March 31, 2008

and then..

"it's gonna be Japan?", she said.

"yups. Tokyo, to be more specific", wiseguy answered.

"you said 6 months of what and what?"

"6 months courses and seminars, 6 months practical work; they're probably attach us to publications or studios, etcetera. but it won't be like, 6 months straight of courses and 6 months straight of on field work; more like in quarters"

"you mean 3 months this, 3 months that and so on?"

"yeah. that's what is said in the papers they gave anyway.."

she didn't say anything. it's been 3 days since wiseguy told her about his plans, and asked her if she wanted him to stay. too bad that these past 3 days both of them were busy with coursework and other matters. they had only been calling and texting each other.

curiously wiseguy never mentioned the pressing matter until today. and it was sugar who asked wiseguy out to talk about it. he, of course, had agreed, but his voice never betrayed his emotions. sugar thought about when she had asked him out earlier this morning.

"sayang.. you wanna go for lunch?", she had said.

"sure thing. it's been 3 days, i miss your irritating presence", he had said casually.

"haha very funny. pick me up at 2pm? kita pergi OU yeah?"

"OU it is. as if we go anywhere else, haha.."

then she was silent for perhaps 10 seconds and finally said:

"we can talk, okay?"

wiseguy, in typical fashion, had just said: "yeah. we can talk. see you at 2 ok sayang? wear something naughty, haha". they had laughed at the end, and went on doing whatever it was they were doing this morning.

now here they were at OU, which was(as you could guess by now) sugar's favorite mall. they were sitting inside Shakey's, and had just finished a regular pizza. sugar had started the conversation after small talk and the regular borak-borak over lunch. she had asked wiseguy where he was being sent to, and he had said Japan.

"it's quite a big thing. Canon is a major sponsor..", wiseguy said, probably noticing that sugar had been quiet just a little too long.

"i know...", she replied. she did. she had looked up the competition he had entered and read up the details. so in essence she already knew what it was going to be like, but just wanted to hear it out of wiseguy's mouth. it made it more.. real. scary, but real.

"is there anybody i know going with you?", she asked wiseguy.

"hurm, probably not. a friend of mine from the photo forums got in too, but he's got New York. most of the guys going to Tokyo with me are people i've never met..", he said, and took a swig of pepsi. he smacked his lips. "god i love cola.."

sugar smiled.

"what?", wiseguy asked.

"nothing. you. cute.", she said.

wiseguy cocked an eyebrow at her, but his ears went red. it was a reaction of his, every time he felt embarrassed. sugar sighed, and called for the bill.

"you nak bayar ke sayang..?", wiseguy asked, genuinely bewildered.

"yeaps. my treat. boleh tak?"

"tak boleh. i insist on paying..", he said and took out his wallet just as the waiter came to their table bringing the bill. he was quicker than her; sugar was just about to get out her purse from her handbag but wiseguy had already put a couple of crisp green notes on the cash-receipt thingy.

"oit", she said.

wiseguy winked at her. "sudahlah awak. duty saya okay to pay for meals? haha.."

after the waiter brought back their change they got out of their seats and walked hand in hand. as ever, sugar window shopped... but this time she ended up buying a new blouse and a pair of shoes. wiseguy, who was never into shopping, only got interested at what else but a camera shop.

and when he did.. sugar sighed inside her heart. she looked at him poring over photographic accessories, and listened to him chat with a knowledgeable shop assistant. he even struck up a conversation with a fellow customer about photography. they mentioned words like 'aperture' and 'polarizing filters' and 'purple fringing'. terms which, to sugar, meant whatever at all. but wiseguy; ever cool, ever funny and ever there wiseguy... sugar could see he was really, genuinely into it. going on that year long course would mean the world to him.. and yet here he was, torn, telling her that he will stay if she asked him to.

when they finally walked out of the camera store (he had bought nothing, by the way), sugar had already made her decision.



March 26, 2008

after that spoon fell on the floor

in the quiet of the night, sugar went out of her bedroom. she went down the stairs and proceeded straight to the kitchen. rummaging through the pantry she took out 2 packets of tom yum flavored instant noodles, and also grabbed some cili padi from the fridge. she crushed the chillies, put them in microwaveable container, and added the instant noodles, the paste and an adequate amount of hot water. she put in the microwave oven for 3 minutes, and made herself a glass of iced tea with lime.

when the oven dinged to indicate her noodles were ready she took it out, poured the steaming noodles into a bowl and took her bowl and glass of iced lime tea to the dining table. as she put the food and drink on the table she cursed herself for not taking a fork and spoon straight away; she hurried to the kitchen to get them. she loved eating instant noodles while they were steaming hot.

she tucked into her 2 packets of instant tom yum noodles, relishing the hotness of both temperature and the chillies she had added. she was hungry. she didn't have dinner earlier tonight. her plate of penne pasta pomodoro a few hours ago had been left untouched when wiseguy told her that he was leaving her for awhile. she thought about earlier tonight..


