So yeah…I guess I didn’t need my Chinese visa anymore, did I? I was about to move in with my adult Tinder Best Friend and see what the future brings. He promised to help me with everything: finding a flat and a job that would be enough to pay my Hong Kong bills.
Did I know what I was doing? Absolutely not.
I still loved my digital nomad lifestyle and my job as a game artist, but… there was also this invisible force that was inevitably drawing me to James. He was so charming and exciting – just like the city, so without any second thought, I dived into this whole new idea of settling down on the other side of the globe.
The day came. Sunny Sunday morning. Hot as hell and also very humid – classic Hong Kong. I was pushing my turquoise suitcase along the Nathan Road both excited and petrified. From my only-child-perspective, the idea of living with someone in a wardrobe-size flat was simply ridiculous and unacceptable. But I was acting as if someone had hypnotized me and even though my brain was shouting “what the hell are you doing girl?” my legs were taking me to James’s flat. I lived in that very moment and just went with the flow.
The building appeared in front of my eyes all new and modern. Quite high-end with a concierge and shiny marble tiles on the floor.
I pressed the intercom button:
- Hi, it’s me.
- Hey! Tell the guy to use his card to get you to my floor.
It was the first of hundreds of times when I asked this old Chinese receptionist to “click the lift for me”.
I was given a key, a door code, a drawer, unfortunately, no access card because James didn’t have a spare one. That’s why the lift operating concierge “knew” me. Funny enough, two weeks later my Tinder Friend mentioned:
- The reception guy stopped me today when I was walking in. He asked me if you were my girlfriend.
- I said no. He replied: “Then you should make her your girlfriend”.
Yeah, James was the master of uncomfortable situations, like this one, but on that day when I was dragging my wheely wardrobe into his nest, I still didn’t know that.
Anyways, imagine! Basically, a complete stranger trusted me enough to let me into his life just like that. To share his days, stories, his kitchen, bed, everything. Because I was “his dearest friend”. I swear even now when I think about it I shake my head in disbelief. That was a proper madness or a very peculiar kind of a Cinderella story.
Life is great.
For the first week or maybe a week and a half, I lived in a fairytale. We spent our spare time on exploring what Hong Kong, still pretty new to both of us, had to offer: late night walks in a maze of tiny streets immersed in a neon glow, secret restaurants, illegal drone flying somewhere between Gucci and Prada or even breaking into a haunted school. We had so much fun.
Also, I finally had a very interesting companion who shared my interests, had a similar career (just was waaaaay more successful) and took care of me. I was fed, entertained and with a classy roof over my head, that’s what “dearest friends” do, right?.
The problem was…I was liking this guy more and more, which felt like falling in love.
You might say now: but you said that love was never there! True. Probably I should’ve written I THOUGHT I was falling in love. In reality, I was just drowning into a weird kind of a severe emotional addiction. I didn’t even want to think about kissing this guy. Yikes! Not that he was not a good looking chap but…not my cup of tea. At the same time, I didn’t want to spend even a second of my life apart from him anymore. And it was getting worse and worse all the time.
Troubles in paradise.
This is where things started to change. I’d call it a downward spiral with a very smooth start and an extremely steep end. We started having those awkward silences more and more often. It seemed like he just didn’t want to talk to me. Sometimes he got really annoyed when I couldn’t understand what he meant or when I didn’t have a brilliant, comforting answer to what was bothering him. “I’m not spending an hour of my time telling you about my problem to hear only <<I don’t know>> as a response!”. He started repeating stuff and telling me about one thing several times a day often using exactly the same phrases. It all changed for me, while for the strangers he was still this charming gentleman I met at the beginning. It was odd, but still, I felt like I desperately needed to be around him.
And then The Woman appeared.
Just another normal day, another walk around the busy Hong Kong streets. Chatting, laughing, (sweating).
- James! You promised to tell me the story about the broken wrist, remember?
- Oh…you want to hear it now?- he replied rather surprised.
- Yes, yes of course! – I exclaimed completely unaware of the bomb that was just about to drop.
- Ok, as you wish, but let’s sit over there. – he pointed at a little green square with maybe two benches and a playground-wanna-be-installation.
We sat there for over an hour in a merciless sun while James was telling me his story. A story about The Woman who walked into his life and changed everything. I really can’t tell you much, only that there was no happy ending to this tale. Instead of it, there was a lot of fighting and pain. But no matter how much pain there was, my Best Tinder Friend seemed to be incapable of letting go, let alone forgetting her.
They say that the line between love and hate is very thin and I guess this is exactly what it was. “She’s driving me mad” he used to say.
I sat there speechless, feeling hot tears trailing down my cheeks. One after another. I cried for him because my heart was breaking when I saw him in such despair. And I cried for myself because I knew that there was no way for me to ever be as important to James, as The Woman.
- So that’s the story – he finished – and I don’t know what to do, because she’s constantly on my mind. She’s the first thing I think about in the morning and she’s also in the last thought I have before closing my mind. I hate her but all the time I need to fight this urge to just pick up the phone, call her and…maybe this time everything would be different.
There was nothing I could say. I could just sit there in silence with my wet, puffy eyes and the raging storm coming through my head. I felt defeated, helpless and out of the sudden – very lonely. Maybe even jealous about this someone who happened to be so important. Then suddenly James’s face changed, he caught my hand and asked:
- Do you like me?
- Excuse me? – I replied puzzled – Yes, you’ve got your ups and downs, but we are friends, of course, I like you.
- No, I mean, do you like me more than a friend. Because if so, then I probably shouldn’t be telling you stuff like that.
My heart stopped. He knew. He knew I was falling for him. He MADE ME fall for him. I felt like he could see right through me and there’s no point in lying or trying to hide anything so I replied with a shaky voice:
- Oh absolutely not, don’t be silly! We are best friends, remember?
If there was a prize for the worst real-life actress, after this performer I’d be an unquestionable winner.
But I said it was fine, so The Woman became the leading topic of our conversations and the only person I could blame for that was myself.
Careless happy days seemed to be almost over. We still had some good moments but it felt like most of the time I spent listening to James talking about The Woman. Or seeing James being unsatisfied with my blunt replies, my disability to help, explain and fix it all.
That was the time when I cried a lot. I cried when I was happy, I cried when I was sad. I guess I was just on the verge of an emotional breakdown…but I still didn’t want to leave.
Another gloomy day came. Sometimes even though nothing bad really happened you could simply feel the heavy air sitting on your arms, dragging you to the ground and preventing you from even the faintest smile. You could sense that things were not right.
We were in a small ground floor restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui. Sitting on high stools, facing the massive window that was like a cinema screen. Watching people and slowly chewing our burgers. I was already giving up and trying to get used to this uncomfortable silence between us when James turned around, looked at me and said something that sent a chill down my spine:
- Sophie, do you think I’m a psychopath?
- I…I… excuse me?
- Do you think I’m a psychopath? Because I think I might be. You see… I realised don’t really feel something like empathy or remorse. And I wouldn’t hesitate to hurt someone to get what I want.
I sat there frozen and unable to move, heart racing like crazy in my chest “what to do, what to say, what’s going on, where to go”.
- I…I don’t…
- Naaah, forget it, maybe I’m having just a bad day and weird thoughts, how’s your burger?
Later that day I googled “a psychopath”. It was hard to be honest with myself and face the truth but…James was ticking almost all of the boxes.
What did I do about it?
I made myself forget as quickly as possible and I was pretending everything was just fine.
I couldn’t leave.
I didn’t want to.
…so I was drowning deeper and deeper.