Tuesday 14 August 2012

A Long Party

I am at a cross-junction on my bicycle. It is wide and appears to be on a hill-top. The roads curl downwards into palm oil plantations and villages in the four directions. It's just like the one I've seen before in Johor, Malaysia.

I take the road on my right and follow its descent, free-wheeling. I can see a village centre down below, more so of wooden buildings than concrete. There's red earth all around. Tall coconut trees sway.

I pass the village and arrive at its outskirts. I stop beside a small concrete building of simple '50s design. My ex-colleagues from Thomson are there. There's MH sitting outside at a high table nursing a drink. At the side, in a cloth swing seat is Marc. I enter the building, there's a home theatre to the left. It is dark. I can make out Set and the rest lying down asleep. Amidst them a girl. I think her name is Kris. They must have done an all-nighter karaoke session again.

Noon comes and everybody leaves. We are back at the high cross-junction again. I can see Set and Marc walking along a five-foot way outside some attap shops, talking animatedly. MH is leaving too. He's struggling to carry a mattress off.

I continue to cycle and pass by the vacation house again. I'm hailed by KC, a chap I've yet to feel comfortable with. I think it is because we are quite alike. I accept the offer to sit and drink. We chat. We seem to be talking about the others but it's only idle chatter.

In the next scene, we are at a long water pipe with taps. We are refreshing ourselves and drinking from it. "Maria is here," he says, matter-of-factly.

I get up to go inside the building once more. A bigger party is going on. It appears that the buildings are connected and it is someone's home. I arrive in time to hear the hostess announce the start of a new game. A party goer has accepted the challenge and will try to outrun some dogs. Not just any dogs but a few dozens of fierce, angry dogs. I can see a cartoon graphic showing a bunch of fierce, snapping dogs. The kind of graphic that's color-penciled and set to stop-motion.

The contestant fails miserably and is torn to shreds. Everybody winces, drink in hand. I seem to think it a cruel sport to play at a party where children are present too. A few children are upset and turn to hide their faces. I enquire about the next game but get no answers.

I explore the party a bit and comes to the kitchen. Maria is baking something and tending to her child as well. She asks me this question, "Really, TC. Why did you come to look for me?" I want to tell her the real reason but hold back. I go into the bathroom to dye my hair.

I am now beside a day sofa bed which is also by a wash point. I am trying to rinse my hair out but there's no water. The tap and pipe is loose and needs adjustment. I move the cushions and underlying mattress away to prevent them from getting wet. But the tap, which I can see now is behind the sofa is not cooperating. I leave that and return to be with Maria in the kitchen. She smiles knowingly at me but does not say anything.

I'm outside. The floor is covered with a rust-colored thick metal plate, the sort found outside car-body workshops. A hose with running water lay close by. I pick it up to rinse my hair with. A young man comes by. He is wearing skinny black pants and shiny capped shoes. He hands me a rear view mirror to clean. I notice it has a few tough stains. I run water over it and rub the stains off with my thumbnail. They come off. I hand the mirror back to the young man. He is grateful. All the while, I am squatting and trying to rinse my hair with the hose. I look back. I am indeed in front of some auto yards. Everywhere is rust colored. I look at a blackened glass door and wonder about the party inside. Should I go back in?

Nah, I seem to say, and continue to rinse my hair in the bright sunshine.

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