The phone alarm rings, a most annoying and persistent blaring that my flailing hands finally cut short at the expense of my peaceful state of paralysis. I sit up in bed, squinting out the morning sun that is already streaming into the room. The walls are apple green. I remember how Mother once laid a paint catalogue on the dining table and asked my sister and I to choose our favorite colour. We somehow settled on apple green, which was something of a miracle in itself since we hardly agreed on anything. Then Mother went and painted the entire house apple green, which for years made me feel like I was living in the surgical ward of a hospital. She said it was to save money.
The birds seem to have woken to the alarm as well. One begins a series of shrill calls – wah-wah-wah, followed by a five second pause, then wah-wah-wah again. Then an echo from much farther away. Two friends, shouting good morning to each other over and over. After awhile, others start to join in with their own riffs, voices layering one over the other till I can no longer make out the individual melodies. Not a symphony, but not altogether unpleasant either.
I look to my side and see her curled up under the messy covers, facing away from me. Her feet just peeking out from below, right foot resting neatly on the left as though she had delicately positioned them in her sleep. She is funny that way – an endearing paradox of clumsiness and orderliness that seem to be waging an unending battle in every facet of her life. I find myself smiling as I watch her still deeply engaged in some unknown dream, blissfully unaware of the lively avian conference going on outside. But then, out of nowhere, a huge wave of guilt washes over me, and the longer I look at her the more my heart clenches with a profound sense of wrongdoing. She stirs gently from her slumber, as if something inside her can feel the panicked beating of my heart, and turns to me with a look of innocent, bleary-eyed contentment.
“You’re up early dear,” she whispers, then smiles and closes her eyes again.
“The birds, they are mighty noisy today,” I stammer. “I’ll go take a shower, OK?”
She does not reply, and so I get up to put into action what I had just declared. Pushing open the bathroom door, I realize that I have forgotten to switch on the water heater again. But the heater switch is out in the corridor, and to get to it would require me to turn back around and walk past the bed again. It is not what I want to do at this moment. Perhaps there is still some hot water in the storage tank? I will just take a quick shower and then I will leave, simple as that. The moment the water gets lukewarm, I will get out of the shower and put on my dress and get out of here. Dress. My train of thought takes a little tumble there, as if something is not quite right. Shaking it off, I tell myself that it is a new day, and new days bring new stories and new solutions to all our problems. It is almost convincing. I step in, noticing that the tiles are apple green, too.
“Don’t go,” she calls out, as I close the door.
The morning sun forces its way into the bathroom, and I open my eyes to see Izwan waving the flashlight madly in front of my face.
“What you see ‘bang, was she there?”
I stare at him blankly, and realize there are tears in my eyes.
“She’s sleeping with a girl who doesn’t love her, and her whole room is green.”
Izwan laughs, and sits himself down heavily on the couch beside me, a look of relief behind his thick glasses.
“What you expect, that you are there with her living happily ever after? You won’t ever wake up if that’s the case!”
“You are right, I wouldn’t wake up if that were the case. So what?”
He just looks at me.
“Izwan, I have to go back. I have to see her again. The girl is leaving after her shower, and she’ll be alone, and she’ll probably be upset too. Just one more time, please?” I clutch his arm, desperate.
“She’ll never love you there, you know right?”
I know that, clear as day. There, she may not even know of my existence.
There, I may not even exist.
Written by Kenneth