Story by Lee Su Min
Turn on the Light
Once you woke up from a dream you could never go back to sleep again.
And even if you did it would have been a different dream.
The impression of Tom was vague. If you asked me to sketch him I could make a two-dimensional picture of him. But that his voice and his manners could not be duplicated. I was just waking up to the day when I saw him at the beach.
Whenever I tried to recall Tom, I always remembered a woman seated at the reception. She was warm but not too friendly. I imagined her to be working with Tom. The woman’s expression looked unhappy and she fitted into the entire old, dilapidated surroundings perfectly. I was only a teenager when I first came to this hotel.
The reason why I remembered this woman so well was because she had the same name as my mother. It was just too coincidental as the spelling was exactly the same. I saw it on her name tag which she pinned on her staff uniform. I remembered that at the time I asked her if she was also holding a Singaporean passport like my mother, she looked defensive and she quickly turned her head away to shuffle some papers.
That left me with a nagging question to this day that she was the receiver of my mother’s stolen passport.
Mother was a piano teacher and having a student at home when I came back today. The sound of one of the examination pieces could be heard from inside the house. I took off my shoes and put them inside the cabinet at the front entrance. I could see that it was Claire the secondary school girl, as I recognised the pair of white Adidas shoes on the doormat. It was slightly worn out and she had a pair of pink shoe laces. She seemed to be in a hurry to get into the house for one shoe was thrown on top of the other. I almost wanted to pick up the shoe and put them back properly.
Dad was an architect. His business was to make drawings of houses but not to sell them. He was short, but fair, so you could not describe him as tall dark and handsome. I never thought that my dad was good looking, and often wondered why a good looking woman like mother landed up with such a plain man.
I was doing my secondary three in the school at the time and all along staying in the house instead of the hostels. They have beautiful blocks and in order to get a feel of student life many would have joined. I thought of the clothes to wash and the going out to the dining room to eat after class together with the rest of the students in the other faculties. I realised that this proposal would have come from my parents if they wished to be rid of me. But no suggestion of hostel stay came. However it did occur to me that once out of the house I was no longer under their watchful eye.
Recently I often heard the words green card being mentioned. At first I didn’t know what a green card was. I did a web search then realised that it was for U.S. permanent residency. That put me on notice at once: my parents were planning on migrating to the States without me! I freaked at the thought and I immediately went into action. I found my mother’s passport in her drawer. Next to it was my dad’s. It was silly of them to leave these important documents unattended. But then they trusted me. We had no full-time maid and never in their wildest dreams would it occur to them that I would steal their passports.
I took the passport and kept it in my drawer. There was no problem I knew that my mother didn’t check my drawers as I was already old enough. And only then did I realise that drawers must always come with locks. No lock meant that anyone could go into my drawer to rummage things. So I found another way to hide mother’s passport. I put it amongst the books. I have a large bookshelf in my room. The books were not arranged in any order, like the way the library did. No filing by subject title, neither was there any alphabetical arrangement. I found this to be the perfect place to keep her passport. I slipped it amongst two of the books. However I wasn’t alert enough to look at the two titles, believing that I should be able to remember where the passport was kept.
And then I went to take a shower.
Fifteen minutes later I went back to my notes again. I was doing architectural drawing, part of technical drawing. I have a special drawing board with clips on both sides. The board is propped up making the surface at a 45 degree angle. I was very happy to be making my last sketch on the paper. It was not easy. The lines had to be finely drawn and sometimes it was impossible to view an object from the side. From the front it was always very easy. Even from the top it was not too hard to visualise. I was no great talent but I usually got it right. Once this project was done I could go on and listen to my favourite - the Bee Gees. They were the old tapes which I still kept with me.
I entirely forgot about the passport until one day when mother came in to ask me if I wanted to travel to Penang with her. I had never been to Malaysia before so I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. Malaysia was a new country to me altogether. And I was surprised that they weren’t bringing me to the States. What happened to the green card?
