Saturday, December 30, 2006

A match made in Heaven

By James Ooi

I was just sitting at Starbucks on a rainy Sunday afternoon. It was drizzling softly, little raindrops just falling incessantly forming a translucent screen of water drops as I looked out at the quiet street outside.

For a place that's full of action in the evenings with people partying their guts out, Bangsar sure is quiet on a Sunday afternoon. Peaceful even. Across my table, there's this attractive Malay girl dressed in a beige dress that would have been demure if not for the plunging neckline which showed off her ample chest.

Quite a fair woman for a Malay lady, I must say. She highlighted her wavy shoulder-length hair in shades of brown and gold. Her face is serious as she types and peers in full concentration at her laptop screen, sipping occasionally from her steaming cup of coffee. She doesn’t smile much. Probably because she doesn't want to attract any unwanted male suitors.

But dressed as she is. How can any man resist talking to her, much less avoid looking at her. She bends down to collect a dropped pencil. I get an fortuitous eyeful of her full breasts. At that moment, I decided that I would try to get to know her and perhaps get her hand phone number as well.

What the heck man? The most I would get is a slap but that's provided if I am too forward. And the least I would get is, "Please go away." And what I hope for is a smile and the start of something new perhaps. Later on, a meeting for dinner. And who knows what else. My heart beats wildly in anticipation.

I look at her for a moment too long. She senses me looking at her. She looks up and our eyes meet. I smile at her. She smiles back at me. Irresistibly I wink at her. She blushes and that's my cue. I walk over to her table which is just five feet away from me.

Just five feet away from a relationship with her and God knows what else. It's now or never as Elvis used to sing. And for me, it was now. As I walked over to her table, I knew it was going to work.

This time.

We had been dating for the past year or so. Actually a year two months and eight days from the day we actually first met. I can still remember our first meeting, the smell of her scented hair and how she looked on that first day. Reading the first part of my tale here, you pretty much would have guessed it I must say.

In case I forgot to mention the fact, well I am Chinese and Maria my girl friend is a Malay girl. In Malaysia, well that's not a well-accepted thing and because of religious implications, well this kind of matches are by and large a rarity.

The first few months of our courtship was a very traumatic thing with our parents on both sides objecting strongly to the relationship. But we prevailed and after about nine months, plans were afoot for a wedding. So we had gotten engaged just after nine months of dating.

And I know that is was fast by any standards.

We weren't young. I was in my late thirties and she was in her early thirties and we were pretty sure and happy that we would be together for a lifetime if not more. Could we have been lovers in another lifetime? Could we have gotten to know each other previously? I don't really know. Just that we seem to click so well together.

Sometimes my brother Joe would kid around with me, "Koko, so now how? No more bak-kut-teh and your favorite pork sausages man? How about your daily char-siew-pau?"

I laughed and said, "Can still eat beef and other stuff wat. Also not forgetting my beef steak and thank God I can still eat roti canai and tosai man! If pork is something I gotta give up, I guess I can lah for Maria."

Then Peter my younger brother said, "Hey I heard you gotta sacrifice your foreskin to the butchers. You do already? Did it hurt?"

Grinning, I said, "During the circumcision, nah. After they sew you up, it kinda tingles a bit. But you better not get an erection because that could really hurt as the swelling can pull at the sutures and that’s when you can scream bloody murder."

Aside from the initial questions and stuff, everything kinda settled into the normal scheme of things. We got on with the plans for the wedding. Maria got along with my family and relatives well and they loved her and drew her into their hearts. As for me, things couldn't be better. My future in-laws warmed up to me after the initial objections and more than made up for it with the warmth and acceptance that came once they realized that Maria and I had decided to be together for life.

We went for the wedding photo shoot. A full day of posing and changing into different suits for the photo session. It was so tiring at the end of that day. You wouldn't believe how exhausting having a whole day photo session is. No wonder being an actor pays so well. It's a lot of hard work. And that also when you don't even say a single word.

Things were working so well that I was beginning to wonder. Did I do something right in previous life or what? I never felt so happy before in my life before. But I had this nagging feeling that one wasn't meant to be so happy.

I just couldn't understand why she didn't turn up at the wedding reception. She had been missing for the past few days. She must have changed her mind. At least she could have called me and told me about that. Rather than let me wait at the hotel with the crowd of guests there. I felt that it was a betrayal of the worst kind to me.

Groggy and in a state of vertigo, I looked up and there she was standing looking at me. She was standing there in her wedding dress. God, she never looked so beautiful to me. There were tears in her eyes as she tried to be brave and smiled at me.

"Honey, I am so sorry."

"Why? Why? Why? I don't understand."

"Sometimes things don’t work out the way we want it to. I had wanted so much to spend the rest of my life with you. I just want you to know that I love you with all my heart and I always will."

Reaching out to hold her, it was then that I woke up with a hangover in my apartment. Was it a dream? Did she actually come to see me? I couldn’t decide whether I had dreamed it or if it was figment of my imagination?

I had drunk myself silly the night before. I knew it was wrong to drink. I just couldn't help it. I was feeling depressed and broken-hearted. Lost and alone. I just couldn't cry anymore.

All cried out.

I heard someone at the door. Slipping the morning paper under my door. It was Maniam. He delivered newspapers from the mini market store of his, on the ground floor of the condominium. He was a very reliable guy and on time every morning.

Stumbling towards the door, I picked up the day's edition of The Star. Looking on the headlines, I suddenly sat down looking at front page. It just read, "Bride dies in Car Crash"

And outside the balcony the rain had started to drizzle again. Just like the first day I met her. It was raining then as it was now.


SilverfishWriters said...

This is a different story from your usual, James. But I cannot believe a newly-wed will not know where his bride is for two days. Not without some explanation at least.

Anonymous said...

James! Revealing a romantic bone :-). I thought that the read was a bit disjointed, from the reminiscing leading to the discovery of death. Maybe the wedding prep/last days could be thought out and fleshed out more to support the twist at the end. Any more surprises?...SL

Anonymous said...

I'm having some difficulty with your story's ending, James. The way weddings are here, there's no way the guy wouldn't know that his bride had passed away as soon as her family members found out about it. Also in a Malay wedding, it's the groom who goes to the bride's home and it's the bride who waits for him. Hope I'm not nit-picking too much. Zu

Kere said...

A story's opening lines has got to be catchy, something that gives you a clue to what you will be reading next or something that will make you want to continue. I didn't find that in your opening paragraph.

The whole forbidden marriage thing has been done to death I think. Yes I know, race and religion is a big deal in Malaysia but I find Malaysian stories always tying things off by somebody dying (in what people believe to be a tragic-romantuc way) instead of taking the bulls by the horn and having their characters actually live their 'difficult' lives. After all, lots of people have done it, no?