Sun sea sand

Sun sea sand

Saturday, March 29, 2008

My car is in Europe

Well, Si Merah (for the colour red) seems to think it is, as it gave up spewing cold air through the air-cond vents and instead decided that the driver in equatorial Brunei needed a heater.

It was truly a horrendous experience, as the windows don't really open (old cars have windows which fall out sideways) and we were building up steam inside the car. At 1pm, local time, just after the sun was at its zenith, the inside of the car was hotter than the weather outside.

Not too hot to be funny though. Passing a sign for the Giant hypermarket, the first to open in Brunei (on March 22), my passenger Juli said Giant must be the hottest thing in Brunei right now, before adding: "But not as hot as Si Merah!"

I wilted.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Can I borrow your mother?

My mother has been gone now for 18 years, three more than the 15 during which she was in my life. And yet, why are the memories still there?

Why do I still dream of her, and during these dreams sometimes totally forget that she has passed away? Sometimes in these dreams I rationalise the years that she's been gone - in one dream she had to "disappear" (like in those movies where people go into protective custody) for several years, in another she lost her memory, and in the others she was just there. No real explanation. I had my mother - the one who died when I was 15 - and we did the normal mother and daughter stuff.

Is it me? Is it a subconscious calling out into the darkness of the mind for my mother?

My daylight soul would dismiss this in the first instant. I'm a grown adult. I don't need my mother. I barely knew her, and when she was around, I only knew her as a mom who worked odd hours for the Malaysian News Agency (Bernama). She was a bit tough with us kids (she had a bit of a temper - probably where I got mine?) and hardly seemed to be at home. We were brought up mostly by the maids.

But I do remember once she ran over our kitten and bought us toys to soften the blow when she broke the news. And she and my dad often took us on holidays, when I suppose it would be easier to travel without kids along.

And when I went to work at Bernama, I found out more about this woman my mother. Well-liked, friendly, a good sense of humour - all the things a daughter would never really know, even if she were still alive.

Do I regret not having a mother? Maybe up to a point. In a Malay (or Asian) society, mothers are not the "best-friend" confidantes they are made out to be in Western books or movies. Do we really talk freely about our boyfriends, our periods, our expectations of the first night of marriage, for instance? Can we discuss our bodies, our confidence in our looks or talents, our dream of meeting this great good-looking guy who can make the earth move? Can we ask how Mom and Dad met, how they fell in love and how will I ever get over this jerk who dumped me?

And yet ... I find myself daydreaming of finding a man with a mother who will love me like mothers should.

Today, March 28, is my mother's birth date. Just after midnight, I was going through some of my jewellery, and picked up the jade bracelet that once belonged to her. I don't know if she ever wore it or it had been bought for investment. I've never worn it (it's too big) and it's been sitting wrapped in red paper, in a blue velvet case, for the past 18 years. It's one of several things that I have of hers, picked up after Dad remarried.

So I have my mother in snatches of memory. In items left behind. In the eyes of friends who knew her better than a daughter ever could.

But really, I don't have a mother at all.

What, no cup holders?

It's so common to have cup holders in cars nowadays that it's probably not even mentioned in the bumf for a new vehicle just hitting the auto market.

I think it's quite a new phenomenon (relative to the more than 100 years that cars have been tootling around on Earth), as the car I'm driving, a Toyota Corolla hatchback from 1984 (pictured), doesn't have this little, but very useful, gadget.

I forgot all about this though, when I dropped by the Thye Foodcourt in Gadong after work for a takeaway cup of teh tarik. Having just recently been on a roadtrip in a Toyota Hilux (a pickup truck, of all things, has cup holders - I bet those come with adjustable supports in case the vehicle goes head over arse) and noticing that my pilot had his teh tarik at the ready by his side while driving, I cheerfully carried my plastic cup of tea into the car - and then realised I had no place to put it.

So it went between my legs for the drive home. Not such a great idea when you're driving a manual and have to change gears. Not much better that short me has to sit far forward to reach the pedals and the steering wheel keeps bumping into the cup.

I ended up with a teh tarik-flavoured crotch. Not remotely as kinky as it sounds. Thank goodness I had a layer of my new cotton-rayon dress and another of Levi's to keep me from getting scalded.

Sigh, the trials and tribulations of a girl in search of a great cup of teh tarik...