But I said yes to mother, forgetting that her passport was with me, and that she would want to look for it at where she kept it.
The minute she walked out of my room, I quickly went to look for her travel document. Alas! it was not there anymore. Where else could it have been? I pulled all the books out, almost emptying my entire shelf. But none was there. It was not in any plastic cover I remembered so actually it was easily recognisable. And if it was not there, who else could have taken it?
I knew that if I went to mother to report the loss she would know that I took it. And if I were to report loss, it would be a declaration that it had been lost for good. No, I couldn’t do such a thing. I must give the thief a chance to return it. I decided to keep cool and wait. The passport has no legs. It could not walk away by itself. It had to be there.
Mother wasn’t eating in tonight so I had the entire night to search for her document. I had cooked beef stew for myself, and then I went into my room. Automatically I arrived at my bookshelf. Strange, it usually got me the books that I wanted, I never had any problem finding any particular book.
Ok! I know. Mother cleaned my room. She must have arranged my books and then found the passport. So the document was with mother now, I need not worry so much. I let the thought sink in and then I continued with my drawing. No other being came into my room that night. I meant no one else came into my bedroom that night.
Dad wasn’t home yet. When Dad was still outside we often left our front door ajar so that he need not dig into his pocket to find the keys.
In the middle of the night, I heard a click sound, and I thought that it was the neighbour shutting his door. The man was a bachelor living alone. He drove a Ferrari and wore a Rolex. I described him as such for it was the most striking thing about him. Sometimes I saw another car parked in the garage and a woman coming into his house. Why I could not say more about him was that he never spoke to me.
So on this instance I deduced, that the sound came from his side. It never occurred to me that the sound could have been from my own home. I refused to wake up for I needed my beauty sleep. But then another click came. This time a little louder. I opened my eyes. And there I saw a shadow in front of me. I knew that it wasn’t anyone from my house, as this shadow had long hair. Mother kept short hair. I didn’t know if you have seen a ghost before, but this woman was definitely one. I could not see her face, as it was pitch dark.
The problem with me was that I always slept with the lights off, so that I needed to turn on the lamp by the side of the bed before I could send her away. I believed that if I had as much as turned on the light, she would disappear. But then something else told me that she had come here to help me, that if I asked a favour from her, she would help me search for my mother’s passport.
So I spoke, “Can you help me find the passport?”
I was direct and I was surprised that she too was forthcoming.
“Yes, this was what I was here for,” the woman’s voice was a whisper.
“How did you know that I want you to find my mother’s passport?” I was surprised.
“Where did you put it the last time?” she ignored my question.
“I think I left it in between two books - “Death by Perfume” and “Beyond the Sky”
“No worries, you will see it there when you wake up in the morning.” She said as she floated towards my bookshelf.
I didn’t know what time it was, it could have been past midnight. But that I knew that the outside was dark, and that I had better obey her words. She definitely had supernatural powers. For if she didn’t, how could she have arrived at my bed?
I did not believe in prayers. I was too proud. And I wasn’t afraid of ghosts. I wasn’t working in the hospital line or what, I was only in my early teens, even my parents were not yet candidates for the next world. So I decided not to fight her, and let her leave when she wanted to. I lay still in bed, she standing by the bedside again, and we stared at each other until another click sound. Then I saw her turn around and floated out of my room.
The next morning, true enough, I found mother’s passport right where my unseen friend said where it was - between “Death by Perfume” and “Beyond the Sky”.
Mother finally packed her clothes in her suitcase. I knew because she always made a big fuss about it. And then whilst I was packing mine, I came across an article in the short essay section. It wrote of a girl in a swim suit standing in front of a mirror saying to herself, “Goodbye, Helen,” involuntarily, several times. She used a pen name so she might not have been the real Helen. The story was kind of eerie so I quickly threw the newspaper away and went back to my drawing.
The flight from Singapore to Penang was short. Before the plane could properly settle down in high altitude it had to descend. It landed punctually at the airport and as it was a small flight check-in was fast. As we were queuing for the immigration, I saw that mother was holding another passport.
