this is a continuation to this story, Inveigh
Leaves scattered everywhere in September, mounds of them piled on the side of road and streets, remnants of what is left of the fading summer. The early wind of winter blew that evening but the fallen leaves were languid and dormant, barely rustled any movement. Looking at the brown and yellow leaves in patches along the pavement, it is hard to imagine that these dead leaves were once full of life and vibrant. What his sister said suddenly came to his mind, about how the seasons change certain places so much, that it can hardly be recognized. A view in June is another place in September. Maybe they change people too.
Ariff’s trail of thoughts stopped as he reached the door of his room, his hands fumbling with the keys, cold from the 20 minutes’ walk back from the shop. Akmar was sitting in his bed, his back leaning to the walls while his knees folded and rose up towards his face. He was wearing a sarong and a shirt, reading a book between his knees with earphones plugged into his ears. However Mar noticed Ariif’s return and raised his eyes for a second from his book before poring over it again. Ariff walked towards his towel and as he passed Mar, he stopped. Seeing Mar in sarong and all, Ariff wondered how he initially had mistaken Mar as a local. He has slightly slanted eyes, a definite sign that he must be at least partly Asian and he is also missing the large Caucasian nose. The only thing Ariff could think of is that Mar was fair, fairer than most Malaysians normally are, the reason why Ariff had mistaken his nationality at first encounter. Besides the fact that Mar spoke English to Ariff.
As he stood there, Ariff casted a transparent shadow on Mar. Mar looked up at the static figure in front of him and caught Ariff gazing at him.
“Pi mana tadi?” asked Mar. Ariff didn’t reply but instead continue staring silently. Mar cocked his head inquisitively to the right and asked again. His question again hung in the air before Ariff clenched his teeth and stormed to the lavatory, leaving Mar perplexed. And slightly shaken by the thumping of the lavatory door.
Unable to make an end to it, Mar returned to his study.
“Ariff, hang nak makan pizza tu ambik la. Ada lagi. Panaskan dalam microwave,” said Mar to the person on the bed. Ariff didn’t reply at first, before he tossed around, facing the wall and replied.
“Tak lapa,” he mumbled.
Mar said okay as he climbed into his own bed, leaving his sullen roommate tinkering with his phone late into the night. Ariff played aimlessly with it and was already bored and tired when at 1:51 am, it beeped a message.
The message reminded him of what had happened earlier, of how it was not a badly conjured dream, but instead a sudden blow of unexpected reality. It angered him as he lay wide awake on the bed, with thousands thoughts awaken by the two contracted words. The questions threw themselves one by one to him, followed by answers, or rather assumptions, created by himself. They all however led to no conclusion and only kept his eyes wide open long into the night, staring at the whitewashed wall. Suddenly he heard bed sheet rustled so he turned and saw Akmar getting out of bed. He watched as Akmar groped in and out of the lavatory, before spreading the sajadah. Akmar did all this in the dark and only after he stood up to take his towel, did he switch on the lights, which surprised him as he saw Ariff staring at him. Akmar peered closer and when the eyelids batted, he jolted back, surprised.
“I thought you sleep with your eyes wide open,” said Akmar. “Or haven’t you slept?”
Ariff’s eyes were unfocused as he stared, still lying on his side when he spoke.
“Eja . . .Apsal Eja?” Ariff asked.
“Eja? Eja what? You mean spell something?” Mar asked back.
“Eja. Ko kenal Eja?” Ariff said as a matter of fact, though he ended with a trace of question.
“Eja? Oh. Yang mana satu?” asked Mar.
Yang mane satu? Ramai sangat ke orang name Eja?
“Yang suka kat ko lah!” suddenly Ariff raised his voice slightly higher.
Unexpectedly Akmar laughed shortly in reply. He was by then at his computer and turning it on when he turned and addressed Ariff.
“Sorry, sorry. It was quite funny hearing that. So. . .I’m afraid I have to ask again. Eja yang mana satu?” Mar said.
Celake, banyak ke Eja yang suke kat ko.
Ariff didn’t reply so Mar added, “Yang ni ke?” as he turned his laptop towards Ariff and showed a picture of a girl in her blog. “Bukan? Kalau macam tu, yang ni la kot?” he said as he correctly showed a picture of another girl, also from a blog, the girl Ariff had been referring to. Ariff had been silent all through and Akmar only relied on his facial expressions in reply. And they were angry at the moment.
“Kenapa? Hang kenal dia ka?”
Hang, hang. Ko la! Bukan hang!
“Dude, what’s wrong? You acting so weird,” Mar questioned him further. He repeated a few times afterward but since there was no reply, he washed himself and threw on new clothes. Mar was packing his laptop into his bag and about to go out when Ariff said something that made him stop in his rush.
“Die awek aku,”
“Oo,” escaped from Akmar followed faintly, “oh shit.”
Akmar didn’t turn around before he opened the door and left the room.