On Dating and Pork Tapa: Are You Seeing Someone Right Now?

A boy, a girl, and their bikes

The clammy air of an afternoon in the tropics quickens the pace of your breathing. Tongue out, mouth open, panting for breath. If you’re not careful, you’ll shrivel up like a raisin. But for people like us who were born and raised in the heart of the sun, in a country whose days are as warm as its people—if not, warmer—the heat is something you learn to get used to.

But that question, “Are you seeing someone right now?” It catches us off-guard—smack dab in the rhythmic chewing of pork tapa. We choke on it.

It’s the kind of question a person asks to fill the [painful] quiet realization that they’ve run out of things to say. They carry it in their breast pocket all day, the last resort to thwart the crystallization of awkward silences. A tad bit sneaky, but I don’t hold it against anyone. In one swift move, the blow lands.

“Are you seeing someone right now?” First, a pinprick. Then, you bleed—a slight, steady drip in the hollows of memory and no-memory.

The injury is minor, but now, wherever you go, you wear the bloodstain on the shirtsleeve where your heart used to be.