Me, You, Us

He was sixteen when he first saw her. Sixteen and bored and his mother had him attend a “summer” camp. Strange for a camp to be called a “summer” camp in Malaysia, which had just a monsoon and a dry season. Yet, “summer” camp it was, a collection of sixteen year olds sent to a out-doors camp in the quiet town of Sematan, with beaches to the front and a mountain to the rear. It was not a romantic getaway.

He barely remembered the camp, except for that one-day when he dropped a frog into the girls sleeping quarters, while they were bedding in for the night. The screams drowned out his own laughter, as panic ensued and frightened girls made for every available exit, whether door or window; it did not make a difference. The monstrous frog was going to slaughter them, digest them and make green goo out of their remains.

He exchanged high-fives with his laughing buddies as they stood behind the bush that grew along the front porch drain and then he saw her. This vision of porcelain skin, dimple cheek and a single braid cutting across her face. She had made it to the stairs yet tripped and fell. And in the chaos was being stepped on.

He leaped from his hiding spot, grabbed her arm and pulled her over to the side, as the stampede of girls rumbled down the yard and across the empty field.

Lights turned on and curious onlookers scrambled out to inspect the commotion. But it was all distant to him. He was here and here was with her.

“You want some chewing gum?”

Yes, the first words he spoke to her were about chewing gum. A pathetic first impression.

The memories of the camp were a blur, but he remembers writing her phone number on the wrappings of a stick of chewing gum. And losing that wrapper. And wondering where things would have gone, had he called her and told her how he felt.

This was the time before Facebook or Twitter, a time when phone stuck to the walls and not in your pocket. It was a time of change and though much changed over the years, the memory of her porcelain skin, dimpled cheek and that single braid cutting across her face kept appearing.

Fate did not give up on him.

He is thirty-nine now, and sitting alone at a table in a garden. He had stop smoking a year ago, and reverted back to chewing gum to curb the lustful sting for cigarettes.

And he smiled.

Nearing forty and with months to live, he reached out for support. Eventually meeting old friends from his child-hood and especially those with memory of that porcelain skin, dimpled cheek, single braid cutting across her face girl from “summer” camp.

He had scrawled her number on a chewing gum wrapper and this time, he kept it safe, tucked away in his wallet. He had called. She had answered.

“Do you still want the ice-bucket?” the waiter asked.

“You can take it away. But do bring another glass.”

The waiter smiled. Sixteen and already working tables, he thought to himself. I was sixteen and foolish. And I spent foolish years but at the time of my last year, I will make it right. His thoughts rambled along.

And then he saw her, porcelain skin, dimple on her cheek, with a streak of white hair cutting across her face. And he was sixteen again. And they were sitting at a table in a garden at a place called Summer House.

THE END

The Passing Of Moments

“Why do you bite the table?” I had to ask.

“It keeps my head steady, let my eyes focus properly and allows my hands to remain still.”

He was my teacher. I was his apprentice. And we are watchmakers.

What best then to challenge yourself to the craft of watch making? A feat of engineering, few could learn and fewer still could master. It was a dying trade, and I needed a challenge.

So I find myself learning my trade in Japan.

Switzerland is known for its watch-smiths but it is Japan that gives the Swiss the shivers each time innovation is needed in horology.

It was the Japanese who introduced quartz technology, it was the Japanese who introduced
factory manufacturing of timepieces to the masses and also the Japanese who introduced
shock resistant and waterproofing into the annals of watch construction.

And even though watch companies have turned to mass production of time-pieces, there are a select few that choose to ply their craft the traditional way – with steady hands and keen eyes.

It was late afternoon, and as I was cleaning; I caught Sensei sitting by the veranda of the
modest apartment that served as his workshop. The afternoon light caught the grey in his hair and colored the years upon his face.

“Sensei, is everything alright?”

“Everything is fine,” and he chuckled.

I was curious, what could be funny about the hazy Tokyo skyline on a lazy afternoon?

Setting the broom aside, I pulled a stool and sat next to him.

“You want some lemonade?” I asked, pointing to the pitcher sitting lonely on the kitchen table.

“I am not thirsty.”

We sat silent, and time ticked on by.

“People are funny.”

“Come again, I do not understand. Sensei?”

“People are funny. We create this thing called time. And we say we have no time. But time
does not exist. Nature did not create time, we did. Humans did. We divided the movement of the sun, the turning of the earth into hours and minutes and seconds and called it time.”

