Sunday, April 24, 2011

A New Chapter ... How Will It Turn Out ...

I've been waiting for this moment ... diligently counting down the days, the hours, the minutes till I can finally head home for good. The past thirty three months I've been thrusted into a world I never knew before ... but all this will come to an end in a couple of days time. Soon I'll be back to a life I was once familiar with ... a life I once had.

The odd thing that hit me is this ... I expected myself to be feeling on top of the world ... I mean the prospect of going home, to be with family and friends, to seize back the life I used to relish ... all these should thrill me to no end ... but somehow that's not what I'm experiencing at this moment. In fact, deep down inside, I feel that there's a sense of dread that's trying to claw its way out of me. A definite fear that is trying to eat me whole.

I reckon all this may sound a little too melodramatic ... maybe it is ... but to a certain extent, it's true. A frequent quote I've heard and used many times ... 'Time will tell' ... I guess there's no denying that time will ultimately reveal everything. So it's just a matter of waiting it out and see what happens. Just that I'm not comfortable starring into the abyss and wait for the monster to come get me ... if there is one in the first place. Still ... the idea of not knowing terrifies me.

I ought to be thankful for what I have ... I mean considering all the shit that's happening around the world ... the tsunami the Japs were hit by, the constant war that has enveloped the Arab world, starvation in the African nations ... actually, I should be shot for even voicing out my oh-so-trivial discontentment with life. I guess this is just one of my off days and I would really appreciate an avenue where I can channel out my grouses. So just bear with me or you can simply click on the little red button with the 'x' at the top right hand corner of your screen. :p

I think I've blogged bout this some time previously ... the part where I wake up every morning, look into the mirror and I say to myself 'Hey buddy, sucks to be you huh'. Despite his bleh-ness, some good did come out from all these. Well, I'm now a proud co-owner of a rather nice pad, at least that's how I would rate my home. Also, working here have afforded me a couple of memorable holidays and not to mention some cool gadgets ... only God knows how I survived without the iPad previously. Let's see, what else ... oh, I've managed to catch up on a lot on my reading, one of the few activities that helped kept my head in check all these while. It's where I can 'escape' briefly from the bitter reality. Ok ... I know ... drama queen again.

Ok, now towards the downers. Well, my health ain't at its optimum so to speak. I may look ok on the outside but I'm pretty sure the insides isn't as pleasant looking healthwise. I've been consuming instant noodles AT LEAST ONCE EVERYDAY. That means my stomach is probably lined with enough wax to fill an entire Madame Tussauds galery. I know you'll say something along the lines of 'Why don't you just eat something else instead?!!!'. Well, given the situation that me and my colleagues are in, it's easier said than done ... trust me on this one. Also, never before have I been exposed to weather this harsh ... at the peak of summer, it goes well above 50 degs C. So I laugh when I hear the pussies back home whining over how scorching it is when the thermometer reads a paltry 38 degs C. Pffttt ...

Oh and then there's the sand. You know how you read about the white soft sands along the sapphire beach that holiday makers just love to squish between their toes ... well, newsflash, the ones we get here aren't the same. During a sandstorm, you'll get particles of sands making its way into every of your available orifice and there's really no way of preventing it. So the next time you see me, you might as well call me a walking hourglass.

The other stuff are almost neglectable ... the lack of social life, no proper transportation at my disposal, NO GYM (I've been gym-ing everyday before I came over here), the shortage of proper food amongst other things.

Well, my biggest grievance is time. Well, how I was robbed of it to be more precise. Of course, no one pointed a gun to my head and forced me to spend three years here but nevertheless, it's fact that I've lost three years of my life being away from the people that matters most to me. Take for instance, a colleague of mine whose mom passed away while he was working here. So the million dollar question is ... is all the money in the world worth what we're trading it for? And another aspect of my life has simply gone from bad to worse. Well, that's a story for another day.

We cannot turn back time, what's gone is gone. So I should try to make the most of what I have now. But is it too late? *cue drama music of your choice now* All jokes aside, this period of time have been a real trial for me. I guess I'm weak. A lot of others have endured worse and aren't bitching bout it. This makes me sound like a pussy. So I guess I'll just cut it short and end it here.

Let's hope things will turn out well for me eventually. Let's hope I'll see the rainbow after the storm.

Thanks for reading.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Wife's Birthday

Sandy opened the door and reached out for the morning paper. The headlines screamed 'President Ousted' in bold. She vaguely remembered watching a segment on the news late last night reporting the indictment of a certain political big wig for siphoning large amounts of the nation's money into his own private account. The world is in choas she thought, just like her own life.

She opened her letter box and its rusted screws screeched, shattering the serenity of her apartment corridor. She fished out the contents and rummaged through them. In her hands was a Chinese take-out menu which she crumpled and discarded immediately. There was also a letter from the bank. She would be most suprised if it wasn't another reminder to settle her credit card dues and lastly, there was a baby pink envelope addressed with her name on it.

