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Like an empty glass,
waiting for milk to be poured in.
Be it half full,
or half empty,
forever.

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Ten years ago, he was having dinner with his grandmother. In an attap house with stilts, somewhere in Ijok. The only source of light available were from the kerosene lanterns hung by the pillars of the wooden house. The moon was too shy to show its face during that April night. He was in his mid 20s, just got back from Boston. He was in the land of the free because he was kidnapped by his own parents, held in captivity for 10 years from his own countryland, in pursue of wealth. He escaped detention and came back.

What’s that red paste?” he asked his grandmother.
Sambal belacan
Oooh, ok. Is yours any good?” he asked again as he tried to remember the taste.
It’s hot, and spicy. That, I can assure you. And it has this smell. The rest varies from taste buds. When was the last time you had sambal belacan?” it was his grandmother’s turn to ask questions.
10 years ago
Did you like it back then?” his grandmother continued.
Nope. But I’m a different person now.

They smiled.

*****

Ten years had passed. He’s now in his mid 30s with blonde hair and a protruding belly. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon as he walked with his two Caucasian friends through Suria KLCC and into Kelantan Delights.

As lunch was served, the waitress said, “This, sirs, is sambal belacan. It’s hot, it’s spicy and it smells. The taste varies from taste buds.

He felt the déjà vu. His mind quickly reminisced to his grandmother who passed away in her sleep six years ago. His facial expression revealed the Malay-ness in him. Or what’s left of it.

The waitress continued cheekily as her eyes met his, “When was the last time you had sambal belacan?” Deep, dark sarcasm.

He smiled.

Years ago in a far away town, I was hanging out one evening with some friends. We were in RSU having teh tarik and pisang goreng with brown sugar MSG and chili dip. Then she came walking by our table, heading home I think. My friends started uttering words of praise towards the girl among themselves, like most male Malay college students would always do. But I didn’t notice her. I was busy figuring out how the fuck to use my newly bought Phillips Savvy dual band. Yes, my first ever mobile phone that spitted out enough radiation to burn my ears every time I talk more than 4 minutes. A friend shoved my shoulder and said, “Look at that, man! Look at that if you are really, really not gay!”. I turned to look and saw her back. It was ok, nothing fascinating. As I was lowering my sight, she gave a glimpse that I’m pretty sure connected directly to my eyes. She smiled. One tap of my hand on the table shook everyone and said it all.

*****

I forced Suffian, her classmate to give her 5 pieces of Fizzy Cola candy every now and then. “Tell her it’s from a secret admirer”, I said. At first Suffian was reluctant. Maybe he thought that pimping was not the right career path for him, but it proved him wrong in his latter days. The candy saga became a routine and went on for 2 and a half months. I never asked Suffian for her reactions. I just give.

One day, the convenient store inside campus was out of Fizzy Cola. I was devastated. No other candy can replace the prominent role of Fizzy Cola. I gave a long thought. Then I decided to go with Cloud 9, a pretty huge step at that time. As usual I hunted down Suffian for the customary fix. He too was surprised with the change of candy. “Are you going to the next level?” he asked. “From stalking to being a man, with balls?” he added. “Maybe” I mumbled.

Later that afternoon, I was in front of the main hall, reading the notice board. It’s funny how I never realized that the university has so many activities and events organized. “Snooker Competition”, interesting. Well, maybe if I came to class often, I should have known about it earlier. I was done reading the wall when I saw Suffian and his classmates in the distance. Just finished class I assume. At the same time I saw her coming out from the main door. To my surprise, for the first time, I saw him doing the transaction. From inside his pocket, he handed her the Cloud 9 candy. Then for the second time I saw her smile. Suddenly, Suffian pointed his finger towards the main hall. To be specific, towards me. I trembled. What should I do? I saw her coming towards me. What should I say? Ahh! 5 years in an all boys residential school surely didn’t help at all. Sweat began to drip from my temples.

