To love when it hurts the most.

To love when it hurts the most.
by Maclean Patrick


He held it, as if it was cotton candy. Hunch over and seated, he read every word, whispering to himself as the sentences unfolded before him.  And when he was half-way through, he stopped to cry.

A sniffle. A tear. The words stung and he heard his heart break.

‘You knew it would end someday. I did not want to tell you but it ended for me a few months back. I am in love with someone else, but I still want to be friends with you. I still want to talk to you. Because I know, even if I became the devil; you would still love me.’

The old tree creaked as the wind picked up. Dark clouds marched overhead, and the unmistakable scent of rain filled his senses. The leafless, excuse for a tree was bad protection from the elements yet he did not want to move. Maybe if she saw him there, she would change her mind and come back to him.

What foolish thoughts, she was miles away in another state, oblivious to his broken state.

“Friends?” He mumbled.

He knew it was a lie. Former lovers make poor friends. Emotional attachments, when broken, are near impossible to mend and love cuts deepest when the attachments were fortified by hope and sacrifice.

‘I will never come back to you. I will never love you the same way again. But I still love you as a friend. My best friend.’

“Friends,” he mumbled. The word was a curse.

Where did it go wrong? Where had he err? Did he say something wrong? Did he not do enough? Why?

Eyes closed, he pondered the questions as the first raindrops fell. The tears mingled freely with natures’ blessing. Yet the grace of the heavens failed to wash away the dull emptiness clinging to him like his wet cotton shirt.

“Friends?” Saying it was painful.

Up to that moment, all his thoughts were on her. Missing her not in measured time but with every moment. And even as she broke his heart, the only thought he had; was to be by her side. To hold her and assure her, he still loved her. Even when she had stop loving him.

“There’s no such thing as friends. Love is love. Love doesn’t die; you just changed your mind about me.” With that he resigned himself to the pain of loving and being where he was. If the pain of being just a friend would allow him to love her. Then he would take the pain and live to love her.

He stood there; wet to the bone and prayed that the universe would honor his decision. For only he and the universe would understand the merits of such a decision.

To love when it hurts the most.

Advertisements

The Bicycle book cover

thebicycle.gif

The book should be out this week (Christmas week) and priced at RM12 for Peninsula Malaysia and RM15 for Sabah & Sarawak . I love the simplicity of the cover.

There’s a story in every moment

You can sit on a plane or at a (boring) meeting and there may be a story lying in wait. All you have to do is turn, smile and talk to those around you. Every one has a story, has a phrase that sticks, has a tale to tell and places they’ve been. All you need to do is turn, smile and start talking. Do not be afraid to strike up a conversation with the ones near you. And above all, after asking, listen to what they have to tell and take note. You never know when that phrase would seem appropriate when you are writing conversation or laying down a plot.

There’s a story in every moment.

Too many times we try too hard to fomulate a great story. We labour over ideas that HAVE to be spectacular, mind blowing and out of this world. We fashion large words and create outlandish worlds to plant our single dimensional characters.

But stop and talk to those you meet on the bus or a plane or sitting at a coffee shop and you’ll gain a wealth of stories. Real stories with real people, living real lives with real problems and moving in real time. You then take on the role of scribe and thus, chronicle the lives of everyday people. It doesn’t have to be outlandish or spectacular, just honest and true.

Try it. talk to someone and listen to the story, yet untold.

Technorati : , , , , , , , , ,
Del.icio.us : , , , , , , , , ,
Zooomr : , , , , , , , , ,
Flickr : , , , , , , , , ,

Second book off to publishers.

I finally took the step to submit my 2nd book to the publisher of my 1st after waiting (fruitlessly) for MPH to respond to my queries. Here is chapter 7 from my second book – The Bicycle.

CHAPTER SEVEN

A gang of ducks made their way toward the lake. They waddled confidently in single file across the foot path and manicured lawns of the Butterfly Gardens, oblivious to onlookers on their routine afternoon walks, who found the whole scene rather cute.

