February 1, 2009

Muhammad Rafar II


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Rafar tossed his keys on the coffee table and stripped his socks off. He went to his fridge and opened a can of Coke, and downed three big gulps, grimacing at the fizzy sensation that hurt his throat. Carrying the can, he went and slumped himself on the sofa, turned on the television and surfed channels, eventually settling on Animal Planet. But he did not actually watch it; rather he threw his head backwards and stared at the ceiling.

He slumped further into the sofa, almost sinking. He fished out his mobile phone out of his pocket and checked to see: nothing. No messages no missed calls. For the first time since a few years, Rafar felt like crap. Today’s lunch with Evie had turned out far worse than he had expected. And Evie’s words kept ringing in his ears. It stung all the more because he knew that she was right.

Where was he when she needed him all those years ago? Where did he really go four years ago when he left her with so little reason other than ‘irreconcilable differences’? He had no answers to that. He was selfish back then. Evie was right. And he was selfish today as well, because he did think that Evie would say ‘yes’ when he had told her he wanted her back. All he ever thought about was his own feelings, his own hopes and wants.

It was perplexing, to say the least, because he remembered being head over heels in love with Evie Nadia during college. How he had made a fool out of himself one particular day, confessing his love and ‘apologizing’ over something that was nothing more than a dream. And yet… and yet the dream did eventually come true, against his expectations. And what did he do?

He threw it all away.

Rafar chugged back the can of Coke. He always thought that if he were not a Muslim, it would almost certainly be a can of beer instead. But there was something similar about a Coke and a beer; he supposed it was the sense of satisfaction one got when one downs it. It was a funny thought, and not an entirely nice one as well. He crushed the can, and regretted it as a few drops of Coke spilled on his shirt. He cursed, and went to the kitchen to throw the can away. While washing his hands at the sink (and dabbing cold water on the Coke stain), Rafar looked out the window of his apartment, just outside Kuala Lumpur. He had a nice view of the skyline from his balcony.

It was late afternoon now, the air thick and heavy with humidity. He could already hear the laughter and shouts of eager children at the nearby playground. He decided to take a shower, and maybe a nap afterwards. The lunch at Raju’s was getting to his head; the spices were making him drowsy.

Beneath the cold running water he let his thoughts run free. He was disappointed over the conversation he had had with Evie over lunch, though he felt he deserved that sort of reaction. When he had arrived he saw Evie interacting with a toddler; she was dressed in all white and looked absolutely gorgeous. Gone was the skinny, bespectacled and ‘not quite there’ woman he had dated and married. In her place was a woman, graceful, benign and… majestic? Yes, he thought. Majestic.

For the past four years since they separated, he had never made an attempt to contact her. But damn it if he did not think of her often. He did. Often on those quite nights when he was still alone, he thought of Evie, and he thought if she was all right, or was she sulking and crying over their loss?

But what had prevented him from just saying hello, or attempting to at least mend a broken not if not totally fix it? He did not know. Male ego perhaps, or this secret, unconscious desire to prove to Evie that yes, divorcing her was a right move for him.

In truth, in the first year of their separation, he had missed her. But he was too much of a fool to admit so. Okay. Fine, it was ego. He sighed as he washed his face with Biore For Men. It was ego that prevented him from contacting Evie. What was his problem? Was he so desperate to prove that yes, he did need to be alone? If so, then he was no different from the legions of males who had egos bigger than their heads. After all, it was not that hard to say hi or hello, wasn’t it? But then again, that would have been a bad thing for her. It would have been emotionally hard for Evie.

He had loved Evie like he had loved no other before her. When she too, had confessed that she loved him back in the rain many years ago, he felt that the world was his for the taking, and nothing could have stood in their way. Love, it seemed, conquered all. So two years into their subsequent marriage, he suddenly found himself literally freaking out when he realized it was not what he wanted. It happened almost overnight: one day he woke up, looked at Evie's sultry form beside him and thought: I should not be here.

He had then spent days, pondering it over in his head and heart. The love was still there, he could not deny, but the passion and the heart for it was suddenly gone. It was as if his heart was a well that had dried out in the middle of the night, leaving nothing but an empty pail.

