Herpetophobia

After a six-month hiatus in their communication, they met up again. It was somewhat organic— “I’m in Tokyo now. I’ll be around the station tomorrow after dinner.” “Let’s meet for drinks around eight at Café 1894. It’s one of my favorites.” She didn’t mind the fact that he hijacked her initiative as much as the realization that she knew he wasn’t worth it, but she came back again. She didn’t have to let him know she was in Tokyo, but she did.
Later in the night after meeting him, she was woken from her sleep several times by her bladder’s cry for release. She had had only one gin and tonic, but lots of water went into the system with that, because it was the only thing she could do to mask the awkward, silent moments between them, and that the waiter was diligent enough to come fill her glass every so often. When she was not drinking water and he not staring at her with an uneasy smile, they talked at length about gecko.
They first met around a year ago in Singapore. It was a steamy summer day; the rain never fell although there seemed to be a big chance for it—nothing out of the ordinary in this tropical country, and certainly not a day that gave her any reason to fantasize about finding love. In a city as densely populated as this one, it is probably very easy to bump someone in the shoulders as you walk in the streets, but what are the odds that you bump someone, get into a conversation, and find out the person lives in the same apartment building that you are about to move into? She often mused about the question, but while she believed in fate, it was not enough to explain his entrance into her life, and how just a brief conversation made her want him to stay in it.
“Where are you going?” he asked, examining her huge backpack and two suitcases. “Moving into a new apartment,” she hesitated to say the rest that was on her mind, “the previous one was taken over by geckos.” He gazed at her instead of responding. When her eyes met his, she felt compelled to say something to tone down the intensity of the silent exchange. “It’s kind of sad. I really liked my landlord. I was living with his family in a two-story apartment, and I had so much personal space in that attic room of mine. They often invited me to hang out with them downstairs, but I never took up that offer until the geckos started to creep in my room.” He broke into a broad smile, “You’re not really scared of geckos.” She assumed he meant it as a question, although it sounded more like a statement. “I’m really scared of geckos,” she repeated quietly as if just to remind herself. “Hey, I run away all the time, too. There’s nothing wrong with it.” He started to walk away even before he was done with the sentence.
It was only a couple of days later that she found out they were neighbors. If the discovery came with a soundtrack, it would be Lykke Li’s I Follow Rivers, the song he was blasting almost violently on that Sunday afternoon. Instead of annoyance, it was some inexplicable attraction that drew her to knock on her neighbor’s door. She imagined herself hidden inside a snake’s body, smoothly gliding towards the source of the tune. Yet the moment the door opened, she snapped back to her insecure self, mouth wide open, and not a word came out. He gazed at her in a way she found familiar, flatly but intensely—only one of them was surprised by the “coincidence.”
Since then, she became a regular visitor to his flat. She went back again, and again, and again, addicted to a perfect picture that she thought he could provide. All they did was sit at the dining table, across from each other, listening to that song on repeat. Oh I beg you, can I follow? She made herself believe that a lot was said in their silence, that he understood without her having to explain herself. Oh I ask you, why not always? Three months passed, and he suddenly disappeared.
Social media informed her that he moved back home to Tokyo, and she knew that he was aware that she knew. Neither of them reached out, until a business trip brought her to Tokyo. I, I follow, I follow you. The first thing he said to her at their reunion was, “I found a gecko in my apartment.”

Andrea Chung

About Yu-Chieh Chung

Born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, Yu-Chieh (Andrea) Chung is finishing the last year of her undergraduate program in filmmaking in Abu Dhabi. Just as her passion for documentary filmmaking suggests, she cares only for the real stories.

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