Sandy went back into the apartment and closed the door behind her. Delicately, she peeled it open and pulled out a card. On the front was an illustration of a three-tiered cake staked with dozens on multi coloured candles. On top of it, the words HAPPY BIRTHDAY was punctuated in some typical cartoonish font. A tired smile escaped her lips. She flipped the card open and read its message ...

Dearest Sandy,

May you have the most wonderful birthday this year. We're awfully sorry we couldn't make it to see you, Jake's got his soccer tournament today. We hope you understand. Will definitely try to pop by sometime next week. Make it up to you then sis.


Gabby and Jake

P.S. Hope you liked the balloon Jake had drawn for you :)

Beneath the message was a squiggly heart shaped balloon crayoned in red by her six year old nephew.

Gabby was her twenty five year old sister and also a single mother. Jake's dad decided he couldn't stomach the responsibility and had left Gabby high and dry two months before Jake was due. So for the past six years, it was the two sisters who slogged and raised Jake into the beautiful boy that he is today. They showered him with as much love as any kid could possibly digest and as a result, Sandra found in Jake the son she never had.

Today, October the 13th was Sandy's twenty ninth birthday. She felt her entire life wasting away by the minute and had achieved nothing except harnessing copious amount of unhappiness and grief. To add to it, the absence of her sister and nephew on her birthday this year added a tonnne of lead to her already heavy heart. Sandy shut her eyes tightly and tried in vain to wish away the depression that was shrouding her. Her futile attempt was interrupted by a sound coming from her bedroom. Jacob, her husband must have awoken and the thought of seeing him added to the dread within.

Sandy put the kettle to boil and spooned some coffee powder into her mug. A cube of cane sugar was added and she admired the stark contrast of white against black. From the corner of her eye, she saw Jacob coming out of the bedroom fresh from a shower. As much as she hated to admit it, he smelled delicious from his Hugo cologne. He pocketed his keys and wallet and went for the door.

He stopped there, looked at her and said 'I'm going out for a bit.' She ignored him. Two seconds later, she heard the door slamming and the echo of his footsteps going fainter and fainter along the corridor. He didn't even have the decency to remember her birthday, she thought. Fucking bastard.

Their relationship as husband and wife had been strained for some time now. He was always being occupied with something and she felt painfully neglected. Sandy desperately craved for her husband's emotional support and physical touch but as far as she could recall, this was not to be. Every little thing seemed to set off arguments and hence, the scraps of moments they had together was peppered with cold shoulders and long periods of deafening silence. It was killing her inside to go through this state of agony and she often wondered where did that sweet loving man she married dissappeared to.

The kettle whistled loudly disrupting her train of miserable thoughts. She turned off the stove and emptied the fillings in her mug down the sink. She just wasn't in the mood for anything, not even her morning brew.

Sandy must have dozed off while watching the Sunday noon talk show programme for she was jolted awake by the piercing message alert from her mobile. Still drowzy, she read the sms

Can we do an early dinner tonight? I have a game with the guys later at the club

She typed in her reply


and hit the Send button.

By half past four in the afternoon, he was dressed and waiting in their living room. He was watching one of those slutty teenage singer shaking and grinding her thang shamelessly on the MTV channel. She came out of the bathroom with her hair still wet. She put on an old floral dress and thought to herself 'When did it became so bad ...'

Sandy opened the front door and walked out. She heard the TV being turned off and Jacob hurrying behind her.

He asked 'So, any preference? Where do you wanna eat?'

'Up to you,' she answered coldly.

In the car, he was whistling almost too cheerfully as they snaked along the heavy traffic. 'So how was your day? Did anything interesting?' he questioned, trying to dissolve the uncomfortable quietness.

'What do you care,' she said.

She heard him inhaled deeply and stayed silent. Deep inside, it satisfied her to piss him off. Nothing helps with bitterness like spreading it around.

He parked the Volvo in front of an all day buffet restaurant. They had frequented this place a couple of times before not because the food offered someting to shout about but because it does the job if you want to make your money's worth. For 25 bucks, you can choose from an array of seafood, cold cuts, salads, grilled meats and a pitiful selection of overly sweetened desserts.

At 4:50p.m., the place was empty. At one corner, three Indian waiters were busy wrapping metal cutleries in gardenia white serviettes. Jacob picked a table by the glass window overlooking the street outside. One of the three came over and emptied half a bottle of water into their glasses.

'Shall we?' he said.

She got up without a word and headed towards the spread. Nothing seemed appetizing and she finally settled for some greens and ceasar dressing.

Moments later, Jacob came back with his plate filled to the brim. A wide grin was plastered on his face and he was obviously very satisfied with his haul. He dug in and found it difficult to eat without spilling some of his food on the table. So he took the huge piece of grilled dory and placed it on the side plate. 'Too much there,' he said to no one in particular.

Sandy stared at him with anger brewing within her. She took her fork and stabbed his fish. 'This is ME!' she said too loud.

The three waiters were staring now. Jacob looked up from his plate, his mouth stopped chewing and his eyes expressed bewilderment.

'Huh?' he uttered.

