An international student far from home with his missed opportunities
|I remembered when I first arrived here, lost in a sea of foreign difference. The air was colder, the roads narrower, the people different. Initially, it was not easy. Having relied heavily on my parents for support for as long I could remember, I now had to fend for myself. Housekeeping, laundry, cooking, washing…I had to organise my time to accommodate these completely new concepts. I had to find my way around a foreign city, and to fumble my way around a different way of doing things. The post office had to be located, the banking procedures known, the traffic rules understood.
After an initial period of settling into my new lifestyle as a student in a foreign land, I started to enjoy the freedom it gave me. I was doing things for myself, instead of depending on others to help me through it. I felt proud I could cook some decent meals; I was satisfied after I cleaned my floor of dust; I was glad after tidying up the room. Along with my newfound independence, I discovered more than what my course in aeronautical engineering could provide. I took a peek into the fundamental mathematical theories, explored some philosophies of various cultures, and read about psychology.
Despite my newfound life, I felt a nagging emptiness within myself. I was lonely. True, I had friends, but they were from a different culture. I longed for someone who could understand my background, my rationalisations, and my values.
One clear summer evening, as I was boarding a train to take me home from my lecture, I noticed an Asian girl boarding the same train. Beside her was one of the large window panels, letting in clean natural light from the sky. Her silhouette was clearly visible to me- a small, sharp nose, a few rogue strands of hair, lively eyes that seemed to dance about, topped with a soft black cap. Who is she? Is she a foreign student like myself, or is she an immigrant citizen? Where does she live? Is she single, or does she have a significant other? Where is she from?
Save for her dark sparkling eyes, the girl was not of exceptional beauty. For some inexplicable reason, I was drawn to her mundane, ordinary beauty- she was staring out of the window, with an occasional push to tuck her hair behind her ears, or a brief glance at her watch. What is she thinking? Where is she going?
“Next station, Sevaslopolskaya. Disembark here for Kakhovskaya line,” the driver announced over the speakers. The train slowed down for the stop, the doors opened with a warning beep and a rumble. And she disappeared out into the Sevaslopolskaya metro station.
The remainder of my journey was spent wondering about this girl. The persistent questions remain. Is she Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian or naturalised Russian? Is she a student, musician, engineer, architect or waitress? Who will greet her when she gets home, if that’s where she is headed?
Back home, as I stared at the late Muscovite twilight, I felt pangs of regret of not having approached this girl. I would know nothing of her, except for that fleeting view of her in the train. None of my numerous questions would be answered. I can only imagine a mental picture of her- medical student, from Singapore, in a stable relationship…
I sat in front of my piano and started composing a piece, not for the girl, but for the idea of her.