Flying back to Malaysia a month ago, I was in a complete daze. The goodbyes at Heathrow were like something out of a movie. There have been a few times now in my life I have physically felt the moment my heart broke and that was definitely one of them. Leaving behind all that I had known for over a year now – yes over a year that I had been that I had not been home to Malaysia. But was it home? I was this little botak chick taking my seat between a polite and quiet Chinese uncle on my left and a wide-eyed, smiley Malay kakak on my right. I’m not ever excited about flying and because of the emotional rollercoaster, I had been on for the last 24 hours I was most definitely not excited about this one. I got the two sleeping pills out of my jacket pocket, took them in one go, and was out before we even took off.
About 10 hours into my 12-hour journey I wake up. Nature calls and I’m pissed because I know I have to kill the remaining couple hours of the flight entertaining myself and not let the anxiety get to me. Big fucking metal bird in the sky, ugh. My neighbor on the right, the smiley Malay lady, beams at me when I turn to ask if I can squeeze past her. She almost seems excited to see me. Those sleeping pills were fucking strong and I’ve missed all the meals and this lady looks at me like she’s just glad I’m alive.
I stand up on the isle and stretch. Less than two hours to go until I am in Malaysia. It’s been so long the, longest I have ever been away; I am nervous, undoubtedly. Not about my family’s reception of me – well okay maybe a little about that – but mostly what was concerning me was how was Malaysia going to react to me, and vice versa?
To go back a little, for as long as I can remember I had always wanted to leave Malaysia, and when I finally did it age 17 I vowed I would never move back, just visit. My resentment towards Tanah airku is complex and in fact very hard for me to talk about. I mentioned remembering the exact moments I felt my heartbreak and unfortunately, the majority of that pain happened here – and please know that had nothing to do with romance.
My heart broke from the abuse of trust, grief, worry, and isolation. My heart broke from the loss of so many friends and family either to the death of nasty disagreements. The isolation was a huge factor because no matter how hard I try to fit in, I couldn’t, and when I did I was nowhere near being myself, and in most of those cases, I was just being used.
With all of this racing through my mind, I am also holding on to the instinct I have that’s telling me now more than ever, “Nevermind! You need to be home now.” That’s something I cannot fight. I need my parents, I need my sister. They are in Malaysia. That’s that. It’s worth saying that due to recent events in my life, I would say I am the shell of what I used to be and I am going to be arriving into Malaysia battered up, tired, and pretty broken.
I’m seated in the very back of the plane. It is only a few steps to the toilet there is a queue and I take my place behind an elderly Chinese woman who is stretching out in every direction possible. Sidenote: Yasss aunty, circulation is everything on a long haul flight!
Behind me, an old Malay uncle with wispy grey hair says to me, “So is this your first time to Malaysia?”
With a smile to meet his, I respond “No Uncle, I am actually a Negeri Sembilan girl.” Wide-eyed and with a huge smile on his face he says “Wah, so you speak Malay?” I begin to explain, in Malay, that I’m going to see my parents and sister and of course I can speak Bahasa, I went to Sekolah Kebangsaan, etc etc.
His questions keep pouring in, he is just so curious. He reminds me of my grandfather. What seems like a very old school gentlemanliness. I’ve had this conversation a thousand times and I don’t mean to sound like a bitch, of course, it’s kind of shocking when a botak, Sinead O’Connor looking thing is able to hold a full conversation in fluent Malay!
After a friendly and actually quite lovely chat, my chance to relieve myself is finally here his parting words are, “Okay girl, have a wonderful time back home with your family, you seem like such a great young woman and good job for not forgetting your roots.” What a fucking cute little interaction, what a sweet old man. Of course, he is excited to hear me speak Bahasa. I believe he truly does wish the best to me and as I am sitting there, big cheesy smile on my face, feeling this particular feeling maybe for the first time ever in my life; what is it? Patriotism? Really? Whatever it is, it was a yay Malaysia moment.
I’m back to my seat and just about bouncing to be back home; that little conversation really had an impact on my frame of mind and there it was – a little glow in my heart. I’m so excited to Balik kampung. The Malay lady to my right has gone to the bathroom and I’m just putting my shoes back on as I know we will be landing soon. Unexpectedly, the same old uncle appears in the aisle next to me and hands me a note. I smile, say thank you, and take the note. Not sure what to expect but still riding on the buzz I am sure it is something innocent.
“ u are a very beautiful and sexy girl. would love to get to know u better. pls call me once you are settled and let uncle treat you to dinner”
012 XXX XXXX (his name)
Furious. I am fucking furious. The skin on my knuckles is about to snap off the bones from how tight I have wound my fists. I take a deep breath; I take about five actually. I scrunch the paper up and throw it under my seat. As much as I want to knock him out – right there in his seat, where I can see his wife’s head resting on his shoulder, I don’t. Obviously lah.
The anger is very quick to fade actually. Oh no, I know this feeling. This may not be a heartbreak moment but wow it feels close to it. Just as the disappointment and disgust start to circulate, my right side travel companion is back. She has a huge smile on her face and a tray of food – the moment I look up at her she says, “darling you didn’t eat anything the whole flight, I asked for something but all they could give me was bread and butter, there’s some fruit too..”
She continues on to describe the food she has brought to me and is so apologetic that she couldn’t save a full meal from earlier. I’m able only to focus every few words as I am suddenly engulfed in a whole new wave of feelings.
This complete stranger, this angel of a woman, in her very small act of being concerned about a scrawny little girl’s arrival to a hot and humid Malaysia on an empty stomach – THIS act of love and kindness meant more than I can ever describe.
Considering this lady had no idea what happened to me only moments before, unknowingly she had inadvertently fucked up that uncle in a way that I would’ve liked to with my fists but instead was through her showing me that first of all I don’t need to be so quick to go on the defense no matter what has happened in the past and I need to be open and patient with Malaysia and that things will get better and things will move forward and all of the things are going in the right direction. Even though there will be wispy headed fuckers every now and again trying to sway me, it’s going to be the beautiful kind and loving people of this country that are going to pull us all through.