Sunday, 3 November 2013

A House of Memories

A sofa, fit for three persons. It's not often that these seats are filled. After all, only two elderly people live here, the woman in her mid-seventies, though not a strand of silver hair is visible on her head of shoulder length hair. My grandma often dyed her hair a deep maroon when it faded. The man, is younger than my grandmother-- my grandfather. Dark brown skin, with a thin layer of snowy hair at the top of his shrunken head, a pair of old-school huge framed glasses resting on his slightly flared nostrils, sometimes, you could see his nose hair peeking out of the dark holes. Since the failure of his liver, he's lost weight. The once pot-bellied old man now owns a tummy flatter than mine, able to make fun of my fat gaining body.

The three of us reclined on the decade old sofa leaning against the wall of the cozy TV room. I sat in the middle, constantly turning to my left, to my right, to face each of my grandparents, explaining to them the many functions of the cursed inventions called smartphones. Grandma just received dad's old Samsung Galaxy Note and is struggling with its many functions, including her new Facebook account-- yes, even my grandma is on Facebook now. Blur as ever, grandma doesn't even know when she has a missed call, whatsapp message or emails. Though her notification bar may be filled with all sorts of logos and words, she'd still be oblivious of the many messages waiting to be answered. Grandpa is slightly better, since he's been using Lisa's Ace for some time, with no data plan; no 'complicating' applications.

Since when have I ever been so close to the both of them?

"ALRIGHT. Just hold his button here, and speak. Release when you want to send your voice message." I pointed at the record button.

She held her finger there.

"So what--"

"Speak! Speak! You're recording!"

"Huh? Oh!!!" she laughed, "hello, Andy, Rachel's staying over! It's late, so there's no need for you to come pick her up." she released the record button, two ticks appeared beside her whatsapp voice note.

What? Grandma. Since when did I say I was staying over?

I didn't say it out loud.

I agreed to stay over--after she confirmed it with my dad-- with an enthusiastic smile that magically spread cross my face even though my heart was aching to go back to my bed, my Winnie the Pooh blanket, and hopefully, my lover's voice. Most of all, my body was yearning for my bathroom, my papaya shower gel and my facial foam. It's been a whole twenty-four hour since my last shower.

Deep down inside, I was glad. I wanted to stay over. I missed it. I missed this house. I missed my childhood.

The smell of Naphthalene, with a faint tinge of detergent and a powdery scent greeted my nose as I pulled open the antique wooden cupboard doors that slowly creaked open. Ah, the memories of being eight years old, standing in front of the same cupboard with no clothes on and a grandparent waiting to wash me in the shower.

I turned on the fluorescent light at the top of the stairs, a task I used to dread doing a decade ago because my brother told me the Boogie man was going to eat me in the shadows.

Everything is the same as it was before, except for a new shower set that's more modern than mine and a metal handle agains the wall built to support my weak grandfather. The pale green mosaic tiles darkened over the years. I looked up as I let the water spray against my neck. The ceilings were slightly moldy, and the light pink walls that stretched up to it were stained with age. White tiles lined half the height of the bathroom wall. Shoots of baby green bamboo were printed on selected tiles. I smiled. Then I looked to my left, and my smile grew wider, a warmer feeling in my heart. Grandpa's towel hung on the same bar, in the same way. It was years ago since I last saw that sight. On the sink, the familiar dove shaped mold held a bar of soap.

I went into the room that my grandmother calls "backroom" to get changed. The walls, still the shade of red that spooked me, as if it was a prayer room. There hangs black and white pictures of my deceased great-grandmother I never met and an aunt of mine that died as a child. I put on a red shirt that belongs to aunt Iris, with the words Niagara falls in gold thread sewed in the middle. A souvenir from Canada. The blue beach shorts that I had to force up my legs were going to be a tight fit. Not unlike yoga pants, they held on to my skin, but their presence slowly faded over time.

I trotted downstairs, footsteps heavy.

I hung my towel on the yellow banister, the spot reserved for us kids to hang our wet towels ever since the first day we took a shower at this old house. The towel carries the bittersweet scent of chemicals and flowers.

Time passes so quickly, huh?

Grandma just said it to me. I nodded solemnly.

Just like old times, her sweet, genial voice gently asks if I wanted anything to drink, a cup of Milo, perhaps?

Watching late night tv, sipping a hot cup of Milo. Can things get any more nostalgic?

Not everything is the same.

There isn't a drunk grandpa at the dining table having supper, no steaming hot roti canai or tosai with chicken curry to spoil us before bedtime. Nobody is standing here with a stern look, telling us to go brush our teeth before bed with a faked angry voice. My toothbrush isn't here anymore, though the tap still squeaks when I turn it on, that same sound of water lapping fills the quiet ground floor.

We weren't the last to go to bed back then. My brother would be home, in his green stripped t-shirt and long cotton pants, bullying me, instead of being at the snooker centre at this hour. I would be having high blood pressure and killing Dennis in my head a thousand times over instead of writing this post. I'd be in bed already. We both would.

The boy who lives a house apart got married today. I attended his wedding. I didn't realize how much time has passed until I heard the news of his engagement. We used to play together, I remember. He has a sister, the same age as I am. We wave to each other at school, that's all. I used to tell her she was my best friend.
Silly me.

Much have changed over the period of ignorance. Albeit I don't notice it and make much of it, once in a while, I lie down alone and as the crickets outside calmly make merry, I would reminisce the times of long forgotten happiness as I hear the ceiling fan above me stir the wind, as if stirring my emotions and the memories buried deep.

Swinging on the metal door is no longer thrilling, staying up past ten is no longer an achievement, my life is no longer as simply.