The flight to Jakarta, Indonesia, was at 10:05 am but while Singapore isn’t famous for kilometric traffic jams like Bangkok or Manila that programmed one to leave hours before the flight simply to avoid getting trapped in traffic, the alarm went off around 5am and I was up and about. There was no coming back once I closed the door and locked the gate so I went through the flat again, closing the gas connection, switching off the power point to the refrigerator and checking on the windows. It kept the raging river of past memories from flooding my mind and gripping my heart with icy sadness.
A chapter was minutes away from having the curtains pulled down on a life – my life – that showed so much promise of happiness only to vanish like mist in the night. Several months of feeling empty, without a care in the world finally pushed the hand of the universe to shine a sliver of light on a new path that vowed resurrection like a phoenix from the ashes. What was there to lose? Alone, scarred and jaded, the new fork on the road seemed a much better option than wallowing in the misery and stagnating in the abyss of indifference. Friends didn’t mince their words in how I slowly transmogrified into a shadow, a ghost, of my vibrant self, my former self that parried life’s challenges with tenacity and the adroitness of an inveterate martial arts practitioner. This time I just let it hit me and I, impassive, stayed rooted in my place.
“I know how hard it is to put on that mask of happiness when you get home. Even my mum noticed how you’ve changed. She’s wondering what happened to you, the energetic and fashionable person she met before,” related an amiga over a meal and mock margueritas at one of our favorite nooks, Café Iguana at Clarke Quay.
There was no denying it; the happiness was ephemeral, dissipating the moment I was alone at my flat. Enervated by a heart blown to smithereens and floundering in depression, my colorful self leaked quietly into oblivion.
He – a long time friend – kept the tears at bay when he arrived at the flat and, like a commando on a mission, spared no time for sentimentality, loading the taxi with my suitcases while I made a last-minute effort to tidy up the flat. I simply had to return the flat to the landlord the way – well, almost – he handed it to us (my friends who have since flown the coop) four years ago. And with the last suitcase in the boot of the taxi, the chapter in Cavenagh Gardens came to an end. That thought was driven hard after I dropped the keys into the mailbox – the landlord said he’d collect them when he came back from Muscat.
“Do you have everything – passport? Ticket? Hand phone? ” he queried, getting into the front seat while I climbed into the back and the taxi sped off to Terminal 1 of Singapore Changi Airport.
Flight GA 825 to Jakarta was full to the rafters. A seat at the tail of the aircraft proved a pleasant experience. There were no bawling children, malodorous passengers or condescending cabin crew. The capital city of Indonesia was just my landing point; a two-hour car ride to Bekasi, my destination, would follow from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Passing the imaginary line between Jakarta and Bekasi, the latter is suburbia maintaining a smooth pace between the frenetic rhythm of the capital city and the sedate cadence of a town caught between modernity and a tinge of rustic living. Self-contained, malls are not lacking – there are three, which face each other in a pseudo-triangular formation – and the usual icon of modernity, vehicles (cars, taxis, vans and motorcycles) jostling for space on the road.
Used to the traffic jams in Bangkok, Manila and, yes, Jakarta, I was far from flummoxed. It was my ride to a new chapter called my life yet to unfold east of Jakarta. The absence of a traffic jam, I thought, was an auspicious sign of good tidings to come.