Sunday, September 24, 2006

Part 4 - The Guilt

On April 2nd, CC returned. Those who were 'watching' this drama, began to speculate. It looked like KK didnt have such upperhand anymore. What would Angeline do then? It would be interesting to see my responses and decisions.

It was only a month away from my own graduation. CC said, we should just get a marriage license. Being his spouse, I would be able to get lots of benefits from his employment, especially with insurance policies. He got a job and was very confident to promise me a good life. I, on the other hand, contemplated. I did not agree nor disagree.

KK had lost his hopes since the news of CC returning was broken to him. But to me, the return of CC didnt change anything. I had already rejected KK, I wasnt excited to "marry" CC. I wanted to get out of the relationship, but it was getting more complicated. It would definitely looked like I did it because I wanted to be with KK. There was no way to explain myself.

I kept things cool between CC, and KK, until graduation came. CC came to Lincoln to attend my graduation and met with my parents. Being a hardcore agnostic, he would not open himself to Christianity. He and my parents had a bitter argument about love and religion. I felt sorry for him but at the same time proud that he stood on his ground.

Privately, my mother warned me that I should not agree to marry him unless he was willing to be a Christian. In my own mind, I thought, what does she know? She warned me about KK as well. Even though KK is a Christian, but I should not start a relationship with him either. Again I thought, what does she know?

I gave CC a long phone call. Basically I told him what my mom said. He cried. I didnt know what to do.

The next day, I gave him another call. I told him, things would not work out between us. He asked me, why. I said, I like KK even though Ive decided not to have a relationship with him. He replied, he doesnt care, there's still no need to break up. Ive graduated and I can leave Lincoln and everything else behind to be with him. Then I said, I am going to Arkansas with KK first, attending his sister's graduation. He said, that's fine with him too. He will wait.

Then, I finally realized something. There was no way CC would release me. He wouldnt do so 6 months ago, what made me think he would then. He was at a much better place, and could give much better offer. He was there with a promising career, an upperhand. There was no reason I should chose KK over him at that point. And I besides all that, could not find a single flaw with his character that deserves a dump.

There I decided to give in to KK's pursuit, to everyone's shock again. They were so sure I would choose CC.

KK and I went to Arkansas together as an involved couple. It was a relief to me, being able to freely express all the affections I had been holding for him for so long. But, at the same time, I was overwhelmed with guilt over my betrayal of CC. Countless times I was in KK's embrace crying profusely over my breakup with CC.

I broke the news to CC, who then wouldnt even get angry at me. My guilt grew heavier and heavier. Because of that guilt, I allowed CC to remain a friend. I allowed him to visit me every weekend (even though he never did the whole time he was back in Ne before we broke up).

Because of that guilt, my emotions and mind went beserk. I compared KK with CC all the time. Because of guilt, I could only see the good side of CC and I compared them with KK's weaknesses. Many times, KK and I blew up at each other. These were all new to me. CC and I hardly had any conflicts, not to say a blowup. There were dramatic demonstrations of anger that I'd only seen in the soap operas.

I did lots of hurtful things to KK, like insiting on meeting up with CC and even staying a night at CC's apartment when I was on my way to Chicago for a conference and flying through Omaha. I even brought CC to TGAN's fall camp one time. I told KK, CC and I were just friends, just like I was friends with him while I was still in a relationship with CC, and that he should not stop me from being his friends. Afterall, I had selfishly broken off the relationship with him and I felt the need to compensate him with something.

KK and I went in and out of relationships several times over that summer and fall. By winter, we decided that we had had it. We needed to take a longer time off from each other, processing through the events of that year.

1999 winter break, KK went home for holidays. It was just a year from winter 1998. So many things had changed and were changing. Whatever happened during that winter break, likewise, changed me, and the dynamics of our relationship.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Part 3 - The Dilemma

Soon enough, Zoe started to notice that KK was treating me differently, like whenever we were together, he would not take his eyes off me but follow me everywhere I go. There was only one explanation. But, I denied the possibility... mainly because I didnt want to face the consequences. I was definitely selfish. I enjoyed his company, his attention but....

I didnt care much of what other people would think. By then, I was sure most people knew I was two-timing, especially my housemates as I would chat online with KK everynight. Wherever I was, he was there, as my roomate Wendy would say, "He is 'stuck' to me like a leech". Whatever relationship that was, there was already a problem of codependence. However, I was good at keeping a strict physical boundary between us. And I did not talk to him about my feelings or had given him any opportunity for that kind of discussion. So, there was no way anyone or I could say, we were being more than just friends. Officially I still belonged to Chern Chuan and even though I was crazy about KK, I couldnt permit myself to betray him.

I didnt keep my relationship with KK a secret from CC either. On the phone, I told him that I had grown especially close with KK while he was away. All he said to me was he trusted me. He saw nothing wrong with me having a really close guy friend even though I already had a boyfriend. He could accept that. At that I told him he could trust me that I would remain faithful to him....whatever that meant.

At that point, I told myself, "CC is a good guy and he is good to me. Love is a choice not just this crazy feeling. I was once infatuated with CC, the feeling has faded, and we've already agreed on this a long time ago, even when our feelings fade, we will continue to hold on to our decisions to stay together". There was no way I could find a reason to break that commitment.

March came, and there was spring break. KK invited me to go with the college students at his church (we were attending different church then) to Pensacola, FL to visit that famous Brownsville Revival Church. I accepted his offer. I think I lost all my sanity there. For the first time, I allowed myself to be held by him for comfort (it was a 3-day roadtrip!!!!). Not only that, I let that affection be seen in public!!! I was insane, alright.

A few of the TGAN people were in serious shock because all those while they thought KK was interested in Zoe. Well, it was hard to tell when we all hung out together. And of course some were outraged at the new found scandal. It would have been ok with them if I had a proper breakup with CC. And that had failed to happen!! The pressure came on him as he was one of the core leaders of TGAN to sort things out.

KK's college pastor then also approached and questioned him about his relationship with me. After learning all the background dramas, he grinned and encouraged KK to take his chance. First, CC wasnt a Christian; second, he was gone; and third, my ring finger was clean. Think about the benefits, he said, Angeline gets to remove herself from a wrong relationship, and you get yourself a hot is all about competition and apparently you have an upperhand. It's time to make a move.

And that brought us to the very memorable meeting at Wendy's, March 22nd 1999. (I only remember it because that was the day my grandmother died). There KK officially confessed his feeling and desire to be my boyfriend. And I confessed my liking of him but had to decline his offer because I need to remain loyal to CC.

Yes, I was selfish. I didnt realize his awkwardness and disappointment after that. I was pretty much assuming things between us would stay the same. And to me, it did.

A week later, CC informed me he's gotten a job at Blue Cross and Blue Shield Omaha through an email interview. (More craziness). He said, he didnt want to tell me earlier about the possibility of coming back, afraid that I would get my hopes up and then disappointed if he failed to get the job. I was really touched. Where would anyone find a man like that?

So four months after he left, Chern Chuan returned to Nebraska, into the middle of my dilemma.
Shouldnt the dramas be kept on the stage?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A "love" story - part 2

Before I continue, I need to shift gear and share about my relationship Chern Chuan during Fall 1998.

Like I said, I was VERY busy. I was heavily involved with NUMSA (Nebraska University Malaysian Student Association), which Chern Chuan was a dissociate, never attended any of its functions or gatherings. And he wasnt anymore interested in TGAN since he wasnt a Christian. Naturally, it became strange for me that he was even my boyfriend because we hardly saw each other nor our lives had anything to do with each other.

One day, I said to him, "We should end the nominal relationship. Obviously we are doing very well absent from each others lives. Since you are graduating and leaving and we dont know what future holds, let's just part ways here. This is the most rational and good ending for this relationship". He responded as calmly as I did, "No, let's not do that. There's no need for a breakup because there arent any disagreements, arguments or things like that. Our relationship is great and we are both very understanding of each other. Breakup like this is just too strange for me. I dont know what to think about it" .

I did not insist. Whether I broke up with him or not, I didnt see how it affect my life then. On the other hand, I wasnt planning on having another boyfriend. I sort of hoped to marry Chern Chuan someday even though I didn't see how it would happen...not because I didnt trust that he would marry me, rather because marriage wasnt a desperate thing on my 21 year old mind. So, I let myself continue in that relationship.

Chern Chuan graduated and left Lincoln on Christmas Eve, 1998.

Something happened in the next two weeks of that 3-week fateful winter break.

It was during that winter break, I "reconciled" with the TGANites (KK, Tayo, Christopher and Zoe) , getting involved with their activities. We spent lots of time together making meals, doing groceries, praying, having end-of-the-year parties, going to church etc. Especially with KK, I began to have long conversations with him and found out our common, he grew up in a catholic all boys schools and me in all girls', and both of us grew up as church musicians...etc.

1998 ended.

Remembering correctly, it was in the beginning of January 1999, at KK's room I whispered to Zoe, "I dont know why, I am strangely drawn to KK." I knew Zoe will be shocked. She was. I was. Nobody saw that coming. Chern Chuan just left for 2 weeks. It was insanity. So she asked, "So, what are you going to do?". "Nothing. Besides this is just my feelings. I am sure he will never be interested in me. There's no reason he should be. First, he is a holy leader of TGAN and I am still living with a bunch of pagans and I still have a pagan boyfriend. He can pick a better girl easily anyday." I rationalized. Zoe agreed and we both laughed.

Winter break was over. I was having withdrawal big time. Suddenly, I didnt get to eat, play and pray with the TGANites everyday anymore. Most unbearably, I missed seeing KK. I wondered if he liked me..even a bit.

