12 December 2013

Slowly and then suddenly

When I wake this morning, before the azan, I can hear the feral dogs fighting on the hill and am afraid of walking past them in the dark. There is, of course, nothing to be afraid of, but in the dark, walking through the taman, I can still be afraid. 

The house is now filled with boxes that are themselves filling up. This is a good feeling, throwing away the garbage of your life and reducing it down to the few things that you really need. It's like losing weight. In a week and a half, they will come and take them all away, all the boxes, to meet us again in the UK. Genners Lane, the new address I will write again and again and again.

After I shower and dress, the azan rings out from the competing mosques and I get ready to leave, waking Yoko to kiss her and say goodbye. Only 18 more azan. 17 maybe. There are mosques in Birmingham, I'm sure, but not three within hearing distance. God is great; I put on my socks and shoes and walk out into the darkness. 

Kajang, where we live, is not a place for white foreigners or tourists. When I walk through the wet market in the morning, the Chinese Malaysians are riding motorbikes without helmets and cutting up coconut to sell. I cut around the edge, past the flower leis and fruits, the smell of durian if there is durian. 

This walk has always been caught up in thoughts about the future, my plan to escape this place, but now, the tickets bought and the money secured, I have completed the process of exhaling — now saying goodbye — that I talked about earlier this year. The dogs guarding the construction site look up at me and I look down at them. There are no feral dogs in Birmingham.

The process of saying goodbye is just that: a process. It comes to head when you say suddenly, I won't see you again. As a Christian, we had this phrase, 'Here, there, or in the air': we might meet again here, there, or during the rapture, when Jesus would come back and take us all away before the tribulation, the great tribulation. I ignorantly believed in this: now, there is nothing to say. I say, 'See you in London, see you in England.' You've known this hologram of me, this projection. Come see the real me, at home, in my grey coat with my beautiful British daughters. 

Past the wet market, up into the Chinese taman, I see a man and a woman, workers, sleeping on the sidewalk, waiting for someone to pick them up. Real immigrants, I think, people with real hardship, from Bangladesh or India or Indonesia. I look at them as I pass, trying not to stare, wondering about their story: what is Malaysia for them? What possible worlds can they inhabit, what futures could they see?

English doesn't have good words to describe the feelings I have as the boxes slowly fill: I would say love, love is what I feel for my colleagues and students and supervisors, but you can't say to someone out of the blue, I love you. There are a multiplicity of loves. The kiss of a father, I think suddenly of my own father's love for me. I wonder about who I could say that to, as I buy a ticket at the station and walk up and down the stairs to the second platform.Who would understand.

I stand in the dark, waiting for the train and then it comes and we all file on —  Malaysians of every race and me, sweaty and fat. Don't worry, I promise the reflection of myself, you'll be back soon, less sweaty and skinnier. I am just a hologram of myself, there is finally research, maths done by a Japanese physicist in Ibaraki, to justify this feeling. Projection, being projected. I mind the gap, watch my step, and sit down among the people for one of the last times. I did my best, I want to announce to them, I tried as hard as I could. Everyone is nodding off. I'm leaving now.