Some events unfold in a way that defy mere ‘coincidence’. Sometimes, they can only be explained by one thing – fate. This is proof that not only does fate exist, it also hates my freakin’ guts.
When it comes to romance (and, who am I kidding, life in general), I have the mindset of a preteen girl. That means I believe in fate, signs from the universe, and – to a certain degree – online horoscopes. My excuse is that my inner writer likes to connect dots and search for meaning where none exist.
So when I encountered a cool girl during the final hour of my last day at a rather miserable gig in Hong Kong, I knew then and there she was significant. I just didn’t quite realize how. Dun, dun, dun.
Author’s Note: Names have been changed. If YOU ever read this, I hope you too can laugh at all our ‘history’. Also, please don’t sue me.
Couple summers back, I did a stint at an indoor trampoline park (there’s only like 3 in Hong Kong if you’re that nosy). I was a glorified lifeguard, which meant my sole purpose was to make sure no child ever had fun. As nice as that sounds on paper, smelling dank feet for 8 hours a day – on top of a back injury that nullified my one perk of working on trampolines – really turned me off the idea of a permanent career in the field.
Another problem was my somewhat noble conscience. Rather than being trigger happy with my whistle (#1 weapon of the trampoline police) like my boss wanted, I reserved the whistle only for the direst of times. My boss wasn’t cool, so he took to watching me and motioned for me to whistle the %&[email protected] out of every poor kid who sped half a pace over the park’s walking speed limit – which led to what we call in creative writing, ‘drama’.
I worked at the park until my soul blackened entirely, at which point I found my next miserable gig – which might just be featured in a future post (psst, foreshadow).
Anyhow, on my last day, they put me in the foam pit. You know the sadistic lifeguard we all encountered in our childhood – the one who got a kick out of making you wait at the water slides, even though the last person down has already changed and gone the hell home? That was supposed to be me.
But fifteen minutes into my shift, I decided I was going to let these kids run loose for once. Instead of making sure they dove into the pit in an orderly fashion, I laid down my whistle and devoted my time to counting down the seconds until freedom.
Near the end of my shift, I noticed someone in my peripheral. An angry parent come to avenge their kid who got elbowed in the foam pit, probably.
To my surprise, it was a girl – early 20s, tall, Caucasian,
hot bodied athletic, with an oddly enchanting smile and a pleasant air of down-to-earthness. She was pretty too, not too much to instill arrogance and not too little to be overlooked – just the right amount of pretty. However, I was a professional, and so I feigned ignorance to all her attractive girly features.
She smiled and pointed to the pit. “Can I..?”
“Yeah, of cours – Ahem. I mean, go ahead.”
“I think there’s someone in there…”
Oh, right. I turned to the kids lounging in the foam pit like it’s a freakin’ jacuzzi and shouted for them to scram. They giggled and shook their heads, which is obviously what I deserved for having been such a nice guy. I chased out the little buggers and gave the girl the go-ahead.
I want to say I had the willpower not to ogle her yoga-pantsed backside when she strutted up to the foam pit, and that I definitely did not commit the same sin as she climbed out, when her chest briefly aligned with my eyes at such a fortuitous angle that her top dropped low enough to expose her bosom. But yeah – of course I did. I think she knew too, because as she walked past, she casually asked:
“So how’d I look?”
After quitting my last job, I found a Swiss chick sunbathing nude on my rooftop, so this actually kind of paled in comparison.
I swallowed hard. “Um… sorry, what?”
“My somersault. Was it okay?”
I had no idea. ‘Oh, it was alright. There’s room for improvement.”
“Yeah, I feel like I didn’t get much air. Got any tips?”
“You must be good at this stuff if you work here.” She gestured towards my hardworking coworker on the far side of the park, who was backflipping and wall-running like some ninja assassin on drugs.
Rather than coming clean about my bad back that prevented me from master ninjutsu like my colleagues, I instead made up some stupid bullcrap about tucking in her head or something.
“Cool! I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks…” she squinted at my name tag, “…Felix.”
I remember wondering if she was flirting, but knowing my luck, probably not. It didn’t help that she came back like five more times though. Normal people get bored of the foam pit after one dive – two at most – but not this girl. Each time she returned, we made more small talk, and I offered more off-the-cuff, potentially life-threatening trampolining advice. Either she’s got a strange fetish for swimming in a sea of sweat-soaked foam cubes or she actually wanted to chat with me.
I didn’t ask her name or number though, because as dim as I can be, I was smart enough to know not to hit on girls at work, even if it was my final shift. But I promised myself – if I caught her on my way out after work, I would definitely ask her out.