Mother arrived at the immigration counter.
“This passport is brand new?” officer said.
“Yes,” mother replied.
“When was the last time you entered Malaysia?” officer queried.
“I can’t remember,” mother replied.
“In that case I would have to scan your fingerprints,” the officer said.
Mother put her fingers on the scanner obediently, as though she were some kind of merchandise waiting to be sold.
When mother saw me on the other side of the boarder, she told me,
“I thought the man wasn’t going to allow me to cross over,”
I was very surprised as I thought that she had found her passport. Then someone else must have taken mother’s passport ….
Yes, that meant that mother’s original passport was stolen! OMG! So that day when the lady ghost appeared at my bedside, she was here to steal my mother’s passport. She wasn’t a supernatural being. Carrying the argument one step further, then it could be that dad left the front door ajar for her to enter. How much was the profit margin?
No ghosts, awoke from my dream, the situation was real.
I could not contain my myself and I must have looked awful.
“Susan, are you alright?”
“Err, yes, I was just air sick,”
“Naturally, this is the first time you have been on the plane, let me give you a sweet, it helps.”
Several taxis were waiting for airport passengers when we stepped out of the arrival hall. The road to the hotel was slightly bumpy and as we were trying to take in the scenery from inside the car with torn tattered leather seats, the driver disrupted our thoughts.
“Are you here for the Halloween?” he asked.
By this time I had completely forgotten about Helen and her swimsuit. This was a new experience for me as I had never been overseas before.
“No, of course not. Halloween is a European tradition. I am surprised that you know about it. I thought this is a Muslim country,” dad sounded as if he thought we had landed in another city.
“This is Malaysia, no worries, Sir,”
“I just hope that you know where our hotel is. It is the Rasa Sari Hotel,”
“Talking about the hotel, do you know that it is haunted?”
“Rubbish!” Dad pronounced.
The taxi man gave a smirk, we could see on his face that he wasn’t going to give in on that. So from then on the journey was conducted in silence.
Forty minutes later we all arrived at the Rasa Sari Hotel. The car ride took as much time as the flight journey. I stepped out of the car the moment the driver stopped his engine. The grounds were filled with coconut trees and it being the hottest time in the year, the trees were still, as though the palms were on strike refusing to give in to the call of nature. As we stepped out of the car, I could see a few coconuts on the floor, they were ripened and abandoned by the villagers and dwellers at the hotel.
I could see that the hotel was not fully occupied.
Dad had to tip the taxi man twenty ringgit before the man would come out of his taxi to lift our luggage out of the boot. We waited, reluctantly he dragged them onto the hotel lobby. I was actually quite surprised to see the hotel staff in a blue batik uniform. Some were large white flowers with blue background, and others the same flowers in a red background. The men were in white pants whereas the women staff were in full dresses. I knew instantly that from now on the conversation would be in Malay throughout.
I knew not how to converse in Malay.
Several of the staff came up to help us pick up the luggage, and within three minutes all the luggage were brought to the concierge. One man brought dad to the reception to register for the six of us, whilst the rest of us sat at the lobby to wait for the room numbers.
The first thing we did was to survey the hotel facilities. No dirty toilets, air-conditioned rooms. The restaurants were not too crowded and the bell boy who brought us to the hotel was chatty. He could speak English so we quickly asked him for the favourite tourists’ spots.
“Just relax at the beach, Sir,” he ordered before he closed the door on us.
They say that when your energy level was low, you tended to encounter spirits from the next world. Mine was low I was sure. For the woman I was almost certain was a ghost.
We arrived at the beach.
The sea was calm, we could hear the gentle sweeping of the waves across the sea, a soft rhythmic motion so consistent you would think that there was a timer to it. But this was nature. I looked up and I saw an aeroplane fading into the other corner of the sky. I felt wrapped up by the entire atmosphere. I wanted to shout out loud.
