There is no haze here

Illustration by Shae San Sim

By Haneen Martin

I wasn’t really sure how to even begin writing this letter. I stared blankly for ages, feeling hopeless, until I remembered Mama’s voice saying “Haneen, for god’s sake, it does not matter what you write, they love you and they just want to hear from you.” She’s talking here about Tok Led and Nenek, my grandparents and how we would have to write them letters every single time someone was going back without us, even though we had to call them every Sunday night at 6pm anyway. I would moan, but eventually settle and then start to write.

It’s cool right now. The wind is blowing and making so much noise while all the leaves on the palm trees outside the balcony clap together as they dance around. They are just as excited as I am that it has finally rained. It’s pretty dark here on the balcony, I haven’t turned on the light so I could feel like a bit of a fly on the wall. Every time I feel like I have an idea, I get distracted by a whistle, a car, the trees with their leaves clap, clap, clapping the cool, welcoming it home, hoping it will stay longer than these next few hours on the balcony.

I hear a man gargling, drawing his phlegm up the channel of his inner workings and spitting onto the street at a perfect break between the clapping, but he’s quickly drowned out by kids playing at the motel across the road. Everything else seems still, cocooned by the coolness as the breeze wraps around our limbs. There is no window unopened in this city tonight.

The clapping returns after its brief rest and I am hoping that the clapping will turn to dancing with another downpour, so I check the radar. It’s looking pretty good, just as long as that wind doesn’t take the downpour away and around the city like it has been. The clapping is just too happy for that to happen, I don’t think I would cope if it went away too soon.

That downpour, the rain, so similar to the reliable afternoon rain that would turn off the Astro at home. When the lightning and thunder would be so close, so loud, but Led and Nenek were there so it was ok and nothing bad could have happened to us. Even here on the balcony, I’m being bitten by mosquitos like on their balcony. The only difference is the skies. It’s dark right now, so I can’t tell you exactly what it’s like, but it is so, so, very different.

Ok, let me try to describe it. The skies are so clear. Blue. So blue it feels like someone reached up and painted it that way. Sometimes there aren’t any clouds in the sky at all. Can you imagine that? Imagine leaning off Led and Nenek’s balcony over the main road, with the university field on the other side and seeing no cloud, no haze. Just blue. This time of year there are clouds and the clouds are good. The clouds don’t mean haze, and no, you don’t have to wear a mask to go out. Well, you do, but not for that reason. The clouds mean it will get so hot for a while, that you just have to go and sleep in the middle of the day (and you won’t get in trouble for it!). They mean that maybe, soon, they will turn grey and the downpour will begin just like back home. Where the rain sleets sideways like it could hurt you if they hit your leg.

Today, the raindrops were not big like back home. They looked small and sharp and uninviting, but I opened all the windows anyway. Not like when we would make sure to close everything up so the carpet didn’t get wet. How those raindrops would just envelop everything they touched, heavy yet safe. Some days the rain here gets like that, but I haven’t seen it yet this wet season. Oh, that’s another thing. Did you know there are just some months where it doesn’t rain at all? Weird, right?

Anyway, I’m starting to get cold. According to my phone it is only 27 degrees right now, but I’m starting to shiver. Oh yeah, soon you will have to check a weather forecast every day. It’s a pain, I’m sorry.

I’ll go inside soon and listen to the clapping from my bed and resist turning on the aircon for as long as I can. I hope you start to think up all the amazing things you can write Led and Nenek about the new life that’s about to happen to us. Think about everything that you are reading and watching and dream up the best possible ideas you can. They’re going to do the same for you and those letters will be some of your most prized possessions. They will tell you things so unbelievably important that it will turn into a time capsule of their thoughts, lessons, experiences, everything they would have shared in the months between our visits because no time together could match the wisdom they could have imparted if we stayed laying on their bed in the aircon, listening to their stories while we waited for the Astro to come back on.

It doesn’t really matter right now because you remember so much whenever the rain falls just like home, heavy enough to stop everything in its tracks. Maybe, twenty years from now, you will be sitting in the darkness of your balcony, looking at the teeny tiny array of high-rise buildings in a small town you don’t even know exists right now and wait for the rain to return.