Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Spirit of the Runner

Beneath his heaving and panting
Between the sweat that flows from his head
Beyond the pain he endures
Before the agony he anticipated

A lonely figure on the side of the road
Admidst the cars and motorcycles that zip pass
In the thick smoke from the roaring engines
He wonders, 'Why do I still run?'

His answer comes instantly
His reply came from within
It is one that requires little thought
And it was something that he held from start

Because from the days he trained
He saw his coach ahead of him
Not instructing how to run
But inspiring him to go on running

Because from the side of the tracks
He saw his loved ones sitting there
Watching him run and race
And applauding him when he makes it great

Because ahead of the track
He saw the podium and the ribbon
Dashing across it not just to break the knot
But to stand tall and high a head above the crowd

Because behind him as he runs
He remembers the pain and effort he went through
At all times of despair and defeat
It was the sweetness of victory that made him last

Because as he runs and runs
His energy may be depleting
And though his physical strength is stretched to the limits
It is perseverance that keeps him going

Because as he pushes himself step by step
He knows that the journey is still long ahead
And though every step placed drains him ounce by ounce
Still he hangs on and goes on

Because he knows that though the race may be hard
It will always come to an end
It's not about finishing the race
But it's how he finishes the race

Beneath the footsteps of a runner
Is a determination of a fighter

In the eyes of a sprinter
Is a vision that has kept him training and dashing to clock new times

Before the start of every race
Beyond the medals that he will collect
Between the struggles that he goes through every time his feet hits the road
It is the spirit of a runner
That reminds him to never give up when the going gets tough
And hang on to the promise that the long race and journey
Will come to an end,
Sometime,
If only he keeps running.

A Dog's Tale

I tried to sleep to help me forget about my hunger. My master didn’t feed me again. He always forgets. Or maybe he doesn’t forget, it’s just that he chooses not to feed me. When was the last time he fed me? I’m not too sure, probably a couple of days ago I guess?


Just as I was about to sleep, suddenly I was jostled up rudely. Someone kicked me in my stomach. I was very much familiar with the kicking of my master so it didn’t take me long to realise that he was kicking me. And every time that happened I’d to run and take cover somewhere far away from him. He’s a pretty violent person after all, and since he can’t afford to buy a punching bag, I’m the next best thing.


“You useless dog!”


Oh did I forget to mention? He’s pretty vulgar to. Of course, he being a human being never thought that I could actually understand well enough what he was saying. As it is, I’ve been living with humans longer than he has lived with me.


He continued swearing and cursing me about how lazy I am by sleeping in the day, not taking care of the house, always dirty the porch and stuff. I couldn’t be bothered and just trotted off into a corner where his voice would be least heard off. Hey dude, the only reason I dig your garden is simply because you won’t feed me so I’d have to stay alive by eating some worms. Simple things like that would just never cross his mind, would it?


Usually he’d kick me before leaving for work every morning. This time however, he didn’t kick me as hard since he was carrying a new fur ball in his hands. It was a Persian cat that he purchased overseas for a couple of thousand dollars. Apparently the feline had a certificate to prove it’s a pedigree species. So much for spending so much money on a living organism that doesn’t do much for him. All it does is purr, wag its tail around, rub its body on him, eat and sleep. It doesn’t catch mice, it doesn’t watch take care of the house, it doesn’t purr when there are strangers nearby and it basically does nothing that could benefit anyone in the household.


What truly stupefies me is the point that, why on earth would a useless creature be so generously rewarded for doing nothing?


Its fur. The noise it makes. It looks nice. People would pay for anything that they like looking at.


*Sigh*


He was playing with the stupid feline and it was just purring and purring away. I knew from the very start that its main objective of existence in the house was to make me jealous and to irritate it. Too bad I was too hungry to entertain it. No matter how loud it purred, I was just too tired and too bored to start barking at it. At the end of the day, the outcome of things would be a bruised body, and worst of all a broken rib cage from his kicking.


Closing my eyes, I tried to concentrate on other things. I didn’t want to dwell on them any longer. The agony of being a dog to such master is tormenting. Somehow, at such times, as soon as I close my eyes, the only thing that I could see clearly, is the sanctuary that I was brought up in.


I was delivered in a sanctuary where my big family lives in. When I was still little I could remember how I would sit beside my mother and watch how my dad and grandfather would teach my older brothers how to run and sprint across the fields. They looked so majestic and graceful when they run together in the pack. Their strong and muscular body that bend and swept pass the grass in the wind, the legs that were forceful and powerful, and seeing them I vowed that one day I too would be like them.


And that day sure did come. After 8 months my grandfather decided that it was time for me to start training. He taught me how to bark and growl, how to recognise friends and enemies, how to sniff and smell, how to snap and bite, how to sprint and dash, how to sit and be alert, how to be observant and how to be a guide to people, and most of all he taught me how to be a friend and a partner to humans.


That was the physical training. After a long days work, he’d lie me down beside him in the middle of the field. Resting, while watching the sun set from the distant and return to its nest in the valleys of the mountain ranges at the far end of the horizon, he would tell me all about their history and origin of our species.


“We are the only species of dogs in the world where humans can both love and respect. They will take us out into war fields, bomb sites, crime scenes, and they will train us to help the blind make their way around, help the cops find the criminals, help the military trace the bombs and mines.


“It’s not because we are just known as German Shepherds. It’s because our ancestors were dedicated to their roles. They knew that as dogs their jobs were to help and be the assistants that humans need. Though they know well enough that humans are a bunch of pretty helpless creatures, still they chose to do what they knew was best and right. And when they made that choice, we became respected. Not just because they did their jobs, but because they did their jobs well.”


Pride swelled in me when my grandfather spoke. It made me feel that I was of a Chosen Race. A Chosen Species of the humans. A dog that no ain’t the same as the ordinary ones you find in any village or home.


“Do you know what humans love best about us?” I shook my head.


“It’s the fact that dogs are loyal,” he looked into the far mountains where the sun was setting. The day became night slowly. “We don’t bite our masters, regardless of what they do to us, regardless of how they treat us.”


I nodded my head. Yes, that’s what I will be when someone buys me next time. Yes, I’ll be loyal to my master no matter how hard it may be.


I opened my eyes when my memory recalled that part of my past. But should I still be loyal to this kind of a master?


It’s just getting too tough and too hard. He used to be very nice to me. He used to give me nice warm food and huge juicy bones for dinner, but now he even forgets to feed me, if not it’s just some cold rice and expired dog food. He used to play Frisbee with me, but now he only kicks me. He used to pat me on the head and rub me, but now he doesn’t even want to bathe me or look at me.


What have I done wrong? Where have I failed in my duty and responsibility as a watchdog?


Or is it just because he changed his taste so soon?


Watching him play with his feline, I realised that both he and the pussy cat were nothing. They were just objects that mean nothing to me. Those days my master was the world to me. I’d be more than prepared to lay my life down for him, but now he seems so distant and foreign to me. My jaws are strong enough to crack his skull in a single bite and I swear I could swallow the whole feline in one breath if it ever came near to me.


I wished I could snap at my master every time it kicked me. It’s not fun being kicked. I’m not a football, but he still kicks me. And all I can do is to whimper away to a corner. I’m fed up of it, I don’t want to live such kind of life anymore. I want my life, I want my freedom, I want to run and dash across the field. I want to live with a jerk as a master, I want children that know how to appreciate me and play with me.


I want to run away.


But where can I go? It’s been so long since I last scent the sanctuary, I doubt if I could make my way back there… but where else could I possibly go?


