I never wanted to experience anything like that again. It was something I had never felt before. My first real heartbreak after my first grown up relationship. For two years I lived through a long distance relationship thinking I was loved. But I don’t think I was. Not really.
So when a friend asked me out to the movies not long after he left my life, I was terrified. I was quite happy never to fall in love again. Quite happy to stay single all my life. This was an unexpected offer leading to a potential future I had not contemplated.
My friend approached me gently. It was just a casual invitation. Nothing fancy. He had been given two free tickets to some surfing movie at the Moonlight Cinema at Centennial Park.
For some time in Sydney, parks have opened their grounds to the public late in the evening to screen old movies outdoors. Centennial Park is in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. It’s a beatiful park that dates back to 1888. It’s also a significant place for colonised Australia. A few years later in 1901, the Australian Federation was inaugurated there.
It was almost 20 years ago now, but I still remember the call inviting me to go to that park. I was at work. Elbows deep in manuscript that I needed to edit. The phone rang and when I picked up, he spoke to me in Korean. It was very good. I thought it was my uncle calling from Seoul and started to greet him in Korean only to hear a soft laugh at the other end and a sheepish admission in English.
I don’t know what made me say yes to his invitation. I was a jangle of nerves leading up to the evening. I can’t remember what I wore or if I made an effort before the date. I do remember we got lost and wandered about in the dark looking for the Moonlight Cinema.
The night was warm and deep in the park, we could just make out the lights in the distance. We walked and talked for a while. I didn’t care if we missed the show entirely. Everything suddenly felt okay.
“I’m sorry.” He was embarrassed. “This wasn’t part of the plan.”
I told him I didn’t mind. And I realised that I didn’t. There was something comfortable and comforting about being with him. Like I’d known him all my life.
We found the place eventually. I think the movie had only just started. He put our blanket down and we sat quietly watching some story about surfers. I don’t remember any of it.
I do know that as I leaned forward, he leaned back and our elbows touched. I felt a strange jolt of electricity travel up my arm. Suddenly my friend didn’t feel so comfortable anymore. And a familiar panic started to rise in me.
“Oh no,” my mind freaked out as my heart did a tiny summersault in my chest. “Not again. Not now. It’s too soon.”
That was it. Our first date. We became engaged about a year or so later.