I lay in the dark. It was quiet, still. I glanced at the time. 2 a.m. I realized I had just fallen asleep for two hours or so. My thoughts went directly towards the same place, and with that I was immediately wide awake. I sat up and adjusted the air conditioner. A half hour later. No, the air conditioner wasn’t the problem. I got out of bed and went groggily to the kitchen.
As I sat in the quiet kitchen and had a drink of water, I heard the slow and steady buzzing noise from my old fridge. I heard him telling me it was time for me to get a new fridge. I smiled to myself. He hated that fridge.
There was a semi-permanent headache that was pounding somewhere at the back of my head. I can’t remember when I last had proper sleep anymore. My body was exhausted, but my mind – my mind, it is too busy rummaging through everything that had happened, frantically questioning the what-ifs and exasperatingly missing what was gone. Throughout all the difficulties, he did not stop me from leaving. He did not ask me to stay. And so I had to go, and it is the hardest thing to be brave when you have to do something you do not want to.
From where I sat I looked across the room. There was the little painting project we did together, and the canvas sat there lonely at the corner of the living room, unfinished. Unfinished felt like a word that would describe us now. There were pillows over the couch that he helped me pick out in IKEA. The orange sweater I borrowed hung on the chair. That boring documentary about gold mining he liked to watch whenever I flip the channels. There was a book on curry recipes that we were enthusiastically planning to try out. Not anymore.
Saying goodbye is not just about saying goodbye. It is admitting that someone who used to be so important in your life is now a stranger. And isn’t that strange? He will now exist in a parallel universe where I will never again know how his day is, hear stories about his life or share the excitement for the future. It is bidding farewell to adventure plans. It is realising that all those times, the laughter, the flutter, the moments that stood still, the hardships, they all slowly corrode into a void that was left for me to bare. It is parting ways with a trusted confidant who was there for the woos and wins. It is grieving the loss of a friend. I wondered if he ever wondered about me. I wondered if I am now nothing more than just a distant memory of his.
He did not ask me to stay.
As I stared at the moody living room I saw all these little things that were a constant reminder of his shadows. Last night I went through my freezer looking for a quick dinner. I saw some frozen pesto sauce, and it jolted memories about the first lunch we ever had. That was what he ordered. And the first meal I ever made him? You guessed it. It hit me like a pang to my face. Needless to say, I did not have that for dinner.
Sometimes we don’t realise how much we mean to others. Or how much someone means to us, until the day comes and we watch them walk away and disappear. I remember it vividly, the last time I saw him walk away. It was like a play-by-play of a slow, silent video that I could not erase from my head. There are moments in life where words or tears will not do justice as an adequate expression of what you're experiencing. Like this one.
Sitting in that living room made me feel overwhelmed. It felt like I was sitting in a huge puddle of things that unintentionally reminded me of what was. I wanted to flee. I wanted to go somewhere far away. But I felt stuck onto the ground, unmoving. After a while sitting there, I slowly made my way back to bed.
Tomorrow might be better, I told myself a lie.
My Grandma used to tell a story about a distant relative who lived in Penaga, Kedah. It was, and still is, a small village where people worked the paddy fields and the sea. This distant relative was married to a lady who lived in Karangan, Kedah, another small village about 45 km away from Penaga (see map). They lived in a time around and post-World War Two, when life was hard and dangerous.
Due to circumstances that was rather vague or perhaps forgotten by me, they had to live separately in these two separate villages. Every week, or every other week, this distant relative would travel all the way on an old school bicycle to see his wife, all 45 km of it, through uncivilized terrains and the dangers of communists which were the rage around the area at the time. Just to see his wife for a couple of days, and then off he went cycling back to work. They had a happy relationship until their passing.
It sort of sounds like a plot of a period drama love story, but things like these really happened back in the day. These are real people looking after their relationships throughout some real shit. Us? Most of us can’t even hold it together during ‘tough’ times, despite the technology, living comforts and privileges we have as opposed to these guys back in the day.
What constitutes working hard to keep/maintain a relationship? In the past, I had been known to be the first to draw the curtains whenever things get even slightly difficult. In my mind at the time, relationships are one hundred percent happy times, and there was no point staying if it gets hard. In case you’re wondering, yes, I was watching a lot of movies at this time. You know, the ones that showed relationships to be all about rainbows, candy and galloping across the wheat fields on a magical unicorn together forever towards the sunset. And all of relationship issues solved within two hours or less.
