For the second time, I asked Akaz about the schedule. Frustrated with my rhetoric question, he could still answer in a calmly manner, “Once every one hour, just like what the cleaning lady said and just like what the internet said”. I said rhetoric because I was with Akaz when we asked the cleaning lady and when we browsed the internet.

It was just ten minutes past ten o’clock in the morning and we were heavily sweating under the Terengganu sun. Maybe it was not just because of the sun, maybe it was because of the 750 metres walk from the hotel lobby to the bus stop under the Terengganu sun. Or maybe it was because of the heavy breakfast we had at the buffet before we walked 750 metres from the hotel lobby to the bus stop under the Terengganu sun.

I sat at the inefficiently shaded bus stop. Akaz opted to sit at an ugly, DIY wooden bench under the trees beside the bus stop. He pulled out his white Blackberry and snapped a picture of me, sitting grumpily at the bus stop. I said, “What the hell??!! He replied, “Ahmad Said is laughing at your misery”. I turned and looked at the wall of the bus stand and saw a huge picture of the Menteri Besar smiling with a rhetoric motto, “Rakyat sejahtera di bawah kerajaan negeri”.

We then both sat at the ugly, DIY bench. It was ugly but it was surprisingly comfortable, under the shades of the trees. There were busses that passed us by but all were express busses. No signs of any local, inter-town busses. Several motorists who passed us by looked at us and smiled, some laughed. Are they looking at Akaz’s unfamiliar pale white skin or my dark, unshaven face? Something was definitely wrong, somewhere.

An hour and six minutes went by. No signs of the maroon coloured bus that we hoped to see. Akaz was already out of cigarettes. Mine had a few left. We continued waiting and sweating.

When it was nearly twelve o’clock in the afternoon, I stood up and said, “I’m gonna smoke my last cigarette and then I’m gonna call the hotel to send us a taxi”.

*****

We were inside a cab, halfway of the 20 minutes journey from Kijal to Kemaman. Akaz asked the cab driver on the whereabouts of the local busses. The driver replied, “Bah belambok tapi takdok drebar. Nok-nok cuti panjang gini, rama orang nok gi dduri. Dengang drebar bah skali gi dduri”.

Damn!

*****

The driver stopped in front of Hai Peng coffee shop. “Enam puluh”, the driver said without being asked.

“Why so expensive?”

“Biaso lima puluh. Tapi sebakk panggil, tamboh lagi sepuluh”.

*****

Hai Peng was over crowded. Luckily some local folks signaled with their fingers, inviting us to their table.

“Ramai orang hari nih”, Akaz started the conversation.

“Sini memang aaa ramai sokmo orang. Hujang, ribot pong mari jugok orang”, a young man at the table replied.

An old man at the table added, “Aku hari-hari kena mari sini, minung air koppi. Dok kire ah, demang-demang pong aku mari jugok”.

The rest of the table simultaneously shook their heads slowly while uttering the words, “Berakk…, berakk…”

*****

At the Kuala Kemaman bus terminal, I went to the Transnasional booth. “Two tickets to Kuala Lumpur on the 1:30PM bus please”. I was confident as confident as any other man that did their homework before doing something.

The man in the booth looked at me and said something to his walkie-talkie in Bahse Ganu. I couldn’t catch what they were saying. After a few seconds, he looked at me again through the hole in the glass separating us and said, “Seme sekali RM52.40. Kalu nok bayo sini buleh, nok bayo dalang bah pung buleh jugok. Ikut panda aarr. Tapi takdok teket la ehh. Bah plok dok ikuk taing. Kek gi sappa laa bas orr.”

*****

Was there even a Tong Aik? Because seriously, during the series of events above, I didn’t see a single maroon coloured, Tong Aik bus from Kijal, all the way to Kuala Kemaman.

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