Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Hunt for Bifrost

"A rainbow never smiles or blinks
It's just a candy-coloured frown"

Intermission (2005) by Scissor Sisters

The best mornings in my book are overcast, contemplative, peppered with drizzle and marinated in a good night's bedrest. I always feel slightly out of this world on mornings like this, like I'm right on the verge of sliding into somewhere Else. I could feel its tug on the hair on the back of my head, goosing in the cold. I went out with the warmth of my bedroom still lingering about me, and felt the sensation of it leaching away, taking the scent of yesterday with it.

I felt like walking to college but I was already running a little late, so I reluctantly drove - and then I saw it. I saw a rainbow at the gate.

Before I go on, I'm going to give you a flashback. I am not really sure how it's going to relate to anything at all but it was what I thought of when I saw the rainbow. I suspect that it's all I'm going to think of every time I see a rainbow, for the rest of my life.

I was sixteen years old and I was working as a sales assistant in the local Tesco selling school satchels and luggage bags, a job which my godsister, Grace, got for me. She was doing part-time at a nearby cosmetic counter. Our sections, in fact, were adjacent to each other so that really helped to while away a great deal of stagnant time for the both of us. And we would talk, and then talk a little deeper. Time and being stuck in the same place for hours on end with nothing else to do erodes every superficiality we flimsy people so often put up around ourselves, to seperate us, to hide the places where we bleed from. I will not talk about those places, for both our sakes.

Sometimes, I really did not know what to make of her. She's could be a bit of a tomboy, and for her, it's kind of an impressive feat. She the kind of girl who looked as if she's made of porcelain; fair and frail - the type which just brings up the protective instincts of men around her. The uniform she wore when she worked there in Tesco accentuates those qualities. Its was a light white shirt and a simple black miniskirt. She has one bad hand which, by accident of birth, is a little smaller than her other hand, and a lot less dextrous and strong. I remember that hand. I remember it when I see her in my mind, helping a woman put on some eyeliner with her good hand, while her smaller, weaker hand nestled close to her body like a little baby bird hiding under its mother's downs. I remember that hand on my shoulder when I danced with her at a party. It was the first time I danced with a girl to a slow song.

In spite of her vulnerabilities, she's built like a violin string - fiercely taut and capable of beautiful things. With her good hand, she sketches and paints, and she did them so well too. I used to wish I could paint like her. She said that one day, she would be a scientist. Said she would work in cryogenics, which isn't a lot different from art at all. She aimed to preserve, to protect and to perpetuate; to make meaningful things last. I tried to playfully pry something from that good hand of hers once, but it was strong and would not yield. With so much quiet strength, so much determination in those skinny fingers so deceptively weak, I believed her. I believed in her dreams.

Once, just once, I saw that violin string break. All I did was sit there, incredulous, unbelieving that Grace, so independent and tenacious, could falter, could cry. I felt that I should hold her, to touch her hand, to tell her that everything was going to be alright. I almost did too - except, I didn't.

Then, I betrayed her, but with her blessings. I wish I didn't now. I really do. It never was the same after that, between Grace and I. We went to the same college but we did not speak. I wish we did though. I wish I told her that I was sorry except, I couldn't - because I didn't know I was wrong. I learnt now that it is very possible to do right, to follow every single good principle there is in this world, and still be wrong.

There's a rainbow in this story somewhere, and it appeared sometime during a lunch hour, while we were still sixteen, still working together in Tesco, while she was still my godsister and my best friend. We saw a rainbow on our way back from the cafeteria and we stopped to watch it. I remember how longingly she looked at it. I know this sounds stupid, but she looked almost as if she was searching for some explanation to her life in those colours, an answer to everything that went wrong and broken. Time tend to romanticise memories, but we can always do with a little more romance in our lives.

"You go first," she said, a little lost, a little faraway. She cuts an odd figure in her white shirt standing by the parking lot, unmoving in the midst of a drizzle whilst people filed busily past her - people with no tolerance for rain and no time for rainbows.

"You ought to get out of the rain," I told her. "You might fall sick."

She said something in reply which I no longer remember now but I went away like she told me to, and punched the clock on my own. I didn't get her, and I didn't get what's so important about a stupid rainbow anyway. It's just some light fractioned through a raindrop.

Then, at my college gate, seven years later, I found myself standing there and staring at the stray morning rainbow like how Grace did, while the bus I was suppose to board hummed patiently nearby. With a quiet pang of realisation, I understood. I do not know how to put this in words so I shan't try. But I shall say this. I shall say that rainbows are indeed the answers to everything that went wrong and broken. And I shall say that just because you can explain something, it doesn't mean you know it. A rainbow is just some light fractioned through a drop of water in the same way that love is just some electricity firing through someone's brain.

I wonder how Grace is doing now. I wonder if she's still looking out for rainbows.


Later that same day, when I was walking out of the Mahkota Parade mall, I saw another rainbow - or rather, I saw two,


Bifrost 2

Can you see a fainter, reversed outer rainbow circling the brighter arc? It's called a secondary rainbow and it happens when sunlight undergoes a double reflection inside the raindrops.

I want to write something about coincidences, duality and second chances - about how unfortunate it was that I didn't have my camera with me in the morning to photograph that rainbow I saw, and finally getting the opportunity to do so in the evening of the same day (and seeing a doubled one to boot) - but then I thought, "what's the point?"

That's true. There isn't a point. I really need to stop doing pointless things.

And stop wondering about them.

The setting sun which made the rainbows.

k0k s3n w4i


MichelleG said...

beautiful story n photo :)

Jia Hui said...

Very nice piece =) I hope Grace is doing fine now.

TKH said...

Oi kok, wassup? This post also reminds me on how you 1st introduced me to her. I clearly remember how she looks like back then, as well as you in the red Tesco uniform. That hypermart certainly triggers my mind during those days when I came to pay you a visit while you both are working on the same shift. And ur the 1st homosapien that intro me what is cheese cake in secret recipe. Certainly what hell of a memory la dude....!!! Cool post.

thirteen said...

It's moving. Damn, you just have a way with smithing words. Your story made some of my life's regrets come flooding back into my mind. Lost friendships and frustratingly useless little hopes... I sincerely pray that one day, the two of you will be friends once again.

On a lighter note, nope I haven't read the Watchmen. I intend to buy it, after the hype is over, when the price is (hopefully) not so steep anymore.

k0k s3n w4i said...

MichelleG: i thought the rainbow pictures weren't too good :( thanks

Jia Hui: thanks and yeah, i really hope so too.

TKH: i'm fine man. in KL now, and will be here till saturday. haha, u oso worked in tesco before what. cashier right? blue shirt mia.

thirteen: nuh uh, i still have a long way to go when it comes to writing. but it's sad isn't it, how many little things we wished we could have done differently - but never can.
you can always download watchmen off the internet, y'know.