Dad had good sense. He knew that we had to go back to the hotel so he hurried us away. The hotel seemed inconsequential now. All I wanted was to go back to the beach. The sea has a calming effect on me.
We took two adjourning rooms. Number 504 and 506. Between the rooms there was a door which could be locked from both sides. We immediately opened it up so that we had one large adjourning room. Dad and Uncle James slept on the sofa bed.
In the middle of the night, I heard someone knocking on the door. It was loud enough for me to wake up so you could guess how loud it was. My neighbour, meaning my mother who was sharing the bed with me, did not hear the noise as she was snoring. She had some wine in the evening at dinner whereas I refrained. Dad finished the bottle and promptly went up to sleep in his room with Uncle James.
The noise was persistent so I realised that I must answer it, otherwise it would continue till dawn. I was in my pyjamas so I wondered if I needed to change out of it. My pyjamas was a track suit long sleeves with a decent pants. I made a split second decision and with some effort I opened the door. No one was standing outside!
I began to get curious, the knocking was loud and clear. Who could it have been? Who else could it have been? An unseen guest! Then I remembered the night I was at home on the day when I confiscated mother’s passport. The same being has followed me all the way from home! What shall I do? What can I do now?
With some bravery I walked out of the hotel room, the floor was carpeted so there was no need to put on a pair of shoes. I turned left as our room was right at the end of the corridor. I could see the picture of a beach house just opposite me, and the room number 526 on the room. Ours was room 504.
Then I heard a whisper, “follow me,” I felt a compulsion to walk down the corridor. I wasn’t sure if the voice came from inside room 526. There was no one in front of me, no one behind me. Only me and the mesmerising voice. I walked all the way to the lift lobby. There a vase with a few stalk of white flowers stood on top of a long table. The table had a lamp which was bright enough to lit the entire lobby area.
I heard the lift coming up and the door opened when it reached my floor. At fifth level it could go up again. Suddenly I felt the urge to see how many levels there were altogether. So I walked in and I pressed the number on the top which would bring me to the twelve floor. This was a small hotel and it wasn’t too tall. I travelled up to the twelfth floor and then I decided to come down again.
There was no table with a flower on the twelfth floor.
Common sense told me to go back to my hotel room and sleep. So I walked back to my room. I remembered the white flower at the lobby area. But … hey wait! This was not the fifth floor. The flower on this floor was a purple orchid. What happened to the white orchid?
“Go to the water,” I heard someone say. There was a couple who came out from the lift and the man said to the woman.
“I will go to the pool tomorrow,” his companion the woman said.
This time I had no idea which floor I was on. It had to be the fifth. I was staying in room 504. 504 meant the fifth level, room four. I pressed the number five. The door closed on me this time, which meant that I wasn’t coming in from the fifth floor. I must have been asleep. I told myself. So I had no choice but to let the lift bring me to the right level and then let myself out, go in again, and go back to where I came in from.
A man came in. We did not say hello to each other. I saw him press six on the lift and then when the door opened I saw the white orchid. So this was the right level! I forgot that room 504 was on the sixth level, the first level being the ground floor. The hotel used colours of different orchids to mark the floor level. I walked along the corridor until I saw 526, and then I was happy to see the picture of the beach house still hanging there. I turned and went back into room 504.
The next morning, having woken up from a sleepless night I decided to survey the hotel. I went to the hotel concierge and asked them where the hotel pool was. The man told me that it was on the twelve level just around the corner.
My mother was a frail thin woman not very robust. When I came back, she was still in her sleep having had a tiring day.
Dad came down late for breakfast and as usual he criticised us the moment he saw us.
“Why didn’t you take more butter for your bread?” he asked.
It was too difficult a question to reply for I had no idea how much butter was sufficient for that thin slice of bread. And then,
“Why aren’t you having orange juice?” he asked again.
“Err, … “ I had no good reason for that.
“You know that you can’t have lunch until 12:30, if you don’t eat now, you will be hungry again soon,” he started to lecture me.
“But then orange juice is not food!” I tried to argue. That was very brave of me.
