Little Caterpillars

I consciously made my decision. Let them speculate. Let them say what they want to say. I like my solitude. I believe silence says more than enough.

I was one of them. They were a big part of my life but it’s a very curious thing, this change, this opinion they have about life. It’s as if they’d morphed into a different species. We were in the same cocoon. What happened along the way? I don’t understand how rats were swarming out by the dozens. I knew them when they were little caterpillars. Such a sweet, gentle little thing.

Maybe they ate a different kind of leaves. Maybe they’re adopted. Maybe they mutated. Maybe they think butterflies are too main stream.

Maybe.

They’re still my friends. No matter how they look, I said. I was wrong. You should listen to their chatter. The noise, the insults, the accusations. The whole lot. They said ‘you’re ugly!’, ‘you think you’re so pretty?’ and ‘you used us, you selfish bitch!’

Why speak when there is no good thing to accompany it?

So I decided that this is enough. I am enough. I don’t need loud ringing in my ears, false hopes and mediocre talents.

I hope they’re happy together, the whole bunch. It looks like forever.

I’ll just sit it out in the sun, unfolding my damp wings. And then you might understand a bit about flying, when you see my shadows as you fight for your mouldy cheese.

Terbang

Dia kata aku tak boleh terbang. Dia kata salah. Semua orang tak boleh terbang. Apa pentingnya kau sampai kau boleh terbang tinggi, soalnya mencebik. Simpan saja sayap kau itu. Orang lain tak banyak merungut. Kenapa kau nak jadi lain? Kau sama macam orang lain. Kau duduk diam-diam. Buat kerja kau yang bertimbun itu. Jangan banyak membebel. Syukur. Kau antara yang bertuah.

Aku tunduk. Tapi aku memang boleh terbang. Aku bahagia bila aku terbang. Semua orang boleh terbang. Kau tak fikirkah kami bukan cacat seperti kau? Sayap kami menggigil mendengar bunyi angin memanggil-manggil nama kami. Hati kami gusar, malam kami panjang, siang kami gersang. Kami tak dijadikan duduk mengadap dinding. Kami mahu terbang!

Dia kata ini arahan. Tengok siapa yang lebih banyak makan garam. Sedarlah, kau dibayar untuk duduk mengadap dinding, katanya. Apa kau mahu lagi? Buat apa terbang tinggi semata-mata untuk jatuh terhenyak ke Bumi? Lihat sayap aku ini. Koyak rabak dan tak mungkin berfungsi lagi. Kau mahu cacat seperti aku? Kau mahu menyesal tak sudah?

Masalah aku ialah aku jarang menyesal. Patah tumbuh, hilang berganti. Bagaimana sayap kau mahu tumbuh kalau kau balut dia ketat-ketat tak mahu parutnya dilihat orang (hodoh, kata kau), tak mahu orang tahu kau pernah cuba dan gagal, tak mahu bagi ruang untuk ia tumbuh lagi, tak mahu ia kembali kuat dan berfungsi. Kau mahu padam saja episod cubaan dan kegagalan kau. Apa kau ingat semua orang sempurna, sekali cuba terus melayang?

Paling aku sedih ialah apabila lidah kau berani mencantas tunas-tunas mimpi. Kau jual kegagalan kau kepada orang lain. Kau bagi dia sempadan padahal sebenarnya sempadan itu cuma garis-garis dalam kepala kau. Kau kata tak boleh. Kau kata mustahil. Kau kata semua orang tak boleh terbang sebab kau sudah cuba dan ada bukti kegagalan yang kekal. Kau biar gagal itu selubung kau dengan selimut hitam dan kau berlingkar menangisi nasib buruk kau dalam kelam, lewat malam bila kau rasa semua orang sudah pejam. Kau kata dengan penuh yakin yang semua orang tak boleh terbang. Ambillah aku jadi teladan.

Tapi dalam hati kau setiap hari kau bermimpi tentang hari itu. Hari kau terbang melayang menyentuh awan gebu. Kau lupa terus denyut-denyut sakit di sayap kau itu, yang kau urut, belai dan sapu setiap hari. Kau senyum sendiri.

Kau boleh tipu orang lain tapi janganlah kau tipu aku.

Grey Goodbye

I waited during most of November. My eyes scanned carefully. The grey roof opposite looked the same, as always. It was my morning routine check. If it happened at some point during the night, there should have been some signs, right?