'You heard me. THIS.IS.ME!' she said through gritted teeth. 'Everything on your plate now is your fucking life. You see the steak, that's your work. The rice, those are your colleagues. The prawns are your family and the chicken ... your idiot friends. You have too much on your plate and there's just not enough space in your life for me,' she exploded. 'Don't you see???!!! I'm just this fucking fish that you can easily do without. I don't fit anywhere in your life anymore'

'Aw come on, this isn't fair. It isn't like that,' he replied trying to soothe her.

A waiter came over and asked 'Is everything with the food alright?'

'Everything's fine. Thank you,' Jacob replied.

The waiter stole a quite glance at Sandy who had her face buried in her hands. Eventually, he turned and walked away.

Jacob reached out to hold her hand. She jerked back and said 'Let's just eat and go.'

They ate what's left on their plate in silence. Jacob signalled for the bill and they left the restaurant. Once outside, Sandy said 'You go on ahead. I need to be alone for a while.'

'Come on dear. Don't be like this. Let me take you home. It's cold out here,' Jacob pleaded.

Sandy started walking and Jacob tried to hold her arm. She turned around and pulled herself away with a little too much force. 'Don't touch me,' she hissed. 'Go, just go. Go to the club with your friends. Don't keep them waiting,' she said spitefully. With that, Sandy walked away rapidly leaving Jacob standing on the walkway alone. Across the street, an elderly couple stood watching and shaking their heads.

She didn't know where she was going and was walking aimlessly. She felt utterly lost. Tears were uncontrollably streaming down her face. Every now and then, gust of wind would sweep across and send chills down to her spine. She wrapped her thin jacket tighter around but it doesn't help with the frosty weather. Her nose was runny and she was beginning to shiver. The sun was fading on the horizon and by now, the soles of her feet were aching. Her mobile rang and she saw that Jacob was calling. She pressed a button and it sent a busy ring tone to the other end of the line.

Fifteen minutes later, Sandy was climbing up the stairs to her apartment. By now, her tears have stopped flowing but her eyes were still red. She felt exhausted and the idea of going back into an empty home dismayed her tremendously. She wanted to curl up in bed and call her sister. She desperately needed someone to talk to.

She turned the key and pushed opened the door. She heard what was like a child's giggle and a wave of panic blanketed her. She was certain the noise came from inside of her house. Someone was in there. She quickly fumbled for the light switch and flipped it on.

The brightness blinded her for a moment but her ears were pounded with shouts of SUPRISE!!!

When she regained her vision, she stood there dumbfounded. Staring back at her were all the people she loved and cared for. Her closest family and friends. Gabby was there with Jake in front of her, his hands clutching on a nicely wrapped box with a yellow ribbon going around it. He was smiling at her revealing a missing tooth in front. Sandy's mother was there too, sitting on the sofa with her eyes wide, as if willing her to have at least some reaction. At the back, members of her book club were standing, all sportingly wearing party hats and grinning. Finally, standing in the center was Jacob, holding up her beautiful birthday cake. It's tiramisu, her favourite. He remembered ... he didn't forget she thought. Then she was burdened down by so much guilt for the way she had treated him earlier. Tears started to form once more at the edge of her eyes. She couldn't hold it back and her vision began to blur.

Before she knew it, Jacob was hugging her tightly, squeezing a little breath out of her. It helped with stopping the tears.

'Jacob, I ...,' she started to say but he stopped her mid sentence.

'Today's your special day. I spent the whole day making this happen, so promise me you'll go and enjoy it,' he said with a smile. 'Besides, you've kept your guests waiting for quite a while.'

She could only nod in response.

Jacob let her go and her nephew was there next, throwing himself at her legs, clinging to them for dear life.

'Happy Birthday Aunty Sandy,' he said shyly. And then Gabby was there, embracing them in a group hug.

'I hate you,' Sandy told her sister. 'You don't know how much grief this caused me,' she said between sobs and laughter at the same time.

'Jacob made me promise not to tell,' she said with her hands up in a surrender pose.

Soon everyone was mingling in the party and was having a good time. They then sang Sandy her birthday song and she made a wish. A wish that if came true, would guarantee a happily ever after for her and her Jacob.

'The cake's delicious,' she said to her husband.

'Especially when all you had earlier was salad,' he teased cheekily.

As the night was getting late, the guests began to leave. There was school tomorrow and Jake had to be up early. So Gabby took both her son and her mother home. One of her book club member was actually drunk and had to be helped by two others as they staggered home.

Jacob and Sandy were left cleaning the place up. She was doing the washing by the sink when he came and hugged her from behind.

He whispered in her ear 'I know things haven't been so good lately. I'll make it better ok. Promise. I ...'

But she didn't give him a chance to continue. She turned around to face him, tiptoed and kissed him deeply. He was taken aback but only for a split of a second and then, he kissed her back locking their mouths together. Sandy felt overwhelmed with love and a thought came to mind, as long as our lips still fit perfectly ... our lives will too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The 7 Days

Day 7

Lisa woke up and the first sensation that hit her was the excruciating throb inside her head. She tried to distract herself by recalling what happened. The curtains were flapping lazily and sunlight poured in, enveloping almost every inch of her tiny bedroom. She scanned the room for Tyler and he was no where to be seen. She strained her ears to listen for sounds, still hopeful that he could probably be lingering somewhere in her apartment. Several seconds passed by and the agonizing hangover got the better of her. She reached for her mobile and saw a piece of paper, neatly folded in two at her side table. She stared at it momentarily and slowly reached out for it. She felt her heart pounding as hard as the thumping inside her brain. Suffocating with a mix of anxiety and fear, she unfolded the paper and read its contents.