“Now what you need to do is to go and get some grapefruit juice, and then see if they have porridge.” Dad concluded his order. What happened to the orange juice? The strange thing was that when I went to the buffet table the juice section, orange juice was finished and only the grapefruit juice was available.
I dutifully went to the buffet table and grabbed myself some muffins and croissants. I saw the butter and I took three cubes of it. And then I also grabbed an otak. The buffet table was not crowded as not many people were up and about at this hour. When I went back to our breakfast table, Dad had his newspaper with him and he read it with his face buried in the pages. I could see a picture of the funeral procession of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the reverse side.
The whole morning I kept wondering where the hotel pool was.
After breakfast, dad and mother went up to the reading room to continue with the newspapers, whereas Paul and I were left to our own devices, we decided to explore at the beach. It was some distance away and we had not gotten actual permission from the adults. When we arrived at the scene, we saw people scattered about the beach. We had no idea if they were the guests from our hotel. The beach had no demarcation or fence to partition the individual hotel grounds. It was just one long patch of sand with debris from the sea.
I had some knowledge of the law and I deduced that ownership of the land did not extend to the sea, so that each hotel only owned that piece of land which stood on firm ground.
I had already put on my swimming costume before I came down so that I was decidedly ready for the water. Dad did not know about this for I was wearing my jeans and t-shirt over it.
Paul wanted to make a sand castle.
I sat on the beach. And then I turned around to see if Paul had joined me. Nope, he wasn’t there. The wind came. Ooh! It was breezy, “nice and cool,” I thought to myself.
“Susan, where are you?” Mother shouted.
“Coming,” I said. And I quickly got up to meet her.
This morning I was at the beach again. The sand castle I made yesterday was not tall enough. I was going to add more sand to it, making it look more majestic. I had brought my bucket to the beach, and I desperately wanted more sand. The sand nearer the shore was finer, and they had more seashells. I was quite happy to be getting more seashells for it made the castle more decorative.
And then I saw the nicest shell.
“Susan, where are you?” I heard mother shouting again and this time I decided to ignore her.
And then I heard Paul talking, “Go on, go up and get more sand,” he said.
I wanted desperately to make the most beautiful sand castle. I took a step forward. I could feel the water running under my feet. It was warm water, contrary to what I thought. Sea water was warmer than tap water upstairs in the bathroom! Feeling quite pleased with myself, I walked further down. One wave came and it swept some of the sands away making a chip on my castle. For now I was not afraid of the seawater anymore. I had not realised that I was walking into the sea into the ocean.
The sky was as bright as it should be. At noon day, there was no reason for any storm.
Suddenly there was movement. The sea became a little choppy. It started to form waves. One wave came and then another followed. They were small waves, coming up from the sea. The waves became louder and made a splash on the beach, then it receded and collected the objects on the beach back into the sea, it swept some of the sands away. Once it hit the shore, another wave would form and come round. Like a series of dance movements, synchronised and powerful. I froze at the first wave. I tried to walk back to my sand castle. That was my purpose for being here …
Finally one wave hit the beach strong enough to pull me back to the sea, I gave in to her vengeance. I lay low in the water, unable to move, paralysed by the force of the sea. I opened my eyes and I saw several fishes, they were so tiny and I said to them,
“Hey, I am going to die soon …”
“… in this case, you just relax here with us…” the fishes said to me.
And then suddenly a pair of large hands grabbed me by the side and pulled me out of the water. I was almost there - in the other world. The man pulled me out as though I was a piece of luggage, he put me onto the beach, my heart still beating.
The man’s voice was loud, “the water was very shallow, if she had not panicked, she could have stood up by herself and walked backed to the shore,” the man knew that I was tricked by the water.
“Open your eyes,” I heard Dad’s voice.
I opened my eyes and I saw them: Dad, Mother, Uncle James, Auntie Michelle, and Paul. Their faces lined up in a circle in that order. I came to.
I was alive again.
