The Moon and the School Teacher

December 22, 2012

Last night at around half past eleven when the last of the planters streamed out from the Mounbatten Room in the Planter’s – I felt a wave of relief. I have been in the city for the last two weeks attending round after round of meetings. From what I can make out, many appear to be optimistic that the price of palm oil will recover again. To them it is simply a glitch brought forth by market forces – but I don’t share their optimism. I am convinced both the Chinese and Indians have been stockpilling crude palm oil. They may have started as far back as June last year. This impasse is likely to be a long drawn affair – lasting probably two to possibly three years.

Many will go under. But I console myself that this may actually be an opportunity for me to buy more land at fire sale prices. But enough of business.

As I walked out into the moon lit lawn of the East Wing – I seetled at the pavillion and asked the waiter to fetch me a bottle of brandy. I checked my phone and there was a message from the school teacher.

“I shall not be returning home with you tomorrow. Max has asked me to marry him. Can I see you off tomorrow?”

I sent back.

“Congratulations. Max is a good man. I wish you the best. You deserve to be happy.”

I lit a cigarette and looked up at the moon after the sending the message. And then it came to me. A moment of epiphany. However precipitous the future might seem, time is what really matters. As time goes by, you, I, the school teacher, Max and the rest of humanity will be carried inexorably into the mainstream of what has to come to past. Everything will just find a level. A happy settling point where it will all just come together – not in the way we all planned or even expected, but it will simply have to reach some form of resolution.

In truth I have allowed the matter between me and the school teacher to simply slide. As I find the conflict within me so impossibly hard to resolve. So hard that I may have even taken refuge in doing absolutely nothing. Neglect can kill almost anything. Everything in this world comes to a natural end once it’s neglected long enough. Even the purest love that flows from the heart of the school teacher if neglected long enough, the act of neglect itself would begin to affect the situation, and someone else would step right in. So it didn’t surprise me in the least that Max had stepped right into my shoes. I had after all created so many opportunities for both of them to reach a happy denounement of sorts.

Besides, I am comforted by my beliefs, Max is a top drawer sort of bloke. He is a whole and complete man – not the wishy washy sort. A real four posted planter with his feet solidly planted to the ground, not one of those half or quart men who will go left or right just because some tin pot leader tells him to go left or right for trinkets – a thinking individual, not a mindless robot who is merely a member of a faceless group – the school teacher could never have found a better man. I am sure this is all for the best.

I know this is not the way things are supposed to end. I realized there was supposed to be a bang and brings it all to a happy close. But I cannot pretend to tell you or myself otherwise – in truth, I just can’t decide. And I don’t want to decide. It may seem a trifle reckless, but through these two weeks when I glimpsed the school teacher slowly turning towards Max – all I could really do was watch by helplessly – it was as if, I was there yet apart from them – and what I saw, I knew deep down to be something that was beyond my grasp. I tell you it was so terribly far and distant from me….this idea of wanting to be part of the school teacher’s perfect love…like the pulsing bluish white light that comes to me only in my dreams. An unattainable light. Everything, really, has this quality of sacredness, but we can desecrate it at a touch.. Yes, this is what I told myself time and time again whenever I saw them together. And the more I looked on, the sharper that sense of estrangement that I have always felt for happiness was heightened. Till I could take it no more and had to just leave them and walk back into another meeting. And another. And another. What could I do, except fashion myself as a pennant, dependent on each gusting wind to take me down a listless path that saw my heart dwindle and flare without direction or purpose to finally settle in this final state where I told myself, I will neglect her love. Deny it even in the way a man holds something he loves most underneath the waterline – till it suddenly stops moving and remains so very still. How incomprehensible. Yes, how utterly incomprehensible. As how can you possibly know who terrifying a love of a woman is – love if you didn’t know has the power to destroy, rob and much more it seems – I rather face off against ten men in a street fight than to find myself struggling to beacon out the murk in that place called love. No you cannot understand. How could you. No one can. Except perhaps I myself who knows first hand the terror of how it is to be loved and not to be able to return that sort of love. I can do many things. I can even throw money at it till it fills up the whole room to the ceiling. But I can’t return that sort of pure and unadulterated love. Never. I must have given up completely when I realized I simply didn’t have it in me. As all I really have is my crumbly idea of duty – the idea of being the keeper of the wheel in my little community. Such a man can never aspire to understand something that is beyond him. And if he tries to do so, all he will end up accomplishing is a mess.

I remember thinking to myself – everyman should be contented with his lot. And not fill his mind with abstractions that he hardly understands. Simple men like me should stick to simple things like how to fix a tractor and find beauty in the mundane and not the supernatural. I have absolutely no business dabbling in this in the first place. What was I thinking? That I could just put on a pair of gym shoes and run off with her? Why can’t it just be simple like a movie or a paper back love story? Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human suffering. But despite my bitter sweet reflections of what has come to past – I do not regret this at all. No not at all. As I am really just a humpback after all. And it’s not everyday that I get to be so close to pure love – I reckon at most, it happens once or twice in a man’s life. And though I may not realize how important this may be just yet. I am sure one day when I reflect on it – it will move me just same as how it has shaken my world in these last few weeks. For this I thank the school teacher and will always continue to love her in my own way.

As I walked in darkness. I heard a faint clap from the shadows beneath the ficus trees at the edge of the lawn – followed by a garbbled “well done…” I did not try to look beyond the shadows to make out who it was. I knew that it was him. In these last few days, I’ve seen the commanding man – yes, seen him looking at me like a hunter in the faceless crowd, studying me with his sardonic expression. But enough of him.

Somewhere between pouring myself another glass of brandy – I must have taken it all in – the school teacher, my own life, Max and how it had all managed to come to a bitter sweet denounement of sorts and it was then that a poem came to my mind and suddenly I felt a deep peace that had eluded me for so very long.

花間一壺酒。 A pot of wine, under the flowering trees;
獨酌無相親。 I drink alone, for no friend is near
舉杯邀明月。 raising my cup I beckon the bright moon,
對影成三人。 for her, together with my shadow, will make three people
月既不解飲。 the moon, alas, is no drinker of wine;
影徒隨我身。 listless, my shadow creeps about at my side
暫伴月將影。 yet with the moon as a friend and the shadow as a slave
行樂須及春。 I must make merry before the spring has ended
我歌月徘徊。 to the songs that I sing, the moon flickers her beams;
我舞影零亂。 with the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks
醒時同交歡。 while we were sober, three shared the fun;
醉後各分散。 now, we are drunk, each goes their own way
永結無情遊。 may we long share our eternal friendship,
相期邈雲漢。 and, meet together again in paradise

With these thoughts, the man in the shadows disappeared completely and it was just me, the moon and my restless shadow and the unfurling night.

Darkness 2012

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