Monday, July 27, 2009

The Void Within

The night was late, the street deserted. The air was cool, the sky pitch dark. Tall buildings surrounded her, hiding the moon. The traffic light was red, her face void of emotion.

With her hands casually on the wheel, she was staring blankly at the front. Her hollow gaze reflected her hollow mind. She looked at the red light, couldn't care less if it never changed. Yet, despite her indifference, the red made way for the green, hurrying her on. Without much of a thought, she lifted her foot off the brake and gently put it down on the accelerator. Mechanically. Much like how she got through her days recently.

For more than a year now, she had realised she had been going through the same set of daily routines without much of a ripple in her heart. It certainly wasn't like this when she started working in this big city.

Even after the initial exciting buzzes fizzled out within a few months, she still found herself enjoying the experiences of working in a big city - stylish office wear, walking on streets covered by a sea of hurrying strangers, mirrored lift to 15th floor office, personal cubicles, mega shopping mall, pizza joints that's not named Pizzahut, hangouts at Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and other big city glitters. Problems arose when she got the hang of her job and put herself one-hundred-and-one-percent into her job, as she only knew how.

"Hey, I know what you did! Next time, mind your own fucking business!" her colleague walked past her cubicle and dropped her a nasty remark with an angry stare and a livid finger.

"That's one angry bitch!" looking at the back of her colleague walking away, she murmured to herself, neither in an angry tone nor an apprehensive pitch.

The hostile remark didn't bother her, at all. She had mastered the skill to shield off such offensive attacks over the last year so perfectly, her heart barely beat any differently upon such provocation. But she had never learned how to let a mistake pass her without doing something about it. And such attitude had caused her much anxiety at her job and lost a few colleague friends. At first, she was upset about it, in tears even. Then she decided once and for all to side with her principle and learned how to deal with the consequences.

However callous she thought she had become towards such provocation, her mind would remind her otherwise by popping up the unpleasant scene occasionally as she was driving home from work.

She enjoyed the drive home at this time of the night. With the windows down, cool air brushing her hair, and no traffic in her way, she was able to clear up all the frustration built up during the day with the smooth drive. The ability to control her speed and direction with the slightest movement of her feet and hands gave her a sense of control, which she felt sorely lacking at times. She was seemingly able to clear her mind of any negative thoughts and regain her sense of tranquility. The empty street that was jam-packed with vehicles during the day gave her a much-needed sense of space. And it was the same sense of desired space, or the lack of it, that led her to leave her hometown two years ago.

"I want to try something different", "All my friends have left to work in the city", "I'm so bored here", "I feel trapped", "I want changes", "I want more than this", "I'm so unhappy" - with the last few remarks, her parents finally yielded to their daughter's desire. And that's how she left the town in which she had lived for twenty years and started a life in the city as an OL - Office Lady.

She had never regretted that decision two years ago. She is not one who looks back whenever she goes through a rough patch; although she's not jumping with joy at the moment either. She didn't mind all that much of the shoulders turned against her because of her way of going about her job. She's not happy about it, but she wasn't perturbed by it. But no matter how she tried, she could never let the emptiness within her pass.

Praises from her superiors and appreciation from her colleagues could not fill the void within her. An emptiness she was made aware of lately. She felt no satisfaction from her job. She couldn't feel the fruits of her work; she wanted to touch the products of her creativity, like when she used to help out in her parent's bakeries.

She was good at the bakeries. She loved the bakeries, of the smell of fresh flour, butter, eggs, chocolate, cinnamon, and the freshly baked cookies, bread and pastries. The magic of transforming these raw materials into something so alluring to the nose, the taste buds and the eyes had always managed to capture her imagination. The satisfaction that came from opening the oven door - the aroma that escaped the oven and filled the room, the tantalizing golden brown on the oven tray - could have made her stay all day in the bakeries. And there's nothing more satisfying than the positive feedback from the patrons. But that wasn't enough to keep her in the bakeries at that time.

When she stopped at the next red traffic light, she finally lifted her eyes from the road ahead. She turned towards the sky. It's been a while since she had the moon in her mind. And despite the surrounding tall buildings, the moon was able to smile at her at that particular spot. And it's a full moon too. Her heart was truly at peace now, perhaps due to her being able to release the bottled up weariness, or perhaps she knew she was finally on the verge of taking a step forward at a crossroad that she had long stood.

She was lost in the serenity of the moon. And she would have stayed lost in it too, but for the honk from a passing car. She turned towards the traffic light. It was already turning yellow from the green.

She couldn't care less though. She's more than willing to wait for another green light at that spot. She was smiling, the suddenness of the honk had managed to push her another step forward.


"Bea, I think you've done it again. This is de...licious!" an elderly woman bursts out with her mouth nibbling.

"Really? Thank you, Mrs Lee. You don't think it's too sweet?" she asks, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand, as she put down a tray of freshly baked cookies on the counter.

"No. Not at all! Perfect!" the woman replies, gesturing with her hands to her mouth.

Sitting down behind the counter, she takes a sip from her cup of tea. Her face is glowing with fulfillment.


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