Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cerita lama

I was in the middle of choosing my lauk for lunch. Pak aji was already seated at the far end of the restaurant. Suddenly someone touched my arm gently, gave salam and asked me, "Are you A?" She used my nickname. The name only used by my family members and known to those who knew my family. But I didn't remember her. Either I have a very short memory or have become a very forgetful middle age makcik. Either that or I just have a brain which conveniently picks and chooses what memory I should remember and which one should be buried deep inside.

She saw the blank look on my face and introduced herself. I remember her. She was just a kid when I last saw her. I was a teenager myself at that time. We talked and asked after each other's family. She knew about my mother's demised 20 years ago but seemed genuinely shocked to know about my father's death after performing hajj seven years ago.

Seeing her brought bitter sweet memory for she is the niece of my ex-bf. You could say that he was my first love; maybe it was just a puppy love or a monkey love or a donkey love or whatever kind of love you want to call it. Whatever it was, at that time decades ago, it was love!

Never once did I asked after him although she tried to bring his name into our conversation, telling me that he had just hold a wedding kenduri last week for one of his children. I just smiled and said, "Baguslah, that means he will be a grandpa soon." Then I steered the conversation away from him, don't want to look or sound so eager to know about him. I just want her to know that I am indifferent to him...

Before we parted, I asked her to give my regards to her parents, purposely omitting his name. I repeated it twice, trying to drive the point in her brain that his name was not included. I hope she got my message well and clear.

You may ask why I acted that way. Do I hate him that much? Do I still have feelings for him after all these years? Or do I hold any grudges against him?

The answer is no to all the questions. I don't hate him. I don't hold any grudges against him. And of course I don't pine for him. In fact, I don't have any feelings whatsoever where he was concerned. All feelings that I had for him were long dead and well buried. The only reason I acted that way was because I don't want him or his family to think that I still care for him or still thinking about him. After all, to their eyes, he was the one who left me. He married someone else first.

But, I have to admit that, after all these years, I'm suddenly thinking about him. Thanks to his niece who brought back that memory.

He was a neighbour's youngest brother, had just left the kampung to find a job in the city. I was still in school. We met, talked and liked what we saw in each other and then we became close. Just an ordinary story of how two young people met and fell in love.

Abah was strongly against the "friendship" because I was still young and still schooling. Emak was 50-50 about it. She was not really encouraging us, neither did she tried to stop our relationship. Although she was concerned that having a boyfriend might affect my studies, she was also trying to be "sporting" and understanding about our young feelings.

People say that love is only sweet and beautiful in the beginning and you might not like to see the reality after your head is back and well placed on your neck where it belongs and not floating in cloud nine like when you were first attacked with the feeling. That was what happened to me.

Gradually I found out that there were several differences between us. I cared for my studies and have high ambition for a career while he was not really encouraging. He was visibly not happy when I did well in my exams, saying that all he wanted was for me to finish my form five and then marry him. And if he had his way, I don’t even need to finish school before becoming a “suri rumah tangga”. But, I never wanted to marry so young!

He was also a jealous freak and we fought every time he thought that I was interested in another boy or someone was interested in me. Once, I was so mad at him when he tore a group picture of me with some friends after performing in an interschool cultural competition. I was from an all girls schools but there were some boys from other schools in the picture. One happened to stand beside me. It was a friendly pose. I didn't even know the boy's name. And the funny thing was, the photo was taken even before we met and I couldn’t understand why he should be so jealous.

Soon he began to show his annoyance if I spend time with some girlfriends. I was beginning to feel suffocated. I was (and still am) an independent person. I am not the jealous type and expect the same from my partner. I wanted to do well in my studies and have a career before settling down with a husband and kids. I couldn't see myself as a full time housewife all my life, financially dependent on a husband. I want to earn my own money as well, to spend as I like. But, what I wanted was exactly the opposite of what he had in mind.

I guess the last straw was when he asked me (forced was more like it) to elope with him when he knew that abah was so against our relationship. He said, we could get married somewhere else and later have the kenduri at his kampung. His family would do the kenduri for us. We didn't really need my family’s blessings.

That set me thinking seriously about the relationship. I could never do that to abah and emak. However much I loved a man, that love would never match my love for my parents. I would never shame them or disappoint them just for a man. Besides, his attitude and behaviour were beginning to annoy, suffocate and, to a certain stage, scared me. I couldn’t stand the pressure anymore.

I felt that both of us needed time away from each other, to pursue our own paths; he, with his job and me with my studies. Later, if we do have jodoh and our love was really strong for each other, we will eventually get married. At that point, I could see and understood what was on abah's mind.

