08 April 2014


We put everything in boxes only a week before we moved. Yoko's dad came and we spent the days sorting and throwing away and walking around central Kajang looking for a refrigerator box to put the keyboard and guitar and bike in. We taped everything up and they came to take them away when I wasn't there. I came home and almost everything was gone. Yoko and I have done this together before, so the tamping down of everything into a pile that gets smaller and smaller and smaller until it is only the 150kgs and hand luggage you are allowed to take on the plane felt much less like a miracle this time. We do this, we can do this, as hard as it might be.

When the things get taken, or when they have been taken, I think about how liberating it would be to lose everything I own in a shipwreck. All the useless things I imagine are in the boxes sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, like a lost Malaysian airplane headed nowhere. I send everything off, they take away the boxes, and I forget about everything, or most everything. This time, I remembered my coffee grinder: when the coffee grinder came to Birmingham, I would be whole again, I thought. Everything else can sink.

Then, last week, when I was sitting in the Cadbury Research Library in the basement of the Muirhead Tower, an e-mail came, and I called and our boxes were here, in the UK, ready to be delivered. I wondered what would be broken and whether or not my guitar would be shattered, or if a box would have split, my coffee grinder broken by some careless, underpaid, illegal Bangladeshi immigrant in Malaysia, who was being even more screwed than I was when I was there. Would the coffee grinder have survived the ordeal like me and Yoko and the kids.

Like when the boxes came to Kajang, to the terrace house in Taman Sri Minang, I was gone. This time when they came, I was teaching and Yoko texted to say they had arrived, all 17 and they looked good. She said it like that too in her text: 'looked good' surprising me with how natural she sounded in English. I came back and there they all were. We started cutting them open. The coffee grinder, yes. Henderson the Rain King, yes. And my guitar. I pulled it out of the box, the 'Frankenstein' box my father-in-law had called it, with bike and keyboard. I popped open the locks of the case and pulled it out. It was okay, as okay as it has ever been with the same damage it's had all along. The split heal when we put in the strap peg. The damage on the top when Natalie Dear fell on it in 1999. I remembered that suddenly, touching it again: I had been so upset that I sat on the stoop to my parents' house, feeling so sorry for myself — Heather coming out to find me, saying I looked like I was going to cry.

I pulled it out and strummed a D chord — it was fine. I tuned it a bit and played an E and an A, a praise chorus coming back to me suddenly: I love you Lord/ and I lift my voice. There it was. Everything exactly as I left it, just a bit older and detuned. No matter: Malaysia was over now. There was nothing left to wait for.