4. cooking class
I met my lecturer, Bryan*, when I enrolled in a hospitality management course. He looked young, but he was very stern-looking and serious, and he never smiled. Our first few lessons were horrible. We had to stand throughout his lessons and listen in silence while he lectured us about all the hardships you face when running a restaurant.

Practical cooking lessons in the kitchen were even worse. If anyone made even a small mistake, he or she would get shouted at in the face. I was one of those who could not handle these practical  culinary lessons well and I remember him screaming in my ears… I was close to tears, many times.

During one lesson, Bryan appeared by my side to observe me cutting vegetables. He started telling me I was doing it wrong, and I became so nervous that I accidentally cut my finger. We used very sharp knives in class and the cut was deep. Blood started flowing and I was in genuine pain. Immediately, Bryan used a cloth to bandage my hand and he drove me to a nearby clinic where I received a few stitches. I was so angry. When we returned to class, I refused to talk to him. He did not attempt to apologise either; all he did was remind me to take care of my hand.

Pasta with two forks
(Photo: Pixabay)

But a few weeks later, I started to notice his attitude towards me had softened. He was still stern but he talked in a milder manner. Sometimes he even attempted to smile. We even chatted a few times after class, firstly about food and places to eat, but gradually we also started talking about our personal lives.

I learnt he was married with one young kid. He was a hard worker: He had worked in kitchens almost all of his life, plus he was teaching during the day and pursuing a postgraduate degree in hospitality management. I could not help but respect him for his work ethic and his desire to better himself.

Bryan and I started to become closer. Over the next few months, we even went out for dinner after class. This started to become more frequent. I would wait for him after class and we would drive out in search of famous “zichar” stalls or other hawker spots. We both loved to eat and Bryan was an expert at sussing out the best local food places. This really impressed me.

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Before I knew it, our friendship had turned into something more. We never actually slept together and we never had sex, but we became very close physically. I remember trembling when we had our first kiss, and when he held me. I felt special.

Then, it all suddenly came crashing to an end…

One day, we were sitting in his car and Bryan told me he had to stop seeing me. Some of my classmates had been gossiping about us. It had somehow spread to students in other classes. Then some members of the faculty got wind of it, including Bryan’s Head of Department. Bryan admitted that the HOD had warned him to stop our relationship immediately, or he would be dismissed.

Even though Bryan explained everything nicely, I could not accept it. I cried and begged him not to leave. But he said his mind was made up to save his career… and to protect his marriage.

Woman looking at mobile phone
I felt betrayed and used. Then I had an idea. I looked up Bryan’s Facebook account and found his wife’s work details. Her email was listed, and I decided to write to her and tell her about my relationhip with Bryan. I told her we were in love with one another. Plus I exaggerated all the passionate sexual escapades we had – even though they had never actually happened. My plan was to upset Bryan’s wife so much that she would leave him.

I’m not too sure what happened after that. Bryan’s wife did not write back, and Bryan did not confront me. But I noticed that he  grew very cold towards me. He stopped talking to me except when necessary, and avoided eye contact.

To make things worse, by this time my classmates were also gossiping about me. I could tell they were happy I was out in the cold. I thought Bryan loved me. But when the time came to choose, he had chosen his wife and family and job. He had not chosen me.

I felt very embarrassed and depressed. I dreaded showing my face in class. This went on for about a year, until eventually I met someone new and started dating again. Gradually my feelings for Bryan wilted away.

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Today, I work in the food and beverage industry. I enjoy it and I have recently been promoted to area manager, handling a few outlets for the company. I never see Bryan, but through my contacts in the industry, I know he has stopped teaching to take on a senior role in a well-known hotel. I also know that he is still married – and expecting his third child with his wife.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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Photos: Pixabay, 123rf.com

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