The bicycle lanes at the Butterfly Gardens were leveled and smooth (for it was a new park planted with various flowers to attract butterflies). Sam did not want to take the chance with the bicycle on an uneven path neither would he ever think of riding on the main road for Malaysian drivers had a habit of hitting anything without the customary four wheel setup.

Getting Elizabeth to sit on the top tube of the frame took some convincing on his part. Fearing the tube would buckle under her weight, he had asked that she peddled and he walk alongside her. She waved it away as nonsense, knowing full well that she was not that heavy and that he was merely being fussy, insisting instead that he peddled them through the park.

She sat on the top tube and he steadied himself and slowly he pushed on the peddle and they moved forward. Initially a little slow but eventually they picked up speed as Sam got into his rhythm.

It was a beautiful afternoon for a bicycle ride. The sun was low and a gentle breeze blew among the trees. The lanes were shaded with low overhanging trees growing along the sides with hibiscus hedges planted in between the trees. The sound of crackling dry leaves accompanied them as they rode along the path that winded its way round a lake shape like a pear.

She leaned against him and once again he caught the scent of her perfume, intermingling with the warm air and blooming flowers bathed by the afternoon sun. Just you and me, the thought crossed his mind. Just two people caught in a web of emotions bordering on friendship? He could walk away from this if he wanted to but something deep inside convinced him to stay on, to walk down a path he was not familiar with, to peer into the darkness and grapple with a feeling he knew little about.

“I like this,” she said, turning her head to gaze up at him.

“I like it too,” he replied, catching a twinkle in her hazel brown eyes. ‘I can’t keep my eyes of off you,’ he thought. ‘Why?’

He held his gaze for a second longer and permitted himself to savor the moment. Knowing full well, moments like these do not come often. There was that feeling again, the kind you get when you are waiting for your new car or when you are expecting your boss to announce your promotion. It was a tingling in his stomach, butterflies? Or was it more like crazy South American killer bees on a rampage. Whatever it was, it only happened when he was close to her and now having her sitting on the bicycle with him intensified the buzzing in his stomach to the point he was now weak in the knees.

It was a deep yearning. A yearning for something more than just friendship. It was a yearning to have her with him at all times. For as he cycled he realized that as everything around them moved by, she was still with him. The scenery changed and morphed into various pictures yet she was still there with him, still the same person he had grown to…love? Was he falling in love? Could he actually be falling for Elizabeth? Why now? Why did it not happen before, during their early years? Or maybe they have been in love all this while, dormant and silent, only to be awakened by the bicycle. A bicycle, which had seen love beforehand and now passing it on to them. Serendipity. The word flashed in Sam’s mind.

There was a time he would not have given a hoot about her but ever-since entering university, where one can choose how they spend their time, he had spent most of his time with her. He needed a friend and there was none closer to him than Elizabeth.

She was the constant in his life. The fixed point that did not change as the surroundings moved along and that was the way he wanted it and that was the way he hope it would stay.

She hummed a tune as he cycled down the path heading towards the lake. It was a tune he recognized, a song from the play where they first met. She rested her head on his chest, “I can hear your heartbeat.”

“You like that don’t you?” He asked. Not the smartest of questions but heck, he wanted to know what she would say in reply.

“Duh? You know I do. You have a nice heartbeat. Steady and soft.”

“A heartbeat is a heartbeat,” he commented, ‘it beats for you,’ he added, though it was only in his mind. A thought he wished he had the courage to speak out.

He quickened his pace, allowing the wind to gently caress her hair, which she had untied and allowed to fall free.

Elizabeth looked up at him, “Are you okay?”

“Besides having your hair poking up my nose. I should be fine,” he replied and winked at her.

“Funny? You think that’s funny?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s not working,” she smiled at him. She was being cheeky with him, flirtatious even but this was Sam, the unromantic moron, who probably would not know if a girl was interested in him even if she said it into his face.