I tried to talk to him about my decision, asking for his understanding. I told him that we were both still young and need to experience and experiment life. I told him that I still loved him and want him to wait for me but let me first have some space to grow up. But it was in vain. My reasoning felt on deft ears. We had a big fight. He used every possible argument to make me change my mind including emotional and psychological threats.

It was at that point that I decided to take my own action. I started to ignore him completely and refused to talk to him. I simply stayed in my room whenever he came to my house to see me. It took quite some time for him to get the message but eventually he did and stop coming to the house. Maybe it was also because at the same time he got a new job elsewhere and had to move away from his brother's house.

Although I ignored him, it was never my intention to completely break off our relationship. I felt that we only needed some time away from each other. He knew that. Only, he refused to listen and to try to understand.

At that time, I prayed to Allah for His guidance and let us have the best way. If we were meant for each other, let us stay true to each other until we were really ready to take the responsibility of marriage. If we were not meant to be, let him find someone else and let me get on with my life.

When I was in upper six, I heard that he got married. I also heard that his wife had just finished her SPM when they got married. He finally got what he wanted.

I received the news with mixed feelings. A tinge of sadness mixed with relieved. And I remember feeling more relieved than sad. I felt relieved that Allah had answered my prayers.

Before he got married, I never saw him coming to his brother’s house. But, after his marriage, he often came visiting with his new bride. Not only that, he also brought her to meet some of the neighbours. But of course he did not come to my house. Someone remarked that he did that just to spite me. Maybe so, because once I caught him standing in the shadow of some trees nearby on a Raya night, staring at me busily putting on the new curtains. I immediately stayed away from the windows, afraid that his wife would ‘perasan’ and scratch my eyes out!

They came more often after they had a child. When we were together, I once mentioned a certain name that I liked and wanted to give to my first son someday. It amused me to know that he named his first son by that name. (BTW, I did not use that name for my son. Not interested anymore!).

Strangely, I did not feel anything other than being amused. I had already forgotten the “cerita lama” and was getting on with my life. I was starting a career as a journalist at that time and had a whale of a time meeting all kinds of people in my course of work. I was also in the midst of getting to know someone new (now my husband, pak aji yang handsome tulah…hehehehe!). Once, my new bf (pak aji) came to my house for hari raya and the old bf saw us together. After that incident, I never saw him coming to the brother’s house and parading his wife and kids in front of my eyes anymore.

I only saw him briefly once after that. We were entering a restaurant when I saw him with his wife, already seated and maybe halfway through their meals. I was with pak aji and kak long who was about six or seven years old at that time. I avoided looking at their direction at all times. Only once I unintentionally glanced towards them and saw the wife openly staring at me. I wondered what he had told his wife about me to make her stared at me that way. Maybe, who knows, I was painted as the She-Devil who had broken his heart. Apa apa ajalah asalkan bahagia!

I never saw him again after. But, once he came to my sister’s office for some meeting between their departments and took the opportunity to seek my sister out. He brought several pictures of his vacation with the family (he has six kids, I was told) to show my sister. I found it amusing to see the extent he went just to convey the message to me that he had a happy family. They eventually talked about me and, surprisingly, he seemed to know a lot about me and my husband! My sister was surprised. I was shocked! I myself know almost nothing about him. I don’t even know his wife’s name.

After looking through his family’s photos, my sister said that our break off was maybe the best thing for us. Now, each of us is happy with our own family. Maybe, if we were to marry each other, we would not be this happy. “Inilah hikmahnya kan?” said my sister. But, he just kept silent and did not respond to her comment.

Well, at least from my personal point of view, I was saved from being a mother of six children (hehehehehe!) And if they were anything like my own three super active kids, minta ampunnnnn! And being a journalist (at that time) who needed to move around most of the time, met all sorts of people and came home at all sorts of hours, we would have end up divorce anyway!

If people were to ask why I can’t be friends with him, my answer is, I think it is best this way. Like I said earlier, I don’t hate him; neither do I hold any grudges against him. What happened was already forgotten and forgiven. I wished him and his family well. But, I just know that we can never be friends.

So, that is my “cerita lama” (taklah melodramatik sangat). I’m sure everyone has their own “cerita lama”, something that now and then will find its way in our memory box, to break the monotony of our everyday routine. Old stories bring old memories and old memories colour our life. Of course memories are always bitter sweet, apart from some other things. Memories sometimes make us want to turn the clock back, to ask for a chance to rectify our mistakes or to simply go through the beautiful experience again.

If I am given that chance, one of the first things I would do is, never fall in love while you are still “budak hingusan”. Pening gila oooo! (pinjam gaya cakap budak-budak sekarang).

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