I stare towards the sea. Towards the darkness and towards the shiny tips of the waves that hit the white sandy beach, the glitter from the lights behind me. Then I take a sip of orange juice while trying to indulge the beauty of the moment, sinking myself into the sound of the waves, the soft touch of the breeze which smelt of saltwater and the night with its beautiful stars. Mesmerized, I feel like I am in my own little peaceful world, secluded and detaching itself from the crowd and the noise behind me.
Suddenly, the thin walls around me shatter. I am back at the beach, the sound of the barbecue behind me audible again. I look to my right. Liz stands there, her eyes fixed towards the sea and the darkness in front of us.
– Nice night, huh?
I nod, a sign of ‘yes’ towards her. Then I smile. She smiles back. Our eyes meet, but she quickly looks away. I could feel my heart racing. All these years, my feelings towards her grows bigger and bigger, nurtured by the act of friendship. And now here we are, alone on the beach. The atmosphere, soothing. The mood, bright and happy. The heart, willing to confess. I’ve made up my mind. Tonight, I’ll tell Liz, my dearest best friend all this time, that I fell in love with her. But how? I don’t know.
I gather the strength and started to talk.
– How long have we been stuck together?
– You mean, you following me? Hrmm…. let’s see…. 10 years like that. Why the sudden question?
– No, nothing. Just wondering. Now that school’s over, guess we’ll go our separate ways.
Liz didn’t respond. I was hoping she’d say ‘oh, come on! Don’t be sentimental so sudden!’ or something like that, as she usually does. But now she’s all quiet. I took a glance at her face. She’s looking down towards the sand, her eyes dim and gloomy. I sigh. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. Maybe…. I should just go straight to the point. I take a deep breath, pumping up the courage to speak.
– Liz, actually….
– Rafiq, actually….
We both stop at the same time. Our eyes meet again. I look at her and then smile.
– Okay, you first.
I waited patiently, though my heart is racing to its limit. The palms of my hand started to sweat. What is it that she wants to tell me? Is she feeling the same way towards me? Has all these years nurtured something more than friendship? Is she going to…. CONFESS?
– Rafiq…. actually…. I’m moving from KK.
My heart stopped for a while. Is that it? Man, I mean, what was I expecting? Liz confessing to me? What a joke! But I still got my chance. I put up a smile on my face. She just looks down to the ground.
– Where to?
– KL. My father got a raise, so he’s transferring there.
– Oh, that’s good.
The moment went silent once again. Only the sound of the waves and the laughter of our friends can be heard. But then, she speaks again.
– Actually, there’s something else I wanted to tell you.
My heart races back into full speed. What the heck!? I turn towards her, still putting up that fake smile on my face, still masking away my nervousness.
She turns to me, and then look me straight into my eyes.
– Actually, I hate you.
My heart drop dead.
– I hate you, Rafiq. All these years, I hated you so much.
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS!? I screamed in my heart. But still, I kept on smiling. Then I laugh. A very pretentious laugh.
– Are you joking, Liz?
Immediately, the laughter and smile ceased. I look into her eyes. Her eyes, blazing with a hot and disgusted look. Blazing…. with hatred. I kept quiet, hoping for an explanation. More like anticipating it. But I kept my cool act and ask steadily.
– That is why! Your act, your dishonesty towards me. You’re wearing a mask, Rafiq, and I don’t know why. All these years I keep on being patient, hoping that one day you’ll open up to me, showing me the real you. But no, you keep on your pretence, your act. It irritates me. Why is someone like you can’t show their genuine feelings to others? And when rumours spreading around saying that we’re a couple, why did you just laugh away all the speculations? Why didn’t you get angry, or if you do love me, why didn’t you tell me? Why? Why? Why?
Tears started to roll down her cheek. I became dead silent. I don’t know what to say. More important, I don’t know how to interpret the message that she’s trying to convey. Does she really hate me that bad? Or does she hate me because she loves me? Arghh! I can’t think!
Suddenly, Liz tilts her head up, then laughs a little. I look at her, confused by her act. She wipes her tears, then look back at me, a smile on her face.
– Thank God I can say that to you. Now I feel a lot lighter inside. I’m sorry, Rafiq, I hope you don’t take this too hard. And I’m sorry for hating you behind your back. Looks like I’m also not honest about my feelings.
Hearing her words, I smiled. Although deep inside me I’m really hurt.
– It’s okay. Can’t expect me to be perfect, can I?
She laughed at my words. I laugh along, though pretentious.
– I’m really sorry for all this abruptness. It’s just that I can’t hold it anymore and I think if I didn’t tell you before leaving I’m afraid I’ll hate you for the rest of my life and lose you as a friend. I don’t want to lose you, my best friend, and I’ve had enough of hating you. And I came to a conclusion that it is not you who I really hate, it’s the mask you’re wearing. So Rafiq, please throw it away, it disgusts me.
I laugh again. Liz just smiled. Ha ha ha! So, all this time, there is someone who can see through me, who can feel and understand what I truly feel inside. But because of this pretence, this mask I’m wearing, this ‘protective layer’ I’ve put up has ended hurting my best friend.
My laugh abated. I look at Liz and smile. She smiles back. Then she raises her hand towards me.
– So, friends forever?
I smiled looking at her hand, then shake my head.
– Sorry, Liz. No handshakes. But sure, friends forever.
Liz just smiled.
– I’m soooo sorry for my harsh way.
– It’s okay, I understand.
– But seriously, Rafiq. Please put off that mask of yours.
– Ha ha, I’ll try….
The moment felt awkward again. Then Liz walks to the barbecue.
– Come on, Rafiq. It’s cold here.
As we walk back to the barbecue and our friends, we kept silent. Suddenly, a few more steps towards the bench, Liz open her mouth.
– Oh, Rafiq! I’ve almost forgotten. What did you wanted to say just now? I mean, before my whole emotional stuff.
My heart skips a beat. Why, all of a sudden, you have to remember about it? But as usual, I keep my cool.
– Owh, its nothing.
– Come on, tell me. It couldn’t be nothing.
Damn, I’m dead meat! Got to think fast for an excuse!
– I…. err…. just wanted to say…. you look cute in that dress.
– Ha ha! Well, I am cute, kan?
She turns to me and smile. Yes, you are cute, Elizabeth. But I can’t tell you that now. No, I can’t in these circumstances.
The night was long and everyone had fun. We sung a few songs and played a few games. This’ll be the last time our whole class will be together as SPM has just finished. At around 1 a.m., everyone had finished packing and cleaning, and are sleeping in the apartments rented. The boys in one and the girls in another. That night, I sat at the balcony, staring at the Melinsung beach and the darkness that looms beyond it. The sound of the waves heard so distant although it is actually not so far. Just like Liz and I, always together since second grade but our hearts were always apart.
A week after that, Liz and her family left for Kuala Lumpur. I left for Labuan….
21st May 2010