Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Really, it was Rafidah

During the semester break, I got involved in a lot of tuition classes. My add maths were so terrible that I had to find somebody who could explain to me the crazy concepts of all those confusing formulas. I just couldn’t accept the fact that once you learn a formula, you have to twist and turn it around 360 degrees to get the answer.

Being an uncreative person (from the perspective of numbers, okay) I struggled to comprehend the simplest calculation of add maths with a tutor brought home by my parents. Hopefully I could impress both of them if I just (passed?) the add maths SPM exam. Wow… that’s terrible. Real terrible. What to do? I’m just not gifted with numbers.

I also attended sewing classes just to fulfill my mother’s request. Well, in fact as time passed by, I did enjoy learning sewing. I got new friends, and we got along pretty cool together.

Hmmm… time passed by quickly. At last, the semester break was already twiggling its tail. And I was sitting on the tail, trying to balance my coordination.

Well, at least that was my description of how painful it was to go back to school. I kept on worrying… and I had strong reasons to be worried.

What would happen next? Please God, don’t let any more strange things to happen this semester. I had to focus on my studies, and I don’t want those black evils to invade my sanity. Hurrgh!! I was beginning to feel insane already!

Finally the day did show up. The day which I had to go back to the spooky boarding school. The school that everybody bragged about. About its excellent reputation. Straight 100% passes each and every year. Let me repeat that. Not even a single student failed from that boarding school.

Sha-la-la. That’s the place I was heading that day. So, I began repacking my belongings into my forever big bag. My parents sent me to the bus station, and (walla!) I was on my way back to school.

Stepping back onto the grounds of the school, my eyes roamed uneasily but with intention. I had to find my cube-mates. I didn’t want to enter my cube alone, for the fear of being alone in there was not a pleasant story to tell.

I was very lucky, I guess, because without much effort I saw my cubemates (the three stooges) walking side-by-side with bags on their sides. I pulled a huge grin, and walked straight to them.

“Hey, you’re here already! And you have gained some weight… chocolates, huh?” Asked one of the girls, returning my huge grin with another bigger grin and a pinch on my cheeks. Her name is Zura.

“Ha-ha. Maybe. To the cube?” I asked, straight to the point. I wished I could say something much more, maybe a joke or two… but I just can’t think of anything funny. I felt a little miserable, but I held on to my fake smile even longer.

“Of course. We could go for tea afterwards, okay?” answered Zura, with a bright smile and cheerful mood.

“Okay.” I nodded, with the smile still pasted on my face. That was the only answer I could think of at that time. But I figured out that the girls understood me by then. They knew I was naturally shy.

So we went straight to our cubes to put our bags. We chatted a little while, sitting on the floor in the middle of the cube where the fan was directly above our heads.

”Tomorrow night there’ll be a special dinner at the dining hall. Everyone is required to wear batik sarong. I’ve just heard the news from our head prefect, and thank God I’ve brought with me a new piece of batik sarong,” said Yani, one of the girls.

“Well, I don’t have a new one. But with ironing, it will be okay. Shanis, do you have to iron your sarong? If you do, I want to come along with you to the ironing room,” said one of the other girls to me. Her name is Shima.

“Okay.” I nodded in agreement.

That night, we went together to the ironing room. The room was fully packed. It seemed like ages to wait for my turn. I got number 15. Shima’s was number 16.

“I don’t want to wait this long. What about we go back and set the alarm clock at 3:00 a.m.? I’m sure nobody will be around at that hour,” Shima suggested with an annoyed face.

I understood why Shima was annoyed. We had been waiting for one hour. We were tired, there were still some revisions to be done and tomorrow we had to get up early to attend classes.

“Sure.” I said with several nods.

Exactly at 3:00 a.m., the alarm woke us up.

Both of us raced to the ironing room. Nobody was there. We inhaled relieved breaths.

“Can I iron first?” asked Shima, her sarong already spread on the long table and the iron was already in her hands.