“So, you’re the secret admirer that’s been giving me candies all this while?” she asked.
“Errr, yes” I replied.
“I guess it’s not a secret anymore. Thanks.” she continued with a smile.
“You’re w-w-welcome” I stuttered.

She turned and started to walk away. Within a few moments I held her arms before she got too far. She was surprised. “Errr, can I have your number?” I asked. “Of course you can” she replied, again, with a smile.

*****

I just stood there, watching her walk through the gates towards her housing area. Slowly, her shadows began to fade. My heart was finally beating in its normal rate. I got her number. I needed a cigarette. When my hand reached inside the pocket, I felt something odd. It’s not my cigarette, nor my lighter, nor my keys. It was a fucking last piece of Fizzy Cola from I don’t know when. It was a sign! Without thinking further, I ran! I ran towards her, wherever she was. I ran!

Panting and sweating, after a prompt search finally I saw her. Still, modishly walking. I controlled my breath and stepped beside her. “Can I walk you home?” I started with sweat starting to dampen my shirt. It was a terribly hot afternoon. “Well, I would love you to, but I’m already in front of my house” she answered, surprised at first but with a little tone of disappointment at the end. “In that case, if you don’t mind, I would like to ask you for a little stroll before I walk you back home again” I continued, hoping for the best. “I don’t mind that at all…” she replied.

I pulled out the last piece of Fizzy Cola and offered it to her. She took it. We smiled at each other and began our short walk.

Last night I felt
real arms around me
No hope, no harm
Just another false alarm

So, tell me how long
Before the last one?
And tell me how long
Before the right one?

The story is old, I know
But it goes on

And on



Marr & Morrissey

The time was when the wakaf land nearby the dam started to become a settlement. A settlement for Malay families from different parts of the peninsular. There were these two families that ended up being neighbours. Mak Keda’s humble family was a big one, an occasional actress, wife to Salleh Ghani the film director. Yes, Salleh’s name was not as prominent as most of Malayan film directors during the early 60’s but nonetheless, Sri Mersing did made an immediate impact. Who would forget Nordin Ahmad’s line, “Kajang Pak Malau kajang berlipat, kajang hamba mengkuang layu, dagang Pak Malau dagang bertempat, dagang hamba terbuang lalu”? That was then.

In the other hand, Mak Tom’s family was better-off, a seamstress, wife to Ali, a government clerk. The mysticism continues up until today that being a staff in the government ensures better reality in this life when compared to making a career in the insecure art industry. At least that was what the Malays thought. Still think maybe?

A little girl named Ruby was friends with Intan, the daughter of Mak Tom and Mala the daughter of Mak Keda. They were the best of friends. Little girls, enjoying their childhood friendship in the years of innocence. They would walk to the bus stop together to go to school everyday, they would spend time playing at each other’s houses in the evenings and they would occasionally play by the rubber estate nearby, sometimes gathering rubber seeds.

modest versus egotism

One evening they were at Mak Tom’s house. Giggles and laughter were heard as they were playing tailor with Mak Tom’s leftover cloths. “KELUAR KAU DARI SINI!”, Mak Tom suddenly shrieked at Mala. Vague impressions were on the girls’ faces. Mala was grabbed by the arm by Mak Tom and was dragged back to Mak Keda’s house. Mala cried. The commotion became an attraction to the people nearby. Mak Keda was at her door. Calm.

“NAH AMBIK ANAK KAU. PANTANG DATUK NENEK AKU DARAH AKU BERGELUMANG DENGAN ORANG SENI!!!”

Ruby witnessed it all in a frightful awe. Mak Tom had snapped. That day was the erruption of Mak Tom’s long buried rage.

another 20 years or more

Salleh and Ali soon died. One had his family by his side, and one was missing certain people by his deathbed. Azwan, fresh from his SPM examinations started to join the show business. He became too popular by the means, that after a couple of celebrity heartbreaks he became too queer to his existence. “Don’t sleep just yet”. He was Mak Tom’s youngest son.

We scrapped the surface of the butter,
Yet we tasted the cloying cream,
The taste, not whole, slightly bitter,
But perfect, just like in our dreams