These days, none of us really have to cycle through a dodgy road in the tropics avoiding random militants with guns to sustain a relationship, and most of the hurdles we would ever face are just the ones of our own minds. And yet somehow, we give up much too soon compared to my distant relative there (I have no idea how he looked like, but I always imagined him as a lanky guy with a ‘songkok’ and the 1960s styled pants pulled up to his chest).
I suppose the old-age saying is true – the best things in life are usually the things you have to fight the hardest for. This applies for both fighting for seats at a new brunch place in town, as well as our relationships (although the former is often overrated). Like everything else in life, most of the time high risk bares a high reward. And if it does end up down the drain, there is peace and closure in knowing you’ve tried your best, as opposed to sitting there in your little comfort zone where nothing grows, wondering ‘what if’.
Perhaps it began one day many years ago, when I was dumped by a guy via a text message a day before my birthday.
Or maybe it was somewhere around when I was stood up by the SAME guy twice (seriously, sometimes I wish I’m making these things up but unfortunately they really happened).
Or perhaps it was a string of bad luck on the dating front**, of false promises and falling for words instead of actions. Of being too gullible or becoming an accidental doormat (although these days I have come to learn that when people treat you the way you don’t want them to, it your own fault for letting them do so).
Whatever it was, on a lazy evening not too long ago, I was sitting across the kitchen bar watching a nice man make me dinner. He bought the groceries and made me a Greek Baked Frittata (which was delicious, in case you’re wondering), and then he did the dishes. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this picture. In fact, I was quite fully aware that I had probably hit gold and this was a good, happy thing.
But whatever it was, as I sat there feeling rather content I also felt a slow and steady crawl of troubled thought. The troubled thought was concerned that something catastrophically bad was going to happen next. Because there had been many incidences in the past where this trend was true, I was half convinced that this was the way of my world for me. It had built a cynicism in my head where I was always suspicious.
Oh my God, he just made me dinner, what will he say next? That he has an irreversible disease and will have to 'disappear'? That he has two other girlfriends? That his face was actually made in Korea? That he actually doesn’t like pasta (oh God no)? I ate my dinner with a wild mind wondering what was going to happen.
Nothing happened next. It was a normal, nice date and we had a good dinner, a good laugh and nobody revealed that they were an ex-convict.
The point to this story is the inevitable influence of your past towards building the your current perception of the world. You wouldn’t notice it, but it subtly and discreetly shapes you to make you who you are at this point of time. The downside is it can make you too cynical for your own good, too afraid or too careful. I never knew how much all these things have created the ‘crazy chick’ inside me that was often brimmed with hesitance when the time comes to let someone in, until that day I was sitting at the kitchen bar.
But the light at the end of the tunnel is that these crazy string of unfortunate events will also teach you how to know better. One should never think that the past was unfortunate. The past happened so that you learn from it (which, I suppose, makes it a fortunate thing really). Subtly, it will also show you how to spot a good one when you see one. Or what to appreciate in a person. Or what is worth fighting for. Or what behaviour is deemed unacceptable, something that you may not have understood before. Or in my case, how to fully understand that past pains happened for a reason, creating a myriad of pathways that you walk through to get to where you are today, as a much, much better version of yourself for others, and vice versa.
**PS: Of course they were the good guys too. Here I'm just highlighting the bad ones from the past.
It is just a regular day for lunch. The sun is out and I am trying to finish my plate of food. He is sitting right across me, and I notice he looks like he wants to tell me something, but hesitating. Earlier I had spilled my lunch over my beige trousers, and I can’t stop laughing at the fact that the stain is on the worst possible location, making me look like I pooped in my pants. I ask him if he wants to tell me something.
He tells me there is another girl.
I don’t respond immediately after this. I take a few seconds to process what he is saying. Another girl? Oh, he means another girl. Another girl that isn’t you, you fool, I tell myself. I’m sitting across him in close proximity, and he looks directly at my face. My heart starts beating really fast, and I try to look away. I start muttering about the weather. I start looking at other people. I start looking down at my own hands. They are shaking, and I’m glad the table is there to hide it. But he looks directly at my face with such bravery, and no matter how much I try I could not look away either.
