home on the couch, I released The Book of Questions on the guys, with casual inquiries like, “Technology has become a part of us. Would you rather lose the use of all motorized vehicles, all telecommunication devices and computers, or one of your hands?” and mixed unbalanced espresso martinis, trying to prolong the night instead of gracefully ending it.

Out of ideas, we left our witnesses to sleep and headed to our hotel a few blocks down, which, like the room where we married, didn’t seem to have windows. And though I can’t help but recognize a cliche theme for marriage there, quite the contrary has proven true for me: love never felt freer than since the day I wed G.


Notes

  1. We were at a surf camp where all the surf sessions got filmed, so G’s proposal is on tape.

  2. The morning of our wedding, the four of us did a 10K city run. We ended in Tiong Bahru Market for a local breakfast with chwee kueh (steamed rice cakes with crispy preserved radish and spicy oil), you tiao (deep-fried fritters), char siu wanton mee (noodles with roast pork), sugarcane juice, and soya bean milk. We took a cab back home, feeling incredibly sorry the driver had to transport such smelly cargo. Then we spent a few moments at the swimming pool before getting ready.

  3. G and I spent cycles figuring out how to get married, only to conclude that the typical wedding made us uncomfortable. Our ideal turned out to be so low-key that we couldn’t justify flying people over (municipality and pizza). During our research phase, however, we did look into two venues, one of which was The Dylan Hotel in Amsterdam. I was only reminded about this a few weeks ago when I showed a friend around the city with Dylan in tow.