comment 0

Chapter 1: This is not an Autobiography

Bruce often fantasised herself orphaned, on occasion kidnapped. It wasn’t anything sexual, she admitted to herself, because the truth was that Bruce wasn’t broken, she was just bored. As she toyed with the morose idea, she sat back in the wobbly wooden chair at the coffee place she loved – which she prized more for its silence and lack of patronage, rather than for the coffee itself – and took a deep swig. That wasn’t a good thing, she supposed, given the owners almost lost their least in August due to the lack of customers. Not to mention the new coffee chain that opened across the road. Bruce didn’t care, so long as she got her peace. She needed it to think.

She ran her hands through her short mop of hair, which at this point was reduced to a haphazard bleh-layage from its original stylish novelty, and pondered the outcome of a relationship that she ended almost five years ago. The only thing that came into mind was her mother’s famous “药” phrase, one which coined disastrous soups and unfortunate weather, most frequently used on Bruce’s adolescent behaviour and her choices in hair colour over the years. Funny how a phrase which meant ‘beyond redemption’ could’ve been used so indifferently by Mommy dearest – on soups, no less. Maybe that’s where she got it from. 

That girl, Bruce thought, was a wholly huge waste of space. How someone who desired so much to be a man, could’ve ironically embodied so many feminine values – and those usually jettisoned by said gender no less – Bruce couldn’t fathom. Things like squabbling over trival matters, engaging in spiteful jealousy, and the self-abuse. You’d think twenty-or-so cuts made from a pen knife took the cake. Oh, but the indecisiveness was worse. They must’ve broken up and gotten back together at least 200 times in the four years of being together. “So are we in a relationship?” should’ve been made into a placard to avoid needless conversation. Just a simple show of the sign, judge score card-style, would’ve sufficed.

That’s not to say there weren’t passable memories. Certain songs, scents, reminded Bruce of the… mediocre times they had. They weren’t enough to cement a good sentiment, yet weren’t lacklustre enough to be forgotten – the worst kind of memories, Bruce thought, as she outwardly rolled her eyes, her eyes landing on the coffee boy at his station struggling to conceal a long yawn. The smell of the clean floors, for example, reminded Bruce of the time they went up to the highest floor of a newly minted level of the mall with the intention of making out, but had turned into a session of jealousy and yelling, ending with her getting a huge slap by Bruce. But then again, the memory was only passable for Bruce.

Despite it being Bruce’s first ‘real’ relationship – worshipped by millions for its ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience and ‘you’ll never forget your first!’ slogans – Bruce found that it wasn’t all that was cracked up to be. It was a lot of time wasted and money spent, money that could’ve easily refurnished a bedroom, or gotten three of the latest iPhones. There were many late-night cab rides, lots of sneaking around, disapproving parental brawls, and teary “Don’t you love me?” Skype calls.

Bruce had tried leaving once before around the two-year mark, a day decided after many shiny white scars flecked her arms, only to acquiesce to a ‘casual’ meeting after being fired from her internship – spurred mainly by the desperation of feeling needed and wanting to feel something familiar. That little slip led to another 2 years of scars, a byproduct of relationship mismanagement and bad choices.

“Do you want another?” the yawning coffee boy asked, his approach muted by Marianelli in Bruce’s ears.

“No, I’m good.” Bruce replied, her eyes focused on her nails. They were white marble, a process which took surprising long for a few strokes of white to illusionse real marble tiles.

“Okay.” the boy smiled, his teeth white against the deep chocolate of his skin, and traipsed away.

Bruce watched him return to his station from her peripherals, noting that his gaze occasionally flicked up for another look when he thought she wasn’t looking. Bruce closed her eyes and raised her eyebrows, half-amused, half-irritated- a habit which her school teachers deemed ‘disrespectful’. She had that effect on men too. She supposed it was the way she walked, but she didn’t care much for the attention. She mainly focused on the things she needed to get done, everything else was a distraction.

This behaviour, though entertaining, irked Bruce. She had made men on many an occasion, subject themselves to a series of chronically embarrassing displays, possibly in an attempt to showcase their ‘manliness’ and vye for her attention. Some would start walking in a manner which befitted a men’s catalogue July shoot, while others grunted particularly loudly in the gym. Like a wallowing hippo, she thought. Most common was the way they mimicked Bruce’s American accent. While Bruce’s was a consequence of discrete tutoring, theirs were of forced intent, which ended up sounding as moms do when they were on the phone. Her own mother morphed into a quasi-white person attempting aristocracy with each phonecall from teacher, client, and telemarketer alike.

But then again, Bruce thought, such animalistic mimicry could have resulted from a lifetime’s culmination of white supremacy, and nothing to do with her allure. Still, a real shame, as she adored the local accent when spoken properly. It was genuine, salt-of-the-earth sincere, and the unaffected manner in which people spoke – especially in her presence – was something she thought of in high regard. Charlatans, on the other hand, Bruce found unbearable.

She recalled something she saw once on a fat man’s tee-shirt, it was one of those cheap kinds you found at a wholesale market. It read something like “I’m allergic to bullshit”, which Bruce found quite hilarious in a rather obvious way. The way she saw it, everyone was allergic to bullshit; at this point, it was just a matter of standard deviation. For Bruce, her tolerance was close to none.

She fancied herself a misanthrope, with no patience for stupidity or slowness, easily exasperated and vexed by human error. People who talked too much or too loud, who didn’t make eye contact or stared at her chest when conversing, people into metal music and that contemporary slag on the air, people who spoke for the sake of speaking, and those who engaged in idle hearsay. The list could go on forever, really.

That is why Bruce was glad that her intended was the silent, strong type, one who didn’t engage in nonsense bavardage. He wasn’t a narcissist, just a person completely blatant for the regard (or disregard) of others, and only cared about himself. His self-centeredness was of great reprieve for Bruce, who spent her days talking to idiots with masks on.