Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The New Girl, Chapter 28 (Conclusion)

If you'll be kind enough to check the archives, you'll realise like I did that it's been an exact 11 months since I last posted a story conclusion. This ain't no pre-planned anniversary thingy I'm telling ya, everything was written in the stars. So pardon me if I'm a teensy bit jumpy and blabbery in my preamble today...
Was feeling majorly down for the most part of yesterday and today due to this personality test which pencilled me down as (horrors!) the "thinker" sort who's boring, meticulous, one-plus-one-equals-to-two, and (not my words, mind you) "refers to manuals while having sex". Argh. I mean, like, really ARGH.
After the usual soak, rinse, and dry routine of being dumbfounded at the result, then feeling as though all the things I ever liked and prided about myself were a huge self-pleasing scam, and then reflecting on all the times in my life when this part of my personality had been dominant, the funny thing is this: I would have no qualms about being the "thinker" sort in primary school, and neither would anyone who knew me. I was, in short, the kid who always received encyclopedias and "Here's More Tell Me Why" books for Christmas. Sad, but I didn't know better. Secondary school, college, and my time in church (which coincides with college till now) would be when I made a name for myself more as the funny/ creative/ lame/ crazy fellow - take your pick. "Thinker" was always in there, but very much under wraps to those who didn't know me well enough. And now here I am back again at "thinker". The more things change, the more they stay the same?
One of the conclusions I came to this morning was that no matter how much I try surrounding myself with artsy stuff and humour, the black-or-white dude who is unable to just "let go" and "feel" lives on. And before you think I'm overreacting to a dubious personality test, let me tell you that this wasn't a one shot incident, it's been hinted at me slightly for quite a while now.
And here's the funniest thing of the whole issue - back when I was at the pinnacle of lame, I always resented not being taken seriously enough. And now that I'm drifting back to the OPPOSITE of lame, heh get what I mean.
Oh well...perhaps Joey McIntyre got it right after all.

May held her breath as she uncapped the black marker. She could take the funny medicine odours in the hospital pharmacy with enough practice, but the choking smell of thinner was something she'd always resented since that time she helped her dad fill up petrol.
Dad. Mom. It's been a while since they came. I wonder how they're doing now.
She leaned over to the calendar by the window sill which filtered some of the sun's inquisitive rays and put a big "X" over today's date. It wasn't a big day, nor did it bear much significance any more. Maybe it did two years ago, but not today - three years since that fateful day in the garden.
Jean wouldn't stop crying that night. She kept holding on to May's shoulders, not wanting to let go even when the police and paramedics finally arrived. It was a scene that would be burnt into May's mind forever - the moment they handcuffed her before her auntie who never said a single word. As she was escorted to the police car Jean turned to her, a sorrowful smile taking the place of her sobs. She, in return, shook her head and walked away. It was hard to tell who was more regretful of the way things turned out.
And surprise, surprise, the paramedics found a pulse in Saras. May hitched a ride on the ambulance to the hospital where they wheeled her straight into the emergency room. However, the damage had been done. The prolonged asphyxia, or what the doctors told her was lack of oxygen to the body, had left her severely handicapped mentally. Her parents, being both financially and time constrained, made the heartbreaking decision to have her sent to a government institution in the capital to be taken care of.
Most unfortunately for May, her age never returned to normal even after the secret garden disappeared. Not wanting to stay on in the town and be reminded of all the terrible things that had happened, she chose to move out to the capital herself and volunteer as a nurse in the institution where Saras was in. It was a choice that her parents strongly objected to, but May believed that she was now old enough to make her own decisions. Strangely, the rapid aging had matured her mind as well. She could now latch on to things and examine different perspectives much faster than she could when she was sixteen (granted, she still was technically sixteen). It had taken a very long time for May to come to terms with how the best years of her life were gone just like that. No prom nights, no double dates, no hanging out with friends till the wee hours in the morning. However, every day she woke up May made herself count one blessing that she had swept beneath her losses. Well, at least i didn't age as much as that Misha girl. Well, some people don't even get to live to sixteen. Well, I can still walk on my two feet and hold a proper job. Who am I to be complaining? Look at poor Saras.

And before she knew it, three years passed.

