“Can’t you be faster? Geesh!” This is the third call for me. I asked my best friend Syaz to accompany me to the toilet because the sports complex’s toilet scares me a bit. It is always dark all the time. Well, on the outside. I cannot give an excuse to go to the café’s toilet (which is more far than the stadium’s restroom) because the sunlight could trespass into the window inside the toilet.
So anyway, Syaz is being pretty annoying outside, and I’m actually struggle to wear the knee pads inside a small “room”. I couldn’t run or do any active movements without them – the knee pads, I mean- my knees ache on certain occasions and it will just bug me to stop myself from exercising or do any kinds of sports.
Then I heard footsteps come towards my bathroom door and heard a loud knocking sound, which irritates me more. I opened the lock and saw a girl of my age, a few inches shorter than I am and looked more or less annoyed. “I told you I have always had the problem when it comes to wear the knee pads back again. They’re so tight,” I complained. Well actually just to be in the safe side, because Syaz’s look irritates me a little.
I headed towards the sink and wash my face. As I looked up at the mirror, I saw Syaz’s face; her eyes looked as if she’s looking at something gruesome. I follow the direction of her hazel brown pupils, and asked “what’s wrong? You alright? Is there something at the floor?” Her eyes seem to look at the floor where I stand but there was nothing there, well besides the dirty tissues that fell on the floor.
“Nad, you’re bleeding.” Sure enough, blood trickled down my leg from behind my knee. I folded my track pants until my knees; well that’s how both of us could see the blood clearly. It’s red as red geraniums. “Oh I must have cut it when we try to climb over the back gate this morning.” We just entered the campus in September, as new sophomores, and we were just super excited to ‘work out’ at the campus’s proud sports complex, or a stadium-what we preferred to call it, because the complex is actually very big.
It has a big trampoline placed at the centre of the stadium. And the red tracks are just so welcoming. We just cannot wait to officialise our newly bought pair of Nike runners. Just for the information, our campus has two different sports stadium which separate between the genders, which is great because I’m easily self-conscious if guys watch me run. But of course that’s not the main point. It is always good if places like this, separable.
Today marks the day of our ‘freedom’- we just finished our orientation week, and it was quite hectic, that’s why we yet to have dibs on the stadium. The front gate is not opened until 8 am, but I got some info from our very helpful seniors that there’s a back gate, and you just need to climb over it to be inside the stadium, and there is nobody around if you go there early.
The fences are not that tall. As I’m 5 feet 7 inches tall and the fences are almost two inches taller than me, so it wasn’t a big of a problem, only it was for Syaz though. However, the fences are quite sharp at its tips. We just couldn’t wait until 8 am, that’s why we felt that we want to have the tracks all for ourselves, not to mention the trampoline. We packed ourselves breakfast boxes into our backpacks, and headed to the stadium as early as 6.45 am.
I reassured her, and take out some Kleenex out of my backpack and wiped off the blood and secured the tissue over the cut. Then I stick on the plaster. “And it’s still bleeding? This morning you mean 6.45 am this morning? Now is almost 1 pm, Nad. And you’d have thought it would have clotted by now.”
I rolled down my folded pants and rearrange my shawl. Agh, I’m always in a bad ‘tudung’ day, like my friend would call it. Ignoring Syaz’s statement, I said “Let’s go, I’m hungry” while dragging Syaz towards the exit.
A month has passed and I’ve considered the library- or to be exact, the carrel room to be my second home. In fact, I’ve got my favourite already, room 241, and the windows facing the vast green field.
The backdrop is not cloudless and always dashing blue, well except when it rains, but the ambience really motivates me to study and actually finish my works. Assignments are piling up, and I can’t possibly finish my tutorials while my room at the hostel keeps remind me of the bed.
But today my favourite carrel room has been taken by somebody else, and I blamed Syaz. If she could stop bothering me at the café this morning to linger a bit when my eyes keep darting at my Swatch, and my legs are begging me to go to the library fast because it’s about to open –well I might have the opportunity to book my carrel room, but no I just had to ‘linger’ at the café a bit because Syaz kept pestering me about Im, who’s also having his breakfast two tables beside us. “Omg, he is like just beside you!” Ugh, and I don’t even know why I bother confided to her about this. But she is still my best friend. I know she’s acting like a normal best pal would do.