“So we are the creators of time?” I realized the truth in his words.

“Yes, we created a construct, only to enslave ourselves in it. We are slaves to our creation
called time. We created a guillotine and stuck our own heads through it, and complain that we will lose our heads.”

“That’s kind of funny.” I laughed at the image in my mind. “Then time is what we make of it. We do not have less time or more time. We have just enough. The comedy of our work is that we give people the illusion of time control.”

“Yes, time is what you make of it. We have enough. The universe has given us enough to work with.”

“Then Sensei, if it is not time then what is it? Say we don’t call it time, we must give it a name or a phrase or something to call it.”

“Let’s just call it ‘the passing of moments’.” He smiled and looked at me. “Lemonade?”

I smiled back, got up and walked towards the kitchen.

We sat there that day till the sun set, sipping on lemonade and relishing our moments. We
made watches that gave people confidence that they were able to control this construct called time.

But we both knew, that the control was an illusion. Time did not exist. It was all a label created by mankind.

Instead, moments exist. And it was with moments that the universe ticked by. Now, isn’t that funny?

THE END

The Time Stopped Yesterday

“When will you be back?”

It seem right, to ask him that question. She knew the answer, but wanted to hear him say it. Wanted to hear for herself, wanted to hear her own heart break.

“Not…any time soon. This…is goodbye. For good.”

He walked away.

She did not stop him, nor did she hope he look back at her.

She stopped her tears, placing a finger under her nose. A vain attempt at holding it all inside. Her breathing laboured, her stomach tighten and time stopped.

Time stopped yesterday.

Yesterday, when he told her, “I don’t love you anymore.”

Yesterday, when it rained and she forgot her umbrella. Yesterday, when she miss-match her stripped orange cardigan with her light blue skinnies. The cardigan that was a size too big and hug her like a blanket. Yesterday. It was yesterday.

He walked away. As easily as when he walked in. Only this time, it tore her apart; and as she pinched her nose, her tears tumbled down her cheeks.

Yesterday, as easy as he could say, “I love you,” he also said, “I don’t love you anymore.” And as easy as that, her heart broke.

And she cried. On her knees, hard cold pavement and gloomy skies.

It was yesterday. Time stopped yesterday.

Short Story : Isn’t It Strange

Isn’t it strange?
by Maclean Patrick

Isn’t it strange?

I look out through the glass panel, there’s an old man fussing with his umbrella. The man with the funny haircut crosses the street, avoiding the puddle but getting splash on at the curb. A couple duck under a doorway to take refuge, her mascara muddling her face as she turns to seek sympathy from her boyfriend; who seems preoccupied with his leather shoes being wet.

Isn’t it strange?

An old lady on a first floor window pulling in her laundry only to have her flower printed blouse fall down, blanketing the young man preoccupied with his wet leather shoes. The funny haircut man avoids another splash only to jump into the old man with his half opened umbrella. A funny scene that makes the mascara muddled young girl laugh. And I watch all this from inside a café, waiting for my coffee and a piece of apple pie.

“You want ice-cream on the pie?” I am asked.

“No thanks,” I reply.

Isn’t it strange?

The wet splashed on man apologizes to the old man with the half opened umbrella and in turn, both men get splashed on at the curb. The young mascara muddled face lady reaches over to help wet leather shoe boyfriend take the flower printed blouse off his head, only to have him trip forward and fall into a puddle. Now leather shoes are wet along with his tailored suit.

Now that is strange.

I sit here watching it all, drinking my coffee and wondering should I add ice-cream onto my apple pie.

“Do you have chocolate?” I asked.

“Vanilla would taste nicer,” he nods while telling me.

“It won’t taste that strange with chocolate, right?”

“Strange? No, but I’ve never seen anyone eat it with chocolate before.”

I smile, “There’s always a first time.”

“Now, isn’t that strange?”

“What?” I asked.

The waiter stares out through the glass panel.

“That old man with the broken umbrella is the father of that woman with the messed up makeup. And that young man, the one who knocked the old man is the brother of the woman’s boyfriend.”

I look out through the glass panel, “What about the old woman on the first floor?”

“That’s my mother.”

“Now, isn’t that strange.”

I took vanilla with the apple pie and the waiter was right, it did go well with the pie.

THE END

Story for a friend.

