We weren’t good friends, I guess. We went to the same secondary school. We actually shared the same fear we had for our Mademoiselle and her dorm was next door. That was about it.
Unless I count that one year when we went to the same Math class.
We had what we call a ‘set.’ It meant that the whole batch got to sit in a test during the weekend and our marks determined which ‘set’ of group where our I.Q belonged. Set 1 is for people who calculated the mass of the Earth in their sleep and Set 6 is for well..it’s for people like me. People who had to be woken up by the discipline teacher to go to the mentioned test while the rest of the school were figuring out graphs and triple unknowns.
The teacher was a male guy. He used to be quite handsome but he spits fire when he’s angry and quite frankly he was angry all the time. Who wouldn’t when you had the least favorable students to pass Math on your shoulders? The fate of the school depends on you and there we were yawning in class hoping the hours to ticked away and hopefully go and prank someone afterwards. Maybe a cube of water thrown from the first floor or something.
She sat in the first row because she was his favourite. He picked her to be the class monitor and stared at her constantly. Not in a rude, uncomfortable way. Just like when a teacher who knew something hidden in you, like cleverness and charm and you still have no idea how did the universe unraveled in you.
We used the same excuse the tease her. We would mess with her while she squirmed at the thought that she was actually the ‘teacher’s pet’ though sometimes all she did was stood up for the whole double period as she couldn’t answer a simple question. He would tell her that the devils were pulling down her shutters as she was sleepy all the time. As usual, we would join in. It’s too heavy with all the devil’s weight hanging on to every flutter, we told her. It was so long that it touched the tips of her dark eyebrows. She was thin, tall and with slender fingers. She had a provocative sing-song voice and had a rich, powerful and heartwarming laugh. Much like exploding apricots. She had a graceful walk and took shower forever. She came out of the shower smelling like fresh berries and it lingered for hours.
Everyday, for as long as I could remember, me, aged 17, with another bunch of idiots in the same class would all laugh behind her back just because the way she greeted the unfortunate Math teacher. The verses was so infectious and cute and so silly coming from her mouth. Even the teacher managed a slight curve around his lips. It was one of the limited entertainment factor in a class we would rather not be in.
Our last communication in high school was when she begged me. Not her alone. Several girls did the same thing. I was determined to skip the extra classes provided by the teacher because I was so tired of Math and numbers. I just want to finish that stupid exam for once and for all. That intention could not be a good foreshadowing for the class monitor who would have to answer to endless why(s) of Pak Yem. That was our last real communication before we finished school.
And then there’s another time years after and she was out with her best friend. Maybe supper or late dinner. It was quite late and her friend caught me on FB chat. Power Lash forgot to bring her mobile and she was telling her friend to text me. I thought it was something urgent so I immediately replied asking for anything that I can do to help. Apparently nothing happened. She said if we were nearby she would love to meet me somewhere and catch up. I said something silly and she still had some heavy metal swearing to throw me back. Just like old times.
That was the last.
She was up in the skies when they fired the missiles.
It was surreal. The t.v was on and I saw her mother. Unofficially mute. Tears streaming on her face. Her father. Telling the cameras her last wishes, that she promised to come back and visit her grandmother’s grave. Both of his hands clutching the framed picture of the girl I knew from the graceful way she swung her hips.
This can’t be happening. She can’t be gone.
And then I saw the list of passengers. The flames. The burned wheat fields. The charred ground. The sunflowers dancing while hiding the pale bodies. The broken body of a vehicle. The painted logo of the familiar red, blue and white. The crashed luggage. The cracked, blackened laptops. Teddy bears. Semi folded clothes. Uniformed men with body bags.
It was real.
The sadness came like a grenade, blowing everything and everyone in our wake. My newsfeed on FB came from ‘worried’ to full blown ‘heart wrenching’ in a few hours. Her name was mentioned over and over. Infinite of condolences and unfulfilled promises. Old throwback photos. Lines and lines of prayers.
But she will never be home. Not like us.
While she ventures to another realm of undetermined adventure, I know that she will be safe. There will be no Math class or drinks to be prepared. No procedures to follow. No heartbreaks or struggle.
Rest those power lashes, my sweetheart. You will be alright.
RIP Nur Shazana Mohamed Salleh.