We were sitting on some kind of field, overlooking a highway. It was dusk because the street lamps were on.
We sat, not speaking, and I looked over at him. He turned and smiled at me politely, his shirt collar flapping a little in the wind.
“I hope it’s not weird for you,” I’d said to him, but not looking at him. Instead, I was staring at the horizon, beyond the highway, the orange clouds, red sun, purple sky.
“No, don’t be silly,” he’d replied, that baritone voice so familiar.
“I just wanted to know why,” I finally asked. “I need closure, you know. It’s been, what? 20 years?”
“My God, it’s been 20 years,” he chuckled.
And then he tossed an invisible speck at the speeding cars. I looked over at him, a little shy because, well, it had been 20 years since I’d talked to the guy, much less sit this close to him.
I was shy, even for a dream.
He said nothing.
I became bolder.
“Did you know? Is that why?”
He smirked, bitter, hurt, as though suddenly remembering how it had felt to be confused, guilty, lost, at 17.
“You…sort of started it, you know?” he said, looking pained, at his feet. He was wearing shiny black shoes. Must be his training.
“All the…confusion. It was hard for a 17-year old me to figure out why I couldn’t…you know?”
“It was the 80s. It must’ve been hard,” I said, genuinely sympathetic.
“And it was Ipoh. And you know my parentsla,” he said, almost whispering. I nodded, and we both fell silent.
We stayed silent for a while, as the darkness creeped over the landscape. Before I could probe further, someone called from behind. Apparently, the food was ready.
Standing, he helped me up and then looked at me.
“Maybe I have you to thank,” he said, trying to lighten the mood.
“I live to serve,” I responded, wittier than I would’ve been in real life.
Together, hands in our pockets, we walked towards our “friends” (I don’t think we ever had “friends”).
Both a little older, a little heavier and perhaps, a little less confused.
I woke up feeling as though a weight had been lifted – a 20-year old weight. Still, it is scary that something that happened in my teenage years can stay with me for so long, coloring everything I’d believed about myself, despite telling my own daughter that those things should not matter.
They have mattered for a long, long time.