Sex in the City #2: The UX designer who's long-distance relationship ended in tragedy
Nikolai passed away on 16 July 2019. He had osteomyelitis in his spine, and he wasn't responding to any medication. A few friends and I had tried very hard to fly him out of Siberia to a better hospital, but the doctors told us that it was too late. He was 39. I'd been expecting this possibility, but it just doesn't feel real. It has only been a few weeks since his death, but I'm strangely not sad any longer. I think it's resilience.
Nikolai and I met on Tinder in the summer of 2016. I was in Incheon, and he was 27 kilometres away in Seoul. Nikolai was 36 then, obviously Russian, and looked quite handsome in pictures. After a period of back-and-forth, we met up in Incheon and had dinner at a Mexican place. I remember him not being able to stand the spice. I gave him a brief tour of my neighbourhood before bringing him back to my apartment, where I made the first move. I found out later that night that I was his first date ever.
Nikolai was unlike any other Russian I've ever met in my life. He didn’t fit the typical stereotypes: he didn't drink much, and he went to bed early, which was a stark contrast to my alcoholic tendencies and late-night parties.
10 months later, in March 2017, I had to leave Incheon abruptly and return to Singapore. I had suffered a bad fall, and landed on my head during a night of heavy-drinking. Nikolai joined me in Singapore on a tourist visa, but after he was unable to secure a job, he headed back to Russia two months later with no solid plans for our relationship.
The long distance was fine initially. We spoke every day. Since we lived together, every corner of my house had some memory of him, so he didn't feel very far from me. We eventually met up in India for my brother's wedding after a year of long distance, but when I returned to Singapore, loneliness started creeping in. I began seeing other people. I wasn't sure if he was doing it as well, but neither of us told each other about it. My close friends advised me to move on, because I wasn't making space in my life for a more fulfilling connection. Eventually, Nikolai brought up the subject, and we decided to go our separate ways in September 2018. Nothing changed, though; I still called him every weekend, and we still sent each other care packages for our birthdays.
The first signs of his back infection began in May this year. I tried getting in touch with him, but I was left on read, and his eventual replies were brief and irregular. Weeks passed, and he was still undergoing treatment for an infection that was entirely treatable.
But then, I received a message from one of his close friends that he had passed on.
Nikolai will always be in my memories. I have so many things around my house that can trigger those memories. I still sleep on the bedsheets he got me. It feels like he is still around, and his stories are still here.
Honestly, relationships now feel like they take so much effort.
Don’t be too worried about me though; I won't be breaking down any time soon. Old habits die hard, and I’m still open to exploring new friendships and people — physical or otherwise — at the moment with no expectations.
Who says love is dead in Singapore? Buro.'s Sex in the City series features anonymous dating stories that are drop-dead hilarious or downright tragic, but always thoroughly fascinating. Interested in submitting a story? Spill the tea via email with your age and occupation.