Rafar thought there was something missing. After two years of marriage, he suddenly felt he was not where he was supposed to be. He suddenly felt cowardly and incapable of giving Evie that happiness. Maybe it’s just a phase, he had thought initially. But that feeling of not belonging grew stronger until he could no longer deny it. Those days, he felt aloof and distant, like was seeing his very own life through another pair of eyes. It was like he was sitting at a computer, jotting down another person’s life on Microsoft Word, writing his own fiction. And more and more it just felt like he was not there; like he was disembodied.

The fact that Evie seemed oblivious to his growing disenchantment further added to his sense of ‘not there’. But what was it really? The closest answer he considered was that he had reached the top without challenge. That he had gotten everything he ever wanted without gratification. He felt he did not earn that happiness; rather it had been given to him on a silver platter.

Maybe it was a stupid thing to think, he thought as the cold water ran through his hair and trickled down his well-kept body. But that was the reality of his emotions at the time. Another man would have given anything and everything to have his life back then: a steady, well paying job; a nice house, a beautiful wife he bedded almost every night. But that was not enough, somehow, for him. He did not see his blood, sweat and tears go into that. He wanted more. He needed more. The growing dissatisfaction finally got hold of him. He told Evie his feelings, much to her dismay and hurt. Sometimes he wished it was another woman, an affair. That, at least, would have been easier to explain. But all he managed to tell Evie was that ‘there was something missing’.

Yes, they had talked about it. She had cried over it; sobbing until her eyes were red and her throat went dry. In the end she had said she would let him go, if that was what he wanted. He had told her it was, and so she did. She had let him go. Evie was the one who was sacrificed for his own sake. On the day they officially separated, they did not even speak to say goodbye to each other. He knew Evie did not have the heart to do so; but he just did not want to. Rafar then just faded; one day he was there… the next, he was gone.

Now, in retrospect, Rafar realized that was the most selfish act he had ever done.

But at the time he had not let that bring him down. Despite the fact that he did miss his ex-wife, he buried it in the furthest corner of his mind with work. He drowned himself in a sea of jobs and projects. He got to know the right people and mingled with the right crowds. Pretty soon he made a name for himself in the photography arena, and combined with his talented skills, it was not long before he was renowned amongst the A list of Kuala Lumpur.

One year after the divorce, Rafar got into his stride. He no longer thought as much about the divorce, or about Evie. His career was building up greatly, and he was in the right crowds. Women? There were plenty, and he was not sorry to say he dated during that time period, though never seriously and always for fun. Three years of being a single man gave him plenty of time to have fun, if he could call it that. Like Evie, there was always an element missing from those flings. Unlike Evie, Rafar actually could not care less. He was content.

But some three years ago, he bumped into Evie at Pavilion KL and suddenly had felt this huge urge to ask her out, but he did not muster enough courage at the time to do so. That meeting, for a few short minutes, had suddenly, inexplicably conjured a swirling cloud of emotions inside him. But it had only lasted that few short minutes, and soon enough, he resigned to the fact he probably was not going to see her again. So he went on with his job, and met a few girls here and there. Once an upcoming young starlet had fondled his crotch during a dinner, obviously intoxicated.

Rafar was into photography because he loved it, however, and not because he got to work with celebrities and have his fifteen minutes of fame. He was not looking for a relationship at all when he met Farihin at KL Fashion Week. But they had hit if off immediately. Only recently did he admit to himself he was attracted to Farihin because she was almost exactly like Evie was when he had fallen in love with her. They had the same bright, electric energy coming off in waves from their smiles, their laughter, and the way their eyes seemed to shine when they got excited. He enjoyed Farihin’s company; she was young and he supposed being with him would also give her a boost in her career. After all he knew the right people to help her on her way.

Farihin, on her part, seemed to be infatuated with him. He did not know if she actually loved him (though breaking up with her proved she did) at the time, but he knew that her company was the kind he had secretly missed since his separation from Evie Nadia. Farihin even looked somewhat similar, but maybe this was just a way of him justifying himself.