The problem with me is that I am a bad liar. More specifically, my eyes are terrible liars. They are fish-sized and they like to betray me. They show everything I wish I could hide. Meanwhile, he is studying my face with this determination to be honest. It is strange combination of feeling for me, sitting there. I am grateful for his honesty but I am distinctively aware that my initial plans of trying to appear calm and collected are slowly failing.
He looks at me like I am a sad, lost puppy. Somehow this saddens me even more. I am not much of a crier, but at this point I am pretty sure I would cry the second I am alone. We start walking back to the office and we are quiet. He keeps looking at me like I am the saddest thing to exist on the planet right that second, and this makes me more determined to not show any signs that I am breaking. He asks me if we should stay in touch. I say I don’t know. I really don’t. The sun is scorching and there is a pile of work waiting at the office and we are standing in the middle of a walkway, and I can’t really think properly. I take a good look at him, in case I don’t get the chance to see him again anymore. I always like how kind his face looks.
I have four more hours of work before I even get the luxury to process what just happened. A couple of senior supervisors sit next to me and starts explaining some things, and I struggle to keep my pace. I hear them but I don’t hear them. All I could think of is that time we were in IKEA on a weeknight and he pushed me around on the trolley and spun me around and we were laughing a lot. I’m sure everybody thought we were retarded but we didn’t really care. I had the best time.
Work finally ends and I almost run to my car. On the drive home it starts raining because my life is just a complete cliché. He always forgets his umbrella and I wonder if he’s home too. It’s like a slap in the face to realize I probably would never know again. The phone doesn’t have its familiar alert ring anymore. It is unusually quiet. I know that for the whole week I will be staring at it, hoping he would call/text but he probably wouldn’t. Instead, it would be a phone alert for a stupid message some stupid guy in a stupid WhatsApp group is sending, and I would be disappointed every time.
Eventually I sit in my back room and I am writing this. It is raining outside, slow and steady, and somewhere thunder is rolling. The irony is not too long ago I was telling him how I always find it hard, the idea that someone comes into your life and becomes significant, and the next day they leave, becoming a stranger. Eventually they will forget about you and you’ll just be a shadow in their memory. And here it is. The phone keeps quiet and I tell myself it’s okay. It will be okay. It is a privilege to know and connect to someone and I must always be grateful for the opportunity, no matter how long or short it is meant to last. I close the window. Rain is my favourite weather, but I wish it would stop now.
Here are some of the few things that I consider to be a great mystery of the unknown;
The glimpse of this mystery began after I discovered that I could not explain the science of attraction through well, just easy science. In the book The Body Language written by Allan and Barbara Pease, the writers approached this subject through the laws of physical attraction – that your mind responds to traits in an opposite sex that you find to be good candidates for your possible partner in producing your future successors. In other words, the physicality of love is seen here as purely animalistic, a biological response to the need to populate earth.
But then riddle me this. How many times have you sat across the table with someone else on a date, liking how he/she looks but not feeling a twitch of connection whatsoever? I recently had a similar experience, finding myself at dinner with a nice man who seemed to fit the bill but then didn’t. I liked how he looked, I liked how he sounded and I also liked his resume. And yet after a few attempts the connection was not there for me. The ‘it’ factor, whatever that is, did not seem to manifest itself upon us. And so it begs the question, what constitutes a connection?
Connection is not to be confused with chemistry. Chemistry is highly associated to personality traits, where one can easily establish a sense of closeness to another. For instance, a person with an extroverted nature could appear to have chemistry with almost anyone due to their warm character and outgoing personality. On the contrary, a connection is more focused on this strange feeling of attachment and a sense of being understood by someone else. To further enlighten this idea, research shows that comedians are the loneliest and more depressed group of people. This is because although they could easily have chemistry with others, they also lack a certain sense of connection to these people.
I am further baffled by this as I moved through the motions of life and found connection in the strangest of places. I befriended people who are completely different from me and for some reason we just clicked. I hear stories of friends who were separated by someone else for years and yet the connection was never lost. Similarly, I once met a guy by random chance a day before he left town and had the strangest connection, despite not knowing much about each other and coming from completely different worlds. We ended up in a long distance relationship for God knows what reason.
Connection, it seems, spans beyond the physical boundaries of it as well as compatibility in character. You’re not connected to someone just because he/she is a nice person. There are millions of nice people out there. Why this one? And forget trying to correlate connection to similarities or differences. You and I know that some relationships connect because they are similar in many ways, yet there are also ones who thrive because they are the total opposites.