"you have to leave me for awhile?", she had said. a few tables away from them, a young chinese girl picked up a spoon off the floor. wiseguy looked at the girl, his eyes distracted for a moment, then turned back to his girlfriend.

"what do you mean you have to leave me for awhile?", sugar said. wiseguy was still holding her hand.

"i mean, i have to leave you for awhile. as in, physically not be around you for awhile", he said.

"how long is 'a while'?", she said, emphasizing her last two words.

wiseguy stared at her. "one year", he answered. sugar drew her hand back, crossed her arms and sank in her chair. she bit her lip and looked at the person she fell so deeply in love with. in a span of second several thoughts ran through her mind: was he joking? is this a test? if it's real what then for us?

"you're not kidding are you sayang?", she said, still sunk back in her chair.

wiseguy was still leaning forward, his hands now clasped together again. he nodded slowly. "nope. no joke."

sugar pondered this. finally she asked: "why? how?"

"you know those pictures of you i sent for that competition?", wiseguy said.

"yeah, i forgot to ask you about that"

"so ask me now"

sugar raised her eyebrows. "what about it?"

wiseguy smiled, albeit a little sadly. "the big prize was that they would select 10 amateur snappers from across the country to go on pro-photography courses in either Japan, London or New York. for one year; 6 months courses, classes, training etcetera.. 6 months on field work"

"so i'm guessing you won", sugar said.

wiseguy nodded. "but just barely. one of the winners dropped out; i was just the lucky bastard who was next in line"

"so you're going? you're really going?", sugar said; she detected a hint of panic in her own voice.

"sayang, i found out about this about a week and a half ago.. and believe me i've thought hard and long about this. it's a dream, sayang. i get to work with people who've done work for stuff like National Geographic and so on.. and when will i ever get a chance like this? it's fully sponsored. my mama and papa agreed. and i'm taking sabbatical from college as well.."

sugar looked at him, and saw the aspiration in his eyes; she also saw how hard it was for him. she felt that he wanted to go as much as he wanted to stay here with her. she felt beautifully sad, as odd as that sounded.

"but if you ask me to stay...", he said, "then i'll stay here. with you"

sugar knew he would say that. sugar also knew that he would actually stay if she asked him to. she wanted to say 'no, you can go' but instead she asked something else.

"what about us, sayang?"

wiseguy nodded, gently. "i was thinking about that.. it seems unfair if i go so early in our relationship kan?"

"i..", sugar said, but she kept quiet. was it unfair? she wasn't sure.

"that's why my decision will depend on what you say; it's only fair if you ask me to stay..", he said.

now she felt panicked. she knew that he would do anything she asked him to. but would she actually stop him from pursuing a dream? or would she be content and let him go, and keep faith in their love, that their love would keep them both alive and strong?

"wiseguy you can't ask me to decide this..", she said finally.

"i know. but i made the decision that i wanted to go without telling you. so, as penance or as a matter of fairness, i'm going to base the final word on what you wish sayang..", he replied.

she was quiet again. she felt the love wiseguy had for her; a pang of guilt washed through her, knowing she would prevent him from fulfillment if she asked him to stay. she wanted him to stay, she told herself.

"when do you have to go?", she asked.

"if i do, it'll be in 3 months time. i have to give my answer to the organizers by next week", he said.

"next week..?"

"next week."

sugar bit her lip again; she brushed a strand of hair off her face and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. she got up, shouldered her handbag and held out a hand to wiseguy.

"jom jalan-jalan kejap sayang?"


that was earlier tonight. they had left the cafe and went jalan-jalan-ing around KLCC, neither of them talking much. wiseguy didn't press the matter, and she kept herself distracted by window shopping and browsing through stuff.

wiseguy had sent her home after that, and they had a quiet goodbye. all wiseguy said when she got out of the car was "sayang, i love you. no matter what". he had smiled at her, and kissed her hand. she saw in his face that the matter was still on his mind. she had put his hands to her face and kissed them as she said bye-bye.

now here she was, late at night, finishing a bowl of instant noodles (2 packets, to be exact) and a glass of iced lime tea. she thought of wiseguy again: how they ended up together ("i was talking with an alternate you", he had said, not so long ago..) and how great they were doing now. could she go on a year without him by her side? would it be too much?

suddenly she burst into tears, and she got angry at herself for crying. still sobbing, she washed up her bowl and glass and went back upstairs to her bedroom. she grabbed her phone and saw 4 missed calls from wiseguy, and a text simply saying 'sayang..'. just as she was about to reply to it another text came in:

'sayang, i'll stay if you ask me to stay. seriously. i love you'

she cried. how can she ask him to stay here with her and forsake a life-long ambition of his, when she loves him so much?


