La Douleur Exquise

La Douleur Exquise [French] (n.) The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have; the exquisite pain of wanting the affection of someone you can never have.


My name is Janet Harris. And his, is Dave Parker.

I remembered growing up with a big desire to replace my last name with his. I was in my second year of junior high when my older brother’s friends came to our house and made a chaotic mess for their theater final test preparation. I could see Christine, my brother’s ex-girlfriend, laughing in Alice costume and pointing at my brother who was trapped inside a large bundle of cotton with a pair of long white ears stood still on his head, perhaps he was The White Rabbit. The Hatter, The Red Queen, and her trump cards ignored their dialogues and kept laughing even harder. While the one who laughed the hardest that day as if his furry costume was not the silliest of them all, I remembered, was Dave: The Cheshire Cat.

That was the first time I saw him, but not the last. Every time my brother had a group project, he would invite his friends home and work on it all day long. And when those times came, I never missed a chance to peek at them just to see Dave explaining the process of mitosis and meiosis, playing a classical guitar for the group’s ensemble task, or eating a slice of pizza while writing a report.

Two years later, I entered the same school as his while he and my brother were already graduated in the same year. From the teachers, I knew Dave was beyond perfect. He never missed the first rank every single year, but still, he was able to manage school clubs and organizations as well. My school’s hall of fame was full of gold, silver, and bronze medals of his—taekwondo tournament, swimming competition, speech contest, you name it. He ruled them all. And the more I heard about him, the more I realized there was no way I could reach him.


I saw Dave again last August. It had been years since his departure to LA, pursuing his career, yet he managed to come to my brother’s master graduation. He wore a white hem covered by a gray suit that fit his solid body too well. His skin was white and clean, just like he had always been. He still grew neither mustaches nor beards, and that made him look even brighter. I could clearly recognize the scent of musk as he approached my brother and hugged him.

“Congratulations, James!” he shouted in his usual bass voice. As he loosened his embrace, he gazed at me and smiled, “Hi, Janet! Could you please take a picture of us?”

I blushed and answered with a nod. He handed me his phone and that was when I finally realized he had a silver ring on his finger. I was shocked. I tried not to cry, so I took a step back and started to photograph them. They kept changing poses while I could not stop wondering who that lucky woman Dave had been engaged with.

The answer, though, came mere seconds after that. Right when I tap the phone screen for the sixth time, my gaze fell upon my brother’s ring finger, where laid the exact same silver ring I had never realized its existence before. My tears finally rolled; perplexed with the fact that it would be him changing his last name.

For those who desire,
Bageur Al Ikhsan


17 thoughts on “La Douleur Exquise

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