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Chapter 2: Good days are overrated

Bruce detested good days. Not only were they a testament that things had the potential of going right yet went south because some asshole higher power decided that they were having a bad day, but it also set an unspeakable precedence unto the events that were to happen next. Good days were overrated. 

Bruce had been having a good day so far. She managed to get more than 5 hours of sleep, had a relatively easy-going morning, and got out of a meeting that was intent on dragging on mercilessly – in Mandarin no less. A quick excuse and a coffee later, Bruce found herself breaking her promise to her intended. Such an old saying, it was a banality, but she was firm in her resolve not to call him ‘baby’ or whatever. Now that was something only 20-something idiots used, and she was not an idiot. Except for that time she purchased a thousand-dollar Chanel on impulse. She didn’t need it, especially since her whole wallet had gone digital. But Bruce took pride in her ability to buy what she wanted, whenever she wanted. Financial freedom was a very expensive look on her.

“No coffee for the next week”
She took a sip of her latte as she was reminded of the promise she was currently breaking. Those were her intended’s solution to all sleep-related problems – be it too-light-of-a-nap furies, past-midnight insomniac texts, or 6am tosses and turns. She thought about him for a bit, and took another sip. Her drink was soon losing its boiling petulance and easing its way to adopting the temperature of the room, a nasty circumstance which made Bruce gag. She’d usually discard both food and drinks – regardless of price tag – the moment they reached that stage.

Sighing, she pulled up her browser window and pushed her hair out of her face. She hated her fringe. She liked that tousled look a long fringe gave, but in recent times have just been begging to be cut. The constant falling past her eyes coupled with the cruel humidity eradicated all possibility of using anything but matte lip colours. Lipsticks sometimes worked when she had her hair up and there was no way her fringe could humiliate her by smearing the colour all over her chin, which did happen on more than one occasion.

She typed in his name. Then his wife’s name. It was pretty cut and dry, the same information she’d read a year ago. Nothing had changed. The two immigrated over when Bruce was still in uniform and learning about standard deviation and labelling the human reproductive system. Not only was he far too married, but she was far too busy to attend to the likes of him. Plus, anyone whose tastes ran to the untalented, unattractive, and unemployed, was definitely not worthy of attention.

She made an angry sound at the back of the throat, like the French did when they were rallying to start a sentence. It was hard to not think about him when she saw him all the time. Bruce imagined his piercing eyes and pondered her taste in men. With women it was easier, possibly because she had the same working parts, but the ballgame was generally more elementary. They were facile and shallow creatures, easy to predict and even easier to seduce. Her ex-girlfriend followed the mould to a T. Despite her idiotic mettle and one-dimensional personality, she was still a nightmare Bruce was struggling to forget. Crazy, that one. 

Men were different. Anatomically, it didn’t make much difference to Bruce. But the divergence in types when scouting for a male partner as compared to a female one, was so far apart that Bruce sometimes imagined herself bipolar. Most people were surprised that someone as feminine and inclined to “girly things” as Bruce was would didn’t go for the motorbike dykes, those with the precariously-styled hair and baby muscles peeking out beneath that Pink Floyd graphic tee.

Ew, Bruce thought. Not her type. There was no point in scouting for masculine-looking females when to Bruce, that was the equivalent was effeminate-looking men. Forget the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, she’d take Rooney Mara as she was. Noomi Rapace too; all seven of her in What Happened to Monday was a walking wet dream. She wasn’t sure what motivated her to love girls the way she did. They needn’t have strong personalities or a mind of their own, really. She loved them as they were. Damaged. 

This was different for men. Physique aside – strong, athletic bodies was her preference – she was pickier. She couldn’t stand them with utterly stupid taste in music, contemporary bullshit and the likes, no. And no bumbling idiots either, incapable of original thoughts and inarticulate verbose. She liked them assertive, and manly. She was fine with borderline sexism too; pouting at their dominating demeanour, having them pay for pretty much everything – and in return needing to bow her head in submissive gratification.

It was like being at war with herself.

“Another coffee?”

“No, the first was plenty” Bruce replied, her smile uncomfortable on her face. She realised she hasn’t moved her face in over three hours. She adjusted it on her face. Yes, more natural, but her teeth felt gummy and stuck to her top lip.

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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.