Tuesday, January 13, 2009

a price to pay

nine years ago, i appeared at the entrance of a provision store with a friend. this friend of mine was extremely inquisitive and he loved all sorts of thrills and challenges. a fortunate pity maybe, i wasn't. at that very entrance, he emptied half of the books he brought to school that day from his bag into mine, and muttered under his breath, "it's gonna be fun, watch me." i felt uneasy knowing he had an unreasonably huge risk appetite, and began backing off from where i was until i stood about 20 metres from the store. but i still made sure i could do what he told me to do - watch him get some fun.

when he was in, he headed straight for the kitchen appliance section. there, he found what he wanted - little tins of liquid fuel. each yellow tin was marked with a prominent red fire logo, indicating its flammable nature. they were fairly visible from where i was standing as they periodically let off a sparkle due to the reflected light rays from the moving cars that hot sunny afternoon. one by one, tin by tin, my friend dropped what he wanted into his bagpack which by then was already slung over only one side of his shoulder and pulled to the front, positioned nicely in between where he was standing and the shelf.

"c'mon, c'mon...", i chanted to myself as i tightened my jaw, still mesmerized perhaps by his apparent act of "bravery". truth be told, i wanted him to be succeed. for what exact reasons i had no idea. it could be that i just wanted my friend to be safe or it could be that i just wanted him to really end up having more fun than fear. but well, i did remember i stood in envy, thinking how things could have been so easy for him while it definitely wouldn't have been so for me. as i began gathering my thoughts, he had already moved on to his exit strategy after pacing up and down the store for a couple of minutes to appear confident he couldn't find what he needed in order to eliminate suspicion. at this instance, something else caught my eye. i could sense danger as the shopkeeper, an old man probably in his sixties, made his way for the exit in much greater haste. it seemed clear to me as a dedicated spectator that his intention was to thwart my friend's plan to escape scot-free.

my heart stopped momentarily as he blocked the exit ready for the inevitable ugly confrontation. i couldn't do lip-reading but somehow it didn't take me too much trouble to figure out the exact content of the conversation they had. the shopkeeper had appeared frustrated after a short 20-second negotiation and reached out for the juvenile delinquent's bag. what happened next was perhaps the climax of the many spectacular incidents i've witnessed in my entire life then. i stared in utter disbelief as my friend charged desperately towards the old man with the intention of taking him down before making his escape run. well i figured my friend snapped - he must have. the old man stayed down raising his hands signalling he was in great pain while shouting profusely to those around him for the thief to be caught. i couldn't bear with the sight any longer. i boarded the bus that appeared just in time in front of my face to block me totally from the traumatising scene. it also appeared in time to make me what i clearly did not sign up for - an accomplice.

nine years later, i spoke to the same friend. he had since escaped from the store which he went through great lengths never to step near for nine years. but beyond that, he had escaped from the law, from his conscience for nine years. one trivial note though, he'd left what he'd taken, by the entrance of store, one month after the incident took place but it didn't mattered that much especially to him since some damages that he had done could never be removed.

it appears to me he has lived in regret and remorse thinking about what he has done while not being able to fully atone for a grave mistake that he has once chosen to run away from.

nine years later, today, i feel exactly the same way he did nine years ago.

as the man himself says, "you can run and hide from some mistakes, but some mistakes will always stay fresh in your head. the only expensive option you have is to face the music and make it go away by making up for it day by day. knowing that's really the only way."

i hope one day, all these will really go away.

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