30 June 2014

Debit



Today marked six months back from Malaysia. The heat is forgotten almost entirely and the daylight goes on and on. The girls are up until ten or ten thirty, but it doesn't seem to matter. July is just around the corner, and then August and then the autumn that I have waited and waited for. A brisk walk across the Newman quad, and then in Kensington and Bloomsbury. A home, if there is still a home.

I closed our Lloyds international account this morning, the one that came with a black card with a black, charging stallion on it. When I put it on the counter at the branch in Harborne, it felt like an artefact from potential life that I had surrendered. I stared at it while the attendant — with the name Leghorn, so British — pulled up a screen to return to life before Malaysia, with a simple current account. A green card with a black stallion.

We had signed up for this international account when we left the UK. I remember the first time I used the card in Kajang, in the mall, after walking from the hotel with Mei, over the dirty river and through the heat to Giant. The card worked and I remember feeling like things would be okay: if we had money for a couple of months, we would be okay.

The card was replaced after four weeks — when our visas came through, and we could open a bank account in Semenyih — with a cheap debit card from the Malaysian bank, Maybank, that didn't even have my name printed on it. It had pictures of apples and the numbers even rubbed off in three months. I had an argument with a Maybank employee in a tudong about it: she said it was my fault. She said the numbers on her card had not rubbed off and she had her's for many years. The two cards, the black stallion on the Lloyds card with my name in raised letters and the Maybank card with the numbers written in Sharpie, were a great metaphor for the differences in lives, the hardships. I could even use the Lloyds card as a prop if I ever needed to explain why going back to England would be easy: I already have this. It took me five weeks to get to this point in Malaysia.

Leghorn printed the forms and had Yoko and I sign them, the black stallion cards in front of him on the desk still. Do you want me to dispose of these? He said, and he bent and ripped them in front of me. All done. Twenty-four hours, forty-eight hours. the money will be in my new old account, back to square one.

Yoko and I left and went for coffee with Mia: the Nero on Harborne High Street has tall windows that they open when it's warm. I sat with my back to the sun, sipping espresso and thinking about how much I had just spent. Four pounds, that would have been twenty-five ringgit. Dinner for the whole family, easily — I would have thought about that money this time last year. This time last year, when Ramadan was starting and you heard the Mahgrib in a way that you didn't before. I was going mad. Just a year ago, just over that horizon.
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