My dearest Lisa,

Please take your time in reading this letter for through writing, I’ve found the little courage I need to tell you my truest sentiments. There is really so much I want to talk to you about, so much I need to say to you. But when I’m with you physically, I’m at a lost. The things I’ve been meaning to tell you seemed to evaporate. It’s as if an unseen force is dying to prevent my heart from reaching out to yours. I won’t blame you if you despise this cowardice of mine. I have no excuse for it. I’m sorry ...

Before you came along, my routine life in this town was painfully dull. Day in and day out, I functioned like a zombie, alternating between work, meals and sleep. Everything I see appeared to be shades of white, grey and black. I hope you know what I mean. I couldn’t stand another day living like this. Bumping into you in that train was the best thing that ever happened to me. You brought the rainbow. No, you are the rainbow. And now, I wish time would freeze, so you could continue to colour my soul. How I wished we would have met sooner. How I wish you came into my life under different circumstances. Through the days of being with you, I hated so many things ... God, life, you name it ... for forcing us in this scenario. It feels that we’re being punished for nothing.

Now I’m pleading for you to forget about me. Take the past 7 days as a fleeting dream and nothing more. I know it’s hard. For me, I think it would be impossible to ever forget about you. But still, I’m selfishly asking you to try. To be leaving soon and never seeing you again is the hardest moments in my life. I swear this. The pain I’m feeling is simply indescribable. But I know it’s for the better. Like I said, I’m no good for you. I am not who you see me to be.

Live your life to the fullest. Reach for the stars. I have no doubt you’ll find happiness in someone. Someone who can truly give you everything you’ll ever want and ever need. Forget about me but I beg you, please don’t hate me …

With all my heart and more,


Lisa re-read the letter three times. The more she read, the more her mind was being sardined with clutters of questions. Has Tyler left town? Why is he no good for her? Does he have an incurable illness? Why didn’t she cherish their last moments together better? Why did she have to pass out? So many questions. So many regrets. So much pain. No answer. No relief.

Live your life to the fullest. Reach for the stars ...

Lisa knew what she had to do. She jumped out of bed and realised that the hangover had magically disappeared. Propelled with a rush of adrenaline, she afforded herself a quick wash up, brushed her hair, put on the first clean dress she found in the closet and dashed out of the apartment.

Following her heart, she broke into a run and headed towards their usual café. Laughing silly to herself, she felt liberated. For once, she is actually fighting for something she believed in. She was basking in a glorious mood and felt invincible, as if nothing could ever dampen her spirit and resolve.

When she neared the café, she expected to see him sitting on the bench beneath the jasmine tree. No one there. She then peered through the enormous glass door of the café, confident that she’ll find him sitting there, looking back at her, smiling. Instead, she was stared at by a dozen faces stamped with bewilderment, none of them familiar.

Panic began to creep into her system causing her to hyperventilate a little. She took deep breaths trying to calm herself and sat on the bench. Lisa fished out her mobile and dialled Tyler’s number. The dialling tone sounded muffled for all she could hear ... all she could sense ... was her heart hammering against her ribcage.

The call connected.

Her throat was parched. Her lips trembled without a sound. Then, she heard a voice from the other end of the line.

‘Hello,’ the voice said.

The voice wasn’t familiar. The voice wasn’t Tyler’s. The voice belonged to a woman.
‘Hello,’ the voice repeated itself.
‘Hi *pause* Hi. Can I speak to Tyler please?’ Lisa mumbled.
‘Oh, Tyler just got home. He’s in the shower,’ the voice replied.
‘I see. Ummm ...’ Lisa said as a thousand thoughts flooded her mind.
‘This is his wife. Can I take a message?’ the voice offered.
The word ‘wife’ revibrated again and again in Lisa’s ear. She felt utterly numb.

Lisa hung up.

She felt her world shattering. Anguish and disappointment exploded internally causing her body to convulse. Only the sudden gust of wind caught her by physical surprise and her quivering eased. A solitary jasmine flower twirled and landed gently on the ground in front of her. Lisa stared at it, trance-like. That image overwhelmed her. Seconds later, countless more jasmines surrounded her as they fell from above. Lisa buried her face in her hands and wept like never before beneath the tree of sorrow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The 7 Days

