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My mobile phone rings. “I love you, Sarah. I love you. I love you.” It’s MY POTATO. This is the first time that he ever calls me since that teary goodbye at Palmerston North’s airport. I have been waiting for so long to hear that 3 little words from him. Yet, when it finally happening, I am stunt, I am happy, of course, but stunt speechless. For once, I don’t have a quick witty come back for a reply. Should I say, thank you? Slowly, all senses come back to me and I feel like hugging everything in sight. He loves me. He loves me. He loves… eh… “I am not in love with you.” That was what he said once on that doomsday, on that last few weeks before my departure. Now, 9 months down the road and being so far apart from each other, he loves me? Is this possible? Is this real? Am I truly, loveable? Are we, truly, an US, a WE, a you-and-me thingy, a pair? 9 December 2008, mark that, mark that, MY POTATO LOVES ME.

Two months later, the postman delivers my overdue Christmas present. I find potato smiling at me on a play back VCD wishing me Merry Christmas and THAT section, “I love you Sarah, I love you, I love you … Merry Christmas.” THAT section has been replay again and again and again and again. I, me, the whole that I am, love you too. I’m in tears, I’m in laughter, and I’m in every stage of emotional turmoil that alleviates me. I love you, for the first time, these words ring crystal clear for me. This is not a movie, this not a romance novel, this is not a story someone’s told me about someone’s someone they know. This is me, my life, my story and I am loved, me, I, do love you.

My Facebook’s status changes from Single to In relationship with KiwiStag01, in relationship with KiwiStag01 … in relationship with. Me, in a relationship!

****

Back anticipating that “Cooling Down” flashes from the treadmill’s screen again today, uh ah uh ah uh ah, go away hamster! I am pissed today and I refuse to conjure your image. In my mind head, I can see her poke her wiggly butt in my direction and snort away holding her nose up high in the air after eyeing me evil.

“Am I correct to think that you would be a kind of guy that would not compromise if you think you are right and do not do anything wrong, no matter how I complain, explain, regardless of how I feel about it and so on and so forth, you will not budge and will never compromise and basically will just expect me to figure it out by myself and accept that you are right and I should just live with it or else?”

My anger fuelling this mill, I walk, faster and faster.

What is that sentence? I flash an angry look at that big wide window in front of me, I can see the picture of that nicely shaped lady with her cool smile, but what is that sentence? traeh regnorts dliuB. Bugger!! Who cares!

I grip the handle bar tighter and walk even faster increasing the speed on the machine. What are you smiling at lady? I growl at the lady picture. Walk even faster and squeezes close my eyes.

“Miss, you are making a very nice view for me from behind.” I snap open my eyes and aiming to kill looking for the source of that voice. Noval, the PT is standing next to me, smiling cheekily.

Before I can say anything, he reached over and reduce the timing on the mill to 3 minutes counting down, “Come on, let’s exercise, you don’t need to be on this for that long, 15 minutes warm-up is enough.”

“Oh,” I force out a smile at him in a haze. I guess, the anger has just cool a several notch down and I realise that my legs hurt from that entire anger fuelled walk.

I am going to call him later, I miss him, I need to talk to him. 3 days is a long enough suffering for me and I don’t really have the energy to maintain this anger anymore. About what, exactly, actually? I somehow forget what the cause of our fight was. I just miss my potato. I need to talk to him.

“On behalf of everyone from the K Co-op, I would like to thank you for all your help, and most of all your friendship. We’ve grown close together, you are one of us, and you are family. This is not goodbye; this is just one of those phases of our journey. There is no word that I can use to express our gratitude here, without your guidance; we won’t be as what we are today.”

I look around me and try to absorb the entire warm glow from each and every one of these group of people, warm, simple, generous, kind, thoughtful, caring individuals, and trying hard not to break down in tears. This appreciation that they bestow on me is so much welcome, in a way, I feel so self-conscious, wrecking my brain trying to figure out what I have done to deserve such gratitude. Yet, my soul soar tonight, my heart takes wings and my smile almost crack open my jaw. I drank; I sip greedily as this is the highlight of my works. This is my achievement, this is my pride. This is the nectar of life that I store dearly safely tucked on that special corner of my being. This is the moment of reveries that I will be needing when life takes that wrong turn again and I am left alone again and lost, again. This is my string of pearls, this is my invisible tattoo, and this is the fountain where I draw my courage from to move on, to keep on trying, to put one step one after another. This is the core of my self-survival mechanism.

I have been working with these groups of people almost all the time in my career path. From one place to the other, this revealing kind of moments when others make me aware that I am needed and that I am useful, is what makes me grow and grow I did, am and will.

****

“Fasten your seatbelt, M’am.” Smile the stewardess while lightly tapping me on the shoulder waking me up from my day-dream. The plane from Medan to Jakarta is crowded as always, people from all sort of passage almost all with their heavy hand carry and wait until the plane landed, the conveyor bell will surely be full with rows and rows of big luggage, boxes big and small, all sort of odd packages and of course roll cakes’ boxes. Funny, from all of the culinary delights, why people decide on Medan’s roll cakes, it is a phenomenon on itself to me.

Glancing to my left, two heavy-set of men are sitting in row.  Enjoy my window seat you, think I while flash eyeing the guy next to the window. I don’t like the aisle seat, but then again, it is better than the middle seat. I surely wouldn’t want to be stuck between these two big birds. I never have any complain for leg room, short as mine, I can snugly fit in most places. But, in a small plane, economic seat, I need my elbow room, thank you very much. The sure bet will be window seat, or ok, fine aisle seat, at least I can lean to the side and take up as much elbow room as I can secure. “Sorry,” says a lady passing by struggling with her large handbag and a sizeable shopping bag on each arm. Did I mention that when sitting in aisle seat don’t start leaning to the side to take ownership of that comfy extra space before the plane took off? You will only annoy yourself and other passengers. Wait, sit straight, read your book or blank your mind, when airborne, then attack. I mean, take up that space.  Occasionally, you will annoy the air hostesses when they have to manoeuvre around your elbow, but then again you’re the paying passenger; take that privilege to be a jerk once in a while.

Closing my eyes and folding my arms close to me, trying to block away all the chatty people around me. Obviously also giving a clear sign to the guy next to me, to stop asking further questions than where are you going? Mister, we are sitting inside the same plane, my boarding ticket surely mentions Jakarta, and the same as yours I’m sure. Oh yeah, true, I can always be on my transit to Timbuktu. Breath, breath, relax, negative thought be gone. A baby cries somewhere and a child start nagging her mum for something. Lady, please whatever she wants, just give it to her. I open my eyes and glance across the aisle, an old lady smiles at me and offering me a piece of her snacks. I smile and politely shake my head, “No, thanks, M’am,” and quickly as politeness permit, which is by slowly moving my head to a straight neckline forming 90 degree alignment to my shoulder while maintaining that smile, I return to my catatonic position, she might want to know where I am going too. Beat me, where am I going, actually?

God in heaven, oh the mighty powerful being, who ever and where ever you are, this is my last work trip, soon I will be unemployed, please please please ensure that this period will be as smooth as possible. Please please please, let me be by my potato’s side when it is time for me to scan that newspapers again and browse the net for an inkling of any promising and suitable job. Please, hear me, please, by the way, you can send me one of your rainbows, I haven’t seen one lately. That is not too much to ask, right? Just a rainbow please, then I know you heard me and things will be just fine. Ok fine, next time soon eh? Today is just too bright and muggy, a rainbow is yes, indeed too much to ask for now.

Life is not simple, I know, injustice prevails most of the time. I have witness first hand, many of that. You would think that a fair trading system designed with disadvantages producers in mind, will do exactly that, correcting the bias trading system. But, think again, it is actually not how it is done in practice. Maybe I am being too harsh, but from this past 10 years, I am more convince that there is truly indeed that something is fundamentally not right. What exactly it is? The design of the system? The people operating the system? There are surely many variables that you can analyse for any given situation, but the rule of thumb will always differentiate the root to two broad categories, the system design or the people. These two are also interlinked; unqualified people will design an inadequate system. I am not talking about people credibility in the forms of hard-earned institution disperse papers or even about their long listed experiences, but their ability to see and walk in the shoes of the disadvantage. I am not talking about complete range of grand design from needs assessment to monitoring and evaluating and fancy long-winded academically written periodical reports plus a state of the art infrastructure, but a people system that evolve and adjust by, for and with the disadvantage.

