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?


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