Day 6

For a twenty five year old girl, Lisa’s studio apartment was incredibly bare and clinically clean. In the living area, there was a two seater fabric sofa and a no-nonsense square coffee table. An out-of-date copy of the Financial Times and a beat up laptop sat on the table. Propped on the wooden tv cabinet was a solitary 32 inch plasma. The ‘bedroom’ was separated by a sandblasted glass partition. In there, a queen sized bed resided next to a makeshift side table. On it was an unfashionable radio clock. There were no posters adorning the naked walls. Only a two tier bookshelf housing a number of Dickens’s classics gave the room some much needed contrast.
Lisa was busy in the kitchen. Both she and Tyler had agreed to have dinner together but when Tyler suggested a cosy Spanish restaurant in town, she had insisted on cooking for him.
‘You need any help?’ Tyler asked politely.
‘Nope. Just make yourself at home. Oh, there’s beer in the fridge,’ she replied from the kitchen.
The bottle of Heineken was scarcely chilled. She must’ve bought it not too long ago he thought to himself.
He went into the kitchen asked her ‘You seem to be a huge Dickens’s fan huh?’ By now, the entire apartment was blanketed with a delicious smell of chicken broth.
She was chopping up some leafy vegetables when she stopped and answered ‘Not really. Dylan was. I just made it a point to read his entire collection. I figured that way, I could still remain some sort of connection with him. I finished the last one two days ago.’ She then resumed her cooking and Tyler felt as if it was his heart on the chopping board.
When dinner was served, Tyler’s jaw dropped. On the table, lay a magnificent feast. There was steamed fish in soy sauce, stir fried beef with spring onions, chinese ‘pak choy’ in oyster sauce, fried wan tons and herbal chicken soup.
‘Wow,’ he said, truly admiring the result of her efforts.
‘I bet you didn’t think I could cook,’ she teased.
‘Well, to be honest, no. My humblest apologies Ms. Stewart,’ he replied.
‘Apology accepted. Now dig in and tell me what you think,’ she said as she spooned the soup into his bowl.
By the time they were done with the meal, both of them were stuffed to the brim.
‘That was by far the best meal I’ve had ever since coming here. In fact, it was the best meal I’ve had in a long time,’ Tyler complimented Lisa.
‘I don’t believe you. You’re just teasing me,’ said Lisa but she was blushing a little at the same time.
‘It’s true. Now why would I lie to you. Here, let me help you with the dishes,’ he said and they both started clearing the table.
Standing side by side at the sink, she washed and he did the drying. When it was finished, she asked ‘Wine?’
‘Sounds good,’ he said.
He uncorked the bottle of white, poured them both a glass and sat in the balcony.
‘It’s good,’ he commented after taking a sip.
‘Really? I don’t know anything about wine, so I just asked for an expensive bottle,’ she admitted.
‘It’s beautiful isn’t it,’ Tyler said looking at the full moon.
No answer.
He looked over at Lisa and she was crying. ‘Stay longer … please,’ she said looking at him through her streaming tears.
It shattered his heart to see her this way. ‘I’m no good for you Lisa,’ he said, almost a whisper.
Lisa gulped down her wine and refilled her glass to the brim. She then drained its content down her throat and let out an audacious burp.
Tyler couldn’t help but to chuckle. Next thing he knew, Lisa was straddling him trying to lock her lips onto his with much aggression. He held her back and she tried to push forward. Exhausted from the struggle she screamed ‘WHY???!!!’ and then broke down into an uncontrollable sob.
Tyler held her tight, one arm holding her back and the other stroking her hair. His shoulder was soaked wet with tears and after what seemed like forever, Lisa fell asleep. He gently laid her on the bed, wrote a note, placed it on the side table and left the apartment.

The 7 Days

Day 5

‘So tell me, what do you actually do?’ Lisa asked.
‘Well, the local university bought a machine and I’m here to commission it,’ Tyler replied.
‘What sort of machine?’ she countered.
‘It’s a CNC machine. Computer Numerical Control. By writing certain programs in its PLC, you can get the machine to perform all sorts of functions like cutting, grinding, profiling materials automatically. Quite fascinating really … well, to me at least,’ he said.
Lisa nodded. ‘Though I hardly understood what you just said, it does sound remarkably … what’s that word … intelligent.’
‘What about you? What do you do?,’ he returned the question.
‘Well, I used to work a nine to five job as a clerical accountant. That was until Dylan passed on. Now, I do freelance accounting works for small firms around town. That way, I don’t have to apply for sick leave whenever I plunge into depression mode. Haha,’ she said not so jokingly.
‘He must’ve been really close to your heart?’ Tyler said out loud.
Lisa sighed to herself and said ‘Yea, he was.’
‘Are there things in your life you wish you could change?’ she asked him.
Tyler took a few moments to think and then said ‘I guess. Humans are never satisfied. They always want more, they always want better. The grass is always greener on the other side no?’.
‘If it were up to you, what exactly would you change right now?’ she queried.
Tyler let out a long breath and replied ‘My circumstance. And you?’
‘Yea, me too. My circumstance. All my life, I’ve never really dared to do anything for myself. I’m more of a follower. If asked to choose between the norm or taking a risk … any sort of risk for that matter, I would conform to the norm instead of fighting for what I believe in. I’m just useless that way I guess,’ she said.
‘Trust me when I say you’re not the only one feeling this way. Most people are. At least you have the guts to admit it,’ he said.
She looked at him and asked ‘How long will you be staying in town?’
‘If all goes smoothly with work, I’d be leaving in two days,’ he said.
‘So soon?’ Lisa exclaimed.
‘Will you be back coming back again?’
‘I don’t know really.’
The sun was almost setting and they were sitting on the bench in front of the café under the jasmine tree. She rested her head on his shoulders and laced her fingers tightly between his, simply wishing for time to stop. Above them, a loft of pigeons flew past, heading back to their nests.

