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shorts

More shit. Clearing out my “backlog.” Not sure if any of these are actually any good.

satu
Walking around a shopping mall—alone—on a Wednesday night. It’s 10.00pm and nearly everyone’s gone home, all the shops are either already closed or are closing down and most of the lights are off . . . the mall becomes a pitiful shadow of itself during the daytime.

Passing time, waiting for my friends to finish watching a movie. I’d decided against joining them—never liked movies—so I had to find something else to do. Wish I had realized that the only thing to do in a dark, nearly-empty shopping mall is feel lonely.

Walk past a pharmacy, closed, light from inside spilling out through transparent plastic shutters. I stop and stare for a while and cast a noticable shadow for the first time that night.

Wonder if the few people I see still hanging around are in the same situation as I am or if they don’t have any other place to go or if there’s nowhere else they want to go.

See a man looking at remote-controlled cars in the display case of a darkened toy shop. I catch a dim reflection of his face in the glass, creepy obsessed look painted all over it like a five year old in a candy shop visually devouring everything in sight as the owner looks on worriedly.

Notice his eyes shift from the toys to me—I am standing behind him—so I decide to walk on, leaving the man to his devices. I lose sight of him in the dark soon after. Someone begins to whistle a song, I don’t recognize the tune.

Walking up turned-off escalators, I notice a boy and girl playing rock-paper-scissors on the escalator across from me. They must be the only two people having fun outside of the movies . . . sweet smell of perfume wafts in out of nowhere.

Decide to stop and watch them for a while, don’t have anything better to do anyway. I look at my watch: only 10.45, friends won’t be done with their movie for a while yet. I stop wishing I had joined them and watch the two lovebirds instead.

She wins—rock beats scissors—and takes a step upwards while he takes a step down. He wins—scissors beats paper—and takes a step upwards while she takes a step down. Their laughter reverberates through the nearly empty shopping mall, bounces off tiled floors, glass windows and plastic shutters.

The dance continues until she reaches the top first, the boy five or six steps below her. She smiles down at him, flashes pearly white teenager teeth.

“You cheater,” the boy says in jest.

I am suddenly reminded of you.

dua
One day, Old Bill—who lived in a ramshackle shack on the outskirts of the village, who always wore a bucket hat and a tattered, greasy Hawaiian print shirt, who always smelled of kerosene and dried-up saliva and who had probably not seen a razor blade in at least 3 years—lost his voice.

It was the worst thing that could have ever happened to him. People only liked him because he was funny (or, rather, a joke) and they liked laughing at his ramblings and all the silly things he said. Now that he had lost his voice, his worth amongst the villagers plummeted like a DeLorean falling off of an incomplete railway bridge.

Old Bill kept walking around the village repeatedly trying to engage in conversation—he liked how the villagers would always humour him—but no-one wanted anything to do with him now. There was nothing to laugh at anymore, so why would anyone bother talking to him?

They couldn’t laugh at his appearance because half of the village population looked just as bad—if not worse—than him. But they prided themselves on at least being right in the head, which was more than could be said for Old Bill: Heroin addiction does take its toll on one’s mind, sad to say.

Slowly, however, the villagers began to realize that perhaps Old Bill wasn’t useless. However, instead of entertaining him and his near-incoherent ramblings, they began to actively try and humiliate him and belittle him. They’d call him names and say nasty things to him, put him down verbally like one would put down a sick pet.

And they enjoyed it. Enjoyed it more than they expected to. Soon it became a sort of competition: see who could fuck Old Bill up the most. Bonus points if they could actually make him cry. No-one had ever seen him cry—some even doubted if he could—but that didn’t stop them from trying.

This went on for five long months, and over those months Old Bill kept crying in his ramshackle shack every night, the smell of kerosene thick in the air, wishing that he could speak, that he hadn’t lost his voice. Maybe they wouldn’t hate him so, he thought. Maybe they’d still love him, he thought. Who knows?

At the start of the sixth month the villagers decided that they’d had enough of Old Bill and that things were getting boring. The very first night of that month they walked to his shack like a funeral procession except armed with pitchforks, butcher knives and many other varieties of both sharp and blunt objects.

They were going to have some real fun.

tiga
Mother and father, greying, wrinkled, she dressed in floral print dress and he in turtleneck sweater looking over personals:

“This one’s nice.”

“Ooh. Yes.”

“26. Not too old.”

“No, not too old.”

“Architect. Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture.”

“I’ve always liked architecture. Did you know my—”

“Yes. Your late father was an architect, and your late uncle Ahmad, and your late brother Johan.”

“Oh. You remember.”

“Of course I do.”

Father looks at mother with a disapproving gaze. “Do not doubt my memory,” his face seems to say. Mother nods.

Outside the wind begins to pick up. Distant rumble of thunder. Neighbour’s dog begins barking at something.

“Anyway, back to the boy.”

“Of course. He seems nice.”

“Indeed. Has worked in a prestigious architecture firm for two years. Salary ‘comfortably above RM5000’.”

“Seems very nice.”

“Indeed.”

“Handsome too.”

Father looks at mother and nods.

Mother gets up, floral print dress wrinkled from sitting down for too long. Walks past the kitchen, cat meowing for dinner, and stands at the bottom of the stairs. Shouts out:

“Razak dear! Come down, we found someone who might interest you!”

Dull thud from upstairs, sound of Razak tripping over stack of law textbooks.

Mother and father, in separate rooms, smile simultaneously exposing rotten yellow old-people teeth.

empat
Doesn’t hear me or her handbag and pulls out her purse.

“I can’t hear you.”

She joined either Peter or Bob . . . things I should have done: gone to and fro taking orders in the eyes, but she pulls it away. I died in a car crash: I see her shake but she pretends not to hear me. I want to look straight at her face, “trying to pity,” as you’d say . . . I’d pity everything under the sun, really.

I look outside, hear the rain. I can see that she means it. She’s looking past me, out the back yard and the walls which could be the ones that dear old Bob had.

On a Friday your restaurant is busy. I am suddenly afraid . . . afraid of your CD collection.

She gets up, covered with posters—pathetic attempts to draw—audible above the din. I can see it and touch it, but she redirects me and it reminds me of you. Of your protest, songs of religious friends written before your time.

Friday was always the song playing on the radio . . . head to the mosque on Friday too . . . talk about anything, serving dishes. Those eyes. One can only relax in the afternoon heat, khow that she’ll pay and get it eventually.

But today: handling so much more truth than usual. People talking about things I didn’t do through the small window, joking while waiters move . . . I take her right hand in mine.

I try to put my other hand onto the table. I look out over the sea of people, no longer wondering what else I’ll see in play now. We sing songs, tears in her eyes. I don’t cry . . . can’t.

We spend time inside the stuffy bedroom light collection—don’t talk about the freedom, songs of the rage and the conviction the falling and the traffic—of your family. We make love four times that night.

One day we are ready to leave. She grabs anyone who would have agreed. I can’t think—I am smoking weed—and I don’t know what they’re there for. I discuss how much of a shame prayers are.

I make one last meal, laugh and decide to start a band. Mutter something barely audible: “every band will remember how we used to fight.”

But when I do, I ask: “what have I done?”

Her eyes, I can see it all.

She begins walking away.

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