Listen, do you wanna know a secret?
Do you promise not to tell?
-- The Beatles
While waiting for my SPM results, I was sent to an Intensive English course to prepare myself for TOEFL exams. I didn't really want to go, actually, coz my heart was set on going to UTM in Skudai, J0hor. Somehow I didn't want to study overseas.
The course was fully sponsored by M@ra, and it was assumed that if I passed with good results, they would also offer a loan/scholarship for me to further my studies to wherever I wanted to go.
So I went to Slim R1ver, a small quiet sleepy old town in Per@k to take this course, simply because I had nothing better to do anyways. There I met up with Suhai and some of my other former schoolmates, along with other former MRSM students from all over the country.
Life there was kinda okay. I mean, we were doing nothing else but learning English for a few months. I can't even remember how long we were there. Must've been at least 3 or 4 months coz we were there till we got our SPM results, then we waited for our UPU applications (College placements - whether we got offered scholarships/loans to study overseas or whether we got places in local universities).
We were given accomodations in a shop lot facing the main road that connects KL to Ipoh, right opposite the the big police station and quarters. At night we could hear lorries drive by. Once we even saw a lorry transporting a baby elephant. It stopped right in front of our building and all the girls ran to the windows to gawk at the cute fat hairy lump of grey. The curtains in our room are drawn most of the time because not only could people on the outside see in (if they looked up, coz our rooms were on the 2nd floor), but because at night the streetlights were pretty bright.
We had fixed schedules.
Weekday mornings we had classes. We'd have an assembly in front of another row of shophouses that had been rented to be our classrooms. The 'headmaster' or his assistant would give a short talk before we go into class.
Saturday mornings we were either at the police station being drilled by them, or we were made to run through the oil palm plantation across the railway tracks. Some weekends a bunch of us would take the train to KL and go home or go shopping (if we can afford it).
Meals were provided, I think... I can only remember that sometimes they'd serve half-boiled eggs and toast, which I learned to eat with soy sauce and pepper. Yummy.
One of the weekdays, I think it was Wednesdays, was Pekan Sehari (like farmer's market) day in Slim River and some of us would skip tea-break and take a walk among the stalls set-up along the streets of the chinese part of the town.
In the afternoons sometimes we'd walk to the train station and just watch the trains pass by.
There were TV rooms provided for the students, a seperate one for girls and boys. That's where you'll find me and Suhai most of the time.
We had curfews and lights out. Everyone was supposed to be in bed and the lights should be off by 11pm every night, irregardless of whether it was a weekend or a school night.
So there I was, one night, reading a very interesting book (I can't even recall what it was and whose it was.. it definitely wasn't mine, it was probably borrowed), when they called for lights out and we had to switch off the lights.
I laid on my bed for a while, trying to sleep. When I couldn't, I picked up the book and sat up on my bed, closer to the windows to capture the light. There was still not enough light for me to read, and afraid that I would disturb my roomates if I drew the curtains too wide, I decided to sit on the window sill.
It was one of those windows that you could open out, and it had no grills and it had quite a wide ledge.
I was kinda uncomfortable sitting on the narrow strip of metal window sill, so I decided to climb out and sit on the ledge instead, with my feet dangling down.
It was quite nice, really, coz there was a nice breeze and the street lights made my reading more comfortable.
I was enjoying the last few pages of my book when I heard the sound of feet on gravel and a "Hey, Kamu buat apa tu?" (Hey, what are you doing?) coming from the ground. It was one of the security guards.
I quickly scrambled back into my room, closed the window, jumped in bed and pretended to sleep, my heart beating in panic. I waited for a big ruckus, maybe banging on doors, maybe an interrogation.. but it never came.
The next morning there was an assembly. They lined us up and told us that one of the security guards caught a student trying to kill him/herself.
"ahhh.. so they didnt know whether it was a boy or a girl.." I thought. Which was pretty weird coz I sported really long hair at that time. Maybe I had tied it up? can't remember.
I was kinda suprised that the guard wasnt even sure which room/floor the suicidal suspect was allegedly trying to jump from.
I kept a straight face the whole time they were trying to weed out the 'suspect'.
We had to endure a long talk about how commiting suicide is a sin and that if we had any problems we could come and see any of the teachers to talk about it.
Goddammit I was just trying to read a book!, I thought to myself.
I never told anyone it was me.
My roomates seemed to care less.. the school wasn't buzzing about a suicidal student and who it could have been, and after a few days, the incident was all but forgotten.
I never got to UTM Skudai, coz I submitted my UPU forms late, so I resigned to the fact that I had to accept whatever M@ra would offer me. I did quite well in my TOEFL exams (Suhai scored the highest marks, and I was a close second) so they sent us to take our American Associate Degree (AAD) program and I eventually went to the University of Illin0is.
Coincidently, Taufik also wanted to go to UTM, but couldn't go coz his parents weren't around (they were off to perform their Hajj) when he got the offer and couldn't give him the money to send him off. He finally got another offer to take the AAD program and this time he was determined and made all the required arrangements himself, seeking the help of his uncles and aunties.
And during the AAD program was where we met each other.