But the crowd made the leap before I did, if I was even going to make it. The flow was going towards the popular narrative and so I got caught in the currents and submerged in it.
- How it progressed was wrong
“This is not America Selina. This is the Marshall Islands. Going out equates to girlfriend/boyfriend type of relationship.”
When I was told that statement by my cousin, feeling indignant and protesting a little, I gave up. I simply accepted it. Another wrong I committed. Because I hated confrontation and conflicts, I normally went with the flow. No matter how detrimental it was for me.
It did not help that my friends were all so sure I was “so in love with Zane.” How did they know? Because I was not ashamed of and to be with him. When we would hang out with our friends or walk around in public, we would hold hands and because we were good friends already before we started going out, naturally we were more comfortable with each other.
Apparently that does not normally happen. Most of the people our age when they first start dating, they are often awkward. Upon sighting of each other, they normally avoid or do not acknowledge the other. When they sit together, there is at least a two feet gap between them. It is during night time when they are by themselves and not in the sight of many scrutinizing eyes and loose tongues, do they become a bit more closer and receptive.
But the thing was, I was not them. We were not them. Even though I was reserved and conservative, I disliked being dictated by societal norms. And in the books, this was what people who dated did. They held hands. They conversed. They laughed. They hugged. And they gave kisses on the forehead.
What we had was the “ideal” dating. In Marshallese we say, “jera in meram.” – dating in the light. The other being “jera in marok.” – dating in the dark. We were not going through extra measures to hide the fact that we were going out and for myself, I told my parents that I was in a relationship immediately. But the narrative, “so in love with Zane,” was so prevalent around me, I started believing it. Even after ridiculing the idea so much at first, to myself.
I did(do) not believe in love at first sight. It was still in the first week of dating that everyone was already so convinced we were in love. I thought it ridiculous. I could not wrap it in my mind how people could fall so easily in just the first week, let alone few days. I was also sure that before love, there was like. We start with liking one another and if all goes well, then we will eventually fall in love with each other. But the crowd made the leap before I did, if I was even going to make it. The flow was going towards the popular narrative and so I got caught in the currents and submerged in it.
I started writing love poems. Even when Zane’s answer to why he asked me out was, “Oh cause you know how you are a house girl and all. You don’t really go out. So I want to show you how to have fun.”
Later on, we would be riding the bus home after another long rehearsal at ICC. Nearing Demon-Town, my cousin walks to our seat. I remember I had used the word humping in a sentence of which they burst out laughing and I felt the shift in the air around us. Then cousin goes on to ask if we had ever kissed. I had the violent urging to make him disappear from the spot. I attempted getting up from our seat to talk to our friends. Each time I got up, Zane would pull me down.
Instead of being upfront and saying I do not want to do anything, with frustration and a most rodent curse towards my cousin(in my head), I sat back down and kept on talking. Hoping that he would sense my disinclination and not act on his trail of thoughts but I knew it was coming. In the midst of rapid talking, a firm smooch was delivered on the lips. I did not look at him. I kept staring ahead.
Waiting for fireworks.
Because that is what the books said. It did not happen. So I just said, “Wow.”
And got off the bus. I touched my lips as the bus drove away, painting a smile on my face and shooting stars in my eyes. Scoffing immediately after at how ridiculous I was being. What the books described clearly did not happen in real life. It dawned on me that again, the autonomy to choose, the right to be asked had been taken away from me. And I had a part in it.
All my first kisses taken by men and boys in the name of revenge and settling a score. Never had I ever been given any or been asked before I am smothered by another unwelcome lip.
Last year I finished Michelle Obama’s Becoming. As Michelle narrates the scene where Barrack asks her if he can kiss her, my heart fluttered. I felt respected. My face lit with a smile and stars brimmed in my eyes. I felt it. It was mutual consent. I prayed that many more had encounters like this and not like mine.
That night I walked home, feeling at loss. Is this normal? Was I suppose to feel excited or morose? Why did they just keep taking but never asking? Why must there be interfering individuals?
Some time afterwards, I went to see Baba at his house. Baba suddenly asks me for his name so he can look him up because he was feeling uneasy. I did. He turns to me after his Facebook searching, visibly upset.
“Selina, both of you are related.”
To be continued…