26 September 2013

The book

Naomi's Tadika Books

On Tuesday morning, I signed my first book contract. It came as a .pdf and I printed it and sent it off, without thinking much of it. Where had the moment gone, I have been thinking as I fall into another writing-induced depression: this mountain top of mountain tops for someone who has been writing for 25 years. It was like finishing the PhD: the celebration just flashed and suddenly we were here.

'Here': a metonymy for everything.

My daily routine now includes waking at 5:30, and taking Naomi to school at 7. The two of us get in the car and experience the Malaysia that everyone else knows so well: gridlock of traffic. The house we chose was close, I thought, to the school that we could afford, and it is, in relative terms, close enough. Still, I spent 40-50 minutes in the car, fighting through the centre of Kajang and then up onto the expressway that jams between 7:15 and 7:30 every day. Here, in five minutes, everything changes. I cuss and jockey for position, talking to Naomi, who sits in the middle of the back bench, chatting happily with me. And then, everyday, we pull off and drive down into the school ground, the plantation, and things are suddenly still. I pull her bag out of the car and carry it to the path, holding her hand. She takes it from me and rolls it up the hill and at the halfway point, we say goodbye. She hugs me and I kiss her on the neck and she goes up to her class and I go home.

This life is in no way sustainable: Yoko makes the same trip in the afternoon, although it takes longer and the traffic is worse. We do our best — Yoko and I — but I can't see this going on and on. What do you change? Can we move closer, do we get another car, do we order a taxi? Everything, as it has been here, is not a simple decision: what can we afford, what do we have the energy for. What future is coming.
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.
Yes, unfinished and immovable: the stifling heat has returned to terrace house in Taman Sri Minang. Yoko's skin continues to flare and burn with no end in sight. The kids are happy enough, unaware of anything else despite the pent up frustration around them, running around and sleeping naked. With little certainty still about the future, we've yet to commit to much except that tomorrow, at least, we'll wake up and do it again. Forget happiness, forget rest. Mei's deposit and registration slip for the 2014 school year hang on the refrigerator. I know we will end up paying it on the last day, but I am putting it off, hoping for a kind of rapture out. You never know the time or day.
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