The day before the jerk took me home, my dad took me for a long walk at the end of the field and the far corners of the sanctuary. Again it was a sunset, and as we strode off to higher grounds, leaving my other family members wondering and asking about what my dad’s going to tell me, he invited me to sit by his side. Looking down from the highest point in the sanctuary, we could see the city view. The lights that were flickering on, the cars that were zipping by along the main streets, the sky scrapers that were beginning to illuminate as the night crept in.


“Are you ready son?” he asked after a long moment of silence.


“I don’t know dad, I just don’t know what to do.”


“Go and show a human what a German Shepherd is capable of doing.” He said without any hesitation. “Go tell the world that you are the most fantastic generation of the proud and best breed of dogs in the entire universe. Go show them that the price that they are paying to have you is nothing compared to what you have been trained and taught to do.


“Above all, do not forget your roots and your traits. You are a German Shepherd, live you life as one. Be a legacy where people will live to tell of how brave you were and how loyal a German Shepherd you were. Remember that and may the blessings of our family go with you wherever you go.” Upon saying that, he trotted away, leaving me alone on the highland then. Setting my visions upon the city, I knew that it would take everything I had in me to conquer the challenges that lay ahead.


The challenges I thought were robbers and bandits. The darkness of the alleys and the evil of the night. The crimes of the bad guys and the undoing of the corrupted.


Never did I expect the greatest of all evil coming from my master.


He forgot me. He forgot that when he sleeps I am awake. He forgot that when he’s away I’m back home taking care of the house. He forgot that I alert him every time someone comes near the gate. He forgot that I reminds him to take his keys from the keyholes every morning he leaves home for work. He forgot that I keep the stray cats that shits near the house away.


And he still forgets. And he keeps forgetting. So much until he forgets to take care of the one that protects him for one that only entertains him. Someday he will realise that he has far undervalued me through his ignorance and actions for the worthlessness of a cat. Someday, I said to myself assuringly before falling into a deep sleep.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Needle and Thread

This article marks the probable conclusion to the He-She series which consists of the articles Love in the Fire (December 2006) and When Tears Run Dry (January 2007)


She was watching her cousins play in the living room when her phone started to vibrate. It was the second day of Chinese New Year and it would be no surprise at all if anyone were to call. Opening up her clam shell phone, she gasped as she saw the name that appeared on the screen.


Him.


She left the kids in the room and walked into the dining area. Sitting on a chair, she looked at the screen for a while, both dumbfounded and confused. She wondered whether it would be wise to pick up the phone. She thought, maybe its not him after all. Maybe he’s just miscalling as a prank. After all, after what had happened between the both of them, there just wasn’t much left to talk about.


Remembering the last call he made, she was left to explain all that went throughout the last 2 months to a sceptic who just won’t believe whatever she said. He was just so sarcastic. He snickered and let out a evil laugh during that last call.


“If you’re not going to believe what I just said, then why do you even call?” she said through tears and desperation.


“I called just to make sure you’re fine. That’s part of my job of being a leader.”


“Who made you call then?” she wanted some answers. She won’t believe that he would just call up for no good reasons.


But she never got the answers she wanted. He just frankly shrugged off that question and told her swiftly that he had to prepare for an upcoming test, and after a simple bye he put down the phone.


She was left alone again. Left alone to wonder why he would not believe what she did. To him, she’s a mean and cruel girl who left him after she saw 2 other guys. She was this unloyal and unfaithful person who had no sense of responsibility to her friend’s feelings. All that was about her to him, was the fact that she left him at the time he needed her the most, and that was all about it. That was the fundamental of her argument.


Little did he realised that she was busy and tired throughout that whole month. She never did go out with any of those guys he thought she did. She never went for a movie ever. She went out with her friends from both college and church, but never with any of the guys. She didn’t want to. She did plan for it initially, but later on she just gave them a message saying that she won’t make it, and she didn’t.


Wiping the tears that were on her phone’s screen, she rested her head in her palms. What went wrong? She asked. Why the disbelief? Why the cold shoulder?


She should know by now that a guy will never look at things the same way a girl did. She was confused back then. She was aware that what took place between him and her happened merely over a period of half a year, and it was just too fast. She didn’t want it. She was always known to be a very cautious girl in everything she did, from maths to dressing up to exam questions, and especially where people’s emotions are concerned, she was always on extra guard. She had a nasty experience with boys that have hurt her before – though she was the popular one – and she just would never want to go through another round of hurts again.


And yet, she had no idea how to tell him that she just needed time to back out. She had no heart either. What will he think? What will he say? The price was too great to pay then. Torn between the decision as to whether to tell him that she would rather their relationship to develop slowly over time or to just leave it and let him find out for himself, she decided to go for the latter. Perhaps he won’t be so hurt after he finds out.


Perhaps.


She was totally wrong.


The phone in her hand kept vibrating. At the rate things were going, it didn’t seem that he would put down the phone. She pressed the little green button and raised the phone to her ear.


Trembling in the hands and a shiver in her voice, she asked,


“Hello?”


“Hi there!” the familiar voice that she longed to hear for so long. The type of friendly greeting that was synonymous to him. The warmth in his voice that could immediately diminish all sense of fear and anxiety in any person that he was speaking to. It was a great relief to hear his voice, and no longer did her hands tremble, and her voice lost the shiver immediately.


“How’s Chinese New Year? Enjoying yourself?” the voice from the other side kept rattling away. That’s so him, she said to herself. Her eyes turned moist. Quickly grabbing a tissue near the table, she answered cheerfully too. “Boring! I’ve been watching my cousins playing and drawing for the last few days.”


Then she heard him chuckle. His laughter was always so hearty and so unreserved. Every time he laughed, the whole world would hear it. It was not just loud, it rang in resonance to almost anything nearby.


Are things resolved now Lord?


They talked about almost everything under the sun, from how many ang pau’s they collected to how many mandarins they ate in one day. He told her that his Chinese New Year was all about counter-strike and Maple Story, and she replied that her Chinese New Year was travelling from one place to another and rushing back to college in time. It was a long long time before they both laughed and laughed so much with each other.


And all of a sudden, he went quiet for a while.


“I miss you.”


She tried to sound calm. “I miss you too,” she paused for a while, “as a friend.”


“Let’s start from scratch. Not even from where we left, but from the very beginning.” He proposed. She accepted the proposal more than readily. “And one more thing,” he chipped in. “I believe your story. Back then when I first called you, I didn’t buy it. But now I do. And I still trust you.”


Putting down the phone, she smiled to herself. She smiled the smile she never smiled for the last 2 months. 2 months she placed a mask around her face in front of people and friends, concealing what she held in the deepest and darkest chambers of her heart. Finally that night, she knew for sure that she could take it off and remove it for good. He was no longer an enemy, but he was a new friend. A friend that decided to take that first step in his effort of reconciliation.


She may have slept very well that night, but not him. As he put down the phone and turned to his laptop to continue the game that he was playing, he just couldn’t get his mind off the conversation. He was equally relieved as her, but he knew that behind that call was such a struggle to pick up the phone and call her. Deep in his heart, he wanted the siege to go on. He very well knew that he could last that way with her. He very well knew that the cold shoulder over the last 2 months was nothing to what he had went through with other more bitter enemies.


But he chose to let God have His way in him. He was a leader, and a leader have to put down some pride and dignity at times to do the right thing that was against his principles. His principle was of the Israelis, strictly no negotiation with the enemies. And he wasn’t much prepared to negotiate with her, let alone talk to her to reconcile.


Over the last 2 months, things became clearer and clearer. Slowly he was exposed to the real situation behind the assumptions he made. He thought that she was happy and rejoicing over her fortune of kicking him out for other guys, but she wasn’t. It turned out that she was more ruined than anything for breaking his heart. He thought she was still hanging out with the guys, but he was wrong. He thought that she left him when he needed her the most, but he should’ve known from the start that she was equally in need as he was back then.


And the thought that he dreaded the most dawned upon him. What if I was wrong?


