Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang

Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

We've decided to give Backyard a miss on Mondays for the next few weeks. We went yesterday. Mary was out of sorts from work and I was, well, I am always up for Backyard on Mondays.

But that was before this Monday.

We arrived and it was not that crowded. Mary ordered a beer (for variety) and I, a red wine. Not the two hot teas we expected to order, but then, let us be different, or die.

Mark was tuning his instrument. He looked a little out of sorts. He joined us for a while and told us that he was not in the mood. Really not in the mood.

Uh oh.

He started playing soft, slow numbers. Normally, I love his soft slow numbers. Today, however, I found myself yawning and trying not to nod off. There was something missing. Life, perhaps. Soul, definitely. His heart was not in the music as he strummed and sang.

Nearly two hours later, he came off stage for a break.

"You're really out of it today, aren't you? Macam takda daya nak hidup," I told him. Mark nodded morosely. He WAS out of it. Though it was unkind of me to have noticed. Because that meant he would have to do something about it. Mark is the consumate showman. And he can't bear criticism or to be thought to be less of.

So he went up and started rocking the joint. Patrons unglued themselves from their seats and started to gyrate wildly on the small space that passes off as a dance floor. We kept to our seats and observed all this. I leaned over to whisper to Mary.

"The boy seems to have woken up."

But observing him carefully, I realised it was all a performance. His heart was still not into it. Some guys took to passing behind him on stage, invading his personal space, because the dance floor was too crowded to pass. I saw the flash of irritation on his face and realised that despite the upbeat tempo and the few smiles, he was actually pissed off.

Seriously pissed off.

Nevertheless he kept it up, pushing himself to the limit. Though I didn't think he was going to play Mary's request, Travelling Light. Because it would not have been suitable for this crowd. Although he did oblige with her other favourite, Call Me Al(coholic).

I wished we hadn't come. Backyard on Monday nights is usually quiet, empty and soothing. Today, however, Jerry had organised a wine-tasting/pool night which meant an infusion of patrons. When he saw me, he slapped his head, and said he forgot to invite me for the wine-tasting. No matter, Edmund let us have some of his excellent red Chilean.

Mark continued to rock the joint but by now I really wanted to leave. Except that it would have been rude. So we stayed. Being Malaysians, we don't like to offend anyone. Especially people we happen to like. Even if they're in a pissed off mood.

One of Mark's friends, or rather patrons, a Datuk something or other came up to me and asked what my favourite song was. Without thinking, I said: "Fire and Rain." He then went up to Mark and insisted he play it. Which was not good for the boy in his already inclement state of mind. He raised his eyebrows, glanced icily at me and said: "Indeed?" when the pushy Datuk insisted he play the song.

Then it was time to wrap up, and pushy Datuk came over to chat.

I must backtrack however. Another unpleasant thing about last night was the number of men who kept hitting on Mary. She was just not in the mood, and too tired to fight and fend them off, so I gave them bitch glares and did it for her. One kept glaring at me like: "You're the reason I cannot sit by this fascinating woman and engage her in conversation." And I glared back: "You're not good enough to tie her shoelaces, bucko, so fuck off!"

Brian, one of the three Indian dudes who had harassed us when we first came to Backyard way back last November recognised me and said, oh hello, in an unsmiling way. He didn't want to be thought friendly, to say nothing of over-friendly. I stared back stonily. "Hello." And looked away. (Bitch, bitch, bitch, went off in my mind. I don't give a flying fuck! I answered myself)

Anyways there was a particularly persistent Bhai guy who went for Mares hammers and tongs, and she gave him a pained smile that grew more pained as time went by. So I put my arm around her and pretended we were lesbian partners. And glared at him. He got the idea.

There were two very attractive girls dirty dancing with each other and they looked like a hopeful lesbian hook-up. They turned out to be first cousins.

My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.

Anyways, back to pushy Datuk. He graduated from forcing Mark to play my song, to telling me I should marry him. (Mark, that is, not himself) I reeled. I mean to say, what? Then he invited Mary and I back to his large house in Damansara Heights where they were taking the party for a jam session.

I declined politely. He insisted. I declined politely again. Told him I had to send my friend back. He said, send her back and come then. Did I happen to mention, pushy?

I was tired and my nerves, never at their best at this time of the night, were seriously frayed. Mary had started making tracks for the car. Mark rocked up to say goodbye.

"You're pissed off, aren't you?" I asked him.

"Majorly," he replied.

One of my many useless talents that will never go anywhere. Being able to gauge Mark's actual mood behind the performance.

We left. I sent Mary back and then drove home. Had to have the obligatory "wash Backyard cigarette smoke out of my hair" shower and crawl into bed.

Tired. Very tired.

Woke up early this morning for a meeting that never took place. Not only did it not take place, nobody told me why it didn't. The portly major who was supposed to show up at our office at 10am with boasted military discipline and punctuality, didn't. But since Zafrul wasn't here to receive him, that was necessarily a good thing. Which means they must have cancelled the meeting without telling me.

I really, really, really need to get out of here!

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

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