My phone lights up. It's a message from Prasanna, my friend and flatmate.
"Hi guys, need to plan for the house handover", he says.
I have known my housemates - Venki and Prasanna - since university. We have been living together for five years now. Our rental lease is set to expire in little over a month.
So yea, I've seen this message many times before.
But this time, I hesitate to pick my phone up and reply. I decide to prepare dinner instead, thus buying myself at least an hour before having to type anything in that backlit screen. By the time I'm done with the dishes, there's another message.
"You're ok with informing the agent that we won't be renewing the contract, right?"
I have been dreading that question. I have known for a while now that some big changes were around the corner for each of us later this year. But change is hard, even if it has been a long time coming. Especially when your best friends over the past decade start to go their separate ways. I'm getting married. Venki is leaving for the US to pursue his further studies.
"Yes", I say. Not that I have an option. "When does our lease expire?"
The conversation seems to move very quickly from there. We have to find a way to sell some of our stuff. And unless we find somebody to take it over, our cable and internet subscription has to be cancelled. I don't stop typing. I am afraid of a lull in the conversation; of the silence that will allow what is happening to sink in. I don't want to consider these changes that have been right around the corner for a while now. I ask many questions about what plans everybody has after September, when the lease expires. Honestly, I'm not sure I want to know. All I'm sure of is that I cannot stop typing.
"He is leaving on Thursday. For good." That's Prasanna.
I've been away from Singapore for almost a year. But I have still been looking forward to proper goodbyes when the time comes. More proper than staccato text messages, at least.
Ok, Ram. Whatever you do, don't stop typing.
So I continue with renewed urgency, expressing anger and surprise at this new change of plans. The question and exclamation marks do not stop.
"I thought it was going to be October! Or later in September! Why didn't you tell me?!"
I am not prepared. Maybe I should have been. Maybe life away from home should have coaxed me into planning for precisely this eventuality. Acclimatised me to unfamiliar spaces and faces, to goodbyes.
Eventually, I will come to see this as a new chapter in three stories that happened to cross paths for about a decade. I will not fear being alone with thoughts of what lies ahead for each of us. The anger, the fear and the uncertainty - they will all melt away like morning dew disappearing at daybreak.
The next day, over the course of a two hour call, I do a much better job at telling Venki how genuinely excited and happy I am for him. New adventures await both of us. He has worked so hard for this. Two years later, he will finish his studies having learned not just about the world, but also so much more about himself. Between marriage and my own plans for the future, I should find myself living a different life too. More likely than not, we'll meet up for a drink a few months or years from now. But I'll still hope then that even though some things change a lot, others don't - not by much.