He was.


And he knew what he had to do.


The morning he went back to his hostel, he was getting ready for lectures in a rush. He woke up half an hour later than usual, and he would be missing his bus if he wasn’t down in 5 minutes. Quickly grabbing a t-shirt and with one hand in the shirt, his other hand was pulling up his jeans. Then he noticed something unfamiliar of his jeans.


His jeans had a little hole on the right side. Back during the half week break, his mother stitched it up for him by patching a little blue cloth behind the hole. Though the patch was pretty much noticeable, still it blended into his jeans and made it look so much a part of the jeans. He even thought that it looked nicer with that patch.


Smiling, he knew what that patch meant. Without wasting any more time, he picked up his bag and dashed for the bus just as it was about to leave. Without looking back, he charged towards a new day, knowing that the threading of the needle may hurt, but is essential. Knowing that the patching process will sting, the outcome of it is a beautiful and brand new relationship that will garner even more joy and laughter. With that at the back of his head, he hummed his favourite song onboard as the bus left his hostel for the college.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

One-winged Eagle

There was once a legend of an eagle that could soar above the clouds and into the thin layer of ozone. An eagle that could soar meters above the peaks of Everest and cruise with the fastest of planes. Not only could it achieve altitude, it could also achieve speed.

It's name was Horizon. Partly because it could visually touch the horizons of the evening and the breaking of the dawns.

But what truly made it a legend was neither speed nor altitude. It was it's disability.

It had only one wing.

It was born deformed. Unlike its siblings, he only had one small wing when it was born. The other side of the wing broke and dropped off as it hatched from its egg. It could not fly like the others, his mother thought. He will never be able to join us in our voyages and in our ventures, and it will die pretty soon.

It's mom realised that it had to take extra care of Horizon if it were to live longer than expected. The mom went out to look for the best and fattest of worms for him. Everytime she returned to the nest of hungry eaglets, Horizon was the first mouth that she will drop the worms into. She had to make sure that no competition existed among Horizon and the other siblings, if not that would mean that he will die from its disadvantage in stature and physique.

The little eaglets grew in no time, and as the eaglets became smarter they too became envious. Why was it that Horizon always got the best worms? They wonder. Is it fair that he gets fed first just because it only had one wing?

Like Joseph's brothers, they plotted to kill him.

One morning after the mother left the nest, the siblings pushed the sleeping Horizon off from the nest down the steep ravine. Their nest was on the highest rock that could never be reached by anybody. They were safe, as long as they remained in the nest, or unless they could fly.

Of which Horizon could do neither.

Horizon fell from an altitude of 5000 feet. He knew that he had little chance of survival.

4500 feet. Why do my siblings hate me so?

4000 feet. I'm going to die.. it's all God's fault that He only gave me one wing. Why is it so unfair on me?

3500 feet. I'm still to young to die. Must I die?

3000 feet. No, I'm not going to die. I'm going to live.. but how?

At this point, it wondered how it could survive. But at such velocity falling down, it had little choice. It only had one wing, and he knew well enough what a wing was meant for. He started flapping his wing. His wing grew a little, and though it was still small, its muscles were enough to keep him flying - only if it had both wings. Feathers were already developing on his wings. All he needed to do now was to keep flapping.

2500 feet. Flap flap flap.

2000 feet. Flap even harder.

1500 feet. With all his might, he flapped and flapped and flapped, knowing that if he fails, he'd only have seconds to survive.

1000 feet.

500 feet.

400 feet.

300 feet.

200 feet.

100 feet.

Plop.

Horizon fell into a little bush with soft branches. He sustained brusises and a few scratches. His body ached a little, but other than that he was fine.

I'm alive. It took him probably a few moments before that actually sank into him. Glad that he was alive, he started climbing up the steep ravine back to the nest.

All throughout the journey back to the nest, he thought to himself, is it so that I couldn't fly just because I only had one wing? Is it destiny that I will always be stuck in the nest, waiting for my mom to feed me? Is it fate that I should have one wing?

He heard some screeching coming from above. He looked up and saw a pack of eagles flying majestically in circles above the ravine. He observed them enviously and wished that he was one of them. He so wanted to fly like them and soar in the skies. He wanted to be that eagle that people from below will look up to and gaze in awe. He is an eagle, and with or without both wings, he was destined to fly.

That was his destiny, and through tears and pain, he will realise it.

From that day onwards, he would wait for his mom to fly off to look for food before he will stand by the edge of the nest and throw himself off into the ravine. Accelerating downwards at the free fall, he would flap and flap his only wing as hard as he could. It was tidious work. It was tiring. It was dangerous. Anytime if it had not enough wing power to break the fall, he could die.

But he never died. Morning after morning, as he repeated his routine of throwing himself off the cliff down into the ravine, landing into that same soft bush and climbing back up into the nest just in time for his breakfast, his wing grew stronger and stronger. He developed his wing muscle faster than any of his siblings who sat in the nest hoping that he would just throw himself off the nest and die down there to their dismay. His feathers became larger than any of the other siblings of his.

In no time to come, instead of plopping into the soft bush, he could suspend himself slightly above the bush before coming to a safe landing. Before he knew it, he was already flying in mid air, making its way upwards before it became to tired and decides to just land on the soft bush. Months later, it was already flying up back to the nest, meter by meter, inch by inch, painstakingly and effort-depleting.

After a year of throwing itself off the nest and landing on the soft bush, it finally stood on the edge of the nest, majestic with its only wing and beautiful feathers. Bending its legs, it leapt off the nest with great might and energy. Almost effortlessly, it flapped its only wing and flew off, away from the nest. Its siblings who were just learning how to fly looked in dismay and disbelief. There was their disabled sibling who was destined to die by the end of the year, and here he was flying way before they could even know how to flap their wings.

Looking down from above, he saw what many dreamed to see. He saw mountains and seas, he saw valleys and forests. He saw buuildings and scenaries that could never be seen from the ground. He saw the world. He saw it all.

Perhaps it wasn't his only wing that made him known throughout the animal kingdom. Perhaps it wasn't the fact that he soared above the clouds that gave him his name Horizon.

Perhaps, it was his determination of changing his fates, and soaring in the skies despite his disability, that made him known. Perhaps, it was his strength derived from challenging himself in the face of death, that helped him realise that no disability, no lost wing, no evil doings of others could deter him from achieving both altitude and speed.

At the end of the day, his destiny was to be more than just an eagle, his was to be a legend, where people will talk about how he flew bravely with only one wing, and in the process inspire many more people who had disabilities to continue to throw themselves out and off from their nests into the face of challenges, to flap with whatever little that they have, and learn how to fly.

The Day My Mother Wept

Even the hardest of hearts and the hardness of Man will yield to the tears of a lady or to the weeping of a girl.

In this case, the hardest of heart happened to be mine, and the tears of the lady belonged to my mother.

I only thought that my mom was the strongest lady - or person, as a matter of fact - in this world. She'd be the one that will stand up for me when people scolded me recklessly for something that I didn't do, she'd be the one that will protect me whenever I was in trouble or in danger, she'd be able to take it like a 'man' and not feel anything bad about it.

People have hurt her before, trust me. There was this one particular lady whom my mom took great care of while she was pregnant. She'd come to our house every single morning and do nothing but lie on the couch, throw out every 10 minutes or so, and my mom would feed her, clean up the mess after her, make sure she's comfortable and stuff while fetching me and the lady's son to school and tuitions and stuff.

Before long after she delivered her child, she turned around and slandered my mom. She condemned my mother for 'not being able to raise up good children' - in direct reference to me -, she claimed that my mother was trying to sabotage the children's ministry in church back then, she accused my mom for being biased towards doctor and lawyer's children.

