I Ain’t The Walrus
January 29, 2010

And all I could see is darkness. For opening my eyes would only bring me back to the chaos in the room.

My shoes are oceans apart. I’d flipped them off the minute I slammed myself through the door. The right side, hitting the TV tuning it into the American Idol auditions -- as if I’m not in enough pain already. The left, hidden deep beneath the obscurity of my bed. Surely I’ll find some gems while looking for it. I believe my treasured box of Geri Halliwell cutouts from 1996 are still in there.

(I was 13. Thanks for making our prepubescent years colorful, Ginger Spice.)

I’m on the chair now. My hands clasping tightly onto its legs. My feet, stomping incessantly, thumping away sounds that will surely wake the neighbors up. Not that I would regret it, though. The cretins have been on my back for the past few days themselves. While I embrace our differences in musical preference, looping the Black Eyed Peas at the volume of a jumbo jet isn’t entirely courteous. Oh there it goes again.

Yes Fergie, tonight is going to be a good night. At least until I smash the stereo.

I get off the chair and head on to the bathroom. Barely three steps on the tiles, I see there, in the mirror adjacent to the sink, the image of possibly the scariest figure I’d ever seen since Joan Rivers. How did I even get that necktie wrapped around my forehead anyway? Why am I looking like Rocky Balboa after that final, tumultuous round with Apollo Creed? That’s alright, I guess... I’m starting to talk like him already anyway. And my hair is akin to someone familiar ringside, Don King.

I’m still in my office attire. Well, partly. The buttons are all torn apart. I shouldn’t have reacted like The Hulk after losing a bet on his racehorse. This is, after all, one of the only five shirts I have for work. I suppose I’ll just have to make do with the safety pins for now. At least I’ve still got my pants on..and there you go. Sliding down right onto the drenched floor. Just what I needed. Then again, my belt has, been as loose as a politician’s promise.

Turning the tap on, filling the sink full, I drown myself into its shallow waters and try screaming within the dampened acoustics of it all. Bubbles emerge on the surface as if a group of frogs had just bawled a huge croak in unison underwater. And I lift my head rapidly gasping for breath as I again endured the painful sight in the mirror, of a now soaked –- imagine not -- Don King/Joan Rivers crossbreed who talks like Rocky Balboa. Not without a necktie on his forehead.

I tremble on to the ground, rolling into the parquet floors of the room and crawling onto my bed. Punching the pillow remains a placebo and kicking the bedposts proves to be no more fruitful than banging my head on the wall. Which is what I’m planning to do. If only I could reach the wall, first. Or lift my head, at the very least.

I guess I’ll just lay down here, on my back, close my eyes, and think of random things. I see a gnome running around a polka dot mushroom now.

Stupid bloody toothache.

Nice Pants
January 15, 2010

Tell me. How do you guys do it?

It’s 905am at the office. You need your early morning coffee to kick-start the day and waste more time before you start doing actual work. So you walk out of your cube and off to the pantry you go. You say "Good morning" and "Hello" and "In your face glory hunting Man United rag" to the cubes leading you to the coffee maker.

On the corridor, you meet people walking by, holding their mugs or newspapers or gym bags or kids... for the maid, had run away, again, last night. And you say pretty much the same things to them: "Morning" and "Hey" and "Nice pants" and "In your face glory hunting Man United rag" (to the kid).

You brew your caffeine and walk back to your cube, happily. Except for the minor burns suffered from walking with a full mug of blistering hot coffee. All in all, though, it’s all good.

It’s 1034am. You have yet to open any office e-mails. As the harvesting of your pumpkin crop circles on FarmVille, takes precedence over the company’s tanker stranded in the Pacific Ocean. Above all else, however, is the urge to take a restroom trip that suddenly creeps in; after all that coffee.

And you walk, out of your cube, into the corridor, where, from a distance, you see Jim, your colleague, whom, this morning, you’ve greeted, and enjoyed a small talk about sports rims. You don’t usually talk much with Jim; just as you are with everyone else at the office. Well, you do talk to them. But you’re not blessed with the eloquence of Perez Hilton. In other words, you can’t simply bump into them and talk about the Kardashians.

Not that anyone cares.

So you walk toward each other -- you and Jim, not Perez (as much as you want to) -- and you’re both torn. Do you guys look up and smile to each other? For a good few seconds before you’re both on the same latitude and longitude. But what kind of smile would it be?

