There I was, sitting at the bus stand waiting for my father to pick me up.
It was almost 11 at night. 2 benches away, a man twiddles his fingers.
He sat alone, waiting for a taxi, perhaps. The stand was deserted and he looked like he's been there for a while.
Young but weary. His body rests tiredly against the billboard back of the stand. Tie askewed, sleeves rolled up, hair a little mussed. He looked no better than me. It must've been a long day for him too.
He caught me looking at him, and his eyebrow shot up in question. Caught redhanded, I immediately looked away, pretending that I was looking around instead of at him. I heard him sigh.
"Excuse me, pukul berapa sekarang?" he said, his voice a deep, soft timbre.
I took a few seconds to reply. Hoenstly, I didn't feel like talking to him. It was a tiring day for me and things didn't go as well as I thought it would at work. My personal life sucks as well. All I wanted to do was go home, crash on the bed and slip into oblivion for the next week or so. But there was no way I could pretend I didn't hear him. I didn't want to be percieved as rude.
"Almost 11," I said, smiling a little. Looking down at my shoes. Hoping he would get back to his own thoughts.
No such luck. "Dah malam camni baru balik kerja?"
He looked lonely. I didn't want to reply, but I did, anyway. "Yeah. Tadi singgah gym dulu. De-stress."
He smiled. "I used to go to the gym too. Bila marah kat boss je, pergi gym. Lari sejam dua, buat weights. Lagi susah nak pull the weight, lagi cepat sakit hati I melt away."
I could relate. I did feel shittier when I left the office, even thought of bingeing on sushi and ice-cream just for the heck of it. But I peservered and went to the gym instead, sweat the hate out. It didn't wipe away all of the distaste in my mouth, but it sure helped. I no longer feel like strangling a particular person at work.
"Work sucks, huh? What's new..."
He smiled back at me, nodding slightly. "Ten years ago... I was like you. Work is my only world," he said, surprising me a little. "You single lagi kan?"
"Err, ak'ah." I didn't know what to say. How did he guess? It was getting uncomfortable, talking about work, being single, and things implied by what and how I choose to answer his questions. It would've been easier for me if he said something in jest. I am usually very witty, but the mood called for serious talk.
He looked ahead and I could see the mist of remininscence clouding his sight. His smile turned sad. "Masa I graduate dulu, I was so ready for the working world. I had everything planned out - I wanted to work hard, pulun kaw-kaw, kumpul duit. My target was by 30, I would have enough money to buy a car and a house, dah ada kerja yang bagus, dan kahwin, bina keluarga"
"Kerja, kerja, kerja. Takde time untuk benda lain, to be honest I didn't care to take some time out for other stuff, even when I could. Weekends untuk rehat sebab the whole week only my work occupies me. Memang tak ada life. Climbing the corporate ladder was my target."
I dreaded his next words.
"Turns out climbing the corporate ladder was my sole achievement. I missed out on time with friends, pursuing my passion, I couldn't find someone who could take my crazy working schedule and my quirks, and I didn't have the patience to look around. I thought I had found her... well, maybe I did, but I let her go. Pushed her away," he said, his face now a naked book I could read.
I didn't know how to comfort him. I was too engrossed in what he said. I saw myself in his words. Work was a mission -- get a good job. Get one that pays enough. Get one that can now pay for a housing loan. Then get one that could help pay the housing loan and study loan. The quest of 'surviving' saw me sacrificing my passion for a 'more secure' job. Something I knew I could do but not necessarily like and want to do for the rest of my life.
Where has that led me? At that moment the truth was hard to evade : I was a walking, talking mediocre corporate puppet. A lonely one at that too. Most of my friends have found love in things they do and people they are with. I am still searching, and to start looking at this age, with this level of expectations... I don't know if it's still not too late.
His voice disrupts my self-wallowing misery.
"After she left me, I macam tak boleh berfungsi langsung. It was so bad, I begged and begged and begged. In desperation she jested that kalau I nak kawen dengan dia, she wants 100,000 duit hantaran. You know what, I pun memang desperate gila masa tu, I did it."
"I sold off my car, and got about 70k. Then I dug out my savings and managed to get the RM100,000. I pergi la rumah dia dengan rombongan merisik," his voice turning excited.
The excitement was short lived with his next few words. "Turns out dia bakal kahwin dengan orang lain. Her parents mintak maaf gila-gila kat my uncle and aunty yang pergi merisik sebab anak dia buat macam tu kat I. I later got to know that the other guy married her for a mere 10k. She didn't want me, she just wanted to set an impossible mark so I would stop. Bodoh betul I."
I was stunned. Before I could stop myself, I said "Macam Sultan Mahmud, ketagih cinta Puteri Gunung Ledang."
He laughed loud and hard and it rambled on. It spooked me a bit. I wanted to join in to ease his obviously strained laughter but I knew that my words were insensitive and just plain dumb. I kept quiet.
He was wiping tears from his eyes when he said "Mama I kata benda yang sama! Kamu ni bodoh macam Sultan Mahmud tu. Nasib baik tak ada anak, kalau tak, mati budak tu kamu kerjakan pasal nak kahwin dengan budak Nora tu."
His laughter subsided and the silent night once again enveloped us. He kept pretty much to himself, and I drifted away with my own thoughts. I only realized that he was saying something to me when I saw him standing in front of me, about to enter a taxi.
"You know what I'm going to do tomorrow?" he said, face streaked with dried up tears.
"I am going to quit my job. I nak jual my house, I nak move away from KL. I think I taknak kerja in the corporate world lagi. Biar lah I kais pagi makan pagi, asalkan I jumpa diri I yang dah lama terkambus ni."
I couldn't say a word. He was verbalizing what I had been contemplating for a while now. It was beginning to sound pretty surreal to me.
As he stepped into the taxi, he gave me a wide, honest smile. "Jangan kerja sampai lupa siapa diri awak. Jangan tunggu 35 tahun baru nak berubah. Awak cari passion awak dan usaha towards that. It's the only way. The corporate world will only suck you dry and leave you to die. They don't give a fuck."
"Have a great life," he said, closed the door, and within seconds the taxi sped away.
I sat alone, stunned by the short, awkward conversation I just had.
God, if that ain't a mirror from the heavens above, I don't know what it is.