I didn’t catch her.
Coincidence or Fate?
I didn’t think much of the encounter afterwards. If anything, I took it as a sign from the universe that quitting the trampoline park was a step in the right direction. Right after quitting my last (equally as miserable) job, I found a Swiss chick sunbathing nude on my rooftop, so this actually kind of paled in comparison.
I had mostly forgotten foam pit girl when, the next night – after a long string of events involving alcohol, tight wallets, some stranger’s birthday party, and getting kicked out of two clubs – I wandered into a dingy bar to pee, only to find her dancing all Sin-City-like along the bar top.
I looked up. She looked down. Yep – it really was her. Dancing. On the bar.
“Holy f-ing shit,” was what I would’ve shouted, had my mouth been one sip less sober. Instead, I mustered a cool and eloquent, “Well, hello.”
In a nimble maneuver that exceeded my expectation and all social norms, the girl hopped down and gave me a very enthusiastic hug. She beamed her signature smile. “Hey!”
“U-um,” I stuttered, unsure whether she genuinely recognized me. “We met yesterday… I’m the… well, was… the trampolin-”
“Felix! I remember.”
Baby butterflies hatched in my stomach. I smiled, then realizing I had nothing to say, promptly looked away. To meet her again in a random place like this, I knew it was fate. Remembering my previous promise to myself, I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths, determined to follow through this time… after I did one thing.
“So, er, why exactly were you dancing up there?” I asked, taking care to sound as non-judgmental as humanly possible. What? I’m sure you’d like to know too.
“You see the girls with the three businessmen over in the corner?”
“The two girls are my friends. They’ve been hustling those guys for drinks all night but they’re getting kind of creepy. Especially that guy. I was trying to avoid him.”
I noticed the third suit giving me the death glare, likely butthurt I’ve stepped into his territory. Whoops.
Then, channeling every ounce of courage in my bones, I masterfully segued into the bravest words ever spoken by man. “So do you wanna go out some time?”
I braced for the worst, as that’s how these things tend to go – for me, anyway. But against all odds, she replied with a swift and confident, “Yes.”
I pinched myself. “Are you drunk?” I thought it right to ask.
A strange tingle coursed through my veins. Instantly, my self-confidence tripled. I brushed my hair back, puffed up my chest, and curled my lips into a shit-eating grin. I felt like the second coming of Ryan Gosling.
“I’m afraid I never caught your name,” I said, something I imagined Mr. Gosling would say.
The girl leaned in and whispered, “I’m Guinevra.”
“Well, I’m still Felix,” I quipped, which obviously sounded much funnier in my head.
Guinevra was big enough to overlook the bad joke, but I knew better than to overstay my welcome. I bid her adieu with the promise of messaging her in the coming days.
That night, as creepy as this may sound, I tried to find her on Facebook – you know, for research purposes, so I could figure out what to do for our date (oh, don’t pretend like you haven’t done it). Anyway, with a weird name like Guinevra, you’d think she would be the first result. Not so. I thought I may have gotten her name wrong, but even after trying out various spelling, the closest match to anyone in Hong Kong with that name was ‘Ginevra’ – and it was a dude.
But everything else looked peachy thus far, right? Bumping into the pretty girl again exchanging names and digits? That’s fate. If this was anyone else’s story, this is where they say, ‘And that is how I met your mother!” But because this is MY life, like a season of 24, it was only a matter of time before things went bad.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Aside from having absolutely no idea how to pronounce her damn name, I had a bigger problem: summer was over, and she was leaving that Friday to study abroad. Nonetheless, we agreed to meet up for a platonic picnic before she was gone forever.
In the true spirit of platonic-ness, we decided to go Dutch, sort of. I was to bring the food while Guinevra brought the drinks (which meant she got the better end of the deal, but whatever, I wasn’t going to make a fuss about it). So I picked up some McDonald’s – the most unromantic food I could conjure up – and met her at the IFC rooftop.
I may have arrived rather late (thank god it wasn’t technically a date) but Guinevra either didn’t notice or didn’t mind. Turned out she was even more down-to-earth than I imagined, which helped launch us past the initial awkwardness and straight into meaningful conversation. Within minutes, we were already revealing our mundane backstories and whatnot – which from my limited psychology knowledge, is called self-disclosure, and is a very good thing.
Unlike other girls, Guinevra never dominated the dialogue – she asked questions and appeared genuinely interested in my answers. She even told me to call her Jade, a nickname based on the color of her eyes, which were, well, jade. (don’t worry, I’ll still refer to her as Guinevra to save us all headaches).
