January 30, 2009

She Felt Stronger


Evie Nadia loved Sundays.

Sundays were her own personal ‘me’ days, where she spent her time doing things she liked. For instance when she woke up this morning she had turned on the TV and made a big pancake breakfast, complete with whipped cream and strawberries and syrup. She ate it while she watched all manners of Sunday morning TV shows: girly stuff, news, sitcom reruns and even cartoons. Then she sat cross-legged on her sofa and read the newspaper. While she did that, she wondered what should she be doing this afternoon. She had already planned to drop by her parents’ house in Wangsa Maju for dinner, but she also did not want to be sitting idle at home doing nothing.

Maybe she should go shopping? She could use a pair of new shoes (girls could always use a pair of new shoes), or maybe do some grocery shopping at Cold Storage or Tesco’s. Is the car dirty? She thought, trying to picture her white VW Golf covered in grime, but knew she had just washed it a few days ago in fact. She made a note to herself to get her dad a chocolate cheesecake, his favorite, from Secret Recipe before she left for their house. Evie also thought she wanted to ask if Adam would go out with her; but then she remembered it was a Sunday and he would be busy at the restaurant.

The thought of Adam brought a faint blush to her cheeks. She had been seeing him often now for the past three months or so. She liked him. She could tell he was into her as well, but Evie was not letting herself rush into this, of course. She supposed there was a little bit of romance going on there; she felt it and she was sure he did, too, in the way their conversation lingered in the air before trailing off in a comfortable (yet awkward) silence, and the way at times they were so careful with their words, both of them only dipping their toes in the water to check the temperature and current.

She had forgotten what it was like to be in love, but she was sure it was probably not far off. She was not in love with Adam… not yet, anyway, but she knew she possibly well could be, on her way and that would be something beautiful. But right now, all Evie wanted was to have a good time with the charming and funny chef. In truth she was still afraid and a bit too proud to admit she liked him a lot. Maybe that was a bit old fashioned, as old fashioned as winking, but she would like it if Adam would be the first to initiate something bigger, and maybe actually ask her to be his girlfriend. God, I haven’t been someone’s girlfriend since, ever. Three months seems okay enough, she thought. Again that made her feel like a schoolgirl. But what were crushes and love if not timeless and ageless?

Last week during dinner she noticed Adam kept looking at the ring on her left hand; her wedding ring. She had already told him she had been married once, and he seemed okay with it. But now she wondered now if the ring was what kept Adam from taking things to another level. When they had walked later on his hand kept brushing hers; she wanted to hold his, and she knew, just knew, Adam wanted to hold her hands too. Maybe someday later then.

Still undecided on what to do to pass her time before going to her parents’, Evie grabbed her cordless house phone to call Adam. She missed him, although she was not yet fully aware of the fact. Just as she dialed the numbers, however, her cell phone rang from inside the room. Evie got up and stubbed her toe on the chair; she cursed out loud and grimaced, and hobbled to her bedside. She grabbed her phone and crashed herself on the bed, with one hand rubbing her toe. Evie glanced at the caller ID and frowned. It was not a number she recognized; usually that meant work, and the thought of work on a Sunday dampened her spirits a little. She pressed the ‘accept’ key.

“Hello?” she said.

“Evie?” said the voice on the other line. Evie raised her eyebrows.



Two hours later she was at Raju’s Banana Leaf restaurant in Petaling Jaya, standing in front of the deep fryers the restaurant had. On a normal occasion she would be excited to come by there and take her pick from the various seafood and meats available. But today she was not particularly interested. She moved away from the deep fryers as she couldn’t stand the heat, and got annoyed at herself for standing in front of there in the first place. The waiters eyed her admiringly; it was a hot, sunny day, and Evie had put on a white t-shirt and comfy, airy white pants. She held her hair up with a pink bandana and had her big sunglasses on. Standing in the sunlight, she shone like a beacon.

Where is he? She thought; she did not know if her impatience had to do with the heat, or the fact she had agreed to meet him here. Evie recalled the telephone conversation earlier.

“Hi… Yes, it’s me. Do you have a moment?” Rafar had said.

“Uh, yeah,” Evie said, her eyebrows furrowed. “What’s going on? Where did you get this number, by the way?”

There was a silence.

“I asked Juliza.”

“Oh okay… so… what’s up?” Evie said. Her toe still hurt, but the pain was subsiding.

“Evie, I… Well… Listen, are you free for lunch?”



Evie sighed and closed her eyes. “What’s going on Rafar?”

“I just need to see you. Just for lunch. Today.”

Evie glanced at her bedside clock. “What time?” she asked. Rafar told her half past one, at Raju’s in Petaling Jaya. Evie considered if she should agree and go, or if she should make an excuse and do her own thing. She must have been quiet for sometime.

“Evie? You there?” Rafar said.

“Yes, sorry…”

“Will you come? It’s my treat. Please?”

Evie had rolled her eyes and agreed. Rafar told her to be there half-past-one and wait for him. Evie wondered if he would come with his girlfriend. What’s her name? Farihin? Yes, that was it. She also wondered why, out of a sudden, did he call her up and ask her out to lunch. There must be something important then. Maybe he was getting married? Anyway, she had agreed and it was too late to back-out. She texted Adam saying she was going out for lunch. Adam had replied ten minutes late, with a smiley face: ‘:( wish I was there.’

So here she was at Raju’s, except it was almost 2pm and the sun was absolutely searing, and still no sign of Rafar. Evie waited another ten minutes; well aware the waiters of the restaurant were looking at her. A Chinese family passed by her, and their toddler, maybe no more than two years old, suddenly came to her and tugged at her pants. Evie smiled and squatted, saying hi and caressed the toddler’s cheek. She loved babies. The toddler smiled at her and touched her face, as if examining her. Evie giggled. How innocent! Then the child’s mother came by and smiled at Evie, saying her son was a bit too friendly with strangers. Evie gently pinched the baby’s cheek and they went away. When she stood up she saw Rafar standing in front of her. Her smile faded.

“You’re late,” she said. “I’ve been waiting half an hour.”

Rafar shrugged, a gesture she had deemed adorable long ago, but today seemed to annoy her a bit. Was he always like this last time? Carefree; care-less? Then she told herself that she was just irritated out of spite. After all, she did agree to come her by herself. She let her feelings calm down. She should not be antagonistic.

“Come, let’s take a seat. I'm starving.” Rafar said.

They had their lunch in silence, neither of them talking much, except the general ‘Oh, how’s work, how’s life, how are your parents’ doing?’ question and answer session. Evie felt a bit disconcerted to realize the man she had nothing much to say to was the man she had loved so desperately years ago, the man she had talked to everything about and kept no secrets from. It was even stranger considering the fact that she always thought she had so many things to ask him and tell him after their divorce. But now she had run out of words; or maybe she just did not need to know the answers to those buried questions anymore. The image of Adam lingered in the back of her mind, and she kept comparing him and Rafar. Finally she told herself to stop that.

They finished and had their ‘plates’ taken away. They had frequented this place often when they dated, and after they got married. When they went for a seat, both of them went straight away to ‘their’ table: the table they always sat at back in the day. It was subconscious, probably, but Evie had the feeling both of them were aware of that. Maybe they should have chosen another spot, one with no such memories or sentiments attached to it. But too late for that now. Evie thought Rafar would bring Farihin, but she was not surprised to see he did not.

“So why the sudden generosity, Rafar?” Evie said, realizing she had almost called him Wiseguy. “To what do I owe you this favor?”

“You owe me nothing,” he said. “It is I that owe you something… or some things. Well, I just thought it would be nice to see you…”

Evie cocked an eyebrow at him. He fidgeted in his seat. Their table was beneath a shady tree, and it seemed a few degrees cooler than before.

“I also wanted to apologize…” he said.

“For what?”

“The last time we met I was terribly inconsiderate of your feelings. That was a bad thing. So for that, I'm sorry.”

“And you’re buying me off with a banana-leaf lunch? That’s real classy.” Evie said, smiling and sipping her sweet lassi.