I’m in the habit of writing short stories to illustrate what my thoughts are on a given subject. It is the character in my story that becomes my voice, some how speaking in the third person is a lot easier than speaking out straight.

I wrote a story for my friend Norhayati, when I was in Kuantan in April and she has posted it onto her blog. She had titled her post True Love according to Maclean Patrick. I am no expert on this matter of Love but those are my thoughts on the matter.

As a writer who writes on themes of love and hope and lost, people often asks me on Love. Some-how, people think that writers, who write about love and such; should have this profound answer that will encapsulate and dispel questions people have about love.

Unfortunately, I myself am going through a process of discovery and reflection. It is only because, I have the talent to put my thoughts into writing and to share these thoughts with mt readers that the idea of me (a simple writer) holds the answer to that age old question, “What is true love?”

All I can say is, the answer is not in gaining the answer. True love (most times) has to be lived out. If you still want to know what my answer is, then hop over to Norhayati’s blog and read True Love according to Maclean Patrick.

Short Story : The Silent Whisper

The Silent Whisper
by Maclean Patrick

The heat woke him up. It was 3 in the morning, not a good time to wake up for it will take him close to forever to go back to sleep. In this heat, it was better he stayed awake until dawn. But staying awake was not something he looked forward to.

Sitting up, he looked out the window. The city lights glowed in the horizon. There was still life at this hour, still people going about their business within the graveyard hour.

Midnight did not scare him. But 3am did.

It was the hour the Whispers came out. And as he wiped the sweat from his brow, he heard a whisper.

“Awake. You’re awake.”

He cup his hands over his ears. Closed his eyes and asked the heavens to spare him from the pain of entertaining this unwelcome visitor.

“No point hiding. You can hear me,” she said, her breath; cold against the back of his ear. “Do you have an answer for me?”

He bent over, head touching his knees as he sat; rocking slowly on his mattress.

“Go away,” he managed a weak protest.

“What is your answer?”

“Go away.”

“Answer me..”

“Go away.”

“You PROMISED me an answer tonight,” her chilly lips hovering closely over his fore-head.

She was bolder now. Invading what little private space he had left in his personal bubble. More demanding, more forceful in her request and she was not one to take “No” for an answer. Yet, tonight he had, had enough.

“No,” he finally spoke up.

“What?”

“No,” he lowered his trembling hands, his eyes still close. “My answer is no.”

“Don’t you want release?”

“Yes, but not like this.”

“Just take my offer.”

He shook his head from side to side as his rocking continued. He could feel her, just in front of him, watching him move, waiting for his reply.

“Yes, I am hurting. And everyday is another day of heart-ache and misery. And I’m barely coping from breath to breath. But dum spiro, spero. I’m still breathing, I’m still hoping. If you take me, it will not be like this. I’ll let destiny take me, fate set the clock. Sorry, but you just have to wait.”

There was a silent whisper. A word spoken, yet unheard. He felt her breath as she mouthed a phrase that went pass him and then she was no more. Gone into the night and he knew he was alone, again, in the room.

He cried.

It was 3am, the darkest time of the night and the silent form was returning empty-handed. Her colleagues had more luck. Returning with the Damned. Returning with those whom had replied, “Yes.” They lifted the wretched souls like ragged dolls, jeering at her for she had nothing in hand. She snarled back at them, “I’ll have him. It’s just a matter of time. He’ll break and I’ll bring him back with me. Death always wins in the end.”

There was sadness in her voice, there were tears in mine.

The voice on the other end was cold. It had been like that for the pass few months. It’s been like that since the day she left.

She mouths her words, cold and sharp and I wonder why I bother listening to what she had to say. In being polite, I break my own heart. In being polite, I create another scar over a landscape peppered with broken shards and peeling wounds.

There is a lump in my throat and I can bring myself to ask her to stop. To stop and allow me to breathe and pick my heart of off the floor. I don’t have to hear this, I have heard it before.

But maybe I did need to hear it.

To clearly hear that it was really over and there was no moving forward nor back nor sideways nor upwards or downwards. Stagnant. Stuck. Paralysed.

I let her talk.

“I cannot see you again.” Pause. “Not even as friends. Or anything. I want you to understand.”

Understand?

What is there to understand?

Then there was sadness in her voice. As if it was something she did not want to do yet she still pushed ahead.

“Go to him, and leave me by myself,” I replied. “I’ll be ok.”

There was sadness in her voice, but she did not hear; there were tears in mine.