Monday, September 09, 2013

Sunset at the Kuching Waterfront

Yes, that’s the Harbor View Hotel, when the sun’s last rays strike its rectangular shape before finally setting in the west to rest. I used to watch the sunset here, while the crowd of people saunter into the waterfront, taking advantage of the evening breeze. I would be thinking of home, as I watch the light hit that side of the building, giving it a radiant glow before slowly fading away, and then, dying, dying in the onset of night. My heart would ache for Karl and Sean as strollers, teenagers and twenty-somethings pour into the waterfront, walking on the brick pathways under the trees. I'd stay for a while, listening to their laughter, before walking around the street corner, where the Anglican Guest House, rises from a slopy, elevated ground, almost like the image of Christ after the resurrection. Curiously, the compound sits opposite the quaint Tua Pek Kong temple, whose smokes coming from numerous incense rise up to the heavens at all hours of the day. I almost forgot the name of the guesthouse where I used to stay but here suddenly it pops up again--St. Thomas! Thanks, I remember you, St. Thomas Guesthouse, once my home inside the Anglican church compound just a few paces away from the waterfront. Once home for girls of a century-ago who studied there under the tutelage of the nuns. What happened to them afterwards? I remember climbing up the wooden stairway, my feet making creaking sounds at their every step. I could still see the shiny, wooden flooring, and the quaint smell of old sweat, body heat and old cigarettes. Ignoring the Caucasian backpackers, I would continue walking the dim interior of the bare living room and walk straight to my room. They still used this stick, skeletal old-fashioned keys which I had trouble inserting into the keyhole. I can still see the common baths and how it smelled of freshly-opened soap. Why is it that sometimes, in my memory, I sense that I was not alone in that room? That somehow, Sean or Karl, or even Ja were actually with me? Why didn’t I ever get the sense that I was alone? But I was alone in that room. I did not have a companion except for my thoughts and my cellphone. I would smell the dry odor of ancient cigarettes that refused to leave the linen no matter how many times those linens must have been washed. It was the Chinese professor in a university in Kajang, north of KL who told me about the place: very cheap, over a century year old wooden guesthouse full of ghosts from the previous century, rooms so tiny and homely, with sheets that smelled of old cigarettes. Surely, it would be within your budget. In the morning, I used to wake up to the strange calls of an Asian fowl, that resemble the chanting of monks somewhere in Bangkok.

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