22. Who do you love?

“If I could but know his heart, everything would become easy.”

~ Jane Austen (Sense & Sensibility)

Before I continue with what happened after my huge mistake, and what other dumb things I did, there is something else I want to share. This is for those who know me, and know who Mr SG is.

In the very first interview that I read about him, it was reported that a very close friend of his stated he was not seeing anyone.

In one of the first few emails I sent him that first night we communicated, I said I found that hard to believe but was it true? He replied that he had a girlfriend for a year, and “in a couple of years”, he planned to settle down (with her, presumably).

That was one of the reasons I was lukewarm about the whole thing, at first, and continuing with the communication was more out of curiosity about the person, and how much I can do to get more information about him from the horse’s mouth. It was just a challenge. At first.

As his popularity grew, and more interviews were conducted, I tried to read between the lines of the many articles published about him. As someone who has had my own words quoted in the (local) newspaper, I know that what comes out in print isn’t entirely what was said. There were a lot of inconsistent information about his relationship status.

I eventually concluded that during the time that I was interested in him, and prior to my big mistake of offending him, he was not seeing anyone. Why? He said so himself, at the gathering where he took my number. He announced to all present that while he was “dating” the girl announced as his girlfriend, he did not have a girlfriend. As in, he just went out on dates with her. Also, in the article from the magazine he asked me to obtain, it was published that he was still searching for a significant other.

A source, who was probably closest to him, even suggested that it would have been o.k. for him to find someone local to the country he was training in … and the person surely would not have encouraged that if he was indeed already in a committed relationship.

What started as a challenge gradually turned to familiarity, and then, interest, after I felt convinced he was unattached.

 

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21. Seasons change, as do people.

“But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever.”

~ Jane Austen (Pride & Prejudice)

After the autographs were signed, and the photographs were taken, the members began to disperse… for some, it was an opportunity to strengthen new-found friendships based on mutual interest. Others came with friends, or family and just wanted to hang out. The younger members brought parents. There was also someone from the media – some local internet publicity person.

Mr SG retreated into his office to sort some things out and after he was done, he re-emerged. I watched him and saw him looking around. As he searched he called out the name he knew me by, and when I waved (I had not actually moved from my spot on the sofa), he nodded in my direction and said, “I’m leaving”. I smiled and said “o.k.” and asked that he take care. He then looked for the president of the club to say his goodbyes.

I stayed on to chat with the friends that I made through the group, helped with some of the packing, and then I too excused myself and made my way back to the hotel.

He texted me that night. That text, in which he thanked me for coming and for the gift, brought me to clouds higher than any plane did. I had a smile plastered to my face for a long time after.

All that time, right up to the moment his mission took place, I continued expanding the website I put together for him, which meant he kept in touch because I let him vet each section. Just before he took off, he actually requested I compiled the media pieces on him, so I also created an online repository separate from the website. I added materials from before, during and after his mission.

We had brief conversations on the phone. And I really mean brief. All but one of those conversations took place after I phoned him.

One time, just once, he phoned me.

I was in my office talking to my partner and we were chatting about him. Almost as if we had said his name once too many times that we conjured his presence, my phone rang. I had to re-check the caller ID when I saw his name. I confirmed it was the name I never expected to see, and the phone literally flew out of my hand… I had to catch it mid-air before it crashed to the ground.

You should have seen our faces – mine and my partner’s. She grinned as I cleared my throat. She might have whispered “quickly!”, I don’t remember now; both of us were concerned that he might hang up if I took a second longer to answer.

I was making all sorts of facial expressions as we spoke, because I was happy and nervous. My partner stayed in the room to listen. He spoke of the gift I made for him, and how his father wanted one of the 2 parts I gave. When I said “no…”, he assured me that he had no plans of giving it to him. I made a mental note to offer his father something else or maybe a smaller copy if and when I had the time.

He then mentioned that he was being interviewed for a magazine published in my home country. It was one of those you’d get by subscription only. And the only people I know who subscribed are doctors, dentists and lawyers … you know, for their waiting rooms. He asked if I thought I could get him a copy. I said I would try. At first it was difficult. A friend offered me her copy. I then found the publisher and they asked me how many I wanted. He was pleased to hear that when I updated him.