I smiled at her, feeling a bit funny. “Of course. You go ahead. I’ll sit here and wait.” I sat on one of the four arranged beds in the room.

I looked at Shima but she didn’t say anything. She quickly ironed her sarong. Maybe the coldness of night made her want to crawl back into her blanket as soon as possible.

I closed my eyes, entertaining my drowsiness while waiting for Shima to finish ironing.

Suddenly my sleepy head was interrupted. I felt somebody else was sitting on another bed, right in front of me. I opened my eyes.

“Rafidah? What are you doing here?” I asked, surprised to see her.

Rafidah didn’t say a word, but she raised a piece of batik sarong for me to see. I understood what she meant. She wanted to iron her batik sarong for tomorrow night’s function.

Shima turned her head a little. “You know her?”

I shrugged a little. Actually Rafidah was not my classmate. Not even my blockmate. She lived in block A, and my block was block E. I only knew her because she was my homeroom mate. We share the same mentor.

“Yes. She’s my homeroom mate.” I answered, realising that was the first time I actually spoke to Rafidah.

“In that case, can I go back? You have a friend to accompany you,” said Shima. She had finished ironing, and she looked at me for approval.

“Okay. No problem. You go ahead. Rafidah can accompany me,” I said sincerely.

Now I was left alone with Rafidah. I looked at her at a glance, but she kept her head down and she seemed like staring at the floor. I guessed she must be sleeping. At 3:00 a.m., who wouldn’t fall asleep?

I didn’t say a word but hurriedly spreaded my batik sarong on the ironing table. I wanted to finish the chore and go back to my cube to continue my sleep. I could imagine Shima was already under her blanket by then.

The ironing room became too quiet, and I felt a little uncomfortable. Maybe I should say something to Rafidah.

“Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be ironing in your own block? Are you sleeping over a friend’s cube here? If a warden knows about this, you’ll be in trouble.” Out of nowhere, a lot of sentences came out from my mouth. I felt strange, because usually I don’t talk much. Maybe I was still in my dreaming phase, I thought.

But Rafidah kept quiet. She just shrugged a little. That was all she did. But I caught her staring at me when I turned around a moment to see her face. I thought that stare was a bit awkward.

Suddenly I felt very cold. But I didn’t think about anything strange, maybe because I was too sleepy and too lazy to think about anything. I did the ironing as fast as I could.

“It’s your turn,” I turned around, looking at Rafidah who was still sitting on the bed but then her head she bent down.

My first intuition told me to leave Rafidah. She didn’t make any promise with me to iron her batik sarong in the middle of the night. So, I didn’t have any obligation to wait her there.

However, deep in my heart I pitied her. She seemed like a lonely girl. In fact, she was more lonely than me. At least I have my room-mates. But Rafidah? She had to brave herself in the middle of the night to iron her batik. Nobody wanted to accompany her.

“Do you want me to wait for you?” I asked, but with a little annoying tune. I didn’t know why I sounded like that, and immediately I regretted my rudeness. Rudeness has always surfaced when I tried to overcome my shyness to speak to a person.

Rafidah kept her silence, but she shook her head. She smiled at me and slowly raised and went to the ironing table. She went to work right away.

Seeing her feeling very comfortable being alone, I didn’t want to probe her any longer. My sleepy eyes are more important to be attended to. I left her there, without any feeling of guilt.

I raced to my cube. I wanted to continue sleeping. I opened the door of my cube and entered. I sat on my bed, and grabbed a pillow. Suddenly, I remembered something.

“My hanger!” I sat straight on my bed and slapped my cheeks. My clothes hanger was left in the ironing room. I had forgotten to pick it up. I knew I had to take it back, because it was one of my favorite hangers. It was pink in colour and it was brand new.

Quickly, I dashed to the ironing room. But this time, I was a little careful for I was alone.

To get to the ironing room, I had to pass one cube and one toilet. The ironing room was next to the toilet. So, the distance of the ironing room was very near from my cube. If I ran, I would take only 10 seconds to reach the ironing room.

