Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Employer: Slumber

“Good morning sir, rise and shine.”

I hate waking up. The voice that wakes me up is now cold and stern; the blinding lights painfully flood the room immediately from the curtains drawn forcefully and loudly. Subsequently Alice places my neatly pressed shirts on the edge of the bed while I slowly get up, rub my eyes, and listen to her chant the agenda for my day.

“You have breakfast at Grands with Opes, a lunch appointment with the CFO from Dell, and a concert by YTL to catch at night.”

I hate waking up. Since the accident, I’ve been waking up feeling that she has been in the room with me the night before, lying on her side of the bed, probably watching me sleep, gently stroking my cheeks just like good times before. Yet when my eyes open wide, the other side of the bed is empty. I thought I heard her whisper into my ears last night, her voice so sweet that it would’ve melted my heart a thousand times, yet when I stirred, all that I saw was the darkness of the night. No figure. No Michelle.

I loved the way she would wake me up back then. Her warm fingers stroking my cheeks, and when my eyes open, right beside me on the other pillow, nested cozily would be the most beautiful face in the world, with that pink lips stretched into a bow from ear to ear, dimples on the side. “Morning dear,” and my reply was on her forehead with a ‘Morning Michelle’.

Michelle’s not on the other side of the bed this morning. “Wait,” I interrupted Alice. “You’ve forgotten something else.” Alice sighed. “You’ve got a church appointment right after breakfast.”

Yup, I reminded her. We’ve got a baby dedication ceremony to catch. She left the room with a sigh and made a phone call. I know that sigh. She sighs when I’m stubborn and insist upon something which she totally disagrees upon.

She disagrees me remembering my past.

That morning I woke up thinking that I was either in heaven or in church. The walls and the bed linens were all whitewashed. It certainly took me a while before registering the beeping sound from the ECG monitor and the oxygen mask over my face.

“Good morning sir,” the girl whom I know call Alice was standing near the entrance of the door. “I am your butler and secretary, I will be your manager from this day onwards.”

No, I protested. I don’t need a manager, I need Michelle. Where is she?

Sir, she replied, she has already left you. She couldn’t wait for you to recover, so she remarried and she moved on with life.

Stunned, a million questions raced through my mind. How long have I slept? When was the accident? What happened? No, I asserted. Michelle would never do that. She has waited for me all those long nights and those business trips before, why couldn’t she wait?

“You’ve been in a coma for 3 years since that accident.”

“Where is Michelle?” I demanded. “Sir, she already has a family, and I cannot allow you to find her. She has already obtained a court order to have you divorced and will surely seek a court restrain if you harass her.”

That was when the ghost of the night started to haunt me.

“Sir, wake up sir. We’ve reached the church already.”

I woke up, the car engine was turned off, the radio still playing my favourite baroque pieces. Eyes half open, I pushed the button at the side of the door, and the black tint came rolling down, again flooding the car with a similar blinding light.

The church is a beautiful heritage building, every brick unique and different from the other, block by block, stacked and cemented over each other. A beautiful arch gracefully forms the front door, with a red carpet flowing along the aisle, and at the very far end of it is a couple, facing the priest, with a baby in the woman’s hands.

The lady turned to look at her child, though only revealing half of her face, it was unmistakable. Her curled up hair still draped over the right shoulder in a messy twirl, her eyes still sparkles with a warm gentle light, her smile still curves with that beautiful red arch with a lovely dimple at each side.

I’ve seen the husband before. This well built man with a small but strong smile. He seems familiar, but I could never recall when I’ve met him. Maybe one day I’ll remember, I mumbled beneath my breath. I may have forgotten much since the accident, but I will remember it one day.

The priest sprinkled some water over the baby’s head, and from afar Michelle slowly rocked the baby in her arms, making sure the baby doesn’t stir or cry while the priest went on with the rituals. I was sure that I was neither crying nor tearing up. It’s already 6 months since Alice broke the news to me. I know I’ve handled the rejection pretty well now.

But my heart, that feeling inside me… An unexplainable burden made my heart sank deep into a pit of sorrow. After all the good times we gave each other, how could she leave me for someone else? What happened to all those promises of being there for each other down the years, of being our one and only true love?

If I recall correctly, we were supposed to have a church wedding. It’s always her dream to have a church wedding, and though I only thought marriage was on paper, I was prepared to oblige. Then again, she left me before I obliged.

So what did he do to her while I was asleep?

She turned back and looked long and far, her gaze travelling down the aisle to meet mine. My heart skipped a beat, face turned into stone. She saw me. That was all that was left in my mind. The smile on her face left as quickly as she saw this face inside the car, her head shook gently to a ‘no’, and she turned back to her baby, hair swirling over her shoulder to interrupt our gaze.

“Sir, we really have to go for lunch.” She sounded cross. Alice pat the driver on his shoulder. The engine roared to life, the black tint closed up the dam of light, and the car rolled out of the church compound. So many questions remain unanswered ever since that accident, so much has changed in that 3 years when I was asleep. For every reason I have to hate falling asleep, I probably have even more reasons to hate waking up.

Yet, my eyelids still grow heavy when Alice’s voice fades into the background, and when the baroque pieces lullaby me to sleep. I still fall asleep, knowing that there could very well be a surprise that I never wanted, or a dream I never want to remember, waiting for me together with the blinding light that floods the room whenever I wake up.

PART 1 of a new trilogy, dedicated to Amanda Albert: Amazing editor, best friend, wonderful companion, and a different-n-unique bro.