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Monday, June 23, 2014

Café Back Alley

“The atom, the sun, the galaxies, and the universe,
Are surely but names, images, and forms.
One they are in reality, and only one.”

Farhan read the verse twice before slowly closing the book and putting it beside him. He stared at the empty cup of coffee in front of him. He didn’t like to play favourites, but that has had to have been the worst cup of coffee he has ever finished. He forced himself to swallow it just half-an-hour ago, because he wasn’t about to let RM12 go down the drain, plus it was helping him stay awake. 

After a hard day’s work at the bank earlier, all he was looking forward to was a nap. But since his friend told him about this place yesterday and how famous it was with local scenesters, he wanted to get the visit over and done with. He knew that it was nice, judging from the few pictures on the internet, but when he actually entered the premise, it was more impressive than he thought. Not your average café, that’s for certain. Too bad the coffee was terrible.

He took a look to his left. A whole wall of wine-bottles stacked up to the roof on wooden racks. It wasn’t just a coffee shop, it also had a wine-room, and if Farhan had more money to call his own, he would have been tempted to take his first sip of wine in his life. Alas, with his paycheck already almost spent, and with a full week to go to his next one, to say that this RM12 horrible cup of coffee was a unnecessary luxury was an understatement. He sat there instead of the front of the café because there was a couch there, and he didn’t want to sit on a stool while reading.

That line was still at the back of his head. “One they are in reality, and only one”. That was a new concept. One. The only thing he could think about in response to that at that particular moment was... One Malaysia. 

He breathed out a laugh. 

Suddenly, he noticed a cat at the entrance of the wine-room. It was staring at him. Had it been staring at him this whole time?

The cat and Farhan locked eyes for about 2 seconds (one, two) until the cat pulled away and turned around ever so slowly and went out of the room. 

Farhan promptly got up. Only then did he wonder what he was doing. He didn’t know. And frankly, he didn’t feel like knowing. What he was certain of was what he saw in the cat’s eyes. He saw himself, only different. Darker, almost sinister. But it was definitely him alright.

He followed the cat outside of the room, leaving his book behind. He just caught sight of the cat’s tail as it walked towards the back of the café. He squeezed his way past the people sitting at their tables, drinking whatever they were drinking. 

It was funny. When he passed through the other customers, they didn’t even bother looking up at him. As if the conversations they were barely having was too engrossing to look up from. It was as if he didn’t exist. He felt it. And, for some reason, he liked it.

He got to the back part of the café eventually, and again just caught sight of the cat’s tail as it got outside the backdoor as it was closing. He ran towards the door in hopes of catching it before the door closed. Who knows, it might just lock him inside as soon as it closed. He didn’t know why he was being so paranoid, but he had to keep that door open at all costs.

He ran through the door that was barely an inch away from closing completely. He ran a few steps outside the door, jubilated that he made it in time. He looked up, and all he could see was a bare desert, stretching as far as the eye could see. 

What was this? Where was he? This wasn’t Jalan Ganesan, the café’s back alley. How? Some sand blew into his eyes, forcing him to close them and rub the sand out. While he was rubbing, he hoped that by the time he got the sand out, he’d see Jalan Ganesan, or was back inside on the couch in the wine-room. Or even better, still at the bank.


But it wasn’t meant to be. He reopened his eyes to the same desert that he had only previously seen in movies and computer wallpapers. Then he remembered. He turned around quickly to the door behind him, but it wasn’t there anymore. Just his own, darker, sinister self staring back at him with eyes that weren’t human. They were cat’s eyes.

1 comment:

Abidah Sa'adon said...

i like your writing.. its simple english... love it..good luck! keep writing..:)