More than anything though, I found myself completely captivated by the way Guinevra attacked her food. Rather than conforming to the whole ‘pinkies up, dab your mouth with a napkin every third bite’ act that many of us adhere to, at least on first meetings, here was a girl who didn’t give a single hoot about looking like a Hungry Hungry Hippo (especially at a place like IFC!). Every bite was vicious, calculated to inflict maximum damage on her meal. Her trained fingers danced nonstop between fries, burger, and her lips. I was watching a master at work.
Call me odd, but I couldn’t help but smile. It was refreshing to finally meet someone comfortable enough with me to behave with such honesty. Though we didn’t exactly have the right timing for romance – with her leaving and everything – maybe we could be good friends. Facebook chat once every blue moon and hang out whenever she’s in town again. Who knows, maybe some time in the future, waaaay down the line, more could come out of it. But for now, I was more than happy to suppress my hormones and be friends.
So you can probably imagine the stupid look on my face when, without warning, Guinevra wiped her hands, stood up, and proclaimed, “I gotta go.”
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the downfall you’ve been waiting an essay and a half for.
Escape From IFC
I hoped that I heard her wrong. In stereotypical Canadian fashion, I begged her pardon. “S-sorry, what?”
But the dice were cast. Guinevra had started gathering her things, including the remnants of the fries and burger she just conveniently finished. I really should’ve known better, but at the time, I fully believed what she said next.
“Sorry to cut this short! But I still have lots to pack for the move,” she told the crumpled McDonald’s bag at 6PM on Tuesday… three full days before her flight on Friday. We had been hanging out for maybe slightly over half an hour.
Maybe she really had a lot to pack. Girls do take a long time with that sort of thing.
Was it my bad jokes? My wrinkled shirt? Or the one sneaky hair that occasionally peeked out my left nostril?
Or maybe I’d said something wrong, but thing was – I’d been so busy watching her eat that I hadn’t said anything at all. It couldn’t have been my gawking either, because I made sure to look engaged by throwing in nods and the occasional ‘hmm, totally’. I was 98% sure I didn’t do anything creepy. And, not to sound like a conspiracy nut, but was it really coincidence she’s leaving RIGHT as she finished her McDonald’s?
By the time I snapped out of my internal monologue, Guinevra was halfway to the exit. She waved without looking. “It was really nice meeting you!”
Now, if you take away absolutely nothing from this post, at least heed this: if you suspect somebody might be trying to bug out, please hold back your courtesy/chivalry/stupidity, and don’t offer to walk them out. Just don’t do it. Nod and let them go. Otherwise you risk making it insanely awkward for both parties. Better they leave thinking you’re a dick for not walking them, than putting them through cringe-inducing small talk as you tailgate them to the bus stop and proving, yes, you are indeed a dick. But that’s exactly what foolish young Felix did (I’m Felix, by the way).
“Let me walk you!”
Guinevra’s head whipped back, a tinge of horror in her eyes.
Played Like A Damn Fiddle
As much I’d love to give you the juicy details about our walk to her bus stop, those five eternal minutes have more or less been completely suppressed from my consciousness. I vaguely remember babbling about elevators or something to distract myself from questioning what I’d done wrong.
One thing I do recall is the moment we reached the bus stop. As if chasing the last chopper out of Saigon, Guinevra sprinted straight onto the bus without so much as a “thanks for the McDonald’s, prick”. Prior to that, I still held out hope that she had a legitimate but unstated reason for leaving – like a leaky tampon, or spontaneous fire back home. But when someone runs from you at such impressive speed – well, it has to mean you done goofed.
What’s worse is that in a tragic attempt to salvage things (this actually haunts me to this very day), I yelled, over the hustle and bustle of the busy Central streets, over all the idling buses and minibuses and the rush hour commuters and my raging common sense, “Add me on Facebook! I’m the guy eating a deepfried Oreo!”
The bus pulled away. I was left standing on the sidewalk, alone, wanting to nothing but to drown in a keg of beer.
Needless to say, Guinevra never so much as texted me since. I didn’t try to contact her either.
That night, I paced around my rooftop, mentally running through every second of the evening, trying to find the exact action that made Guinevra turn tail and run. Perhaps she wasn’t satisfied with my choice of fast food – though she didn’t certainly seem that kind of person. Was it my bad jokes? My wrinkled shirt? Or the one sneaky hair that occasionally peeked out my left nostril?