What I have deciphered so far, however, is that the ‘it’ factor should not be taken for granted of. It is a rare occurrence, but one that is blissful because it is a medium that allows you to be the truest form of yourself to somebody else. It is not fully understood, and this is pretty evident because if it is in fact solved, poets and philosophers and writers would finally stop talking about the mystery magic that surrounds it. All we could do is look out for it if we haven’t found it just yet, and if we already did, appreciate the opportunity to be able to enjoy the rather wonderful feeling of being able to connect to somebody.
Tinder. If you’ve been living under a rock, it’s a social media outlet for people to meet other people, mostly for courtship purposes. If you’re a commoner like the rest of us, I know what you’re thinking. Tinder. A place for desperados, perverts and hookup-seekers extravaganza. And I completely agree with that impression. Or at least I did agree.
Recently a friend of mine decided to venture herself into Tinder. No, she is not old. No, she doesn’t own cats. Yes, she is a perfectly awesome, single, gorgeous accomplished girl. Her motivations were probably for a social experiment (lucky for me, the best type of social journalism is one that includes personal research, so in this piece she is my representative). She put her picture up and declared her criteria, and off she went into this brave little adventure.
First of all, you’re quite right. Tinder really does have weirdos with strange fetishes. People also use Tinder to look for hookers (even in Malaysia). We saw a married guy publicly announcing that he was married but looking for hook-ups that he will generously pay for (yeah I’m talking about you ‘Joe’. Boooo). This fed into my already tainted impression of online dating. It seemed like an internet black hole sucking in guys who are social rejects. But then this friend of mine gave it a shot to confirm/defy our initial thoughts, so here is where I got it wrong.
Tinder has a decent collection of normal people! As we browsed through we saw normal looking guys looking for normal relationships. There are executives and doctors and drummers and teachers, and they did not look half bad either. They look like the kind of guys you would otherwise bump into at a shop or library or at work. Some of them started saying hi to this friend of mine, and some of them were even transparent enough to give her access to their Facebook accounts to show that they are not creepy or the Prince of Nigeria.
She even managed to snatch herself a date with a cute doctor. Although the date, unfortunately, ended up as average and they didn’t further pursue it. They guy was nice and made an effort to drive all the way into the city to see her for coffee, and albeit the leather jacket he had on (perhaps to impress her) to the point of sweating profusely in the KL weather, it did not really work out. Nevertheless, the point to make here is that she did manage to get a normal, decent date out of a very sceptical-looking online dating outlet.
What did I learn from this? I learned that although I must admit that the whole concept of online dating isn’t still entirely digested by me, it is a completely legitimate, appropriate and fine way to meet new people. In a world of social media dominance where we do businesses, keep in touch with friends, read the news and even learn how to cook online, why is it such a taboo thing to meet someone online too? Granted, there will always be weirdos and creepy guys in that virtual reality, just like how there will always be weirdos and creepy guys that you meet in real life. You do your due diligence, be smart about it and take a leap of faith. Just like how you would do it in the real world.
By the end of it I concluded that Tinder is a decent idea, but one that I personally could not jump into for right now. I am a high anxiety person with a difficulty to decline an approach, too cynical to ever judge a person properly via views of an online profile, and certainly not ballsy enough to meet someone for a blind date without being able to check with his friends to see if he owns a secret collection of stuffed dead animals. But I did find a new type of respect for this friend of mine, as she had indirectly helped me to shed my initial impressions on the online dating scene. More importantly, she showed me that you should always do what you want for yourself, despite what may be a taboo review of people around you or a personal fear of trying something new in life.
At work, I always end up being the only girl in my sub-division or one of the very few in a throng of male colleagues. This is contradictory to my otherwise all girls boarding school-background. In a way this served as a good thing, as I get to experience the aspects of both worlds. I left boarding school with a surge of female empowered estrogen-clad feminist pride spirit, and when I got to know boys it was almost like watching a National Geographic documentary – what are these creatures and why do they like sports so much?
And somewhere along the line, as chick flicks, dating and hormones came into the picture, it has been drilled into us that guys should be approached with caution; there is the whole ‘hide and seek’ element, the ‘does he or doesn’t he’ mind boggling games and stories about some unnamed jerks going around breaking people’s hearts. All these painted guys as scary, sometimes-intimidating robots fuelled by testosterones about 90% of the time. Fascinating stuff.