“Ehehe, well, that’s not totally it…” Rafar said and bowed his head down. He had his hands clasped together in front of him on the table, like was handcuffed. Evie waited. When it seemed that he was not going to say anything, Evie asked him how were things with Farihin. Rafar looked at her thoughtfully, and nodded.

“So?” Evie said, leaning a bit forward.

“I'm not seeing her anymore,” he answered. “We broke up about a month ago…”

“Oh... I'm sorry…”

“Don’t be… I was the one who broke up with her.”

“That is what you’re good at anyway.” Evie said. She meant it in good humor, and was surprised at herself for being able to make that joke. But maybe it came off too harsh.

“Well, you know…” he said. He looked her in the eyes. “Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you plan it to.”


“So how did she take it?”

“Quite well actually. We talked about it. At first it seemed like she would cry; and she did, but just a little. But we hugged and said farewell. She did not seem that crippled about it, so to speak.”

“Oh. Good for her then. If I may ask..?”



Rafar stared at his own clasped hands. Evie studied the man; for the first time since she knew him, he looked unsure or afraid. Evie propped her chin on one hand and gazed at Rafar, trying to figure out what he was about to say. He had his head down, and his eyes betrayed the swirling thoughts inside his mind. Finally he looked up.

“It was because of you,” he said. Evie’s elbow slipped. She sat straight up in her chair, and she squinted a little.

“What?” she said, thinking she heard him wrong. This time Rafar leaned forward on the table.

“It was because of you.”

“I heard you first time before Wiseguy, that ‘what’ constitutes a ‘what in the world do you mean by that?’ ‘what’.” She was feeling a bit angry now. What the hell was this? Rafar looked away to his sides, like he was confessing a crime. He bit his lips and cracked his knuckles. Evie leaned back in her chair, and crossed her arms in front of her. She too, bit her lower lip, her heart beating a bit faster.

“Evie, I never really told you why we… we separated. All the court and all the people know it was on the grounds of ‘irreconcilable differences’, and that was enough back then as an explanation.”

Evie suddenly felt a real stab of anger. “Oh sure, that was enough.”

“Look… I divorced you because I suddenly felt I was unhappy, and incomplete. Like I told you last time, I felt it would be both unfair for me and for you if I had stayed on; I would be lying to myself and I would be lying to you. I had to get away, and seek a better answer.”

Evie bit her lip but did not say anything. Rafar went on.

“I know you felt it was terribly unfair for you. And I guess I was a jerk for leaving it at that; I mean, for just leaving after we made it clear. I know I never made an attempt to apologize, or to say hi, or to just be friends with you. But I also knew that that was not what you wanted at the time. And back then, our wants and needs were too different to set aside. So I… I let you go.”

Evie mumbled under breath. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

“Okay. What you don’t know is how guilty I felt the day we divorced; how heart-wrenching it was when I saw you crying by yourself, and how terrible it felt to know I had wronged you. But I could not have done it any other way. I have to admit when we separated, I felt like an enormous burden was lifted off my shoulders; not just the burden to me, but for you as well. Can you honestly say that you would rather have had me stay even if it meant that we were fooling ourselves?”

Evie stared at him.

“Evie, we spent years apart after that. Remember when we met that day at Pavilion sometime after Hari Raya a few years back? God knew how much I wanted to ask you out. But I don’t remember what stopped me: my own ego, or maybe I thought you hated me and would have said no anyway. And then last year I met Farihin.”

“What. Is. Your. Point. Rafar?” Evie said. She refused to look at him, instead glancing sideways. She saw the toddler who had greeted her and waved, trying to hide her apparent discomfort.

“It was not Farihin that I fell for, Evie. It was a ghost. A ghost of you. A memory of you, a shadow, call it what you want, but after seeing you again the other day, I realized then that when I fell for Farihin, all I was falling for was another you. An alternate you.”

Evie rolled her eyes. She’s heard that before. She tapped her feet on the table stand. She felt like she wanted to be somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

“I missed you. That was the biggest thing I realized. Seeing you at Juliza’s wedding, you took my breath away. I almost kicked myself in the nuts when I realized what a beautiful and amazing woman I had let go…” Rafar said. He sighed and looked down on his hands again. “I’ve made many mistakes in my life. Letting you go was the worst.”

Evie turned her gaze on him. Her lips were puckered up, angry. She stared hard the Rafar, but he did not notice. When he looked up Evie turned her gaze away. She did not want to look him in the face, in the eyes. Not right now.

“Evie… it’s been four years. I know now where I stand, and where I should have stood. I’ve always loved you. Always. I know in some way or the other you feel the same way. Evie, I want you back. I want to be with you again. I want you back.”

That did it. She turned her gaze on Rafar, hard and piercing. She leaned forward and spoke in a clear but low voice.

“You called me here for this?” she said. He nodded, clearly surprised at the cold fury in her voice.

“You call me up here and have your little speech. It’s all so nice and what-not with your falling in love with ghosts and your ‘alternate yous’, you make it sound so romantic and chivalrous, like this was a Nicholas Sparks novel, and that everything will end with a happy ever after, just like a fairy tale. You come up with all that after leaving me because of 'irreconcilable differences' years ago, like it was some sort of a little mistake. How do you think it’s supposed to make me feel? What did you expect me to say?

You talk about making a mistake and how you’re sorry for it and oh how you want me back. What do you take me for Rafar? I can’t believe you’re saying this. Where were you when I really needed you back then? Where were you when I cried myself to sleep on so many nights, just WISHING you’d suddenly knock on the bedroom door and tell me it was all just a bad dream? Where were you back then? Looking for that something to complete you?”

Rafar was quiet; stunned.

“You know what?” Evie said. “When I saw you at Juliza’s wedding I felt a mixture of emotions; sadness, anger, love, envy. But when we talked and went for coffee I truly realized how things have moved on between us. I guess maybe if that had happened two years earlier I would have gone back crying and wishing you were there with me. But I was proud when I realized I did not. I was a bit proud to realize you had no answer when I asked you what was it you wanted; I was proud because I saw that I had actually gotten over grieving the end of us. It was a huge moment for me.

Now suddenly you say 'I want you back', as if it's the simplest, most natural thing in the world. Be honest with me, Rafar: you thought I would immediately say ‘yes’ and that ‘I missed you all this time’ and come back into your arms straight away didn’t you?”

Rafar nodded, but slowly, unsure of himself. Evie shook her head.

“So pretentious! But you’re right: things don’t always turn out the way you want it to. Spare me the speech next time,” Evie said. And then more softly.

“I'm sorry if I'm being brash, or rude. But you can’t just expect me to forget the pain you’ve caused me. Yes, you must have felt it too, but why didn’t you do anything about it back then? Is it my fault then, that I respected your wishes to be left alone?

If so, I'm sorry. I really am. But I'm not that crying woman you saw at the Syariah court anymore Rafar. I'm not.”

She held up her left hand, and took off her wedding ring. She placed it on the table. His eyes followed her hand as she pushed it towards him.

“I'm just Evie Nadia, and I want to live my life the way I choose it.” With that, Evie got up. Rafar still sat there quiet.

“Thank you so much for lunch. And it is good to see you. I can’t deny that. But I think you’re just being selfish. I'm sorry. Goodbye Rafar. I'll see you around sometime. Maybe.”

Evie left.


As she drove she calmed down. She glanced at the clock in the car and saw she had plenty of time left before going to her parents’ house. Besides, she needed to get her father a chocolate cheesecake as well. She decided to head back to her apartment and have a shower and a change of clothes; plus, the lunch at Raju’s had made her drowsy. She thought a nap would be nice.

When she reached home about half and hour later she had her shower and her change of clothes. Outside the sun was still hot and shining. Evie went to her living room and opened the sliding door and the windows; a gentle breeze made its way in. She lay down on the sofa, slowly feeling sleep get to her. But just before she fell asleep, she raised her left hand and glanced at the ring; except the ring was no longer there, she had left it with Rafar earlier, and now all that was left was a strip of skin that was even lighter in tone compared to her already very fair skin.

She drew a deep breath; her hand felt lighter, although that was surely just in her mind. More importantly, she felt that taking of the ring was a symbolic and significant act to do. Why she had waited so long, she did not know. Perhaps she was afraid.

