Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Commoner's Short Story: A Goodbye with a Smile

It was a Saturday morning, and I was up early. I could hear the birds singing melodiously through my half opened window. The tangerine sun was just making an appearance in between those green hills, not too far away from my place. And the sky seemed unusually clear, a sign that it was going to be a sunny day ahead. As I was wiping the sleep from my eyes, still nailed to the bed, I heard a faint female voice calling my name from the other side of the door. The voice was barely audible, so I tried shutting off all of my other four senses in an attempt to affirm what I had heard. I couldn't. "That's weird", I murmured, convincing myself that it was just my imagination. I climbed off my bed and headed towards the door, just to check so that I could rest my conscience. No one was there when I opened the door.

I was lying on my bed, staring blankly at the ceiling, while trying to orchestrate my plans for the day. I could come up with none. The blue sky was declaring its presence slowly, and I could feel the gush of fresh air blowing into my room. "Maybe a breezy morning walk would be good for me", I said monologously. So after a quick bath I straight away put on a plain white t-shirt and a pair of bermuda shorts. I grabbed some small change I had left on my coffee table last night, for breakfast later I thought.

I decided to go through the park that day, since it would be a shorter route to the town. The grass was still covered with dew, and the asphalt was still damped from the downpour last night. It was still early, and I could only see three people around at the time. One guy who jogged pass by me, and two old ladies who were peacefully performing their tai chi routines less than a hundred yards away. I was walking pass a huge old oak tree midway through the park when I first realized that the sky had turned slightly greyish. Dark clouds were gathering, slowly but for certain, and I could sense a storm coming. "Someone's having a moodswing", I joked. So I made quick my pace heading towards the town's coffee shop, figuring I could just retire there with my breakfast if it should rain again.

As I was walking towards the park's exit I noticed one of my shoe laces came untied. I was attending to it, half kneeling, when someone tapped my shoulder. I looked up and saw a stranger with a familiar face. She had light brown eyes, flowing auburn hair, and the kind of mellow smile that just comforts you. "Jesse, is that you?", I found myself asking her. She gave me another smile. I haven't seen her in ages, since we were kids. I remember we used to play hide and seek in this very woods every summer holiday, when she would come visit and stay at her uncle's place, a stone's throw away from where I used to live with my parents. One summer she just stopped coming around, and I never saw her again after that. So enthusiastically I asked her what she was doing there, and she said something that sounded like "came back to sort out some things". I didn't pay much attention, I was just stunned. The odds of running into her there of all places, and then of all time.

The sky was still grey, but it didn't threaten to rain somehow. So I invited Jesse to sit on the bench next to us. Maybe do some ten years worth of catching up in a few minutes. Breakfast can wait, I thought. We talked, actually I was doing most of the talking since Jesse didn't have much to say. She reluctantly answered my every question with a word or two the most, constantly avoiding to elaborate further. She was more interested to know my end of the story, like how I've been doing, whether I still live at the same place, and stuffs like that. I found it strange that she appeared hesitant whenever I tried to turn the topic around. And somehow I was puzzled with the way she looked. Even with the beautiful smile crafted on her face she couldn't hide the sorrow that was radiating from within. "Maybe she's just worried about some problems at the moment", my mind was telling me.

It was about 9.30 a.m. when the first drop of rain finally came down. Our conversation was interrupted, but Jesse said she had to go anyhow. I invited her for coffee, but she declined the offer politely, asserting the fact that she really had to go somewhere. Before I left, I asked her, "Can I see you again tomorrow?". She just gave me a smile and said her goodbye. We then went off our separate ways. I sprinted my way to the town's coffee shop for shelter. And I arrived thanking God that I was not soaked yet. A set of toasts and two cups of coffee indulged in while waiting for the rain to stop. I went back home right after.