“What’s not working?”

‘Yup. Sam, the unromantic moron.’ Elizabeth felt safe around him. Safe to be herself, knowing Sam would not flop over silly to impress her in order to gain her attention or win her affection. No, Sam was her best buddy and she could count on him to be her best friend, no strings attached, no emotional connection.

“You, trying to be sweet, funny. Trying to be romantic,” Elizabeth replied.

“You told me that I needed to be romantic around girls. So who else can I practice on?”

“Your mother.”

“Crazy girl!”

She laughed and pressed her head against his chest, “I like this.”

‘Me too,’ Sam thought, ‘I love it too.’

“Sam?”

“Yes.”

“Why are you so nice to me?”

“Why? Cannot-kah?”

“No. Just that you’re nice…when you’re like this.”

‘Like this? What do you mean by that?’ He thought. “It’s always good to be nice to people…it’s…it’s the right thing to do.”

“Being nice?” She asked, shifting her head slightly.

“Yes,” he replied.

“But you’re only like this to me.”

He smiled, “Because I spend most of my time with you,” he replied.

“Why?”

He cycled along a curve where the path was level. Hedged on both sides with little red and white roses. He peddled slowly, taking his time to mull an answer.

“I’m comfortable with you,” he replied.

“But most of the time we argue and have those intellectual debates and I call you names.”

“And then we laugh.”

“Yeah. Then we laugh.”

She shifted her head, the top of her head touching his chin.

“Don’t you get irritated by me?” She asked.

“Crazily irritated. You drive me nuts.”

“Then why do you stick with me?”

“Because you’re fun to be with and I wouldn’t want to trade that for anything.”

“It’s not working,” she smiled and gently pressed her head into his chest.

He smiled and quickened his pace. His peddling was smooth, his thoughts were at peace knowing that she was happy. He knew that regardless of what she did to him (teasing, battering, sarcasm), he would take it and at times laugh it off.

He was always gentle with her. Always the friend who stuck by her during the hard and good times. He was there for her even during the times she said she did not need him and there were those times when she got depressed and shut the world out. Those were the times he hated the most. He would not hear from her for a day or two. His calls would go unanswered and his messages un-replied.

They went by the lake, scaring a flock of ducks waddling on the shore. The water sparkle like fireworks as the ducks scampered into the water, quaking angrily at the two intruders on the black bicycle with white trimmed tires.

They stopped under a low hanging willow tree by the water’s edge where they sat down to enjoy the scenery.

She sat beside him, tucking her legs up and resting her chin on her knees. Her hair was tousled and he found it charming.

“That was fun,” she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“Yeah, we should do this more often.”

“Won’t you get bored?”

“Not as long as the company is good.”

She giggled, hearing him say that, “The company is good?”

“What?”

“Trying to be romantic again? It’s not working.”

“Romantic? I’m just stating a fact. Having good company is a…a…good thing…especially when I’m…with you.”

“Why do you stammer when you say that?”

He did not answer her, choosing instead to look out onto the lake. It was not easy for him to talk about his feelings. He got tongue-twisted and messed up his words so he preferred to keep quiet than risk talking.

“Why so emo?” She waved her hand in front of his face, breaking his gaze.

“Nah, just thinking.”

“About your grandmother? You should ask her to tell you more. Maybe you can write a play out of it.”

“Yeah. Just that she still loves the man. After all these years she still thinks of him. Like it happened 50 years ago. How can she hold on to something for so long?”

“It meant a lot to her, I guess. You don’t really forget your first love. It’s takes a long time,” she replied.

“You still think of him?”

“Him?”

“Jason,” he replied.

Elizabeth turned her gaze towards the lake as angry quaking ducks swam by them. Tucking her stray hair behind her ears she sighed, “Sometimes.”

“Sometimes?”