The publishing office staff said this one thing that I daren’t ask him about, even though I was curious too. She said, if he was the subject of the interview, “we would normally give them a copy/copies”. I made some sort of excuse and assured her that they were for him and she had seen me contacting him (to ask how many he wanted). I don’t know why he called me to ask me except, was that an opportunity for him to call without seeming too obvious?

Once I had the copies of the magazine, with extras for a couple of the other members, I called him to ask how he would like me to pass them to him. I mentioned my intention to meet with a few of the committee members that weekend and he agreed to meet me then. He told me to let him know once I arrived.

I flew to that city again that weekend, and went straight to his place of business. The other members of the committee were there too. It was to be my last meal with them before I migrated to my current home.

Unbeknownst to me, he had called the place around the time we were just gathering for dinner. He spoke to his staff and asked if I was there, when they told him I was, he asked to speak to me. The expressions of the people in the group were very mixed. I was very uncomfortable. If darts could come out of their stares, I would have been like a voodoo doll stabbed by several.

I went to the phone and confirmed with him that I would wait till he arrived. One of the committee asked why he had asked for me and not for them. I really didn’t know what to answer.

When he came, he sat with us and we chatted. He poured us some tea and continued being a pleasant host. I gave him the magazines, which he signed for us. He didn’t seem to have any plans other than to spend the evening with us.

Then I made a mistake.

You see, I don’t like photos of myself. I often find that I ruin the picture. I prefer to be the one behind the camera. So, when the group gathered for a photo with him, I took a few shots. He called for me to be in the picture and gestured that I stood next to him for it. I agreed in the end but the person next to him seemed comfortable there and made no attempt to change positions.  Awkwardly I stood at the end. I had hoped for another picture of just the two of us. However, his expression had changed and after that, he said he had to leave.

It might have been only my imagination but he seemed to have been offended.

He was cold after that, very cold.

He ignored all my emails and text messages, even though I tried to explain.

20. Is it all just my imagination???

“Elizabeth could not help observing… how frequently Mr. Darcy’s eyes were fixed on her. She hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man”

~ Jane Austen (Pride & Prejudice)

So. How exactly did I get it into my head that Mr SG might be harbouring unspoken feelings for me?

After that gathering, he returned to that faraway foreign country where maintaining communication was difficult. He continued with the emails and where it would save time and effort, he replied through the group.

Without disclosing the content of the email, I found he was opening up, but then that all might be just my perception.

We met again on a few more occasions. Mostly before he completed his mission, twice after.

On one of those occasions when we did meet, I had my eldest sister with me. The rest of the members spent time with him in another section of the room, separated by a glass wall. I was told that he had asked for me to join the group but one of the members wasn’t too keen. She had asked why I should be there when I was not even from their country. Catty.

Once they were done with the meeting, he rejoined us. Photo opportunity. We took one of him with my sister and then it was my turn. We stood naturally next to each other and our arms automatically went behind the other person. I was not sure where to place my hand and felt around for the back of the chair that was just behind him. I could sense his hand doing the same with the chair behind me. It was comfortably awkward. I liked that picture.

As he was about to adjourn to another group, where his friends and brother were, I called for our transport and left with my sister.

From different individuals, I have heard that he said positive things about me. It was to the point that some jealousy arose from the other members. I didn’t really care about most of them. I was older than they were and wasn’t in the running for “games”. He and I are of the same age, and perhaps that was why we got along. One girl introduced me to her mother and friends as Mr SG’s “favourite”. When I asked her why she had said that, she mentioned being told so by another person and also because of the way he spoke of me.

I called him over the phone once, he was on a vacation abroad. It was new year’s eve. Had he been home, I wanted to invite him to join my family for our celebrations.

On another occasion that we met, after his mission was completed, he asked that I stood next to him as he looked at the gift I gave him. He asked for my number.

I had his number but he never saved mine, until that night.

It was another formal event. The atmosphere was a complete opposite compared to the first one I regretted attending.

While he signed autographs and took photos, I sat on the sofa right by him. We were not next to each other but we were close enough that I could see him and he could see me. He turned every now and then to look. Maybe that was just coincidence.

When almost all the guests had got their autographs and photo opportunity, I went to get mine (I have many but it was part of the event, so I was happy to have more). When I went to stoop down next to him (he was seated and though he was tall, I didn’t want to appear like I was towering over him), he stopped me and said he was going to stand.