The best part of all - often to my amuse as I reflect upon it - was when she told people that my mom was suicidal.

One fine day I met her in a coffee shop with my mom when she happened to stumble across our table. She looked awkward and was trying to smile sheepishly but almost immediately turned away and walked in a different direction. I was about to stand up, raise my hand and yell at her. (I hate people who hurt my mother. That's me. And I'd attack anyone who tries to touch her.) Then my mother pushed me back to the chair and shook her head.

"But she slandered you mummy."

"Leave it," she replied calmly. "Let God handle her."

That was my mom. She's the type of person who'd tolerate people who try to be funny with her but she'd never return an eye for an eye where slandering or vengeance is concern. She'd never lash out at other people except for her own children whenever they said something nasty about her. I've seen more than enough with my own eyes. Hypocrates in church, in-laws, some school teachers back in primary school. Quietly and patiently, she'd just swallow all of it, go home, surrender it to the Lord and move on with life.

Until the day I saw my mom cried, I would never know how much my mom meant to me.

4 years ago I fought with my brother so badly that my mom thought that 'we could have killed each other'. I was holding a PVC pipe and my brother drew a ratten staff that my dad kept in the house for protection. At the height of our fury we were about to slash each other with the bluntest objects in the history of modern warfare, and there was my mom who stood in the middle of both of us holding up both her hands, one facing each side, and yelling at the top of her voice,

'SNAP OUT OF IT YOU BOYS! JOASH! BACK TO YOUR ROOM! NOOOOOOOW!!!'

And that dissolved the war. But that marked the beginning to a new war, a cold war that would last for almost 1 whole year. In that period of time, neither of us spoke a single word to each other and we'd be on the guard if anyone of us crossed each other's path and then it'd spark a new war.

The same night, she called me into her room. Kneeling in front of her as she sat on the bed, she started half lecturing and half scolding me for nearly killing my brother, and I'd be arguing about how it wasn't my fault and how my brother started it.

Then suddenly she stopped scolding me. I was still a little lost about what happened initially because i wasn't looking at her but at the floor instead. I knew that something was wrong when she was so quiet. And I looked up.

And I saw water beads on her head. I thought it was her sweat.

But it wasn't. Those were tears. Flowing down from her eyes., those were tears.

I was dead stunned. I could swear to you that was the first time in my life I saw my mother cried, and for a while both my mom and I were silent. Except for the occasional sniffing from my mom, it was dead silence.

She wiped her tears swiftly, making sure that I don't see too much of her crying. "Joash, will you promise me that you will never do that again?"

That night I couldn't sleep at all. All these years I have been a notorious boy that only wanted my way, always fighting and arguing with my brother, never thinking about how much it would devastate my mom everytime that happens. It never struck me that the number one thing that would truly and really hurt her was what other people said about me or her, but me. The things that I do, the way I behave, the way I treat my parents.

Rude, irresponsible, boisterous, obnoxious, mean, inconsiderate.

That night, the only thing on my mind was her tears. This feeling that never stirred in my heart started to surface. It was the feeling when you feel disappointed, disgusted by the things that you've done. It was probably the feeling of being so useless and moronic. It was about realising that you've been such a thick skin jerk all this while until you cause your mother so much heart ache. It was the mere thought of being hopeless and beyond being saved. It was about disappointing your mother and letting her down when the hopes and expectations of you turning out to be a good son was all dashed by your behaviour.

That night, I made up my mind. I decided, and I determined to change. To be better. To be nicer. To be more responsible. To be a better son.

But most importantly,

to never make my mom cry. Ever again.

And I promised myself that I'm not going to ever make her cry again. But the problem was that I didn't really kept my promise.

2 years ago as I was preparing for my SPM, I was challenged to the last bit of my faith. In front of me was all but a future of medicine. I wanted a future and the hopes of a future but I saw none. The problem was that I doubted about what I had ahead of me. My father had almost no savings, or enough savings for me to pursue medicine. I wanted so badly to be a lawyer because back then I enjoyed debating and wanted to do that. But more than anything else, I wanted to pursue law because it was the cheapest next thing I thought my parents could afford after medicine.

That decision of mine sparked a series of debates and arguments between me and my mom again. I didn't know what my mom had against me doing law so much, but she sure didn't want me to be a lawyer. Until now, I'm still yet to know why. In the car on the way to tuition, she'd keep persuading me to do medicine instead and kept reminding me not to worry about the money. Problem was that I always thought that my mom had this unrealistic point of view thinking that 'God will always provide' when the reality was that there was no money, if not there was just not enough money for both me and my brother to pursue medicine.

Back then the only thing that pushed me to work was great fear and desparation. I saw with my own eyes the price that my brother had to pay for not getting straight A1s in his biology. I saw how hard it was to survive STPM and how impossible it seemed to get into local university. The odds were stacked against me to do medicine, and there was my mother trying to get me to do something that I was no longer interested to do.

One day before the trials, my mom blurted out of desparation, "Joash, why are you so stubborn?"

I was doing my homework and looked up. I could only see my mother standing across the table. Her eyes were read. "What happened to your faith? What happened to your belief in becoming a doctor?" And she walked into her room, hands in her head and walked to her room.

It wasn't my fault that I didn't believe that I should be a doctor, but it sure was my fault this time to make her cry. And this time, it wasn't my behaviour, it was my 'losing the vision' that disappointed her so much.

Later the evening, she sat down with me and told me the most important thing that kept me working towards the trials and the actual SPM.

"God told Moses to stretch forth his arms to part the sea, only when they were actually standing in front of the sea. Until their foot touched the water, the sea never parted.

"The way will open before you only when you reach that stage. Time now, go step by step and work towards completing your today, and not your tomorrow. Let tomorrow handle tomorrow, and today handle today."

Sometimes I still wonder how tough ladies like my mom could ever cry. I wonder how is it that the toughest shell could succumb to the softest of human emotion. And maybe that's why ladies are always ladies. Soft on the outside and yet tough in the inside. Like fruits, allowing the softness of emotions to embody the resilience of the hard seed inside, that's truly what that makes my mom great. One thing for sure, that was the last time my mother ever cried over me, and trust me, I do plan to keep it that way for a long long time.

I changed when I saw my dad smile, but I was changed when my mom wept. The power of the tear is not in the pain behind it, but in the changes it can yield after the tears have dried.

Postlude: Just recently my mom called and cried over the phone, and as I heard her crying I reminded myself to continue to be a good son and to always be there for her. Especially when I'm away now, I sometimes wonder, what can I do to wipe her tears if she were to cry again?

I'd never know.

My Bio Lab

Behind the scenes of our biology lab.

This is our biology lab in INTEC UiTM. Block U to be exact.

And this is our beloved lecturer Pn Mimi Sophia, UM graduate with a Masters in Zoology. =D

Behold, Amirah looking into the microscope trying to sketch out her fingerprint. =P

My sadly pathetic and miserable classmates who often seek attention through the lens.. *sigh*

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Me in my labcoat and also trying my best not to laugh out loud.

Ridhwan, another teammate
Freezer busy copying the lab report in the very last minute.

The chinese girls working hard. Problem with them is that when it comes to taking photos they'd never appear in front of the camera, unlike another classmate of mine Anis.

Siti and Freezer, teammates of our group. (Siti's the cutest Malay girl in our class)

Our group
People watching in horror as a scary movie is played in the computer. Yes, a horror show in the biology lab.

Amirah

Fooling around with the dummy after our experiment. Notice that it's wearing a specs, a name tag and a lab coat..

So yes, this is what we do in our biology lab. And yes, I'd be the first to get arrested for bringing in a camera to the biology lab in any of you people who read this blog decide to sabotage me by reporting it to HEP. Thanks for sparing me in advance (and anticipation).


