December 28, 2008

At Juliza's Wedding

---


The hall was crowded with people; relatives greeting guests, guests talking to each other, tired parents chasing after their little children. The aroma of kenduri food wafted through the air: ayam masak merah, gulai daging, acar rampai, nasi minyak, dalca sayur. Clich├ęd wedding music and love songs were barely audible through the loudspeakers that littered the hall.

Evie Nadia sat at her table, finding the atmosphere festive but also slightly nauseating. She felt the beginnings of a headache pulse in her temples. But she was happy to be here.

She had arrived a few moments too late, thus she missed the bride and groom's entrance and the merenjis ceremony. She felt bad about it, but could only blame herself for not taking into account Kuala Lumpur traffic. But she managed to wave her hand and wink to a clearly excited Juliza as the bride and groom made their way for the Makan Beradab session.

Evie felt so happy for her friend; but a small part of her ached looking at Juliza walk down the aisle; I was there once, she thought. Then she pushed the thought away. She looked at the faces around her table.

Marina, a.k.a Bubblegum, was the same as ever: cheerful, funny and bright, a persona that belied her reputation in the KL legal circles as a determined, fiercely intelligent and concise attorney. Marina had greeted her enthusiastically when they met, hugging her tightly. As it turned out, she and Harith, a.k.a Lucky (who was now an editor for a major broadsheet newspaper), had gotten married last year, an event Evie had missed.

"We tried to get in touch with you so many times! But even Juliza did not have your number. We feel foolish to not have contacted your old family home!” Marina said.

"It's alright", Evie replied, "I'm the one who should be sorry. I should have kept in touch"

Marina smiled and made Evie sit beside her. Harith was still the same guy. Also at the table were old familiar faces; even an ex-boyfriend of Evie's, Syafiq. Syafiq was known as Arrows a long time ago; they had dated briefly. Syafiq had married a nice teacher 4 years back; they now had 2 bouncing little boys. There were other college friends as well.

The talk was good, and the food delicious. Evie noted how none of them brought up one particular subject, which curiously both disappointed and relieved her.

"You guys!” a voice shrieked.

Juliza came rushing to their table with a gleaming smile. She was dressed in a lovely turquoise wedding dress, and the expression on her face was one of utter joy. A few steps behind her, Aliff quickened his pace to catch up with his bride.

Evie, Marina and the others all stood up to greet their friend. Juliza was especially happy to see Evie there. She hugged her fiercely, with a faint hint of tears in her eyes. Evie realized then how little effort she had made to keep in touch with her old best friend. She felt guilty and selfish.

Juliza must have noted a change in Evie's face, as suddenly she said, "I knew you would come".

Aliff caught up with the gang and shook hands all around. The group talked and laughed for a few minutes, all of them clearly enjoying the moment. They took pictures, with Harith using a big SLR camera.

Oh, Evie thought when she saw the camera. She was reminded of something. Stop it, she told herself. Then Juliza and Aliff had to make rounds to meet and greet the other guests, who must have numbered by the hundreds. The group sat back down.

"So Evie..." someone said. It was Syafiq, whose wife Aleeya was feeding small spoonfuls of jelly to their 3 year old son. "What have you been up to?"

Evie smiled. "Oh you know. Work. And work. And oh yeah... work!"

The table laughed. Harith asked her where she made a living.

"I'm at an ad agency off Jalan Sultan Ismail. Been there since 3 years ago I think. It's a good job. With great benefits, haha!” Evie said playfully while pointing out the platinum necklace with a pink diamond heart pendant on her neck.

"Syafiq told me you were his girlfriend once", said Aleeya, but in a friendly manner. "So I came because I had to see the girl named Evie"

"Oh he told you? She's not a girl anymore, thankfully. And oh my God, Syafiq you're lucky your wife here is so understanding", Evie said.

"Yeah, if it was me I wouldn't have even entertained the notion of Harith meeting an ex-girlfriend!” Marina added, bringing more laughter to the table.

"If I actually had an ex-girlfriend, that is", Harith said, cracking the group up again.

"Syafiq and I were just friends, isn't it right Syafiq?” Evie said to Syafiq who suddenly blushed, much to the laughter of the group, and Aleeya, who smiled, clearly amused. Their two little boys were busy inspecting the many flower bouquets around their table.

And then Aleeya asked her the question she hoped she would not have to answer today.

"So what about you? Anyone special in your life right now?"

Evie shut her eyes softly for a split-second, but it felt like millennia to her. She sighed inwards; of course, Aleeya would have no idea of her past wedding and divorce. Evie herself had buried it inside her heart for a long time now.

People often ask her that: "So, are you seeing anyone?” From snotty married men who thought they were still prime, to clients not knowing the boundaries of professionalism, to young fresh college graduates who obviously thought they were God's gift to women.

Evie usually ignored those questions, or answered in a tone that meant "you're crossing the line: stop". It did not matter to her. All those people wanted were to get in her pants.

I haven't seen anyone since I got divorced four years ago, Evie answered in her head. She was about to give Aleeya a less depressing version of her answer when a man casually walked up to their table.

"Hello everyone", the man said, nonchalantly. He was holding a plate with rice and lauk in one hand, a glass of rose syrup in the other, and a digital SLR camera hung from one shoulder. All of the people at the table turned to look at him, Evie included.

Muhammad Rafar, dressed comfortably in a black batik shirt and slacks, stood beside their table holding his meal. He wore plastic rimmed glasses, and his hair was now shorter, but it still had that scruffy look, although the scent of hair cream meant he had made an attempt to manage it.

"You! Haha. Come on! Have a seat!” Harith, his old best friend, greeted.

"Ya Allah, I never thought I'd see you here!” said Marina. Syafiq waved and said hi, introducing his wife as he did so. Rafar apologized for not being able to shake hands with anybody since he was holding his plate and glass.

"Oh God, then will you just put it down and eat already!” Marina scolded.

He smiled at his old friends, and seemed to be indifferent to the fact that Evie was there.

"I can sit here can I?” he said as he put down his plate and glass and took a seat right next to Evie, whose mind seemed to be stunned for a moment. Rafar immediately tucked into his food.

"This is delicious", Rafar said as he chewed; he did not seem to pay any attention to the fact that Evie Nadia was beside him. But maybe that was just appropriate, Evie thought finally. We wouldn't want any awkwardness at the table.

Rafar talked with Marina and Harith and the others at table as he had his food. Evie unconsciously shifted her seat so she would not be so close to him beside her. As Rafar ate beside her, she made an attempt to join in the conversation at the table. Still, she also found herself stealing glances at Rafar.

A thousand questions raced through her mind: What is he doing now? Is he married? With kids? Or is he dating somebody? He looks like he's lost weight; is he okay? Is he okay that I'm sitting beside him? Does he even remember me? Do I look different without my glasses?

"Oh man, this is just, like, ten years ago", Rafar suddenly said. He laughed, and the others joined in.

Evie stared at the man sitting beside her.

Wiseguy, she thought.

----


(to be continued..)

December 25, 2008

Four Years Later

-----


The girl - no, woman - clad in her underwear, looked at herself in the mirror, as she often did, a remnant habit from days long gone. She squinted her eyes, scrutinizing her body, touching it here and there. With a careless swing of her head, she threw back her long raven hair. She turned her body sideways, glancing up and down.

Her figure was fuller than before, rounder in the correct places. She had put on a few pounds, but not in the bad way, and her body still had the tone and nuance of someone in her prime. She stuck her chest out, again an old undying habit, and tilted her head.

I look fine, she thought. In fact, her slight chubbiness was only obvious because she was a skinny waif before. By no means was she even close to fat. A nutritionist and doctor would call her 'healthy'.

But the biggest change from before were in the lines of her face. The most obvious difference from days of yesteryear was that she no longer wore glasses; corrective eye surgery had taken care of that. Sadly, she thought that the surgery had also taken away some of the gleam in her eye. She knew it was probably something else, but it just seemed that way to her.

Her eyes were darker, and she had somehow(much to her annoyance) developed dark circles under her eyes, which she now concealed with make-up. She looked wiser, quieter, no longer the spunky and cheery nineteen year old eleven years ago. She stared into the mirror for a moment, and began pulling faces, almost desperately trying to summon herself from the past.

Finally she just smiled and sighed. I'm not nineteen anymore, she thought. I'm thirty.

That thought comforted her as well. She felt that stepping into the age of thirty somehow validated her existence. Funny, sure, but she really did feel that way. Four years ago at the still early age of twenty-six, she almost crumbled into depression from a divorce. It had been too early. But in her sadness she found that life went on, and life would leave her behind if she did not buckle up and hitch a ride.

She told herself to get on with it, to acknowledge her past but not dwell on it. Put simply, she needed to move on. Part of that process was losing her glasses; a seemingly trivial thing, but the act was significant to her. A milestone. A step towards moving on.

