Everything in our life started from childhood. When we are most free and safe from the undulating stories of the world. We created our own stories. The world was simply a picture of blue sky and wonderland. I supposed you felt the same.
At times I felt that we moved in a parallel universe.
There was twinkle in your eyes when you told me stories of your childhood. About you being the darling of the household, how it has always been a playtime between you and your brother, your sister too. You rode bicycles, and how you tried so hard to win the race with your brother. How you ran home after countless hours of playing outside because the day was too hot to bear, and then you and your sister would lie flat on the cold hard cement floor for the cooling effect. You told me how you and your brother would climb the staircase and slide down the rail just for the fun of it.
You always wanted to shine. To win everyone’s favour.
You became frequently upset when your brother chose not to race and ride bicycles with you anymore as he grew older. Your parents always make a point to pamper you, in your words, spoiled you. Being the last in the family, you were never short with perks and advantages.
Then at school, you were fast to be elected for student body council. You put all effort to become school athlete. A popular student who excelled at everything, again winning important favours. You loved math. Or maybe you were simply good at it. Or maybe because it was taught by your favourite teacher. You were a brilliant student. Brilliant enough to obtain government scholarships to further study abroad. Enrolled into one of the best universities.
I am that type that will never understand your motivation. Or the banner that drives you to such distinction. Like you quoted in that favourite song of yours, ‘life goes easy on me. most of the time.’
I spent my childhood in a quiet village. Just like you the whole village was my playground. All there was to do were just to eat and play. When you raced the tricycle with your brother on the streets in front of your house, I was racing downhill on a bicycle with no brakes and couple of sharp turns around the edge of the dirt road. When your brother unfairly won his race against you, I fell into the stinking gutter and earned my scar.
There were goats. Cows and chicken in our front yard. When it rained these goats ran beneath our wooden kampung house seeking shelter. I would still play my heart out in the yard with other kids, be it soccer or selipar tiga. Drenched and carefree. You on the other hand would stay quietly by the window when it rained because your mother or your sister would tell you so.
You started reading at an early age. You enjoyed fables and children books that your mother bought you. You dreamt of your own fairy tales too. I, on the other hand, discovered the pleasure of an old vinyl records belonged to my uncle. I sat and listened to the contemporary songs at that time. They were love songs I think. I was exposed to the idea of romance at that age through love songs, while you at that age were dreaming of your prince charming and his castle of ballroom dancing.
You climbed staircase. I fell down from trees.
You learned Math at home, I dug dirt for worms for fishing baits.
You ran around your neighbourhood for fun, I collected brown old coconuts on our front yard and firewood from the nearby rubber estate for my grandmother to do her cooking.
You grew up with the hustle and bustle of town life. I was pretty much contained to this peaceful corner of the world. Your bursting energy a complete contrast to my laid back attitude. You looked forward to become everyone’s eye candy, I had trouble just to get into shower. And much worse going to school in the morning. While your accomplishments were displayed on the walls, I spent most of my childhood just being wallpaper.
But liyana, I learned something else pretty early in life.
Something I have never told you about.
I found a kitten. Couple of days old underneath my wooden house. I never had any pets. At that age most of the animals I found around my house were edible. I think I was eight years old.
This kitten was alone. It was sick, it couldn’t see. It was very tiny; I cupped it in one hand. I was afraid that I might break his limbs or ribs when I touched him.
He was making small but poignant noises. I looked at him but I didn’t know what to do.
I thought he was cold because he trembled. So I put him out in the sun. I sun-bathed him.
But the noises didn’t stop.
At night, I made small cuttings out of the cardboard for him to lie on. Also made a blanket out of rag cloth so that he will not shiver when the temperature dropped later.
The next morning, liyana. He was quiet.
I paid him a visit and poked him. He didn’t move. He was asleep.
I called my mother and I asked what was wrong with this kitten. You know the look that mothers gave when they didn’t feel like telling you would be the best idea. She gave me that look.
And I understood.
I got up and wrapped that little kitten in a newspaper. I folded it nicely. I took a shovel that my grandmother kept with her farm tools, and found a spot underneath a big mango tree. Just a little shade nearby.
I dug. Took the kitten in its wrappings and put it inside. I was gentle to put the soil back on top, I thought it might hurt his tiny body.
There was no tombstone.
But I told my mother this was where my kitten lies. It didn’t even have a name.
liyana. It all began in our childhood. To you it was about life and dreams. Ascending to the heights of aspiration. To me it has always been the underlying tone. The grey areas where nobody marked their territories.
You are right, love.
Life had it easy on me. Most of the time.