One Friday evening I went to a party alone. It was Friday therefore Barbara had to work, she couldn't come. I didn't matter that much, I was used to going alone to parties. When I am at a party I always start in the kitchen. The kitchen is the place where everybody eventually comes, it was easy to make contact there. If I get fed up talking to a certain person, I can easily slip away, pretending that I only came to the kitchen to get a drink.
This party was organized by some of our Chinese friends. If I remember rightly I was the only not Chinese there. There was also a girl there who I had never seen before, she wasn't one of the students of the CCAT. I started talking to her (in the kitchen), we could really get on well together. Sometimes I get that, I start talking to someone I never met before and it just clicks. Somehow we are on the same wavelength and conversation just goes, no awkward silences and everything said seems to trigger new stories from both sides. This also happened with this girl. She was very cheerful, laughed a lot, full of energy. I can't remember her name. I can remember that she was 17 years old, had 4 sisters, no brothers and her family owned a Chinese take away, her father was known as a heavy gambler.
The whole evening we stayed together, talking and dancing. My friends noticed that we liked each other. Several times they interfered with our conversation and started talking about Barbara. Or when we danced they came dancing beside us and reminded me of a girl called Barbara, by shouting very hard in my ear with a low voice 'BARBARA!'. Beside the talking and dancing nothing further happened. We didn't arrange to see each other again, we didn't exchange addresses and I didn't ask her telephone number. For me it was just a very pleasant evening.
Barbara decided that she wanted to celebrate her 19th birthday with a big party. A party where all the guests would have a nice meal together and then there be a opportunity to dance. She invited all her Asian friends, most of them were the members of the Asian society. It must have been about 60 people. Barbara rented the largest Chinese restaurant of Cambridge , The Pagoda. The funny thing was that she insisted that I would pay the bill, but she also insisted that it would be with her money. She would give me the money beforehand and then I pay with a cheque from my bank account. At that moment I didn't understand why she wanted this. Of course did the restaurant owner later tell Barbara's mother that I payed for the party. The only comment her mother made was 'he must have had too much money'.
Barbara organized everything precisely as she wanted it to be. She decided the menu, negotiated with the restaurant owner, organized the music, made the invitations. She didn't want me to get involved. It was going to be her party.
Everything went as planned. Barbara got all the attention, she was the shining centre of the party. I sat next to her, not feeling very comfortable. Two opposites again. I am a person who normally likes to stay in the background, out of the picture. Barbara even sang spontaneously a duet of Chinese traditional loves song with another girl. This was the second and last time that I ever saw Barbara perform in public.
After the meal Barbara was very busy entertaining the guest. She obviously had no time for me. I didn't feel like sitting all evening next to Barbara, I am a restless type, I like to be able to walk around at parties. I got bit bored as nearly everybody spoke Chinese, therefore I decided to wonder around a bit. While doing this I saw the girl from the previous party again. I hadn't noticed her before. She was sitting alone near the dance floor. I went to set next to her and immediately we started talking again. We chatted and laughed together like we had known each other for years. I think we been talking for quite a while when one the girls came to me and said: 'there is something wrong with Barbara, you better go and see her'.
At a distance I saw that Barbara was surrounded by a few girlfriends, she was very distressed all in tears. When I reached her, the girlfriends quickly left us alone. I was startled seeing Barbara like this. I had never witnessed this before. Before she was so cheerful, happy, radiating, strong and in control. And now all of this was gone, tears, timid, looking so vulnerable, even humble. She told me that seeing me like that with that girl, she thought that this was the end of our relation and she just snapped, she couldn't control her emotions.
I supposed I ruined Barbara's birthday party. Most of the guest must have thought badly of me, but that didn't bother me. What I learned that evening and which I had never had realized before, was that my behavior had such an impact on Barbara emotions. I realized that Barbara was much more delicate than I ever had thought . I knew that in the future I had to be very careful in my contact with other girls.
And that girl from the party? I never heard of her or seen her again.
(translated by Julia)
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