So she did. Four years ago she started working really hard, and it paid off. She now lives quite handsomely on her own, and although she still stayed in the same cozy apartment, an apartment she once shared with another, the house no longer felt 'empty' to her. She had made it her own sanctuary.

She no longer looked nineteen or twenty-six, but that was alright. She was still beautiful, and an outsider or an admirer would say she was like aging like a fine wine, with grace and becoming better. Her age brought to her a beauty she never had: the beauty of grace and wisdom. She was wiser. Stronger.

She paused in front of the mirror, and adjusted the undies. Finally comfortable, she turned away and began dressing up in a cream kebaya, with matching sarong. She had a wedding to attend today, the wedding of a dear friend. A friend, again it seemed, from many years ago.

Juliza Mahyuddin, her oldest and best friend, but one she hasn't seen in ages since college, was getting married today. Juliza was getting married to her college sweetheart. It was surprising it took them so long, she thought of her friend. But she was happy all the same.

She finished dressing up and putting on light make up, and as she made her way downstairs to get her car, Evie Nadia Hakimi had a thousand thoughts swirling in her head. She was a bit excited at the prospect of seeing old friends.

Juliza.. I used to call you Tingles, she thought as she was driving. And Aliff, your boyfriend now husband? Redfoot was it? Yeah. I wonder if the rest will be there. Marina; what was her nickname.. yeah, Bubblegum! Ehehe.. and Lucky..

As she reached a traffic light junction her thoughts paused. She put on a pair of designer sunnies, taken from her overhead compartment. Before the lights turned green she took a quick look at herself in the mirror; for a split second, and with the glasses on(even if they were sunnies), she saw herself as that nineteen year old from days gone by again.

The lights turned green, and she stepped on the gas.

Years ago, Evie thought. They used to call me Sugar.



---

(to be continued)




October 24, 2008

October 11, 2008

Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin

----

sugar was tired and she took a stroll in Pavilion.

it was a long day at the office; client after client came streaming in, and her boss had relentlessly asked her to come up with several different proposals within 6 hours. she felt worn out. she remembered Bilbo Baggins from The Lord Of The Rings: "like butter scraped over too much bread". only, she thought, exchange butter with planta and bread with roti canai.

and yet she thought it was only fair. Eid holidays were over, and work always tended to pile up during the holidays. sugar sighed. take today, for instance. she had come into the office and had almost fainted at the amount of work that had accumulated within a short seven days.

but enough of that, she thought. she glanced at her watch. 1733hrs. to drive outside now, in Kuala Lumpur, would be a nightmare. so she just walked along with no actual intent, casually window shopping, stepping into some shops when something caught her eye. she felt hungry but did not know what to eat.

she stopped by the surau to pray, and sat inside for a moment thinking about the past Ramadhan and Eid. it had certainly been a happy one. she managed to be with her closest friends and family during the holidays. now she wished they weren't over. but anyways there were still open houses to attend, greetings to be sent. Raya always lasts a month in Malaysia, after all.

after a few minutes she got up and got out of the surau. at the way out she paused by the Canon camera shop. she felt curiously odd standing there, looking at cameras. she knew why, of course. she must have stood there for a few minutes as the salesgirl was about to approach her. but upon seeing that, her trance broke, and sugar abruptly turned around to walk away...

.. and bumped into another person, who dropped a bagpack and a camera; the bagpack was carelessly unzipped as well, and some papers and photographs fell out.

"i'm sorry!" sugar said and immediately crouched down to help gather the persons' belongings. as she picked up the papers she glanced at the open bagpack and the dropped camera; a scruffy Eastpak, with worn zippers, and a Canon SLR. thank god the camera wasn't broken at least, sugar thought. but looking at the open bagpack reminded her of him. he had always been careless with his bag. in fact, he had even used the same Eastpak bag.

it's just me and my memories again, sugar thought as she got up and handed the person she bumped into his things. she sighed audibly.

"i'm sorry", she said, still looking at the items she had caused the person to drop. the bag, the camera.. they were reminding her of --

"wiseguy", she said as she finally looked at the person she bumped into.

"sugar", he said.

she paused; stunned. it was him; it was really him. she felt breathless. the man he she had loved so much and thought of so often was standing in front of her. it had been two years; he looked a little different, sugar thought as she mentally scanned the love of her life in front of her. his clothes hung looser, his hair longer. he had a five o'clock shadow, and wore plastic rimmed spectacles.

"i'm.. i.. i..", she stammered; her knees felt weak, her heart thumping between her breasts.

"it's fine..", wiseguy said. he took the stuff from sugar, and looked down at his shoes. "it's nothing, really". he smiled, that careless, casual smile sugar dreamt of every so often.

sugar nodded quickly and promptly walked away. her mind was racing. she felt like running back to his arms or slapping his face or saying "i love you" or just for once since two years ago, to hold him close and tight and feel his beating heart.

but she couldn't. she just walked, aching herself not to look back. but then he called out.

"sugar"

she stopped in her tracks; some of the people passing by glanced at her oddly. she ignored them. she just stood there, almost stiff. she just did not know what to say or do.

"sugar", wiseguy called again. this time she slowly turned around. inside her head, she was thinking: oh god, how do i look? she had on a blue cardigan top and a long skirt. as she turned she unconsciously eased out the creases in her skirt, the kinks in her hair. she saw him walking towards her and she felt like running into his arms. that was ridiculous of course, she reminded herself. we've moved on..

wiseguy stopped a few steps away from her. he had his bagpack slung on one shoulder, the camera on the other. he ran a hand through his messy hair, as he often did. then he extended a hand to her. she looked at him puzzledly.

wiseguy smiled softly. "Selamat Hari Raya Evie..", he said. she slowly took his hand. to her surprise, he came closer, bent forward and softly kissed her hand. the touch of his lips on her skin was electrically familiar, yet heart-breakingly distant. wiseguy looked up at her, his eyes deep obsidian pools.

"Sugar..", he said. "Maaf Zahir Batin.."

sugar didn't know what to say. she just looked at him and bit her lower lip. she was about to say something, but then just nodded. wiseguy smiled and began to turn away.

"you take care..", he said, and walked away. still stunned, she turned around herself, and slowly made her way to the escalator. as she descended, she looked upwards, half-hoping to see him coming for her, and yet half knowing how unlikely that was to happen. she sighed. at least she wasn't crying. maybe she was over it for good.. maybe it was just the shock of seeing him again after so long.

"selamat hari raya to you too wiseguy.. maaf zahir batin", she said quietly under her own breath. she decided to go home.

what she didn't know, however, as she sat in her car, listening to music in the heavy traffic out of Kuala Lumpur, was that wiseguy had gone home afterwards feeling stupid, wishing he had asked her out for a drink.

--------

disclaimer:
this is a special Raya themed one off episode.
this is not a season four prologue. i have no plans for it currently. many apologies.


selamat hari raya maaf zahir batin from TWaAY


--------


August 29, 2008

.. and Ten

--

[5 years ago]

"oh look, it's starting to rain", you said. we were standing outside our campus building. ahead of us was the student parking lot. you held out your hand and watched as a few droplets of water fell on it. pretty soon it the drops fell faster.uh oh. you quickly brushed your hand on my shirt.

"oh thank you very much", i said sarcastically, but with a smile. you only smiled a lovely smile.

"you're welcome", you said. "now come on, let's start walking or we're gonna get soaked!"

you took my hand in yours and we dashed across the small boulevard that separated the building and the parking lot. we were running with our free hands on our foreheads to shield the rain from our face. it really didn't work so well though. but we managed not to get too wet as we entered the car.

"that was fun now wasn't it?" you said, laughing.

"no. i don't like getting wet", i replied. "my notes almost got ruined!"

"haha. you'll be fine. you're smart enough without notes"

you were in the drivers seat. you started the engine and backed out. we were going on a lunch date. this was only, like, our sixth or seventh date as an official couple.i was happy as can be.

"where are we gonna eat?", you asked.

"i feel like nasi campur at Taman Melawati", i said.

"yeah? where exactly?"

"there's this awesome Minang restaurant; it's near the post office row. know that place?"

"oh ya, my dad took me there once. Minang Sahur or Subuh or something like that right?", you turned to me.

"haha, it's Minang Saiyo actually. but yeah, that's it. they have the best beef rendang", i said enthusiastically. i was already tasting the tender pieces of beef in my head. you looked at me again and smiled. you took the car there. we arrived there just before all the lauk ran out. when we finished lunch we sat there for a moment, talking.

"you know what i've realized this past few weeks?", you said.

"what dear?", i said while sipping some iced lemon tea. or rather iced lime tea.

"ever since we got together i've gained some weight"

"is it somehow my fault?"

"i never said it was"

"but you're impling it is kan?"

"haha yes. but don't fret. it's because i'm happier than before". at this you smile sweetly at me whilst leaning back and rubbing your belly. i pinched your stomach.

