My Story  

Posted by Kamelia

I was told to write a story for creative writing class some time ago. I had a rather big problem coming up with one at first. I then realized that the only way I could write something that others could believe in was to write something that I believed in. So that was how my story began. It was a story that has been familiar to me as long as I remembered.

The bus creaked and banged as it moved. Everything was pitch black. Despite the noise, I could still hear the peaceful snores of the other students in the bus. I knew what their dreams are…I have them too. Only today I don’t feel like sleeping on the bus. I looked at the reflection against the window, and saw an unlikely face. It wasn’t the reflection that I was usually used to. Surrounding my face was the white tudung that Mama has carefully sewn the night before, amid the smells of steamed tofu and brewing wantan. Making a face, I tore it off my head, and stuffed them into my school bag, thinking that maybe, later, I’ll wear it again. Street lamps outside greeted me with sudden amber, and left again without saying goodbye.

Daylight tore through the young sky as the bus arrived in front of my school finally. A sudden guilt filled me, and I took a detour towards the toilet, although I knew Perhimpunan is already on its way. I lightly took the white cloth out of my bag and donned it back on. Boldly, I walked out, and to the assembly area.

The class was a din after the assembly. No sooner had I stepped into the class, I heard her. “Wah Amy!! You wearing tudung today ah? You look so weird!” Li Kuan said with a ringing voice. I smiled at her meekly, and said nothing. Thiva didn’t say anything, but instead had a questioning look on her face. My blood, so close to the surface nowadays begun to boil. But I forced myself to sit down with an almost defiant manner.

There was no recess for the Muslim girls that day. Instead there was a Quran recital class. The ancient scriptures rolled around in my mouth, and lolled about my tongue before spilling out onto my lips. They felt so foreign and yet strangely familiar to me. A calm passing though me, until Rozi pointed out my mistake. I seem to have a lot of them.

A knock on the door… “Excuse me Ustazah, but Camelia needs to go home. Her mother just called” The look on the messenger’s face was a mixture of worry and apprehension. She was nice, and waited until Mama came to pick me up. Papa was up front, driving the wagon, and both brother and sister were at the back, their eyes wide. Mama’s face was red, and her eyes were wet. We drove in silence, until Papa broke it, and laid his hand on Mama’s shoulder. “He was a good man, he’ll be fine. Take comfort in that.” Gege was gone…I’ll never see his patient face again, or feel his roughened hands. Already his absence is so immense.

The usually cheery and bright living room in my Popo’s home was shrouded in black. The smell of camphor was strong, and went straight into one’s nostrils. There was Gege…my dear grandpa looking so peaceful, clad in the blazer he usually wore to Sunday mass. His face was white, and it looked like someone had put makeup on him. The hands that nursed me when I had asthma were interlaced upon his belly. I wanted to hold them again. Feel his roughened fingers, kneading mine, bringing the breath back into my body. The same fingers that cracked the eggs for breakfast, with a dash of soy sauce.

My cousin asked whether I was wearing any perfume, and I said I didn’t. He shrugged, and put his arms around my shoulder. “So little cousin…” but Winston didn’t finish his sentence. His face was kind, and assuring, but I knew how sad he was. He was the closest to Gege. I suggested we go and eat. The funeral parlour had provided food for the next three days for us. There was delicious looking chicken rice, and boxes of chrysanthemum tea. “But Amy, you cannot eat the chicken rice, it isn’t halal. Come, I will take you and your brother and sister out.”

Mama stayed behind. She and all her sisters were in the room downstairs, talking in a language I don’t understand. Papa said it is haka. He said I could go with Winston, and to take care of Ijam and Wawa. We had a quiet dinner at the nearby mamak stall, as soon as we heard the azan. Winston didn’t eat, but instead stared into his teh tarik. When Winston was out of ear shot, Ijam told Wawa that Gege will go to neraka because he is not Muslim. I told him to shut up, and told him not to say such things. It broke my heart to think of such things. To me, Gege will always be at a good place, no matter where it is. And I told that to Ijam. He pursed his lips, and looked down.

The next day, all the grandchildren wore blue. Mama said that was tradition in haka culture. All of Gege’s children wore white. We all went to church, and heard the ceremony. Tua Ee cannot stop crying, and Uncle James keeps on consoling her. After the service, we all boarded the bus to the cemetery. It was a sad procession which had all the cars’ blinkers on.

I stood by the hole. It was slightly bigger than the coffin, and its depth seem to go on forever. I felt a hot tear trickle onto my cheek, and down past my chin, as they lowered the coffin into the hole. Gege never liked closed spaces. He was a gardener, with bougainvilleas lining the edge of the garden, and sunflowers, bursting in the middle. I imagined that there was where he would be. Where he would want to be. With Lucy, the cocker spaniel, jumping about his heels, and the koi fishes swam with ease…shimmering just below the glassy surface. The tree with white flowers would shade the pond, its branches reaching out, embracing the garden.

Everyone stayed behind until the one week period of mourning was observed. I and Grace spent that time looking at Grandpa’s old things. His old reflexology tools and books. The bird manual that Mama gave to him for last Christmas. His egg timer. Gege loved half-boiled eggs. We sat next to Popo, and she cried silent tears, saying that Gege looked like he was sleeping, that night she came out to see him in the living area…already inside the coffin. We held her hand, and said nothing. Popo would have to leave the home we had all come to love and grow up in. Aunty Pauline said she was to come and live with her. I would miss the old haunts.
The room with the raised wooden platforms, for us to bounce and play in. With sunlight so bright, one would be blinded by it. The room with the blue kelambu, in the master bedroom, where one could pretend to be in an azure cloud. The room with no mattress, where health conscious Sa Ee would sleep on a hard bed. She had bottles filled with colourful sands, and little cranes. The large kitchen where we could play tag, and hide behind the old washing machine. With the death of Gege, the old house died with him. There was no longer laughter. No longer loud curses over football. And no longer the sound of long baths.

It was time to go back to school. To Quran recital classes, and to the middle of fasting month. To long boring classes, and to long naps in the afternoon. A place where Gege no longer exists.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 . You can leave a response and follow any responses to this entry through the Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom) .



It's rare to see you write like this. Why staving your creative juices for?

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