I still haven’t forgotten about my sand castle. Was it still there? Has someone else claimed it in my absence?
After the scare, mother and dad warned me not to go back to the beach again. “Just watch television for the rest of your stay here,” they ordered.
So I stopped going to the beach. I missed my sand castle. The castle stood alone perhaps still waiting for me to build it to completion. The sun came down and the waves subsided. Everything was peaceful again. No storm, no calamity.
I was happy to be just reading Agatha Christie the “Evil under the Sun” became my journey for now. I was no longer travelling with dad and company as I was deciding on whether I wanted to be Christine or Linda. I brought the story back into my bed at night, and I was quite satisfied with the status quo.
From the air I could see the blocks of houses arranged in a neat but not too conforming manner. I leaped at the thought of safe walls with no waves to engulf me. The minute the pilot announced that we have landed, I switched on my iPhone and got up to fetch my luggage. Many were already queuing up along the isle.
Since the near drowning incident at the beach, I have carried with me a small Bible wherever I went. The Bible I marked the various books and flagged them with yellow post-pad. And then I began to take an interest in the scriptures. Life went on as usual and after my final exams at the university. I got my mortarboard together with a present from my dad - a beautiful watch.
Mother kept my swim suit and never mentioned the event to me again. I casually asked her for the name of my saviour and she told me it was Tom. I in fact didn’t notice how he looked like so that I could never recall him. No, I was not going to tell you a story on how I spent the rest of my life looking for the lifeguard. He was not a professional life-guard and he was there only at the particular point in time he saved me from drowning and he left me there on the beach for my parents to claim me. The best part was, that my parents were trying to figure out how to use a new camera at the material time. Technology!
Yes, I was also hooked on the internet of things, and I was also hooked on my drawing board. I really liked drawing lines, making it to scale. It was not easy, seeing one object from three angles. It was like interpreting one statement from three points of view. I saw things in a very simplistic way - yes or no. Maybe that was why I never made it to become an architect.
I was to become a housewife after I married and cousin Paul married before me. I never got a chance to meet his fiancée. We had parted company since we came back from Penang, as dad said that it was best we forgot about the drowning incident, and the best way to go about it was to avoid seeing the villain. You could call Paul a villain, as he was the one who urged me to go further down the shore away into the depths.
When news came that cousin Paul was to marry this Christmas, I was shocked because Paul was barely graduating from university at the time. During the Christmas family gathering he vaguely spoke to me and then asked me for a glass of orange juice. I went to the fridge and offered him a glass. He accepted it but did not thank me. I came to the conclusion that he was upset. But that did not worry me. Paul was on the same level with me as far as hierarchy was concerned, since we were first cousins.
And then after dinner mother dropped me a bomb shell - that it was a shot gun wedding. So it was not inconceivable that he would have acquired a fiancée so soon. I was just too keen to see how the lucky woman looked like. I bought a new dress, with little sequins at the front to impress the new relation.
“Susan, meet Helen my wife,”
GOSH! THIS IS HELEN?!
This the Helen who looked into the mirror and said, “Helen, you are going to die soon?"
Did Helen replace me? I had been Paul’s fiancée all the while!
There was an old wives tale, that cousins do end up marrying each other. I never for one instance thought that I would marry cousin Paul. But why was it that I was given the article to read, and I became the victim, and now the victim’s name had been changed back to Helen?
No, I must reject these notions at once.
I turned my head away, I could not bring myself to take the outstretched hand. I took two steps backwards, and I left the scene and walked out of the wedding hall. After a while, I turned around, and was surprised that no one followed me. I thought they would. Oh but I wasn’t an important guest, the bride and groom were.
I started walking for the sake of walking, yet at the same time I knew that I should not leave the hotel premises. I would have to return to the wedding hall after I have cooled down. It was rude of me to leave a wedding party before it had ended. I took my steps fugitively yet purposeful, determined to straighten my thoughts out.
Finally I saw the pool.
