A short story from Myanmar by San Lin Tun
Moe did not know what he could do while he sat in his chair and his mind drifted like a kite floating with the free flow of wind. Something dampened his strength and he felt frayed. He had been feeling this way for a couple of days. It started gradually till it took concrete shape in his mind, tending to block his mental processes. That is why he could not focus on his job. He decided to try to deal with it…
Though he felt it, he could not name the sensation. He picked up the pen from the rectangular lacquer pen holder in front of him on the table, unconsciously. He did not intend to use the pen but his laptop. He sighed at his confusion and looked at his watch — fifteen past four in the afternoon. He stood up, pushed his laptop away and picked up his shoulder bag that lay in a slant against the foot of the table.
Moe heard a voice inside. The voice spoke softly. Nostalgia is a state of mind which readily tends to think, feel, hear, touch or listen to someone from the past or something one cherished, but that person or thing will not be with him for a certain time — maybe short or long, maybe temporary or forever.
He wanted to be alone. He suffered from an indescribable sensation tinged with a kind of sadness or loss.
Moe was remembering his best friend who had passed away six months ago. They normally hung out together. They went to almost every party and soiree at the best hotels in the city to meet new people and have fun. They were the last to leave a party.
They had breakfast together at local teashops. They both drank tea with, sometimes, savory dumplings or, sometimes, mutton pastries that crumbled as soon as one bit into them.
Whenever he was free, his friend called him up or texted him to meet at teashops or at the best local hotels, especially on holidays when others went out of station. They both felt they spent their time well as they understood each other and had no reservations from each other.
Places are important in people’s lives. People like to talk about their native, old schools, universities and more. Places sometimes influence people.
A place you visit with your best friend will not be forgotten easily. When your best friend leaves, you remember that place with fond memories. You like to visit that place again, to dwell on old pleasant images or memories of that time. You feel a kind of loneliness when you are in that place again. You sit at the same table, or order the same type of coffee, or listen to the same music if possible, recalling the conversation you two had in the past, reliving the best time with him or her.
Moe and his friend were 25 years apart. However, age did not separate them. They had become fast friends. They both had similar childhood troubles — being not on good terms with their fathers. When they both met, they talked openly about it to heal their wounds. There were several things Moe reminisced about his friend. Among them, he remembered the day on which his good friend introduced him to local arthouse films, which were novel to him. Till then, Moe had not heard of them.
On that day, Moe’s friend asked him to meet him at the street corner around 6 pm at their usual meeting point. Then, they hailed a cab and went to the coffee shop.
In the cab, his friend told Moe that that night they would be seeing an arthouse film which was quite different from Hollywood movies. Moe usually watched movies from Bollywood or Hollywood to kill his boredom in the evenings.
When they both reached the coffee shop, there were not many people inside the shop. They just saw a few people — two girls, three boys who were sitting inside the mauve lounge. Moe noticed that when he entered the small room, it was decorated with splendid and sparkling art deco.
His friend introduced him to the manager who happened to be a British who could speak Burmese well — distinctly and with perfect articulation. The manager welcomed them while he trying to set up the projector for movie show that night.
Then, Moe’s friend asked, “Hey, do you think many people will come tonight?”
Turning his head, the manager, Brendan, said, “I have already posted it on the shop’s Facebook page.”
Moe’s friend ordered a gin tonic and a cup of cappuccino for Moe. They chose a table not very far from the projector. They noticed a young girl of about eighteen sitting alone on a chair. She might have been a singer because before her was a mike stand.
Moe and his friend both approached her and started conversation.
They found out that she came all the way from Upper Burma to try her talents as a professional singer. That day, she was in the coffee shop for an interview as a crooner. While the manager was fixing the projector, she sat and waited for him to test her voice.
Moe and his friend told her that they wrote for magazines and if she wanted to be interviewed, they could arrange it with her for the next month’s issue. She did not say anything, but a certain and reassuring smile appeared on her young and pretty face.
That time, Brendan shouted out. “It’s fixed up. Let’s try to see the movie.” Saying this, he put a DVD into his laptop which was already connected to the projector.
Moe and his friend both enjoyed the arthouse film. From then on, Moe decided that he would come down to see arthouse films even if his friend was away, getting his visa done in Bangkok. Moe’s friend was a foreigner.
The movie they watched that night was about a Jewish lady who wanted an official divorce from her husband. Every time she submitted her divorce application to the court, her husband appeared and refused to give her divorce. It was after such experiences for eight or nine years that the woman went crazy…
After watching the movie, Moe felt that Myanmar women were fortunate in the kind of marriages they had, mostly monogamous. When Moe confided this to his friend, he nodded his head, and listened engrossed. For Moe’s friend too, traditional Myanmar marriage laws were new and seemed liberal. A Myanmar national, in terms of customary laws, gets married witnessed by seven neighbouring families in front of and in the rear of the would-be couple’s home. If one spouse is away for six months from his wife, the marriage is seen as broken. Still, in a civic court, legal divorces were carried out by existing laws unless the case could be settled by the customary ones.
Moe was thinking he would go to the coffee shop where he and his friend usually went for arthouse films and a taste of good coffee, especially cappuccino. If he went there, Moe knew that he could imagine his best friend near him and dwell on the conversations they had there when he was alive. Moe really needed to pull himself together. He could not spend his time mourning and missing his friend. He still had a long way to go through life.
Moe was thankful to his friend for introducing him to arthouse films, developing his taste and had fond memories of him. Moe said softly to himself, “Though you’re not with me anymore, you leave good memories that I will continue to value as long as I carry on in this life.”
Moe stepped on the pavement where pedestrians walked in haste. Moe felt like he was surrounded by a void. He was unnoticed by others around him. He directed his steps towards the bus stand from which he would take a bus to the place where he wanted to go.
Suddenly and unconditionally, a bout of nostalgia crept in again…
San Lin Tun is a freelance Myanmar-English writer of essay, poetry, short story and novel and he has published ten books including “Reading a George Orwell Novel in a Myanmar Teashop and Other Essays” and his latest novel “An English Writer”. His writings appeared in NAW, Poemish.com, Hidden Words/Hidden Worlds short story anthology, PIX, South East of Now, Asia Literary Review and Opening Up Hidden Burma. He worked as editor-in-charge of Learners’ English Educative Magazine, and a freelance contributor to Home and Services Journal and Myanmore. Currently, he is contributing his essays, and articles to Metro Yangon Section in Myanmar Times Daily
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