The 7 Days

Day 4

Tyler cursed silently when he felt patches of his shirt clinging to his back. He was beginning to sweat from walking a little bit too swiftly to the train station. He glanced at his watch and it told him that he was already eight minutes behind time. When he arrived, Lisa was already waiting on the platform. He could see that she was twiddling with their tickets. A slumbering stray kitten on the opposite side of the tracks was keeping her attention. He stood still for a moment and studied her. Today, she wore a beige knee length dress sprinkled with navy blue florals. Her hair tied back in a neat bun exposing her ears. She also had on a simple pair of sapphire earrings to compliment the dress. Against the radiance of the morning sun, Tyler thought her beauty was most mesmerizing.

He took a deep breath and walked towards Lisa. She heard him coming and treated him to a glowing smile. He realised that it was this smile that first captivated him when he saw her in the train. This smile that left an imprint of her deep inside of him.
‘Hey, sorry I’m a little late. I sort of misjudged the time it’ll take me to get here,’ he said.
‘Don’t worry ‘bout it. Besides, I had good company to keep me entertained,’ she said indicating to the still snoozing stray.
‘So ... where are we heading to exactly?’ he questioned.
‘You’ll see,’ she replied mischievously.
As Tyler was headed to bed last night, he received a SMS on his mobile from Lisa. He had written his number behind the muffin wrapper before he handed it over to her. The message was rather brief. First was to apologize was messaging him late at night. Second was to ask him if he would like to join her for an outing the next morning. And third was another apology for doing things at the last minute. He replied to her message ‘When and where?’.

A train arrived as they were finishing their coffee from the vending machine.
‘This is us,’ Lisa said as she hopped out of the bench. ‘Don’t ask me anything until we reach our destination okay.’
‘Huh,’ Tyler grunted.
‘Promise?’ she continued.
‘Yes maam,’ he relented.
They boarded the train and being a Sunday, there was hardly anybody on it. They seated themselves side by side and ten minutes later, the station master gave the green light for it to resume its journey.
It wasn’t long before the scenery outside the window took a remarkable change. From the rustic grey buildings of the sleepy town, they were now greeted with a refreshing panorama of endless fields ... a picturesque vista with multiple shades of green and yellow. Rolling hills spread majestically across the horizon and on the cloudless sky above, a pair of swallows was performing an aerial courtship waltz.
The conductor came to verify their tickets and Lisa handed it over to him. It was the same guy who had checked on them a couple of days before when Tyler embarrassed himself in front of Lisa. If the conductor recognised the pair of them, he didn’t show. After he was gone, Lisa smiled at Tyler and continued looking out of the window, allowing herself to be lost once more to the charming landscape on the other side of the glass.
The swaying of the cabin eventually lullabied Tyler to sleep and when he awoke, he found Lisa staring at him. He cautiously checked himself for saliva stains and was relieved when he found none.
‘We’re here,’ she told him demurely.
Tyler got up and gave his body a good stretch before following Lisa onto the platform.
‘So now, can I ask where we’re heading?’ he asked her.
‘You’ll know soon enough,’ she replied.
Just outside the station, there were two rows of double story buildings lined up on both sides of a narrow street. At first glance, Tyler noticed a bakery, a bookshop, a hair saloon and two hardware shops. The remaining others were closed and not a soul was in sight.
‘This way,’ she gestured.
Tyler followed Lisa, keeping a couple of paces behind. For reason unknown, he felt that he didn’t want to invade into her personal space. So for a while, he trailed her in complete silence.
They eventually came to stand in front of a meadow. Hundreds of acres of shimmering grasslands dusted with wild pink fireweeds flourished before them. The view was breathtaking and the air, so clean and crisp. Every now and then, strong gushes of winds would pass, disarraying their hair in all directions.
Lisa stopped to rest on a large tree stump and Tyler sat beside her.
She looked at him and said ‘I want to tell you something.’
Tyler nodded.
Lisa stared ahead, deep in thought and finally said ‘I brought you here to meet someone.’
She paused momentarily.
‘He’s my boyfriend. Or rather he was. He passed away exactly two years ago. Last year, I came here alone and it was petrifying. So many memories of him came flooding back and it suffocated me,’ she continued.
Another pause.
‘It was unbearable,’ she whispered and he saw the first teardrop splattered on the ground.
Tyler didn’t know what to say. ‘Time will heal,’ was all he could offer and the words felt cold coming from him.
‘The worst part is that I’ve never cherished him when he was around,’ Lisa whimpered. ‘I was always busy with my life and never took the time and effort to make him feel loved. I mean, I love him, I really do, it’s just that ... I never showed him,’ she added between sobs. 'Yesterday, when I realised that I needed to come here, I was terrified. So I asked you to come along. Please don't be angry with me.'
'Of course I'm not,' he said meaning every word of it.
She brushed the tears away and stood up. ‘Come. I’ll take you to him.’
They crossed a bridge made of solid old pine with a tiny stream flowing beneath it. The burgundy dirt path led them to a small opening shadowed by dense groupings of red oaks. Beneath one of the trees, a faded marble stone stood erected. There were no engravings of any kind on its smooth surface. They came to stand in front of the stone.
‘His name is Dylan,’ she said.
Her eyes were closed and Tyler guessed that she must be having a private conversation with the man buried there.
After several minutes, she took out a can of Guinness from her bag and placed it on the stone. ‘It was his favourite,’ she said. ‘You know, the both of us used to come here often. We could spend the entire day reading or just napping. It was our special place. Now, it’s the worst place for me to be in.’

