This is a 'missing persons' report
"Hey, I missed you," I told a female colleague when she turned up yesterday after her weekend break. It wasn't a politically incorrect greeting, given that she's my "go-to" person more often than not, discussing topics for writing, headlines, grammar, politics and economy, to mention a few. Our debates at times strayed into how woody our drinks were, and we exchanged images of our filled glasses. We also enjoyed bitching about others in minor doses. For a second, she looked taken aback by my greeting. She swivelled in her seat and harrumphed before attempting to respond.
"Nothing wrong in shooting back an 'I missed you'," I said, coming to the rescue of my visibly embarrassed friend, while making it clear I wasn't attempting to extract a reply. And then we shared a laugh. Truly speaking, I wasn't trying to wear the hat of a hypocrite; I had missed her effervescence.
You will be missed. That's how most obits that float in the digital space end. We have seen it in the encomiums written about a slew of Bollywood veterans who passed recently, such as Rishi Kapoor, Irrfan Khan and Sushant Singh Rajput. In an ostensibly civilised society, such phrases are laced with mutual understanding, however pithy they might sound. I am game for it.
How often do we use the phrase 'I miss you'? How large is the pantheon of such venerable persons in our lives who deserve such endearments? Like the castes and sub-castes in the religious system, my world of 'I miss you' has several sub-divisions. It might sound exaggerated or self-dramatising but the truth is: I miss places more than people in my life. There isn't a single night I go to bed without feeling how much I missed my Singapore life - the idiosyncratic food courts or coffee shops called kopitiams; the affordable national dish called Hainanese chicken rice; Orchard Road, the tree-lined tropical boulevard, etc.
I miss my days in Nepal, cooking all three meals and writing in near-zero temperature nights. I miss my moments of solitude on Mount Lavinia Beach in Colombo, when I could converse with the fading sun and wailing wind. I miss my days driving the length and breadth of Malaysia. I miss the days and nights bobbing in the coloured waters off Boracay in the Philippines. I connect with places, more naturally than persons. Space has a soul more tranquil than people's.
That's the problem with INFJs (introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging), says a friend and would-be author who I have been talking to recently. She is an INTJ ( introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging). She is my regular reader and a creative critic, who would miss my column if I didn't write for a week. We discuss everything under the sun, from Greek musician Demis Roussos to the Nora Simon version of More Than I Can Say; from the good and bad about the dusk to the advantage of writing in the dawn; from romancing our protagonists to depression rising from sculpting the plot.
"INFJs are extremely mysterious and they absolutely hate INTJs, because we are so blunt and frank," she reminded me once. Still, we got along so inexplicably well that I miss her during my present sabbatical to take part in Authors Challenge 2020. Did I miss her? Yes. Did I tell her I miss her? No. Because in some relationships, there's such an enormous give and take of respect, we become too careful about our selection of words. Especially if that person is a hardcore logophile who would love to sign off with the tough-nut-to-crack 'Yours reconditely". We dread losing such friends.
There are these little heroes I miss - such as Emanne Beasha, Angelica Hale, Celine Tam and members of TNT Boys - if I don't watch their videos once a week. I miss the prodigies when they grow up in their real lives while I stay glued to the numbers that made them famous.
When friend Husna got back after a long while, I asked her, "Do I have the right to say I miss you?"
"No, you don't because if you did, you would've texted me long back," she messaged, reminding me there's no need to dramatise.
"See, if you feel someone is your friend and if you miss that person, pick up your phone and text. It's as easy as that." And then she disappeared, leaving me ruminating the philosophy behind the phrase.
I-miss-you is deemed an expression of sorrow or sadness from the absence of a family member, close friend, lover or spouse. Which means the underlying feeling is sadness rather than coquettishness. It's as profound as the expression 'I love you', which has no alternative sophisticated enough to carry the load of emotions that the tiny string of words is meant to.
There are occasions when 'I miss you' also has to play the disguised role of 'I love you', when humans bend feelings in such a way as to oblige their souls.
"Even messages like 'I miss you' have dried up, so I guess it's all over," a teen told me recently, talking about her love life and pointing at the enormousness of the expression.
"These are the three words I have used most in my life," she said, talking about her intercontinental affair. "They make me cry." Times when 'I miss you' becomes the epitaph of an affair.
The aphorisms 'I love you' and 'I miss you' are two sides of the same coin. Two shades of an emotion. The more you love, the more you miss. Which reminds me to miss someone, you need to love someone. Start from scratch?