The events of the almost two months' so called break were beginning to fade away as the plane began its descent. Most of England were still asleep but we were sure that our children whom we had not seen for so long were there, waiting at the arrival lounge. Thank God none of the luggage were missing and the immigration waved us through without any questions.
From a distance we saw them, all excited. And how they have grown – even two months away made a difference! With them were two of our closest friends in this community that's become our family away from home. Only close friends would take the trouble to wake up at that unearthly hour and prepare us the most scrumptious nasi lemak so unlike the one served on MAS!
In the car we all wanted to talk all at the same time and nona being nona missed all the junctions and turnings and we ended up on the way to Uxbridge! That's not the most exciting part of the homecoming, the best was yet to come.
Finally on more familiar surroundings, the car which was in the middle lane of the by then very busy road of office workers going to work, stopped. Just like that! A kind soul behind us pushed the car to a safe spot and we called the RAC. Standing by the roadside, in my batik blouse bought in Pasar Payang, Kuala Terengganu and still in my heels with its bling-bling, I suddenly felt the gush of the cold winter wind that defined the distance that divides the world that still has my Mak and my loved ones and the one that has my home, children, cats and a neglected garden.
The car just gave up on us and refused to budge, giving out a strange whining sound. Nice RAC man told us to get back into the car for a slow tow home.
If the girls were chatting away, I didn't quite hear them. I was reliving the hectic schedule of the past two months as Nona slowly steered the car behind the RAC truck. Looking out of the window I was transported back to Singapore, where it all began. It was the launch of GUiT – the publisher's launch. We had hardly recovered from jetlag and there we were hobnobbing with writers young and old. AG could hardly open his eyes but he was already signing copies of GUiT. Needless to say, it was mostly GuiT related events that whizzed by – those that took us to Terengganu of old and new, to university lecture rooms and bookshops for booksigning events.
I saw my siblings; teasing, laughing and reliving our childhood from lounge to kitchen to dining room. I saw my nieces and nephews, all grown up and adorable. And I saw and heard Yaya and Hilman, belting away “Oh Dewiiiiiii, Aku cinta pada mu sampai matiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii”
Then I saw visions of Mak, sometimes frail and forgetful and sometimes alert and her witty self. I heard her endless questions, repeated almost always at five minute intervals. I saw her curled up body on the sofa with the tv on, or her small figure in the white telekung perhaps doing zuhur for the second time or asar before its time. But does it matter, Mak? It doesn't for He understands.
I heard her plea to take her home to the house that Pak Built for her. I replayed the conversation at the dinner table one evening:
“Mak nak balik. Mak demam.”
“Kalau Mak demam buat apa nak balik. Sapa nak jaga?”
“Zaharah la jaga Mak.”
“Ah ada kerja sikit. Mak duduk sini lah”
“Masa Ah demam Mak jaga....” she said looking straight into my eyes, pleading. I quickly turned away to hide my shame and my guilt. I had no answer. I had no excuse. And right there on the A40, being slowly towed away by the kind RAC man, my hot tears flowed again.
The last few minutes before leaving for the airport, I crawled up to her and placed my head gently on her boney chest and closed my eyes while she patted me as if to sleep. I could have stayed there and be her baby again and listen to her syairs and hikayats that she used to tell. But she said, “Jangan lambat pi airport. Nanti kapai terbang tinggai. Anak-anak dok tunggu.”
I also saw the reunion in marriage of my childhood friends who were brought back together in the holy city during Haj, after being divorced for more than a year.
And most vivid in my mind was our time together, my AG and I; those moments of separations when we had to part at the KL Sentral, those anticipated rendevous at KLCC. Who says being warga emas doesnt have its romantic moments?
Nice RAC man deposited us safely back on our driveway. It was a far cry from the send off at KLIA when we were whisked away to the VIP room because a certain member of the Royal family had wanted a meeting with Awang Goneng. Such is life.