But now that she took it off, Evie felt only one feeling surge through her body, filling her heart with warmth.

She felt stronger.


January 28, 2009

Interlude: Evie Nadia Sketches


Evie Nadia Hakimi, as she is currently

more at Incense+Peppermints

pictures drawn using a Wacom Bamboo One Digital Graphics Tablet.


January 25, 2009

Evie and Adam, Then


She had met the guy a few weeks back at a restaurant, where she was having lunch with some clients. And today is the day to tell the story.

Evie Nadia strolled beneath the streetlights of Jalan Bukit Bintang. She had always been partial to this place. Despite the relatively early hour, Bukit Bintang was bustling with people. She loved the atmosphere, the sense of occasion that seemed to radiate from the heart of the road. She loved the shopping malls, from Sungei Wang Plaza where she could find the tackiest knick-knacks, to the ridiculously upscale Starhill Gallery. Her sense always seemed to go on overload whenever she came by this busy shopping district; and she loved it.

Beside her, the man who had picked her up from her apartment and taken her to dinner casually walked with his hands in his pockets. Evie sensed that he was a bit nervous, as if he was not so sure of what to talk about. Sometimes he would open his mouth to say something, only to close it again and smile bashfully at her. Evie, on her part, just liked to see him so obviously try. She found it adorable. She did not have much to say herself, and for the moment, she let her eyes be dazzled by the neon lights littering the street, turning it into a grounded Milky Way. There was, however, a curious little smile carved on her lips.

The two of them walked in silence, and for a moment they were content. The man seemed to sense the futility or rather the silliness of attempting small talk right now, and had settled into a comfortable silence beside Evie. Evie clasped her handbag with both hands in front of her, her head slightly bowed down, her eyes shaded. For some reason she felt like a fourteen year old on her first date. It was the shy yet sweet awkwardness of it that made her feel that way.


A few weeks ago Evie had lunch with a client at a new and classy restaurant at Bangsar. The food, simple yet beautifully presented, was exquisite. Evie was there with her client to discuss a new advertising project. The client, a Datin in her 40’s, was so stereotypical of a ‘Datin’ that Evie thought she was almost a parody of herself. Evie loathed her, in fact, but she was an important client to the advertising firm she worked at, and said firm had asked her to be the Datin’s personal liaison for the project she was currently commissioning. Of course, Evie had to pay for the lunch, which, as she had expected, was priced just like the food: ‘exotic’ and ‘exquisite’ are two words to describe it. When she had looked at the bill she knew instantly that it was not a place she would frequent.

Despite the great food, Evie was a lady of simpler tastes: her favorite meal would consist of rice and beef rendang with sambal belachan and ulam, or maybe a crabstick and mayonnaise sandwich. But a Datin would require Datin-class food, so there she was. She put her credit card on the bill folder, but much to her annoyance, their waitress was nowhere to be seen. In fact, there were no waitresses at all, not even the pretty Indian hostess who had seated her and the Datin.

Evie had finally excused herself from the Datin and picked up the bill with her card to bring to the front, expecting to see one member of service staff there. Instead there was a tall man, in a black chef’s jacket and faded Levi’s standing over the register, thumbing through what looked like a diary, the kind a secretary uses. The man had his back to her.

“Excuse me, I need to pay the bill”, Evie said. Much to her amusement, the man turned around quickly, surprised. He had not noticed Evie coming up behind him.

“I'm sorry, you startled me”, he said.

“Oh, then I'm the one who should be sorry then”, Evie apologized. “Could you happen to see if you can get me someone to handle my bill?” Evie handed the man the bill with her credit card, which he took. The man studied the bill for a moment.

“Isn’t your waitress there to assist you?”

Evie shook her head. “No, it seems they’re… missing…”

The man gave a laugh. “Alright then. Okay. I’ll take care of your bill for you. Please, have a seat. Would you like a drink? It’s on the house. Take it as a gesture of apology for the missing waitresses”

Evie smiled and refused. “It’s okay. Maybe the waitresses went for a drink or something”

“Indeed. I should have a word with them about taking sudden breaks when there are customers seated waiting to be served. Why don’t you have a seat, Miss, while I take care of your bill here”

“It’s alright, I’ll wait. I don’t mind. I’d prefer to wait here than to sit in front of a dragon lady”. The man raised his eyebrows, uncomprehending. Evie raised a hand, indicating ‘never mind’. The man smiled at her, a curiously charming smile that was also infectious. She could not help but smile back. As the man began to process her bill, she looked at him. He was a head taller than her, with broad shoulders that the loose fitting chef jacket could not hide. He was good looking, and to Evie, looked more suited to be some sort of bohemian traveler than a chef. He had a shaggy head of hair, straight and dark brown, and a prominent five o’clock shadow. He spoke in a polite and smooth way. In fact, the guy reminded her of George Clooney. Minus the grey hair and dimpled chin, of course.

“There you go… sign here please”, the man said as he handed her the receipt and a pen. Evie signed the bill and handed the pen back to him, smiling (rather foolishly, she thought) as she did so. The man smiled back at her. “Thank you for your custom”

Evie rummaged in her handbag, looking for her purse to store the credit card. “Do chefs always do bills here?”

“Oh, only me”, the man said.

“And why is that?”

The man rubbed his neck. “Well, because your waitress is missing. And because I know how. And because it’s my place anyway”

Evie looked up. “You’re the owner?”

The man smiled broadly, clearly proud. He extended his hand. “Hi, I'm Adam. And yeah, this restaurant right here is my pride and joy”

Evie shook his hand, expecting it to be rough from all the kitchen work. Instead his hand was soft as silk; almost as soft as hers! He must have noticed the slightly surprised expression on her face.

“I know. Girly hands huh? But I assure you; I do cook in this kitchen. Well, maybe not all the time. But often enough” he said. Evie laughed, which she did not expect to do.

“Nice to meet you Chef Adam”

“Oh God, please no. Just Adam would do”

“Ehehe. All right then. Adam it is. Your food was lovely by the way. I have to get back to the dragon at my table. She needs to be driven back to her lair, unfortunately” Evie said while motioning with her head to the direction of the Datin. She felt that she wanted to stay here and chat. There was just something so… charming about Adam. That was the best way she could put it into words.

“Of course. Here’s my card. Hope you’d come again. Give me a call and I’ll see to it you get the best seat in the house”, Adam said and handed her a black business card with white lettering. On it was written the name of the restaurant (‘Luna’), his name (‘Adam Amirulkhair’) and a phone number. Evie fished her own card out of her purse and gave it to him as well.

“Hi Evie… pleasure to meet you”, he said as he eyed the card. Evie smiled and excused herself, and much to her amusement, Adam winked at her. God, who does that these days! Evie thought. She went back to her table where the Datin was waiting, feeling curiously cheerful for no reason. Even the thought of driving back to her office with the Datin beside her did not seem so bad anymore. Hell, she even bought the Datin a frappe afterwards.

A few days after that lunch, Evie got a call just as she was about to leave her office. It was Adam. She was surprised, but pleasantly so. He sounded just as charming over the phone as he was in real life. He asked her where she was; she replied she was in her office, about to go back home.

“Hey, listen… if you’re free-ish one of these days, would you like to go for maybe a cup of coffee with me?” he said. Evie was again surprised, this time at the straightforward request.

“Coffee?” was all she managed to say, but damn if she wasn’t grinning from ear to ear.

“Was that too direct? I'm sorry…” Adam said over phone, sounding disappointed. Evie was quiet for a moment. Then she laughed into the handset.

“It was! But it’s okay… Ehehe. Shouldn’t you be hitting on your waitresses or something instead of a customer?”

“I can’t. You see, I draw a line between professional and personal relationships”

“Right. So is there a familiar line between customer and patron then?”

“Maybe. But we’re not talking about booking a table for two or catering a function here right?”

Evie had to smile. She could even imagine Adam smiling at the end of the line. It was a conversation of hidden smiles. Adam sounded hopeful. Evie gave in. She had nothing to lose.