Then another. And another. And another. So many anothers that she did not bother counting any more. Her parents stopped visiting her a long time ago. So had Saras'. May didn't mind, though. There was enough to do in the institution to keep her busy and fulfilled. Sadly for Saras, her physical condition was deteriorating as well as mentally. Even sitting up became a challenge for her. "Don't you give up yet." May always told her. "Not till I give up on myself."
But words alone weren't enough to mask the truth. One still night, without anyone knowing, Saras left the world.
It wasn't that May never imagined this happening, but you never can prepare for death. It hit her hard for a few months, losing her only remaining friend from St. Francesca's Girl School. Now she truly felt alone, disconnected from her past. Without a past there didn't seem to be a future as well.
Gradually her disillusionment showed up in her work, so much so that she could not continue doing the only thing that had kept her going all these years - nursing. Barely two weeks from her termination notice, May Leong See Mei was found passed out from an overdose of prescription pills. Being an experienced druggist, there was no way she would have taken too few. No farewell notes or sentimental touches; May had left with no baggage whatsoever from this world. The coroner estimated her physical age to be 60.

Now that would be fitting enough as an end to this twisted tale, don't you think? No? Huh? Was there anything left unresolved?
Why, I remember. Jean.
Now, here's what happened to Jean.
Neither Saras nor May ever saw her again after that day, and vice versa. She was subsequently charged in juvenile court for attempted murder and sentenced to twelve years. Most would agree that she was extremely fortunate to have escaped life imprisonment or death due to her being a junior, and that Saras did not die.
Juvenille centres aren't exactly the best places to spend your teenage years in. Whether you were the strong type, the silent type, or the fearful type, getting bullied was a certainty if you were new there. The ways the other girls intimidated and ragged her made what Saras did seem like child's play. A favourite trick of theirs was "Liquid X", where a certain liquid would be poured into her food while she was blindfolded, and then having her guess what it was by tasting the food. Of course, Liquid X was very rarely water.
So many times she had stared at her bony wrists, wondering whether she could end it all like they did in the movies.
"We all have things we don't like about our lives, and it's how we go about them that make some people happier than others. You've been trying to hide, trying to run away all your life. There's a real world out there and you need to face it."
These words, which Jean never understood till May hugged her with so much compassion were all she held on to in the worst times of her life. She had to take whatever life threw at her the best she could and live on till she met May again. May would be so proud of her if she made it through this.
Jean was eventually released after seven years on account of good behaviour. As she stepped through the prison gates which had held her captive for a good part of her youth, she didn't know what to feel. She had nothing to begin with, and now she still had nothing to start over with. It was like a clean slate being wiped out white again. All she knew was that she had to seek out May and thank her.

However life has a way of giving you the best when you expect the worst. Out of nowhere Jean found out that she had inherited half a million ringgit from her late parents, to be given to her on her 21st birthday. After a fruitless few months of searching for May, Jean forgot about her and kept herself busy with the mini fortune. With an uncannily imaginative mind that very few people had and a mixture of being at the right place at the right time, Jean Khoo found herself the head of a chain of amusement parks around the country just ten years after being released from juvenille prison. Her amusement parks were not regular bang-zoom parks with rides and carnivals. They were Secret Gardens - places where you could hide from all the fears and troubles of the outside world. You did not have to share the Secret Garden with everyone else; it was yours and yours alone. And a best friend or two, probably.
Gradually as the years piled on top of each other and the prospect of expanding the business internationally grew more and more exciting, May was pushed so far back in Jean's mind that she forgot that the girl had existed. This was probably when May and Saras passed away.

Sometimes when you are wearied enough of the world and the people in it, your personal Secret Garden blooms somewhere only you know. Now, it doesn't happen often and you only see it if you put a whole lot of faith in it. It isn't always a lush flowery meadow like what Jean's was, everyone has it written in some hidden corner of their mind what their own Secret Garden will look like.
For the lucky few who have been there, and have been patient to stay long enough for the wind to die down and nightfall to cover, the fairies always paint the story of three unusually bright stars in the sky for them to hear. The story of three girls - one who drove the other to seek her Secret Garden, one who gave her life to help the other break free of the Secret Garden, and one who held on to all the Garden had taught her.


At this point the writer decides that the title of this story is hereby changed to "The Secret Garden". Frances Hodgson who?

No comments: