Musings on My Novel Journey (Part II)
Right there, in the middle of dead corals, I could feel the cool breeze. The enchanting twilight captivated my whole emotions. Soon, I felt the music of life breathing through all my senses. It was truly a novel experience.
The first night on Pulau Perhentian was memorable. After having a barbeque, all twelve of us gathered together by the beach around a bonfire. It was time for confession! Each one of us had to say something serious, either good or bad, about each other. I found the comments rather awkward since some of us just met the previous day and therefore hardly knew each other.
The forced confessions, however, were pretty amusing particularly when it came to some astonishing remarks about me. Himitsu, my recently-met friend, said that I was a little arrogant and sombong, which I honestly agreed and promised myself to improve on this declared attitude. The winning statement came from Alan, my guardian angel, who claimed that I was a hard-core perfectionist. This is 150% true which accounts for almost all of my psychotic behaviours over imperfect turnouts of almost anything I plan in life. Describing my love life, Alan nakedly revealed, “Poor Cekmi, he is very lonely now.” I wish he knew how lonely I have been.
The much-anticipated moment of that night was a game called Poison Box. I was previously assigned by the organizer to prepare some ridiculous tasks written on pieces of paper and put them in a so-called poisonous box. I enjoyed preparing those tasks, thinking of my power to make fun of my friends. During the game, everybody passed around the box while the music was played and once the music was stopped, those “lucky” ones had to pick the paper and did whatever stupidly instructed. It was time of feeling-good embarrassments since everybody had to do something silly – an angry pontianak, a racing mat rempit, a heartbroken lover, a playboy in a disco, a TV3 newscaster, a charismatic politician, a contestant for One in a Million, just to name a few.
I thought I could escape from those humiliations, but I was cursed by my own creativity. I had to perform, not one but, two embarrassing actions. The first poisonous paper said, “You are auditioning for an actor. Act happy, sad, angry and scared.” Okay, it was easy. But the second one was tougher. It said, “You have just won a Miss Universe title. Act like one.” After the “glamorous” show, I vowed I would never organize a game like this anymore. However, the climax of the night was Alan’s turn when he had to act like a woman who had just delivered her first baby. It was hilariously wild! And, oh, thanks to my imaginative ideas. After all, it was a night to remember. Friendship was certainly formed and successfully cherished.
On the following day, I woke up early to jog and enjoy the sunrise. However, the sky was a little cloudy so I couldn’t watch the rising sun. We then played volleyball and my team won the game – 50-24! Hah! I was the “professional” referee anyway.
After having breakfast, we proceeded to our next plan – snorkeling. That was my first experience in snorkeling. Paid RM35 each, we were sent by the snorkeling guide to three heavenly spots where we could find rarefied corals. Seeing the fascinating corals and multi-colored fishes, I felt like I was in a gigantic aquarium. It was almost unbelievable. Tempted by the irresistible corals, I tried to dive into the bottom of the sea and hoped to get some of them. I managed to get one beautiful purple coral, but when I tried to push myself up to the surface, my palm was injured when I touched the sharp coral. To make things worse, I was bitten by jellyfish and, soon, I found red spots everywhere on my body. I guess, that was the punishment for distorting the marine life. Despite these uncomfortable circumstances, the whole snorkeling experience was indeed unforgettable and self-fulfilling.
I planned to be on the Long Beach on the night of my birthday. It is on the Pulau Kecil so I had to take a boat to go there which cost me RM45. Only seven people agreed to follow me while the rest were uninterested. I was a little down since I had imagined that everybody would be there celebrating the first moment of my 30th year. I was, nonetheless, managed to get myself composed again and went on with my plan.
We arrived at the Long Beach at 8.00pm and were greeted by bright lights of fancy pubs-cum-restaurants. Long Beach is well known by its happening hangout places where Mat Salehs were a common sight. We were looking for restaurants with loud music but were told by the locals that they were only opened after 10.00pm. So, we went roaming into all souvenir shops to pass the time. We passed an elegant roof-top restaurant and decided to hang out there only to realize later that we were the only “coloreds” among all the “whites”. We left the restaurant quickly and found another local-like restaurant. We sat there, played another stupid game until 12 o’clock struck, signing the beginning of another older year for me. So, I celebrated my birthday with seven friends on Long Beach. It was not a grand celebration, but it was so meaningful for me. I wasn’t alone.