I’ve got my headphones on and Danial Jang’s Violin Cover of a famous Korean song pounding slowly into my delicate ears. It has been delicate since ages, which is why I really cannot stand loud music. I’ve got biophysics homework to finish today and as I was about to put my pen down to start an answer essay, Ami –my Biochemistry classmate, also my good friend- came in front of my table.
She leaned across the table and whispers “just got to tell you this, I’ve won the Manga Comic Fiesta tickets! I’ve got to attend Tokyo International Anime Fair!!! I got to go to Japan! Aaaaaaah!” She practically shouted on “Japan” and all of the students nearby shot us murderous looks. Well, literally. Ami, being a ‘good sport’, rolled her eyes at them.
I lunged at her to hush her down and she just laughed, catching my wrist. I grimaced as her fingers closed around my bruise. She dropped my arm, and folds down my sleeves, and eyed the ugly purple mark in surprised. “What’s that? And how did you get it?” She looked worried, and I’m too. “Just a bruise and I don’t know.” I was curious myself but I couldn’t figure out how I got them.
I tossed my backpack on the study desk, and slumped myself onto bed. Today is a tiring day, the most exhausting day, perhaps. But I’ve been feeling tired these days, and I thought I had took enough of vitamins. And actually it is only 10 am in the morning. My girlfriends have been saying that I look pale. Whatever it is I need some rest before Mr. Lopez's class at 2 pm.
I look at the paper butterflies hanging above me. I cut them out of multiple colour manila cards and decorated it with my roommate’s remaining scrapbook kits last week at the common room down the hall at the library. I planned to read the newspaper, also, try to finish my 5 pages of tutorials but instead found a few used manila cards, and thought instead letting them to waste I should innovate them or something.
Yeah, I could be easily distracted. And when I came back into the room bringing the scrapbook kits, I don’t know it will turn out to be this lovely. But something else happened at the common room. Reminiscing it, I realized something is wrong with me, besides keep being self-conscious with myself because Im keeps appearing in my life; I’m no less than confused and curious.
I texted Fik that I would be heading to the tennis court after I drop by at the common room to return the newspaper I borrowed. Today’s headline is about my brothers and sisters in Islam are in grave battle in Rohingya – May Allah protects them always, besides other political issues and gossips on the local celebs.
As I’m placing my Blackberry inside my pocket, I heard a ‘thump’ sound ahead of me, besides looking at papers strewn everywhere, and one paper was right in front of my Converse. I took the paper and realized I have seen one just like it before; a Calculus tutorial, except that this paper’s owner has way better handwritings than mine.
As I look in front of me, I saw a body lying down on the dark blue carpet, trying to get up. I run towards her and saw the familiar beautiful face again. “Nad, you alright?” I looked around to see if there are any female students that could help her, but at the same time, my eyes cannot release from looking at her condition.
She looked weary and helpless, and I on the other hand, trying as hard as I could to resist myself from touching her to help her up. “I’m, I’m fine, I just stumbled, that’s all,” she said while standing up. But her face couldn’t mask the lie she just told me. She looked different, not healthy of different. She looked darn pale.
I saw two girls walking towards us, and quickly ask them to help her, to carry her things, because she really needs someone to lean onto while walking, or at least walk behind her just in case she falls again. Nad shot me a startled look and turned her head towards the girls and said, “It’s okay, I’m fine. My friend here just thought that I’m not well. You guys may carry on.”
The two girls looked a bit taken aback and felt half-guilty but they walk on when Nad kept reassure them that she’s fine. I flinched when she addressed me as her “friend”. “I said I’m fine, you could go now,” Nad said to me after the girls were gone, in a stern way. She then crouches down and quickly gathers her fallen tutorials up.
She was about to continue her journey but I stopped her and said, “Hey, you forgot this” and handed her handmade butterflies. She took it with her right hand and her baju kurung sleeve fell down a bit, exposing her fair skin, I guess she’d probably forgotten to wear her arm socks, like she always did, well not that I’m aware of at most of the time.
