Dear Mart

my reading of the letter to Mart and many others.
soundtrack looped: abandoned frog from <please like me> ost.

Dear Mart, a few Sundays ago this time (1:14pm), I was in your bed, lying beside you, trying to arouse you for sex for one more time, even though I could feel you didn’t really plan for that to happen, just like when you tried to arouse me for sex for the first time a week before that, I also didn’t really plan for that to happen. But both times, it happened. We both managed to get what we wanted: for you, it was to have sex with me for the first time; for me, it was to have sex with you for one last time. I suppose we’d both have known what it feels to be having sex when we didn’t really want it, either not at one specific moment, or not with one specific person.

Dear Mart, I never wanted to have sex with you. I never thought I’d develop that sort of feeling towards you, truth be told. When I first saw your profile on the app, I thought, just looking at this guy makes wanna smile, as if I could feel your joy to life through the screen. You only wrote one line in short but it spoke well to me: Fond of fictions, long walks and cityscapes. I knew I wasn’t attracted to your physicality, but I wanted to know more about you as a person. Something told me we’d be able to connect well, and I wanted you to be my friend since then, even knowing – from experience – the odds of it won’t be in my favor at the end of the day.

Dear Mart, would you still think of the texts we exchanged in those first days? I read them all over again after we stopped talking, and I’m still very fond of them and fond of that part of you. You told me how my writing in my profile made you giggle too, and that you were stuck in your happiness since childhood to a degree that it started to annoy people. The things you said could so easily make me laugh. Don’t you think we should all try to remember how we used to make each other laugh in the beginning, no matter how things turned out in the end? Do you remember – you probably don’t – on the day we met for the first time and walked almost 20k steps across one district to another and there wasn’t one moment of dullness, and at some point you said to me, “I just feel you’re too good to be on tinder“. At that moment, the line I tried so hard to hold down in my chest was “can you be my best friend“. Maybe I should have said that. Maybe if I had said it, you wouldn’t try to initiate sex a few weeks later, and we wouldn’t have had sex, and things wouldn’t have gone wrong, and we’d still be talking, and fond of each other. Would it? I didn’t say it, obviously. I just posted it on my Chinese social the next day as a note to self. I couldn’t remember when was the last time I had talked to anybody for 8 hours nonstop and remained unfiltered as I was. And I didn’t wanna forget the preciousness of that feeling. At least that was what I felt. But when I think back, after everything, I wonder if you were disappointed that day, becoz when it was after midnight and we were still wandering in the streets, you seemed to be subtly inviting me to your place nearby, but I just hopped on a taxi and went home.

Dear Mart, I guess I did sense you want more than just friendship from that time. And I thought to myself, I would be able to manage it. I would be able to prove to you that my friendship, our friendship, weighs more than anything sex could possibly provide. Who was I kidding? I had never managed to convince any men of that. Before you, there was a stream of men like you that I’d tried to befriend but ended up either sleeping with and/or estranged from becoz I wouldn’t sleep with them anymore. The longest one lasted a few years, with intermittent sexual attempts by the “friend”, but still, it was long enough to make me believe it was a real friendship until the “friend” eventually bailed on it. He said I broke his heart. I don’t think he realized he’d broken mine too.

Dear Mart, when you told me your best friend is a woman the first time we met and you’d been living with her and her husband before they left Hong Kong, I knew something was there. As expected, a few weeks later, you told me she was your ex and you were together for six years. When I asked you whether/how you had grieved for the ending of the long relationship, it was also the first time I witnessed your determined denial of your feelings and emotions. It struck me there’s no such thing as “being stuck in happiness” as you put it, of course, and there’s definitely more truth beneath it, probably a strong unwillingness to deal with anything difficult. You convinced yourself there wasn’t any loss incurred becoz she’s still in your life, just with a different role – your best friend, your roommate, your work partner, someone you couldn’t stop mentioning a little too often. Your reaction to that question made me wonder if you’d ever truly walked out of that relationship, if you’re ever truly ready to intake another person as a romantic partner, becoz there didn’t seem to be much space left. I didn’t share any of these observations with you, after all, it was your private matter, and I wasn’t interested in that non-vacancy anyways.

Dear Mart, I think you know I like you. You are one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and I loved seeing myself through your eyes. I laughed a lot when I was with you. And I didn’t feel being resented for being smart. I like talking to you. I like how you make me feel it’s safe to confide my insecurities and deepest wounds, how you jokingly tried to think of a way to make me money out of my peculiarities, how you think I’m not weird, just neuro-diverse, which would be the next big thing after LGBTQ+. I even like how frequently you’d use an obscure English word that I need to go to a dictionary with. I told my friends and my therapist about you. I told them I met you on Tinder but I thought we could really become good friends. I can’t explain to them why I only wanted you as a friend, but in my mind, I knew clearly what I feel and what I want. Or at least I thought I did. My therapist told me, given my track record of always being attracted to the similar type of unavailable guys, (which is sort of true), that I should try to keep my mind open and don’t rule out any possibility of seeing you in a romantic way one day. So I didn’t once tell you I only wanted to be friends. I was trying to keep that “channel” open, even though I didn’t think I would want to switch it on.