"ouchh!" you exclaimed loud enough that a pakcik eating his lunch looked our way. i tried not to laugh but couldn't contain it in. i coughed on iced tea, whilst simultaneously laughing.

"padan muka", you said amiably. we talked for a few minutes then decided to leave. heading back towards KL, we stopped by Taman Tasik Titiwangsa for an afternoon stroll. the rain had stopped when we were having lunch, and the sun was creeping out of the clouds, sending golden spears of light downwards.

"look at Kuala Lumpur", i pointed out. we both glanced at the lovely skyline of Malaysia's capital city.

"beautiful, isn't it?" i asked, somewhat to myself.

"like a painting", you concurred. we took a seat on a bench public enough for us not to get caught for 'indecency'. you held my hands. for a moment we just sat there looking at each other. a faint blush rose to your cheeks, which i pointed out immediately.

"why are you blushing?", i asked bemusedly.

"nothing", you said sheepishly.

"come on, tell me. or not i'll pinch your tummy again"

"haha, okay fine. no tummy pinching", you said. you held my hands tighter. "it's just that, well... i know we've only been seeing each other for like months rather than years, but somehow i can see myself..." you trailed off.

"see yourself what?" i pressed.

"i see myself spending the rest of my life with you, of course", you grinned.
i smiled back. "and what do you see?"

"well.. we'll be married in like 4 years or so from now. we're gonna stay in a nice, cozy apartment. in Kuala Lumpur of course. and near my parents. and near your parents", you said.

i smiled again. i was loving you more and more. "and?"

"hmm, we'll both have good jobs. and we'll be happy. then we're gonna have kids. and they're gonna be the most beautiful babies ever."

"well, that's a given since they're gonna have the most beautiful parents ever", i said, laughing. "tell me more", i beckoned. and so you did. you said that we were going to be successful young talents in our fields of interest. you said that maybe we're even going to be famous. you said that we were going to send our children to the best schools. and you talked about more lovely dreams and hopes. and you said this half-jokingly. i sensed a determination to make these visions happen beneath your eyes.

"you know how i can see these things?", you finally asked.

"how sayang?" i said, my heart filling with love and affection for you.

"because i love YOU", you said and placed a finger on my lips, which i kissed softly. "because i love you, and even though this is just the beginning, i KNOW we're gonna be together for all time..."

we had smiled at each other, our smiles carrying hope.. and promise. the sun was not quite out, still hidden behind clouds. but it's rays of

[5 years later]

..golden sunshine streamed in through the windows of my bedroom, and lighted on my eyes. i woke up, my eyes squinting. i glanced at the bedside clock: 1000hrs, Sunday morning. when i could open my eyes better, i saw that my bedroom light wasn't turned off. i yawned and stretched. instinctively i glanced beside me. an empty space. of course.

i got out of bed and turned off the light. i looked out the window, and saw beautiful blue skies and cotton-candy clouds. whatever remnants of yesterdays rain had now gone. it could come back later, but as of now, it was beautiful. i determined that i would go out today. maybe go window shopping, or maybe i'll visit my parents. or friends. or go out on a date? whatever. just as long as i don't spend the day like yesterday.

i took a shower, feeling much better than yesterday. of course last night i had dreamed about 5 years ago. it was alright. it was a bitter memory to swallow, but like medicine, it made me feel better. i finished showering and dried up, got dressed.

as i stepped out of my bedroom, i glanced at the apartment. there were no longer pictures of you and me around. i had taken them down. the apartment was neat, because i kept it that way. you were always the messy one anyway. now you were not going to be around to make a mess anyway.

i made myself coffee, and laced it with lots of brown sugar. i liked it sweet. you had liked it bitter, i remember. i smiled at the thought. i went to the lounge, and put on some jazz on the stereo. i quietly sat down drinking my coffee, in a moment of reflection, like often i do whenever i have those bad days of memories.

i was feeling much better. the bitterness and the sadness i felt yesterday, when i had been questioning the whats and whys to the destruction of our relationship were now being diluted by a sense of calm and of course sweet coffee. there were some parts of the separation that i just couldn't bear to remember anyway.

i thought of you for a moment. i had loved you back then.. and even now, i still love you. maybe differently, but it is love all the same. i thought about five years ago, and your visions of the future. well.. some of them came true. and maybe you're making the rest of it come true with someone else now. i pray you're doing well.

i know i can't afford to be bitter all my life. i guess whatever that happened was just meant to happen. there is a Higher Power than us. maybe we were just meant to be separated. maybe there is and will be a better future for both of us. i choose to believe so, even without you by my side.

no matter what happens, no matter what i do, or who i end up with before i die, i think that some part of me will always belong to you, and i hope some part of you belongs to me as well. you were my best friend, my dream lover, my wonderful spouse. i cherish everything. and i blame you for nothing..

and Wiseguy, in one way or the other, i'm always going to be your sayang, your love, your Sugar. i miss you, i said in my mind. i took a sip of coffee. then i smiled softly. i'll be alright. this isn't the end of the journey of life and love. i believe i'll find my forever happiness one day. but i know that even then, a part of me deep down my heart, i suppose, will always be talking with an alternate you.


------------
-end-
Muhammad Edwan Shaharir
2008

--

August 24, 2008

Nine

--

the night grew deeper, and the streets around my apartment complex got quieter. i felt a headache, probably from sleeping too much today.

i had fixed myself now a mug of hot Horlicks. i opened the sliding door to my balcony and rested my elbows on the railing, holding the hot drink in my hand.

i stared out into the distance, towards Kuala Lumpur. the rain had stopped, and the night air was cool. i blew a strand of hair that had fallen on my face. what an unproductive day, i thought. i had spent the day doing nothing at all but laze around, eat and brooded over my own thoughts and memories.

like i said, the memories were now only bittersweet. that is, there were only the bittersweet memories playing around in my head. i had pushed the bad ones out some moments ago. i even managed a smile when i remembered the sweeter somethings.

one day you had called me at work, saying that you were craving tuna sashimi and wanted to go out that night for dinner at a Japanese restaurant we usually frequented. unfortunately i had tons of work to do that day and couldn't promise i would make it for dinner.

so we can't go tonight? you had asked.

no dear, i'm sorry, i had answered.

it's alright, maybe some other time lah.

and sure enough, i came back home quite late that night; but not without a surprise. on my way back i managed to get some sushi and sashimi from a nearby supermarket. i thought it would be a nice way to satisfy your craving. that was, of course, until i arrived home and saw you had bought a spread of sushi and sashimi.

since we couldn't go, i thought i'd bring it home, you had said.

apparently i thought the same, i had replied while holding up a bag of sushi and sashimi. then we broke into laughter, and proceeded to eat as much sushi as we could. there was enough for a family. we had ate until we felt like vomiting.

which eventually i did.

i laughed at the memory. the wind swept most of the laughter, carrying it further. i sipped my Horlicks. again, i gazed into the distance. where were you tonight, i wondered. with a new friend? a new love? i could never guess. it did not matter anyway. i said a prayer, wishing for your well being and happiness.

i went back inside, straight to the bedroom. i put aside my drink and laid down on the bed. i glanced at the empty space beside me. ever since our separation, i had chosen not to sleep on your side. i felt it was not nice to do so. i guess it was a way of me to remember the good times, when i could lay in bed with you beside me.

don't mug the blanket! i had said one night long ago.

i'm not mugging the blanket; it's you who doesn't fit, haha, you had teased.

i smiled again to myself. sure, the other side was empty now. but the memory of the person lingered there.

it's strange that i could continue loving you even now. the love has taken a new form i suppose. it's no longer as passionate or intimate. i cannot do that anymore. this love has now taken form as a memory, sometimes painful sometimes not, but often bittersweet and crystal clear. in a way, i have moved on. i've seen some people, and some of them have made me smile.

the only thing is i guess i'm holding out for something special. when that is, i don't know. even if it doesn't happen, i will be content with having you as my last memory of love.

i drank my Horlicks to the last drop, and curled up inside the blanket we had shared, on the bed we had talked on, made love on, even argued and fought on. it was okay, i thought.

wherever you are, i'll always pray for you.

and so i ended a day of thinking, remembering and sleeping by falling asleep, with the lights on.

but at least i did not cry to sleep. i'd like to think there was a smile on my lips.

--



note
hold on;
'Ten' will follow, and finish, TWaAY III..



