Our conversation was pretty smooth, though I couldn’t help being skeptical about his feigned expression. Not sure if he was born that way or it’s an offspring of social practices.

So-called date of a cold day

That February morning I woke up in a cold snap. I tottered downstairs to the ground floor switching the thermostat up to 3 more levels as a habit. And as a habit, I muttered under my breath at this damn house full of big men.

I’d lived in a 5-room house, one person each room. 3 of them are male with great physiques that could cause me sweat once they breathe. Hence, these guys were always reducing the temperature down beyond my tolerance even in the coldest days. There’re no “non-cold” days in Scotland. I completely lost my concept of season. If someone asks me which month is the coldest there, I’ll give them a turbulent laughter.

The chill of a new day threaded into my tiny hairs. I found it hard to keep sleeping. I tried to doze, then got up and made ready for the meet-up with Valko – a guy I’d been talking online with. Valko is Bulgarian. He worked in construction. He was staying in a hotel in Glasgow due to a long-term project. In my imagination, Valko got an uncouth and disheveled style, and liked comfort. Sometimes he asked me out all of a sudden merely because he got bored with solo hovering around a new town. I hadn’t got much of regards, but accepted to hang out with him as he invited me to a restaurant I’d never been to, which was on the same day I gotta interpret in Glasgow. Additionally, his dishevelment somewhat put me at ease.

The guy and his feigned look

I timed to return to the city centre seeing him right after my work was finished. In fact, the laziness and arrogance held me back super late, though I had finished work long ago. It’s also gotta be said that the Uber and bus system in Glasgow were troublesome. Uber’s congested network in a timely manner and tardy buses blatantly showed me the bustle of the largest city in Scotland. In all fairness, I didn’t have a reason to come here but my interpretation job, and this obstruction probably happened only when I arrived here.

It was raining in Buchanan. My shoes got blotched with water and mud. It felt very uncomfortable as I got no lift and the destination was not at all close by. And for someone I didn’t highly value. I was aware of the selfishness of these reasons. Yet my selfish feeling and my awareness of my selfishness flew side by side. Bizarrely harmonious.

Valko surprised me when we met. He’s very tall. His smile looked pleasant but feigned with the rising eyebrow heads. His voice was quite soft and feigned too. I didn’t like his hair the most; it was neither long nor neatly short according to my taste, not to mention the immaculate centered line. Below was a short forehead, a less angular face and rugged beard. He’s not poor-looking, but like he didn’t pay a lot of attention to appearance. However his clothes was just fine with all dark colors as my preference (I used to like all dark stuff). I was afraid of showiness, insomuch that after trying a pink makeup that day, I got obsessed that it annoyed the people I bumped into, despite having no clue who should be counted as “the people”.

Valko smiled quite a lot, but it’s a casual and feigned smile. Even when it came to his sympathy for something unhappy in my life, his sympathetic wrinkle looked feigned too. We moved our rendezvous from TGI Friday’s to Wagamama since TGI Friday’s was overcrowded. Valko really appreciated Wagamama’s food, so I let him decide what I should eat. Frankly speaking I disliked to pick from a menu filled with too many things I didn’t know. And actually I’d never been excited about Japanese cuisine. Valko helped me order a bowl of dried noodles with marinated duck, eggplant, kimchi, onion and cilantro as the topping. He sincerely thought this dish was wonderful. I responded to him with a feigned smile.

Our conversation was pretty smooth, though I couldn’t help being skeptical about his feigned expression. Not sure if he was born that way or it’s an offspring of social practices.

From Starbucks to his cave

Valko umbrellaed us under the daily rain of Glasgow. He’s subtle, polite and gallant. Were he to have a polished appearance and an English accent transparent from Bulgarian, it would be magically in sync with the serial feignings between his eyebrows. He was gonna bring me to a restaurant with a cafe bar room, but changed his mind to Starbucks. He suggested that we buy drinks there then go to his apartment to watch a movie. I would have run my ass off if it were another guy, because the probable reason of one girl and one guy being together in one space is hard to be misinterpreted. Valko, however, made me feel different. He looked feigned but actually generous, he’s easy in a devil-may-care manner. It neither seemed that he wanted to drag me to his room for something nasty, nor he would avoid if something nasty happened. He’s kind of “whatever”, exactly like how I reacted to my friends when they asked me “What do you want to eat?”. Still, I murmured that I barely went to men’s home. (My home is better.) He got my point and said that I could just rest assured to follow him. I rested assured immediately. Not because of that “just rest assured”, but because of his quick and simple response. He never tried to explain.

He offered to pay for the cafe but I refused. It felt a bit odd with how to order in Starbucks. Starbucks is everywhere, yet I had never visited then. He called himself Alex so that the cashier could easily jot down. We left there with a cup of latte in his hands and chocolate in my hands.

He was staying in a company-paid hotel room. Without this project he would have been in London. The hotel was nice, clean and comfy. The room was lovely furnished with great atmosphere. When he opened the mini fridge to show me around, a bundle of vegetables fell out. It’s mostly green in the fridge and there’s no snack around at a glance. Valko seemed to be healthy. There lied his two pairs of shoes and one wooden shoe-shaped mount at the fridge’s outside corner to the right. I never knew the name of this creature in both English and Vietnamese. It helped keep the shoes’ form though. At first I thought it’s slippers, as the room was a bit dark.

Root behind his devil-may-care attitude

We sat on the sofa, each of us held a blue flower printed on white pillow. He opened Amazon Prime on his Macbook. After a struggle between the two “whatever” people, we consented to take a bloody film. Bloody as hell that smeared my memory of its title. We gossiped while watching. Valko slightly yawned in the first half of the movie, but showed no sign of boredom. In the rest of the movie, he was wide-awake, very focused watching with his arms crossed, sometimes cringed at a few scenes where blood flooded all over, which must exceed the whole rain of Glasgow that day. Fortunately, he cringed indeed, not feignedly.

The violent movie closed the gap between us. He spread his arm across the sofa and his face drew more light. I got to know more about him then. He said he had left a 6-year relationship the previous 2 months. I asked him how those 2 months were like. He pondered a bit, yet ended up giving no clear answer. I guessed he was sad, most likely tired, bored and “whatever” attitude, as a long-term bond of love and cohabitation had just gone away. I told him to enjoy the single life all the way. After that nauseous movie and my dull advice, I decided to leave. He saw me off then went somewhere too.

That day made me respect Valko more. There’s a reason why he was that disheveled and detached. He needed humans, not affection. That we call “emotionally unavailable”. I remembered Valko when getting back on the train, and remembered Valko again when looking at myself in the glass window of the bus that brought me home with that usual hateful temperature.

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