He walked towards her and hugged her lightly. He felt her body tensed and then she pressed her head into his chest with her arms wrapped tightly around his waist now.
‘Thank you for being here with me,’ she whispered.
‘My pleasure,’ he responded, noticing a lonesome grey squirrel staring wide eyed at them.

The 7 Days

Day 3

Tyler sat on the bench outside the café with coffee in his hands. The steam rising from his cup blurred his vision of the few pedestrians occupying the quiet street in front of him. A young mother was pushing her baby on one of those ultra modern strollers. Behind her, a boy of about 15 years young was walking his cock-eyed Shih Tzu and finally, a cyclist was zooming past both of them as if being chased by a crashing asteroid.

He wondered if she would show up. This is a weekend afterall. They had parted ways yesterday with a mere ‘See you around’. Tyler didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. He got out of bed just like any other Saturday. He dressed himself in his casual Gap Polo-T paired with a simple bermuda khakis. And yet, something was different inside. Today he was hoping. Hoping to see her again.

‘Hey you,’ came a voice behind him.
He smiled, knowing the owner of that delicate voice. Tyler turned around to face Lisa.
‘Good morning,’ he said. ‘You here on weekends too?’
‘Yeap. Caffeine addict. Guilty as charged,’ she replied, raising both hands in a surrender pose. ‘How come you’re sitting out here today?’
‘Just wanted the fresh air, especially when there’s less traffic around,’ he lied. Truth was, Tyler was afraid she might miss him if he’s tuck in one of the corner tables inside the café. ‘Care to join me?’
She sat down beside him and opened her paper bag. She took out a warm muffin purchased from the café and offered it to him. ‘You want some? I could never finished it.’
He laughed and took out a similar muffin of his own. ‘What flavour you got there?’
‘Blueberry but it’s low fat,’ Lisa answered. ‘You?’
‘White chocolate, the fattening kind,’ he replied with a grin.
The wind blew and rustled the tree that was shading them. Tyler looked up and saw patches of yellow and green. Yellow from the peeping sun rays and green from the pointy leaves.
‘Notice how the leaves appear blackish against the light of the sun?’ he said as he popped the last bit of muffin into his mouth.
‘That’s just the way life is,’ Lisa answered. She offered nothing more.
‘What do you mean?’ he asked after a while.
‘Well, you only miss the green because it looks blackish against the sun. Similarly, people always take what they have for granted. Only with the bad will people appreciate the good. Sadly, it’s often too late when you realised what you have missed,’ she said all too serious.
‘That’s deep, especially for a Saturday morning,’ he tried to lighten the mood.
She looked at him and smiled. ‘Do you know what tree this is?’
He looked up and frowned. ‘Errr, not really. Do you?’
‘It’s a jasmine tree. Older folks refer to it as the tree of sorrow. The flower will bloom at night and fall in the morning, when the sun hits them,’ she answered sagely. ‘As the myth goes, as long as the people beneath it are happy, the flowers will remain. Only sadness will cause them to fall off. Silly myth isn’t it,’ she continued gloomily.
Tyler could see now that Lisa was enveloped with a sense of grief. He wanted to reach out to her. To hold her and tell her everything will be alright. Instead he took out a pen and scribbled a note on his muffin’s wrapper.

They both continued to sit in silence, staring out at the empty street.
Lisa got up to leave. ‘I’ve got to go now. Thanks for keeping me company.’
Tyler got up as well. He gave her a smile then pressed the wrapper into her hand.
She unfolded the crumb stained wrapper and it read ‘After the storm, try looking out for the rainbow’.
‘Goodbye now,’ she said as she hurriedly walked away, hoping Tyler wouldn’t notice the tears glistening in her eyes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The 7 Days

Day 2

Tyler woke up to the thunderous sounds of blaring trumpets, hollow tubas and smashing cymbals. Since his rented apartment was located next to the local university’s field, he had to put up with all sorts of noises especially on a weekday. The worst being on Friday mornings when the marching band conducted their weekly practice. This was one deficit that wasn’t highlighted by his 84 year old landlord when they negotiated the tenancy agreement and when Tyler brought the subject up, the landlord defiantly told him that he could now save on an alarm clock. The nerve!

