July 6, 2007

on options

Posted in Malaysia, My Home, Short Stories at 3:44 pm by meldee

The bus was an old number 13 Metrobus. You know how they are, or maybe you don’t.

They’re aged; dinosaurs on wheels.

Though they may bear the same number, they follow the same route. All the drivers of the number 13’s route have blurred into one; they have all become the same to me, differentiated only by the bus’ external shell and advertisements.

 The windows were covered with peeling sun-worn posters and tinted stickers; the seats are covered with dubious dark stains, some crusty, others soaked into the very depths of the fabric.

I mount the bus steps and look cautiously around. The stuffy, stale air-conditioning is a welcome respite from the scorching heat outside.

The seat next to him is empty, right there up front. Reluctant to become a victim of an unwanted conversation, I opened my book. Seemingly oblivious, I felt his curious gaze on me as he struck up a conversation.

He was an old Chinese man, thinning white hair on his balding pate. His dark eyes twinkled behind his thick bi-focals.

“Hot day, ah, girl?” he ventured. Smiling uneasily, I nodded.

“Just finished class?” he did not seem put off by my non-responsiveness. “Yes, at Monash,” I replied, diverting my eyes back to my book in a hint that he would hopefully take this time.

“Aaah, Monash. A good university. Are you planning on going to Australia, ah, girl?” he beamed.

“Perhaps…” I trailed off, reluctantly closing my book, resigning myself to the fact that I would not be doing any reading throughout the duration of this bus ride home.

“Good, good. Go to Australia if you can, and get PR there,” his voice, ever increasing in volume, indicated that this was a subject he felt strongly about. He launched into a soliloquy about friends of his children who did, who are now successful and rich. I told him I would, if I could.

“But, girl, ah, don’t ever give up citizenship here. Remember, two bowls of rice are always better than one,” he lowered his voice confidentially.

Smiling at the typically Asian-driven metaphor, I nodded. As the bus creaked and heaved, approaching my stop, I gathered my things and prepared to bid him goodbye.

Beaming at having a young, unknown person take his advice, or at least humour him for a few minutes, the old man waved enthusiastically as I lurched off my seat, thrown by inertia.

“Remember..” The last words I heard.

I will always remember him, the old uncle in the bus who told me to have options.


July 4, 2007


Posted in Short Stories at 5:01 pm by meldee

I feel my own breath lingering in the space in front of my face. I hear my almost inaudible intakes of breath and feel the air being dispelled from my lungs; my heart, thump, thump, thumping its steady beat.

The air is thick and humid. It weighs upon my chest like a heavy hand, one I struggle futilely against; I know I must give in to its authority in eventuality.

I feel beads of perspiration forming on my upper lip. Often, ever so slightly, I turn my face into the soft cotton of my pillow to wipe away the midnight sweat, involuntarily inhaling the smell of Sunsilk shampoo and traces of sunlight lingering on the pillowcase mixed with a musky scent that is uniquely mine.

I think about him, then, and wonder if he remembers the way I smell, especially first thing in the morning, or late at night. The times when I would bury closer to the warmth emanating from his strong body; when I would sigh in my sleep and reposition my head on his chest.

This bed, any bed, feels empty without him; the depression his head makes next to mine when we share a pillow, or as he lies on his side with me pressed up against his back. The synchronising of breaths, of heartbeats; an intimate rhythm.

My hand, my fingers, lies close to my face. They are far from ladylike; practical, stubby, I gently splay my fingers on the empty spot in my line of vision, feeling the void all too much. I miss having him being a breath away.

I miss him most at night, as I lie awake like this beyond the clutches of sleep’s sweet oblivion.

I shift positions again, rolling on to my back, still seeking comfort. My nightgown is twisted, bunched high up my thighs, but I do not care. The stirred breeze feels good against the additional bare, exposed skin covered by a thin film of sweat.

My foot brushes the light blanket that lies forlornly to my side, purpose unfulfilled, kicked off earlier in the night. My toes curl around my distressed bed sheets, tugging, unfurling, releasing.

At night, everything is a shadow. Shapes look familiar; they are, after all, everyday objects that litter my room. Funny how I really only notice them at night, when they are only a hint of what they actually are.

Robbed of colour, of the sharp lines that juxtapose them from the starkness of my walls, they are blurred lines, always shifting. There is a silent beauty in their presence, when the rest of the world goes to sleep, and I am the only one awake to witness it.

It almost seems as if my things have come alive, and I am merely an observer as the night kisses them to life. For a moment, it is easy to forget everything, and surrender to the feeling that I am but a small speck on a larger, more vibrant canvas.

I like the ambiguity of the night, of lying here amidst shadows, when my surroundings are in monochrome. I watch the light from the slowly brightening sky and street lamps outside flirt tenderly with the shadows, lending to my room a melancholic glow.

Yet, the stillness and silence save for the mechanical whir of the ceiling fan maddens me. As I continue to toss, searching for a perfect spot in which I may allow my lashes to rest on my cheek permanently, for these few hours, I am both lulled by and increasingly agitated by solitude of the night.

In the darkness, at this hour, I am rendered powerless. It is ironic, because it is at this hour that I am my most awake.