During those days, almost everyone had penpals. I had two. One was a South Korean boy called Jung and the other was a Marcus John from Singapore.
It was fun exchanging letters with Jung. He was always sincere and earnest though his staccato style of writing made it difficult to interpret what he was saying sometimes. I could detect that he became infatuated after we exchanged photos for he began the letters with “My dearest girlfriend…” After he migrated to San Diego with his family, he sent me photos of his new home on the coast and updated me on his exciting life in the new city. We stopped writing to each other when he was in the university. Perhaps he found better things to do or we simply lost interest in writing letters.
Marcus John was a different character altogether. From his letters, I visualized a matured young man who spouted inspiring quotes and stories. He wrote long letters of encouragement and hope. One day, he sent me a blurry photo of himself in a park. Well, let’s just say I couldn’t really make out his features on that tiny photo. We exchanged letters for a couple of years before we decided to meet for coffee. He hinted that I shouldn’t be expecting a pretty face. Ha ha, maybe he was being modest? What the heck! I wasn’t going on a date or something, we were just penpals!
I kept scanning for his face at the mall. Finally a lanky chap walked up to me. “Hi, I’m Marcus John.” He stretched out his hand and flashed a big smile. OMG! He had decaying front teeth! I wasn’t trying to be judgmental or anything but I am quite anal when it comes to personal hygiene and presentation. What a bummer! I forced a smile and shook his hand. At the coffee place, my eyes kept focusing on his two front teeth, already rotting and blackened at the edges. Call me shallow if you want but I just couldn’t help it! I couldn't believe he was that guy who wrote so beautifully!
We continued writing for a while but eventually stopped as other priorities took over.