An idealist, I am, yes. A hypocrite, I am, yes. Acknowledging that I have to enable myself to walk in their shoes and see life from their eyes, is something quite different when it comes down to action it all in. No matter how it is, I am always going to be the outsider, a visitor, who come for a visit, performing my tasks, pack up, leave and back to my own privilege life. My life will always be in contrast with theirs. My material advantage, my surrounding, and my support functions will always give me a better head start. In all honesty, I am the one who is soaking my life in them and taking advantage of their disadvantage. They are my job, my work, my career object; they are my source of income, but most of all they are the source of my sense of well-being. I might have contributed to their daily predicaments by just doing my job, I would never know for sure. My emotional attachment and dedication are seasonal, chain to my immediate present and involvement in any given task. When I pack my bag and move on, I leave their lives behind me, their lives carry on as always. I would like to think that I made a difference, tiny as it is, during my stay, deep down inside, I hope I have carry a bit of their weight.

See that big bright yellow double arches shaping M? You probably never consider it to be one of THE fancy places to eat. 14 of us do. We are a group of 15 women, young and old, 14 of us born and take up resident in a small village on a foothill of a mountain, 1 of us a temporal resident logging with one of the village leaders, ‘adopted’ as one of the ‘family’ members. This one is also the village leader, in a sense; she is the manager of the community centre. And yet, she is an outsider. The village is our eco-tourism project, the ladies are our village guides, trained to bring warm hospitality to the venturing guests. They are our ambassadors to the outside world looking in.

“Anyone fancy an ice cream?” I smile broadly, thinking that a trip to this mall will not be complete without ice cream. We are sitting in this standardise white, yellow and red world franchise setting, joining 6 of its red-white tables forming a long island of our own temporarily with two rows of yellow chairs. “So, ice cream everyone, I’m paying,” noticing intuitively that somehow my 14 companions have switch to a bit of awkward demeanour. Then, come shy nods around me, and the mist lifts and chatty chat of 14 women spring back to life.

“It’s our free time, if you want, you can have a look around at the shops, and I’ll wait for you here. Don’t worry, I won’t go anyway heheheheh. How about we meet here around 5pm, in an hour? Then we can all go back to the inn, rest a bit before dinner time.”

“Why don’t you come with us?”

“Nah, I’ll be fine here, I don’t like shopping, so ladies, go ahead.”

“I’ll stay with you then,” says some of the older women, “It’s been a long day, and it’s nice to sit here, in air-con room eating ice cream.”

“Hehheheh my thought exactly, Inaq (Madam or mother in Sasak, Lombok local dialect).”

All the younger ladies and some of the older after finishing their ice cream start going about in twos or threes. Me and few Inaqs, we enjoy our ice cream slowly and chat mundanely. In less than half an hour, the first trios come back in sight. “Eh? So soon?” I greet them back. “Ya, we miss you hahhahahah.” Then, soon the pairs and the small bands start appearing back. “Eh? So soon?” Parroting like a dumb bird, I say. Knowing smiles broke all around the occupied chairs now and I am kind of puzzled.

“Everything is so expensive, I saw this beautiful outfit for my son, but it is more than 100.000 Rupiah for a shirt.” All the other chime in and describing their same desire, a hat for a daughter, a toy for a son, a pair of slippers for grandma and so on, souvenirs for the love ones at home. I sit there stunt as if someone has just slap me hard one person at a time. I am sooooo… sorry… all kind of thoughts rush through my mind. Stupid person, inconsiderate person, the big words I heard playing in my head over and over again. I scan their faces, are they masters of camouflage? There are no sad lines on their face. Should I be relief? A big slap lands again on my left cheek, this time I know my brain is keeping me in check and remind me of something fundamental that I should have been aware of. I am sooo… sorry … my dear friends, I didn’t know, I should have been more sensitive.

