• AB Mambo

About Me and The Girl Behind You by AB Mambo

The girl on the barstool behind you stopped being a stranger when I fell in love with her on the MRT this morning.

Wafts of lemongrass greeted her entrance when she stepped off the platform as the doors slid closed.

She grabbed the bar above my head and grinned as we brushed shoulders. Without greeting, she flecked strands of hair off my shirt and I recognized her from another time and place.

She asked where I was going and beamed when I mentioned Books Actually. She worked across the street.

I asked where she was from. She asked if it mattered and wanted to know where I would go if money and time were no issue.

I shared my dreams of seeing Zanzibar sunsets and swimming in Seychelles’ pristine waters. I left out the part about how you had built this into our two-year plan.

She pulled out her phone and scrolled through her photos. Countless dhows dotting the Indian Ocean, brazen sunsets, super sized coconuts and large, centenarian turtles eating from her hands. Envy and pride rose in my chest — and then a strange warmth for a person I’d just met.

The car emptied and she asked that I accompany her on the next adventure. Her brown eyes gleamed and her curls seemed to tousle about behind the neat cornrows closely woven across her scalp. I shrugged and confessed that I had never left Singapore. “We must change that,” she said as I caught my reflection on the glass behind her.

We exchanged WhatsApp contacts and hung on as the train pulled into our stop. It was a short walk to the bus station from there. She leaned in to my neck to catch a whiff as we climbed the escalator, and said I smelled of rosewood and patchouli. I felt transparent. We rode the bus to Joo Chiat in silence, knees grazing, our palms kissing.

She ditched work and followed me down East Coast Road.

We explored quaint buildings and Peranakan art; drank kopi for the first time and tasted peeled mangoes off the fruit seller’s stand. Like giggling schoolgirls, we ran along a side street flanked by colorful shophouses.

When she was certain no one was looking, she brushed the inside of my wrist with her index finger and kissed my forehead. “You’re beautiful,” she declared.

Hours of roaming the streets and playing footsie under a table at McDonald’s flew by, until I reluctantly called a taxi to come to you.

She didn’t want to make me choose, so she entered the taxi when it came, insisting through peals of laughter that she just had to see the man who’d won my heart

But didn’t know my middle name

Or that I loved the All Blacks as much as my mother

Or that I have a butterfly-shaped birthmark under my left breast.

She wanted to be here to hold my hand and wipe my tears

When I break off what I’d thought until that morning Was a most blissful love affair with you.

So she’s sitting on the barstool behind you waiting When I only have the courage to ask you — when’s the plumber coming?

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