She grew up the daughter of the southern working class. Dad’s a taxi-driver, UMNO member and smokes 3 packs a day while discoursing on why Mahathir is god. Mum sings in a band, a beauty for the drunks to behold in the sodden, smoky dangdut halls of Kuala Lumpur. Her mother gave her the name she had always wanted for herself : Juita.
She knows men like her mother knows them. When you find one who doesn’t expect you to toe his line, keep him. Do anything and everything, once he’s yours, to protect him from the cruel world out there. Traps and snares everywhere. Usually in the form of one of your own. A full-blooded and lonely woman with so much to share and offer.
At 16, in school, she was often confronted by the teachers about the nature of her parents’ work. It’s easy enough to say her dad’s a driver. He drives. That much is apparent. But to her answer that mum’s a singer there would always be furrowed pedagogical brows. She sings? Where?
In my left ear canal, you dumbfuck, she would say silently before walking off to the toilets to smoke.
I dah lama nak cakap kat you, tapi I malu. Ye la kan, kat umah kita atas atap tu kan ramai sangat orang. I segan sebab aritu I dah nampak you tengah borak dengan Zek. Pastu Fifi cakap kat I lepas makan mangga haritu, you dah break ngan Zek. I pun apa lagi, terus cuba luck I la kan. Tak sangka pulak you turun bawah harini. I macam dah agak you suka tengok baldi merah tu jugak.
I harap you terima cinta I Bi. I tau I tak hensem mana. Lidah I pun average je. Tapi ia terjelir untuk you Bi. Lupakan Zek tu. I tau dia selalu berlagak cakar-cakar tunjuk kuku dia tajam kat atas atap. I takde pretensi macho tu semua Bi. I sensitif, caring, suka contemplate existence I tepi longkang petang-petang macam ni. I tak salah pilih hari. Sebab harini hari I. I toleh belakang, tengok you tengah tengok I, ekor you berhayun kiri-kanan macam dilanda bayu kosmik yang turut membuai perasaan I. Lantas, tanpa kata-kata, you peluk I. Dan I izinkan. Bahkan menuntut hak I untuk dicintai oleh you, sayang.
When Juita is sad she cries like everyone else. She sits in her room, in the city heat after that lonely drive at rush hour, listens to sad songs. Some with guitars in them, acoustic or electric, strumming her sad sad heart. Like a lot of us who cry alone she didn’t need tissues or other means of drying her eyes. Her sodden right arm on her chin, just letting the tears roll one by one to form a globe of water glistening on her elbow lying across the pillow.
She speaks to god like she speaks to a friend she loves. One she’s wronged so many times, but also one who still lets her inside to listen.
“So how’s it going? I bet you’re happy”.
“Yeah, Jay, I’m like the queen of happy. The goddess of sunshine.”
“So what’s the deal here? You took him away so you could keep him for yourself? You can do better than that, you know? He’s not even tall enough for you. Huh? Katie fucking Holmes?”
The embrace, at the end of every session was long and sweet. Like a roof that never leaks. Juita holds on to god because god held on to her. She returns after long sojourns to tell god that yeah maybe it wasn’t such a good trip but she went ahead anyway. She saw creation, life, despair and always sweet, sweet joy.
God enfolds her in this huge bubble of awareness. A sense of presence that’s within her, extending outward to shield her whole being from the filth. She floats in her bubble until the inevitable moment where it bursts and she’d fall smiling again onto earth, ready to walk with head held up high and face the throbbing streets of Kuala Lumpur.
Before despair hit Juita she was a beautiful girl. An oval face with a pointed chin and a ready smile. On a particular evening, beside the straits of malacca, on a balcony overlooking the pool and construction on the shorefront, she shone. Giving out light.
I lighted her cigarette afterward and we watched tv. It was Zaiton we were watching. In black and white, Sudin knocking bottles at his window, a motorcycle on the roof and noisy neighbours.
I was on the sofa and she was on the floor. My knees at the back of her neck and my eyes transfixed as she tightened her scrunchie. I squinted at the smoke she exhaled.
“You’d look good in glasses” she said.
“I wore them for a while in secondary school. It was totally a vanity thing. I lost it in like a month. Nerdy tortoiseshell type.” I reminisced.
“Well you should wear them now. I think you look better with glasses on. Like rectangular ones. I like those,” she offered.
“Yeah like the ones Nassier Wahab rock. Slightly tinted. You know why?” I asked
“Because he’s a vampire. Think about it for while. He’s like what, forty? Jeez, he’s fucking immortal. And those lips, man.”
You wouldn’t fucking believe it, the way my life turned out to be. It’s not even funny anymore. I used to think that there’s some sort of silver lining somewhere. That it’s going to be worth all this. But it’s not. It seethes and reeks you up and rots you until escape is the only thing necessary.
Yeah there were moments when I believed. Juita’s eyes on fucking skyscrapers on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Looking at the sea from her balcony. Her sweet heavy hand on my belly. But who gets caught up with these things anyway now. Its pain baby, that’s what everybody talks about these days.
Yeah suicide this, depression that. Palahniuk, Bukowski, Self. Fucking Ishiguro and fucking clones. Who gives two shits? I for one, don’t.
And life was meant to be beautiful, you know. For everyone. You’re supposed to be sad when you leave it. It breaks your heart to see all, everything you’ve ever known or love fade out like bad youporn porn.
And these things are supposed to be short. It’s supposed to develop some kind of reaction from life. You know, the thing you’re living behind. So sign off I will.