The plane lands with a sharp jerk, shaking me back to the now.

“This is Jakarta, eh?” exclaims one of the big birds beside me while yawning a big yawn. “Eh… maybe Timbuktu, Pak… (Pak/Bapak – Sir in Indonesian)” I grin loonilly at him and walk away quickly with my sling bag.

Piles of notes and all sorts of library books that I know I might not be reading them all stack the table and the space around my chair. I am sitting comfortably facing the lavishly green landscape a view from my bedroom window to the garden. It’s an early New Zealand summer day, the sun is bright and the wind is crisp. This is an ideal inspirational spot and yet instead of working on my thesis proposal and preparing for the mid-term exams, I am scanning the pages on my online dating website. Flicking from one picture to the next, I mentally tick mark each person, no, no, oh no, nah, ehm… maybe, no, no, wink or not wink, move on, no, no, no and on and on I flick one after the other.

Then, a mail arrived. Click on the inbox and start reading, Kiwistag01, ehm… what a confidence. He doesn’t sound bad, mentioning that he passed almost all 20 things that I listed in my profile and he would like to get to know me in person. Why not? Let’s reply, ask him to elaborate on each point, find out what he has got to say next.

“What are you doing?” After the period of exchanged emails, I am here to inform that Kiwistag01 and I have been exchanging instant messages on net and off net and phone calls.

“Studying, try to at least”

“It’s kind of late, working hard?”

“On and off, can’t seem to concentrate, been reading the same page over and over again.”

“You need a break, want me to come over and bring you coffee?”

“Now? It’s late, and what happen to our we’ll-meet-next-week plan? You promised me tea in a thermos, remember?”

“LOL, I know, but I want to meet you, I’m in the area. So, can I come?”

“Sure.”

That coffee delivery bought from the nearby petrol station turns out to be a labour-weekend-stay-over. Lead to me meeting his dog, office friends, the whole family, close friends, and me moving in and sharing his living space and daily life. In that span of close to 18 months time, I become we. He becomes we. But, love, is still yet factor in.

“Babe” I can hear his voice calling over the running water.

“In the shower,” I yell back, no need actually, as his head pops between the ajaring sliding door.

“I know.” Grinning sheepishly he closed back the door.

“Cheeky!” I yell again, continuing what I’m doing and wait, listen, a few minutes passes by, and there it is the familiar sound of that online computer game that I learn to hate.

Fresh from the shower, I walk over to his throne; give him a hug and a kiss.

Holding me close, “The raid will start soon,” says he.

“I know,” cupping my hands on his receding potato head, “hungry?”

“Yesss,” his smile broad flashing from underneath all those beard a set of crow feet framing his beaming eyes, and I forget that a few minute ago I want to smack him hard on the head.

“Dinner in 5,” peeling myself away from his embrace.

“No hurry, babe.”

Two plates, I am making dinner for two, he doesn’t like his vegetables, so I puree the carrots and finely blend in every veggie-like substances into the tomato sauce of this bolognaise. Three, I also have my own personal 4-legged dinner companion, PeeJay. She follows me around, sharing my dinner, facing the same direction that I am facing, the TV screen. While her master, my potato, facing the opposite direction of us, the computer screen.

It’s late; I am getting ready for bed after my last cig outside in the cold night air. Snugly tucked under the duvet, reading my book, potato comes and claims his side of the bed from PeeJay. Closing my book, wrestling with PeeJay to put my arms around potato, I whisper, “Tired?” Hugging me tight, he sighs,” Knackered.” I reach over to his side of the bed, find the light switch. Darkness falls upon us, silence, you can hear 3 hearts beat in its individual pace, then sleep comes and linger the whole night. It’s a normal happy day, of we, us, me, him and PeeJay.

Saturday, me and June, we meet up and talk nostalgically, she was my primary school mate, long gone recently found on Facebook. We start with a scrumptious 10AM breakfast, tasting one dish after another from the nicely and splendidly spread buffet. Pampering ourselves with fresh squeeze orange juice, warm waffles, scramble eggs, poached sausages, home-made yoghurt and the list goes on. A long chat over breakfast slash brunch and a shower later, leisurely, we cruises down to the mall, manicure and pedicure session for her, while I happily locating myself in one of the cafés, sipping coffee, blowing smoke rings, reading my book, glancing once in a while to watch the people and the world go by.