But that doesn’t bother me as much as the serious purple bruises on her arm. I think she caught my startled eyes and quickly grab the butterflies and secure her sleeve. “Thank you” Nad said and walks away. I had made her feel self-conscious; I noticed that when she pulls down her sleeve, heck does it even matter. In my mind, I was asking are you alright, Nad? And I watch her from behind until her tall figure has disappeared from my sight, before I turn my sneakers to the opposite side, towards the common room.
I don’t know why, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and her pale look during the incident last week. Well last week is not that long. Two days ago, on Saturday. A voice deep inside me saying that she is not fine. I look at the book in my hand, I’ve been trying to finish re-reading this book for three days now, a revision that I thought I urgently need before I conduct my usrah this Saturday morning – Mazha Yakni ‘an Intimai Islam (What is the purpose I profess in Islam) by Fathi Yakan is such an indispensable book, for all of us who consider ourselves as Muslims. And I’ve got the last part to cover up.
Two hours has passed and Alhamdulillah, I managed to absorb every word written by the late prominent Islamic scholar. I lie down and thought to take a short nap before ‘Asr but as I took a glimpse at my phone, I recalled my previous conversation with Am, my good friend and Nad’s classmate, that she had been called to Miss Lisa’s room. She’s the Head Guardian Counsellor for our course department. And normally students who got to see her are either because they are problematic or have some problems that needed guidance and counselling.
No, I’m not being judgemental to those people who walk into and out of her polished wooden door, but she always said it herself whenever she presents her speech; introducing the department’s Guidance and Counselling Unit, as if we students never heard about it. I looked at my Blackberry, and I fought with myself whether I should text her, ask her myself whether she’s fine or even call her if I have the guts.
But calling her would be a very brave attempt, I know she would not be fine with me calling her, and I know that it’s not the right thing to do. Our nuqaba’ reminded us always about ikhtilat. Yes, another reason that caused me to be concern about her is because we go for the same usrah.
That would be a good reason to answer the questions that kept pounding inside my head; why do you have to be so worried about her? Have you fallen for her? But I could only answer the first question. The second question keeps me in curiosity. But, the bruises. I can’t forget the vivid image that I’d seen on her arm last weekend.
I asked Syaz on the same Saturday when we stumbled into each other outside the cafe, it was unusual already that she’s not with Nad. They’re like glue, stick strongly with each other, Am would have commented. After a few hesitations she said she also thought that Nad is not in a good pace and she told me about some more bruises.
She was going to say more but she stopped herself, I figured she felt she had betrayed Nad’s trust if she did. She told me was because she has a better trust in me, she mentioned the words, “with the same fikrah, that’s why I trusted you with Nad’s condition.”
I would have done something the next day, on Nad’s sake, but Am caught me on hold, he got injured during his rugby practice, and he needed further treatment, which later caused him to have 20 stiches on his knee. Alhamdulillah he’s fine now, and he assured me by saying “Go and solve your Nad’s problem. This is the first time I’ve seen you cannot solve an equation. Nad is surely a pretty tough one. Ha-ha”
I threw at him hard, a pillow, and if he hadn’t fallen injured, I would have done more, I flinched when he laughed. But I can’t possibly do that when he doesn’t even know the other side of Nad’s story. He said that because he thought I have a crush on Nad or something. Which I, don’t. I realized that I’d been staring at the book too long now. I grab my Blackberry, and start texting.
I can’t believe she could say that! The next thing I knew I find myself collapsed into my bed in tears and exhaustion. Today is the most weird, awkward day for me. First is the situation with Ami, next with Miss Lisa. That was the first time I went to the GCU – Guidance and Counselling Unit, and I already loathe the wooden door of her entrance.
She would have probably thought she is helping me, but saying the words makes me feel I’m that problematic, like you could watch in movies where the counsellors trying to get hold of the kid, and normally the situation is because the kid is problematic. Am I problematic? I compete in marathons; I finished my coursework and tutorials before the due date. I’m an active participant of our debate team, in fact we were scheduled to have an International Championship in the UK, London to be specific, next January- approximately one month to go from now.
If I’m problematic won’t I be able to go through all that, I mean if you watch movies, problematic kids are usually timid in personality, and doesn’t want to disclose themselves to the world. But to think again, I’ve stopped participating in marathon because these few weeks I cannot walk right. I feel tired most of the time, and those mysterious bruises.
