Blue Bench at Regent’s Park – 3

The table lamp created a warm pool of light on the surface of her writing table. Her Moleskine was open on a blank page – the same blank page from two hours ago. Not a single sentence, not even a word. The prose that usually flowed like a nightingale’s song from her pencil kept eluding her. She was beginning to feel the start of a massive headache caress her temples. It was no good. Though she had kept thoughts of Azhar locked away in the remotest recesses of her heart, Sarah had never really succeeded in keeping him there. On the occasions that he broke free – like tonight – he would make it clear that he was never ever going to go away.

She had met Azhar two years ago when she went to Tottenham Court Road’s celebrated Randy’s Guitar Workshop to buy her first guitar. She was surprised to find a Malay sales assistant attending to her instead of some Caucasian who tried his best at looking like his favourite rock-star guitar-hero. However, it immediately became clear to her that the Malay sales assistant was very polite and extremely knowledgeable about guitars. But more importantly, he was genuinely interested in getting her the guitar that suited her requirements best. In fact, he had spent a good part of twenty minutes just talking to her about her requirements, expectations, and of course, budget. When he was satisfied he had all the necessary facts, he picked out a rather odd-looking guitar (one with a curved back) from the shelves. He expertly tuned it by ear, and handed it to her. As if by magic, it fitted her like a glove and played like a dream. She was sold.

Looking back, she shouldn’t have asked him for a demo. It was perhaps the biggest single mistake she had ever made. But when she persisted, he led her to a quiet corner of the shop. He cleared his throat, asked to be excused if his performance was not up to par, and began his version of James Taylor’s classic, β€˜Fire and Rain’.

That was when he stole her heart.

It was unlike listening to any other song she had ever heard before. Her ears played no part in the listening process. Instead, his voice, the lyrics and the harmonies created by the guitar’s six strings congealed into a fiery spear of the sweetest smelling roses and jasmines that went straight to her heart. It stayed there, never to be dislodged – even to this day.

His playing touched her in places where no one had ever touched her before; places where no one ever will again. For the entire duration of the song, she had felt as if this guitar wielding stranger had somehow learnt of all her deepest darkest sorrows – and was intent on chasing all of them away. It was as if – in another time and place – they had known each other since time itself began. It was frightening how, in her heart, she knew that every song he had ever sung, he had sung only for her.

But did he know it as well?

She was still in a daze when he finished. A gentle, “Are you all right, ma’am?” jolted her back to reality. It took a few excruciating – and slightly embarrassing – seconds for her to recover. When she finally regained her composure, she declared in her usual business-like manner, “I’ll take it”. She paid for the guitar at the cashier and left; the entire time wondering if she would ever hear him sing for her again.

She didn’t have to wait long. On one of her infrequent trips to Malaysia Hall, she saw him again, busking at Marble Arch station. With his army surplus M65 field jacket, shoulder length pony-tail and distinctive guitar playing, he appeared to her almost larger than life on that glorious spring day. And though he was far from any popular notion of what handsome usually meant, there was something appealing, almost ethereal about him: A lost and comically stoic samurai curiously caught in the wrong historical era. But she knew, beyond all knowing, beyond all doubt, that he was her samurai.

Despite a group of adoring female Italian tourists who were obviously flirting with him, Sarah felt it all over again: That undeniable knowing that when he sang, he sang only for her. And when their eyes finally met, in that instant frozen in time, his eyes told her that he knew it, too.

When he finished, she summoned all her courage and walked up to him. And when he saw her, his face lit up like the horizon at the break of day; full of life, full of promise. The way he looked at her made her feel as if she was a vibrant, carefree teenager again. But most of all, it made her feel as if she once again mattered.

“What are you doing here? Don’t you already have a job at Randy’s?” she asked casually

“Beer money, ma’am.” he replied with equal casualness.

“Listen, if you’ve got the time, I’ll buy you all the beer you want; but only if you’ll tell me who you are.” Sarah couldn’t believe she had said that.

“Very good, ma’am. But only if you’ll tell me who you are, too.”

And that was how it all began. Now, although she had not met him in over a year – not since she had moved to Manchester – she wondered if it would ever end.

The door opened slightly and sent a sliver of light into the darkened room. She turned to see her husband’s familiar face in the narrow crack.

“You’re not sleepy yet, honey?” he asked with a hint of playful mischief in his voice.

“No…”

“Good! Could you be a darling and maybe pop into the bedroom? I’ve got something to show you. It’ll only take a few minutes.”

