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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A memory from primary school

Recently, during a Facebook chat session with some primary school friends (yes, we still keep in touch, someone was sweet enough to start a Facebook group for the class of 1996) and a certain incident started emerging from the deepest recesses of my memory.

Well, it's not as if I've forgotten about the incident in its entirety, just that I haven't been thinking about it that much until the past few days.

A school trip to Singapore was organized at the end of 1996, after we finished primary school. That was a great year for me, being able to, surprisingly, score straight 6 As (distinctions) in the UPSR. It surprised many, even myself, since I was barely the quiet, obedient model student expected to do THAT well.

For non-Malaysian readers (... which is pretty much 99% of my readers) UPSR is a national examination taken by all students in Malaysia at the end of their sixth year in primary school before they leave for secondary school. For a kid in our academic results-obsessed country, UPSR pretty much decides one's fate. I remember classmates who wept hysterically for scoring 5 instead of 6 As. Great education system we had, yeah.

So, there was a trip to Singapore, and I went with most of the people in my class. The funny thing is, I cannot remember most of the trip, just some fragments. Like being at Sentosa Island, going to a haunted house in the theme park where we had to sit around a long table, listening to ear phones, I also remember 4-5 of us in a hotel room, and I slept between two single beds, on the floor. I felt comfortable though.

Yet one moment that stuck most vividly in my mind then was during the bus ride home. Many were sleeping, and me, being the usual bookworm I was, was sitting at the corner, reading a book.

That was the beginning of my fantasy geek phase, and I was reading 'DRAGONLANCE: TEST OF THE TWINS' by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. I was reading almost towards the end, the badass anti-hero wizard Raistlin Majere was sacrificing his own life to seal the portal from the evil goddess Takhisis (yes, I am slightly embarrassed that I still remember the names), a noble act from a guy who spent all his life being overlooked because of his much handsome and popular, and sociable, and charismatic older (twin) warrior brother Caramon.

Suddenly I heard the sounds of crying. And I realized that one of the more popular guys in my class was crying (he was tall, fair-skinned, large eyes, brilliant academically, polite etc. everything I wasn't), along with a couple of female classmates. They were saying goodbye, and got too emotional about it. They didn't know what life would be like after primary school, when all of us were going to different secondary schools... separation is always a pain.

"But life goes on." Our class monitor said with mild exasperation, his voice was drowned mostly away by the crying.

They wept on, and I felt slightly annoyed. Perhaps in truth I was annoyed by the attention he got from the other girls. I was 12 then. I was insecure.

I tried to continue reading, and finally finished the book, it left me with a sense of melancholy.

The bus reached its destination, which was my primary school. We all got off the bus.

As I left, I saw one of the crying girls standing nearby. So I said goodbye.

"Bye." She replied nonchalantly, looking at me for a mere millisecond before walking off.

I continued my way, feeling a little heavier than before. Perhaps it was my heart. No, I didn't feel anything for that girl at all, I didn't have a crush on her. She was just a classmate. But the huge contrasting treatment I got bothered me a lot.

So he cried, and many cried with him... all these attention he could command...

And me? Just a (rather dismissive) wave. Of course, I was the bespectacled fat ogre, good to hang out with for a laugh, for a taste of my snarky humour, but not one dreamy 12-year-old girls would swoon over for.

Yes, I was jealous. And I also romanticized myself to share the same fate as the badass (AND OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD) antihero wizard Raistlin Majere from the book that I've just finished reading. Often overlooked because I wasn't the 'white knight' of fairy tales, the embodiment of all things good and pure... I was just an outcast.

Step by step, I walked past my primary school, and I spotted my mother, waiting for me in her car. There was a slight bitterness in my mouth, even though I smiled and said hi to her.

Would the 12-year-old me ever imagined that 14 years later, this moment would still stick with me?