Struggling to catch my breath, I lean on a nearby table and survey my surroundings. Once, twice, thrice. My eyes scan the room, searching for the man who has eluded me for the better part of the morning.
Once again, I find myself chasing shadows.
Staring down at the iPhone in my hand, I refresh the app. Dragging my thumb downwards to refresh the screen, I watch, huffing, as the icon spins and comes to a stop.
Yes, he was definitely here twenty-eight minutes ago. Timestamps don’t lie. Everything in his picture matches my current location, and I can almost smell his cologne still lingering in the air.
Frustrated, I ask everyone in the cafe if they’ve seen him. They respond with bemused expressions, shaking their heads. Some even offer to help make a ‘missing persons’ report with the police.
But I’m not thinking straight.
Come on Wally, where are you?
If there were ever a moment in my life where I’ve felt like the bastard lovechild of Sherlock Holmes and the Pink Panther, this was it.
My name is Justin, and I am that guy.
You know, the kind of boyfriend that gets irrationally jealous at every little thing? The kind that’s so insecure, every interaction my girlfriend has with some other dude smells like infidelity?
Yep. That’s me.
A few days ago, I caught her posting a comment on my colleague Walter’s Instagram post. And of course, the first thing I thought was: since when did they become buddies? They’d only met once at an office party, and that was a year ago!
I haven’t stopped thinking about that comment since. Here it is, you tell me what it looks like:
But what’s even dodgier is that today, of all days, they are nowhere to be found. When Gwen first told me she couldn’t make it for my company event, I thought okay, that’s fine, no big deal. Then I get here and Walter isn’t here either.
Are you kidding me?
If you’ve ever found yourself falling down an emotional spiral, you’ll know exactly how I got here.
One minute I was texting Gwen, checking my read receipts and trying to reach her, and the next thing I know, I’m on my laptop, scanning all of Walter’s social media movements. Even if I can’t track her down, I can still track down the man she’s with, right?
From Facebook to Instagram and even Snapchat, I thumb violently through all of it at once, awaiting signs of life.
What do I know about Walter?
I know that he almost certainly lives within walking distance of the sea. According to his profile, the schools he attended are also in the area.
As far as I can tell, Wally is also a creature of habit. Every morning at 9:15 sharp, having posted a short time-lapse of his morning’s view on Instagram, he arrives at work carrying his usual Starbucks.
So if he were to bring Gwen on a date, where would he go?
According to Google Maps, East Coast park is a whopping 20 km long. But for someone who’s adamant to catch his girlfriend doing the dirty, no distance is too far.
At this point, I must give Walter some credit. “I like long walks in the park” was literally on Gwen’s Tinder bio when we first met, and it’s nice to see that he pays attention to the little things. If I ever lose Gwen, at least I’ll know that she’s in good hands.
But before I get ahead of myself, I need a strategy. Right now, my best bet of finding him would be to start from one end, and systematically comb the area. All while hoping he remains stationary, which as we know, is completely ridiculous.
Knowing Gwen, food is probably somewhere in the equation. Knowing Walter, there’s probably going to be coffee at some point.
Eventually, I arrive at the Starbucks right smack in the middle of the park. Being a Sunday, the place is packed full of sweaty, lycra-clad fitness enthusiasts sipping coffee.
Unfortunately for me, they are nowhere to be found.
Diving into Wally’s Instagram profile, I then make a list of all the cafés he’s ever visited. Then I make a list of all the cafés Gwen likes.
It all adds up to an entire page. But after some cross referencing and noting the places that feature repeatedly, and then eliminating those that require more than thirty minutes of travel time, I’m left with only a handful of possible destinations.
Twenty minutes later, confirmation comes in the form of Walter’s Instagram story.
BINGO. He’s at Brawn & Brains.
Work? What work? Oh my god, is this what people are calling it these days? He might as well have added one of those winking emojis!
Fast-forward three hours, and we’ve finally gotten to where this story first started.
I have just sprinted here from the bus stop, and with rivers of sweat are cascading down my back, I’ve realised that Walter isn’t here.
I’m also beginning to wonder if this is even worth it. Half-feeling like an idiot who’s severely misjudged the sanity of a situation, I order lunch.
Between bites, I put myself in Wally’s shoes, deducing why they ended up walking him out the door. As I’m figuring this out, the lunch crowd’s chatter begins to swell. Around me, everyone is either gossiping or taking selfies. The odd person who is trying to read succeeds only in grimacing in various states of distracted restlessness.
At points, the noise rises to a level not unlike a chaotic orchestra performance, over which everyone seems to be screaming at each other.
And then it hits me: this is no place for a cheating couple to be spending a romantic date. If Walter wanted some privacy, where would he go?
The next two hours of my life are then spent carefully analysing every post Wally’s friends have tagged him in. It’s a mind-numbingly tedious task, but a picture dated four years prior catches my eye.
In it, Wally is partially hidden in the background, making out with a female classmate. In the foreground, his buddies ham it up for the camera and tease him in the comments.
And then I see this on Twitter. Bloody hell.
Arriving at Bedok Public Library, I get to work combing both floors, stealthily keeping an eye out for the two slippery lovers.
Now, if there were ever a moment in my life in which I’ve felt like the bastard lovechild of Sherlock Holmes and the Pink Panther, this was it.
Wandering amidst the shelves, silently cursing Walter for choosing a place where confrontation is virtually impossible, I start to realise that that confrontation may never even happen.
Once again, he’s not here. I consider approaching security for access to the CCTV feeds, but think better of it. Goddamit.
Feeling my frustration bubble to the surface, I make one last-ditch attempt at finding him.
Firing up my long-forgotten Snapchat, I channel my rage with both thumbs, barbarically swiping past hundreds of contacts until I find Wally’s smug, smiling avatar.
According to the Snapchat maps, Wally is only a couple of hundred metres away from me at Bedok 85 Market.
This is it punk. Prepare your face to meet my fist.
The bead of sweat on my brow rolls down into my eye, temporarily blinding me. My lungs scream in protest with every drawn breath. Below, both knees tremble and start to buckle.
But still I run.
Like chasing a Snorlax on Pokémon Go, I run for that sucker with every ounce of energy I have left.
After eight hours of cat and mouse, I spy Wally seated in the crowded food centre next to a female.
In fact, I have no idea who it is.
At this point, I’m not really sure what’s going through my head. Part of me wants to hate this guy for sending me on this ridiculous pursuit, while part of me knows that I have no one to blame but myself. I’m tired, hungry, and irritated.
And now Walter is now waving me over.
Sheepishly, I join them him and this female stranger at the table, making up reasons for what I’m doing there and why I’m not at the company event. Walter laughs, cracking a joke about how he’s glad he isn’t the only one who thinks these things are a waste of time.
It occurs to me how much I actually like him, and I hate myself even more for even thinking he would try to hook up with Gwen.
Just then, I get a text.