August 20, 2008

Eight


--

the apartment was dark as i jolted suddenly out of my prolonged nap. it was already maghrib. i yawned and stretched my limbs, squeezing my eyes as i did so. i rearranged the messed up sofa and stood up.

glancing outside, i saw it was still raining, though not as heavily and without a light and sound show. i smirked, thinking that the SMART Tunnel better be doing it's job. even through the rain-stained window, the lights of Kuala Lumpur beckoned at me.

i walked to my bathroom for a shower. as i stood there undressing my mind somewhat casually thought about you being in the same room as me; a gentle heat rose to my cheeks, and i closed my eyes to let the thought go away. it seemed inappropriate, now that we weren't together. i wrapped a towel around myself and chucked my worn clothes into a laundry basket.

i stood with my head bowed under a steady cascade of very warm water. my eyes were closed. it was relaxing. in my mind i saw the bathroom door opening, and a voice from yesteryear calling out.

you look very nice standing under a shower, you had said.

i thought there were rules about opening bathroom doors; but since you're already there, care to join me?, i had said. you looked as if you were giving it thought.

no, i want to prepare dinner for us, haha. and you had closed the bathroom door, trailing laughter, and left me to finish showering. i had smiled with a mixture of amusement, embarrassment and exasperation.

i remember you had jumped me as i got out of the shower, and we had made love instead of dinner.

i opened my eyes and washed my face to rid myself of that memory. most of the painful stuff were beginning to fade, though, God forbid, they'll probably return again the next time i end up stuck at home with nothing to do.

the memories that were in my mind now were the bittersweet ones.

i turned off the tap and dried myself; i got dressed and proceeded to the kitchen to prepare dinner; but instead i found myself ordering pizza over the phone. you loved pizza, i remembered. it was always Domino's, always Extravaganzza. you could finish a whole large one by yourself. so it was that pizza i ordered.

when the pizza arrived i made some iced lemon tea and sat down in front of the television. there were some good shows on tonight. so i ate my pizza, drank my tea and watched television by myself. when the phone rang i rushed to get it. it was mama, asking me how i was and if i was going to be visiting anytime soon.

yeah, of course, i'll come by tomorrow, i said. mama and i small talked for a few minutes and we hung up.

when the good television show finished i saw that i had eaten half of the pizza. i packed it into plastic containers and stuck them in the fridge. what now? i thought. but then i grabbed a notebook and a pencil and began scribbling, doodling, almost randomly.

absently, i wrote:

as days go by i find that strangely i miss you in intervals.
on days like this when i'm doing nothing i miss you so much.
but on other days it's like i'm okay and don't think so much.
it's been 2 years now since we went separate ways.
i still don't understand why.
maybe i still love you or maybe i'm just taking time to heal.
but i'll remember you always.

--




August 15, 2008

Seven

--

and there i was dreaming of you and the day it ended. i don't remember the details: paperwork, legal advice, etc. just the moment when the sound of shattering glass in the caverns of my heart seemed to send out echoes into the outside world.

you had come back again later that fateful night, looking sad yet oddly calm. i had been sitting in this very living room, just waiting for your return. you had locked the door behind you and turned to face me, still with an expression of conflict on your face.

is it another person? i had asked.

no, it's not. like i said, it's me. i feel like i don't belong here, you had said.

what do you mean? how can you possibly feel that way? are you not happy with the way things are?

it's not like that at all. it's just that i..

you paused. i had given you a long, hard look. what? what my love? i had asked.

you know, sometimes i wish it was another person. maybe it'd be easier to explain then, you had said.

but, you had continued, i'm not cheating on you. and that's the truth. i still love you, but somehow i don't think we should be together anymore.

it's been only little more than a year! i had almost yelled.

i know, you had said. but in this time i feel lost, and aimless. i feel like i'm not living my life the way i should.

those words shocked me. they really had. even more so when you said:

i want to be free of commitments.

a sudden loud crashing of thunder woke me from sleep. i got up too quickly and suffered a head-ache as the blood rushed out of my head; i sat up feeling dazed for a moment, my world spinning. outside, the rain continued to pour. it was just one of those wet, wet days. a small voice inside me told me to get out of the house regardless, go do something to take your mind off things.

i could not. it was getting late in the afternoon now, almost approaching evening. the weather outside made me feel heavy and strained. i did not feel like doing anything at all. still dazed, i leaned back on the sofa. the quiet apartment was quite dark, so i switched on a table lamp. i sighed.

somehow back in the day i thought a sacrifice for love would be noble, honorable and rewarding; that when you measure the strength of your heart for someone you love, you would be blessed with a happiness more than you could hold.

i had made that sacrifice. foolishly, i thought you would come back to me when i had let you go. i had then spent night after night, wishing, praying, hoping, wanting and needing for you to come walking into that apartment into my arms again.

but that did not happen. sure, life had went on. i went to work. ate. talked. almost on autonomy. like i wasn't in control. the only thing i was conscious of was wanting you back. and of course, the friends and family had come and left, and they had said words of the kindest intent.

but intent did not and could not turn back the clock.

in time it had ended officially on paper and in that life of.. ours? there is no 'ours' now.

i crashed myself back on the sofa. no, i did not want to do anything on a weekend like this. sometimes the memories are just too vivid, even if, i realized, they actually don't hurt you as much as they did. but they still hurt, all the same.

i'm sorry. but to go on would be lying to myself, and lying to you, you had said.

do you love me? i had asked.

i still do. maybe. but i don't think this lifetime is meant for us.

so what now? you're on your own? free? solitary?

i guess. it's what i want.

then what about what i want!? i had hissed through gritted teeth.

i can't give you what you want, you said, to which i only remained silent to.

i twisted on the sofa, and lay on my stomach, resting my head on the cushion. i should probably take a shower and prepare myself some dinner or something.

but right now, i just want to say a little prayer for myself, and sleep, and dream everything away.

--


August 6, 2008

Six

--

i was reading a magazine when all of a sudden the skies went from sunny to a subdued gray; i glanced out the window to see the rainclouds had returned. i shook my head. we live in the tropics after all. i sat myself back on the sofa and continued reading the magazine.

the sofa has space for three. i remember buying it at Ikea with you. the color was a pleasant brownish tone i had called 'honey' and you had called 'caramel'. then you had said

'caramel and honey is close enough. sweet things'

i had laughed. seems like ages ago.

the sudden tip.. tap.. tip...tap..tiptaptiptap at the window made me look outside and sure enough the heavens had opened up again. heavily too, and almost without warning. thank god i did not have laundry out in the balcony. that would have made a humdrum day even worse.

lethargy took the better of me. it was about thirty minutes to four but outside, it looked like dusk. anyway, a rainy afternoon.

i put down the magazine and stretched my arms and legs. i cracked my knuckles. what now? no place to go today, and nothing to do. i tossed a cushion on one end of the sofa and laid myself down. i feel alone. i woke up earlier this morning while it was raining and thought of you. i was doing it again now. as ever the voices of ghosts echo in my mind.

what do you mean we can't be together? you're joking right?

no, i'm not. i'm sorry.

we've only been married a year or so; tell me now what is going on? aren't you happy?

i am happy. or was happy. i don't know. i just feel.. incomplete. incontent.

what? why? and how? have i not given you everything? have we not built a dream together?

to an extent.

to an extent? what are you talking about?

it's not your fault. i just feel this is wrong. that i should not be here.

a sudden crash of thunder startles me out of my thoughts. somewhere down in the parking lots below a car alarm was ringing, doubtless having been triggered by the loud thunder. the rain was getting heavier. Kuala Lumpur was like a prisoner being tortured with alternating bouts of heat and water. and yet, rain or shine, the city thrives. like the beating heart of the country that it is.

my heartbeat was slowing down. a sudden phantom pain pierces my heart as my mind drifts back to those words.

..i should not be here.

i had been stunned. i remember now; we were about to have dinner when that conversation happened. i had cooked your favorite dishes. i had planned on treating you to a movie.

i'm going out, you said then,.

is it another person? i had asked.

you had paused and just shook your head.

no, you had said. it's just me. i want to be alone.

then you had opened the door, put on your shoes, and you left the apartment. i had been stunned and was speechless. it felt back then as if the world i thought was so perfect was just a facade for a cruel, bitter underworld.

i sighed. i glanced at the door, wishing for it to open and for you to come walking back into the apartment and into my life... but knowing that that was unlikely the more these days go by. you had made your choice. you had given me a glimpse of paradise only to have pulled down the blinds so suddenly. the abruptness was like a slap to the face.

my eyelids felt heavy. thunder and lighting exchanged greetings outside.

i fell asleep.