“Well, I still think of him. I still get angry. I still feel hurt. It makes me cry. Like I sometimes wonder why I wasted my time with him. That jerk! How easy it was for him to forget me and chase after that other girl, what’s her name?”

“Tina.”

“Yeah, Tina! Bimbo! After all we’ve been through. He takes off just like that, with a dumb bimbo who thought Guatemala was an African state.”

“Er…where is Guatemala anyway?”

“Look it’s in Central America. Everybody knows that,” she said.

“Alright, geography aside. You were the one who wanted some time off. You wanted the space, right?”

“Yeah. But I told him I wanted time to rethink the direction of our relationship. I felt it was not going anywhere. With all that pestering. You know, be more lady-like, be more feminine. He wasn’t doing any good,” she replied, agitated and upset. “It took him only two months to find a replacement. Two months! Am I that easy to forget? Am I that easy to let go?”

The question hung in the air as Sam pondered an answer. He had heard this a hundred times before, during the months following her break-up with Jason. He had heard her reasoning, her tears, her laments and her anger.

She took out her frustrations on him, pinching his arms or punching his stomach. But she did far worse then just hurting Sam, she also hurt herself. The lines on her wrist visible as she tucked another stray hair behind her ear.

“No, you’re not that easy to forget. You’re special, unforgettable. Only fools cannot see that you are a wonderful person. You didn’t do anything wrong. You listened to your heart and told him what you thought. You were willing to give it another go but he was the one who couldn’t wait. So don’t take it out on yourself. okay?” he replied.

Her hazel brown eyes held his gaze. Eyes that sparkle when she was happy and glazed over when she cried.

He wiped a tear-drop, clear as crystal, streaking down her right cheek, “You did not do anything wrong. You loved him yet he did not reply it in kind. So he’s the one missing out on something wonderful, something beautiful.”

“I’m not beautiful,” she said softly, her voice drowned by the passing breeze.

“Well…cute?”

“Cute?” She whispered, “Ugly but adorable?”

He smiled and reached forward to hold her. She did not object, falling willingly into his embrace. He gently rub her back for he knew she liked that.

‘You will always be beautiful to me,’ the thought made him tighten his hold.

A gentle breeze blew and the willow tree swayed, its branches dancing on the surface of the water. Stray rays of sunlight cut through the tree tops and like golden blades they pierced the lake water. The ducks made a game out of swimming between the golden blades oblivious to the two on the lake shore.

“I’ll be fine,” she said as she broke free from his embrace. “I don’t want to fall in love anymore. It hurts too much.”

He had heard that statement before. It was still her choice but it struck him hard each time he heard it. Now how was he going to tell her how he felt?

There was a chance that she would turn him away the moment he revealed his feelings and he could lose the one person that truly mattered to him.

Sam nodded, he understood fully what she meant. She was shutting out any idea of love from her life. It also meant he would have to keep his feelings to himself.

‘You have to be honest with yourself even if it hurts. It is a risk worth taking,’ his grandmother’s words echoed in his ears. No, he was not willing to take that risk. He was not going to disturb a friendship that meant so much to him. He would keep it to himself even if it hurt him most.

His grandmother was wrong, this was not a risk worth taking.

“Well, if you don’t want to fall in love ever then that is your choice. No-one can stop you from making that choice. Right?”

“Right! And you would remind me of that, okay?”

“Right,” he replied, though deep down he regretted his answer.

“Oh my gosh! That would mean I’d be a spinster.”

“Isn’t that your life-long dream?” Sam asked.

She threw him a look, a face contorted like an angry duck which proved hard not to laugh at. He chuckled softly.

“You always laugh at me.”

He tried hard to restrain himself.

“Fine! Go ahead and laugh. Ish!”

He broke into a fit of laughter and she threw her hands into the air as she watched him roll over to his side. It did not take long for her to laugh along with him.

He sat up, wiped the tears from his eyes and smiled, “Look..one day, you’ll find that special someone. Someone like you would never end up alone.”

“What if I do end up alone?”

