I’m a pj girl at heart.
Weekend brunches with the family at Village Park, O & S coffee shop or just tapau-ing from do re mi that’s a five minute drive away from home sweet home epitomise the pj things that your typical, Malaysian Chinese heternormative family of three, four or five enforce kinship and familial ties.
I’m a banana at heart.
With parents who both received Westernised tertiary education, who both loved to read, who both impaired their eye sight with reading while lying down or in dimly lit places, who chose to talk to me in English, who bought me the likes of Enid Blyton & Roald Dahl ever since I was a little girl, who took me out of Yuk Chai at the last minute to put in the now highly-regarded SKTM that at that time, was a humble Malay national school, who dressed me in the imported rejects of Baby Gap and Old Navy, who hit me with the cane and forced me to a play a classical musical instrument but at the same time imparted on me the wisdom to say no to resistance (which I usually often take too literally), there is not much reason as to why I am the person that I am today.
But, my attachment to Penang has never been something that I have given much thought of.
It is something that I take for granted seeing as ever since I was born, I’ve made the four hour car ride/forty-five minute plane ride to Pulau Pinang at an average of about three times a year.
I’ve made the pilgrimage almost every teenage year during the Ching Ming week, picking my way through the muddy uneven paths of the Mount Erskine cemetery, suffocating and having breathing difficulties as I pay my respects to my many, many great grandparents in places where cremated remains are put into urns and left to reside (aka temples).
I’ve stuffed my face with all the goodness of the food at Mount Erskine, Pulau Tikus, Air Itam, Tanjung Tokong, New Lane, Gurney Drive, and Sungai Dua among many other places.
I’ve also found companionship with a fellow Penangite where we indulged in desires of the burning passion kind.
I reflect on that blissful period of intimacy, attachment and joy. I smile at the memories of the exchanges of our lives where for the most part, we were never ever in the same country, let alone same continent.
I think back to that fateful day when I busied myself with technology while I waited outside the boarding gate for my connecting flight to Chicago.
I miss you, sometimes, dear pen pal. I think of you fondly, old friend.
Someday, I hope we meet. Someday, I hope we can look back on this, when we are both romantically involved with our respective partners and leading successful lives, when Snapchat becomes ancient, and we’ll smile that knowing smile.
Knowing that years before, the pj girl who identifies as a banana met the tanjung bungah boi.
p.s. some parts of the actual story have been modified to account for the privacy of individuals involved