--


August 1, 2008

Five

--

during late afternoon, Kuala Lumpur on a weekend takes a strange change; it becomes more quiet, less hectic. even more so when the sun is shining full strength as it is at the moment. siesta time, of course. Kuala Lumpur takes a nap.

with the remnants of lunch now cleaned up and the plates scrubbed, i settled in the living room for a spot of television. unfortunately surfing through banal shows and dumb commercials caused me to shut it back off. i glanced at the telephone, my feelings a fifty/fifty mix of hoping for a call and making a call.

it seemed then i had a staring contest with the phone; i remember that it used to ring quite often back in the day. you would call me to say hello or perhaps inquire what i would like for dinner.

steak, ice-cream and a movie at One Utama?

yes, that would be lovely.

alright, i'm coming back in half an hour. we'll go in about an hour's time. sounds fine?

sounds excellent.

those were the voices of the ghosts inside my head, telling me that i miss you very much.

i sunk back in the sofa; the stillness and quietness in the air was killing me. perhaps i should take a walk. perhaps not. i thought of marriage. an institution. supposedly an eternal bond. but you had proved me wrong when we broke our bond and severed our ties just when i thought we had it good.

i guess complacency was my fault.

i sighed. it wasn't supposed to be like this. i should have you right here with me. together with me. but the foundations i thought were strong were swept away by your insistence and my desire not to bind you to a fate you would not have loved.

time has healed some of the wounds. the last person i dated told me i had beautiful eyes. i had laughed and called it a day, claiming a forgotten appointment. the truth was that no one could tell me i have beautiful eyes... no one but you.

and from these eyes of mine now i shed tears. i don't actually cry that often, of course. but it's times like these. when i'm alone with nothing to do that weakness takes the better of me. and echoes of your voice fill my heart and mind like you were right there beside me.

there's something i must say.

alright; what is it dear?

i love you.

i know that already; i love you too.

but i can't be with you anymore.


like i said earlier, these were the voices of the ghosts inside my head. i wish badly for them to stop haunting me.

why did our love fail when we had already reached the top?

--


July 24, 2008

Four

--

the sun eventually settled into it's mid-day post, keeping sentry over the city of Kuala Lumpur. with it, the moist remnants of the morning rain disappeared, leaving the city looking decidedly different. the grays have now given way to sunshine, painting the city gold.

lunch for me was a simple sandwich and chips affair; julienned crabsticks with mayonnaise, salt, pepper and alfalfa stuffed between lightly buttered white bread. the chips were, of course, freezer-to-fryer crinkle fries. it sufficed. a glass of cool iced lemon tea washed it all down.

the afternoon meal gave me a welcome distraction. but if was only for a moment. now i was reliving those moments again.

i know i once promised you that both of us would go separate ways, and that we'd make no effort to establish contact with one another through any medium. hence, we didn't exchange e-mails, or IM, or write, or call...

sometimes it feels like we never loved at all.

and the thing is i know you've kept part of the deal. never have i heard a whiff or seen a trace of you since that fateful day when everything came crashing down. i, on the other hand, have fallen to weakness on more than once occasion. i've tried calling you before, or asking how you were.

much to my futility of course. in the end i gave up.

but i always ask myself the same questions over and over again, going over these conventional grounds relentlessly. would things have been different if we had stayed together? would we, hypothetically, still be holding each other in this very apartment?

this apartment holds so many memories. this apartment, in which we made love in, had fights in, dined and laughed in. how long has it been? two years? it seems like such a lifetime. i remember when we bought it with our savings a year after we got married. you had stepped inside first and had said "welcome to disneyland!".

i had laughed at that non sequitur. now i missed it.

i shook my head. i was now sitting at the dinner table, with only breadcrumbs on the plate.

sure, both of us had moved on. you more comfortably. i had dated after that break-up; regularly but never seriously. those dates never went beyond a first date. almost always blind dates. somehow i thought you were doing the same. but there was a difference.

from what i found out, you were happy.

i was not.

--

July 21, 2008

Three

--

sitting all alone in that apartment, time seemed to slow down.. and at moments stop altogether. this was not a good day. on any other day i probably could distract myself with work or whatever activity that needs to be done.

but not today. today, i was just alone in my apartment with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

in this isolation(self imposed? i do not know) the only things that run through my mind are memories and images of you. it hurts me to think so, but i guess i just can't help it.

now, as the sun rose higher in the sky and the gray clouds gave way to bluer skies, i thought about some time ago, when all this had suddenly ran downhill without a chance of stopping. like a landslide, inevitable, crushing everything in it's path.

the echoes of your voice resonate in my mind as again i nursed a coffee in hand, sitting on the sofa with my knees folded up to my chest. often the voices are sweet and beautiful... and often they turn into those last words i heard from you some time ago. the words that had hurt me.

some time ago you and i had been happy. some time ago i felt we were invincible. and i choose to believe you had thought so too. i guess the comfort i could take in the aftermath of that break-up is that, in the end, neither of us could stop the hands of Fate.

i admit i had tried to fight against it. i had tried to convince you otherwise. but in doing so i saw myself standing in your way... and how could i do that to the person i love so much? i had to let go. i remember at the moment it felt like i was throwing my very life away.

but somehow i had coped.. or survived, more like it. yes, this empty apartment feels emptier every minute i draw breath in it. but i live on.

but as i said, it's when i'm all alone, with nothing to do, the hurt comes snowballing back.

and at times like this my mind wanders and the tears flow freely from my eyes.

the afternoon was turning into the exact opposite of this morning: clear, bright and hot.

i let my mind drift, to that some time ago. as ever, the images and voices become solid in my mind. it was as if i had traveled back in time.

it was as if i was reliving those chain of events, and the moments that had released the trap-door and sent me plunging into the depths of a cold, dark sea.

--

(to be continued)

July 12, 2008

Two

--

as the late morning turned the rain finally stifled off into a fine mist and stopped altogether. rays of golden sunlight pierced the gray clouds, making little searchlights fall onto the earth below. the rays of sunlight seemed to promise a brighter, better afternoon for Kuala Lumpur.

"if you believe in love, there's always hope for a better tomorrow"

those words suddenly echoed in the caverns that were my thoughts. the cold cup of coffee was already long gone and in it's place was a... new cup of coffee. i needed it. it seemed to wash the bitterness away from times like these, when phrases such as the one above ran through my mind.

with a drink in one hand, i walked around my living room. i was almost in a trance, aimless and lost yet focused at the same time. i ran my fingers through the vestiges of memories that were left: pictures in Memory Lane photo-frames, gifts, candles. The subtle scent of your perfume hung in the air, causing me, for one moment, to think that you had passed me by.

i stopped by the mirror that stood just beside the door. i looked at myself in it: my eyes were pockets of darkness on my face, and my clothes hung a little more loose than usual. staring closer i saw that my cheekbones were more prominent; i had definitely lost some weight.

and perhaps part of myself.

in a crystalline but cruel manifestation of thought i saw you in the mirror with me; you smiled, wrapped your arms around my waist and whispered into my ear "everything is gonna be okay".

but it was only for a swift moment. the exact instant i smiled at that... hallucination, i suppose, the image of you faded away as quickly as it had come. all that was reflected in the mirror was my empty living room, and a person who looked tired.

some time ago when it all had began to turn into a downward spiral, i had tried to promise myself that there would not be times like these.

but seeing the image of me, on my own, in an empty apartment caused a part of my heart to shatter and the memories to come flooding back.

i sighed, fighting tears, and went back to the sofa. i took sips of my coffee, and tried to distract myself by thinking about what activity i should do today(since i had already wasted a good part of the morning doing nothing): go eat, meet friends, visit mama and abah, go shopping?

in the end it didn't matter what i did or would be going to do.

like the skies outside my window, my heart was a cloud, and those little rays of sunlight piercing it were images of you.

i was missing you.

where are you now, and what were you doing? i didn't know, nor did i actually want to find out.

people create history while weaving love. how true. with a coffee in my hand, i was forcing myself yet again to think about what happened.

forcing myself to look at the fabric that was our love, to see if we had missed a stitch.

--

(to be continued)

--

June 28, 2008

One

a loud thunderclap woke me up from my nap. as i sat up on the sofa i knocked over the mug of coffee i had had. it had already gone cold. i cursed to myself and went to the kitchen to grab a wet towel to wipe the spillage.

it was only half past ten in the morning. the rain had not subsided; in fact it seemed worse, with rolling thunder and flashes of lightning cracking the grey skies. it was pretty dim, making it seem as if the day was nearing dusk.

i sat back on the sofa, rubbing my eyes and pushing strands of hair that had fallen over my eyes backwards. i glanced around the interior of my apartment, and not for the first time, i find myself feeling isolated and lonely.

i live by myself. apart from occasional visits from siblings or relatives, this quiet apartment only plays host to a single occupant most times. and that would be me. still, i loved the apartment. i had decorated it simply but cozily.

it wasn't always like this, however. i remember a time when there was another voice, another shadow, and another presence within these now seemingly empty spaces. i remember not being the only one who walks within the confinement of these small walls.

that was when i was with you.

now the thought of it makes me sigh again.

remembering you causes me to remember a time when i was in love, and never questioned it. i never once thought about the truths and consequences, the 'simple complexity' of it. i simply took being in love as a gift, a wonderful twist of fate. i almost took it for granted. during those times i had with you, there was nothing else but our love. to me, at least.

looking back, i wonder what was it like to have seen myself from the outside. would i have seen the storm-clouds that were gathering, or the shining sun that was slowly but surely setting down on me.. on us..?

"i don't know", i said out-loud to myself. i shook off those thoughts in my head. outside, despite the rumble of thunder and the streaks of lightning, the rain was finally beginning to subside. i got up and walked back to the window, looking at the beautiful outline of the city of Kuala Lumpur.

i gazed outside.

somehow, i felt that my gaze was reaching you..

