In a small restaurant filled with smoke of different scents and flavors, I sat with three of my colleagues. I took a hit from the long pipe covered with purple cloth decorated with Arabic ornaments. I inhaled, and I heard a faint rustling of bubbles coming from beneath me. Slowly, I tasted the very mild but unmistakable flavor of apple. As it scratches my throat, I immediately release a puff of smoke, filling the air with scented mist. I was never much into shisha or hookah (as some of you call it).
We talk about our week, often times lingering on a specific event – digesting each detail and trying to make sense of it. At one point, in our mild dizziness, we spoke about relationships – our expectations and how we truly feel about it.
“I don’t want to be with someone I don’t see myself with in the future,” said one of the girls, (we’ll call her Girl 1). “I want to be in a serious relationship, if we’re not on the same page, I feel like I’m wasting my time. And I don’t really need that kind of burden,” she added in her very mild Spanish accent.
I nodded my head.
“I’ve always seen relationships as investment. I invest my time, my love and mostly, myself with someone when I’m in a relationship. I want to be with someone who is as invested as me, who wants to make the relationship,” I said.
“Well, right now, I’m into something more casual,” said Girl 2, in a non-nonchalant tone.
“Well, you are still 20, so why not,” I trailed off, looking at Girl 2.
Our only male companion, who stood up a few minutes ago to go to the restroom, now stood at the back of his chair, waiting for a server to pass by before he pulls out the chair and sits on it. All of us shrugged and dropped the subject, like we had an understanding that we didn’t want him to hear whatever we just talk about.
The chattering continued, and I took several more hit on the shisha before feeling dizzy. It didn’t take long before we all decided to go back home.
We got outside, the warm humidity of the city hits my face. Summer is coming, the temperature is rising, we all feel it in the night.
We walked back to our place, the starless sky looming above us. I walked with Girl 1 while Girl 2 and Male walked a few feet ahead of us. We took off from where we stop our conversation and had an exchange of similar views.
She then told me about her ex-boyfriend whom she moved in with at one point.
“He was rude to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“At first, it was nice. He feels jealous here and there, but then it got overboard. He would tell me I was being flirty and that I should respect him more and act a certain way because that’ll make him happy.”
“When we have our fights, I ask him why he was doing that. Why he would force me to be someone I’m not. He told me because that’s what I’m supposed to do – that I needed to respect him and that his word, his decisions should be something I follow.”
I listened to her, feeling sorry for how it went down with this guy.
“Well, eventually, I got tired and exhausted. I didn’t want to be in that kind of relationship anymore. I ended it, it wasn’t easy. Slowly, I was able to pick up the pieces that he tore away from me and now, I’m recognizing myself once again.” She gave me a smile, a bitter yet triumphant one.
“Good for you, no one should lose themselves in a relationship. No one should be forced to be someone else just because the other person says so” I told her, giving her a smile back.
I was glad she got away from that kind of relationship before it got worse. I saw this young, confident, beautiful woman in front of me who wears her scars on her sleeves. She was only just beginning to see the world. And that relationship only made her stronger.