Wednesday, 16 May 2012

No More Mud by Esther Soh

Sometimes, hunched into the chair of his corner-office, hidden behind smart paper trays and legal documents and time and money in print, he pauses. Just stops for a moment to look, unseeing, out of the ceiling-to-floor windows at the metal-glass-people scenery outside, forever shifting like a one of those bizarre art installations his new wife is absolutely mad about. His fingers ache, his mind blanks, and he stares at the faint reflection of himself looking back at him, a wraith of an image that the passers-by outside walk through callously.

How is this me, he asks - aloud; there's no one around to stare judgment at him. How am I here?

He takes a deep breath, can almost smell the curry Ma always cooked in the back kitchen, the one whose aroma invaded just about every other house in the neighbourhood. Laughter, and cold mud beneath his heels, squelching in between toes and splattering brown up skinny calves as he reaches the dirty football before his brother, wildly kicking at it and cussing when he misses and falls on his backside, staining the dirty shorts further. Rough shoving, indignant cries and Ma hollering over all of it - oi, dinner's done, go wash up and call Ayah from his room!

One day, he'll beat Abang at football, will beat everybody else and win the World Cup! He'll be the world's greatest footbal-

The air whistles out, and the moment dissolves, chased away by the chill from the humming air-con and chime of the clock just outside. He straightens, Berlutis sinking a little deeper into the plush carpet. His eyes drop from the window, lower themselves until they are once again aligned with his fountain pen. He has a lot of work to finish before he leaves for the night. No point in wasting any more time.

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