The truth was, in a year long relationship with Farihin, he did not love her. Yes, he was attracted, deeply, but he did not feel the same emotions in his heart the way he had felt for Evie Nadia years ago. Farihin did not give him a rush of blood to his head when she told him “I love you Rafar” like Evie did. Farihin kissed him once; it was in his car when he was dropping her off at home. She had kissed him on the lips, suddenly, and though the average man would have loved for that to happen, the only thought that had run through Rafar’s head at the time was that they shouldn’t be kissing; she was not his wife, and most of all, at that exact moment, he had thought how sweeter and warmer Evie’s lips had felt on his. It was a strange and foreign experience to him.

Rafar turned off the tap, suddenly realizing he had stood under the shower long enough that the skin of his fingers were shriveled and cold. He dried himself with a towel and dressed; outside the sun was glowing deep orange, nearing dusk. The sound of children at the playground had lessened. The day was taking a bow. He fixed himself a light snack and settled in front of the television again. He felt a ghost on his shoulder; a phantom sensation of someone resting her head on his shoulder. He told Evie that during lunch, earlier. That he had fallen in love with a ghost, that Farihin was nothing more than another Evie, and alternate Evie.

He felt a sudden, deep welling of shame. He was selfish. He had broken off with Farihin all because he thought he could have Evie back. The only saving grace was that Farihin did not take it too hard, though who was he to tell? For all he knew, Farihin was crying her heart out somewhere. That thought made him feel worse. He could almost feel his heart sinking in a pit of self-loathing.

It was terribly unfair to Farihin. She was a victim of his own selfishness. just the same as Evie was years ago. This time it was Farihin that was sacrificed all because Rafar thought he wanted something else. Who knew if he would actually end up happy with Farihin instead? Now there was no way of knowing. He doubted Farihin would accept him back after this. He did not want to anyway; it was enough to assume Evie would accept him. He did not want to hold the same assumptions for Farihin.

Can’t I do anything for someone other than myself? he thought.

Now he’s let a pretty young girl go, and lost the beautiful woman he was once with. His head felt fuzzy and confused, and Rafar lay down on his sofa, listening to someone on the TV babble about how polar bears have black skin beneath their white fur.

He thought about calling Evie but figured she probably would not want to speak with him. His eyes fell upon a tiny object on the coffee table, an object he had placed there. Evie’s ring. He picked it up, studying it. He remembered the day he had put it on her lovely finger, after the Nikah ceremony. A strong memory flooded him. He thought of their first night together, how they shared their first, true kiss, and how they had come together, skin on skin. He remembered being lost in each other’s love, melting into a world that belonged to just the two of them. Most of all he remembered reaching for her hand and seeing that ring on her finger, and thinking how lucky and grateful he was to have her.

Rafar fiddled with the ring in his hands before putting it back down again. He felt foolish, stupid and angry with himself. Maybe he got what he deserved. He did not even think if maybe Evie was seeing someone else. He felt irritated with himself again, and tried to shake of the thought. He tried to take a nap, but all that came to mind was the image of Evie, standing in the sunlight, dressed in all white with a pink bandanna holding up her hair.

He missed her. Always had, maybe. It’s just that it took him four years to fully realize how much.

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4 comments:

Mardhiah said...

This is better.

I think Rafar was just not ready to tie himself down. He did love Evie, just that he grew tired of the dutiful, repetitive 'husband and wife' routine and needed a jolt. A change. So he opt for divorce. And women tend to be comfortable when they are married, so they become a bit 'housewifey' and certain guys may see this as unexciting and mundane. A man who does not want to grow up, will feel tied.

This reminds me of a song.

"Waktu engkau ku tinggalkan, dalam kemarau cinta. Betapa hatimu rela, demi melihatku bahagia"

Pada syurga di wajahmu - Nash/Lefthanded. But its more about the wife letting the husband go when he wanted to be with someone else.

:)

Rasyiqah Khairul Anuar said...

too late rafar...too late! haha padan muka.

nurdini izni said...

muahahaha

nuraainaa said...

rafar, i feel u. :'(