February 22, 2009

Evie. Rafar. Adam.

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Evie


Where do I begin?
To tell a story of how great a love can be,
The sweet love story that is older than the sea,
The simple truth about the love you bring to me.
Where do I start?


Evie was at her office, and she was not feeling too good.

She felt terrible in fact; she felt this physical sickness that made her head hurt and her stomach churn; she felt this emotional pain in the well of her heart that pierced through her like a jagged knife; she felt a dull mental throbbing of a matter pressing inside her thoughts.

Perhaps she could explain the physical pain; she has not slept particularly well this past week. During nights she would toss and turn, and she would wake up sweating despite the cool air-conditioning. Often her pillow would be wet to the touch, suggesting she had wept during her sleep. She knew she did, anyway. This unrest, coupled with a sudden heavy workload at her office, was straining her. She had little appetite this past week, and that was unusual for her, a well know big eater. Her receptionist, a demure girl named Alya, who Evie was close to and already thought of as a younger sister, had noticed how tired she looked and asked her if she was okay.

“It’s just a lot of work Alya, I'm alright,” Evie lied.

“Are you sure Kak Evie? You look awful, sorry to say so. Is there anything I can do to help?” Alya had asked.

Evie had put a hand on her shoulder, smiled and said, “It’s alright, and call me Evie. I feel old when you call me Kak.” Alya had left her looking not quite satisfied, but Evie did not want to trouble the girl with her own affairs. It was her battle to fight. Evie sat at her desk, barely concentrating on the job at hand. She took a big gulp of coffee that was already cold.

Now if the unrest and loss of appetite accounted for her physical wear, the mental and emotional aches she was experiencing were of another matter entirely. She knew the matter at hand, yet she did not know. She was not sure, but she was already so certain. See? She was not even making sense to herself. In her head she went over the same inferences, hypotheses and conclusions, trying to foresee all possible scenarios and predict any outcome. But still she got nowhere. Still her mind and emotions were swirling in a perpetual storm, cloudy and murky and showing no signs of settling down.

But was it not simple enough? Rafar had broken down in front of her a week ago, telling her just how much he missed her, and Evie was sure he was going to say that he still loves her. And, to make matters more interesting, that very same day Rafar went all sincere and teary eyed with her, Adam decided it was high time to proclaim how he felt towards her; indeed, his saying of the three words ‘I love you’ was no surprise to Evie, in fact prior to that day she was anticipating it. And yet, when the time finally came, she was at lost for words, and she was only able to feign sickness. The fact that sincerity and honesty and just pure simple love had radiated off Adam’s words somehow made it more complicated.

Here she was, feeling like she was on a tightrope with both ends on fire above a million mile deep gorge, and the only way to save herself was to reach for one of the ends in time before they burned through. But which end to grab on to? She did not know.

Evie worked on autonomy, doing things without thinking. She was angry with herself for feeling so perplexed and confused. She was angry because she thought she was past the past; she thought she had moved on, strong and full of the will to forget a time she was hurt and vulnerable. But suddenly, in an hour-long conversation saturated with tears, her convictions were shaken.

Rafar, her once eternal lover and ex-husband, was clearly still desperately in love with her, and how convenient was it that he came to realize this at the very moment Evie thought her life was finally heading in a good forward direction? And then there was Adam; fun, charming, sweet Adam who is now in love with her as well; how unfair would this be to him, after all the time they’ve spent getting to know each other? Hell, Evie herself was so sure their relationship was blossoming into something else. Evie had counted on it, had bet on it, had waited for it. She wanted to love him, but suddenly she was unsure.

This past week she has not seen Adam; she was busy, no lie there, but she also thought she would be better off if she did not see him this week. It was selfish of her, but in truth she could not bear to see Adam’s face light up with hope each time he saw her and took her hands in his. She did not want to diminish the expectation he clearly kept. She thought if he did not expect anything, then it would be more unlikely for her to hurt him.

