Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Stalker Within

By Sabarina Abu Bakar

She drove towards the small bungalow. The third time this week. Her heart sank upon seeing the well lighted room.

"Why didn't he call?" she asked silently. She pressed the negative sign on the volume button. Slowly muting Joan Jet's "I Hate Myself For Loving You".

As she neared the house, she slowed the car. Hoping for a sight of him. But it was impossible to go any slower for it was the main road she was in. Other drivers would honk and that was the last thing she needed. In between sighs, she pressed the accelerator and drove past the house. A wide junction not far ahead provided an opportunity for a U-turn. She made one and drove towards the house again.

She spotted a wide pavement in front of a paint shop. "This is perfect" she thought. It gave perfect view of the house. She stopped the car, off the engine and scroll down the window.

The small white single storey bungalow seemed unperturbed by the activities on the nearby main road. Cars, busses passed by, leaving doses of unhealthy smoke behind. Despite all this, the house still looks grand. Surrounded by pots of bougainvilleas, their colorful petals stood out against the white paint adorning the bungalow. The tall red brick walls offer its residents some privacy from the passers by. The house seemed recluse but yet, friendly.

Despite many cars in the compound, there don't seem to be much activity around. In fact, she had not seen a single soul coming in or going out of the house for the past three times she had passed by. Even his mother's helper was not in sight.

Her mind flew to one month ago when they spent their last Saturday together before he went off for his Haj trip.

"When are you due back?" she asked. He looked at her, sipped his drink and said, "IF I am back, it'll be on the third week of January" stressing on the IF. She looked at him long and hard and asked, "Why if?" sounded worried.

"It's all in God's will. You know how it is during Haj. Anything can happen" he replied calmly, avoiding her gaze. Immediately, her face softened and she continued eating.

That very conversation haunted her since two days ago when she was suppose to hear from him, but did not. She called, messaged him but none was replied. That drove her to his house. She would have rang the doorbell had she was formally introduced to his family members.

Suddenly, she saw a dark blue MPV stopped in front of the house. Followed closely behind was an apple green Myvi. The automatic gate slowly opened. The MPV went in. The Myvi remained outside and the gate remained opened.

Then, she saw someone drawn his room's curtain closed. She saw a physical shadow of a man behind the window screen. "Is that him?" she wondered. She knew it was his room. Suddenly the shadow opened the window. She slid lower in the driver's seat, hiding her face in the process. Within a split second she realized the stupidity of her action. No one would notice her. Many cars were parked by the road side. Hers would not attract any attention. Then the windows were shut close again. She let out a relief sigh.

Within minutes more cars arrived. Some parked by the house, some opposite the road. Few cars were parked behind her car. More people were seen walking towards the house. Man and women. Some went in, some lingered in the garden. Most of them looked Indonesian. She never knew Reza has Indonesian blood. The men were mostly wore songkok or kopiah. The ladies, she noticed were all in baju kurungs or kebayas. Mostly in black or white and all donned with tudungs or selendangs. Suddenly, she felt a pang of panic. This would normally mean one thing. Somebody has passed away.

The azan came at just about then. Very loud and clear from the nearby mosque. Calling all Muslims to perform their Maghrib (dawn) prayers. Little by little darkness enveloped, as the sun dips further into the western horizon. The TNB's road light were automatically lighted one by one, replacing the retiring sunlight. Soon, the roads were well lighted for passers by. Fortunately, her car was not parked under any of the road light. She remained hidden but overwhelmed with emotions.

The bright light shone through the windscreen. She was reminded of the good times. A series of " should have " thought flashes through her minds like a reel of film. She should have taken the phone, called him and just tell him that she missed him when she did. Or just confirmed his constant teasing that yes, he was special to her. She should have agreed to be introduced to
his family when he had offered. Then, she could just step into the house now instead of having to offer her prayers from afar. Now, it was too late. She would never know how he felt about her though she was sure about her feelings for him. She felt a deep sense of regrets.

A group of men were seen to gather at the main door awaiting something. A long stretcher came out from the house, carried by a group of eight people. The stretcher carried a long box covered with green cloth. Words of the holy Quran stitched in gold threat were embedded on the cloth.

Suddenly, all voices died down. A man's voice was heard reciting the prayers. The group took three steps towards the awaiting MPV and stopped. The man recited the prayers again. Another three steps were taken before the stretcher finally went into the MPV. She could see some people wiping away tears while some were seen consoling the others.

Slowly, the MPV left the house compound and went into the main road. The MPV and the remaining vehicles that followed drove slowly passed her car heading towards the graveyard located at the end of the kampong.

She could not bother to hide her face anymore. With each passing vehicle, her heart sank deeper and deeper. She felt a void in her heart. She wanted to cry out his name, scream her heart out but her voice failed her. Even her tears refused to flow. She felt so helpless and empty.

Suddenly, a beeping sound from her phone startled her. She groped in the dark searching for her phone. With squinted eyes she pressed a button. Her jaw dropped upon seeing the message , "My mother's Indonesian maid had an asthma attack. She passed away at 2.30 pm today - Reza".

Her tears flew like a broken dam. Sadness and relief intermingled.