Then it came to me. What if it wasn’t me? What if it was her?
In a stroke of genius that would make even Sherlock Holmes proud, I Facebooked (yeah, yeah, I know it’s not a real verb) her again, this time under the name ‘Jade’. Lo’ and behold, there she was! I scanned through the rest of her page, never once seeing the word ‘Guinevra’. Everyone called her Jade.
Something rubbed my Spidey senses the wrong way. I decided to go a step further and Googled ‘Guinevra’. Guess what? Guinevra isn’t a real name. There’s Ginevra and Guinevere, but Guinevra? Total sham.
There’s a problem solving principle, Occam’s Razor, which basically means the simplest explanation is often the correct one. So what’s more likely? That ‘Guinevra’ misspelled her own name and never bothered to correct me, or that she had been playing me from the very beginning?
I wouldn’t have believed this far-fetched theory either, had I not found her waltzing through Lan Kwai Fong that Saturday – the day after her supposed flight. I mean, come on, did she have to lie about leaving too? At the time, I was far too overwhelmed with shame and humiliation to confront her, so I instead dove behind a dumpster and hid.
I thought I had dodged a bullet, putting an end to the ‘Guinevra’ saga. But little did I know, this bullet would come back around a full year later.
Fate Hates Me
The next summer, I was clothing shopping in Wan Chai with my girlfriend – debating whether I really needed to shell out $300 on a black dress shirt for a funeral or if my navy one would suffice – when I looked up and, you guessed it, saw goddamn ‘Guinevra’ AGAIN.
Her hair was much shorter and she wore more makeup than I remembered. Though her beauty hadn’t faded, there was a hint of maturity and weariness to her expression, as if the year had been unkind. She looked almost a different person. Yet, curse my perceptive eyes, I still recognized her!
I stood gawking at ‘Guinevra-But-Not-Really’, who was a few sections away, flipping a bra back and forth as if expecting a gold nugget to drop out from its cup or something. It was obvious fate wanted to torture me with this girl – this mysterious, harbinger of doom that popped in and out of my life without rhyme or rhythm, leaving nothing but destruction in her wake. Then again, what if fate was giving me a second chance at redemption, to vanquish my self-doubt, regain my family’s honor, and emerge a fearless alpha male? I was strong enough to confront her. I will confront her.
All that changed when ‘Guinevra’ looked up. For a second, we made eye contact.
Deadly. Freakin’. Eye contact.
You know when you bump into somebody you used to know, and you can see recognition in their eyes, but you can’t really recall their name nor do you care enough to find out, so you just casually glance in their general direction, eyes glazed over, as if to say, ‘I’m just looking at something really interesting behind you because I don’t know you and you certainly don’t know me, contrary to what our Facebook says’?
‘Guinevra’ did exactly that. Then she looked away, unimpressed, and resumed her gold panning.
By the time my girlfriend turned around to say ‘Felix, stop being a cheapskate and just buy the shirt”, I had already booked it the hell out of the building and was nervously puffing on a cigarette down the other side of the street.
It was only when my girlfriend came outside to yell at me for running away that I asked myself, why did I run? I was the one with a pretty girlfriend while ‘Guinevra’ was alone, picking out sexy lingerie for god knows what purpose. She was the bad guy. So why should I feel shame and humiliation at the sight of her? I ought to march in there, girlfriend’s hand in tow, and show ‘Guinevra’ who’s boss!
Well, I like to think that’s what I would’ve done if I wasn’t such a pussy.
Part of me still wonders what happened.
‘Guinevra’ had every right not to be interested in me, but I wish at least said something before bailing. I’d even settle for a ‘sorry, but you’re really really weird’. But then again, anyone with an IQ above 10 would’ve saw the signs, like the bartop dancing and the fake name.
Not that she’s a bad person per se. Maybe she only wanted a free meal and I just happened to be the next available idiot (in that case, I’m very sorry I chose McDonald’s – I’d be mad too).
What bugs me most is not understanding what the hell any of it meant. What significance was behind our paths intertwining like that? Did I miss an inherent lesson to be learned? Was it punishment for my crimes in my past life? Or simply coincidence mixed with some very bad luck?
‘Guinevra’, if we meet again, maybe we can grab a beer and have a big laugh about that night. I’ll even let you pay. Can’t promise I won’t ditch you, though.
So that’s one of my Hong Kong stories. If you’ve any stories you feel like sharing, leave a comment below or get in touch with me directly via the footer link. Have a grand day, and may your adventures in Hong Kong have happier endings than mine!