She lies under the ceiling fan spinning around in circles, trying to be in sync with the movement, but of course she would only end up really dizzy and stop. I do not really know why she does it. I often lecture her, warning her about the fact that she will be dizzy, like the last time, but she will just give me a look. The yes-Frank-I-know look.
So now I just sit and watch films until she’s done.
Sometimes she will be distracted from her relentless spinning, and sit up to watch with me. It is often the romantic comedies that get her. Funny thing, films — they reel her back in. It is like if she takes a trip elsewhere for a while, she would snap back into reality.
I know this because I am her Frank.
There was one time when she was in this odd little spin. She had somehow, under that stupid fan, got caught up with the notion that God had told her she would marry this guy. All because she was praying, on her birthday, for a husband, and the guy appeared. Nic. Nic Fate. He just came strolling out before her. Hah, how uncanny.
But she always thought she was special, and that there was a guy out there that God was waiting to present her with. So she was set on Nic.
She had not yet gotten into the habit of talking to me back then, and we were barely acquaintances. So I just sat and watched her, like I was watching a film, waiting for the day the truth would unravel, and she would be brought back to reality. The reality outside her head space.
And it was quite something to watch. Painful, if you were her. Funny if you were not.
She would work herself into such a state in his presence. They go to the same church, you see, but he hardly knew her. Of course not. And funnily, many girls, like her, thought that they would one day be Mrs Fate. So, church for her became very much one of those places where she had to compete with the other girls, most of whom are her age. She had become fast friends with this other girl, Sam, who also thought she was in-the-grooming to become Mrs Fate. But Sam was a lovely girl, and was sincerely her friend. She however was not so sincere. Which was why she was always stand-offish.
Sam would always tell her, “You are beautiful, Rain.” And she would not believe it. Not any of it. Sam was sweet, very sweet. But she was in there with Sam because Sam hung out with Nic. It was all very juvenile. But she would never talk to Nic. Not even a word because she believed that if it was fate, if it was destiny, it would fall on her lap. He would fall madly in love with her. And they would be married.
I was not sure how they would get there, really, without conversation.
Of course she scared the shit out of him. She wrote him stories, and gave him CDs. And she eventually, when he moved out of town, wrote him a story, put it on a CD, and gave it to him. He called her and chatted about it, and said that he did not like her, because he did not even know her.
And that was that.
Shortly after that I came into the picture. And I told her how screwed up her views were. Dude, I said, if you like somebody, you gotta talk to them.
But that girl is all about building fantasies. Fantasies for herself. Her reality was filled with guys — broken ones. Guys that had used her and, like chewing gum, spat her out. Guys that made her feel so small, that she was barely worth it. Guys that threw their weight around, bullies. All the wrong kinds of guys.
So she lies there, under the fan, and spins, and spins, and spins.
And I urge her to watch films with me.
There is 500 Days of Summer. Bridget Jones. Love Actually. And we watch Garden State. And Celeste & Jesse Forever.
She has an imagination that girl, and sometimes I just watch her fantasies like I watch films, just so they can be realised — at least on “screen” — for me. She had at one time written Joseph Gordon-Levitt into her daydreams. She was this girl, ordinary, just like every other girl in pursuit of love and she meets this guy in her dreams every night.
I see those daydreams so clearly from where I sit, cosily in her head.
There’s a bridge, and they are far away, in different places, but they are heading towards each other. Journeying towards each other on their own separate paths. And then they come to this bridge, and he, in her dream, faceless, is just a voice, asking for a cigarette. And every night it’s the same.
The sound of the film reeling, the old fashioned way. Speckled sepia pictures. There is a guy in a trench coat and a hat. Faceless. But he speaks.
“Do you have a cigarette?”
We watch When Harry Met Sally. You’ve Got Mail. Sleepless in Seattle. All multiple times.
Then the dream pans out. She leaves town in search of this voice and goes on this journey. Hops on several trains and buses. Walks miles. Until she gets to this bridge. Each bridge she walks on she anticipates the voice. Bridge after bridge she listens, over and over again for the voice, looking out for the man in the trench.
We watch Midnight in Paris and Kate & Leopold and Notting Hill. No Strings Attached. Love and Other Drugs. All the romantic comedies you can think of, even the crap ones.
And finally, when all hope is gone, she traipses through the rain. In her boots. Slumps onto the railings of this very tiny bridge, that is hardly even a bridge. In the most unromantic of places. Unlikeliest of places.
We watch until we think rom-coms are not romantic anymore.
Then we hear footsteps.
Heath Ledger in A Knight’s Tale, and Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You. We watch the ones that are surprising. The ones that give you hope again.
And we hear a voice.
“Do you have a cigarette?”
And she turns to find the eyes under the hat, belonging to the man under the trench. Dark with a half smile on his thin lips.
My Blueberry Nights. Chungking Express.
Yup, when you are at wit’s end, finally, there is the face.
In the rain.
The film I have been watching from in her head.
Because it is so beautiful, I really really hope, for the sake of her, it is realised.
*The names, except for Joe Gordon-Levitt’s, have been changed.
Image by Rafika Ismail for ISSUE Magazine.
Raina lives in her head, and in films. And sometimes she runs out of things to say. So Frank speaks for her. She can also be seen on WritersClubKL.