previous part of the story...It was a cold night
A wet and misty Sunday morning.
The living room radio is fittingly belting out Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning.
“Sunday morning rain is falling…steal some cover… share some skin…”
Hazami smiles wrily. Rain is definitely falling alright. Bed covers are aplenty. But there’s decidedly no skin. Unless it was his own.
He’s expecting company. The table on the patio is set and ready. Nothing that’s too fancy. French toast, with marmalade aside. Fried eggs. Cups which are twins of each other brimming with ground coffee. Wisps of steam arise from the cups and dissipate to the cold air.
Presently the doorbell rang. “Assalamualaikum” chirped the built-in greeting.
“Waalaikumussalam. Come Sabine, let’s greet him.” Sabine abruptly rose and stretched. “He better bring along some treats or else,” seemed to be the feline’s body language. Hazami chuckled, more to himself.
In the doorway stood Azzim. His dear friend since secondary school days.
“Nice of you to drop by, Azzim. How was the commute from Penang yesterday?How’s the business talk?”
“Both was pleasant. Likewise Zam. It’s been ages.”
“Come, I have set the table for two.” “Meowww,” Sabine protested. “Well, two and a half.” Hazami added apologetically. “Haha, how are you faring, Sabine?” Azzim petted Sabine affectionately. “Here’s some Whiskie. Tuna. Your favourite.” Azzim produced a small pack of cat food. Sabine purred approvingly.
The three of them sat at the table, Sabine at the floor curling with 2 bowls of milk and tuna Whiskie.
Hazami and Azzim spent the greater part of the hour talking about work, old friends, goings-on of the world. They have a lot to catch up about each other. Work and, in Azzim’s case, family, have been occupying them both these days. Azzim, a botanical researcher with USM in Penang, Hazami, young GP doctor upon the throes of registrarship.
“So, you are set on specializing in Medicine?” “If there’s still empty seats for the scholarship from UKM, eitherwise…I am keeping my fingers crossed,” Hazami said. “Other specializations?” “Not really into them much. In fact, back when I was a lowly intern, an OG specialist appraised me physically and said, Kid, you get Medicine stamped all over you. Haha, no, I think Medicine is the best option for me. Either it or I am looking at another opening next time. I am not in a hurry.”
“Well, you know best..”said Azzim. “How is Rafidah and Raudhah?”asked Hazami. “Mom and daughter? Alhamdulillah, they are healthy. It’s been 2 months now since Raudhah was born.” Azzim mused “That’s good to hear. And your Tiger?” “Azri?Scraped his knee for the umpteenth time last week.” Hazami smiled, and added, “Boys of his age are always adventurous. I broke my own forearm bone when I was also 5.”
“Yes, yes. Haha. And it seems only just yesterday I was a doting first-time father.”
And these close friends laughed heartily. And after the peals of laughter subsided, a moment of silence. Sabine is lapping silently at the milk bowl.
Azzim took the initiative, “So, how are you holding up?” “Hmm? Meaning…?” Hazami replied quizzically.
“Come on Zam, you know what I mean. I…don’t take this the wrong way Zam. But don’t you feel lonely? This place you have here, it is nice and cozy. But it is missing something. Don’t you… don’t you want to give it another try?”
Hazami smiled, but it was a tired smile. “Well, I do have Sabine. She’s good company. And Mak, Ayah, and my dear sisters and their families, my friends, all are just a phone away, if it gets really boring..” Hazami patted Sabine absent-mindedly. “Besides, I am busy with work. I don’t have time to go anywhere..”
Azzim sighed. “I’m just worried for you mate, that’s all. You are the only one you know…who are still not hitched.” “Yes, previously it was a contest between me and Hamidah and Zamani right? Haha,” Hazami laughed, but his laughter died abruptly when he saw Azzim’s concerned look. “Well, thanks Zim for your concern. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it. It’s just that I have been used to being on my own, that I have adapted to it. Now I cook my own meal. If I grew tired of my cookings, there’s always eat-outs. Cleaning up has always been my forte. There are many more books, countless movies waiting for me to dig my teeth into. My days are occupied to the max, that I never have the time to feel alone.”
Azzim eyed Hazami intently. “Is that really true? I don’t think you yourself believe in what you said just now. I know you brother. Maybe more than anyone else.”
Hazami sighed a deep long sigh. “I suppose you are right. Maybe it was my own self that I was trying so hard to convince. This house…” Hazami waved his hand around, “…needs its Queen. But you, Zim, of all people should understand. I am tired. It’s always the same with each woman. They will always say: You think too much. You are not confident enough. You are just too childish. You are too analytical. You make a mountain out of a mole-hill. You are fretful. You are not old enough. You are just too weird.. And the list goes on. Not to mention all those cheatings and lyings. That wardrobe there is bursting open.”
Azzim nodded sympathetically. Hazami had that curious habit of storing an iconic item which signifies each and everyone of his relationship in one mahogany wardrobe in his house. It is fitted with see-through glass panels, 1 metre by half a metre, with 3 rows. And it’s full to the brim. Letters, dried up flower petals, pendants.
“I…..I don’t know what to expect anymore. I know that time is not on my side. At 34, I can’t elect to be choosy. Do you think that I have been…well….too selective?”asked Hazami.
Azzim closed his eyes and reflected. All those run of bad lucks. Improper timing. Being hoodwinked a couple of times by money-grabbing women. Not the right situation. And Azzim thought, “No.” Hazami was always accommodating of other people’s faults. He was willing to accept folks for who they are. And Azzim answered likewise. “No, you are not.” Azzim added, “But never give up hope, Zam. Never give up hope, I implore you. You are a special one in my eye. Never thought of less of yourself. Maybe…maybe Allah saved the best for you, for last.”
Hazami smiled, “Ameen. Thank you. I never really gave up hope.”
Then the conversation continued for a little while. Until it’s time to leave.
“Thanks for the meal. Keep in touch…and keep your spirits up.” “I will Zim. I will. Regards to Rafidah, wouldn’t you?” “Of course I will. Assalamualaikum. Bye Sabine.” “Waalaikumussalam.” “Purr,” come Sabine’s answer. Upon that cue, Azzim and his Peugeot, was gone. Back to Penang.
“Well, Sabine, time to clean up.” “Meoww.”
That night, while Hazami was taking in the wondrous night sky peppered with glowing stars, through the glass roof, he said a silent prayer. “O Allah, let there be no more new additions to that mahogany wardrobe. I can’t afford to buy a new one.”
He smiled, and drifted to Morpheous’ realm again. At that armchair by the bookcase, to the tune of Celine Dion’s When I Fall in Love….
“When I fall in love…it would be forever..or I’ll never fall in love..”
“And the moment that…I feel that…you feel that way too…is when I fall in love..with…you….”
He drifted more and more deep in his slumber, but with a difference tonight.