It’s Sunday, 8pm on the dot.

“Go ahead and order. Forget about the calorie, they are absolutely yummo!” June smiles at me devil-ish. I scan the menu from front to back and back to front, concentrating as if the smiley waitress will give me a pop-quiz on it in the next 10 minutes. While actually, I have my tummy-eye one-track-mind set on the BBQ baby back ribs glazed with house specialty sauce – healthy salad, healthy salad, healthy salad chanting my brain happily while my eyes following the turn of the pages and I, of course, happily ignoring the chant.

“I think you should come back in a bit, miss,” addressing the waitress with her twinkle eyes, “I need to brainwash her. Could you please bring us our drinks first?” June kicks my leg from across the table in a playful manner like we were still two kids with pigtails, “Come on, I’m hungry!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.”

“Stop thinking, as agreed this is our meat night, so go on order, you are surely not going to order rabbit food after nagging me to take you here!”

“Who nag you?” Sticking my tongue to her, “You basically convince me this is the best place for ribs.”

“And you, girl, as I recall doesn’t take much need for any convincing act in my part, I just open my mouth and mentioned ribs and yummo, you’re hooked, yeehaaw!”

“Yeehaaw! Hehehehehe Do you know, that 30 minutes on treadmill will only amount to 138 calories? I don’t want to even think how many calories these ribs have” grinning stupidly and rolling my eyes at her, “Yeah, yeah, yeah rib then. Call back the waitress.”

“See, less than 5 second such a convincing effort to get you on board!”

I look around the room, while she waives at the waitress. Not really a packed place on a Sunday night, the irony of an Irish resto in Medan. The place is dimly lit, romantic candle light flickering from each table surrounding an impressively stocked bar at the far end of the room. Wooden furniture matching the wooden wall, projecting a cosy atmosphere, sending signs that lingering is an ok thing to do here. My gaze slowly trail the people in front of me without really registering their features, just immersing the vibe while my mind wonder in and out then finally my eyes rest on my mobile phone. No text. He is probably asleep by now. Caught myself back in time – I return my gaze back to June.

“This place used to be packed; a few months ago we need to call in for reservation. But since the airport security has a one-way street policy up the road leading to this place after 8pm, people sort of abandoning it as THE hang out place. But trust me; the food here is worth it.”

“Yeah, I guess, with so many hang out places to choose from, people prefer going to somewhere which has both good food and strategic location.”

“He didn’t text, eh?” Suddenly she asks, I just look at her and flash her one of my indifference smiles.

“Oh, tell me again, how did you end up with 5 kids, eh?”

I considered myself a master of instant diversion to a next topic, when the subject of my potato pops. Don’t get me wrong, he is almost constantly on my mind, no matter what I do, but when people ask me about him, I tend to give them short answers as deep down, the real problem is: I don’t know. I don’t know whether there is a real future ahead consisting of me and him building a life together. I’m afraid to dream, I can dream alone, safely in my own thought, but saying out loud and expressing that dream in verbal description for others to hear, that I can’t. As if I might break some kind of jinx – people might feel sorry for me when it all turned out to be a flop. I dream, but I dream alone inside my head.

“Hi Hon, I’m in Banda Aceh now. Just arrived a few hours ago, I’m on my mobile internet.”

“Hi, babe, how’s the trip?”

“It’s ok, the flight was alright, can’t believe this would be my last field trip, will be in Medan tomorrow night and then on to Siborong-borong, back to Medan, then Takengon and finally back to Medan, finally home – 2 weeks of the final lag. How are you?”

“I’m good”

“Busy day?”

“Yeah, been out on the job since morning, had an early start, a bit knackered actually.”

“Poor baby… hope you will have a good rest later, almost time to go home?”

“Nah, still got stuff that I need to sort, probably will be here for a while.”