She knew what he wanted to show her and what exactly it was that she would have to do. After all, it usually did take only a few minutes. Sarah closed the Moleskine and switched off the table lamp. As she closed he door behind her, she prayed that the chains that held Azhar in his prison would keep him there – at least, for the next few minutes.

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25 thoughts on “Blue Bench at Regent’s Park – 3

  1. Its getting better although its short of one element (according my Prof at the university) to make it a good story πŸ™‚ 3RS – Royalty, Religion, Romance (as in sex) and Surprise (its a joke actually) I once wrote something but had to abandon it due to the fact that its based on actual happenings in Bangkok (Hok Tulaa) back in the 70s and there’s too much research involved….maybe one day when I got the time I’ll continue. One thing that I can tell you is that, its a sad ending….as life always is.

    The Last Gig

    Will you ever get back to your piece on the Hok Tulaa (did I get that right?) thinggy. Sounds intriguing.

    Sad endings (sigh)! This, of course, very much depends on who you are rooting for, doesn’t it?

  2. i sense the melancholic tones in the drift. i want a happy ending pls…as usual a story that strums the guitar strings of the heart.

    Ariff Sabri

    I’m about drowning in melancholia right now, with Raya just around the corner and all…

    Pssst! I am desperately working on giving Sarah and Azhar a happy ending, but the odds look to be stacked against them, doesn’t it?

  3. Don’t they all, Mat B? (take just a few minutes, I mean….hehehe….)

    Puteri Kamaliah

    Ha! Ha! Ha!

    I have no defense to offer , ma’am… none whatsoever πŸ™‚ EXCEPT maybe that this is a tribute to the women they are with: A compliment that goes terribly wrong

  4. Sarah writes on moleskine, Mat?

    She’s got style that woman

    Elviza

    She’s got class alright. Its that Azhar I’m worried about: He’s a bit of a – how shall I say this? – bangkai(?) πŸ™‚ But be that as it may, even if Azhar is a ‘bangkai’, he is 100%, prime time, Sarah’s ‘bangkai’ (substitute the word ‘bangkai’ for any other – more complimentary – word of your choice)

  5. Mat-san,

    “…I`ve got something to show you.It`ll only take a few minutes..”

    Oh My God!Talk about being original.Having a hubby with a line like that, always(I presume), is a sure recipe for all the married Sarahs` in this world to fall for the Azhars`whose cool and mysterious yet totally disarming demeanour is a certain recipe for a married woman to throw caution to the wind.

    When will these hubbys ever learn..no matter how long married, you`ve got to continue courting that lady, friend…and nothing`s to be taken for granted,ever!

    But more seriously, Mat-san, this Part-3 is less nostalgic compared the first 2-Parts.I don`t know why.Maybe because the scene has moved from the hallowed grounds of Regents Park to the TCR Station or because of that final, bedroom scene?But must admit…Elviza was right..that Moleskine oozes class for Sarah,and my mind easily imagines a pot-bellied,no-class, balding,male-menopaused guy for that hubby character smirking like a bull on slow heat in the bedroom.Tsk!Tsk!

    Higashi-san

    Good to hear from you again. Ain’t that line a hoot? I remember falling off my chair when a lady friend related it to me all those years ago. Thought I would use it to characterise – or is it ‘stereotype’? – Sarah’s husband. Isn’t this how most women perceive of their husbands, anyway? Guess that includes how I am perceived, too, huh?

    Yes, I guess this is, in a way, a departure from the nostalgic theme of Blue Bench. It’s just a little insight into how Sarah met Azhar and her life after she decided on not seeing him anymore. Next, I plan to go along the same lines with Azhar – his inability to cope with his control-freak of a wife and his struggle with alcoholism (or maybe substance abuse, I haven’t quite decided)

    The more I go into this, the more difficult it is for me tell the difference between the good guys from the bad guys. Is Azhar the bad guy, or is it Sarah’s husband (inadvertently, maybe)? Is Sarah the villain, or is it Azhar’s control-freak wife (inadvertently again, perhaps)?

    Fact is, none of them planned to be the bad guy. Of that I am sure.

  6. Tumpang lalu Mat,

    Higashi-san,

    You put pictures in my head, my friend. And a very comical one at it!

    But don’t you just agree that Sarah just oozes class writing on her mole-a-skeen-a? Wonder what is she quill?

    I ll be disappointed if she picked a fountain pen. That will make her moleskine bleeds.

    Sorry for hogging your space here, Mat.