Hollow of Valentine

I remember one fine evening while I was still in Alor Setar watching TV with my mom, and out of the blue she said to me, “Joash, it’s Valentine’s day today you know.” All I knew about Valentine back then was that it was all about roses, pink hearts and chocolates. Innocently as I was, I simply replied, “Is it? Happy Valentine’s day mommy!” and that did the job by putting a smile on her face after all.

Now looking back at what happened almost 12 years ago, after going through numerous rejections and pains, after wiping away tears and allowing the wounds of the heart to heal countless times, I realised, Valentines, after all, is a myth created by man in a miserable attempt to make a secular and worldly form of ‘love’ – a type of fantasy only seen in Walt Disney – a reality.


I hate valentines with every single breath I had in me. It reminded me about how mean girls have been to me every time they knew that I liked them last time. It brought back the painful memories of how it felt like to be made a total idiot out of whenever they tried to make triumph out of a foiled attempt of mine to establish a lasting relationship that goes beyond friendship.


And I thought, why valentine if there was never meant to be any for me?


The next thing in mind was, can a valentine really be true?


Looking at all the people in shopping malls or in cinemas holding hands, or occasionally if I were to see a young lady resting her head on the shoulder of her boyfriend, something would simply stir in my heart. I never knew what it was, but it wasn’t a pleasant feeling. It felt something like feeling ‘happy’ for them because they have something you didn’t have. It felt something like feeling ‘warm’ for the comfort they have in each other, of which – definitely – you didn’t have.


Perhaps I felt envious. Perhaps I felt lonely.


Perhaps I still wonder, how long more do I have to wait before I could ever, ever celebrate a true and meaningful valentine that I could call my own?


Sharing my burden and my thoughts with Erin and Amanda, they reminded me about the love that really made a difference. They reminded me constantly throughout this whole week that the real valentine was never the world or the girls. The real valentine wasn’t a human being that could promise you the world or the stars in the sky and forget about it in a moment or so. It was more than roses and chocolates.


It was Jesus. The valentine that they first found to be meaningful in their lives, the valentine that they decided to seek partnership with for now and through the days that are yet to come. The valentine that they finally found true value and meaning in immediately after encountering what I went through almost recently.


They learned, easier than me that Man fails. It’s almost destiny, almost fate, almost a fact. So much intelligence and yet so little commitment towards the feelings and emotions of each other.


Maybe that’s why we’re all humans. One person is foolish enough to give out empty promises and the other person is silly enough to believe all the empty words of the first party. From the way things are, I’m sure God is having a good time watching all these sitcoms from heaven.


But little did I know what was in stall for me this Valentine’s Day. I went to CA in church and was busy preparing for worship, getting people moving, making sure that things were organised and stuff. And it came to the word of God. The message that Pastor Joshua delivered that night was all about the trials and tests of love.


“Are you ready to love a person even if he or she has not loved you before?”


“Are you prepared to sacrifice for the person that you love even if you’re not going to see any returns out of it?”


I was struck hard.


It wasn’t the part about loving a person that will never love me or the sacrificing of a person that hit me, it was the memories of myself loving a girl that would never love me that stunned me for a moment.


Then I realised what was bothering me all this while. What was really bothering me was not the idea of not having a girl friend to celebrate valentine’s this year with, but it was the difficulty and struggle to let go of what has happened. It’s been almost 2 months, and yet I still find it hard at times to just let go of the wounds and pain. Yes I have forgiven her – even though she refuses to admit that she was at fault in the first place – even though I decided to listen to her side of the story and try to convince myself that what she said was the truth, yet deep inside the pain is still very raw. The wound is still fresh and is yet to close, heal and leave nothing but scars.


Deep inside, it still hurts a little when I come to think about it. I have been suppressing such thoughts over the last 2 months, but at times like this I feel almost vulnerable especially when doing God’s work through such a secular celebration of the world.


Amanda was back in Kuching to be with her family, preparing for her upcoming trials. Thank God someone called Erin was still around to hear me groan and moan again.


“Come on dude.. you yourself said that you are going to let God be your valentine.. remember the song?”


We wrote a song for the Valentine CA Celebration. Me, Caleb, Erin and Amanda. Together we trashed it out by the piano for quite some time.


Yes, I remember the song but if only it was so easy..


It’s not going to be easy, if in the first place you are not prepared to let go. After all, the cup is still full of the stale drink and unless you pour it out and wash the cup, there’s no chance of you filling your cup with anything else.


Unless and until the knife is removed, the wound will never heal.


And I came to the realisation that as much as it hurts when the knife penetrates the flesh, it hurts equally much to remove it. More often than not, we’re not prepared to go through the pain again, not realising that only by pulling out that knife, only will we allow the wounds to heal and the restoration process to begin.


Valentine’s Day still means nothing to me, but one thing for sure, I’ve started to look at love differently. I learned that the no love that Man gives can equal what love God has given us. Only son sent down from heaven to earth for our sins? The sacrifice of the innocent lamb for the unworthy sinners?


The struggle will always be there to choose to seek the voice of God in pursuing what He wants me to pursue. It is always easier to chase my dreams than to chase the Giver of the dreams, but as I said much earlier, it's about time to let go of my ego and start seeking him, because only when I allow God to work in my life, will I be able to see the beauty of God and His plans that He has for me.


Plans of a future and hope. Plans of a wonderful and glorious tomorrow. Plans of a girl that God will send into my life to unleash the best that I ever had, to touch and make me better than before.


That is love. That is the truth of Valentine’s.

Monday, February 5, 2007

A Journey to Remember

Travelling back from Ipoh to Shah Alam is never a fun experience. Though I have the fantastic opportunity of sitting beside Wei Li - an answer bank that can be amusingly annoying at times - still it is no fun especially when you know that you're going back to INTEC for more lessons.

But this time, I decided to open my eyes wide throughout the whole journey back to Shah Alam. Not like I never seen the roads before, but I thought, maybe God could speak some sense into me through this little journey.

Once hitting the highway, I noticed that the greeneries on both sides of the road were slowly diminishing as the bus went down the highway. From the lush and rich forest of majestic trees and their grand canopies, the forest slowly faded away. Soon the green trees were replaced by dying trees and dried up trees. Later on the dried up trees were gone too, leaving uprooted trees lying flat on their bellies beside tractors and bulldozers, making way for more development.

It wasn't a pleasant sight honestly, and I missed the days back then where the whole journey was all trees and green plants all along the highway. Sometimes I would cheekily wind down the window and feel the fresh air gushing into the window as my dad sped at 120 kmph down the highway.

All that's left now are memories.

And earlier this morning I was in KLIA with Erin, Amanda, Jac and Amos to send off our beloved seniors to Australia. Seniors that were always there for us throughout the whole of 2006, seniors that were more like sisters to us than friends, seniors who loved us for every naughty and mischevious thing that we could ever think about and even took care for us the very day we step foot in INTEC.

Now, they're gone. Australia, their new home, their new land to study and pursue their dreams.

Reflecting on both journeys that I've been through - the physical and the emotional one - I realised that the most beautiful of things just won't stay long. The most beautiful trees will slowly be replaced by barren land and devlopment of buildings. The most caring of people will leave for various destinations for various purposes.

Nothing stays for good. Nothing is eternal.

All except for the grace of our Lord.

Life, is indeed a journey. Some people will walk in and make a difference in our lives, be it for the better or for the worse. Some people will show you the true meaning of love and care, and bless you with it. Some people will just be there for you when you need someone the most.

And when they've left and walked out of your lives for different reasons, you know that your job now is to walk into someone's life and be the blessing as he or she has been for you.