“Ok, I’ll keep you company, ya. Work starts tomorrow morning, I’m just going to lay low and take it easy tonight. Feeling a bit unwell, actually, I can feel a sore throat coming, hopefully it won’t get any worse, this is going to be a long trip and being sick would be the last thing that I need.”

“Take care of yourself, hon. I don’t like it if you are sick or in trouble and I can’t be there for you.”

“Thanks, Hon, I will, don’t worry.”

I don’t like it if you’re sick or in trouble and I can’t be there for you? Normally, my sceptical nature would have me cringe away with that kind of sweet talks. But, coming from my potato, it so heart-warming. Every sense of my being soak on the sound of that sentence, alleviate me to a state of bliss, expresses in a big long sigh upon reading it; missing you, truly. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to run for his embrace, resting my head on his chest, my ear snug closely to the level of his heart beat, in tune with its familiar rhythm? For a few seconds, I could block the world around me; forget all my worries, just to stand still, wrapping my arms around that familiar contour. For a few moments, it’s just me and him.

“Oh, I will have a two-day break during this trip. Won’t be working this weekend, we will be in Medan. Remember that fancy hotel that I stayed the last time, I will be there again. Cool eh?”

“Yep. That will be nice, enjoy you. ”

“Hehhehe I will”

“I will be away this weekend, going up to Auckland on my bike, for Pearl Jam concert, will be leaving after work on Friday, be back on Sunday, night-ish.”

“Oh, ok”

I know, I should have wished him the same, “enjoy you”. But, why there is a twang on my heartstrings? Something – an alarm bell of a cuckoo nest, starting like abandonment and ending like jealousy. I wish, you will be available on the weekend, I wish I can spend time talking and being with you, online, on the weekend, I wish I can come with you and have fun ride and being a part of the crowd in the concert. Who are you taking instead? That girl who is a friend? Will the two of you ride on the same bike? Will the two of you share the same accommodation? Are you going on your own?

“Who are you taking with you, Hon?”

“No one, I’m going up on my own.”

“Ok, be careful ya, text me to let me know, you are ok, ya?”

“Ok”

Of course, that wouldn’t happen. Texting me to let me know, he is ok, is rarely ever considered as emergency text. I do my own things on that weekend, trying hard to forget how much I miss him, trying to brush away the urge to text him or make that international call.

SMS mall, probably THE hang out spot in the area. It’s kind of cosy, especially at night with its arcade of restos lining up with a centre stage, where live music with various band genres alternatively performing each night. My gym is one of the arcade residents. I have been upgrading my patronage activities of the mall, from shopper to sweater, literally means to sweat. The membership is expensive, but since my recent one month paid-leave from work resulted in a 5 Kgs gained in weight, I have made a very wise decision in paying for membership in this fancy sweat factory.

“Have a nice exercise, M’am.” Smile the guy at the front desk, returning my gym card after tweeting it at the scan machine.

“Thanks,” taking my card from him while can’t help but mumbling inside my head, scaling up the steps leading to the second floor, don’t think there would be a nice exercise, my good man, me and labouring on sport is just not really a good match. I can be as strong as an Ox but to turn exercising as a pleasuring activity would be too much to ask of oneself. Waving and smiling to my PT, there he is standing there waiting, yeah yeah I know, nodding and smiling again, 15 minutes warm-up on the treadmill, yeah yeah, hold on, I’m heading to the locker now.

****

45 minutes cardio on this damn machine – Just finished the weight training with my PT and now he is putting me back on this thread-wonder-mill which digitally display how far that I fast walk and how much calorie that I burn while doing so. The only feature that I like about it, is when the screen flash and says “Cooling down” ahh… what a bliss phrase.

Speed 5.5, inclination 5 – standard, fast enough for me to jerk healthy sweat and slow enough to wiggle my butt and work those tights, tummy and waist line in more or less comfortable in sync rhythm way. Noval, the PT is still standing next to the machine and making small talks to me, I guess, he is being nice and probably checking to see whether I might faint on the mill. Shooting him back with friendly reply, trying to ensure him that I am completely fine and he is safe to leave me alone now. Good, he is saying his goodbye and thanks and start to walk away. Now, there just me, the mill and my vivid imagination.