    Elviza

    If its any help, my characterisation notes say that Sarah prefers soft leaded 5B pencils (not 2B). This is because of her very light and delicate touch – and the fact that fountain pens bleed through the pages of her Moleskine, of course πŸ™‚

    Sarah’s very discerning, you see…

  7. Dear Mat-san & Elviza,

    Many thanks for acknowledging my humble input to MB`s(I`m still rather hesitant to spell out that B…. pseudonym in full) superb and slowly unfolding saga of Sarah & Azhar.

    Just want to wish all the Muslim readers here,sincerely from me…”Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir & Batin, dan tolong lah berhati-hati di jalan raya pada musim perayaan ini.”

    And, my fave actor, Paul Newman, has just passed away…May God Bless His Soul…that`s one very truly class act.

    Cheers!

    Higashi-san

    Selamat Hari Raya and Maaf Zahir Batin to you, too, Higashi-san

    Yes, sir! Paul Newman was a class act. He will be sorely missed.

  8. “It’ll only take a few minutes” – I guess at that time Siberian Ginseng is still in the labs…it really gives a new meaning to ‘latecomer’.

    Hok Tulaa (October 6) refers to the massacre in 1976 and the Thais are not very fond of discussing about it and very little is mentioned about it even in their history books…which make it very difficult to research. I may have to take a one year sabbatical in Bangkok to finish it πŸ™‚

    The Last Gig

    Yeah, the guy probably has never heard of ‘tongkat ali’ either – or ‘lintah tapa’, for that matter…

    Hmm… the sabbatical might be worth it.

  9. Mat….:-) been a long time. But i am glad i visited today. All three parts in one sitting!
    Ermmm, I am waiting for part4. a little bit of details on the ‘only few minutes’ would help spice up a litle….assuming u will continue after raya.
    and and….azhar! man, i already can see how i can enjoy his friendship. he has style….right from his heart.

    selamat hari raya!

    pakpayne

    Pakpayne

    Glad to have you drop by again

  10. Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri Mat B…
    Pohon maaf kalau ada salah silap terkasar bahasa di mana-mana.. have a good one Mat! (Raya dan lain-lain, even if it takes just a few mins..LOL) isyy..baru aja mintak maaf..

    Puteri, Tarmizi dan anak2

    Puteri Kamaliah

    The same to you and yours, ma’am. It has taken me more than a few minutes to reply, hasn’t it? πŸ™‚

  11. A bit off-topic here:
    I was wondering how a few clicks could have originated from here… Thanks for putting my link to the “Recovery” site here.

    BTW I’m just a silent observer here. I like to read the posts and comments here but somehow I just don’t dare to get involved (the same at Elviza’s site, at her creative writing posts). Feeling a bit out of place among you literary types here:-) But one day I should gain enough confidence…

    Cendana

    Me? The literary type? *ROTFL*

    Jauh panggang dari api, beb!

  12. The way he looked at her made her feel like a carefree teenager again?And…..she felt she mattered?I know..Sarah is older than Azhar.And Sarah’s husband has started to take her for granted!O my,its so relevant to what I sometimes feel!And it can be so agonising!ooh!!haha

    mamasita

    You are indeed very perceptive, ma’am

  13. Bro MB,
    Can I get a “brutal and yet a cliffhanging” ending? Hehehehhe!

    Dah start puasa enam?

    Digital

    Brutal cliffhanger? Like Sarah’s husband holding Azhar’s b*lls and asking himself, “To crush or not to crush. That is the question”? You mean something like that?

    Puasa enam? Dah – Puasa ENAM JAHANAM!

  14. Hmmm..

    whatever happens to “love conquers all”??

    mumsie

    I think Hollywood bought the exclusive rights to that concept… πŸ™‚

  15. Bro MB,
    “To crush or not to crush?” Hhahahahaha! I cant stop laughing!
    Anything to do with the crushing of the b*lls is just too brutal la bang! Ngilu den rasa! (still laughing like crazy).

    Digital

    Hmmm… on second thoughts, maybe we don’t want Azhar losing his crown jewels after all!

  16. one day, on his way to work, sarah’s hubby gets hit by a gmpte bus.

    he lingers for a few days in the hospital but succumbs to his injuries.

    distraught, sarah goes to london. to that bench at regent’s park.

    she cries. somebody offers her a tissue. she looks up. it’s him.

    Desparil

    What a wonderful idea for a possible ending! Of course, this is one of many possible endings…

  17. clap! clap! i love a happy ending!!

    Mumsie

    We’ll have to see how this one actually ends. I haven’t quite decided yet.

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