Dear Mart, do you have any clue about women’s desires? I have little. People know so little about it coz women – in most parts of history and still many parts of the world today – are not trained to express them, understand them, explore them, or reconcile with them. I started making acquaintance with my desire fairly late in my life, I barely touched myself until my late twenties, and as a 34-yo woman I’m still frequently baffled at how my desire would choose to expose herself. But broadly, I believe women’s desires are destined to act as a complement to their minds, not a proxy, but a complement. My desire would complement my mind in situations of conflict so it’d find a way to make things easier for both. So how did it start with you?

Dear Mart, I’ve gone through many times in my mind what happened that night, when everything seemed to have changed in a split second. It was the 3rd time we’d met in a little over a month, and we’d managed to stay as friends and strictly friends until then. Even in texts, there wasn’t any trace of flirting. When we’d agree to meet that weekend and you suggested I go over to yours for a coffee first before we go out for dinner, I agreed without a second thought. What could go out of line with a coffee in the afternoon? But I did tell my therapist that day before I went to your place, that I hope my agreeing to meet at your place wouldn’t give you any wrong idea. It was the typhoon weekend and the weather was a nightmare. We couldn’t go very far for dinner so we ate at one of the few restaurants that were still open in your hood. After dinner, it was about 9 or 10, and you suggested we go back to yours for a glass. Until then, we were discussing everything possible as usual and I didn’t feel like stopping at that point yet just bcoz we’d finished eating so I agreed despite a slight hesitation. 10pm was an awkward time, I thought, but I could probably stay a bit longer. The next thing I knew, we’d finished a bottle of wine, or two? It was midnight, it was 1am, it was 2am, then it was just too late, coz every time I thought of leaving, the rage of rain and wind outside suggested maybe it wasn’t the best time yet. I was trapped at your place, at 3am in the morning. Fuck. How am I going to manage this? Even then, Mart, I still thought there was a chance it wouldn’t have to happen and I’d just stay the night over. Even then, Mart. When I asked if I could crash on the couch for the night, feeling slightly tipsy and extremely sleepy, and lay down on the couch with my eyes closed, and you started kneeling down by my side and caressing my right hand and asked if I would like to move to the bed to sleep properly, and I said maybe if you could find me a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, even then, Mart. Then I moved to the bed and lay at the inner side, facing the inner wall, closed my eyes, then you came from behind and asked if it was ok if you spooned me and I groaned ok with my half-asleep mind. I felt the warmth of your body against mine, curled in a ball. I felt your breath at my neck, and your hands wandering at my thigh, and I just let you, with my body frozen and my eyes closed. I didn’t want to interfere with what was happening, I guess if I didn’t interfere, I didn’t need to deal with what was happening. Then you turned my body to face up, and you came on top of me, I had to open my eyes, you kissed me, you held me tight and your movement started to heat up. It was then I said: I feel weird, Mart. I didn’t even know what I meant by that, I didn’t analyze it at all before the sentence slipped my lip. I guess that was the least I had to do, to let you know. If all my previous body language didn’t manage to send the message across, that would be my final attempt.

The words did seem to reach you indeed, you stopped what you were doing, and assured me we didn’t need to do anything if it’s making me feel weird. Instead, you said, you could just give me a back massage. Dear Mart, I wasn’t born yesterday and I knew what a back massage means. There I was, struggling to stay awake but feeling deeply confused about you, Mart. If I could like you as a friend, why can’t I also desire you? Maybe I do, and I just didn’t know that yet? Could that be why I’d unconsciously stayed till so late? Could it be that I actually wanted you? I was too sleepy to try to figure all these out at that moment, Mart, and I didn’t want to make you feel awkward. I stopped struggling, I knew it’d be easier if I just let it happen. So I let it happen.

Dear Mart, you see, this is what I mean. A woman’s desire can be very protective of her and it could almost always find a way to complement the mind. Because my mind likes you as a friend, my desire would find her way to complement the missing part in a situation like that. I am not your victim, Mart. It’s not that I was ever repulsed by the idea of having sex with you. It’s that I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to becoz I want you as a friend and a friend only. Friends don’t have sex.

Dear Mart, do you know how many times I’ve been in that kind of situation before – having sex only out of the ease of conformity but still managed to find a way to enjoy it or persuaded myself it wasn’t a big deal but years afterward the memories of those times still sting? You weren’t the first, obviously, and you probably won’t be the last.

Dear Mart, I really did enjoy the sex. It was better than I thought it’d be, and I was more attracted to your body than I thought I would be. Since you had touched me, I had started desiring you at the same time. You see, women’s desire can be so elusive and flippant, there’s nothing sacred about it. After all, it was just sex. Sex is never that much of a big deal.