“Actually I'm free right now. Where’s your favorite coffee shop?” she said.

“It’s the one right below your office building” Adam said and hung up. Evie’s jaw went slack for a moment, not believing the guy. But sure enough, when she went down from her office to the coffee shop on the ground floor, there he was, with two coffees in hand. He was wearing a light blue polo shirt with jeans, and he had Adidas sneakers on.

“You look like a latte girl, so that’s what I got you. You look great, by the way”, Adam said as he handed Evie the polystyrene cup. He grinned, clearly happy with himself for this trick. She was dressed in a black blazer over a white blouse, with black trousers. Evie felt happy despite her self, and welcomed the coffee. They took a seat, with Adam sitting opposite her. For a few minutes they just sat there, staring at each other over the rims of their coffee cups. Evie felt awkward and nervous but excited at the same time.

When was the last time she felt excited about things likr this? Guys tried to pick her up all the time. What makes Adam any different? Because, she told herself, he did not come up with some crazy pick up line; because he had simply called her up and asked her for coffee, with no pretense; because he had this aura of confidence in him, that she found herself admiring.

They sat there staring at each other, and then both of them started to speak at the same time. They laughed, and gradually they began to talk. He told her about life as a chef, and how at times, it was nowhere near as glamourous as people like Gordon Ramsay or Tony Bourdain seem to suggest. He spoke clearly and smoothly, attaching amusing and funny tags to his words. Evie, too, spoke about her career, telling an interested (she did not know if he was genuinely interested or just pretending to be, but she did not care; she was feeling butterflies in her stomach as Adam looked at her while she spoke. She noticed his eyes. Dark, and deep, belying an intelligence he did not really advertise, pun intended) Adam the knitty gritty of the advertising business. They talked for well over two hours when she finally noticed the sun had set and her coffee was unfinished. Suddenly both of them fell quiet.

“So”, Adam said finally. “I guess I better make a move then. Can I drive you home? Where do you live?”

“Oh, it’s alright, I stay at Sri Kenanga, near Jalan Ampang. But I'm driving myself”, Evie said whilst holding up the keys to her Vee-Dubya.

“Oh okay”, Adam said. Evie detected a small hint of disappointment, but for now she let it be. She had had fun talking to him. They both stood up.

“I'm headed that way”, Evie said, motioning to the elevators that would take her to the basement parking lot. Adam nodded, his lips clenched.

“I'm parked outside. Hopefully they didn’t clamp my wheels” he joked. “Hey… don’t suppose I could have your number can I? You know, just in case…”

Evie crossed her arms in front of her and raised one eyebrow. “In case of what’”

Adam shrugged. “You’d like to go for another coffee, maybe?”

Evie eyed the good-looking man in front of her. He’s earned it, she thought. “It’s zero one two, two six four, seven triple six”.

Adam fumbled with his handset and repeated after her as he keyed in the digits on his phone. Satisfied, he winked at Evie and said “I’ll see you then, Evie”

“Most people don’t do that anymore”, Evie said.

“Do what?”


“Well I'm not most people”, he said. He raised a hand and waved goodbye, and whistled as he walked out of the building. When he reached the exit he turned back, looked at Evie and winked again. Evie had to put a hand to her mouth, covering the wide grin she wore. She went home that night feeling very cheerful, just like on the day she had first met him. After a couple of hours upon her reaching home, as she was about to settle in front of the TV to maybe watch a movie or maybe play The Sims, her mobile phone buzzed, and unsurprisingly it was Adam. She ended up talking with him on the phone for more than two hours, and she felt like schoolgirl afterwards.

She agreed to a proper date when Adam asked her (“Evie… would you like to go to dinner with me? Maybe this weekend? It won’t be at my restaurant, I promise”), and their conversation that night ranged from the silly (“Do you think cows would keel over if they were asked to solve a math problem?”) to the mundane (“I think oil prices are gonna go up again soon”) to the downright sweet (“You have the prettiest smile, seriously…”).

For the first time since a while, Evie slept that night with a smile on her face.

And that was a few weeks ago. They had gone on that date, and yes, Adam kept his promise of not bringing her to his own restaurant. Instead they had gone to a noisy char kuey teow stall in Shah Alam, which Evie had absolutely enjoyed. After that date he had called her that night and again they had talked on the phone for hours. It was silly to think of, but that was what happened. And more often lately they both would text each other just to say hi and to chat. They saw each other almost everyday then, even if for just a few hours. Adam wasn’t like the other guys who had hit on her or took her on (thankfully) short lived dates. He wasn’t interested in trying to score with her; he seemed genuinely interested in getting to know her. And Evie loved the fact he took her to a char kuey teow place instead of a cheesy candlelit dinner in a fancy restaurant. She was a romantic, certainly, but she was thrilled by the spontaneity of that date.

This feels different, she had told herself earlier as she was preparing for tonight. And it was; for one, she was interested to see where this was going. She liked Adam. She liked him a lot. He was funny, goofy at times, charming and spontaneous. He was unlike quiet and brooding and sarcastic Rafar, and that was a thought she immediately pushed away. Adam was… different.

Tonight’s date was set because, in his words, “Hey I miss seeing you. Wanna go for dinner?”. They had dinner at Piccolo Mondo Pizza, and the conversation was lighter than usual. It was not that they had run out of things to talk about; rather, they both felt that tonight was night more suited to a quiet time together, as unlikely as that may sound in Bukit Bintang. When he had come to pick her up earlier he had given her a bouquet of flowers. They were beautiful. It was the first romantic gesture he had made, and Evie knew then their relationship was slowly changing direction. Even more tellingly, tonight he was quieter than usual, like he was trying to say something that was more sincere but did not know how. It’s only been about five weeks, Evie told herself. Let’s not rush this.

As she thought that she looked at Adam walking beside her, both of them bathed in the neon glow of the streetlights of Jalan Bukit Bintang. Adam looked back, and they smiled at each other (they always smiled at each other, it was like their smiles were saying words unspoken). They had not said a word for sometime now. Evie was just letting herself soak in the atmosphere, and beside Adam, she felt comfortable and safe. She felt warm, a feeling that she thought was long lost from her heart. Of course, it was way too early to tell anything. But all the same, she welcomed that feeling.

This is different, she says to her own heart. That would suffice for now. She was content to be walking side by side with Adam. His quiet gave Evie a chance to study him more closely. She liked what she saw. Unconsciously she began fingering the ring on her left hand. The ring she always wore. She did not know if Adam had noticed the ring, but he’s a smart guy. He knew that she wasn’t married or anything anyway. But often Evie worried if the ring was too symbolic of something. Maybe it was time she took it off. It’s been six years anyway.

Maybe I will then, she said to herself, because this is different.


January 20, 2009

Muhammad Rafar


At half past seven in the morning Muhammad Rafar reached home, his body slick with sweat from his daily morning jog, his t-shirt sticking to his skin. He ran up the stairs to his fourth floor apartment, and before going inside he took some time to do cooling down exercises. After a few deep breaths he went inside. He wiped off some of the sweat and made his breakfast: toast with scrambled eggs, an apple and black coffee. He ate the breakfast whilst reading The Star he had picked up en route home.

When he finished he switched on the television but almost immediately turned it off; sometimes he wonders why he bought a TV when he watches so little of it. Rafar peeled of his exercise clothes and went for a shower.

He jogged an hour everyday. He liked the quiet hours he spent to himself in the mornings. Jogging sort of gave him time to think. The running had begun when he divorced Evie Nadia the same four years ago. Subconsciously he thought the running was more than just exercise: it was a way of leaving everything behind. Now he stood beneath the cool spray of his shower, his eyes closed, and he let the water wash himself clean. He also felt that showers were symbolic, just as much as he probably thought that running was a way of getting away from the past. Every time he emerged from those morning showers, it was as if he was reborn, ready to set foot in the world again.

Foolish thoughts from a foolish man, he thought as he killed the stream of water. He dried his body and checked out his reflection in the bathroom mirror: no need for a shave yet. He washed his face all the same, and brushed his teeth thrice. It was a peculiar habit of his, almost bordering on the obsessive compulsive. Evie used to say that one day his gums will cease to exist.

