Rahim was tired, completely exhausted, as he had worked from dawn that Friday. He was physically & mentally depleted having been on his feet all day. He was on his way home now, on his motor bike.
The weather was unusually wet, the rain just poured down from the cloudy heavens. It was a gloomy, dull day with thunder rolling in followed by lightning, although it was not yet dark.
The rough equatorial weather, signaled the monsoon was round the corner, the heavy evening traffic crawled as the rain pelted down, and he could hardly move in the traffic jam. Irritated by the rain splashing over his helmet and reducing his vision, he was then forced to stop at the public shelter, the bus stop, close to the main road along the Likas Bay area. It was a good tarred road that led to the stop, there were no pavements.
Running parallel to the road was the sandy beach which was just five feet away; the bus shelter was by the highway. The dual carriage way curved along, hugging the shores. It was high tide, with very high tides that evening, waves spluttered onto the tarmac, now the sea and rain covered the depressions near the bus stop.
It seemed like the sea was next to the road. Although, the rhythm of sea splashed mercilessly, the waves soothed his tired nerves. He disliked to wait or break his journey at public stops so late in the day, yet he did, and there were a couple of other bikers in a similar predicament. They were resting from the sudden heavy downpour. What bad luck, he said to himself. With this weather I will never be home for dinner.
Most of the bikers there wore raincoats or heavy jackets with boots but he wasn’t so well prepared. He took a corner seat on the bench provided under the shelter. He removed his helmet and dried his hair and face. He felt a warm gust of wind blow past him and he smelt sea air waft by. Then he leaned back, resting his shoulders on the rear wall of the shelter, with his head sheltered by the aluminium roof.
He felt slightly dizzy and closed his eyes. The taste of salt from the water splashes took him back to his youth when he was with his grandparents in the village. It was amazing that sounds, tastes and the air could transport him back to a different era, his youth, when he was carefree, when he had played in the rain!!!
Would he ever forget the good old days when life was simple and calmer? He had a pleasant feeling of security. The smell of mother’s cooking in that village home.
He then glimpsed the form of a woman close to his seat. She was drenched too, very alert and had a cheerful smile despite the gloomy day. He didn’t take much notice of others as he was exhausted, besides he was in a daze, in spite of the weather. Yes, he was drifting from the here and now to his past, which had nurtured him as he was having a difficult time in the present.
He suddenly felt the warmth of the woman beside him, she reached out to touch his arm, he felt her form next to himself. A complete stranger yet she dared to reach out to him! He was confused and thought that she can’t be attracted to him in this situation. But the idea of seduction came to his mind and he responded by holding her waist and trying to show her he was attracted. This can’t be happening as he was with a stranger, “Dear God, where am I? Who are you?” he mumbled to himself.
Then he heard her say “With me, your soul mate.”
He couldn’t be hearing this, a soul-mate stuff that he never knew existed! A stranger, a woman, yet she seemed so calm and ready to get close.
He found that the atmosphere was filled with anticipation and a lovely fragrance of flowers mixed with the salt of the sea, wafting into the air. Who was he with? What was happening? Was this an earthly experience?
Someone had told him once that if you smelt jasmine at twilight in the rain, then it was some spiritual encounter which would lead you astray! Be careful dear chap, it’s a spirit. Not just your imagination.
However, to him she was real and it was a kind of seduction with no words. Just a spiritual elevation that excited him beyond speech. He had never had such a journey but it was wonderfully exciting, and it had ‘calming factor’ – the unknown!
It wasn’t the woman transporting him to her warmth but the existence of another with the need to communicate in this strange way: This is an encounter of the third kind. She was young, beautiful, strong and daring, unlike the local girls he knew. Was it his subconscious working overtime or his tired bones yearning for touch.
Suddenly a splash of water woke him up and he saw his friend Majid. What are you doing? The rain has stopped and it is time for prayers, aren’t you going home? Rahim was in a semi trance and looked blank. He stood up with a tingling rush of blood in his veins. Was it a dream?
He looked round to the beach close to the stop, a glimpse of a woman walking by the beach, gliding on the shore, splashing through the waves. It was twilight now, was it her? The woman who drifted into his thoughts while he was on the seat?
She didn’t seem real, she floated along with no umbrella nor help. Rahim put on his helmet, straddled his bike and put on bike’s head lights, then reluctantly he rode home. He was mesmerized with emotions he had never felt before, his mind was filled with thoughts of and the woman he had experienced in his semi dreamlike state, at the bus stop.
When he reached home he had an uncomfortable, incomplete yet warm feeling in his blood, yearning for that strange encounter, the mysterious unknown woman, which he wanted to last. He reached home and told his mum he just wanted to change and rest, he was not hungry. His mother was very concerned. Was he ill? she asked herself. He didn’t look himself.
“Are you OK drenched to the bone? Dry yourself and make yourself warm” she insisted. “I’ll bring you some tea.”
He was haunted by the most exciting and beautiful feeling for the whole week. He was besotted by an angel he couldn’t speak about.
He was immersed in a strange land of unknown creatures, an untouched world of mystery and magic. He wanted that experience to wrap him up again and again, to give him the security which he yearned for. Every time he passed the route by Likas Bay area, the shore, he looked in vain for her at the bus stop. Who was that fleeting woman? Why did she taunt him or was it an Illusion he so desired?
Then late one evening as he passed the highway again, he saw the woman walking along the shoreline alone like before. Was it her? he thought to himself. He parked his bike by the bus shelter, walked down to the waves that were lapping the shoreline. She was ahead, quite a distance away and he wanted to catch up with her.
The tide was coming in quite fast yet in his eagerness he trudged on. Then he saw she had dropped into the sea as though it was her usual stunt. He watched from a distance and saw her moving into the deeper waters and then she disappeared. She didn’t look back and he was trying to see a human form in the water but was surprised he couldn’t see anybody.
Instead he saw a large mammal like form or a “dugong”, swimming away from the shore. Then he recalled the fishermen had told him that often they mistook sea creatures to be females or mermaids. They were the sea manatees that dwelt in these warm waters: it was said that they often moved on land.
Photo by Luc Frost.