A huge glee supposedly directed at the same humorous subject matter (e.g. the grunts in the men’s room this morning)? A tiny snicker? But all that would do is create an awkward, empty space within the time continuum of your journey to the loo. One that would flirt with your masculinity as you’re forced to look into each other’s eyes. Or, do you guys just walk, and look at the floor as you throw glances at the nothingness of your sides? Until you’re both within inches and throw a cool "Ssup?" his way, vice versa.

Newspapers would usually, ideally come in handy for me. I personally find it helpful. For when a figure is in sight, as I walk through the passage of the corridor, my fingers would swiftly flick on to a page as I stare at it with a convincingly concerned face. Waiving the need to greet. Full of vigor, as if engrossed with the unintentionally selected ‘Dazzling Night Gowns’ article.

Alas, that’s just how I do it. Maybe you can share then, your office corridor stories. College corridor ones work just as well.

Looking forward to your responses, I’ll be heading to the copier room now. Not without today's newspaper.

Don’t Leave Me, Ms. Maureen
January 03, 2010

"Every year also like this. School time come then I always need to fork out money one. Your kid how old leh?"

And I snorted iced tea out of my nose. The last time I checked, it was January 2010. I was 26, not married and couldn't recall adopting a child. My ID clearly didn't read 'Madonna'.

"I'm here for my sister actually."

Perhaps she didn't notice the South Park t-shirt I was wearing.

"Oh like that ah. I'm here for my boy. Going to Standard 1 on Monday. So scaredy-cat one. Today crying already... want mommy."

I looked at him. He was facing down, kicking pebbles in his white shoes. One hand, busy wiping off the incessant flow of tears falling down his cheeks. The other, clutching on tightly to mommy's arm. I could hear the echoes of the sobs he was trying to hold in and let drown in his heart.

Perhaps he was doing all he could in reclaiming his masculinity; which had just been crushed by his own mother. As his tears dry off, the boy finally lifted his head, and looked at me. The prideful ego of a man in the presence of another was already apparent in the youthful innocence of his watery, squinting eyes. Through which I saw myself.

For I was once, in his shoes.

I'd be lying to say that I had a smooth transition from kindergarten to primary school. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that I had an easier time adapting to boarding school and later on, college overseas. Well maybe the open shower thing we had in the dorms was a bit difficult. Nevertheless, I'd still take anything else over January 1, 1990.

It was the first day of school and I was due to register as a Standard 1 student. A day I wasn't looking forward to. Even as a 7 year old, I already knew way beforehand, then, that the whole experience won't be anywhere near fancy. Maybe I was a bit too at ease in kindergarten that I couldn't quite get out of my comfort zone just yet.

In other words, I simply couldn't imagine myself surviving the following years without biscuits and Milo at 10am.

Going into primary school meant more than just being in the white and blue uniform. The buildings will be bigger. There'll be more people in the classroom. We'll only get one break for the day during recess. I'll have to start buying stuff on my own from the canteen and bookstore. Even the teachers, were somehow, two to three times the size of lovely Ms. Maureen I had in kindergarten.

Most of all, I was dreading the whole process of making new friends. You know, questions lingering in my head. Who should start talking? What do you say first? What language should you use? What is that kid doing? Why are his shorts so tight? Shoot how does he even walk in them? How long until I could make fun of this guy? And won't you just look at his Jem and the Hologram tumbler. I bet he got it switched with his sister this morning. Ha ha.

Where was I?

So from these concerns of mine, and being the pure unadulterated soul that I was, as a child, I had no other choice but to express my dissatisfaction through the acts of crying my lungs out, wrapping my arms to a lamp post, sticking my legs in between the gates, and biting the guard's ear; as I stepped into the school compound with my parents. The word unjust comes to mind whenever I'm brought back to the incident and be wrongfully accused of cowardice.

That wasn't cowardice. That was merely an expression of angst and frustration over all that was not right with the system. Evidently, the Che Guevara in me rebelled like no other as I tried to slide my way out of the classroom window. Only to get my neck stuck in between the panes. Though the struggle, was all worth it. I simply had to fight, for my right.

As the images of the past fade away, I was back to where I was. On my knees, I placed my hand on the boy's shoulder. And said to him...

"Sit near the window without the panes. Just, run."

Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
Published Travels Archive
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Malaysia License.