Eventually, as I got to know them personally whether they are colleagues, friends, people I dated or even family members, I quickly came to the realization… it is not easy being a guy!
Take the story of Male X for example. Male X is somebody I know from work, and one day he told me about his failed attempts of asking a girl out three times to no avail. I cringed when I heard this story. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had mustered all that courage only to be shot down by a girl. Yikes. That must hurt. In fact, if I was him I would probably be traumatized and not ask anyone out for the next decade. Male X, if you’re reading this, I solute you.
And even if you did get to ask a girl out, the raging river of challenges had just begun. Do you know how much it costs to take a girl out on a date? Not to mention that unlike women, men are heavily assessed through their assets too, as much as we like to deny it. I once heard a male friend say about his then-girlfriend, “I used to have a lot of money in ASB. Then it all disappeared and turned into her”. I felt pretty bad for this. As much as I know that guys actually do prefer to pay and pamper, the fact is they still do spend a lot of money and energy into this whole process.
We like to also think that when it doesn’t work out, girls take the hit harder. Perhaps this is a true statement to a certain extent, given that guys seem to have an almost default robotic method to cope with it. They submerge themselves in work or gaming or buddies, and seem to be handling it all like a champ (while the ladies cry buckets in the public restroom). But through experience I have watched some male friends I know getting hurt just as we do, feeling sentimental just like we feel and well, in general, are just humans like the rest of us.
What these observations resulted in is a certainly more cynical agreement towards a lot of so-called notions of what men are, as portrayed through a lot of movies and books you see these days. Since women are the more expressive gender it is normal to see/read/watch more snide conclusions be made about men, when come to think of it, there are so many great guys out there. I was raised by a dedicated Father who once worked 2-3 jobs to support us while he was in studying, and has been loving and loyal to my Mother for 30 years. To then settle with a generic opinion that men are awful and non-sentimental even when we had just gotten hurt by one would not be a fair statement. Sometimes a bit of perspective goes a long way to stop us being spiteful and disheartened over the whole idea of acquainting a decent guy.
This is a true story. You can’t make this shit up.
In late 2014 I was in Paris, and where else would I be at sunset if it wasn’t la Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower). The weather was perfect and there weren’t a lot of people around since it was summer ending. The sky was filled with streaks of purple and orange and the Eiffel Tower lit up every half hour, sending a sparkle of lights all over it, a shimmering delight. I was walking around the grounds minding my own business, and eventually I ended up at a spacious patch where people were sitting on the grassy floor watching the lights.
There was a girl who sat close to me, looking like she was in her twenties, with a brunette bob and cigarette jeans. She was leaning back and watching the last few minutes of the sparkling lights show. It ended and people started moving away, but she kept sitting and staring. A few moments later a young man emerged, slowly pacing himself and eventually stopping his tracks by this girl.
“Oh, I missed it,” he said regretfully.
The girl quickly paid attention and chipped in. “Yeah, you missed it by just a few minutes,” she said. The guy looked at her, surprised at her response (or maybe he’s just acting like he’s surprised). “I think they’ll repeat it again soon,” he said. “Yep, every half hour,” she said. He nodded in acknowledgement.
At this point I was actively eavesdropping. I felt bad at first, but after convincing myself that I am actually an unpaid social journalist, I carried on. “It’s really nice weather,” he said. This is the part where I knew he was trying to make a move. The girl giggled and agreed. This is the part where I knew she was responding positively. I set my phone to ‘silent’.
“My name is XXXXX,” he introduced himself. I can’t remember what his name was. She introduced herself as well but they didn’t shake hands. She was still sitting down, and he was standing awkwardly. The sunset was really at its peak and it was beautiful out there. “Is it okay if I sit down?” he asked. She said yes almost as immediately as that question ended. He sat down and saw her books and asked if she was a student. They carried on having a pleasant conversation.
I felt like I was in some weird, ideal world movie. A boy and a girl who meets in front of the Eiffel Tower? Are you freaking kidding me? I looked around to see if there was a camera. Maybe this is a filming of a reality show. Maybe I’ll be noted at the end credits as ‘Headscarf Girl #3’ (there were quite a few girls in headscarves there coincidentally). I wanted to take a picture of this pair but decided not to. There was a bomb threat in Paris a few days before I arrived and there were army guys looking out everywhere in public places, so I didn’t think me taking a picture of random strangers will look great given the circumstance.