Why am I feeling this? Just because he shows up crying on your doorstep? Evie, get a grip! But she knew it was something more than that. She could not deny how special Rafar was to her… and also how special Adam has become to her. One she had loved and died for, the other she wanted to love and live for.

What is going on with me? It’s not like I’ve been faced with a choice, right? Rafar did not say anything. Adam just said he loved me. Am I at some sort of crossroad? Do I have to decide? Do I have to make a choice? No, maybe she didn’t. On the other hand, why else would Adam tell her how he felt? And why else would Rafar suddenly turn up and profess just how much he longed for her, and that was it, wasn’t it: he longed for her?

Evie felt the very foundations she had tried to re-build her life on were shaken. Her heart and head felt so confused, so upended. What happened to her resolve and her desire to live again after her separation from Rafar? She thought she had promised herself she would no longer be ‘Sugar’, but she would be ‘Evie Nadia’. But now she could not fathom what she was supposed to do.

Rafar. Adam. Adam. Rafar. What do you two want from me?!!

AND WHY IS THIS MESSING ME UP! I SHOULDN’T FEEL THIS WAY! Evie yelled in her mind. She glanced at the clock on her desk and saw it was fifteen minutes to five; she decided to call it a day and just leave.


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Rafar


Like a summer rain,
That cools the pavement with a patent leather shine,
You came into my life and made the living fine.
And gave new meaning to this empty world of mine,
You fill my heart…


“Alright… and… we’re done!” Rafar said as he fired of the last shot of the day. He was in the studio, doing a magazine fashion spread. The model in front of him was a tall Punjabi girl with the clearest grey eyes and the body of a Greek goddess. But Rafar had barely noticed her beauty, and he had directed the shoot with clinical detachment, his mood objective and passionless.

About an hour and a half later he left the studio with his gear and headed straight to a nasi campur restaurant. There he had rice with stir-fried bean sprouts, chicken curry, half a salted egg and some sambal, washing it all down with a glass of soya milk. But the taste of the food was like the photo shoot; detached, meaningless, empty.

It was just a necessity, just another thing to do on, just part of his routine. Life, for him, had become just that.

He would wake up before dawn, and after Subuh prayers he would drive to his studio or lab or whatever location he had to be at for the day. Then he would do whatever it was he was commissioned to do; a magazine spread, an advertisement, a wedding, an award ceremony.

It was all the same thing. Arrive, prepare, shoot, leave. When he got hungry, like just now, he had a meal. If he was tired he asked for a fifteen-minute break where he would just sit down and shut his eyes. At the end of the day, he would go home, just like he was doing now, shower afresh, watch some television or read a book or more likely do post-processing, and go to bed as early as he could, which, unfortunately for him, was almost always about 0200. Then he would wake up again and repeat the entire process the next day.

If Evie was distracted from work, Rafar seemed, to his clients anyway, focused. But only he knew that it was not focus, but just the fact he’s been doing it for so long. He felt robotic, programmed to do the same job well over and over again.

Robots, however, did not waste away like he had. Despite eating regular meals, something was definitely wrong with his metabolism. He’s lost a lot of weight this past few months. His jeans had gone down two sizes, and his clothes hung looser on his frame. People had pointed it out, of course. Evie had pointed it out. He had promised Evie he would take care of himself, but why should he? He did not know how. Evie knew. If Evie were with him, she would take care of him.

I miss her! Rafar thought as he sat slumped on his sofa, his chin almost to his chest. He felt pathetic. He felt like he was a character in some awful romance story published in an online serial, who was dying because he could not have the one he truly loved. How melodramatic. He also felt like a stupid jerk. His current predicament was his own doing. He had no one to blame but him self. Maybe he deserved to be miserable after all.

Last week he was struck by a bout of longing and yearning so strong he decided to try his luck and just show up at Evie’s office building. She was, of course. And he had made her listen to him, even if he thought she had done so more out of sympathy for his pitiful state rather than a genuine concern. But it was okay; the important thing was she had listened. In truth Rafar was himself unsure what he would say to her that day. He had ended up breaking down like a sissy. To his surprise Evie, too, had cried with him.

