There was this guy at school (let’s call him B) who had an exceptionally good command of English. While the rest of us struggled with our Enid Blytons and the occasional Hardy Boys’ mysteries, this guy was already into Solzhenitsyn, F Scott Fitzgerald and a whole host of other writers whose names the rest of us could hardly even pronounce. Rumour had it that – because of his family background – B could speak English long before he could speak Malay. He was a pain in the ass that way. But in other ways, he was just like the rest of us: self-proclaimed MRSM tough guys who practically lived in our faded Wrangler jeans, Grandslam T-shirts and Adidas Rome trainers (after all, it was the seventies).
We didn’t actually mind his funky reading habits. In fact, on occasion, we even found it mildly amusing. We didn’t mind, too, his annoyingly flawless games of chess, although technically, ‘tough guys’ weren’t supposed to be playing chess in the first place. But what drove us up the walls with envy was what he was up to in the staff room of the English Department with the delectable Mrs C – the English teacher from heaven who had the face of an angel and the body of a porn star.
Being exceptionally gifted in the English language, it was inevitable that Mrs. C began taking an interest in B (professionally, of course). They bonded well and got along famously with each other – much to our chagrin. We’d all give our favourite Glandslam T-shirt and half a month’s supply of Benson & Hedges to be able to get that up close and personal with Mrs C. Before long, B could be seen hanging-out with Mrs C in the staff room of the English Department after class. They’d stay there till long after everyone else had gone. At this point, I remember some of us were practically tearing our hair out with jealousy.
Driven by curiosity (or was it jealousy?) some of us ‘tough guys’ took it upon ourselves to check up on what they were doing. Concealing themselves in vantage points that provided a good view into English Department, the boys waited and watched. For the longest time, nothing was reported. Then, someone actually saw B and Mrs. C holding hands. Not long after that someone else saw them engaged in a very long and passionate kiss. About two weeks after that, the bomb finally fell: someone actually saw the two of them going at it hot and heavy on Mrs. C’s desk! I remember how heart-broken I was (along with the rest of the MRSM male population) when I heard the news. Before long, reports were coming in saying that B and our dear Ms C were seen engaging in almost all the possible Kama Sutra positions. Some of us we ready to throw ourselves off the third floor of Hostel C.
Of course, eventually we got over it despite the steady flow of narratives regarding B’s exploits. We consoled ourselves by telling ourselves that our time would come, too. However, we would have to live with the fact that it would probably not be with Mrs. C.
The curious thing about the whole thing was, whenever anybody asked him what it was like bonking Mrs. C, B would quietly deny it and change the subject. If it were me (or any other 15 year old for that matter), I’d be vigorously giving a blow-by-blow (pun intended) account of the whole thing while busily printing flyers announcing my conquest. Right up till we left MRSM after our MCE (SPMs came the following year) B kept to his guns and denied the whole thing. What’s even more curious, none of us believed him.
The last I heard, B was called to the Bar and became a lawyer. But after a several very disastrous misadventures on the professional and personal front, he finally threw in the towel. He opened a small coffee shop somewhere in Bagan Serai and began living the life of a recluse. As providence would have it, I was in Bagan Serai not too long ago and decided to look him up.
He immediately recognised me and welcomed me with a bear hug that seemed to last forever. Articulate, witty and sounding very dignified with his immaculate British accent, he could have fooled almost anyone into thinking that he was the same B we had known before. But he wasn’t. Somewhere in his eyes I saw that a major part of him had died.
We talked and talked. All the while I suppressed the overwhelming urge to ask – once and for all – what had happened between him and Mrs C all those years ago. He was, after all, bigger than me and according to some reports, B was also a qualified karate instructor. But when an opening came, I could not hold back anymore and slipped in an almost casual, “Oh! By the way, would you happen to know what ever happened to Mrs. C?”
Upon hearing this, his head dropped and he remained silent for a very long time. I could see that he was trembling ever so slightly. It was getting seriously uncomfortable for me and I began fearing for my personal safety. Just about the time I was about to make a run for it, he spoke in a voice that was almost a defeated whisper, “She passed away a few years back. The doctors say it was pancreatic cancer. I was there with her when she passed on…”
“I’m sorry…” , was all I could manage to mumble.
“And if you’re still wondering – after all these years – if I’ve ever slept with Mrs. C, then let me tell you now: No. I have never slept with Mrs C”, he added.
Funnily enough, now when I think back to that meeting with B, I still don’t believe him. Like my father would say: “Whatever you do, never completely trust three kinds of people – lawyers, chess players and beautiful women.”
But more importantly, it finally dawned on me (perhaps 30 years too late), that something very tender and special must have happened between the two of them. And for reasons I will never know, they have chosen to keep it secret from the world.