Yes, I was supposed to look for the pool. I remembered that eight years ago I was directed to look for the pool. I didn’t find it then and now I found it. Was it the same pool? No, of course not. How could it be? You silly! I knew that I have started to talk to myself again. But this time it wasn’t from a passer-by. There was not even a soul around me.
The place was dark, but thank God there was still light. I could see the reflection of the poolside lamps on the water. I wanted to touch the lights. I have always liked bright lights and city life. I was just given an interior designing job to redecorate the lighting in Dunhill Park. I looked at the pool. No one was swimming. I guessed at this hour everyone else was having their dinner.
Yes, the wedding dinner. Paul had finally married. And you couldn’t say that I was happy about it. I had a crush on Paul since I was thirteen. He was my male idol. Maybe that was why I never found anyone in the university. It was a repressed crush. I guessed all first cousins were the default spouse. In the Old Testament, they did say something about inter-marriages between cousins. Or did I read the Bible wrongly?
Suddenly the pool disappeared. Oh no! They have switched off all the lights! So I could only find the lights under the pool. I reached out my hands to touch the pool. The water was warm, a bit like the water at the beach. My memories came back, I was at the beach now. In fact I was in Penang now. Paul and I were at the shore making a castle. At the time we were making a castle for the both of us to live together happily ever after. Yes, we did promise each other we would marry once we grew up.
Sadly that message was not conveyed to a third party. A vow made between two young teenagers you could call it puppy love. Paul grew out of it but I never did. I had not seen Paul for almost a decade yet I still loved him. Was it a puppy love that I would eventually outgrow? No, the chance never came. For before I had found someone else, Paul had turned his back on me. Helen was the winner. She was the queen.
Inside the wedding hall, guests arrived one after another. Then the couple walked down the aisle together to loud applause, the people celebrating their good fortune. I couldn’t say for sure if Paul will ever see me again. I guessed after tonight Helen would have the first claim on him. No cousin could compete with a spouse. At most I could say that I was once his fiancée. Between the ages of thirteen to twenty-one. Paul was one year older than I.
As I went deeper and deeper into the past, my feet became colder and colder. The water was soft, it adapts to your body. You could move anywhere when you were in the water. It was not like a structural wall. I reached out my hand to find the lights. Wasn’t it at the bottom of the pool?
Yes, it was. I could feel the tiles. This was a pool, this was not the beach at Penang. And then I remembered the words – “she panicked, she could have stood up by herself and walked backed to the shore.” Ok, it was that easy. I stood up. My head still submerged in the water. Oh dear, this time I am going to die, I am really going to die. It was ok, after all, Paul was no longer mine to call.
And then suddenly, a hand grabbed me by the side. Someone pulled me by the waist, and then I was lifted out of the water …
“Who are you?” I asked.
“What do you think you are doing?” the tall looking man asked.
“I was just, oh, I was just trying to swim.” I tried to cook up a story. Suicide was a crime.
“Swim?! At night in this evening gown? Who do you think you are trying to kid?”
The man looked at me and I looked at him. In fact, he was rather good looking. The whole area was dark but I could still see his eyes shining like a torch. And then suddenly the power supply came on. The place became bright and for the first time I saw my saviour.
“Oh, you the life guard,” I tried to be clever.
“Don’t be rude, I am Patrick,” the man said, and then he continued.
“Paul sent me out to look for you, he was very concerned,”
“There was nothing to be concerned about,” I retorted.
“I fell into the pool accidentally,” I had to protect my sanity.
“Of course,” Patrick gave me a queer look and then he ordered me to go back to the wedding hall.
Involuntarily I followed. I had not met such a good looking man in my entire life. And I thought that I was beginning to fall in love …
Inside the wedding hall, the guests were already seated having their second course. I took my seat next to Patrick and we chatted the entire night until dessert came, then Patrick told me that I should keep my weight. In turn I told him how many kilos I weighed. And he told me that his car could only accommodate two - the driver and a thin woman.
I just could barely fit into his passenger seat. Goodbye Paul!
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