.. wherever you are.

--

(to/be/continued/....maybe)

June 23, 2008

teaser.

--

early morning. saturday.

the sound of rain tip and tapping on the window. the blurred outline of Kuala Lumpur barely visible through the glass. the rumble of thunder. the flashes of lightning.

and the smooth, soothing jazz music piping in through the stereo.

i stood still in front of that window, almost statuesque. a mug of coffee in my hand, steaming. for a moment i was lost in my thoughts, in a world of dreams.

i was drifting through a memory, almost drowning in it's depths. it was like an old film-reel, with specks and grain, and that curious, artificial feeling of "i was there when this happened". almost a deja-vu.

these memories conjure images of a face i thought had long been locked up and kept safe, hidden from view. but these images are almost kaleidoscopic; they seem to conflict and compliment at the same time. with them they stir up emotions i thought i had buried some time ago.

but it was only for a moment. soon enough these memories, these distant recordings of an 'ago' quickly faded. with a sigh i broke free from my thoughts, and sat myself down on the sofa of my living room. i switched on my laptop which had been there from the night before, and skimmed through the news.

it was only just getting light; however with the heavy downpour it was surely going to be a grey day.

no matter, i thought.

i lie myself down on the sofa, the mug of coffee half-way finished. truth be told, i had been awake for a few hours now. i needed a nap. the sound of rain and thunder was soothing to me. i lay an arm across my forehead.

as sleep began to take me over, the memories came flashing back.

they were reminding me of a time when i was with you.

--

May 5, 2008

A Goodbye

-------

sugar sat on her bed, in a pair of comfy pyjamas. she cupped her chin in the palms of her hand. her eyes were a bit red and watery from crying moments before. her glasses lay by the bedside table, folded up. if wiseguy had seen her in that moment, in the dim light of her bedroom, he would have thought how beautiful sugar is.

but he wasn't there, of course.

sugar felt tears coming back, but she held them in. she took a deep breathe. she took a piece of paper which was on the bedside table; she read it for the tenth time this night. each time she read it she felt like crying and smiling at the same time.

finally she lay her head on her pillow. she stared at the ceiling, the piece of paper still in her hand, her mind wandering elsewhere..

---------

hours earlier..

the sound of planes overhead in the night sky. the bustle of people checking in at the counters. families, friends, airport staff trying to be helpful. the air-conditioning was working a little too well, sugar though, as she buttoned up the pink cardigan she was wearing. she took off her glasses and wiped them with a tissue.

2130, KLIA. wiseguy's flight would be in 3 hours time. she had driven along with wiseguy's 'entourage'.

"sugar..!", a voice called out. she turned her head to see cookie, who was carrying a box of chocolates in one hand, walking up to her. she was alone.

"hi! glad you made it", sugar replied and gave cookie a hug. they smiled at each other.

"how are you? where is he?", cookie asked.

"i'm fine, thanks. he's checking in with the other winners. family dia ada kat situ", she answered and motioned towards wiseguy's family. cookie waved when wiseguy's mother saw her. both of them looked at wiseguy who was at the check in counter with the other competition winners who were going to Japan.

a few moments later tingles, redfoot, bubblegum and lucky turned up, all bearing small goodbye gifts, sugar noticed. she herself was holding a small paper bag; the contents known only to her. they talked while they waited for wiseguy. they also went to his parents', to salam-salam and talk. also there were wiseguys' aunts and uncles and close cousins.

finally wiseguy finished checking in. he stopped by to say something to his mom and dad, then came to the group of friends.

"hey, hello hello.. so, coming to bid me farewell?", he said as he (sub-consciously) took sugar's hand in his. she blushed slightly.

"and hoping you won't come back", cookie said. bubblegum added: "if you do, bring back presents. no presents, jgn ngada ngada nak balik okayy gedik?"

"haha, i'm not gedik", wiseguy said to bubblegum. "and you kisah apa i nak balik or not?", he said to cookie. all of them laughed. lucky asked to check out wiseguy's camera, and took photos of them. tingles talked to sugar as redfoot asked wiseguy some stuff.

sugar looked at them and suddenly felt that all this small talk is just like a pre-tense to saying goodbye. after all, this was what they came for right? a goodbye? she felt her heart break a bit. she still didn't feel ready. she peeked inside the small paper bag she had brought along. she hoped wiseguy would love it.

mr. pinstripes, wiseguy's dad, came up to them to say that the family were going to have some drinks at the cafe, and that they were free to come along. the small group of friends politely declined, and wiseguy opted to hang around with them. they sat at the benches, and did some last minute reminiscing and chatted. they broke a moment when wiseguy and lucky went to get drinks for all of them, then the talk resumed.

time flew by. wiseguy's flight was announced, and a coordinator of the competition he had won in came up to him to tell him to get ready, they were going for boarding now. wiseguy said 'ok' and went to tell his family that he was getting ready to go to the flight gate. sugar, along with the friends, followed suit, walking along with the wiseguy's family. he was walking beside his mother with his arm on his mother's shoulders. sugar walked slowly behind him. wiseguy was dressed in his usual casual way: a long sleeve t-shirt, levi's and sneakers. his jacket hung on his shoulder. sugar again felt the heart-ache rise in her.

"you okay?", tingles said on her right. on her left, cookie put a hand on her shoulder. sugar looked at both of them and smiled weakly. she looked again ahead at wiseguy as he excused himself from his mother. he walked up to her and took her hand.

"sayang, ikut saya kejap", he said and led her away from the group of people to a quieter spot near the border control gate. sugar felt her knees going weak. she didn't feel like it at all, to say goodbye. wiseguy led her to a bench where there weren't many people around. they sat down, slanting a bit so they faced each other. again, he took her hands in hers.

"so", he said.

"so..", she said.

"are you alright sugar?"

she sighed. "i guess i am..". a single tear-drop fell on her cheek. wiseguy gently wiped it away with his thumb.

"hey.. come on. don't cry. well.. at least don't cry so much.." he said in a caressing voice. that did it. the floodgates opened and sugar let the tears fall freely. wiseguy pulled her closer and let her rest her head on his shoulder.

"sayang, when you said i could go, you knew this day would eventually come right?", he said.

"i know!", sugar said through her tears. "but it doesn't make it any less harder alright wiseguy?"

"eheh.. yeah i know.. to be honest i feel a bit like crying myself. but nanti tak cool dah saya"

"awak memang tak cool. ish! don't make jokes, i'm emotional right now!"

he managed to laugh a bit, which in turn made her laugh a bit. for a few seconds they were silent.

"so are you going to say goodbye now?", sugar asked as she wiped her eyes.

"no..", wiseguy said and took out an envelope from the backpack he was carrying. "not just yet"

sugar eyed the envelope. "what's that?", she asked as he handed it to her. he mouthed 'open it' to her. she slowly opened the envelope; inside was a beautiful white gift card, with a simple heart motif embossed on it. it was quite thick. she opened the card, and inside, wiseguy had put several pictures of them together. again she felt like crying.

the photographs were the regular 'couple' self-taken ones. there were a few of them when they had dinner at OU; some when they had gone to Zoo Negara, and some when they had breakfast at a mamak shop. unlike his other photographs, these were camera phone pictures. they weren't terribly sharp, but somehow they were sweeter and more charming in meaning. they had a sense of magic to them, she thought.

"i just thought you'd like it..", he said as she flipped through the photographs. she looked up at her beloved boyfriend and nodded. then a piece of paper, neatly folded, fell on her lap. it had been inside the card. she picked it up and saw that her name was written neatly in black ink on one side.

"what's this sayang?", she asked him.

"now that, is a letter", wiseguy said, "i want you to read only when i've taken off and you're home tonight alright? promise me?"

"oh? alright.. i promise..", she said. then she handed over the small paper bag to him.

"you can see what's inside now", she said. wiseguy reached inside the small paper bag. it was a plush snowman, and attached to it was a small card. he smiled warmly as he read the card out loud.

"for my baby to remember me; ur not cool like a snowman! i love u xoxoxo sugar", he read. then he asked, "but why a snowman?"

sugar laughed. "i just thought it was cute! haha.. i hope you like it.. i didn't know what to get you as a farewell gift"

"ehehe.. you didn't have to get me anything..", wiseguy said. he took her hand and kissed it. "thank you sayang.."

they smiled at each other. finally they got up, as wiseguy had to make a move now. they walked back to the group of people hand in hand. the coordinator looked relieved when he saw wiseguy, as he was worried they might be late. it was goodbye time.

wiseguy let go of sugar for a moment, and hugged and salam-ed his mom and dad and brother; he salam-ed his aunts, uncles, cousins. he said goodbyes as they showered him with good luck wishes and prayers. he shook hands with redfoot and tingles, telling tingles to look out for sugar. lucky gave him an awkward hug, and bubbegum punched him on the shoulder, telling him to 'not be too gedik in Tokyo', to which he replied 'ye kakak lawyer, saya dengar cakap okay?'. when he came to cookie, they just stood in front of each other for awhile. he held out his hand, and cookie took it in both of hers. take care you lucky bastard, cookie said as she wiped a tear and told wiseguy she'll miss him.

finally he came back to sugar. she had begun crying again, not bothering to wipe the tears from her eyes. in one hand she held the envelope with the pictures and the letter. wiseguy held out his arms and sugar walked into them. he hugged her, in full view of his parents and family and friends. she let herself drown in that hug.