Rafar had tried to say he loved her when a phone interrupted their conversation. And then he had noticed a look of concern cross her face when she had looked at her phone, and he knew Evie was seeing someone else. His heart had faltered, but he did not say. What could he say anyway? She was not his. Not anymore. But when Evie had hugged him as they bid goodbye Rafar felt a fire ignite within him.

I want her again, Rafar thought. If only she could see I want her, and I have wanted her all this time, and that I will not make the same mistake I did before. Maybe then…

Perhaps there is hope? But he would not be betting on hope. Hope was brittle. It could easily be broken with even the slightest misplaced touch. He had already made the foolish mistake of being pretentious and assuming before. He did not want to make another mistake that would lead him further away from having Evie again.


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Adam


You fill my heart with very special things,
With angel songs and wild imaginings.
You fill my soul with so much love,
That everywhere I go I'm never lonely,
With you along who could be lonely?
I reach for your hand; it’s always there…


He has not seen Evie for a week now. She told him she was swamped with work, and also that she was a bit under the weather, and Adam had no reason to doubt her. Still, he wanted to see her so badly.

But alas, he too, had work to do. After all, a restaurant was not going to run by itself. Luna at Bangsar was enjoying a good start, with good customers coming in to dine and so far, feedback has been positive. Adam had been worried; it was his first time opening a restaurant. But half a year on, he was confident Luna would be a success.

He had spent years dedicated to his career, culminating in Luna. Most of that dedication stemmed from the fact he lost a beautiful fiancé to illness some time ago, so he had buried himself in work as a way of mourning. He thought the day he saw Luna make him a wealthy man would be the day he can put his mourning to rest.

Until, of course, that fateful day when a simply lovely woman had showed up at his restaurant. Though he has never told Evie this, he was stunned the first time he clapped his eyes on her. At the time he could almost hear the gears of Fate grinding, turning luck in his favor. When Evie had left the restaurant, Adam knew he just had to see her again.

So he had put on a thick face and surprised her with coffee right at her office building. Thank God for business cards. Much to his delight, he and Evie had hit if off almost immediately. She was charming and sweet, funny without being overtly so. It was as if she was tailor made for him. Adam thought Evie was the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, or ever would see. He did not care that she had been married once; that was the past.

When his fiancé passed away, some part of him was convinced he would not love again. But with Evie, that conviction began to erode and falter bit by bit, as sure as a river that runs through the mountains, cutting paths into the earth. Maybe, what, three, four months? Maybe it was a little quick to be falling in love, but damn it if he was not sure about it. In fact he felt so sure about it. There was this purity he felt between them; words unspoken. Adam was almost sure that Evie was simply waiting for him too say those three sacred words.

He thought he had timed it well. After that incredibly romantic, unreal moment they had shared on the beach, he knew for sure how he felt. And he was 100% certain she felt the same way and was just waiting for him to be the gentleman and say it first. So he did. He had imagined Evie’s eyes would water and she would hold him close and whisper the same words he said.

Instead, the night he said it, she had claimed she was not feeling too well. On the upside, she had hugged him, had kissed his cheek even, but Adam knew then that something was amiss. Why else would she suddenly avoid the issue?

Adam sighed. He was in his office at the restaurant; it was evening and his staff was busy preparing for dinner service. He felt like calling Evie but decided against it. He had already called earlier today, and indeed she sounded unwell and tired, her voice strained and weak.

“Hey, I miss you,” he had said earlier. Silence greeted him for a few seconds.

“I miss you too Adam…” Evie said.

“When can I see you?”

“Soon. I'm sorry, I'm just swamped with work and I'm kinda not well. I’ll call you, okay?”

Adam had said okay and unconsciously he had waited for the call; but it never came. He told himself not to be foolish and expect her to call straight away.

