"I seek for one as fair and gay,
But find none to remind me,
How blest the hours pass'd away
With the girl I left behind me."Unattributed author, The Girl I Left Behind Me
I remember that it came at 8 o'clock every morning, and it would horn when it did. If I did not come out from my house within the first ten seconds, it would just drive away without me. A cartoon picture of some sort was painted on the side of the orange bus, on the right side of the door - it was to make sure its little passengers get into the correct one after school. I remember the schoolyard and the many buses that waited there, all revved up to bring their charges home after their classes. All orange; my favourite colour then, and my favourite colour still.
I remembered that once after classes I reached the schoolyard a few minutes late because my class teacher had to talk to me about something which, by now, I have long forgotten. My bus driver thought I had ran off somewhere to play. He told me to hold my tiny hand up and spanked it sharply. His hands were enormous, calloused and hard as wood, and it hurt bad. I cried - that's the only thing I know I could do then. I told nobody because I was just too young to know that I did not deserve it.
I remembered that once in a week, I would be given a small white envelope by my grandmother to pass on to my class teacher. Inside, there would be a RM5 bill - a proper paper RM5 that actually smelled like money, unlike those polymer crap we use these days. I recall clutching these little white envelopes on certain days when I rode the bus, and putting them on my teacher's table when I get to school.
One day, for no reason at all, I got tired of giving the money to my teacher and instead handed it to a bunch of those big boys who sat at the back, telling them that it was a present. They wore long, olive-green pants and goes to a school nearby, and I remembered that they were very happy to get the money - much happier than my class teacher who merely counted the envelopes and put them away. I vowed to give the big boys all the envelopes from that day onwards. It seemed to do more good that way.
Of course, my teacher found that the number of envelopes fell short that day and counted several more times just to make sure. Having names at the front of the envelopes, my teacher very quickly found out that it was me who didn't hand mine in. Naturally, she asked me where's it was.
'I gave it to the big boys on the bus,' I said, praying that she would not spank my hand with the wooden ruler she always carried with her.
Strangely, she did not. She just asked, 'They took the money from you?'
Why was she asking me something I already told her? I gave the money to the big boys so obviously, they took it. Not quite understanding where she was going with this, I merely nodded.
The next morning, I found that the big boys no longer ride in the same bus with us smaller kids.
I remember that there was a girl the bus always picked up after stopping by my house from one of those smaller, half-wooden houses nearby. I do not have many memories of her now. I don't remember how she looked like, and I don't remember what's her name either. What I do remember is this;
I saw her running out of her house and getting onto the bus. She looked around, as if looking for something or someone, and smiled when she saw me. She slowly made her way to where I was, holding the seats' backs for support as the bus was already moving again. I saved a seat for her beside me, by the window.
I don't remember talking though I'm sure we did. I only remember both of us slumping into our seat with our little legs pressing against the back of the seat in front, trying to raise them as high as we could - like we were competing or something. I remember looking at her face and I remember laughter. Our laughter...
I think we were four years old, maybe five. When I got out of preschool and went to an all-boys primary school, this was all I could remember of her - except that I knew her name also then. I remember that I cycled to her house from mine, stood outside and called for her - but it was her grandmother who came out. The old lady told me that she no longer live there and had moved with her parents to an apartment somewhere else.
I cycled past her house every few days all through my primary school years and looked in, hoping to spot her if she ever comes back to visit her grandparents. I remember doing this once in a while too when I was a high school senior whenever the whimsy takes me.
Now, every time I drive past that little old house I can never resist peeking in and wondering how she had been. I guess it's just one of those habits that get irreversibly hardwired into people when they were little.
One day, I'll stop wondering and ask for her.
k0k s3n w4i