I divided this challenge into parts, because I felt like it. Underlined words were suggestions from friends. Photo credits to Mark Henley. Here’s part one of the challenge:
In my dreams, someone was knocking on the door, but at that point I woke up. 2 more hours before we arrive at KLIA, the screen tells me. And then, the knocking started again, louder than before. It was the kid behind me. I assumed that he didn’t know how a touchscreen works.
Fuck fuckity fuck fuck fuck. Just let it go la. Just two more hours.
Gleaming skyscrapers, polluted air, and apparent inequality – these things make up Kuala Lumpur, a city that can’t sustain its own people. Although popular as a global financial centre and world class city, most people can’t even afford to live in KL. Throngs of people moved away after its rapid development, as it became too expensive to stay for long. The few who do eventually fall prey to poverty, and rely heavily on soup kitchens to get their plate of rice with curry everyday. Just enough to survive.
I wanted to do something that matters, so it wasn’t long before Siti’s Soup Kitchen became my second home. The people who visit the soup kitchen regularly are said to be separated into various clans. They settle into different sheds every night; but, they love sharing stories with each other while eating the food prepared by the kitchen. Every night, I would hear wows, ohs, and ahs from the kitchen; and sometimes I would join the squatting circle.
The silence of the back alleys of Kuala Lumpur can be quite deafening at night, so if something were to happen people would find out easily. One clan member recalled his own account of a masked girl who seemed young enough to stay in primary school.
“”No time to explain. Get in the car!” The little girl yelled to the convict while brandishing an MP5,”
Another clan member told her tale of a man and a woman staring suspiciously at a wall. They were both draped in immaculate white suits. The clan member told everyone,
“The man brought him to a wall and said, “Come with me, Sam”. “I’m sorry I just can’t.” And they bid farewell not knowing when they would see each other again. Boom!”
I’ve been talking to her every night, and every conversation is never a dull one. Her name is Alia. Charismatic, extraverted, and outspoken – these qualities are what headhunters are looking for, and it baffles me to see her visit this soup kitchen every night in her stained white tank top and oversized slippers. One night, she tried to approach me but before she could say anything, a boy tapped her on the shoulder. He was of similar height, and looked at her as though she meant the world to him. I know, because he didn’t notice me when I introduced myself to him.
“Hello?” I greeted.
A long pause.
“Sorry, it’s urgent. My name is Jeff, by the way.”
“It’s good to meet you.” I returned to my duties.
Jeff and Alia met outside the glaring skyscraper of Pavilion Mall. That’s where most tourists were, and when there are tourists there’s waste. Jeff’s personality’s a stark contrast to Alia’s. Introverted, reserved, and reticent – these qualities made him the balancing act of Alia’s life. Jeff also believes that whenever he crosses his eyes, a kid drops his ice-cream. Very often Alia thinks he’s deluded, but his quiet confidence kept him hoping that it was true. Jeff’s parents were hunted down by loan sharks. His parents knew he had a better chance of surviving if they separated. And they did.
At midnight, I found out from Alia that Jeff saw his parents from afar while he was scavenging the streets of Masjid India. The wonderstruck boy approached them, and the family was briefly reunited two years after separating. They brought their son to lunch, and he felt like he was home again. Although Jeff was over the moon, the concern in his parents’ eyes sent a chilling jolt down his spine. He knew the loan sharks were still after them, and there was nothing he could do but pray as they keep running for their lives. Before they separated once again, they took the boy into their arms and hugged him extra tight as though they were trying to give him back two lost years of companionship. To Jeff, it was not enough.
Is it ever enough? To him, if it wasn’t this, it’d be something else. He dwelled on the possibilities of ‘something else’.
“I’m sure it would be much better than this,” he thought.
He was wrong.