When I entered the ironing room, Rafidah was no longer there. I frowned. She must be very efficient. Not more than a minute had passed by before I came back to the ironing room.

I quickly picked up the hanger and walked out of the ironing room. When I passed the toilet, I heard the sound of someone doing laundry. I frowned again. Who in the heck want to do laundry at 3:00 a.m.? I peeped inside.

It was Rafidah, brushing on a piece of batik sarong. She let the water running from the pipe, and she held the batik sarong under the pipe water. Red water ran out from the batik. It looked exactly like someone washing a blood stained piece of cloth.

I didn’t think anything strange at that time. I just thought, maybe Rafidah had to wash the batik because it had been stained with her menstrual blood. It was possible. But a thought occurred to me. Wasn’t she scared being alone in the toilet? With the block’s eerie reputation, nobody would want to be alone, especially at odd hours.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to accompany you?” I asked again, this time really offering to accompany her. I looked at her, who was very busy scrubbing and brushing the blood-stained batik sarong.

Rafidah didn’t answer. But she seemed uneasy, as if she didn’t want me to be with her.

“Aren’t you scared being alone in the middle of the night? In the toilet? Washing clothes full of blood? Can’t you wait at least until morning to do it?” I asked, suddenly feeling concerned. I looked at her, waiting for an answer. I pitied her, and I really wanted to help her.

Suddenly, Rafidah looked up at me. She glared at me with such a hatred that I was shocked by it. She looked very, very angry and at that time I knew she wanted to be left alone and she really meant it. I backed off.

“Okay. I’m sorry. Just go ahead and continue,” I said as politely as I could, and stepped out of the toilet. Then, I walked straight to my cube and continued sleeping. I didn’t think of anything strange. I was too sleepy to even think.

The next morning, classes were fully-packed and my days went by busily. I had no time to think about Rafidah until a week later. It was only when Rafidah didn’t show up for our homeroom meeting that I suddenly thought of going to her cube, just to say hello.

I went to her cube, after asking around. See, I didn’t even know her exact cube. We were not close at all.

“Hello. May I see Rafidah?” I asked one girl who was sitting on her bed. She must be Rafidah’s cube-mate.

“What do you mean… Rafidah?” The girl asked, with a frown. She looked funny, as if I had missed a very important current issue that everyone else had known a long time ago.

“I want to see Rafidah. She didn’t attend our homeroom meeting. So, I came here just to check out if she’s okay,” I answered truthfully.

“Didn’t you know?” The girl asked again, with a puzzle unsolved on her face.

“Know about what?” I asked, curious and somehow worried. Had something bad happened to Rafidah?

“You didn’t know, huh? Well… I’ll tell you. Rafidah didn’t even register for this semester. She was sick last semester, and her parents brought her home.” The girls answered.

“What…? Didn’t register? She is not even here?” I asked, panic started to overwhelm my whole body. Cold sweat started to run down my forehead. I couldn’t control my body. I trembled.

“Yes. She’s not here. She’s faraway, at her hometown.”

My head spinned like crazy. Whoever that I met at the ironing room and the toilet, I just didn’t want to think about it.

I ran back to my block and straight to Shima. I told her the whole story. She was shocked too, but not as shocked as me. She only had a glance at Rafidah, and she didn’t even recognize her face.

But, I did. The ‘Rafidah’ glared straight into my eyes. I talked to her. Stood next to her. Accompanied her in the toilet. Even talking about it now made me shiver tremendously.

Who was the girl? I knew it was Rafidah. But how could she be Rafidah? Rafidah didn’t even register!

Oh God. Thank you because you protected me from harm. I was lucky that ‘Rafidah’ didn’t show her true colour in front of me. If she did, I don’t know what I would be. Might probably I would go cuckoo (crazy, of course)!

That was another true experience I would never forget. Until now, it is still fresh in my mind. Every bit of the incident, I remembered it like it was just yesterday.

Well guys, till another true story… have a meaningful day for all of you. Adios.

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