The true meaning of a journey, is not in what we see along the road. After all, it will always be changing. The essence of a beautiful journey, is the destination, and how we choose to reach it. As people on the bus, do we choose to sleep throughout the journey, missing all the things that we could see along the journey, or will we always be awake and alert, careful and caring, making the most out of the little time that we have left, on this journey?

Not one journey will ever be the same. Even if the destinations remain the same, the journey will always be new and different. That's life. Welcome aboard.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Land of Abundant Laughter

I slept and dreamt that I was walking in a park. A park full of swings, see-saws, slides and monkey bars. Walking down the pebble pathway forming the circumference of that park, I saw little children running around in the field.

Some were flying kites with their parents. Their parents ran ahead of their kids running behind, laughing as they try to jump and catch the kite that is soaring higher and higher as it achieves its height. Slowly as the kite starts to catch the wind, it glides in the skies beneath the clouds. Their parents handed the string handle to their little children. Grinning and beaming with glee, they tried to started to run around hoping that the kite would follow them wherever they go, under the careful surveillance of their loving parents. The father held the mother by the shoulder, and leaning unto each other they smiled upon seeing the joy of their children.

Some children were playing hide and seek with each other. A group of 8 kids gathered and formed a circle, discussing who should be the ones hiding and who should be the one that seeks the rest. After a brief discussion, one kid ran to a nearby tree, covered her face and pressing unto a tree and started counting to ten. The other kids scrambled to find a good hiding spot. Some hide in the bushes, some climbed unto short branches, some underneath the picnic tables. From a distance I could hear them stifling their own giggling as they tried to remain as quiet as possible while the other kid ran around looking for them. In less then 5 minutes all of them would be out of their hiding place running around in circles trying to both run and catch each other. They'd shriek as the 'hunter' tapped them on their shoulders, signalling that they are now 'dead'.

Some children were just playing with the swings. 2 little girls were sitting on the swing side by side with each other. Chatting initially as they swing slowly, they decided to head for the skies. Then they started to move their legs in a front and backward movement rhythmic to the swing. Everytime their swing stopped at its highest point they'd exert more force downwards hoping that the swing would swing even higher the next round. And it did. The feeling of the wind brushing through their long hair must have exhilarated them. Yelling out loud, regardless of the people around them or the stares of other children who envied them, they evidently were enjoying themselves on the swings.

On the bench were an elderly couple. Wiping their sweat with a towel drapped over their neck, they were breathing deeply after a long jog. Sitting side by side to each other, they started talking about their lovely past, their haydays back when they were teenagers, their fiery romance when they were much younger, their honeymoon and their children. They talked about how the society is changing, how the generation that is yet to come will live in a futuristic and modern world, how the little children will live to embrace a world that lurks with terror and fear. Their talk was all about their past and the world today, yet through it all there was this little smile carved on their face. A smile that kept so much memories of the time that they spent together. Pecking each other on the nose romantically, I couldn't resist letting out a sigh in contentment upon witnessing such faithfulness in that lasting romance.

So much laughter, so much joy. The magic of laughter and joy is that it is capable of immediately dissolving any form of physical, emotional and psychological tension among people or in a situation.

In times of sadness, laughter is the turning point.
In moments of tears, a companion is both the shoulder and the tissue.
In a world of darkness, faithfulness and truthfulness is the light.
In despair, a pair of listening ears illuminates your vision, showing you the door beside your dead end.

I woke up realising that the fruits of laughter is sweetest when originating from the fertile soil of companionship. True companionship generates laughter and joy. True companionship is all about faithfulness. True companionship is all about love. True companionship is all about sharing and caring. True companionship is all about looking out for your friends sad day, catching him when he tries to run away with his problem and pull him out of his teary situation.

The land of abundant laughter, at the end of the day, is our hearts, where we first choose to be a companion to others and be faithful to them. That time, will we realise, that our heart will be the one place that will be always full of joy in times of sadness, and abundance of peace that the world cannot give us.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Hands that Touched Him

Bending down, he slowly placed the flowers on the tombstone. Sighing lightly as he stood up, he reflected on how swift time flies. The merciless and impatient time that stole the girl that he loved away from her.

Or should he say, the girl that first loved him.

In Loving Memory: Joann Emila, 1988 - 2009

Fought till her last death
Now sitting at the right hand of our Lord
and donning a crown of righteousness


Closing his eyes, he took his own sweet time to recall his memories of being with her. Before all the roses, all the hospital visits, all the hugs and kisses, before the sitting-together-watching-the-break-of-dawn and before the candlelight dinners.

Before all of those, there were only 2 individuals who would never imagine that their paths might even cross. Never in their wildest imaginations. And perhaps they were not to be blamed if such never crossed their minds, but basically it was all about what made him who he was back then.

He was a child of a single mother. His mother - who did not deserve to be called one - was a lady of the night. He never knew who his dad was. He never had the motherly love that every other child had. He never had that someone who would hold him by the wheel teaching him how to cycle, he never had that someone to look after him when he was down with a flu. He never had that someone who sat down by his side, on the dining table, holding his little hand with a pen, teaching him how to write his own name.

All he had, was a broken home and a broken childhood.

"Don't disturb me, go do your homework," his mom would shriek at him as she dragged another client into the room before slamming the door in front of his nose.

"What school fees? You don't even deserve to go to school you brat. The fact that I brought you into this earth is a great deed done for you."

His childhood had no laughter. His childhood had no joy or no memories of birthday cakes or Christmas presents. All that he could dig up from his childhood days were dark rooms, disgusting noises coming from his mom's room, smoke that choked the room, torn curtains that could barely cover the stained windows of the dirty room.

And he walked into high school a loner. A boy with no past, a boy with no friends, a boy with no hope or vision. He never thought home was bad simply because primary school was a total nightmare. To compare it on a scale, his school life would have ditched the scale if his life at home was at the other balance. School bullies tormented him and picked on him.

"Hey you fatherless brat!" Smirks.

"BASTARD!! That's what we call people with no fathers!" Jeers.

"Here comes the bastard!!" Evil laughter.

And they'd shove him to his locker and give him a good round of punching kicking and socking before they locked him in his own locker. From the little hole that allowed little rays of light to illuminate the dark locker, he could hear their laughter fade along with their footsteps. And in the darkest room of his life, he cried and sobbed, knowing that no one would ever hear his tears. No one would ever come to help him because he was a bastard.

He was locked in his own locker so many times that he knew how to pick the lock from inside. Making sure that no one was looking at him, he'd creep out of his locker, gather his stuff and walk home.

And now it was high school. What was he expecting? More punching? More kicking? More locked up in his own locker?

"Hey you!" someone yelled from behind him. He turned to see a group of people donning dark leather jackets over white T-shirts with symbols of the skull. Adorning heavy metal necklaces that qualified to be a belt, high heeled boots with a cowboys wheel behind it, they motioned him to come over.

Walking over slowly, he feared the worst. He knew what that was all about. Well he thought he knew, but he thought wrongly.

"You seem to have some potential sucker," one of the guys said. "Wanna go kick some ass?"

Left in a daze for a second or two, he realised that they were offering him to be a part of their gang. He smiled. Finally no one will be able to touch him or lock him up in his own locker. He didn't give a second thought, he certainly didn't hesitate.

Before long he was being a part of the triad. His triad was notorious and well known in the school for disciplinary cases. Students feared their triad. They would just go up to a student and ask for money. Tough luck if they don't hand over the cash, they'd end up as pulp and lose their cash anyway.

Until one day as he was about to pulp another boy, something caught his eyes. Something that he never thought about his whole life till then, something he never expected to see in his wildest imaginations. In front of him and the boy that he held in his hands by the collar, was a girl with short shoulder length hair and a neat pair of spectacles. Dimples on her cheeks, he could see that she was clearly smiling. Admidst the tension of the situation then, he could feel her anxiety and worries, God knows why, but she was calm as the breeze.