The next morning I woke up excited with the idea that I might see Jesse again that day. I didn't have the uncle's house phone number, so I thought I'd just show up on his doorsteps and ask for Jesse. After a bath and some light grooming, I headed to her uncle's house near where I used to live. This time I brought my umbrella with me, just in case. I strolled down the road with a smile planted on my face, and a happy tune of whistling to go with. As I arrived at the vintage off-white porch of her uncle's house, I found my heart suddenly pounding in a vigorous manner. I knocked on the door three times before a man that looked like her uncle, if I remember correctly, answered with a smile. I politely asked for Jesse. Suddenly his expression changed, somewhat full of grief then.

I sat on the pavement, overwhelmed with all sorts of feelings. Shocked, sad, scared, and puzzled all at the same time. What that man said kept ringing in my ears. "I'm sorry son, she died. Nine years ago. Yesterday. They found her body in the park. She wanted to go see her friend. So she went one morning, but never came back.", the man told me while trying to hide his sorrow, but still visible through his eyes. I threw up next to the tree nearby, the feelings were too overwhelming to digest. Then I headed back home, suddenly finding tears running down my cheeks.

*story based on the essay written for my SPM paper*

19 comments:

Johana Dato' Johari said...

Excellent!!

Irfan Shai said...

thanx auntie jo! =)

this would be one of the symptoms of the "boredom syndrom"...

Eemelduh said...

SOOOOOO feeling! I'm here sitting at college, freezing cold and tired, in-between classes... then I started reading this and I swear it brought me to another place. Kudos!

Irfan Shai said...

thank u, imelda... =)

boleh masuk "Singapore Ghost Stories" tak? haha...

Eemelduh said...

this is more of an emotional story, not quite horror. Ok la, try for 'chicken soup for the malaysian soul', i'll give you that much! =p

rinkimeki said...

If this you wrote just your for your SPM paper...

I have to say you are freaking awesome writer dude.The story moves me...

Irfan Shai said...

thanks rinkimeki. unfortunately, i did not write the story as it is for spm. it's a remake, if u might call it...

i am more well read now compared to years ago, so of course the grammar and the vocab have improved a lil'...

Anonymous said...

feeling gila cita ni. great for short movie.

Anonymous said...

Eh Bro, which part of the country do you stay? You"ve got summer sure also got winter mah! But still, very good story mah! feel like crying mah!

khaliq said...

Is there a book in there. Perhaps when you have more time, you might want to consider writing short stories and hopefully a novel someday

Irfan Shai said...

thanx anonymous and khaliq for the comments. i'm from a humble country called malaysia. haha. it's a fictional story actually, so i thought i'd just put in "summer" so that some people can relate to the story. i was just writing this out of pure boredom. but i'll try to write more if i have free time. novel? not so sure. i've got my hands full with engineering stuffs! =P

Eemelduh said...

fun, was this story somehow based on a true event or character?

Irfan Shai said...

nope... pure fiction. i was wearing my thinking cap during the englsih paper and this was what i came up with... haha.

Sanjay George Daniel said...

awesome story irfan! i am very much moved with the story. and i strongly urge you to start writting short stories and get it published! hats off buddy! and write more of this kinda short stories! simply amazing!

Eemelduh said...

ahh... okay okay.. well congrats on the widespread publicity! :D Do not forget me when you're rich and famous someday..

Anonymous said...

Good story line. Though the ending is somewhat predictable, its still very pleasant. Well done

Irfan Shai said...

anonymous: haha. thanx... sorry 2 disappoint. i know it is, i couldn't seem to think of how to end it in a better way. so i wrote what i wrote 7 yrs ago. maybe i'll write better stories next time. thanx again...

imelda: yea right. it won't be anytime soon la. owh, i got in for masters in Universiti Malaya.

Anonymous said...

"She wanted to go see her friend. So she went one morning, but never came back" I wonder what had happened to her. perhaps that's where you might want to write about. What's her purpose in appearing some 9 years later? Sounds like a good start to second episode!

Eemelduh said...

omg. really?????? CONGRATULATIONS! That is amazing! I'm really honestly happy for you, I know how hard you work and it's slowly paying off. I am proud of you Irfan. I really am. :)