His appearance was like telling everyone that he’s a freak. Well, in a more subtle way, a wierdo maybe. A loner, he was definitely. He seemed to always wear a grey baseball cap, with his fuzzy, dry hair sticking out from the sides, slightly highlighted. I was convinced that his hair colour was not done purposely, but because of years of consuming water from a rusty water tank or corroded pipes in his hometown. His jeans was always tight, but he wore it above the navel, which made it slightly hanging, showing his ankles without socks inside his black, low-cut, All-Star sneakers.

Apparently, he was in several of my classes in university, 16 years ago. At the lecture halls, he would sit at the back, or simply locating himself slightly further than other students. Whether this was done on purpose, or people were actually avoiding from sitting near him, I can’t really be sure. One time, when I was looking at, well actually staring at hot girls in my class, my eyesight accidentally caught on him and he gave me the most sinister smile that creeped the shit out of me.

The first verbal encounter with him was when he commented on the patches I had sewn on my backpack. One of the patches was a Rancid, Life Won’t Wait skull patch, a Rancid album that was released a year earlier. He said, “Nice patch. But are you sure you’re a punk rocker?” and then he walked away before I could muster out with a response. There was something inside me that holds a resentment towards him, not justifiable, but the feeling existed subconsciously.

One fine afternoon, a few days before the mid-semester break during our second trimester (seriously, it has nothing to do with pregnancy, it’s just what it was officially called. I swear!), I was awkwardly grouped together with him for an assignment, for a general studies subject. TJ and Naz was also in the group, so were a couple of girls. It so happens that I was elected as the group leader. Naturally, since we have to present the assignment after the break, I delegated topics to the team members to do research during the break. And mind you, this was a time before Wikipedia and laptops were still pricey and heavy and nobody had them anyways, and smartphones were two disjointed words. A time when the Nokia 3210 was the gratified toy for the rich few.

Cut short to after the mid-semester break. The whole group agreed (prior to the break) to meet at the open air section of the campus library the first night after the break, to compile everything for our presentation. At 9:00pm, everyone was present, except Mat Ripin. Regardless, we proceed with the discussion, with extreme difficulty of not having parts which was under Mat Ripin’s responsibility.

At 10:30pm, suddenly a guy wearing a grey baseball cap, with fuzzy, dry hair sticking out from the sides, and tight, above the navel jeans with a black, low-cut All-Star sneakers came to our table. He didn’t bring anything to the table, not even his obliged findings that he was supposed to find out during the holidays. All he said was, “Guess what? I didn’t do the research that you guys asked me to”. I guess everyone was too preoccupied at the tasks in hand to be pissed off at him and to the situation he brought. Our objective was to complete the presentation, one way or another. Mat Ripin tried to contribute but in a nonchalant way.

At exactly 11:00pm, he stood up and said, “I’m calling it a night. I’m sleepy already. I’m going home”. Without waiting for our responses, he walked away, without an ounce of guilt in the tone of his voice and his body language. TJ was looking at Naz, and vice versa, dumbfounded. “Don’t be funny! Sit down and continue this work!” I shouted at him. He didn’t even paused upon hearing me shout. He kept walking straight into the darkness of that fateful night.

All my subconscious antipathy towards him came to visit me precisely at that particular point of time. I yelled for the last time, “Hey! Get back here asshole!” with no response. His figure was slowly fading into the night. I stood up and gave him a chase.

What happened in the next two minutes was regretfully pretty bad, ok it was not pretty. It was plain bad. I beat the shit out of him. Punches and kicks were given generously, and it all came from me. He was down several times during that period, but I picked him up and beat him up again and again. Near the end of that unfortunate event, I even pushed him into a ditch. When he crawled up from the ditch, I beat him up for one last time. That was the only time I saw him without his grey baseball cap. As I stood there panting, watching him picking himself up, then picking up his grey baseball cap and dusting the dirt from his arms, he put the grey baseball cap on his head, gave me a sinister smile from his bloodied lips and walked away into the darkness.

People were standing outside the library, watching and doing nothing about it. Some girls were crying.

*****

Mat Ripin didn’t attend class. Not just the general studies class that we did our presentation on, he didn’t attend all classes. Since nobody really knows him, or maybe nobody gave a shit about him, no information can be obtained about him initially. Guilt was raining down on me like a cloud of storm following me everywhere I go, while everyone else was getting sunshine. Apparently, I was told that he had left the university. And my last memory of him was his sinister smile from a bloodied face.

16 years on, the event on that fateful night was the last time I beat up a person, a human being. Guilt subconsciously changed into fear. I always looked behind my shoulders, just to make sure that there was no familiar, sinister smiles following me. Remorse can’t do anything anymore as I wait for my fate. Whatever it’s going to be.

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