40 minutes and counting down – Warning – the small placard read with a list of small print that I have never recall what is written no matter how many times I read it. Anyway, I keep walking fast, alternating my view from the mill’s screen, TV screen, and big glass window in front of me giving me the full view of the traffic and building outside. Warning the sign still read the same, slowly, I drift, my imagination taking over, alleviate from my subconscious and running my conscious thought, the big glass window becomes my canvas – flashing one image after another, alternating story lines one after another.

Look, I am a big chubby hamster running laboriously on her giant wheel, round and round I go, wiggling butt here and there, huff and puff, uh ah uh ah turn the wheel, turn the wheel, uh ah uh ah. 38 minutes and 46 seconds counting down, flash of reality, then next scene is playing in my head displaying vividly on the glass pane. Look, look, a potato with wing is flying closer, fluttering his wing and swaying from side to side, he hovers and slowly taking a human form, my KiwiStag01. Smiling his big smile, showing a small middle gap on a row of big front teeth, his beard is untrimmed as always, grinning happily, he says, “Good work! Not enjoying the work out babe? Fair enough but yeah, it is good for you.” Grinning away, while the background change and now he is scratching his back against the door frame of his cramp apartment, I used to live there with him, sharing his space, sharing his daily routine life, being a part of a couple, probably in love with each other or probably not, and yet, sharing a life together. The image slowly changed back, the traffic and building outside reemerge, glance down at my mobile phone next to the mill’s screen, a pang in my heart string, this phone hardly ever rings or ping a text, delivering a loving message from afar, just to find out how I am doing, just to let me know I was thought about at that very moment. Ah well, he is busy, don’t be too demanding, he can’t text, it is not fine with his work partner that he waste money sending text messages, unless emergency and letting me know that he is thinking of me, is surely can’t be classified as one of those emergencies.

37 minutes 10 seconds and counting down – that’s remind me I have to book my plane ticket for the last field trip to Sumatera, oh boy, am I glad this will be the last trip for me. I am walking as fast as I can, uh ah uh ah uh ah, the hamster image flashes back for a split second, I am sweating profusely, my legs start feeling the heavy pull of the muscles, uh ah uh ah, yes, yes, I am walking as fast as I can, walking and cross the legs with each step, back straight, chin up, lock tummy, uh ah uh ah uh ah, move with the music. Crap! What kind of music that they are playing on the speaker! Now, just concentrate on the beat, yes, that’s it, uh ah uh ah uh ah.

The alarm clock has been snoozing and snoozing and I am still waiting for that right moment to wake up. The air con is set to 16 degree Celsius. It is a cold morning, wrapping my duvet tighter around my body, without opening my eyes, blindly reach for that mobile phone of mine, a little peak and yes, hit that snooze button again. Snuggling closer to all my pillows, my brain is slowly thawing and thoughts slowly coming back to me. Wake up, have breakfast, shower, go to gym. Yes – tugging my duvet even closer around me.

Ping! Text message. “Don’t forget we got gym today”, text the dedicated Personal Trainer of mine.

Ping! Text message, “A-nya gila siaw (Crazy -in both Indonesian and Hokkien- Madam), are you awake yet?!” text my cousin.

Yeah, yeah 5 more minutes, hugging my pillow and happily ignoring both messages. Searching my Marlboro Black Menthol pack and light one, this will give the 2 minutes of warning to all my brain cells that I am waking up soon.

Final snooze, right! Time for breakfast. I wonder what my over-priced diet catering serves me today, walking through the adjacent door to my Auntie’s smoke-free territory. The identifiable orange bag for the food containers is sitting on the dining table with its usual info sheet sticking out from the top. Let’s see, Breakfast for Mrs. Sarah Boen, written on the top end, mmm … why they always assume that I am someone’s Mrs.? Should actually call them up and straighten up the status. Ah well, forget it, not a big deal. Now back to breakfast, Chicken Steak, Mix veggies soup, Tofu and Diet Tomato Punch. They all sound yummy, all breakfast, lunch and dinner, delivered three times daily, in a heat resistant containers, the only complain that I have would be the small portions. But then again, 8 days on this, I think I have learned to eat smaller portion meal, so the original complain return, over-priced which burn a hole in my wallet.

