I was at the counter looking at the cakes and pastry they had displayed in The Upstairs Cafe when my phone rang.
"Ari!" It was my dad. "Where are you?"
"Out with my friends. Why? Are you home?"
"No. Listen, you're free on the 9th?' And before I could reply, he continued, "We're going back to Kelantan."
He told me a week before that he'll be having a meeting over there and suggested we go visit my grandparents.
'"Oh, okay. Sure, cool." I mumbled as I admired the cafe's red velvet cakes.
"And I already booked a place for us on Pulau Perhentian. I was thinking we can go there on the weekends."
"Oh?" I was caught of guard. I guess I didn't answer him in time because my dad then asked "Is that okay?"
"Well... Uh..." I stammered. "It's just that... Mom was planning a trip to Singapore on the same weekend."
It was my dad's turn to be surprised. "But I've booked...."
My heart sank. "I know. But... you didn't ask me whether I'm free on that day..."
"You SAID you were free..." he said.
"Yeah, but only on the 9th till the weekend. Mom had planned this..."
"Okay, fine then. I'll just cancel the booking then. Don't want you to get mad at me."
I didn't know what to say. I just kept quite and he hung up on me without saying goodbye.
I was about to cry there and then.
"I'm sorry, sir. Would you like to order?"
Can I have my family back?
"One quiche, please."
That wasn't the first time I was forced to make a choice of which parent I must disappoint in order to please the other.
I guess it comes with the separation. My parents had been separated for more than three years now. It wasn't a secret. I just don't tell people.
I mean, if people were to straight up and ask whether my parents are still together, I would say no. But nobody ever asked. Why would they?
I guess I don't tell people coz I don't wanna make it a big deal. Once people find out that your family isn't that perfect they'll start to look at you differently. They'll treat you differently. They promise they won't... but they do. I've seen it. I've felt it. I hated it.
'Hey, do you know his parents are separated?'
'Omg is that why he's been acting so weird?'
I'm not saying the separation doesn't affect me. In so many ways I was forced to realize that life isn't a fairy tale.
I have parents who are no longer together, but they're not divorced. When there's no closure, I guess, as the children, we're trying to find the definition of our current situation.
You don't know how to define your parents' relationship. And thus you don't know how to create boundaries, we have no clue how to enforce rules and we have no idea how to act.
Are they staying together? No.
Do they still love each other? I don't know.
Do they still speak to each other? No.
Are you happy about this? I don't know.
In so many ways I am glad they got separated when I was 17. In other ways, I was not. It happened just before my SPM. Not enough that I had to see my dad sleep on the couch every night, I had to see them walk pass each other like they're strangers.
But I guess the worst part was that the whole family pretended nothing had happened.
But I'm glad that I was matured enough to understand that it wasn't anyone's fault that it happened.
I was old enough to not let it affect how I feel about both of them. I was wise enough to know they still love me no matter what and nothing has changed.
I remember crying at nights. I remember having to fake smiles when people are talking about how perfect their families are. I remember being afraid to fall in love. I remember feeling like I was walking on mine fields and at any moment I would make one mistake and explode to pieces.
I guess the worst part is not having anyone to talk to. It's not that I don't trust people, it's not that I don't think they can handle my problems.
I knew that if I tell them, things will be different. Not in a bad way. But I hate different. I hate changes.
So for as long as I can, I will try to make my friendships as less about my problems as possible. I mean, who cares right? Who can help anyway? Who would listen?
So what am I doing now? Why am I writing this? I guess this is a cry for help. I can't do this anymore. I can't please both parents and I can't make one happy without disappointing the other.
I can't be at two places at once. I can't pretend to be happy anymore. I'm tired of trying to make everyone laugh just so that they won't think I am unhappy.
I'm sick of laughing when I can feel the tears welling up inside. I had enough of pretending to be someone that I am not. I cannot afford to wear this mask any longer.
I'm taking it off.
Mom, Dad. I know you're reading this. And this is me saying that I'm sorry. I'm sorry that this happened. I'm sorry things aren't perfect. I'm sorry that I cannot make you both happy. I'm sorry about everything.
I'm just so... tired.