Maybe more luck in December, she said.

She didn’t notice the frown. Surely she knew that I haven’t got much time. It’s not her fault though. Nothing in her power could bulge anything in the sky. So I just focused on the things a mere human capable of. Wishing and hoping. Maybe today’s the day. It sure feels like it.

Still nothing.

It was supposed to be special because it never happened to me, at least from where I came. I bought everything I think I should need. I figured protection and safety are prime issues. I started with browsing each crook of the top floor of a shop recommended by her. I’m comforted by her knowledge. There was a long aisle suggesting what kind of things consumers need for our present and future. With my current state, I knew it in my heart that failure to notice this would result in my slow death or tragic mummification.

It doesn’t take long to decide. I bought a pair. I was actually very proud of my investment. I wore it night and day. I might even tell her that it’s a life-changing garment. You should try it, I said. She just laughed about it. Amateurs, she might say. She survived 7 winters here. Thermal clothing is the last thing on her mind especially tight, grey ones.

Next, I succumbed to socks. To be honest, I never really saw the importance of having and wearing socks until I ventured out this far north. It does feel a bit weird walking on our baked, dusty Equatorial ground with socks for leisure. The feet beg for air circulation, not insulation. The sun smirked at fleece jacket, fur lined gloves and thigh high leather boots. Those won’t do. The humidity favors cotton, colorful rubber slippers and the exposing of bare skin. Life is a good trail of sweat trickling down the creek of your bottom.

And of course, free and perfect tan.

Lastly, I should have bought gloves. I wanted to but I already had a pair and surprisingly it was a gift in summer. She told me she would buy me a pair but he beats her to it. It was our second outing. I remember distinctly that I complained about not being able to adapt to the weather. His eyes stretching far ahead and I pretended not to notice. Men, I complained to myself. Poor little creatures with such a short span of attention.

I was wrong. Some men remember better.

Completing my ensemble, I went out every day fully garbed just in case. The cold breeze bit the tip of my nose and fingers. It takes a while for my blood to dart from my heart to my toes. I swam in endless Americanos and expressos. I dived from the tallest book towers to undetermined depth of book trenches. I drowned in my Now. I began to suspect that with one day’s notice, my wish will not be coming true.

It was the stupidest thing. In the midst of wretchedness, I sat in my room hoping for a miracle. I wanted a sign. Something. Anything. The absolute power should care, right? He should listen. I need Him. This is what I ask this year, the year of Nothing-Ever-Good-Could-Happen-To-Me. It was midnight. I was on my bed in an empty room with a big World map peeling from the wall, restless. It was unbearable. Indeed Life was. Sweat forming on the top of my lips. I hate this place, I said. We were scorching from the heat of dry season. Having two seasons didn’t help. It’s either Dry or Monsoon. Nothing fancy, nothing to look forward to.

Unless I could fly. Maybe I could escape somewhere. Somewhere lacked sun. Somewhere cold. Somewhere with snow. And with that thought I managed my first sincere smile.

I have envisioned it so many times. Snow melting in my hand. Snowman army. Snow drizzling down like sugar on strawberries. A blanket of white fur. Me sliding on slippery slope and falling on my face. Snowball empires.

The first part of the thought materialized into action. I flew. But how in the world I could convince the sky to impart some frozen icy water?

And it’s one day left.  What else to do?

Grumpy, I went out all day to say goodbye. This is quite upsetting. I traced the plank of an important dead person laying foundation of the local library. I went up to the third floor and touch the endless rows of books. I contemplate a moment of silence at the basement of a bookshop. Another half an hour at a second hand bookstore. I sat gloomily for the last time at a coffee shop draining a cup of liquid Black Hole.

In another universe, I shall find all my conflicting dreams, flickered stars, wrecked ambitions and empty promises stepped out of an old, scribbled, unrecognizable, blackened notebook as bright, colorful rose petals blooming hungrily in boundless garden. One day all this will make sense to me. Someday.

That grim, grey, cold day I wept. The day of Infinite Goodbyes and right on cue, the cloud announced rain. The streets were teaming with people scattering and searching for cover. I went inside at once. The unpleasant episode of the day is best watched from a safe place. There’s something about the sound that made me look for a big window. The sky rarely lies but what was that sound? Thumping and bouncing like racing pebbles down a creek.