"Hey there, that's my brother that you're holding." and she started walking over.

What on earth was she doing? Why was she walking over? 6 months of training in triads and he was never taught to handle a girl that walks up to you claiming that his brother is in your hands and smiles at you.

Ironically, the tough man dropped the small kid and ran away. He heard the crowd that had then gather around laughing and mocking at him, but he couldn't care more.

That whole day his mind was preoccupied. The only thing in his head was that girl that stood in his way, blocking off his only exit. The girl with that sweet voice. It wasn't a threatening voice that his teachers used on him everyday, it was a warm and innocent voice that he has never heard from the slum he stayed in or from the triad he mixed with. He was so frustrated and couldn't think straight that whole day, he even refused to attend the post-motem meeting the triad had evaluating his performance.

He set out to find out who she was. He spent his whole day in the cafeteria to look out for anyone who had that 'shape' from the dark. He went all over the whole school, from the library right to the music room to the chapel, just to find that girl.

And he found her.

Her name was Joann. She was one year younger than him, and from far he saw that she had a nice round face enveloped by the silky short hair on both left and right. She was fairly short compared to him, and she always had this little metal wrist band on her hand.

He decided to get closer to her. One day he saw her carrying a large stack of books, walking out of the library. With his triad instincts, he went over and knocked her by the side, causing her to lose her balance and falling to the side with the books dropping all over the place. He was about to burst into laughter and walk off when something struck him deep in his heart. A small shockwave of pain. Something he never felt before.

He already walked a few steps ahead of her. Stopping, he turned back and saw her kneeling on the floor, gathering her books. He felt so bad. Something deep inside told him that it wasn't right, and he shouldn't have done that to a girl who did him no harm or wrong.

He walked over to the girl. "Hey!" She looked up. Smile again.

"You.. uh.. you.." he was at a lost of words. He didn't know how to speak to a girl. All this while in triad he spoke to all his comrades in vulgar. Now he was standing in front of a sweet nice girl, kneeling on the floor while picking up her books that he knocked down, and he had no idea what to say.

His face was burning hot. He didn't know what it was meant to be. All he knew was that the next thing he did, he knelt down and picked up the books for her. Handing the books over to her, he dared not look at her in the face.

"Thank you, Mike." she said with a sweet smile.

Now he looked up and stared right into her eyes.
How did she know my name? No one in school knows my name.

"How did you know my name?" he mustered all his courage and blurted out.

"I knew you. I remember you were the boy that tried to pulp my brother, right?"

Oh no, he thought. This was so so so so bad. And he ran. Again.

A triad member running away from a girl? Did that make any sense at all? It sure didn't, but that was the way things went. He ran away from Joann.

After running and running for something like eternity, he sat down by the side of the road to catch his breath. Heaving and puffing, he told himself to calm down and stay calm.
I have to do something, I cannot continue running away from her.

The next day he went on a hunt mission and found her in the cafeteria. She saw him sure enough and waved to him.

"Hi Mike! Care for a drink?"

Shocked.
Is she inviting me for a drink? Who in their right minds would invite a notorious triad member over for a drink? That sounded insane.. but it was always worth a try.

He pretended to stay cool and calm as he took his seat. She graciously poured a cup of tea from the pot already on her table and mixed some sugar and creamer for him. "What brings you here?"

He cleared his throat. "Uh.. uh.. well.." and he gasped for a breath. He thought he nearly choked on himself. Fact was, he was so nervous that he had nothing prepared in his mind but pure blank and blank and nothing but blank. She was laughing this time. "I thought you'd prepare a speech over here. Next time you can write out your script and I'd help you mark it."

He laughed out loud, but he immediately cut it short.
Now when was the last time I laughed? He never realised that after joining the triads he was slowly becoming a cold blooded creature, and finally someone was restoring some sanity in him.

"Joann," he finally mustered enough guts from deep within. "I, uh, well, apologise for nearly pulping your brother. I regretted my actions.." he took in a deep breath.

".. and I'm quitting the triads."
For you.

In the next 6 years of high school, teachers, lecturers and students would witness the most amazing transformation of a notorious potential triad leader into the most outstanding student in high school. How he'd excel as a boxing ring leader in the American tournaments, how he'd lead his teams against arch-rivals into victory one after another in rugby, how he'd ace SAT test with record breaking achievements, and how he'd be the most charming guy in school compared to the good-for-nothing brat he was back then.

And the secret was not in Joann, it was in her hands.

He never told anyone about a little story that made him choose to quit the triads. As he was running away, he realised that he could run no more. He realised that the further he tried to run, the further he drifted away from reality. He was now living in a world of illusions and fear, a world of lies and false hopes.

He got up and wanted to continue running again, when someone called him from behind.

"Mike!" a sharp yet warm voice.

"Mike!"

He turned back as he was about to take foot. Joann.

It was raining then. Through the raindrops that fell on both faces, he saw that she was crying. Her eyes were red swollen and swelled up. She was shaking in the rain and she was shivering. But she stood right there, in the middle of the road on the rainy day, and called out to him.

"Don't run Mike. You think no one knows what you're going through? You think you're alone?"

"I have no father. What do you know?"

"Neither do I. But I'm not running, neither is my brother. So why should you?" She stepped closer to him. "Mike, please don't run anymore." She held out her hands and clasped his face. The warmth of her hands shadowed the coldness of the wind and rain, and in that split second he looked straight into the eyes of a girl for the very first time in his life.

He saw pain in her eyes. He saw betrayal. He saw her loneliness. He saw that she had no home except for a shelter home. He knew nuts about psychic power, but as he revealed it to her much later, what he saw through her eyes were all true.

He never thought that anyone would touch him. All he had were the tight slaps from his mother. The times when those cold hard hands that landed on his cheeks were never pleasant experiences. It made him thought that hands were meant to inflict pain and nothing less. He thought that the hands were made to destroy, to punch, to hit, to wage war, to harm.

But the turning point in his life came when someone used her hands to
touch him. More than just his face, but his heart.

And that changed his life.

He realised, through their romance, that she will not be living long. She had a disease known as G6PD, a syndrome whereby the blood lacks a certain enzyme that is capable of breaking down highly oxydising agents found in certain food. Due to that fact, her blood cells are breaking down constantly and are not able to be replenished soon enough.

"Doesn't matter whether you can live with or without me," she once said. "What matters most is how I lived my life with you when I'm still around."

The night she breathed her last breath, he was beside her in the hospital. Through the mask, he saw her smiling again. "Jo," he asked. "Is there anything you would like to tell me?"

"That day when I touched you, I knew it was a dream come true."

"Many nights before then, I had been praying for you. I was in the same primary school as you and I saw how you were bullied by the gangsters. I saw how you grew to hate and eventually became a part of them, and my heart was scarred to see you fall and struggle on your own. I never wanted you to cry in the heart and act tough outside.

"And that day when I touched you, I felt the cold shell melting away, I felt your heart opening up, I saw your light shining from a distance in your cold dark tunnel. And I knew, that that was the beginning of your transformation to who you are now."

Driving back to high school in time for his graduation ceremony, the thoughts that invaded his mind moments ago back at her tombstone was still lingering around. Taking the mike later the evening, he addressed a crowd of 600 students as valedictorian of the year.

"What made me who I truly am, was not a girl - as most of you often perceived. It was the act of that girl that changed me."

Indeed, it took no romance, no flowers, no love letters to make him realised that he was loved. It was the smallest act of kindness birth from the sincerest of hearts, that made him come back to his senses and discover the truth behind the lies of this world:

No past is too damaging to a person's future, no heart is too cold to melt, no soul is too stiff to be bent, if and only if someone, would choose to be that little angel to walk into his life that one fine day, stretch forth her arms, and just touch him.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

When I Was Asleep

Tash paced up and down the corridor. Occasionally looking through the glass panel, she could clearly see the doctors and the nurses working busily over his motionless body. They were mouthing a lot of stuff, but she couldn't make up a single word of it.