He dried himself completely, and put on a fresh t-shirt and his favorite shorts. He was a handsome man, but not in the classical sense. His face was slightly rounded, but his chin was squared. His eyes were black, and his nose straight to the tip. His lips are thin. He sported a clean-shaven look now because his girlfriend likes it that way, and he recently started wearing glasses, and though he tells people that it’s merely for aesthetics, the truth was that his eyesight had deteriorated a bit, maybe due to the amount of time he spent in front of a computer monitor. He did not have a ripped body, or a chiseled face. Rafar was tall and slender. He had lost some weight due to the jogging, and sometimes, in certain articles of clothing, he looked gaunt, like he had more bones than muscle. He always has a bed-head, his hair messy and un-kept, but by no means did he look like a vagrant. His looks simply reflected, and hid, his personality: he looked casual, carefree and relaxed.

Despite it being a weekday, he did not have to go anywhere yet. Technically he worked for a studio, of course, but nowadays he did more freelance work. This morning he intended to stay in front of his iMac and work on the hundreds of photos that he was paid to work on. Before that he made himself another coffee, no sugar, bitter than a blackboard (not that he had tasted a blackboard, of course, but he always imagined if he were to do so, it’d taste bitter).

He started working on this morning’s batch of images. He supposed the general public would have no idea that professional digital photography involved just as much post-processing as film. Rafar knew this of course; back in his college days he had taken a full year long course in Japan to learn it. It was a trip he never regretted going on. His skills had then developed until he was able to make a living doing his hobby. He had it good. How many people can say that, anyway? Armed with a camera and tripod and lenses and light-guns and a keen eye, his hobby had helped him pay for the apartment he lived in and the car he drove.

This morning the pictures were of the family of a prominent local politician as part of a feature in a woman’s magazine. He had taken perhaps 200-plus photos, but after carefully selecting and deleting the ones he thought were no good, he suddenly felt bored. He saved the good pictures and closed the application. It could wait anyway. He checked his mobile phone that was on the desk and saw one text message. It was from Farihin, his girlfriend. The message asked him to meet her up for lunch later in the afternoon. He replied a quick ‘OK’ and put the phone back down.

He had met Farihin a year ago at during KL Fashion Week him. The pretty lady in ‘grunge’ attire had caught his eye immediately. At first he thought she was an event manager or something, seeing that she was energetic and seemed constantly busy… but then he saw the camera and camera bag slung across her shoulders. After that day’s shooting, he actually went looking for her. Rafar found her sitting on the floor, leaning on a pillar. He had said hi and sat down beside her, much to Farihin’s amusement. They talked, exchanging views and having a look at each other’s pictures and equipment (he was using Canon, she was using Sony). Rafar had then asked for her number, which, to his surprise, she gave without hesitation.

Rafar had been charmed. Farihin certainly was very pretty. She had skin the color of honey and her lips were shaped like a cupid’s bow, sensuous and curvy. She was talkative and funny. He supposed it was safe to say he had instantly liked her. The fact that she too took pictures was a bonus for him. It was, after all, the fact that had led him to her. He had spend the days after last year’s KL Fashion Week texting and talking to Farihin, and found himself slowly but surely falling in love with the girl. As luck would have it, Farihin had developed feelings for him too. After more or less two months of talking and texting and exchanging subtle hints of attraction, Rafar asked her to be his girlfriend, and she had said yes. It was pretty straight forward.

At first it was strange for him because Farihin is the first girl he’s ever loved since he divorced Evie Nadia. And that is not to say he did not love his ex-wife; in fact, they had spent some wonderful times together. Beautiful, compassionate and understanding Evie Nadia. In the days since the divorce, he had only ever seen her twice: once three years ago just after Eid, and of course, at Juliza’s wedding. In truth he had not expected to see her at the wedding. Stupid, he knew, but he somehow had had a hunch that Evie would not come. When he was proven wrong, he had taken a few moments to think about how he would react. In the end he decided to just go along and talk. He had avoided talking to her initially. But when he had seen Evie walk out the hall and stand by the windows, he just thought it would be nice to say hello again. After all, there was nothing that said they could not be friends. So he had gone up to her and tried to strike a conversation, which, he thought, had gone on fine. Evie had even agreed to go for a drink with him.

He actually had a selfish reason as to why he had asked Evie to go out with him for coffee. He wanted to know everything about her. He wanted to know what she has been doing, what’s new in her life. He knew that she was working at a renowned advertising firm. He had, in fact, done a job for the very same firm she works at, doing product shots. Secretly he also wanted to know if she had anyone in her life. And now in retrospect he felt ashamed to himself to admit that he was actually glad that Evie had not remarried or even dated. Then he had slipped his tongue and had let that feeling known, even if he had said it out loud as a ‘joke’. Evie had rightfully gotten angry and stormed off. That was five weeks ago. He did not even get to ask for her number. Not that she would have given it, perhaps.

That was dumb, he thought, sipping his coffee. He remembered five weeks ago at how stunned he was to see Evie again after four years. She had changed a lot. She looked healthier, glowing, her complexion full of vitality. And dear God, she was gorgeous. She looked thirty, but a stunningly beautiful thirty. The last time he had seen her prior to that she was still wearing glasses, and was still skinny. But in four years… wow, Rafar thought. He was sure that if he told some of his friends about this, they’d roast him, telling him how stupid he was to have let her go. And he knew they would be right. But that was the past, and it was his decision. Things are different now. He thought that maybe Evie hated him for what he did. He never really gave her a real reason. He knew that had hurt her a lot more than if he had said he was cheating.

Rafar’s memories now floated to four years ago, on the day they officially split at the Syariah Court. He remembered how stoic and emotionless he had been, as if he was just waiting in line at a post office. Evie had been silent during that event. But one particular memory that had never been erased from his mind of that day was when he saw Evie sitting on a bench inside the building; he was already on his way out. He saw Evie sitting alone, a scarf loosely wrapped around her hair. She had her face in her hands and by the hitching movements of her shoulders he knew she was crying, sobbing. He could hear her, in fact. Then he saw her parent’s arrive and he remembered that Evie had thrown herself into her mother’s arms. He remembered he had glimpsed his ex-wife’s beautiful face twisted in sadness, her eyes red and watery. There was no such indication of the cheerful, spunky and pretty girl he had dated and married. It was if he that person had died within Evie. At that moment, he knew how terribly he had hurt the woman he had once promised to love endlessly.

Rafar wiped his eyes. He had not realized he was crying at the thought. He had never taken the time to say hi, or to apologize to Evie Nadia. In that four years he did not even make an effort to be friends. He had simply assumed that time will heal her wounds or make her forget. He had moved out of their apartment as quickly and as silently as he could, taking his stuff bit by bit, always coming during Evie’s office hours so he would not have to see her. One day, just like that, he was gone from her life. Rafar immediately focused on his career, almost demonically even. Still, the persistent questions remained. What was it that he wanted? What was it that he deemed missing in his life, so much so he divorced his wife? He always thought that he could justify the split by saying that it would be unfair for Evie if he cannot make her happy. But now that excuse seems just that: an excuse. He had never given her a real concrete reason.

But his life had gone on. After the official split he just looked forward and rarely looked back. He built his career with a solid foundation and had found success. Then he realized he had everything he had ever wanted but someone to share it with. When Farihin came into his view, he had been instantly attracted. She is a great girl, he told himself. And she is: smart, funny. He did not have to describe it in more detail, he just knew. Farihin made him happy, and is that not what life is about? Being happy and content?

Sitting alone now at his work-desk, Rafar leaned back in his chair and nodded. Yes, he was happy. Maybe he had been cruel and selfish in the past, but he also knows that maybe his life would have turned out differently if he had stayed with Evie. Maybe he would not be happy, and would have felt incomplete. Yes, he told himself, things do happen for a reason after all. He knows that he can build an entire life with Farihin. They were young and good looking and successful. Just because he divorced his first wife does not mean he can’t have another life, right? Besides, Evie looks like she has things going good for her anyway. She did say it after all, that she healed and was doing fine until he showed up again.