So he went to work. If Evie was distracted and Rafar was focused, Adam was as passionate as ever at his restaurant. He was a hands-on sort of boss, bustling about in the kitchen, helping staff, scolding staff, making sure everything was running smoothly. When, after lunch service, he received positive feedback and compliments from the guests, he had felt incredibly proud. He thanked and congratulated his team of chefs and he retired to his office.

There he made calls and checked his finances and statements and stock inventory. He printed out a working timetable, setting shifts and planning menus. He was engrossed in it, paying meticulous attention to detail to every aspect of his business. He wanted Luna to be not just financially successful for him, but also emotionally and mentally gratifying. He wanted it to be a beacon, a shining symbol of his hard work.

And now that he was on his way, he could only think that he wanted to share this with somebody, and he wanted that somebody to be Evie Nadia Hakimi.

As sure and as certain as the sun brings day and the moon brings forth night, Adam was in love with Evie Nadia.


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Evie/Rafar/Adam



How long does it last?
Can love be measured by the hours in a day?


Later in the day.

Now Evie was home, having showered and changed into more comfortable clothes, and she was lying down on her sofa. She had just taken some painkillers and drank a whole bottle of water. She felt tired. When she had reached home she thought of calling Adam. Or maybe Rafar. Adam, actually. But how was Rafar doing?

In the end she called neither of them, though she expected Adam to drop her a line later. She thought of Adam. He deserved to know something at least, did he not? Evie thought it was unfair if she kept quiet about her conflicting emotions. If Adam loved her, then the least she could do is to tell him to give her a bit of time to think. Evie wanted to give him a chance. She also knew if she were to go ahead with Adam, she wanted herself to have a clear conscience. She did not want to start being serious with someone if she herself was not so sure about what she really felt.

Again the thought angered her. This was not supposed to be difficult. Things were going wonderfully between Adam and her until Rafar showed up looking like he just got off a sinking ship; and the sight of her ex-husband looking so in need of care and attention had broke through whatever barrier she had put up in her heart.

What should I do? Evie asked herself.

Meanwhile, in another part of Kuala Lumpur, Rafar sat in front of his iMac, importing the photographs he had taken today. Again, he was on autopilot: he was barely aware of what he was doing despite the fact that, to an outsider, he seemed precise and sure of his actions.

Rafar thought of calling Evie, but then he thought: what for? He supposed Evie was out somewhere with a new friend, and he did not want to interfere anymore.

He was in a bad mood. He felt like a drunk, drowning in the bottle and singing odes to a dead memory. He hated being alone in his apartment at times like this because the memory of Evie Nadia popped up everywhere he looked.

In his mind, a memory of the best times he had spent with her played on an infinite loop. The memories came to him like an old video recording, with scratch lines and grain, the camera angles jittery and unstable, and there was no sound, and it seemed like it was speeded up. He saw himself not through his own eyes, but through the eyes of an outsider who knew what he had just let go, like a child looking tearfully at an old toy Mother decided was too dirty to keep anymore.

Oh my God, will you STOP dwelling on your mistakes, you miserable excuse for a man! He thought. But although he tried he could not. And he did not want to. Because to him, right now in one of his darkest hours, all he ever wanted was the past, and what the past had brought him.

“I want Evie back with me,” he said out loud to himself.

In Bangsar, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the dinner service at Luna tonight was running slowly. Adam decided to leave the kitchen and made his sous-chef run the show for the night. He changed into his regular clothes and left Bangsar. On his drive home he rang Evie on her phone.

“Hello baby,” he said when she answered.

“Hello, hi.”

Adam listened, trying to detect if she was still ill, but to no avail. “Hey, how are you feeling?”

A silence. “I'm okay I guess. I just took some Panadol and was lying down, being a potato.”

“Oh, I'm sorry I bothered you…”

“It’s alright. Are you at home?”

“I'm on the way. I thought I wanted to see you tonight, but you’re not too good are you? That’s fine then.”

“Uhuh…”

Silence. Then she said, “Adam, I'm sorry.”

