Some time ago I had a 'Before Sunrise' encounter with someone I had met for the first time that evening and who had only the one day left in Singapore before flying out. All night we were walking and walking, companionably meandering through the streets of this city while all the time talking to each other readily, freely, with unrushed curiosity and patient interest in the other, and answering each other without either inhibition nor affectation. At one point, we lay down on the (still slightly moist) grass on one bank of the Kallang River under a large ficus tree, leaning into each other a little in the semi-darkness, speaking softly of (and listening intently to) each other telling the stories of our lives by turns.
And in that public yet curiously intimate space where all questions were possible and carefully considered, and all answers willingly given and genuine, time passed and we were not aware of time passing, nor felt time-constrained as if the night was endless and as if careless of the fact that a plane waited on the other end of our encounter, and the sky all the time lightening as the night slipped towards dawn. (Time, said Borges somewhere, is the river we are swept by, but we ourselves are the river that time is made of.)
At half past one in the morning we go to a dim sum supper in a Jalan Besar hole-in-wall and on the way he had first referred to the movie. Much later on, at about three in the morning, when we had found our way into a hotel room so minuscule that we could hardly take a step without tripping over our feet and each other, but which nevertheless had the miracle of a ceiling-high window through which the cityscape below us stretched unendingly in gleaming invitation (I thought of Tennyson's Ulysses and the experiential arch wherethrough the yet untravelled world glimmers and beckons), we afterwards lay under the bedcovers, awake and alert, looking together out at the view through that window.
He does not come this way again for the rest of the year; he has no reason to come to Singapore at all in fact, with no ties of kinship or residency to this island. In the morning we part on affectionate terms with a light embrace, and make an agreement (matter of fact and without hyperbole or saccharine) to see each other again in exactly one year's time, here in Singapore, for another night just like this one. *
Perhaps the fact I write about it now instead of quietly savouring the memory until next year - has to do with me not wanting or daring to trust that we will be here again this time next year, in this way. Perhaps he will take 9 years to come back, or not at all. For myself, I know I shall honour that pact whether or not he does. For perhaps, I prefer to hold to the illusion that what may well turn out to be only one transient occasion will instead be a nodal point on our respective timelines, to be joined again to a yet indeterminate future point, that by leaving more than one parenthesis open there will be the promise of closure to come.