March 20, 2008

..of this moment

"we have to talk", i said to you just you were about to put a forkful of penne pasta pomodoro into your mouth. your fork hovered halfway to your slightly open mouth; the pearly tips of your teeth could be seen clearly behind those pink lips.

you eyeballed me then put the fork down. you fiddled the utensil then laid it neatly perpendicular on your plate. we were at a nondescript coffeehouse in KLCC.

"you're not eating.. you have your hands clasped together, and you're shuffling your feet. we've been going out for 2 months now but that's enough for me to know this is gonna be something serious. so what gives, wiseguy?", you said. you sank bank in your chair and looked at me intensely in the eyes. the only giveaway that you were troubled were your clenched fists.

you were, of course, correct. i did indeed have my hands clasped together and was shuffling my feet. and i wasn't eating. a cup of latte stood steaming just left to my hands. but somehow i managed to smile.

"acute observation, sayang."

you just raised an eyebrow. that look said 'cut to the chase'.

i breathed in, gathering myself. gathering my words. i wondered how you were going to take this news. i pondered if:

  • i should just give the news to you bluntly, without velvet lining
  • or maybe i should fabricate something first
in the end it didn't matter. the yearning for honesty i saw in your eyes told me enough of what i should do. be honest, obviously. the deeper truth was your look said 'i'm ready'.

"have you been happy..? with me?", i said, leaning slightly on the table.

"conventional wisdom says: DUH, yes i have been happy", you said, also leaning forward. you pushed your glasses up your nose, a gesture i found so endearing.

"if i wasn't happy would i be here with you, almost about to have a nice plate of penne pasta which, as we speak, is going cold", you said.

i took your hand. "i'm sorry", i said and kissed it. this time you didn't say anything.

"sugar..", i said.

"wiseguy", you said.

a sudden, abrupt silence. back in school the kids used to say "malaikat lalu" (or, as one cheeky girl in my class said "malaikat lalu naik motor").

then the sudden coming of noise again. as the people passed us by, i was sitting there face to face with you, holding your hand.

"sugar", i said again. you looked at me, your hand tightening around mine.

"i have to leave you for sometime.."

a spoon fell on the floor. it made a sound that was very loud to our ears.



March 15, 2008

what now..

quietly in my room, i think of you. but my heart is troubled.

the clock shows 0231. outside a steady rain is falling, making rhythmic tapping noises on the awnings of the house. it's a cool night. occasionally the sound of a late night(or early morning) driver punctuates the silence.

i think of you. though still my heart is troubled.

sitting quietly on my bed, i think of how we got this far. the past few weeks have been ever so wonderful. it's like i've been waiting all this time to love someone like you. i thought about how natural we are together.. how, it seems, things just fit in so properly. like a jigsaw puzzle you've spent a lifetime trying to solve, but here at the last minute, you see everything so clearly.

i smiled and got off the bed. i went to my desk and flipped open my laptop. usually my desktop is a blank space; but now a picture of you and me resides there. a picture taken maybe a week back, when in a spur of the moment, we decided to visit Zoo Negara. in that picture it showed me beside you. you were looking at the camera with your nose crinkled.

i remembered that day. and remembering that day makes my heart feel warm. i lean back on my chair and reminisced that trip to the zoo. i remembered how you were so excited at the petting zoo, stroking 2 ponies. how you loved looking at the hippopotamus and the small otters. and then i laughed aloud as i remembered the way you froze stiff in fear when we went to the reptile house.

that was a lovely day.

i opened the folder where i kept all the pictures of you and me. i browsed through them, pausing frequently as i studied those photographs. everytime i see your smile, even in JPEGS instead of in real life, a joy takes over my heart.. and this joy seeps into my soul. this is heavenly, i think to myself.

i think about how we took late night walks in Subang and Bangsar. stopping by a McDonald's when you said "ish.. saya lapar" or maybe a Starbucks. we walked aimlessly, just holding hands and enjoying each other's company. joking around. there was a night when you punched me in the stomach and almost made me vomit, i recall.

i take a deep breathe. i haven't seen you for perhaps just about a day. but god, i miss you so much. everytime you're around me i feel complete. and that's not an overstatement. i wonder if you have any idea how much you mean to me. and i wonder how much i mean to you?

no matter.

i crash myself back on the bed.

suddenly i feel choked up.

it's been... what, 2-3 weeks since we declared our love for each other and began this wonderful journey? everything seems so wonderful, the way they fit in so well. the way we almost too perfectly compliment each other.

sugar, i love you.

how am i supposed to tell you that i may be going away for awhile?