So maybe, he thought, I don’t need to bother Evie. Maybe we’re destined to be apart now. She seemed certain I would screw up her life if I entered it again. So yeah, maybe what was done is done, and there’s nothing we can do to turn back the clock or rebuild the bridges that were burned.

Rafar leaned further back on his chair, stretching his arms and legs, cracking his knuckles. He sighed, blowing air out of his lungs. He wondered why Evie had implied that he would screw up her life if he came back into the picture. But was it not obvious? She still, in a way no matter how small, loved him. But does he still love her? He thought of Farihin, his current girlfriend. He loved Farihin very much, and that was true, not some bullshit his own feelings generated to comfort himself. He loved Farihin because, as he mentioned to Evie the other day, and as he constantly reminds himself, Farihin is smart, and funny, and energetic, and spunky. In fact, he loved Farihin because… why, because Farihin is almost exactly like Evie Nadia was years ago, of course, who was he kidding?

Life, it seems, is full of irony.


January 17, 2009

Evie Nadia


Evie Nadia stood in front of her mirror, clad in a loosely wrapped towel, fresh from her hot shower. The perfume of shampoo and conditioner, along with a seemingly endless array of skincare and beauty products clung to her body. In any other circumstances, it might have been choking. But if there were anybody else in the room with her, they would probably say she smelled lovely.

She put her hands on her hips, and lifted one shoulder in a provocative, catwalk model pose. She pouted her lips, and then simply broke out into a small laugh, which inadvertently caused the towel to drop; even though she was alone, she instantly grabbed it, and a faint blush tinged her cheeks. She shook her head at her own blonde moment, feeling silly and childish.

Looking into the mirror was, she supposed, one of her vices. She was the kind of person who would check if she looked okay every time she passed by a window and a large sheet of glass; in fact, any reflective surface would do.

She took a deep breath; and this time, she let the towel drop. For a moment she just stared at the body God had given her. It was in these private moments she asserted her gratitude for the gift of beauty that had been bestowed upon her. Of course she still had her insecurities: for instance, she thinks her ears are too big and stick out too much, and that her collarbones are too prominent which makes her upper chest and neck look bony, and that her eyebrows have too much of 'kink' in them. But she knew enough to take care of what she has, and to an outside observer, what she has is beautiful.

Her face was almost arrow shaped; severe to some, delicate to others. The browns of her eyes were a rich caramel, and contrasted greatly with her naturally pink lips. The bridge of her nose was straight, but the tip was slight upturned. Jodie Foster's nose, Juliza, her best friend, had said once. She even had that 'v' on the tip of the nose.

She had always been slim, almost waif-like; but recently she had put on some weight and her figure looked fuller than before, healthier. Her small round breasts perched nicely on her chest, firm and taut, and her hips were broad but not prominently so, the buttocks in almost perfect proportion to her chest. Her belly (not as flat as before, but still flat enough) was a smooth surface, the skin pale yet flawless. She had a birthmark on her right hip, just above the bone. Her limbs were long and tapered, coltish and athletic.

Evie glanced at herself; she was thankful. A few years back she was skinnier, and looked somewhat undernourished. Ironic then, how life changes you physically, she thought. After a few minutes she felt satisfied with her own image and self-confidence. She picked up the towel, wrapped it around herself and sat down in front of her dressing table. Her make up set was arranged neatly; lipstick, foundation, eyeliner, mascara and the lot. Evie looked at her bedside clock: 1705. She had plenty of time.

For tonight she had a date. It has been 5 weeks since she met Rafar again; that had ended well, she thought as she began applying her make up. She had left that day feeling angry with herself for agreeing to go for a drink. She had been angry with herself for even talking to Rafar. What was she expecting anyway? She did not know, and at this point, no longer cared.

Tonight however, was different. Tonight was a night she had been looking forward to. She wanted to see the guy again, which, for her, was unusual. She rarely went on second dates with the people she meets, because usually they turn out to be jerks, but mostly because she would find herself losing interest halfway through a date. But tonight... and for that matter the past few weeks or so, she felt different. For the first time since Ezra The TUDM pilot, probably, she was excited at the prospect of a date.

After her divorce with Rafar and the subsequent rebuilding of her life, her mother had encouraged her to go on dates, mostly because she (her mother) wanted her to be happy and socialize, and, who knew, maybe even find a replacement for Rafar. So yes, Evie had gone on dates, but never seriously. Sometimes she wondered if it was herself, in fact, that was apprehensive to the idea of dating after her relationship with Rafar ended so bitterly. Maybe she did not want anyone else to taint the good memories. But within time that feeling had slowly faded, and she realized she needed to move on.

Dating again was a logical step forward.

Tonight's date felt different, somehow. She thought it was because of the incident with Rafar the other day. Thinking positively, she felt that the afternoon spent with Rafar having coffee was somewhat a catalyst for her; a sign that yes, she was ready to move on completely. If all goes well, she thought as she applied a subtle shade of mascara to her long eyelashes, I might even learn to love this guy. She knew for sure she liked him. She liked him a lot. They met at a nice restaurant a few weeks back when she had lunch with a client. But that was a story she would tell another day.

Evie finished applying make up and walked gingerly to her wardrobe. She put on her bra and panties whilst making a decision on what to wear. She had laid out some clothes on the bed. Should she go casual and pick the soft pink cardigan she could wear over a white tube and combine it with her favorite faded Levi's? Or maybe the baby blue button-down shirt to go with a long, flowing white skirt? Perhaps the lavender dress would do, though admittedly that would show too much leg. Evie loved soft colors. It belied her cheerful and sometimes electric personality, though even that had softened over the years. She remembered her college days, and the early times during her marriage. Was that not what Rafar liked about her? That outwardly she looked carefree and ditzy but she was - no, still is, - smart, intelligent and witty?

Eventually she settled for a compromise; she chose to wear the pink cardigan and tube, but with the long flowing skirt. She put that on, and went back to her dressing table to do her hair. She thought of letting it hang free, but then decided against it as her hair might get in her face; so she tied her hair into a ponytail using a ribbon. She had not put on too much make-up; she always liked to look natural rather than tart-ed up. Evie stood up again, adjusting her clothes and her hair. She smiled. She thought she looked a bit younger than her thirty years, but that was all right. As a final touch, she dabbed some perfume on herself.

Her bedside clock showed 1740. Another twenty minutes before he calls, she thought. I could have a drink. So she made herself a mug of tea with honey, and sat in the living room of her apartment. She sipped her drink, but her eyes wandered all over her home. She was proud. Since Rafar's departure, she had slowly turned the apartment into her own image. It was a three bedroom suite, just off Jalan Ampang. She had decorated it herself, to her exact tastes. It wasn't a big house, but she lived alone after all. She chose to live alone.

The apartment was clean, cozy and welcoming. On the walls were pictures of flowers she had drawn herself, and of her family and closest friends. She had a nice widescreen television, with ASTRO connected to it and even a Playstation Two as she loved playing games (Harvest Moon and The Sims!) in her free time. Beside the TV was a stereo system, and more pictures, even of her with her car,which was easily one of her biggest pride and joys: a white Volkswagen Golf she bought brand new last year when she realized she could afford it. She was making good money. A BMW was not out of the question but she just felt it was too excessive. Evie Nadia Hakimi, Advertising Exec; young, beautiful, successful. She was comfortable, and content. Maybe she could go on like this forever... but where's the fun in that, right?

At almost precisely 1800, her cell phone rang. The ringing tone was the intro riff from Switchfoot's 'We Are One Tonight', her favorite song. She looked at the Called ID and could not help but feel happy; she even blushed. Yay, she thought, and felt even more embarrassed. In truth it has been a long time since she felt this excited about something. So maybe she could allow herself this teenaged moment. She pressed the green button.

"Hi you", she said.

"Hi you", the voice at the other end said. "I've just arrived, waiting downstairs. Are you ready?"

"Yes, I'll see you in three minutes"

"Can't wait", the voice said.