But, what good is that going to do if he does?
Do I like him enough to leave Chern Chuan?
Why do I even like him?
Am I crazy already?

All those mind torturing questions...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A "love" story from Angeline's memory

There was just nothing special about 1998. I was a plain 21-year-old senior at the UNL, busy with everything else but God. There was absolutely nothing significant, nothing interesting about it as I lived through the whole year unsuspectingly. Only until much later, enlightenment came. Every seemingly trivial and random thing, gradually evolved, formed a greater definition and as of now leading towards 11.11.06 until death separates us.

Kah Kheng came to Nebraska for the Spring 98 semester. He introduced himself to the Sunday School which we attended at Christ's Place Church. "What a strange name, strange face, and strange hair", I thought, "a new Malaysian student...rare enough that he's a christian, I'm sure he will be asked to get involved with TGAN ( a Christian chapter started by international students, primarily Malaysians) soon". I was a TGAN musician then, for no surprise.

My second encounter with Kah Kheng was at Selleck Kitchen. I was working part time washing dishes with my then boyfriend Chern Chuan who was the dishroom supervisor that night. So there was this new student worker (KK) coming to work every Wednesday night now. The only reason I took notice of him was that he was a record slow. Our usual clockout time was around 745p and had never worked past 8 unless there was a special dinner. And the rule was no one leaves until everyone's done. It was 815p and even though Chern Chuan was helping KK scratching the pots, we were all still in the kitchen. I remember being so angry and wanted to leave. But Chern Chuan being the kind but fair dishroom leader wouldnt allow me. We waited and waited and finally we clocked out at 825p!!! Outside the kitchen, I spat fire and brimstones at Chern Chuan who gently defended KK and at the same time trying to calm me down. A couple weeks later, KK quitted his shift. It's not easy being Selleck's dishroom crew.

I have no memory of bringing KK from Selleck to Kimball Music Hall for TGAN meeting as he remembered. From my memory, he was already there with Shannon waiting for me to arrive. So there, we officially met (when I told him my name for the first time), shook hands, at Kimball Music Hall, for worship practice. Shannon had invited him to be our guest musician that night. I remember seeing him tuning his guitar with a tuner. It was the first time in my life to see a guitar tuner. "Oh my gosh", I thought, "this guy is a guitar geek"! Real respect and admiration for him suddenly came. I was more open to the possibility of friendship. Even so, we still hardly talk. I remember the same night, we walked back to Selleck together without a single word being exchanged.

Summer came. There was an internal chaos in the leadership of Malaysian student association. Many events were coming up but there was no official committee assigned to plan for the logisitics. The newly chosen leader sent out a word, requesting the Malaysian community to volunteer themselves to serve temporarily during the summer until the next official election. I signed up for it. So did KK.

My next close encounter with KK was during that first temporary committee meeting. While we were waiting for all the volunteers to come, I overheard some of the conversations between him and his friends. I learnt what he was like from how they talked. "Oh my immature and arrogant these boys are!", I thought to myself and I even remember thinking this specifically "Thank goodness, my own boyfriend isn't like them at all"! From that time onwards, I made a mental decision, leaning towards not liking KK.

Almost the end of that summer, something came up again. I was away for a few days attending a Food Technologist conference in Atlanta. He was doing a summer school in Arizona. Both of us happened to be absent for the same volunteers meeting. Because of that the group made a decision without us that both of us would be organizing a welcoming party for the new students. I was less than happy about it mainly because I didnt know KK at all and I was forced to work together with him. Being his senior, I had an upper hand in controlling the scene. I delegated the work in such way that we need minimal contact. The party went decent and we again parted ways minding our own business.

That fall, I withdrew myself from TGAN's involvement and became Special Project Executive for the Malaysian Student Association. Within expectation, KK took over my position in TGAN as the music director. Life had become busier. I quitted my job at Selleck and worked 40 hours at a lab in my department. This was during the Asian Economic Crisis where students from affected countries were allowed to work full time and study part time. Very often, KK would persuade me to go back to TGAN by inviting me to play for worship. So, I became even busier.

It was also during that time we developed a online friendship. I was on the computer a lot....doing homework, typing papers, downloading music, being a geek...etc. We would send instant messages back and forth as we did our homework. So, in that geekiness, we somewhat connected. He was rather likable, surprisingly. Even so, he was still more an acquaintance than a friend then.

We rode to Des Moines together for IVCF's Fall conference, with Zoe and Brian. That was the most memorable conference. Even putting God far behind my mind, I felt his call twice in that weekend, TO GO TO THE LOST. I recall standing beside KK one morning at a service. I stole a look at his face and I saw his tears when someone on the stage challenged us to go on missions. "What a guy" I thought, "I bet he really loves God". Anyway, even until today, we've not talked about it.

Despite what he wrote, in my memory and in my heart, KK finally became my friend that weekend.

To be continued...