“Well, you have me around,” he said confidently.

“Yeah, I’d probably get so irritated. Probably get married just to escape you!”

He allowed the statement to fly over his head. She did not mean it but it still struck him. He had meant what he said. He would be there for her and he would gladly do so even if it meant he would be hurting the whole time.

“Sam, you’re a great friend,” she reached for his hand, “You know what? I’m glad you’re here with me. I want you to know that,” she held his hand as she said it. Her thumb moving in a circular motion over the ball of his palm.

“Eli, I’ll always be there for you…someone has to look out for you.”

“That…might just work,” she said, holding his hand and smiling.

All Ends Well

The monsoon season came early this time, forcing the fishing fleet to remained docked and forcing the army of fishermen into temporary unemployment. Some laze over at the kopitiams but for me it meant fishing at the jetty I called the End Point.

East of the main docks from where we off-load our catch is a lone jetty. Partly obscured from view by abandoned cargo containers and off the beaten path, it provided me privacy to fish and to think. So it was no surprised when one afternoon, seeing the break in the weather, I headed to my favorite spot on the docks lugging along two fishing rods, a small COLEMAN cooler-box filled with live prawns, a red foldable chair and a backpack stuffed with junk-food.

Fishing is an art-form and the right equipment is necessary but rather than going straight to the various Angler’s R Us outlets in Big City, I bought my rods and accessories second-hand from the guys over at the docks. Maybe it is me but knowing that the rod I’ve purchased almost (yes, almost) snagged a whale shark, is motivation enough for me to dish out serious money.

There’s an element of luck involved in fishing and knowing your almost-snagged-a-whale-shark rod is with you, kind of up the chances of catching fish even when the waters are muddy and debris clogged.

Fishing during the monsoon presents its own set of challenges. One of it is clearly visible as I sat at the end of the jetty. The river water loses its normal greenish quality and is instead replaced by a color akin to coffee with too much milk. Fish are particular, and swimming in dirty mud-clogged water does not seem to suit them well. And then there is the debris that gets washed into the river by the tide. Thankfully for me, the jetty jutted out far enough from the shore, stretching beyond the debris field that was washed up by the storm the previous night. The river water was slightly clearer than the day before so I assumed the fish would be swimming happily just waiting to take a nib at the live prawn dangling from my fishing hook.

I baited my fishing rods, cast my lines and waited.

The Big City river cuts the city into two enclaves. The southern part of the city is more urban whereas the northern areas seemed to be caught in a state of limbo, between being urban or rural. It seemed a clear separation from haves and the have nots. The poor and the rich. Abundance and lack.

The Guilty and the Innocent.

It would be a far fetch thing to separate a city into two and place people on either side based on a Judgement of Guilt. Yet as human beings we do separate individuals based on our own judgement of guilt. We have a river that cuts our perception, that determines who we associate with and why we align ourselves with them. But who are we to judge when we ourselves fall under judgement?

There was movement to my right but it was not my fishing line. A small sampan was making its way to the End Point, paddled by a lone old man. He came up along the jetty, docked his sampan and made his way up the ladder with a single fishing rod. I greeted him with a smile and he replied in kind.
He sat to my right and cast his line and along with me waited to see if the fish would bite. He lifted his white skull-cap ever so slightly and mumbled, “Panas.”

I smiled and offered him my water bottle, “You want some water?”

“Thank you.”

He took a sip and returned the bottle to me.

“Lama duduk sini?”

“Lama juga…you’re from the village?” I asked, pointing to the other side of the river.

“Yes, and you?”

“I stay near the docks.”

“Off day?” He asked.

“Bad weather.”

I scratched an itch on my neck, the heat was getting to me but the fishermen’s stubbornness had struck me and I was desperate to see my almost-snagged-a-whale-shark rod catch something.

“Nice looking rod,” he said, “Looks like it can catch something big.”

“Well, this one almost…”

“Caught a whale shark?”