As I evaluated that situation, I have to hand it to this guy for being pretty smart, despite the fact that the Eiffel Tower is such a romantic place that you could be hit by a homeless man and probably still feel charmed by it. Assuming that his intentions were sincere, I would say that he was an excellent strategist. First, he began with an open ended question. If she didn’t end up responding, he wouldn’t be embarrassed because hey, for all you know he’s just talking to himself. Then, he looked surprised by her response. Whether it was unintentional or deliberate, the girl will then use this to confirm that he probably had not been stalking her for the past hour (and maybe he did!).
He also brought up a series of generic conversations. This is important for him to gauge her temperament, whether she seemed open to talk to him or not interested. Finally, he asked politely if he could sit down. By this time the girl would be flattered at his manners. He could also use this opportunity to observe the way she her responded. If she said yes but sounded like she was dreading it then he would know to not stay long. But since she replied almost before the question ended, he’s got his answer right there.
Well played sir.
As I left the Eiffel Tower, the both of them were still animatedly chatting. I don’t know why, but I felt so glad to have witnessed it. It was actually one of the highlights of my stay in Paris. There is nothing quite like the excitement of meeting someone new and you click right into place. It reminded me of my past encounters and the delightful amalgamation of feelings, and frankly isn't that one of the big reasons why we love love so much? I wonder what happened to them. Maybe they ended up together. Maybe they never materialized. Maybe they part ways and never saw each other again. Whichever it is, I am pretty sure they won’t forget it too quickly. And neither will I.
This post was actually written a few months ago. I forgot to post it and now I feel like I owe it a publish.
I found myself in a place I had been before, one too many times. I was once again the girl who stood in the middle of the dark street, with memories of someone else put in a box, and I carry that box home with me again, alone. These sort of things have happened to me before, some being just mere shrugs of not very significant encounters, and some as let-downs that would last for a few weeks. But this? A few weeks will not cut it.
I hate telling people to move on. Nor do I like being told to move on. What I had come to realize is that a relationship is about two people – only the two of you will ever know the complexities, the depths and the death of your companionship. No one else will ever completely understand it. Therefore listening to what people say you should do is like Kim K telling Kanye West how to make an album. It is with good intent, but it will never completely fit the bill. All you have is your head and your gut.
After all is said and done, many of us end up being in a limbo of emotions. Some days we feel glad that what was not meant to be is now over. Some days, unfortunately, we find ourselves pining over the loss of a soul who used to be someone important in the story of our lives. It is despairing when someone who used to be a part of our memories become a memory themselves. I would find myself to feel like I had somehow fallen down into a deep dark hole, with the pieces scattered around me on the floor. Somehow, I would have to pick them up and learn to assemble them again, albeit broken and a bit bent, and then climb out of that dark hole by myself.
The sad truth about this hole is that nobody can pull us out of it except ourselves. We may have friends and loved ones who would cheer us on to keep climbing out, but it will all need our own doing. Not family, not friends, not even another boy. A lot of people say that you know you have moved on when you find another. This could not be more wrong. I am not a fan of the ‘rebound’ concept. It is not an excuse to delude yourself with other people as a compensation for your own sadness. The real way to know you’re moving on is when you wake up one day and realize that you can think about the past without being emotionally affected by it. With or without someone new.
As you successfully make your way out of this weird, dark hole, the real journey begins. I know people who bounces back as fast as a silly putty, and before you know it off they go again, without much of a pause to reflect on how things have unfolded themselves. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I am not one of those. As much as I try I always end up preferring to sit in my puddle of thoughts, dwelling on lost words and broken promises, feeling like I deserve to do what I want despite what Dr Phil would tell me. I start picking up the bricks again, putting them up one by one until they once again become that wall I had once smashed to the ground in the spirit of trust. Then I remain aloof towards anyone new, because bitterness is an anxious old man. He cringes at the sight of a possible future repeat of the same hurt.
I was watching The Walking Dead all last weekend. There was a character who was dying, and as she was in her final moments she told another character, “Someday this pain will be useful to you”. I think she was talking about being eaten by a zombie, but whatever. You catch my drift, right?
Because someday, this pain will be useful to me.