It was not rain.

Those little round white things drummed the cobblestones and unfortunate heads in such a blind force that it’s painful to see. It thudded, bounced and rolled. My eyes widened. I saw another thing coming.

Hailstones, or what I read; Hope.

It’s a sign. I knew it. This is it.

20 minutes. The world was covered with grey specks. I touched some remains on a bench just to make sure that it wasn’t a dream. It really happened! A part of me wants to jump and click my heels while another bargaining to kiss strangers. I was torn thinking for appropriate response for this awesome view when a tiny white dust settled on my arm. Another landed on my shoes and a thousand more minuscule parachutes landed from heaven. My faint smile widened. The salty taste on my tongue disappeared. Really, this year wasn’t so bad after all.

I looked up at the bright clear sky and said what’s due.

Thank you.

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The irony of goodbye. The mixed feelings. It’s always a blurred line. Nothing is definite. I have the range of polar opposites. Sad and happy, black and white.

I choose everything in between. I choose grey.

The Pact

When I was 15, I made a pact with my other 2 best friends to travel the world. We were very serious about it that we sold chocolates to our schoolmates to afford the dream, we saved the money and reality hit us like a train.

Some people make dreams so it can die.

At 16, L quit school. It was never the same without her. Me and W grew apart. We talked but it’s no longer about going to roll in snow under Eiffel Tower. It’s always about other girls or news or teachers.

After school I did not contact L & W. College was busy. W was working and L was having boyfriend after boyfriend. She’s the prettiest of the 3. I found out that W had a sugar daddy. He’s 40, married and has a yacht. We were about 18. Good for her, I think.

We reconnected during university years. L said she’s going to get married to someone she’s not in love with. Her soulmate was not ready for commitment but she was so she pick the other guy. W acquired a boyfriend, R very sweet and kind but maintain another sugar daddy, a royalty this time. All this done while the first sugar daddy still keeping in touch. When he found out, of course he went berserk. He screamed her name again and again until he fainted. He was admitted to a psychiatric ward. The wife and his 5 children called W to come and visit but she said no.

L got married and I did not attend the wedding. She did not speak to me for 3 years. W broke up with R and the royalty but she wanted the latter back. She did everything she could but the wife and daughter intervened. It was clear that he wanted out. She was heartbroken.

What happened to me? I went to Madrid because I won a scholarship. Then I went to Barcelona, Paris, London, Brussels, Prague, Frankfurt, Rome, Marseilles and back to Madrid. I learned to speak a foreign language, met seriously fascinating people (and not to mention good looking ones!), got a normal job and very soon the mid life crisis hit me hard.

L and I got our vibe back. She is now pregnant with her 3rd child with the same husband. I guess she’s happy with him though he wasn’t her first choice. She got a house, a good job, love, pretty much everything a normal person wants. I’m glad for her but I am still waiting for the day when she would say ‘let’s go’ and off we fly to Macchu Picchu. She still travel though, but with the whole bunch, with her mother and mother-in-law.

W is not speaking to me. I offended her in the worse way possible it seems. I told her to let go off her first sugar daddy. He is a ticking time bomb. She said he would tell her mother and she’s better dead than face her with that news. The only way to fight is just come clean. He would not have any more weapon if the mother already knew about everything. And with that reason, she left me. No goodbye, no angry outbursts, nothing. Just pretend I’m another face in the crowd and all those 15 years of friendship were just a nightmare. She had a third sugar daddy now. She brought him to the school reunion. I was not there but I saw the photos and was speechless. They went to Philippines together. Probably they ventures to other places too. She’s in real estate now. Good money and owning properties. She, is what some people would refer to successful businesswoman. 

I hardly recognized her.

Was this the same girl who comforted me when all those bullies got to me? Was this the same girl who would do anything to distract the discipline teacher while me and L escape? I still have trouble believing that it’s true. All those dreams and conversations and promises and words.

Those countless nights staring at the night sky, counting passing planes, wishing that one day we, too could fly. Maybe we forget to tell ourselves ‘fly together‘.That’s our big error.

They seemed happy. Maybe they forget, but when I was 15, I was the happiest I have ever been in my life and those moments count. That was the only time I had friends I considered best of all. 

What happened to us?

What happened to night walks and freedom and traveling around the world?

What happened to the pact?