Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Train : of thoughts - past and present

I was starting to feel a lot better than I had been the past few years. Having a lot less pain in the knees. Gaining speed in walking. Getting hold of the hormonal roller coaster. Listening to the birds' morning orchestra while getting ready to work. My girl, settled in her own place. My boy, o'well ... he has to commit his own mistakes and come out wiser hopefully. My parents' health improving. My brother's food stall still standing. The compound is clear of weeds and bushes. After a long time, I get to see the boundaries again. An officer from the land office came to take measurement of the lot for the purpose of issuing permanent title. Slowly and cautiously exhaling ... wishing for that creeping shiny streak to be the silver thread weaving between the thick dark cloud.

Attended a reunion of batchmates in celebration of turning 50 last week. Yup! We were born in 1960. The Year of the Rat. We are half a century old this year. [fb album here]

Lost my mobile phone on the way back from the reunion. Never lost one before. Has always been able to squeeze every mobile of its last juice. This one was a China mobile. At RM250, I got a touch screen, double SIM card and all other standard functions including a webcam. Yes, I could hook up the mobile to my laptop using USB and voila! I have a webcam [that I have to hold]. Never got any use for a webcam, though.

The SIM card was easily replaced. Cost me a mere RM10 to get a replacement. But the list of contacts and other info that I did not save elsewhere are lost forever. There were some sms I have kept since the first day I got the number way back in 2000. Sweet short messages from friends and family that I peep into whenever the low hits me. And as the number on the age increases, my time of drawing comfort from them increases too. 

I lost my mobile.

I do have another one, a Samsung SGH E950 which I used as a modem. I make calls from it whenever I run out of battery on my China mobile. I hate to use it for sms. The screen is simply too small for me.

That was how it went ... I was starting to feel better about my life in general and I lost the mobile. No big deal. Went to look for something to serve my need for mobility in internet and communication. Considered IPhone. Service provider is too restricted. Blackberry? Don't like the candy bar appearance. Also comes with heavy contract. Spotted Omnia. Hmmm ... another Samsung. My present Samsung couldn't accept bluetooth file transfer from other makes .i.e Nokia. Omnia ... Narnia ... insomnia ... hmmmmmmm ...

Felt strong enough to plan a bbq evening with colleagues last Friday. Wanted to share newly concocted sunquick laced bbqued beef sauce. 

So I went to bed early that night. Thinking of reserving energy for the long evening. 

Had a pedicure before the reunion. It's been more than a week and the heels were drying up fast in the extra hot weather and cracks were appearing. So, to cool them I smeared some Ellgy hyper rehydrating cream before hitting bed.

Must have been past midnight when my full bladder woke me up. Half asleep, I  staggered to the bathroom and realized too late that my 'creamed' heels would have a problem on wet tiles. Found myself flying through the air and landed on my well padded bottom. 

Touch down was ok.

However, the spread of the legs was a wee bit too wide for my arthritic knees and the crunch that followed seared the knees and I only managed a short holler before escaping into blackness.

Didn't know how long I passed out. Coming around to two throbbing knees on fire, I crawled out of the bathroom and managed to get on bed. Son called earlier and I was expecting him to be home at any time. Not bothering to find out the time, I put the BioDisk on one hour timer and gritted the teeth to arrange both knees to get the rays. I must have fallen asleep through the pain when son rattled my bedroom window and called from outside.

Took me forever to get to the door, opened it, told son I had a fall in the bathroom and went back to bed. Son asked if I wanted to go to hospital. I said I wanted to sleep first. It was 4.00 am.

At 6.00 am the alarm went off. I sent sms to the bosses telling them I won't be coming to work. Took Celebrex on empty stomach and went back to sleep. At about nine, got ready to go to hospital. The knees were still burning but I could walk. Well, wobble was more like it. Making some distance moving from side to side while putting out one foot after the other avoiding any slightest bending of the knee.

Went to outpatient. Long wait. Doctor asked why I didn't come to emergency earlier. Wanted to tell him that had I came to emergency, he would ask me why come to emergency for non emergency case. After all, there were no visible injuries and I was able to 'walk'. Instead, I answered - I was staying alone, couldn't drive and had to wait for my son to come back and drive me to hospital.

Doctor decided to have me admitted for observation because of the passing out. Sighhhhh!!! Student nurses sticked needles into me like I was a pin cushion and yet couldn't get the vein to stick the drip in. Until I couldn't take it anymore and asked them to stop.

A staff nurse took over. She whispered 'aloud' - kekadang ada orang ada ilmu ... sebab tu susah nak aambil darah ... sampai dia 'buka' dulu baru dapat [sometimes, some people practised certain rituals which made it impossible to draw their blood until they themselves let it].