"sugar", wiseguy said softly as he broke the embrace. "i love you.. with all my heart. just wait one year alright? it'll be over before you know it.. sayang, thanks for letting me do this. i promise i'll come back your wiseguy.."

"i know.. i love you too..", sugar said. they held hands. the coordinator called his name, saying they have to go now.

"i have to go..", he said, still holding her hand. " so i guess, this is the--"

"goodbye", sugar finished. wiseguy bit his lip and nodded.

"goodbye sayang.. i'll miss and love you always..", he said as he slowly let go of her hands. tingles had come up beside her and put her arms across her shoulders. sugar wiped her eyes again as wiseguy walked towards passport control. he showed the officers his passport and boarding pass, and went down the escalator. his family and friends now stood on the balcony, looking at him go.

his eyes remained fixed on sugar though. he walked backwards for a moment, and sugar saw him mouth 'i love you' before he blew a kiss her way. she caught the kiss and held it in her hand. wiseguy smiled up. he raised his hands and waved goodbye. then he went through passport control, and went out of view.

minutes later sugar and the friends went to see wiseguy's family to say bye, and his family thanked them for coming. the friends stayed awhile, talking. then they parted ways. sugar exchanged numbers with cookie, and they promised they'd meet up to talk sometime. finally she drove home, with her window down, and let the wind blow in her face to dry her tears.

-----------

back to present time..

so she lay on her bed, staring into space.

wiseguy had called her one last time about an hour ago to say his last goodbyes and chat a bit before he boarded his plane. they talked, then he had to go, but not before promising that he'll call her as soon as he arrived in Tokyo.

sugar glanced at her mobile phone to see the time; 0214. she won't be hearing from him for another 8 hours at least. she felt tired now. but instead of turning off the bedside lamp straight away, she read the letter wiseguy had given her one last time. it was simple; but it made her feel absolutely beautiful. minutes later, she fell asleep, a soft, sweet smile on her lips, and the letter held close to her heart..

the letter
(click to view)



-fin-

----------------

Talking With An Alternate You
-season two-

December 07 - May 08

April 30, 2008

The Prelude To A Goodbye

--

there was her and wiseguy; also along for tonight's dinner was tingles, who came with her new boyfriend, redfoot; lucky and bubblegum, wiseguy's closest classmates; and of course there was cookie, wiseguy's best friend.

this was the first time sugar would be meeting cookie; and she felt a tiny twinge of jealousy when wiseguy introduced cookie to her. cookie was a beautiful girl. but anyway that feeling faded away when she started talking to cookie; she found her friendly, warm and above all, very very sisterly. as an added bonus, even tingles quickly warmed up to cookie.

they were all here at a TGI Friday's restaurant in Subang, as a farewell dinner for wiseguy who was going to leave for Japan tomorrow. all his preparations were done; all that was left was for him to get on that aeroplane and go. last week his family held a small kenduri doa selamat for him, which sugar attended. she had been pleasantly surprised when wiseguy's mama had asked her how she was coping. they got along well, she and his mother.

now, here at this restaurant, with their closest friends together, they were ready to bid farewell to wiseguy. they had ordered dinner and had laughed and talked merrily throughout the meal. lucky and bubblegum (who were going out together), proved to be the jokers of the table, making everyone laugh. they made off the wall jokes, pranks and slapstick humor. tingles and her new boyfriend were being rather shy, as this was only the third time they were going out as a couple. they did laugh and smile and talk with the others.

at one point, conversation turned to cookie, who was sitting beside wiseguy (he's being flanked by the girlfriend and the bestfriend, sugar thought bemusedly). the college friends begin talking about her, asking her stuff. cookie answered graciously, politely even. she even begin telling stories about her high school days with wiseguy. funny things, sad things.

sugar held wiseguy's hands throughout the dinner; she was really enjoying herself with laughter and stories, but inside she knew she was feeling sad. tomorrow her beloved wiseguy was leaving her for a year.

"you're okay babes?", he whispered to her at one point.

impulsively she kissed his cheek; a quick, sudden kiss she even surprised herself. but it lasted only a fraction of a second.

"i'm alright sayang", she said. wiseguy's face looked impassive, as if her tiny kiss never even occured.

conversation went on until they finished their desserts. the laughter and jokes slowly died down, and they begin talking about wiseguy's time away. they all knew, of course, what he was going for. but they wanted to talk about it all the same. it was getting late; and only a few tables were left at the restaurant.

tingles made a face at sugar. "come on", she mouthed to her. sugar nodded and cleared her throat to get attention.

"guys, and girls, thanks for coming tonight to this byebye dinner for my bushukness here", she said to the smiles of the others. wiseguy bowed his head down slightly, his ears red.

"i knowww this is cheesy", sugar continued, "but since he's leaving tomorrow, i'd like all of you to say something tonight. he'll be away from me and you guys for one whole year tauu? so please let's give him kata-kata semangat, haha, or something, okayy?"

the others laughed and nodded. sugar motioned for tingles to start.

"do i need to stand up?", tingles said jokingly. "okay okay. well wiseguy.. you and i only like, got a bit close when you started dating smartypants there, ehehe. i only knew you as that, ehem, rather cool guy who takes pictures, but now i see you're actually cool!"

wiseguy smiled and raised a glass at tingles. she continued.

"thanks for making my best friend happy, and i wish you good luck and all the best for your flight yeah? and yup, i'll be there at KLIA tomorrow", tingles said with a smile. sitting beside her was redfoot.

"redfoot, you're not exempt. anything to say?", sugar asked tingles' boyfriend. he was okay; as mentioned, he always wore red shoes.

"eheh..uhm, i guess i second tingles here", he said to the laughter around the table. "haha, but yeah, good luck dude. and get me a pair of red shoes! Japan kan banyak benda pelik-pelik, haha. but seriously, all the best.."

then it was lucky and bubblegums turn. they spoke almost in unison, finishing each other's sentences. lucky was a fun, cheerful guy, who got the perfect girlfriend in the form of bubblegum. bubblegum, who was studying to become a lawyer, was a sweet, friendly girl who loved karaoke.

"first i wanna say siot la kau", lucky said. "i also wanted to win that competition, haha!"

"i thinkkk..", bubblegum said as she pinched her boyfriend's thigh. "that we want to say that we'll miss you and we'll always pray for you. jangan lupa kitorang okay? and stop being so gedik! and we too, will be at KLIA tomorrow"

the two of them smiled warmly at sugar and wiseguy. sugar was starting to realize she felt like crying. but she held them in.

"cookie, you pun kena cakap okay?", she said to cookie. then she realized she was a bit jealous at cookie just because cookie had known wiseguy longer. but as before, that feeling evaporated quickly. cookie took a sip of water.

"i hope you won't come back, haha!", she said. wiseguy flicked his fingers at her hand. cookie laughed.

"ala marah konon. ehehe. alright, alright. for sugar's sake, i hope you'll come back the best photographer or paparazzi in the world. and i will miss you, you sombong ass. sorry sugar, hehe. but tengok la! bila dah nak pergi baru nak jumpa. anyway, do take care nanti, and do write or sms or email all of us here alright? sugar, when he's gone, give me your phone number, boleh kita ngumpat, hihi..~", cookie said. sugar noted how sincere cookie's little speech was, and sugar saw that in cookie's eyes, she was genuinely a bit upset that wiseguy will be leaving tomorrow. sugar made a mental note to keep i touch with cookie.

"thanks guys..", wiseguy said, breaking a silence. sugar thought he looked calm.. which was, she realized, how he always looks. composed, and cool. there was a difference tonight, though. she had the sneaking suspicion that only she knew why.

"i'll always remember what you guys said, tonight.. and anyway it'll only be one year right? soon enough i'll be home again", wiseguy said and smiled.

there was a silence around the table. then cookie asked, "sugar, don't you want to say anything?". all eyes at the table turned to her now. she felt suddenly exposed.

"i do..", she said. "but i need a moment, eheh", she laughed nervously. she shifted a bit in her seat so she faced wiseguy. she took a deep breathe and held his hands.

"wiseguy", she said.

"we began our relationship in an.. uhm, unorthodox way kan? when you played that 'prank' on me that fateful day, you stirred something within me. i think you lit a candle that showed me what i wanted and with whom i wanted to be, insyaallah for the rest of my life.."

she took another breathe. the others were quiet now, listening. wiseguy was looking directly into her eyes. she went on.

