And a thousand of lanterns, their flames slowly glowing against the thin rustling paper, ascended up to the night skies of Patong beach, their peaceful, soft glow interrupted by a chaotic thunder of fireworks all around us. The crowds cheered like crazy, camera phones in their extended hands, trying to capture the last moments of 2011, only to post them later on Facebook or replay them to the friends that were not there.
He was an Australian, staying at our hostel for a couple of nights, traveling from Melbourne, and then to Singapore, Hanoi. Patong beach was his last stop of the holiday vacation. It was the last stop for all of us staying at the hostel. We started off the night as a large, international group but as we took random roads and routes, trying to get through the masses to the beach to welcome 2012, it was just me and the Australian left.
"Tell me the truth, do you like me?" he asked twenty minutes before midnight as he handed me a bouquet of roses that he bought from some random Swedish girl on the street.
I was surprised and flattered by the question. When I first saw him at the hostel bar, the life of the party, I envied his confidence and wondered what it would be like to talk to this guy, to be part of that crowd. And now here I was, with him, unexpectedly, wrapped around my little finger for the night.
"To tell you the truth," I said, "I do but I am dating someone."
We stood in our awkwardness and both felt compelled to say something to each other even though we were surrounded by throngs of screaming, celebrating people and would not hear each other anyway.
"What do you mean by dating?" he finally said. We both knew what I meant.
"You know what I mean..." I looked down at the roses. Their tiny delicate buds looked so fragile that all I wanted to do was to shield them from the people around us. I felt almost out of place standing there, with a simple bouquet of romantic appreciation in my hand, while everyone else around me was holding and imbibing from alcohol containers of various sizes.
"Does he ever give you flowers?" he asked, minutes before midnight.
No, he never gives me flowers. I don't ask him to but I wish he would. Just give me flowers once. No fancy dinners, just flowers. Truth is, I wanted to say, I am starving for affection and don't know how to ask for it. Feel like I have no right to ask for it, somehow. There is nothing like wanting to fall in love and being too afraid to, because of the fear of getting hurt at the end.
"No, he never gives me flowers," I said.
He shook his head. Not accusingly, not indifferently, but mostly just selfishly proud of himself for doing something in the first few hours of meeting me that my dude has not done in the months that I've known him.
"Kiss me," he said.
"You know I can't," I paused, "Not now."
"Then kiss me at midnight. Just one kiss."
There were moments left until the clock struck twelve. I had remnants of silly strings in my hair, my shoes were filled with sand, I clenched the strap of my purse in my hand, paused in some nervous thought. He was some Australian I would never see again, albeit a very handsome Australian, he was just a stranger on a beach somewhere in Thailand.
So I kissed him. Just once, when it struck midnight. And then once again a few minutes later.
A few stolen kisses. Something to escape the real world outside of the beach. Something to stop myself from thinking about The Banker all the goddamn time, while hoping for more, more than I am being offered.
And all around me it was 2012 all of the sudden. I wanted to never leave that place and to leave it immediately, all at the same time.
Happy new year.