Evie put her drink on the coffee table and went to her mirror for a last minute check; she looked fine. She grabbed her handbag, keys and phone and went out. Just before she locked her door, she took one glance at her apartment. It's my home, she thought. She smiled, again. The coffee 'date' with Rafar five weeks ago was now a faded memory, like an old stain the bleach couldn't quite get out. It just did not matter anymore. Today, she felt happy. She felt happier today than she's ever been for four years.

Evie locked her door and took the elevator down. She walked the 60 meters or so towards a sleek black Honda, where a gentleman in a button down white shirt and faded blue jeans was waiting by the passenger-side door. He held a bouquet of roses and carnations in one hand, and he smiled when he saw Evie coming towards him. Evie could have sworn her face had gone red when she saw the flowers.

I wonder what those are for? she asked herself. Never mind, they look lovely. Tonight, all she wanted to do was have a nice time, and to come back home happy.

Life, indeed, is full of surprises.


January 12, 2009

Afterwards We Went For Coffee


They were at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf outlet.

Evie sunk herself in the comfy chair, gently stirring a mug of coffee. She had managed to change into a pair of Levi's but kept her kebaya top on; she thought it looked nice, a fusion of East and West. She knew for certain that the guy manning the counter had given her more than a second glance when she and Rafar had walked in; in fact she could tell the guy was still checking her out.

She let it be. Rafar sat in front of her, currently on the phone ("Sorry, excuse me, I gotta take this"), his one free hand fiddling with a packet of sugar. Evie took this moment to look at him, while he was distracted.

Evie didn't know if she was feeling upset or just surprised at the revelation that Rafar was seeing another person. Part of her felt a twinge of jealousy; he was, after all, her ex-husband. He was someone she had lived with, had made love with, had shared her most intimate secrets with and likewise. She supposed it was only human to feel a tiny bit of envy.

At the same time she reminded herself constantly that she should not have been surprised at all. Rafar was young, and good looking and successful. Plus, he had that appeal of working in a glamorous job, often rubbing shoulders with celebrities and the like. In fact, she should have expected him to be dating someone. Maybe it was just her feelings that decided to rewind 4 years back.

It did not matter anyway.

Rafar finished his brief phone call and put his cell phone on the table. "Work. Follows me around"

Evie said nothing, taking a sip of her drink instead, her eyes peering over the rim of the mug. Rafar leaned back and stretched his legs; he cracked his knuckles and took a swig from his mug of coffee as well.

"Still taking it bitter?” Evie said. Rafar nodded.

"Bitter as ever. How about yours? Or do you just want me to cut off your leg now?"

They laughed. For a moment Evie felt, and she was sure Rafar did too, awkward. They were like long lost friends - no, lovers -, forced into a situation they did not expect. She thought about the things she could talk about. After all, was that not the reason both of them were here? To talk? But nobody said it was going to be easy. In the end Evie started by asking him an obvious question.

"So tell me about Farihin"


Evie rolled her eyes. "Farihin, your current squeeeeeezee”

"Well", Rafar cleared his throat, as if the bitter coffee he was having suddenly stung. "For starters, she's younger than we are; 25 this year. I met her about a year ago during KL Fashion Week; she's another photographer. Young, perky; she was like a pack of Smarties: colorful and sweet"

Evie nodded, smiling her approval. "What does she look like? Any pictures?"

Rafar handed her his cell phone; the screensaver was a picture of him and Farihin. Evie studied the girl; she had short brown hair, skin the color of light honey, and wore glasses. Her smile was shaped like a cupid's bow: curvy, almost sensuous.

"She's gorgeous", Evie said, handing Rafar back the phone. He took it back and stuck it in his pocket.

"Thanks... she is.” he said, and sort of trailed off. He seemed to stare off into blank space, which Evie found amusing.

"And.?” Evie said, grinning, coaxing him. Rafar snapped out of his momentary trance, and blushed just the tiniest bit. He shook his head, smiling in spite of himself.

"And I guess she's amazing, you could say. We’ve had great times thus far"

Evie began asking Rafar more questions about his new love, and Rafar obliged. As he told them about himself and Farihin, Evie felt the rift that had come between them grow further and further apart. She supposed she was happy for him. She wanted to be. But she also realized she was asking herself if she was really happy. Was she where she wanted to be?

Their talk turned to their jobs, a welcome change of subject as Evie suddenly felt she had had enough of listening to Rafar talk about his new girlfriend, even if she was the one kept asking. Perhaps people passing by would think of them as friends, having a chat, without any idea of the history between them. That was okay, Evie thought. It seems much more appropriate that way.

The chatter slowly winded down. They looked at each other, smiling, both of them feeling glad for this moment, and yet, though they did not know, both of them feeling a bit sad. Here was something they had lost years ago. Now it was very different indeed. Rafar sank back in his chair, his face thoughtful.

"What about you?” Rafar asked.

"I already told you about me" she replied.

"You told me you were not seeing anybody"



"And what? I'm not seeing anyone"



Because of what? Evie suddenly realized she had no idea, no definitive reason as to why she was not seeing anyone. Yes, people have asked her out, and yes, she had gone out with those people on occasions.

Half of the time, they turned out to be shallow pricks that could not take their eyes off her chest when they had dinner, or whose hands kept brushing the wrong way during a movie. The other half? Evie dismissed them as too old, too chauvinistic (one of them, an obviously rich and young Malay golfer named Sharif, had told Evie that "pretty ladies like you shouldn't bother with politics, that's a man's job" when she talked about the current political climate; Evie was instantly appalled and angry at herself because he had seemed so nice and sweet before that she agreed to go out with him), or just plain horny.

"I don't know" she finally said to Rafar. "I guess there was nobody I fancied"

Rafar cocked an eyebrow at her. "Seriously?"

"Well there was one, this guy, named Ezra; he was a TUDM Pilot. We kept in contact for a while, and saw each other often. He was sweet and handsome. But...”

"But what?"

Evie took another sip of coffee and shook her head. "I just wasn't ready"

"Wow", Rafar leaned forward a bit in his seat and smiled. "I guess nobody came close to me huh? I have to admit it feels kinda great to be the best you ever had..."

Evie froze, her jaw slightly open; she couldn't believe he had said that, and she knew Rafar regretted it as soon as he said it. He rubbed his face with the palm of his hands and took a deep breath.

"Look, I'm sorry, that was uncalled for” he said, but Evie was already getting up from the chair to leave. She felt a burning anger in her heart, a fire that was maybe ignited four years ago. She got up to leave.

"Evie, stay”

"And what?” she said. "Listen to you come up with another quip like that? You think you're such a wise guy. Or are you so fulfilled and happy right now that you didn't give thought that it was you who left me four years ago?"

Rafar sat quiet. Evie blew a strand of hair that had fallen on her nose.

"You know what, I don't even know why I agreed to come for a drink with you. Maybe it was because I still cared for you, or maybe because I just wanted a goddamn coffee with six sugars in it. Either way, I'm not like you, talking to me as if nothing happened"

She held out her left hand in front of Rafar and showed him her ring finger. On it was a simple gold band with a sparkling white diamond on it: her wedding ring, which she had never taken off.

"I still wear your ring,” she said. "When you left me I had to rebuild my life from scratch, and just when I thought I had finally got there, you come sauntering in with your oh so casual good looks and your wise guy remarks. What do you want? Why did you ask me to come for a coffee with you?"

Rafar just sat silent; he was clearly embarrassed. A few of the other patrons were staring at them, although Evie was not speaking loudly. In fact, she was speaking very calmly despite the cold anger in her eyes. It was a voice and tone Rafar knew all too well.

"You know what? Forget it. I don't think we should see each other ever again. It's just...”, Evie said, looking for a perfect word. "It's just too much for me. I'm glad you're happy now. I really am. Farihin looks like a great girl. So go on, I'm past all this. Four years ago we went separate ways. Maybe it's better to keep it that way"

Evie walked towards the exit and stomped (not literally, of course) her way back to her car. Outside it was a hot and sunny afternoon in Kuala Lumpur. She put on her sunglasses and searched her handbag for her car keys. A group of men who walked past her whistled their appreciation as she walked by.

"Evie", she could hear Rafar call out from behind her. She kept on walking.