I swallowed a chuckle.

Finally she managed to get a pink needle in.

She also needed to draw blood for lab test. Twice the blood clotted and the third draw was short so she had to do a fourth one. 

I was put on complete fasting. No food no drink. Last drink was when I took Celebrex in the morning. The hot weather chaffed my lips.

I drifted into sleep until almost midnight. After that I couldn't sleep. The legs were getting swollen and my whole body ache. Chatted with the staff nurse.

Then came an sms - I'm in J******t this Saturday. You have I**'s number? Shall we have tea? Who other xsmspian is around?

Responded - I'm replying from hospital bed. I can get I**.

Reply - Hospital? Y? Who's sick? Hope not you.

Responded - I fell in the bathroom last night. Admitted for observation.

Couple more messages which ended with - Ok. See you tomorrow evening.

Saturday afternoon, I was discharged. Son took me home and then he left to go back to university. 

I was alone.

And gosh! It was lonely being sick alone.

Suddenly another sms - Oops! Couldn't make it this evening. Let's have breakfast tomorrow. Name the place and time.

The night was long and loneliness prevailed.

9.00 am. Couldn't park near enough to the restaurant. Hate to 'wobble' in front of other patrons.

Went into the restaurant, hoping no one has arrived yet. Fat chance. They were already seated. A** was having fried bihun with sunny-side egg. I** ordered roti canai teh tarik. Z ordered roti canai and hot lemon tea with no sugar. I asked for warm lemon tea. They ran out of lemon. Ordered apple juice instead. Z asked for hot apple juice. I argued the point of having hot fruit juice which defeats the whole purpose of having the juice in the first place. I opted for cold one.

Conversation was light and easy when suddenly Z said - she is my x gf. 

I was stunned.

He went on to tell about how he waited for my letters every week when he first went to Nottingham University in 1978. 

And other personal things ...his side of the story.

Why would he made such confession ... in public!

To cleanse his soul?

That it was my fault when I didn't turn up at the airport when he came back from Nottingham?

How could I? in 1982, I was a young lady of 22 years old. Our culture does not accept a young lady travelling alone from Pasir Mas Kelantan to welcome home a young man in the midst of two bus loads of his relatives. My parents would have killed me then [exaggeration of course ... but that is the general idea]. 

Anyway, the correspondence ... all the five years of it ... he asked me to write to him about Malaysia NOT about myself. All the correspondences were DEVOID of any personal feelings. Mine were twice a week summary of the newspaper reports. His were a sporadic [read: whenever he felt like replying my twice a week letters, the most is once a month] journal of his daily life, a student in a foreign land. What he did over the weekends, places he visited, people he met [there were 2 girls mentioned]

There was NEVER any indication of a romance.

After he came home that 1982, I received a letter from him telling me of his stint at one of the local universities. I wrote back but never heard from him again. I even tried his home address ... a remote village near the National Park, hoping one of his relatives staying in the village would somehow get the letter to him. 

That was how I lost contact with him.

Until a reunion in 2003 at Pan Pacific Kuala Lumpur.

He attended with his wife.

He was an associate professor and me a junior DG41 teacher [3 years back from Nottingham myself, doing an in service course pertaining to a first degree]. Fate had it that I was sent to Nottingham University where he studied back in 1978. I went looking for the address I used to send letters to .. XX? Lenton Boulevard, Nottingham. Forgotten the house number. I was still married then, divorced the next year.

Trying to recapture the nostalgia of when I first stopped the bus and get down at Lenton Boulevard in the cold crisp autumn of 1996 and imagining someone I knew walking the pavement to the bus stop way back in 1978.

All the years of correspondence, he sent two photos. One of a guitar in his room, one of himself riding a bicycle into Nottingham.

And here we are ... 28 years later, sipping apple juice without sugar, his hot mine ice cold, reminiscing the secret of our youth at a table with two other people in a quaint little town.

The two friends made excuses to leave. Z wanted to visit the Sunday market to look for local childhood delicacies i.e smoked fresh water fish and preserved durian. 

He was taking the 12.15 pm train home.

At 12.00, I arrived at the train station bearing a little gift of home made preserved durian.

A** was there too to send his daughter.

I** arrived with his wife, also with a gift of preserved durian. And left immediately.

I stayed and ordered a warm lemon tea at the station's cafe.

He gave me a draft of his latest book "Melayu & Perjuangan".

I asked him to autograph it.

The train came. 

He got on it.

And I went home. 


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