The boat took us back to our chalet at 12.30am. It was a frightening ride since the wind was madly strong and the ocean was deadly wild that set our boat into almost a topsy-turvy position. What scared me most was that we were in the middle of the dark ocean and were not putting on our safe jackets. When we arrived on the big island, I was trembling with fear and deeply relieved that I was not drowned on my birthday night. What a birthday surprise!
But the surprise did not end there. My friends who stayed on the chalet threw a small party for me – a slice of cake (that will do on the island) with three little candles. They gave me a beautiful necklace (which I had not worn any for ages), a unique bangle and a sea-decorated magnet. Again, it was not a grand celebration, but it was so meaningful for me. I wasn’t again alone.
They asked me to perform something as I had reluctantly promised. But I refused since I was not in the show-me-the-money mood. I finally did it anyway, but only at a later time. I will tell you later about it.
At 2.00am, I still couldn’t sleep. So, I sat alone outside of my chalet, doing nothing, with my mind spinning around a lot of confusing thoughts. Becoming 30 was so suffocating, so I thought. Later I found that three friends of mine were still awake. We decided to hang out by the beach. Four of us were looking together above the sky. If I were looking for a perfect night with a perfect sky, it would be that very moment on my birthday night. The sky was full of bright stars. Suddenly, I caught a shooting star. It was the first ever encounter in my whole life. It was an amazing coincidence, that I saw a shooting star on my birthday night! What a blessing! I wish even harder when I saw another shooting star, then another, then another, then another, then another, until I was tired and lost counting. I slept that night with full of shooting-star wishes. Those rare moments were truly overwhelming.
“I Will Survive!”
On the following morning, my friend asked me to join them for breakfast but I refused since I was too tired and wanted to sleep more. Later, I had a horrible dream – all my friends were checking out of the chalet and leaving me alone on the island. So, I got up hysterically and was thankful to find that they were still having breakfast. I guess the bondage between my friends and me became so strong at that time that I was afraid of the not-so-soon farewell exit.
Before we left the island, everybody said something over a friend’s expensive handy cam. When it came to my turn, I called for everyone’s attention and melancholically said, “I would like to thank everyone here for making my birthday celebration a memorable one. I know now that I will survive in whatever age I am since I have all of you here as my friends. And I still owe you something. So, I will perform something for you here, right now!”
So, in the middle of the beach, with other strangers around looking curiously at me, I played a song “I Will Survive” from my hand phone and mime them, acting like a cabaret singer. What a gross show! I surely left the island with treasured memories.
The Journey Home
The journey home was as exciting as the journey to the island. There were a lot of shops along the road in Kuala Besut selling all sorts of keropok and we bought them like crazy. Then, we stopped by again at a friend’s house in Padang Mokkan and had an elaborate lunch. I abandoned for a while my diet plan since my favourite dish was there – daging goreng kunyit!
On our way back, we went to Rantau Panjang and shopped. I got myself two extra cheap shirts as tokens of remembrance. After shopping for two hours, I drove toward Tanah Merah, and I realized that I was going to drive past my parent’s house. It was already late in the evening and everybody wanted to arrive in KL by midnight. I was not sure whether I wanted to drop by. But, I decided to pop in and see my father for a few minutes. It was totally out of plan. I couldn’t believe when I saw my house right on the day of my birthday, the very place I was born 30 years ago! I was in seventh heaven, elated and overjoyed.
I finally arrived at my loveless house in KL at 5.00am. I was extremely tired, but the experiences were so delightful I couldn’t stop smiling for days, that tiredness meant nothing compared to what I gained spiritually, that I didn’t know how to express them in words. But as you can see now, what an elaborate narration for an entry!
Indeed, the whole journey was overwhelming, full of novelty.