untitled 5-3-1 h

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Mina looked up to see the long dark tunnel formed by the canopy of trees that lined both sides of the road as she rode home. She had refused a lift earlier from Osman feeling that the ride would help clear her mind of everything it had been bombarded with earlier. This however was not the case as her mind spun faster and faster on the ride as there was so much she hadn’t quite digested from the revelations made on the beach earlier. It was something that Osman had said that kept repeating over and over in her mind.

“We all have our purpose and place. Your grandmother’s was not only to guide life into this world but also to guide life out of it. We of course understand that you have considered ambitious plans for your life… we only ask you to consider your purpose.”

It was this that at one point forced her to stop riding and sit down on the side of the road to cry. It was the realization that in truth she did not have any ambitious plans. Her acceptance of the position in London was probably yet another stop in an already transitory life. Her choice of career had not been fueled by ambition but by the excuse to move from place to place. Within the last 10 years she had lived in at least 5 different cities due to study or work. It was the realization that she didn’t really belong anywhere that finally overwhelmed her into tears. She had always believed that it was that very same sense of not belonging that granted her a freedom to relish the somewhat nomadic life she had led so far. Here for the first time, everything thus far just felt inconsequential and purposeless. For the first time she felt the ache of emptiness inside. Yet here was an opportunity to belong that had no basis in rational thought.

As she rode her only yearning was to escape from all of this into the comfort of sleep. Her legs pumped the pedals of the bicycle harder as she began to make out the tiny outline of the house in the distance. As she got closer she thought she saw someone sitting on the front stoop of the house. She got close enough and the illumination of the moonlight revealed that it was him. Mina was not afraid. Instead she felt an anger begin to bubble within and threw him an acid glance as she rode past making for the back of the house. He followed her keeping a respectful distance as she leaned the bicycle up against the house.

“What do you want?” She asked with a definite chill in her voice.” He did not reply. “Well…” she continued, “I have nothing to say to you. I think it will be best if you leave.” She walked up to the verandah leaving him standing below. “If you are here about working on the kitchen… I have hired someone else to do it. So, goodbye.”

Finally he spoke. “I came to apologize.”

“About the work or about last night?” She shot back with a hint of venom. “Never mind… don’t answer that.” Mina quickly composed herself while feeling she was about to implode. “Fine. You have apologized. Apology accepted. Now go… please I’m very tired.”

“Please… “

“NO!” Mina surprised herself with a ferociousness she had never known before. She took a pause to collect herself again. “Please, I don’t want to be rude… first, what’s your name?”

“Kamal… ”

“OK, Kamal… I’m leaving in a few days. Last night could have been very nice… but I think we both know that it would not have gone anywhere past… last night. It shows great character that you have come here to apologize. Now you have done that… please go.”

“I think I’m married… “


“I think I’m married and I have children… “

“I think you really need to go… now!”

“I’m sorry but I don’t know where…”

“Home. Go home. Just leave me alone... please!”

“I don’t know how. I keep walking down the road… and I end up here. No matter what direction I go… I end up here! Nothing looks familiar… nothing makes sense. I feel like I belong here yet I feel lost. And tonight when I was walking I look down… and I don’t have one. Look!” He points to the ground next to him. “I… I don’t have a shadow!”

Mina looked and indeed there was none.

With his voice beginning to crack, “Look, everything has a shadow… I don’t! I keep coming back here to you… I don’t know why! What is happening?”

In that moment a flood of thoughts and images gushed into Mina’s already spinning mind. Flashes of images from the night before collided with the angelic demureness of the widow at the funeral kenduri. Snippets of conversation bombarded her senses mixed with strains from the dirge she heard the night before by voices of children.

“It’s a good thing for us Kamal liked mangosteens more than your chicken porridge, Mr. Chong.” - “Miss Mina, the five of us… we make arrangements for the living. The sixth arranger helps those who have stepped beyond life.” - “I’m sorry… I just had to know… I had to know that you are real.” - “We all have our purpose and place… we only ask you to consider your purpose.”

Everything her rational mind deemed implausible was being realized before her very eyes. An ugly stew of emotions began swirling inside her. Fear, regret, desire, guilt, doubt and uncertainty all fought like thick slurp of bubbles that popped only to be replaced by another. It rose and rose until mercifully everything went black and Mina crumpled to the floor.

The next thing she felt was the gentle soothing strokes of a hand on her shoulder. She opened her eyes and as soon as they focused she whispered “Nenek,… is this a dream?”

“No, it’s not, Mina. This is not a dream, my child.” Came the gentle reply of her grandmother’s voice.

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