He got dressed and headed out to his usual coffee place at the end of the street. He had been frequenting this café for his daily dose of caffeine since he moved into town 3 weeks ago and had learnt that by being there between 7:20 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., you get to beat the morning crowd. There’s just something about the pleasing jingle from the clinking of mugs and whirring from frothing milk that gets his mornings started on a sweeter note. But most of all, he preferred to fill his lungs with the bitter sweet aroma of freshly brewed java instead of being intoxicated by Chanel No.5 and the latest Armani Black Code the yuppies these days love to cloak themselves with.
Today, only one customer was lined up in front of him. The barrista was taking her order and something familiar struck him.
‘Would you like any syrup with it miss?’ the barrista asked.
‘Just two pumps of vanilla please,’ the customer answered.
‘And you name miss?’
‘Here’s your receipt Lisa. Please wait at the corner for your coffee. Thank you and come again’. The barrista scribbled Lisa on the paper cup and passed it to her colleague manning the machine.
Tyler couldn’t take his eyes off Lisa. This is Lisa from the train. Lisa who witnessed one of the most embarrassing moments of his life. Lisa who laughed at him. Lisa who offered him wet wipes. Lisa who went into the opposite direction. Lisa whom he thought he will never meet again. Lisa who left a twitch in his heart when she walked away. The phrase love at first sight was creeping into his mind when the barrista interrupted him to take his order.
‘What’s it going to be for you today Sir?’
‘Ummm, just straight black,’ he replied without taking his eyes of her. She was now standing at the other end of the counter, iPod plugged in and reading Dickens.
Tyler thought to himself if its possible for someone to read and listen to music at the same time.
‘Anything else Sir?’
‘No. That’ll be all. Thanks.’
‘Your name Sir?’
‘Oh God. I mean Tyler.’
‘Your coffee will be with you in a minute Tyler. Please proceed to the corner. Thank you and come again.’
He caught the barrista sniggering as he walked away and was sure that this was going to be topic of the day for the staff at the cafe. Bloody punk Tyler thought to himself.
Lisa was too self absorbed in her book to notice Tyler or anything else for that matter. So when her coffee came, she knocked it over by accident, spilling the brown liquid all over the counter top. She gasped, more from shock than the scalding of her hand. She took two steps backwards a little too hastily and bumped right into Tyler.
‘Sorry,’ Lisa said before even looking at him.
‘No worries,’ he replied, holding her shoulders firmly.
That was when she saw and recognised him.
‘Here you go … Lisa,’ he said, handing his packet of Kleenex to her.
The barrista was done cleaning up the mess and said ‘Here’s your coffee Tyler.’
A hesitant pause, a little smile and she took it from his hands. ‘Thanks Tyler.’

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The 7 Days

Day 1

‘Excuse me sir, your ticket please,’ asked the conductor almost too regally.
Tyler stirred and let out an involuntary groan for the sudden influx of light from the afternoon rays stung his eyes.
The conductor cleared his throat, his stare brimming of irritation.
Tyler searched every compartment in his rucksack but couldn’t find his ticket stub.
‘Did you purchase a ticket for this ride … Sir?’ the conductor said, punctuating the final word with a dollop of menace.
‘Yea, just gimme a minute. It’s here somewhere,’ replied Tyler, this time searching on the cabin floor.
Then he heard a voice. ‘Try your shirt pocket,’ she said.
He looked up and sitting opposite him was a girl, smiling. His gaze stood transfixed on her causing her blood to flush her cheeks a little. She then gestured towards his chest. Tyler looked down and saw a piece of white stub sticking out against the red and black of his chequered shirt. He promptly handed the ticket over to the conductor who glanced at it, handed it back to Tyler and left without another word.
The train continued chugging along its century old tracks, gently swaying the cabin sideways.
‘Err, thanks,’ Tyler said.
‘No problem,’ she answered. ‘You must’ve had a really good sleep huh,’ she continued.
‘What do you mean?’ he replied.
She grinned cheekily and using her eyes, pointed towards the corner surface of the table resting in between them.
He saw a small pool of liquid and took it all but 2 seconds to realize what it was. By instinct, he quickly rested his elbow on his puddle of saliva and felt the cooling sensation soaking up the sleeve of his shirt. It was repulsive but no where near the embarrassment he was suffering at that moment.
The girl laughed out loud and Tyler wished he had a hole he could crawl into now. The girl placed a packet of wet wipes on the table but he chose to ignore it.
She then fished out a book from her bag and began reading. The worn out hardcopy had A Tale of Two Cities labelled on it and Tyler wondered to himself, who the heck still read Dickens nowadays.
He was on the brink of dozing off again when the train began slowing down. The name of the next station came over the crackling loudspeakers as the metallic wheels let out an ear splitting screech. Tyler got up and swung the rucksack over his shoulder. He noticed the girl bookmarking her novel and then placing it back delicately into her bag. She also pocketed her tissue she had offered to him earlier.
They were the only ones who got off at the platform. He was in front and she, a couple of steps behind. He felt her gaze weighing down his shoulders and increased his pace. They both reached the exit of the station and headed in opposite directions. Tyler glanced over his shoulder and saw the girl walking with her face buried in the Dickens classic once more.