[Editor’s Note : Every week we will be publishing one chapter from Ansh Das’s book, The Memory Of A Face. Needless to say, we are super excited! Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23, Chapter 24, Chapter 25, Chapter 26, Chapter 27 & Chapter 28]
The first stir
“What happened last night?” Energy asked Oliver.
“Nothing.” It was a pitiful answer. They’d planned to go for their regular gym session but he couldn’t make it.
“I know you are hiding something.”
“Man. You are acting strange. You stood me up last night and you don’t think I need to know what made you do that. You’ve never done this before.” Energy pressed on.
“I know. I’m sorry.” Oliver lowered his voice. “We fought again.”
“Oh, man. Not again!”
Energy walked around the cubicle partition.
“Are you okay?” He put a hand on Oliver’s shoulder.
“Yes,” Oliver said. “No.”
“Do you wanna talk about it?”
“I don’t know why she keeps doing this. She gets upset over small things and then she takes it out on me.”
“Didn’t you patch up a few days ago?” Energy asked.
“Two weeks ago.”
“That fight was over being late for dinner, right?”
“Yes. I was late by 15 minutes due to heavy traffic in the Cross Harbour tunnel.”
“And this one’s about?”
“Apparently I’m spending too much time with you!”
“What?!” Energy burst out laughing.
“Not funny lah.” Oliver wasn’t amused.
“Sorry. I don’t think it’s funny.” Energy continued laughing.
Oliver started laughing too.
“So you’re telling me your girlfriend is jealous of me?”
“I don’t know. She’s got her own reasons, which only she can understand.” Oliver shrugged his shoulders.
“That’s true. Only girls can understand what they really want.”
“Yup.” Oliver nodded in agreement.
“But we haven’t spent much time together over the past two weeks. You were with her.”
“That’s because you’re planning to date all those girls from the Internet.” Oliver knew Energy had been browsing the personals ads on local dating websites. The problem was he only picked the good-looking ones. One look at his profile and they made some excuse or another — some said they were engaged, others didn’t respond.
“Yes. I was planning,” Energy said, laying the stress on the last word. “All plans. Sigh. Never get any action. Either all the girls are taken or—”
“—You aren’t trying hard enough.”
“I know. I’m beginning to think maybe it’s me. There’s something wrong with me.” Energy hung his head.
“You know that famous saying, right?” Oliver asked him playfully.
“No. What’s that? Something good I hope.”
“They say — any man over thirty years of age and without a girlfriend is gay.” Oliver laughed.
“Who says that?” Energy looked angry.
“I don’t know. Just somebody told me.”
“Chi sin. That’s not true.” He fumed.
“I know. That’s just a joke lah. Don’t take it personally.”
“Sorry.” Oliver rolled his eyes while Energy was looking away.
“Are you going to the event today?” asked Oliver, trying to change the subject.
“Didn’t you receive the email?” asked Oliver.
“The one announcing the launch of staff support groups.”
“Yes, I got that one.”
“Are you going?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“It’s during office hours. There’s official approval to attend it.”
“What good is that going to do? I’m behind schedule.”
“Well, for one, there is free food. And probably drinks too.” Oliver knew Energy would fall for food any time.
“Really? Where does it say that?” Energy looked unconvinced.
“I know the colleagues who are organizing it. I can ask for the food list if you want.”
“Okay. I’ll make some time for it. One can never say no to food.” Energy laughed.
“It starts around 5 p.m.”
“Perfect. I should be hungry by then.”
“Who’s that guy?” Energy pointed at the guy in their boss’s office. “He’s been in there for some time now.”
“That’s Kevin Taylor. Human Resources.”
“Human Resources?” Energy repeated. “What’s he doing here?”
“Haven’t seen him here before. Is he new?”
“Yes. He moved here recently. He’s in charge of today’s event.”
“He’s our man then. Must thank him for the food sometime.”
“Ha-ha. Wait until you have eaten some.”
It wasn’t long before Kevin Taylor walked out of their boss’s office and walked past them. He nodded his head at them and said hello. Oliver and Energy returned the gesture.
Both of them went back to their workstations and got busy. Their boss sent them an email asking them to attend the event if there were no urgent tasks.
Priscilla had been unreasonable. Oliver didn’t think Energy was a valid topic for her to pick a fight on. Energy and he went back a long time. Priscilla should have known that by now. She should have understood his need for sports and friends. He never objected to her hanging out with her friends.
Every relationship should be two-way traffic, based on give and take. It wasn’t fair that he was expected to give all the time and receive nothing in return. Maybe Priscilla wanted to break up? Maybe she was just making up excuses for him to dump her? Maybe that was it? Did she ever love him? If she was just testing him, he could take it all in his stride. But what if she didn’t?
He shut his eyes and put his head down on the desk.