Adam tried to keep his voice neutral. “What for?”

“Well,” Evie said on the line. “I’ve just been too swamped and tired and not feeling too good, and it’s been a week since we last saw each other, and-“

Adam cut her off. “Hey, baby, it’s alright, it’s alright. It’s not your fault, so you don’t have to apologize, okay?”

“Uhm.. Okay. I promise I’ll see you as soon as I get better or my workload lightens up; whichever comes first. We’ll have dinner, maybe a movie?”

“That sounds great. Listen, I'm driving actually. I’ll call you back?”

“Sure. Take care Adam.”

“Evie?”

“Yes?”

“… Nothing. I miss seeing you is all.”

There was another silence on the line. Adam did not like it, but what could he do?

“I miss you too Adam. I really do,” Evie said. Then they said their goodbyes and hung up.


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As soon as Adam hung up the phone Evie bit her lip and suddenly burst into tears. It was an odd defense mechanism that was triggered whenever she felt overwhelmed: she would just break down crying. She suddenly felt so wrong about her mixed emotions. She felt that this was happening too quickly. How can she go from being so sure of what she wanted to being suddenly conflicted? Was it really going to come down between a choice between Adam and Rafar? She was not sure. Right now she felt like she did not want to know. Evie felt weak and foolish. She felt like she was giving something uncertain to both Adam and Rafar.

Rafar had finished importing the photos and sat at his desk, leaning back on his chair. He gazed into empty space, his mind distant and adrift. He thought maybe he should go out, have some fun. But where on earth would he go? Who would he meet? It did not matter. He would still be thinking of Evie. He could not escape from it now. His longing for her grew bigger and bigger with each passing moment. All he could think of, and all he wished for right now, was for Evie to have him back and love him like she used to. All he yearned for at the moment was to be with her, to make love to her, and for all this to be forgiven if not forgotten. But yearning was a dangerous thing; it made one hope for something that might never ever be attained again.

Adam reached home and thought of calling Evie again. He could not help it. He reached for his phone, dialed the number but immediately pressed the end button before the call got through. He should not appear so desperate. He was disappointed, of course. Maybe he should have gone a bit a slower, and waited for a better time to say he was in love with Evie. Maybe by saying it he seemed too eager and made her scared. After all, she had been married before, and her husband had left her, right? So maybe that was it: she was just scared. Well if so, Adam thought, then I'm going to show her that she need not be scared. I will love her until the end of my time on this world. I will promise her that. And I will keep it.

These three people, in different places around Kuala Lumpur, sat alone in their houses, pondering their situations. One of was unsure of her own present; another was yearning for something he let go in the past and fears he lost, and the other was adamant that he will build a wonderful future. As these three people sat by themselves, they were unaware that at one almost precise moment, all three of them spoke the same sentence out loud:

“I want to be with you.”



I have no answers now but this much I can say,
I know I’ll need you until the stars all burn away;
And you’ll be there…


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the verses are from the song 'Where Do I Begin?' as sung by Shirley Bassey, and slightly modified. the song is from the movie 'Love Story', a huge influence on Talking With An Alternate You.







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this took me three hours to write, wth.
it's a bit messy. sorry.

- edwan

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5 comments:

Mardhiah said...

I love this episode. I kept thinking how great it would be if it was a TV series, just like you wanted it to be.

Great job. The writers' block was there for a reason :)

nuraainaa said...

hey, this reminds me of sugar/wiseguy, of one mind. ;)

good job, edwan.

how i wish adam would get out of the picture. >:D

nurdini izni said...

great post edwan! bravo :D
i pity adam lah.. rafar sebok je. you had ur chance, and you blew it. ughh.

sorry i agak lambat bace. hehh

Maiza said...

"He felt like he was a character in some awful romance story published in an online serial, who was dying because he could not have the one he truly loved."

that was funny,hehe. except that it's nowhere near awful. wondrously witten episode perhaps :)

Francesca said...

i like this episode!!! XD