"Evie, stop, please"

Evie just walked, ignoring him.

"Evie, please, stop”

Evie paused in her steps. She took off her sunnies and turned around. She walked towards Rafar and stopped right in front of him. Evie stared into his eyes, the eyes of the man she had once loved, and probably will love in one way or the other until she dies. She sighed.

"Rafar... when you left me four years ago I thought I could never have gone on with my life. Every bit of me felt that it was bound to you. And that when you left, a part of me was torn away, abruptly, from myself. But then I realized it wasn't you who tore me apart"

It was I, me, myself. I realized then I was in charge of my own life, and I was not bound to you. When I realized that, I felt.. I felt free. I felt better. I began to heal. And that's the way it has been for four years. Then you show up, so nonchalantly, and ask me out for a drink, and think that we can joke about it now"

Evie paused.

"What do you want, Rafar?"

Rafar just stood there, silent. Evie shook her head. She turned away.


January 7, 2009

We Talked By The Window


Evie stepped out of the wedding hall, which was situated on the twelfth floor of the building. The exterior of the hall was an open space, where some guests were lingering. It was surrounded by full-length glass windows, giving an airy, open feel to it.

Evie glanced down at her kebaya, now a bit ruffled along the edges. Inside, Marina and the others had decided to mingle with the other wedding guests, along with the bride and groom. Rafar had left their table to take photos prior to that. Evie had tagged along, and then felt a little suffocated by the crowds. Hence, she made her way outside for a moment.

She walked towards the windows, which offered a panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur. From twelve stories high, the people on the streets below looked like little ants marching towards whatever colony they belonged to. She glanced at her wristwatch, a Fossil with leather straps, and decided she would go inside for perhaps another thirty minutes and then head home.

Rafar's appearance at the wedding should not have come as a surprise to her. He was Juliza's friend too, she reminded herself. And yet, when he showed up at their table, so casual, so relaxed, Evie could not help but feel a twinge of surprise. Had she really moved on so much, she thought, that she did not expect to see him at all? She pondered over the question.

A small part of her also felt insulted, though she reminded herself that it was foolish to feel that way. But all the same she felt a bit annoyed because Rafar barely seemed to have acknowledged her at the table. Sure, he had thrown a look or two her way, and had smiled, but he did not even say hello, despite talking with the other guests at the table casually.

Still, she was glad she did not suddenly have an emotional fit caused by his appearance. Evie sighed, suddenly wanting to be anywhere but here. She looked out the window with the palms of her hands on the glass, like a child.

"You can't see Sri Kenanga from here, if that's what you're looking for"

Evie turned her head around, her hands still on the glass. The moment she did, a camera flash burst. It was Rafar, who obviously had the camera ready, just waiting for her to turn her head back. He lowered the camera from his face, and grinned. Evie suddenly felt embarrassed, her cheeks flushed hot. Rafar checked out the LCD on his camera and raised his eyebrows.

"You know Evie; you could have been a model. I mean, wow", he said. Evie turned to face him, brushing a few strands of hair that had fallen on her face. She did not know what to say.

Rafar shouldered his camera and put his hands inside his pockets. Evie took a moment to study him. Same old same old Rafar.

"When did you stop wearing glasses?” he asked her, stepping closer. Evie crossed her arms across her breasts and turned quickly away.

"For a while", she answered curtly.






Rafar stood by her, joining her in looking out the window. Out of the corners of her eyes, she could see that Rafar was looking at her. She refused to look back.

"You look great, anyway", Rafar said. "Lovely."

Evie still stood silent. She wasn't being cold on purpose; it was just that she genuinely had no idea what to say, but she was trying to mask it by pretending to be uninterested. In truth, she desperately wanted to know what he had been up to.

"So, I heard you got one hell of a raise at the ad firm", Rafar said again. This time he leaned his back on the window. He pushed his plastic rimmed glasses up his nose. "That's good. Means you must be sitting pretty comfortably in your nest"

"What's that supposed to mean? You don't look all too shabby yourself", Evie said, a little harder than she wanted to.

"I don't? That is the first time I've ever heard you say that I don't look messy or shabby for once. Thanks. I’m touched"

Evie glanced at him briefly. "Haha very funny. You're such a wise guy"

"Of course I am. Or was, anyway", he said, smiling. He came closer until their shoulders touched. At this distance, Evie could smell the hint of perfume he was wearing: cK Be, she thought. Still the same.

Evie decided to soften her stance a little.

"So how have you been? You're wearing glasses now. I told you all that time staring at a PC screen would ruin your eyes", she said.

"Yeah. I'll tell you a secret though: they're not prescriptions. I just wear them to look cool", he said, and that made her smile.

"But anyway, I've been taking pictures, what else. I also lecture part time at UiTM, a visiting speaker thingy for photography they invited me to do", he said. Evie smiled. She knew he was a well-known name in the local photography circuits. Just last month he did a high profile magazine photo shoot involving the Perak Royal Family. She felt that he was doing what he had always wanted to do. She was happy for him.

There was suddenly an awkward silence between them. Evie felt uncomfortable.

"So...” she said, trying to break the silence.

"So...” Rafar said. He was still standing very close to her. "How have you been Evie?"

Evie turned to look at him; their faces close enough that if she were to move her lips 6 inches forward, they would kiss. She remembered the feel of his lips on her. She remembered the taste. At these thoughts she quickly snapped her head away.

"I've been alright,” she said.

"How's work?"


Rafar stifled a laugh. "How are your mom and dad?"


"Have you been anywhere lately?"


"How's the apartment"


"..... Can you only say one word at a time now?"


Rafar nodded. They were both silent again for a moment.

"Are you seeing anyone at the moment..?” he asked. Evie turned to look at him again. Perhaps she was over-analyzing the question. But she turned to look at Rafar to see if she could read what answer he was expecting. Yes? No? Would it matter? Then thinking she had taken too long, she just answered as curtly as she can.

"No", she said.

"No?” he asked.


"Well I'm surprised. I would have thought someone as beautiful as you would have tons of men groveling at your feet. Are you sure you're not seeing anyone?"

Evie raised an eyebrow. "Yes I'm sure. I've dated. Just not seriously. But don't think I'm a career driven bitch who scares men away "

Rafar laughed, rubbing the side of his neck. "I did not say nor did I imply that"

"But people would tend to think that; me, 30, single, working". Evie suddenly felt odd to be telling this to him.

"But I'm not most people. And I know you...", Rafar said, looking into her eyes. They became quiet again.

"You want to start heading back inside?” Rafar said.

"Give me a few more minutes. The crowds are making me dizzy. Whoosh!” Evie said, laughing weakly, and making a swoosh! motion over her head. Rafar nodded thoughtfully. He waited for her. Evie took a few deep breaths, and drank some water from the bottle she always carried around in her handbag.

"Come, let's go back in", she said, stepping away from the windows.

"Hey Evie...” Rafar said. Evie stopped. She waited.

"What are you doing after this?” he asked. Evie thought of an excuse, but could not come up with any. So she came clean.

"Nothing... why?"

"Would you like to go out for a drink..? With me? Just me?"

Evie stared at her ex-husband. Was he asking her out? After all these years? She did not know what to say but--

"Yeah... Yeah, sure, that seems nice", she said, and she cursed herself in her head for agreeing to the offer before she could think it through properly. But secretly she also felt a wee bit excited. Rafar's expression brightened. He ran a hand through his hair.

"That's great. Come, let's go back in", he said, extending a hand in front of him. After you, he mouthed. Evie smiled and they both began walking back inside. They walked close together, his hand occasionally brushing hers. It felt like a wonderfully familiar sensation to her. She suddenly felt stupid. She felt nineteen again. A disappointed thought ran through her mind: maybe she had not really moved on at all. But she dismissed it, and she would allow this moment to transpire.

"Hey Rafar", she said, suddenly feeling cheerful. "Are you seeing anybody?”

"Yes I am", Rafar said casually, in a matter-of-fact tone. "Her name is Farihin; we worked together on several shoots, then I guess we kinda hit if off. She couldn't make it today though, or I would have brought her along"

"Oh", Evie said.