The clock ticked on in its languid fashion and his thoughts were feverish, his head pounding. Too dead for the city, too awake for his own conscience. Alone in Kuala Lumpur – drained, hungry, hung over, up for anybody’s taking. Glass marks stained the teak table and the glass of whiskey sweated condensation, seeping into the surface. The monthly energy bill was held down by a tissuebox and flipped away lightly by the corner, on the edge of flying away. The whirring of the ceiling fan played dull and slow as a breathing beat.
Calm down, he had said to her with a hand on her shoulder. This world is as much yours as it is mine and you are as much a main character in your own life as I am in my own.
These words echoed resoundingly in his head, a shred of advice amidst a tangle of easy lies.
The memory of that afternoon replayed in hazy saturation. It was a dank Sunday in Bangsar where the awnings were weighed heavy by the downpour, the smell of tandoori chicken from Devi’s Corner wafting in the air. The uneven pavements were difficult to walk around in, the cigarettes in his back pocket were soggy and wasted.
She wore red stilettos and it was pouring hard, so hard. He wondered how she was not overcome by the overflow, he wondered how a woman was able to maintain her dignity even in the worst of situations. Her bangs clung onto her forehead and she looked stubborn, forlorn, child-like, still beautiful. She was a tantrum with almond eyes and a stern countenance, an unbeliever of the world who refused to be taken over by the liberation of ideas, of the body, of the senses. Her half-smirk was composed of condescension and misgivings.
She was at an interception in her life where it felt like norms and conventions failed her. A sense of decency in him wished he could help. He was the willing adult, after all. He should be able to recite assurances even if he didn’t always believe in them.
It felt suitably out of place that this would be the memory to revisit him at 4:54am now, that he would miss the look which made him feel unsure of who he was, of who they both were. It was the last he had seen of her. They had been going out for a month and a half, hardly enough to leave much of an impression on the other, enough to be able to say goodbye without parting with pain. It wasn’t a prosperous courtship; she barely spoke, more of a listener than anything. She was a good 8 years younger than him, perhaps too young, although her demeanor would suggest otherwise. There was perhaps no real spark to begin with aside from lust but she was a willing temptress that could be disenfranchised by him, a stranger of mirth, and he liked the idea of that.
He realized now that he couldn’t even recall her last name.
Anna… Anna what? Was Anna short for Liyana?
He laughed bitterly in the space of the quiet room and rushed to the bathroom in a wave of nausea and faint memories of the noise made by people and how she smelled like jasmine.