Under the Oak Tree

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I’ve lost so many people. Some to change, some to death and some to indifference. I mourned them all the same. They occupy a special part of me, lounging under a big old oak tree armed with their best smile, frozen with time.

They never left.

They are quite a number. A little boy of 12 years old, willing to risk everything to make me smile. A 7 year old missing a forefinger that helped with my homework. My grandfather smoking his long pipe. The old Spanish guy that helped me find a hotel at 3 a.m when I first arrived in Seville. The beggar that accepted smile instead of coins. Awful lot of babies. My old Math teacher, convinced that I, of all his students was capable of achieving an A in the subject I loath the most. An 11 year old librarian saying hello but never said goodbye. My pink teddy bear. My left earring, the one dangling with a silver apple.

It took a while to accept that they are not coming back and in time, the number would ever increase. It’s the inevitable side effect of living.

I know a gentle boy with the most handsome laugh slowly making his way to that same island and I am too, walking reluctantly towards his oak tree.

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?

Madrid Memories – Part II

I’m getting very sentimental today.

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I even missed the brown sign boards. I hope they put on some effort for it now. If it looked like this in 2008, I can’t imagine what it must looked like in 2013.

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Apart of FNAC, I loved Casa del Libro too. Here, I found a water-proof book. It was quite expensive compared to the normal books but it was quite an experimental launch.

But it’s WATER-PROOF books! That would be an unthinkable thing in Malaysia.

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I would walk and walk around town, barely knowing where I was but I was never lost. I know exactly where I was. It’s like deja vu. I have been here at some point, some dimension of time before and I knew it.

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I would never imagine such a collection of cheese (my eyes grew to the size of saucers of the thought of so many delicious creamy thing at one place!) but later I have been brought upon about 200+ types of cheese on an aisle in a Bordeaux supermarket and spent about 2 hours to pick one.

I just can’t.

ciI have enjoyed the free flow entertainment from the locals. There is an Opera school in the heart of the city and sometimes the students performed/practiced their routines to fund their studies or just for fun.

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Some came from foreigners, like these Mexicans performing Mariachi. I enjoyed watching them as well.

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The least fun part was saying goodbye. Here I was, trying to get some sleep at the Barajas International Airport before flying to Edinburgh.

I hope to see you again, Madrid. I really do.

Madrid Memories – Part I

I don’t know when will I see them again but this was taken in 2008. Curiously I did not feel the same emotions when I was there the first time in 2005. Everything was different; the vibe, the people, etc. Maybe because the crisis was upon the horizon and people’s head was swarming with misery.

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I loved the bear at Sol. I wondered why it was there. He’s like an important symbol but my teachers at the language school never mentioned it.

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I loved the Metro of Madrid. It’s more spacious and cleaner than the one in Barcelona or even Rome and Paris. But the one that I found better than this one is BTS of Bangkok.

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It’s fascinating how much people loved cured ham of Spain. There’s even a ‘museum’ dedicated to it. I managed to stand at the entrance but cannot cooperate my body inside. I find the stench unbearable 😦

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TABAC, as they said. I bought my monthly Metro pass here. The teller did not speak English and I have very few Spanish vocabulary at that time but we managed with a lot of sign language, miming and a bit of yelling. There were a lot of improvisation too and the customers that came later did their bit of hand gestures until I understood.

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I bought several second hand books here for less than 2 Euros. You can find old stamps, old sketches and many priceless memorabilia. This very same narrow way also lead to another place.

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The one, the only, the famous Plaza Mayor 🙂 I went here so many times along with some other exchange students. Most of them are Turkish, Polish and Hungarian. They made me sing a famous Malay pop song on top of my lungs here. I never thought I could miss a country by singing a decade old love song that I don’t even like in the first place.

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Nahid Ramazanov, one of the exchange students from Istanbul had a friend working here and he bought us lunch. It was amazing, rambunctious room filled with laughter and people in 2005 but by summer 2008 no one was there, the food was quite bland and there was almost a heavy dread on the shoulders of the server.

I wonder if it was a good idea to return to a place that you once knew. I wanted to remember Madrid as a place I once belonged, full of beautiful people and dreamy, rustic, citrusy summer but I can’t.

I can only hope for the charm of the third try.