Thursday, December 4, 2014

At the End of Everything #17

A long row of single storey shophouses greeted us as we made a turn next to a busy freeway. Nestled on a small slope beside the road, the shophouses were separated from the main by a huge drain just right in front of them. They were all painted in yellow, with an interesting archway perched on top of their tiled roofs. The different names of the shops were pasted on the archways. Watsons, Cold Storage and the name of several cafes can be found.

“Come,” Jenny waved her hands at me, as I followed her across a small bridge. Underneath us, water flowed lazily along the drain. She brought me to a small cafe near the end of the row of shops. Different kinds of breads laid in the display counter, while an assortment of coffee with names that I had no idea how to pronounce were written clearly on a big chalkboard. 

“The cakes here are nice,” Jenny said we stood near the counter. “Especially the cheesecake.” A whiff of freshly baked bread drifted to my nose. I just wanted something to quench my thirst, and scanned the menu that was located on the countertop. The cashier smiled politely at us, while we stood there pondering about what we want.

Jenny eventually ordered a cup of iced lemon tea, along with a small piece of fruit tart. I settled my mind on the root beer, feeling that it was the best thirst quencher out of the selection of drinks available. Afraid that one might not be enough, I ordered an extra bottle along with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. What’s a root beer without ice cream to go with it, anyway?

“Wow, you certainly know how to enjoy life,” was Jenny’s comment when she saw my order. 

I smiled in response. “Yeah, of course.” 

We chose our seat outside of the shop, because sitting in an air-conditioned place in our sweat soaked condition did not seem like a good idea. Jenny mentioned something about wanting to enjoy the natural breeze. We made our way outside, and planted ourselves at one of the small round tables. It had a marble surface to it, with a wooden support underneath. The chairs we were sitting on were made from rattan, but had a cushion to accompany it.  

Not far from where we sat, an old railway bridge stood overlooking the busy road, hanging between two slopes. It looked like it came out of an old European movie, as my mind pictured a coal train running along the tracks.

“Trains used to pass by there,” Jenny chipped in, when she saw that I was staring at the bridge. She followed my gaze towards the bridge, as we just sat there in silence, lost in our own thoughts. I tried to imagine how different the place would have look like years ago. The train would chug busily past, perhaps carrying different people and cargo from Malaysia, while workers would have sat at our place, perhaps in a busy coffee stall. Maybe a train station was once part of this place.

I shifted my attention back to the table, and took a sip from my drink. Jenny was staring at me, a smile on her face. “Lets go there later!”

“Yeah, we should!” I responded eagerly, wanting to see the railroad track as well.

We quickly finished our drinks and food, and headed towards the tracks. The gravel road gave way to a beautiful grass patch near the end of the last shop, with a slight incline upwards. We climbed on to to the path, expecting to to find a rusting railway tracks.

To our surprise however, only an empty grass patch and a dirt path greeted us where the track use to lie. There was no brown metal tracks, no endless sea of pebbles which supported them. We were sorely disappointed. Hoping that the we would have better luck with the bridge, I turned my attention towards it. As luck would have it, only the railway track portion of the bridge was left intact, just like how it was so many years ago. The inside of me let out a big sigh of relief.

“Seems like a good place to take a photo eh, the bridge.” I extended both my arms, and made a square shape with my fingers, pretending that it was a frame. The overgrown bushes on top of one of the pillar, as well as the grey marks on it, in the shape of a water droplets, gave the entire scenery a rustic and romantic feeling. This place must be quite a popular spot for wedding shots, I guessed. 

“We should take a picture there before the sun sets, since it’s so pretty now!” Jenny pulled my hands towards the center of the bridge. The evening sky, lit up in different colours by the setting sun, made the entire scenery looked straight out from a postcard. She took out her phone, an iPhone 5 wrapped in a cartoonish cover. Her fingers tapped the camera app, and held it above us.

“Smile!” she said as she clicked away. My nose caught the fragrant smell of her hair. The pictured looked so romantic, with the bridge and railroad track visible clearly below us. It seemed almost that we were a couple in the photo, having a happy time together. I let the thought lingered in my mind, imagining our lives together as a couple. And for that slight moment in time, it felt great, because it seemed as if I had forgotten about Elaine.

I asked Jenny for the photo, which she happily sent me. But it was her next sentence that pulled me back to reality. “But don’t post it online though, I don’t want anyone to know yet.” My heart sank.

We parted ways soon after that, as it was getting dark. I walked her to the nearest bus stop, and waited with her for the bus. Before she boarded her bus, she muttered a thank you to me, for bringing her out today. I told her that it was nothing, and I had a great time too. But her last sentence kept replaying inside of me, feeling a little stab to my heart. She was ashamed of me, I felt. And that bothered me greatly.                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                       
“She’s quite cute,” Lucas would later say, when I showed him the picture of the two of us.

*****
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P/s: Next update coming Sunday, the Wedensday, then Sunday again, then Wed... you get the drift


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