“So, you decided to wake up after all eh?” snap my Auntie, her morning ritual, her day and night ritual actually. She is a kind person, but snappy and curtly. She is surely not the kind who will tell you sweet nothing to pamper your ego or saying something sweet to make you feel good about yourself.

“Yep” opening my package and starting to spoon in my breakfast.

“I just about to yell at you, it’s good that you finally wake up on your own. Look at the clock!”

Grinning stupidly while munching, I replied, “Gee… Pakme (Auntie in Hakka) it’s not that late, I’ll get ready soon.”

“Irene has been calling twice checking whether you are finally arisen from the death!”

“Yeah, she text me,” at this point all I should be doing is grinning and let her unleash her blows, and if I can think of a diverting subject then I should use it ASAP.

“Oh look at how they cook this tofu, have a bite, is this what they call yellow tofu, it’s nice, kind of having smoky taste eh?”

“Huh,” she is taking a bite, “What a waste of money, paying so much for tofu!” while seemingly munching happily on my over-priced tofu, “Hurry up and get ready, the car will be here soon!” then walking away to do her other morning ritual, like yelling at the dog while feeding him.

The whole breakfast only took me 5 minutes to finish, making me a cup of hot chocolate Anlene milk; yes I do need extra calcium for these bones of mine, and heading back to the adjacent door for a quick shower.

A quick shower turned into only washing my face and other strategic places and brushing my teeth. Bugger off, with a full shower. I am going to be all sweaty in about half an hour or so from now, a bit of au de cologne will be fine by now. My poor PT, he sure never complain about me being smelly, so, so far so good, we will both survive. Now, where is that big gym bag of mine, and where did I put my shocks, and those ugly black sport shoes of mine? That reminds me, need to revisit the shop and see whether they already have the nice trainers that I like, right size and right colour. All done, now where is that cousin of mine? Why am I waiting for her now? Ah well, time for another two-minute cig break then. Oh, I better say morning to my potato.

Opening the laptop and log in to Yahoo Messenger, sure as it normally is, there he is that loving smiley face, bright yellow next to his name, Kiwistag01.

“Morning, morning”

“Hi hon.”

“Busy day, baby? I’m waiting for my cousin to pick me up, another trip to the gym.”

“I’m good, going out for a job soon”

“Have fun at the gym and be good to people”

“Hehheheh I am always good, hon. I’ll talk to you later ya.”

“Ok”

“Bye hon.”

“Bye bye”

Introducing my top potato, a guy that I am in a relationship with for this past 3 years, 2 of those years, were spend online, sad really, being so far away from each other, sometimes the distance is really making me so miserable. Living in a different country, with 6 hours differences between us, online chat whenever we happen to be both online, is mostly the only salvage. But, I am grateful for finding this one potato. He is your typical nerd, with the same hazard awkwardness of lacking proper social skills, top with his “I am always right” principle, he can be an intimidating figure to approach and warm up to for most people. But to me, he is the nicest guy that ever comes to my life and not to mention always, I mean always, able to take all my craps during my worst mood hours. These days, talking to him online is what helps me get through the day. As much as I am afraid of dreaming, he is the one person that I am willing and helplessly willing to dream all my dreams on. My beary potato, my big and cuddly potato, there is no day past without having his image passing through my waking hours. This is the one guy that I have shed so many tears for and yet warm my heart, whether in anger or in laughter. With him, I can label myself, “TAKEN”, and so proud of it.

“A-nya gila siaw!! Done?!” Yell my cousin from the living room.

“Yeaaahhh, coming!” Jumping down from my bed, snapping close my laptop, sling shouldering my bag and off I goes, before the usual remark, “You are not ready yet??!!” fly my way. She needs to gain weight and I need to lose weight, we got nothing in common except that our Kg weight match, she need 10kgs and I do not need 10 Kgs. Alas, if only we can just swap those damn meat and fat. She is my muse, basically my morning screamer, without her, I won’t be successful in dragging myself to the gym at all, 3 times a week minimum. She is my dragger, a lovely one indeed.