Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Passing Morning

The house is slowly filled in with people.

Father has moved two of the cars out from the porch area to make way for the incoming crowd. It was ten o'clock in the morning and the weather looks rather gloomy than every other days. In fact there was a slight downpour this morning that probably was the cause why these people arrived rather late than they were supposed to. But you guess it doesn't matter as long as these people are here. At least they can cheer up the mood a bit. It is a bit too gloomy in here. 

As you sit at the corner of the porch, you look at these people who mostly come in pair as husbands and wives and some couples of girls and boys. But hardly there is any laughter in the air. They all wear the traditional Malay costume - a baju Melayu, a sarong (though some are seen in pants) and a songkok for male while a pair of baju kurong and a scarf for female. The males gather outside after they shook hands with your father, who is in a black-colored baju Melayu and a black-with-white-stripes sarong, conversing and listening to him. The females however walk their way into the main hall of the house, leaving their shoes neatly by the main door that is opened widely for their entrance. Chattering can be heard but they all mix up that you can only catch one or two words at a time. 

But that doesn't bother you much, though.

You moved the plastic chair you are sitting in to take a peek inside the house through an open window. You can see the females lining up along the wall and take their seats. Some of them make a small walk to your mother who is sitting at a point off-center in her blue baju kurong and her white scarf. She seems to be very sad, and you don't need to look closely to notice that her nose is red and there are still tears rolling down her aged cheeks. She wipes her tears with an end of her scarf as the fellow ladies rub her back slowly as to ease her pain. In front of her lies a body on a single-size mattress covered with a long batik sarong - a body from which her eyes is pinning at all these while. As the standing fan blows wind to ventilate the hall, the batek sarong moves a bit revealing some white-color fabric that you believe is the burying shroud. 

And slowly you notice the mass recitation of scriptures from the holy book. This one particular scripture that is recited over and over during this kind of gathering - visiting the dead for last respect. The sounds of it drives sadness in you - the sounds of wailing of women, blended with the mood and the gloomy weather. And now it slowly is getting back to you. Of why these people are here, the despair states of your father and mother, and that body lying motionlessly at the center of the family hall. And suddenly it occurs to you; the heartache, the guilt, the sadness and sorrows you never have had imagine your whole life.

If only you let your sister drive last night instead of you.

* * *
You were rather sleepy, actually.

The food was great and fitted your appetite finely, especially the juicy grills and the marvelous desserts. But the coffee however was not so strong up to your expectations, and despite the two cups of coffee you had you were still kind of sleepy. Your sister and yourself were attending this small gathering with childhood friends at a restaurant somewhere around town, and all of the people attending had much fun updating each other after years of separation. It took three damn hours foe everyone to call the gathering off, and you were feeling rather relived because it was still a long way back home. 

The time was around midnight when you turned on the engine and started driving, despite the fact that your sister insisted to drive the car like she did on the way to the restaurant. But the fact that she was driving too slow made you took over the wheels and drove the car instead. In the road there was hardly a car at all. Not very strange anyway at this part of road leading you two back home. Except for some midnight lorries, hardly anyone used that road at night. It was a very dark night and it was lightly raining, provoking you to stay the hell awake and to keep your senses at work.

The music played some very entertaining songs. Your sister started to hum to the songs despite of her protests against you driving back. Without you knowing, both of you were singing the songs together and the otherwise silent night became very lively. It was around 5 kilometers more to reach home, so you sped up the car a bit to match with time. It sure was lonely and dangerous out there. Lucky for the both of you that at the end of the long, straight road there appeared to be a lorry slowly coming at the opposite direction. Well at least there was somebody on the road.

As the lorry got closer, you could see its huge lights showering the wet road. Your sister was still singing and clapping her hands. That was when you saw the lorry giving you some high beam signals. But you were not using any high beam, so what was the lorry driver trying to tell? The lorry was only around 20 meters away as both vehicle made each way closing in at each other at totally different lane. There seemed to be nothing wrong, you thought, so you maintained the speed nevertheless. 

Until you saw it. 

There was a bump on the road directly in front of you. And realizing this you freaked out and slammed on the brake. The lorry was getting closer. The car skidded and started to change its direction from the skidding. As the car got closer to the huge bump, the shimmering light revealed that it was a dead cow that probably died after being hit earlier by a lorry that passed the road. The carcass was so clear as the light went more intense. And then you realized that the light wasn't coming from your car. It came from the lorry, that by that time was honking at you like hell as time went by so slowly that everything went in slow motion - from the moment the car began to miss the carcass by getting into the other lane and crossed right in front of the incoming lorry, and while you turned your head to your right you saw the lights from the lorry blinding and the horn deafening you, and then everything went blank in white. You didn't even had the chance to scream. 

But at least you know your sister did.

* * *

You weep.

You weep as you see they lift the body up in a metal body container and into that white van with some Arabic letters at the sides of it, parked inside the porch. You weep as you see your father and mother hug each other. You want to say sorry but the words do not seem to make it pass your throat. The van's door is shut and it starts to move out from the house. The guilt in you builds up fast. You feel as if you are about to explode, especially when you see your mother collapses in your father's arms in tears. You end up being stone cold on your chair, not able to do anything. You feel sorry for them. And worst, you feel sorry for yourself.

If only you let your sister drive last night.

But now it is too late. The damage is done and there is no turning back. You look at the leaving crowd into their cars and most probably escorting the white van to the burying ground, the final destination. You look from afar as your parents enter one of the car and follows behind the van. Now the house is empty, except for one or two relatives given the task to look after the house. It becomes very silent again. You feel your heart breaks into pieces, blood flushes to your face making you feel really bad. 

You stand up and fix your clothes and get into one of the relative's vehicle as they drive to the cemetery just a few minutes away from the house, or to be accurate around a kilometer away from the place the accident last night took place. As you travel again on the road, memories keep on hitting on you like a rock does to a glass wall. They just keep on playing in your mind. Imagine, just how loud your sister screamed last night. Thinking of this makes you weep some more.

At the cemetery you look at how they lower the body deep down six feet underground and into the final resting place. It rains lightly when they lower the body, just like last night. They close the body pit with wood planks and start filling the grave with wet soil. You push your way to the edge of the grave and see for yourself how the planks that protect the body from the soil disappear at the soil level increases. In minutes, the grave is ready with two other wood planks erected at each end, signifying the owner of the new grave - a temporary marker with a name on it; a name you don't even have the guts to read on. 

As the crowd gathers around the grave, you decide to leave in the rain, but not before you come close to your parents who at the time bury their faces in their hands. You hug and kiss them, telling that you are deeply sorry. As you walk towards the cemetery gate, you can hear the talqin leader reads on the prayers and stuffs, and you swear you hear he mentions that very familiar name, striking into your ears like a thunder. Maybe it is time to leave for good, you think. At least you have given give your sister a final visit at the hospital before you leave this world entirely. Lucky for her, she wasn't even badly injured from the crash, probably because you were protecting her using your own body. She only suffered from a broken rib and a broken finger and that's all. Luck, you tell yourself, she has the luck. She could be a slow driver, but if it was her who drove last night at least you could still be alive today.

Oh well. 

As you walk out the cemetery gate, you see a cow  standing just right outside, staring at you. It is the same cow from last night. Funny to see it here, really. Well probably he needs a company too? You smile at it and stroke its head gently. After a few caring strokes, you slowly turn around and look again at the crowd gathering at your grave; family, relatives, friends, neighbors, and even your sworn enemies. And then you smile to yourself before turning to the cow again.

"Well let's go buddy."

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