We stood next to each other yet again. This time our arms went around each other spontaneously. The photo was not taken immediately. He was talking to someone on the other side, still holding on to me. When we were ready, my friend took the photo for us. She took 2 shots.

He then sat down and asked me to whom I wanted the autographs addressed. (He knew I had many already :p). I gave him a couple of names and then he asked, “who else?”. It seemed to me that he did that to keep me there. When he asked for more names, I asked if he would mind if I called my sister, to see if she had any requests. He agreed. I even let them talk to each other on the phone. All that time, I stood next to him.

We eventually stopped as other people were returning for more pictures with him. A group wanted a photo with him altogether and their photographer asked if he would stand. He said, “No.”. I teased and said, “Mr SG would only stand for me, right Mr SG?” and without hesitation he replied, “Yes.”

19. Mixed Messages

“And you overthink, always speak cryptically… I should know that you’re no good for me. ’cause you hot then you’re cold. You’re yes then you’re no. You’re in then you’re out. You’re up then you’re down. You’re wrong when it’s right…”

~ Katy Perry, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin (Hot N Cold)

 

The first day we met, I had flown to his home country after work. No one in my family or among my friends/colleagues knew where I went or was about to do.

I met up with the friend I made from the group, and the other members, who were also there to meet him. When we were finally introduced I was a nervous wreck.

We had already met his business partner and a number of his staff and we were shown great hospitality that I felt as if we (with the business partner and staff) had been friends for a long time. I tried to stay in the background as much as I could. I just wanted to watch him from a distance.

The group had actually gathered there to discuss fan club matters – membership benefits, freebies, and also the 2nd gathering that weekend. I didn’t want to intrude on committee matters so I stayed in the background. Once though I jumped in because he had said something and his partner understood it as something completely different. After I said what I did, he agreed that that was what he meant, and all parties nodded. After that, he looked directly at me for more than a few seconds.

When he sat at the round table so that he could pre-autograph the door gifts, one of the girls there had to go to another room to get something. He looked at me and asked me to sit in her seat, next to him. I was flattered but I could not do it because I knew the girl was returning and would then not have anywhere to sit. Considering she was there to work, I let her take priority. I gently refused the offer and hoped he was not offended.

When the preparations were done, we left the place and I took my flight home.

I flew up again for the gathering, but almost wished I hadn’t.

Where he was welcoming and acknowledged me during the introductory meeting, the one time I almost bumped into him at the start of the gathering, he walked past me and I felt as if I was invisible. I thought to myself, “ooooook…”

At the gathering it was all business, he posed for photos (it felt rather stilted), gave speeches and talked about his mission and training. Then all too soon, it ended. I didn’t like the air of formality that was all around that night. I had preferred that informal meeting, and even chatting with him in emails was far better than being at that kind of an event.

 

 

18. Getting to Know Mr SG

“It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.”

~ Jane Austen (Sense & Sensibility)

Since I was not able to attend the first meeting with Mr SG, I satisfied myself with reading about the event, looking at photographs captured by many of his “fans”. There was also a video recording.

Our correspondence continued both through the group messages and through email.

He was very forthcoming with information about himself. For the most part, the communication felt very official. It came out as very practised and vetted; as if he was cautious about the audience reading. However, there were times when I felt that he had more to say if only I read between the lines.

The style of writing alone revealed a lot about the man. The content filled in the gaps.

This was mostly how I got to know him. We had eventually met in person (will write about that in the next blog) but most of our communication took place online. Face-to-face, I was very aware of who he is, and there were always others watching and judging. We didn’t talk as much. I always wondered if that was why he sometimes seemed cold, if he thought I was not what I seem in person as I was via email.

I wanted to do something with all the information he gave me. I remembered setting up web pages when I was part of a chat community. The members there taught me the basics. I remembered enough and started a website for him. The information at first was sparse but when I showed it to him, he provided more detail and even included pictures whether or not I requested them.

I worked on that quietly, not quite ready to show it to the group. I was not sure how it was going to be received. I had not intended it for the public anyway; it was a gift for him.

The group that I joined, by the first gathering, became an official fan club for him. As a natural progression, a website was suggested and a graphics professional from within the group was asked to set up an official page for him.