From outside she saw the nurses adjusting the IV drips and the metal stand that's holding it. She couldn't will herself to go on looking at the commotion inside and hence sat down on the chairs outside my room.

Holding firmly in her hands was the bouquet of roses she bought seconds before her whole life changed. Seconds before that, she was preparing to surprise him with something sweet that he liked. She remembered that he liked roses equally much as her as the roses reminded him of her.

"Every petal of a rose," he once whispered into her ears, "is a beautiful part of you."

And as she held that bouquet, reminding herself of how beautiful she was - and hopefully is - in his eyes, she thought the roses were dying. She thought she saw her petals dropping and fading as he fell and collapsed right in front of her eyes. How as he turned her around to take the shots, how she wanted to scream and scold him as usual, but too late as he smiled and almost immediately gasped for air as he went down to the bullets.

She just couldn't stop the crystal beads from rolling out of her eyes. Eyes shut tight, images of the scene in the ambulance kept replaying itself over and over again. How she yelled and begged and cried and hit him, but still he remained motionless and still. His pulse was slowly decreasing back in the ambulance and as the paramedics were fighting to keep him breathing and alive, she could only sit silently at the side, making sure she didn't get in the way. Holding his hand firmly close to her damp wet face, she could only pray as a helpless person.

If there was anything that she would never ever doubt, she would never doubt the fact that he will give up his life for her when the time arise.

And how she doubted him back when she once met him.

While dating before heading off to Chiang Mai, she once asked him, "Would you ever die for me?" He was stunned and almost went blank for a moment before he fumbled out the words, "Uh.. well.. that's a tough one isn't it.."

"Would you?"

Silence

"I don't know dear. I really don't know." He held her hands and gazed into her eyes. She saw sadness and unsecurity, she saw no assurance of a man that would be prepared to die for her. She only saw that sombre sense of loneliness she never saw before in his eyes, and her heart sank.

She kept that doubt to herself throughout the whole Chiang Mai mission. Though he stunned her by constantly surprising her with beautiful night sceneries and fruits she never seen before in her whole life, though she decided to give him her life and her future, though she never knew what was ahead of them, she still doubted. That thought had disturbed her through the whole journey back to NY and even as she purchased the roses, she looked into the petals and sigh.

What am I doing?

Now she finally knew what was she doing. She was committing her life to a man that was prepared to die for her, and yet at the point of time she decided to stop doubting him as she walked towards him with that bouquet of roses, she lost him.

"Miss Natasha, may I see you for a moment?"

Disturbed from her daze and thinking, she got up and straightened her jacket. Still holding on to the roses, she walked into the doctor's room and sat on the chair.

"Is.. is he ok?" Her voice was all fear and worries.

What if he died? She thought.

No, I must believe that he will live. He will live for me.

She chose to believe that as much as he was prepared to die for her, he too would fight with every breath that he had, to stay alive, to be with her too. She believed that would be him. He was a fighter. He too had fought half his life for the dreams that he had, for the visions that was given to him, for the glory of the Lord. He fought against the red tapes of the birocracy, he fought against criticism in his very own church, he stood up for what was right when everyone was against it, and he has went through the worst of storms in his life and walked out of it a better and stronger person. He persevered in Chiang Mai, braved the rains and chill and protected her from the cold and rain.

He will fight to be with her. I know he would.

But will he live?

Then she got the news. Her heart shattered. She couldn't believe what she heard.

He wouldn't make it, as long as he did not get a heart from a donor.

Lord.. how could you let this happen? Why him, why a good man?

In front of the doctor, she couldn't control her emotions anymore. It was just beyond what she could possibly bear anymore. It was the last that she wanted or had to hear, and she just heard it slip from the doctor's mouth. She wanted and needed hope of his survival so badly, and the doctor sitting in front of her sealed it up.

How could that be?

The voices of the doctor just faded away from her ears. Nothing from the doctor was really making sense or important, so that had to fade. She did not want to hear anymore attempted dialogues of consolation or comfort from man, she wanted to seek the face that she has always desired to see all her life. She wanted to hear from the voice that was most important to her all her life. She wanted her best friend to be by her side, as He has always been all those years.

The same voice that told her to let him come into his life, the same voice that told her not to doubt in him, the same voice that was always heard through the whole ordeal beginning from the gunshots right till that point of time..

God, where are you when I need you the most?

Here I am. Why did you let this happen? Why him of all people? You know well enough that I needed her..

Yes you needed him, but at times like this don't you need Me more? Lord, please be merciful to him Lord, I'm begging you. Not me, just him.. him Lord..

So do You want him to live? Yes Lord, more than anything.. let him live..

Will you give up your life for his sake? What do you mean now?

Will you give up your life for him to liveas he did, for you to live on? Yes, I'm ready. I'm ready Lord, whatever it may take.

"Miss," suddenly the doctor interrupted my conversation with God. "There's only one last possibility left."

That sentence changed the whole course of events. Before she knew what was happening, she was asked to bathe, sign tonnes of legal contracts and statements, renew and review her will for a possible last time, and donning a large white gown, she lay down on a large bed with rollers.

"You are a great lady, Miss Natasha." the doctor looked at her with great and yet, compassionate eyes. "Are you sure and ready to do this?"

She nodded her head confidently. This time, she knew well enough what she was going to do.

Before signing anything, she called her mother. "Nanny?"

"Hi darling.."

I'm just here to say that this will be the last time I'm talking to you, the last time that you will hear my voice, the last time that you will hear me alive, the last time that I will be hearing anything from you..

"I'm just here to say that Nanny, through the many many years, you have been the mother I needed, the lady that was always there for me, the father who taught me to be a lady and the person who has always supported me in all that I do. Thank you and I love you.."

"Is everything ok Tash?"

She never did answer that question, before she burst into another round of tears she quickly slammed the phone. That was the last thing she wanted her nanny to hear before she left this world for good. She didn't want people to worry about her, she didn't want people to mourn or beg her not to do anything stupid.

It was a choice she made. Not for anyone, not for God, but for him.

The man who was ready to die for her without asking for anything in return. For the man who loved her with every little thing that she had.

And she decided, that for him to live would be better for her to live. It was pointless for her to live on with a problem while her problem would become a solution to others. She wanted him to have what she had that could keep him alive.

And she decided, that she will take to the knife. She will let the doctors take her heart, and give it to him.

As she was wheeled into the operation theatre. The anasthesist asked her one last time, "Miss Natasha, beyond this point there is no turning back. This prosedure is irreversible and once you've been put to sleep, you will last for as long as this anasthesia last. Are you ready?"

"Go ahead. Just do it."

As the anasthesist inserted the anasthesia into her, she breathed in deeply. Lord, will I be seeing you soon?

No Tash, not so soon. Why not?

She thought she could see God smiling at her. She never knew why, but what she saw was a doctor running into the operation theatre with a little glass thing in his hands. She could see his name tag bearing the name 'Freezer' through the translucent surgical gown. He pushed the nurses who were getting Tash ready for operation and mumbled some medical terms to the doctor who was about to perform the prosedure. She thought she heard the nurses letting out a laugh and a cheer and she thought she could make out a smile carved on all of their faces from behind their masks.

"What's going on?" she could feel the strain of the anasthesia on her. She was quickly dozing off and falling into a deep sleep.

"Miss Natasha, you are not going to die. For both you and Joash, you will live and be great. You are going to be history."

And true enough, she closed her eyes, never knowing that what was beyond that point of time, what was installed for her after she open her eyes into a new realm would be history.