"but it happened eventually, we got together and told each other how we truly felt. and i was never happier than that day when you poured your heart out to me. wiseguy, every day since then has been wonderful to me."

"it upset me when you told me you were going to leave... and somehow i was even sadder when you told me you would stay if i asked you to. but i can't do that to you sayang, not when i love you so much. so i let you go, and i want you to promise me you'll come back as the best picture taker in the world and more importantly as my wiseguy"

wiseguy nodded gently, while his fingers caressed hers. she noticed that bubblegum and tingles were wiping their eyes. cookie was looking at her and wiseguy thoughtfully. sugar opened her mouth again.

"good luck and all the best nanti alright sayang? i will miss you always. wiseguy, everytime i look into your eyes, my world becomes beautiful. and yeah, i will be there at KLIA tomorrow to send you off tau sayang?"

she was crying now, barely hiding her tears. she felt a deep sadness that he was about to leave for a year. but she felt stronger, more in love than ever before. she wiped her eyes and laid her head on wiseguy's shoulder. he held her hands tight.

"so", tingles said, "i guess that's all for tonight?"

"wait wait", wiseguy said, "don't i get to say anything?"

"no!!", cookie, sugar, tingles and bubblegum said in unison. the guys laughed, and they talked again. finally they got up and left the restaurant, saying goodbyes at the entrance. tingles went off with redfoot, bubblegum with lucky.

"you're a lucky bastard wiseguy", cookie said as she said goodbye.

"i know i am", wiseguy said and smiled. "are you coming to KLIA tomorrow?"

"of course. i'll see you there alright?" cookie said. she gave sugar a hug and smiled at her. then she walked away. finally it was only sugar and wiseguy left. they started for his car. he put an arm around her waist as they walked. she leaned on him.

"you're gonna be okay sayang?", he asked.

"i guess i will be.. don't worry..", sugar said.

"that was a lovely speech. mesti practice depan cermin ni, ehehe"

"nooo.. that was spontaneous. i can do spontaneous okay wiseguy?"

they laughed and settled into a quiet walk until they reached the car. it was getting quite late. just as sugar went to the passenger side, wiseguy called her name.

"yes?", she said. he was standing there in front of her. he walked slowly towards her, then held out his arms and hugged her softly, warm and close to his body. sugar hugged him back. she felt him gently kiss her temples.

"sugar, you know i'm gonna miss you right?", he said as they broke the hug.

"i know..", sugar said as she realized she was beginning to cry again. wiseguy held her hands. he was quiet for awhile.

"wiseguy?", she asked.

he smiled. "eheh. i think i have a speech as well, haha.."

sugar smiled sadly.

"but", he continued. "i'll say it to you tomorrow, alright?"

sugar nodded. wiseguy kissed her hands and they both got into the car. they didn't talk much en route to home. sugar felt a bit tired. wiseguy was probaly trying to avoid being too emotional, hence the reason he wasn't talking much. when they got to her house, he got out of the car to open the door for her. she thanked him as they walked up the driveway to her house.

"kirim salam to your mom and dad yeah?", he said as sugar stepped into the gate.

"sure will", she said.

"i'll see you tomorrow?"

she nodded softly, smiling. wiseguy looked around him.

"i'm gonna miss picking you up for year, eheh", he said. sugar chose not to say anything. then wiseguy said "okay then", and walked back to his car.

"don't you wanna say goodbye?", sugar called out to him just as he was about to get inside his automobile. he paused at the door and said:

"not tonight. i'm saving my goodbye for tomorrow"

he blew her a kiss, which she caught, and drove off into the night. sugar watched his car until it turned a corner and went out of her sight. she sighed.

she didn't feel like a goodbye..

---


April 25, 2008

the last interlude to the prelude to a goodbye

[sugar/wiseguy]

----

sometimes i think i can't do this, and that while i seem okay, deep down inside my heart it feels like i'm not really ready to say

----

goodbye. it's funny how i think Fate brought us together only for me to go away for awhile. but i guess it is something that

----

he has to do; it is a life's dream for him anyway. and i just know he'll be great at what he does. it's unfair if had wanted him

----

to stay, if you had asked me to. she knows that i would have done it for her. and i was ready to stay, even if it meant

----

he sacrifice his dream? no, i can't do that to the person i love so much. besides, i trust him with all my heart. the love i feel from

----

her comes in waves so strong that sometimes i can almost see it. i'm eternally grateful to her for letting me do this. one year

----

seems like such a long time. but i think if we just hold on and believe in one another, and have faith that our love

----

can survive distance and time, then i know nothing is impossible. i'm not going to let distance nor time be an excuse to

----

not love him any more, because i believe in us. i believe that Fate brought us together for a reason, and i really think he is

----

my forever, insyaallah. i'm going to do anything i can to

----

keep our candles burning bright and strong because

----

i love

----

him/her

----

with all my heart and soul

----

sighs..~

----

hmm..~

----

another week to go. i still don't feel like

----

saying goodbye.

--

April 19, 2008

interludes to a prelude to a goodbye: oh hum..

sugar sat at her desk, aimlessly browsing the net.

2 months passed by almost without them realizing it. they spent lots of good times in these past two months. sugar also went along with wiseguy on his trips to arrange the details and black and whites of his forthcoming trip. visa applications, passports, etcetera. wiseguy had already submitted his sabbatical request, which was approved pretty easily because the college felt it would be good publicity for the college if he was chosen to go on an international course having studied photography there. everything was going as planned.

sugar felt she was feeling better. over these past 2 months she began to cope with wiseguy's impending departure. she felt a little less sad, although deep down her heart still echoed whispers and songs of sadness.

but these two months! oh what a wonderful time they had been having. despite busy college assignments and coursework, amongst other things, they have been spending a lot of time together. sugar would smile when she thought of those spontaneous dates they had gone on. one early weekend morning wiseguy picked her up from home.

"where are we going?", she had asked.

"tengok je la", he had said.

4 hours or so later they were in Penang, just in time for lunch. they spent the day jalan-jalan around Penang, taking photos together, eating, having fun. they stopped by the beach, where sugar had taken a stick and written "wiseguy+sugar" in the sand. wiseguy had taken the stick from her and written "wiseguy = sugar". they went driving around Georgetown for a couple of hours. just after maghrib they took the drive home, reaching KL at almost midnight. sugar scolded wiseguy for not telling her earlier thay they were going up north. he had just laughed it off.

then it was her turn to surprise him. she had called her over to 'pick her up' at her house on weekday. when wiseguy arrived, she beckoned him in, saying wait a while she had something to do with mama. when he had come in, it turned out he was being invited for lunch with her daddy and mama. an obviously embarassed and bashful wiseguy(who at first refused until sugar made puppy dog eyes at him) sat at the dinner table with her parents, talking and having lunch. after lunch sugar's mama served coffee, and she, sugar and wiseguy sat in the living room looking at pictures of sugar when she was younger, and chatting.

"pandai ye awak?", wiseguy said when he finally had to leave.

"why is that wiseguy?", sugar asked back with a cheeky look in her eyes.

"last week i tricked you to going to Penang.. now you tricked me to coming over for lunch with your parents. malu ok?"

"ngee", was all sugar said, and she smiled until he smiled back. they touched hands then wiseguy went back.

and the endless talking on the phone. text-messaging. IM sessions on Yahoo! Messenger. they were inseparable.

yet, sugar thought, the beauty of it all was that, as cheesy as it was to be young and in love, it was 'real'. it was real in every sense of the word real. she felt true, and she knew wiseguy felt the same. this wasn't a high school crush. this wasn't puppy love or cinta monyet or whatever animal love they called it.

this was real. whenever wiseguy said 'i love you' to her, she felt every bit of strength, will and truth in those words and in the way he says it. and whenever she says the same words back to him she poured every bit of her heart out in those three little words.

three little words, so simple a meaning, so powerful a feeling.

sugar sighed a little sigh, and smiled.

she thought about wiseguy. he was always gentle with her... although the playful banter they had shared before they started dating still persisted. she found him irresistibly charming. the way he casually shrugs when he says "i dunno", and the way he cocks one eyebrow at her when he's being sceptical. sugar thought how he was always patient when she dragged him window shopping, although in his eyes it was painfully obvious he was bored.

she loved the way he would link her fingers with his when they walked; it was something he did almost sub-consciously, without thought. and on occasions he would tenderly slip an arm around her waist as they walked, and she would feel this urge to just rest her head on his shoulder and be swayed by the moment.

sugar sighed again, still sitting at her desk. she clicked open a folder where she kept the pictures they had taken together. she flicked through them, smiling as she looked at each and every one.

another month to go.

she felt a palpable sadness build up, as always when she thought about his forthcoming departure. 12 months to be thousands of miles apart.

her will resolved. this was a love worth being patient for, she told herself.

and yet the impending goodbye will be so hard to do and say.

another month to go..

--