“You’ve heard about this rod?” I was beginning to feel very small.

He pointed at his rod, “Mine caught a turtle.”

“Turtle?” I asked, grinning sheepishly.

“Turtle,” he replied.

“Did it really almost catch a turtle?…er…” I asked, looking at him.

“Haji Sapiee,” he said, smiling as he adjusted his glasses and extended his hand.

“Ryan,” I replied, taking his hand.

We shook hands and he managed a chuckle.

“You shouldn’t believe all those stories when buying your rods. For all you know, it could have been gambar ikan paus.”

“And yours could have been gambar penyu too.”

“Haha…No. I was there when this rod caught a turtle. Over at the tanjung, two years ago. I had to jump into the water to unhook the turtle from my line. So I’m really sure what this rod can do.”

“Lucky you.”

“Not everything is luck.”

“Really?” I asked.

“It’s about being at the right spot at that particular time.”

“Takdir?”

“Takdir? Hmm…I think you can say that.” The old man replied, nodding in agreement.

“You believe all things are pre-destined? Even the two of us sitting here fishing?”

“Why not? Everyone has a role to play, a place in the bigger picture.”

“Even if things turn out bad?”

“If it serves the purpose…all is fair. Insya’allah.”

“The good and the bad would then serve a purpose. Nothing would go to waste and nothing would come back in vain. That’s an interesting argument.”

“You believe in Isa. Without Judas, there would not be a cross. Without the betrayal, there would not be a betrayed and there would not be someone to die. Everyone has a purpose even if it seems their role is evil or the outcome is bad.”

“But it hurts to lose so much and you’ll never see the outcome,” I said, my voice almost drowned out by the sound of the swirling wind.

“We were never created to see the future but rather to live in the present in surrender to our takdir.”

“But we can always change our takdir, not everything can be passed along to mere fate.”

“If you choose to, then it is your takdir to make better your life. Can we really read the mind of the Almighty when it comes to the doings of our lives? It is a matter of perspective. Not all things are bad, even bad things have the potential for being a good thing.”

“Your views…they…are different,” I nodded.

“The more I learn, the more I see things are not what they seem. I’ve been accused of being un-knowledgable in religious matters.”

“Serious?”

“Yes. But then fools will teach the wise.”

I looked at him surprised, “Sounds familiar.”

“I’ve read your Injil,” he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, “I believe it is good to have knowledge of what other people believe in. What we do not understand does not necessary have to be bad. It just means, we don’t know enough to make a conclusion.”

I leaned back and turned slightly towards Haji Sapiee. The wind had picked up a little and we could hear the sound of Haji’s small sampan bumping against the jetty post where it was tied to. The laughter of children, carried by the wind, reached us from the other side of the river. The heat had driven these children to take an afternoon dip and I could see that Haji Sapiee was keeping a watchful eye on them.

“Anyone you know?” I asked.

“My grandson is among them,” he replied. “He can be naughty at times but he’s a good lad.”

“My son would have been that age by now.”

“What happened to him?”

“Accident…” my voice trailed to a whisper and I felt a lump in my throat.

“Are you angry?”

The question struck me. It has been more than a year since the accident, yet was I still suffering from it?

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Sometimes, I think I am but sometimes it seems

I’m not. Maybe I was angry at what had happened. Still I find myself asking why it happened to me?”

“There are many things too high for us to understand. We must accept and be thankful for the life we have, and do good while we still can. Do as much as we can, time is short but the effects of what we do can last a lifetime. No matter how small our task, it may help shape someone’s walk through life.”

Those words stayed with me as I watched Haji Sapiee paddle his sampan back to the other side of the river. His grandson greeted him and after saying goodbye to his friends, followed Haji Sapiee back home. Haji Sapiee walked a few steps and stopped a while to wave at me.

I waved back, knowing full well, I would see him again whenever I was at End Point and maybe in a serendipitous way it was his small task to help me along.