I never tell this directly to Syaz, let alone my family. I don’t want to screw up our current family status; ‘reforming the happiness’ within our family, besides, I trust myself to be independent. I knew I’m skipping classes, but I don’t care. I won’t want my classmates and lecturer to found me in this state, enough of unwanted moments already. I turned my head and recalled each and every word that came from her red lips.
I was having my lunch -mac and cheese- at the café with Syaz when I was summoned to the GCU. Curiosity dodged Syaz and I down the hall to Miss Lisa’s room. But on entering, I asked Syaz to wait for me outside while adding “but if I’m late, just go first to Mr. Lopez class.” Our lunch break is an hour and a half before Microbiology. And it’s 2.00 pm already, I hope this won’t be a long meeting because I’ve got to head to the musolla first before 2.30.
I walked into a baby blue coloured room, finished with fully furnished office set, and in front of me sat a professionally dressed woman in a bright pink scarf. “Assalamualaikum, have a seat Nadhia.” She motioned to the chair in front of her neat and orderly expensive looking desk.
I replied her salaam and sit down while my pupils not moving from looking at her pretty face and the red lips. I still cannot tell why she calls me here. “Congratulations on your debate championship last month. You’ll have an International Championship scheduled next year in London, am I right? Well it’s certainly the best one IIUM had to date.” She said beaming at me.
I nodded, I still can’t figure out what’s behind this somewhat pep talk. “Thank you Miss Lisa.” A slight case of jitters set in while the pretty figure in front of me studied me for a few thoughtful moments. “Have I done something wrong Miss Lisa?” I asked. “Not at all,” she said while looking straight at me.
After a few long seconds, and I could no longer possibly facing the red lips in front of me, I said, “Is there anything wrong Miss Lisa, because I’ve got Microbiology in less than 15 minutes. I haven’t performed my Zuhr yet.” Impatient and apprehensiveness outgrew me.
What’s with the look? “That’s what I want you to tell me, Nadhia.” She walked out of her desk and crouches in front of me, and patted my hand, as one might stroke a frightened child. “My dear, there are laws protecting children from parental abuse.” “E-Excuse me?” I was dumbfounded. The counsellor offered an indulgent, all-knowing half-smile. “The bruises, on your legs and arms have been reported Nadhia. You can tell me the truth, is anyone hurting you at home?”
I was horrified. I stared at her open-mouthed. “Now dear, please understand me. Although you’re not a minor, you are still protected by certain laws and the university personnel only want to make sure that no one harms you. You are a brilliant student Nadhia. You’ve got long path ahead of you. And we don’t want anything to change that,” she continued.
My thoughts whirled and tumbled. She thinks my parents beat me! The impact of the thought sent blind rage coursing through me. A mental picture of my family -learning and helping each other to mend the broken pieces two years ago; trying to fill in our leisure times with much happiness as possible; mother trying as hard as she could to be a good mom; and dad works hard for all of us- flashed through my mind.
In an instant I was on my feet. “Are you asking me, implying if my parents hit me? No one in my house struck me! No one!” I seemed to lost control of myself. I forgot everything what my naqibah had taught me, about patience, and courteousness, about how our beloved Prophet, may peace be upon him, has the best akhlaq that I should always conform to.
“Please calm down, Nadhia. We can’t ignore those bruises.” She seemed taken aback with my attitude, the look on her face shows that my respond was unexpected. “I don’t know how I got these stupid bruises. But they didn’t come from my parents. There are some other reasons for them.” My anger was so intense.
“What other reason?” She asked further despite seeing my fury. “I don’t know! Maybe it’s because of my strenuous training for the marathon a month ago. I just don’t know!” I sputtered. Miss Lisa kept going as if she knew everything. “I can’t let this go unreported Nadhia. I must call your parents for consultation. I would be negligent in my duties if I didn’t.”
“No! My parents, they’re wonderful! They would not strike me, alright? Just leave this alone. Don’t involve them!” Without knowing, I bolted out of her office, and ran outside into the bright afternoon light. I did hear she called my names, but I can’t possibly return back.
“A moment of sadness to seek Allah’s pleasure, is a thousand times better than
being sad every day because of love for this Dunya.”