The big deal is, dear Mart, I won’t be able to see you as a friend anymore. The week after we first had sex (without penetration, as you wanted to prove you could “hold back” even though we both know penetration doesn’t define sex) was such a wavy episode. In that week, I wondered what’d become of us. I wondered if it could possibly be the beginning of something actually great and meaningful, now that my desire had caught up with my mind and both of them liked you. I wondered if we’d still be able to scroll things back if the romantic channel didn’t work out becoz 10 out of 11 it didn’t work out and I’m not delusive about the stats. I wondered if I was getting ahead of myself and should just chill and take it one step at a time.

Dear Mart, I had wondered a lot of things, you see, when we were flirting with witty texts every day after that night. After all, I’m just a normal woman, having the normal feelings, wanting the normal things. But I never wondered one thing, that if you were a dick. The possibility of that never even slipped my mind. I had only felt slightly weird when you’d say things like “you are fun in bed”, “you’re so pretty”, “I really enjoy your body”. I mean, Mart, I just couldn’t help feeling something was off when hearing these from you. After all, you’re the “saint Mart” that claims you wouldn’t use any adjectives to describe people – not just their appearance – anymore because that’d be just too reductive.

Dear Mart, do you really think it’s a coincidence that we had discussed so many different topics – including politics, coming from different takes – and remained civilized pre-sex, but would have a fight in the first serious discussion after we’ve had sex? I still couldn’t believe having that fight was the first thing we did after being horny for each other for a whole week, at that stupid bar, talking about stupid art. It surprised me how you just wouldn’t let it go after I’d repetitively said I didn’t mean what you thought I meant. It surprised me to hear the change in your tone, the different light in your eyes, the harshness and judgment you could hardly hide but I’d never seen in you before. So what if we think art means different things and we have different standards for what makes a real artist? But I can’t help noticing this change of attitude in you, as if the breakthrough with the boundaries of our bodies has at the same time awakened your presumed supremacy over my separate cerebral existence. My thoughts, my views, and my emotions are automatically depreciated the moment I submitted myself to your cock. I’ve seen this change in other men before, but Mart, seeing that in you is the least I would expect. I enjoyed the sex with you, but I hate it for what it ruined for us.

Dear Mart, I wondered why you always meticulously used “make love” when referring to the penetrative intercourse each time it came up. On the first weekend, you said, “I can’t wait to make love to you.” On the second weekend, you said again, “would you like to make love” when you’d just gone down on me and I was lying on your rug expecting nothing but to be fucked. For someone as linguistically proud as you, I know you chose your wording for a reason. Do you think “having sex” or “fuck” is too vulgar? Were you just trying to make yourself feel good? Or was that for me? If what we did was making love, wouldn’t it be natural that we should expect to hear from each other afterward, instead of days of radio silence? You might also recall, on the first night when you initiated to have sex and I told you “I feel weird”, the rest of the conversation was: Me: “I don’t want sex to make things weird between us.” You: “But I’m a robot, I don’t have feelings.” Me: “But I have feelings.” and then you had nothing else to say before you offered the “back massage”.

Dear Mart, you and I are both very aware of the manipulative power of words, the fine line is, whether we can refrain from abusing them, especially with those that are dear to us. As a robot, you wanted to “make love”. Yet as a “love maker”, you couldn’t have disgraced the phrase more than you had, because Mart, love isn’t just the high and the fun, it is also the dark and the sad, the hurt and the heal, it is an experience that requires a full emotional spectrum to truly deserve it, the spectrum you know you have deep down but decide to disable the most of it for reasons only you’d know.

Dear Mart, maybe sex hasn’t ruined it for us, maybe it has just made us see clearly what we really are to each other. Maybe I was terribly mistaken, and you’ve never really seen me, you just pretended you did. Becoz I don’t believe if you had really seen me the way I am, sex would make you unsee that. You might have seen and liked the outward features of me – my funniness, my cleverness, my “you-are-so-pretty” kind of face and my “i-really-enjoy-your-body” kind of body – but you’ve never really seen or liked me, my soul, the full and complex picture of my humanities underneath all these, coz you were never interested in her.

Dear Mart, I’m not writing to blame anything. Because deep down I still believe you never intended for it to happen the way it did, neither of us had intended that. All of us are just struggling with our lives as they unveil, and I suppose we all did things that we later regretted. I’m writing to tell my perspective of the story – this story, and many others – which I never got to tell, which most people never get to tell when something dear to them was lost. I don’t have the talent to write it into a cryptic 70-word text the way you did and be with it, I have to do it in my own clumsy, exhaustive way with words. As I’m coming to the end of this letter, I realized my initial mentality of writing it has shifted from a place of upset to a place of grief. I guess I’m also just writing to grieve the loss of a friend, or the loss of the eligibility of “losing a friend”. After all, we can’t lose what we never had.

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