The page was fancy, with bells and whistles that I could only say I have used, but never included in my pages. Still, at one point, he said he believed the site I created was ready to be shared. I did.

In spite of what happened between us afterwards, we had kept in touch through email… at least for a couple of years.

17. Mr Stranger Guy

“Each meeting occurs at the precise moment for which it was meant. Usually, when it will have the greatest impact on our lives.”

~ Nadia Scrieva (Fathoms of Forgiveness)

 

Already known to the public, his popularity was starting to escalate even further. Fan clubs and yahoo groups were being set up in his name. He endorsed one.

I never considered myself to be a groupie – though in this case he is not a musician, but somehow, that was what happened. Kinda.

I don’t really know how it got that far, because up until then, I was still not taken in by him yet. I joined the group. While we still emailed each other, we also communicated in the group. Well, in the group, the members communicated and he jumped in on and off.

I thought his stay abroad was an indefinite thing, and he was not going to return to his home country, until the mission was over. I was wrong. He was planning a return and the founder of the group was arranging for a meet-up.

Unfortunately, it was not easy to just drop everything, hop on a plane and cross borders at short notice. The meet was going to be over the weekend and weekends are the hardest to switch shifts for, since it gets in the way of family time. When I “voiced” my regrets to the group, I was assured by the founder that if successful, more would be organised.

He however replied, not directly addressing me, but in the thread of my message, that although it was difficult to commit to a date that was as yet undecided, if one wants something badly enough, then one should put “one’s soul” into it. So I did.

I put my soul into it. I attended the gathering in spirit :p

16. Instinct

“Believe that if Allah (swt) wants you to know something, someone will tell you.”

~ Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)

A decade ago, someone I know (X) saw a picture in the local newspaper. X showed me the picture and said that I should get in touch with that person. It was not someone I know. It was not even someone living in the same country. Talk about someone out of my league, one might even say he was out of this world.

I need to say this. For me, it was not love at first sight. The first picture I saw in the newspaper, didn’t pique my interest because he was just not my type. Other pictures subsequently found through my searches for an address, convinced me of it even more. He was too uhmmm … well I won’t say it because it would reveal too much.

Anyway, I dismissed the suggestion as random chatter and left it at that.

A few days later, X asked me if I had found a way to communicate with this guy. I hadn’t. I didn’t even think X was serious. I was not sure what X had in mind that I should do, but apparently I was not as innovative as another person, who went to great lengths to contact someone they had randomly met on a plane (and succeeded).

That comparison didn’t sit very well with me and I was determined to prove that I was at least as capable as, if not more so.

I scoured the internet (google is good and all, but one must know how to cast a wide enough net and then narrow the results down) using what I learned all those years in university about search terms. (I knew there had to be another purpose other than writing my undergrad dissertation :p).

It was not all that easy and the whole process was a bit convoluted, involving other individuals that I had to contact – strangers who have since become friends.

With much encouragement and gentle (but persistent) persuasion, I wrote to both the addresses that I got, not really expecting any sort of response. I had given, in my note, my email address. The guy was somewhat a celebrity back then (more so now), so why would he be writing back to me, a complete stranger and a foreign one as well?

I nearly fell off my chair, literally, when less than a week later, my “Bejeweled” game was interrupted by a pop-up on the bottom right corner indicating I had an email from Mr Stranger Guy. I laughed out loud and called X.

Intrigued that this person would even write to me, I replied to his email and he promptly returned with another message. We exchanged a few emails that night, before he stopped writing. Two days later, he sent another email, replying to whatever question I had asked in my last email.

For a week or so, that was how we communicated. The day ended with my emailing him. He then replied to that closing email the following day or 2 days after. In one of these emails, he said he was going to be travelling. For the mission, for which he was interviewed (remember the newspaper article?), he was going to another country, where communication would be difficult.

It was going to be Eid and he had to go through Ramadan fasting abroad, so I sent him some home-made cookies – traditional ones that we make for Eid. I was not really sure if customs would allow them through. Apparently they did, because he mailed me a thank you card for them.

Upon reflection, it was not his looks that I fell for, nor the thousand other reasons he became a celebrity. I found that all that made him too arrogant. It was his correspondence, the way he communicated, his vulnerability … that was what endeared him to me.