It Takes Two to Tango

You’re still going shopping.

I have made up my mind to sell. I thought I had closed the deal. So I waited at the check out.

But you went pass the check out without anything.


You didn’t even turn to look at me.


Untold Stories

#ajanstorytelling #excerptfromabookihaveyetwritten

He laughed when she told him she needs tall, huge mirror. They went shopping for their first home. She doesn’t wear make up. She doesn’t take selfies. “Why would you need it?” he said.

He laughed because it was unusually funny. She stared at him blankly. She didn’t say anything.

He bought her the mirror, anyway.

And then they got married.




The scars run across her back. Raging red. She keeps the ointment bottles near the mirror.

They way she flinches at the slightest touch of his finger on her elbow, makes him sad.

She told him the story. He listened silently.




Sometimes when she sits quietly and stares into space, he wonders what more of her past she keeps from him. But he never pushes. He figures he has a lifetime to learn.

And even if that lifetime might be too short, he decides that he doesn’t mind not knowing.

He loves her, anyway.




#ajanstorytelling #excerptfromabookihaveyetwritten

Financial Freedom

“What is your definition of financial freedom?” One day, she asked me.

“When my passive income exceeds my expenses, then I am financially free.”

“No. No. What is YOUR definition of financial freedom?”

I kept quiet. Eyes straight at her. My mind was blank. I really didn’t have any answer.

“You’ve got to have YOUR own definition of financial freedom,” she continued. “You have to have a goal bigger than yourself. And your financial freedom will fuel that goal.”

“Frankly, I have never really thought of that. Can you tell me yours?”

She cleared her throat. “I am financially-free when I can comfortably spend 50% of my income for goals greater than myself.

You know me. I don’t fancy dresses, barely use handbags and I eat what I need. I don’t have much desire for things. But I set a benchmark to increase what I give to society gradually. Not only money, but my time and energy.

In another conversation, I asked, “Kak, how do you manage your income?”

“30% for the past.
30% for now.
30% for the future.”

“What does that mean?”

“30% to manage debts.
30% for me to spend.
30% to save and invest.”

‘Only 30% to spend? Oh my!’ I thought to myself.

“The other 10%?” I asked more.

“You are sharp.” She smiled. I chuckled. “10% for akhirat. That’s for causes in Allah’s name.”

She added, “I have a long way to go to reach that 50% I told you.”

Our conversations always give me something to think. Kak, you have set a very high benchmark. MasyaAllah! Now I am losing sleep, thinking about this.

May Allah grant you your dreams, kak.

Re-evaluating my financial goals.

#ajanstorytelling #deathbydesign #financialplanning #financialgoals #bucketlist

A (Literal) Photo Shop

The Fujifilm sign outside appeared brand new. But the shop exterior looked old. Not bleak or dreary, but outdated with a homey feeling to it. The kind of shop that the moment you enter, you are greeted by old couples whom you immediately know have been making a living from the very same shop for a long time. So is this one.

I wore red. I felt beautiful. And when the uncle smiled at me, I felt ravishing. The kind of smile that attracted you, not in a flirty way, but charming and full of warmth.

I got my photos taken. It was time for a new one. I have gotten chubby. But more importantly, for some indefinite reasons, I want one of me in red.

When I paid at the counter, I noticed a graduation photo of a young lady with the couple.

“Uncle, is that you?” I asked.

“Is that your daughter?”
He nodded. Aunty smiled from behind the counter while counting my balance.

“I was handsome. Now, I am old.” He smiled wider.
I smiled back, took my balance from aunty and nodded to them before leaving.

I wanted to tell him “You are old. And still handsome. You have the most charming smile.” I wanted the aunty to acknowledge that when I ask, “Right, aunty?” and proceeded to tell them how beautiful their daughter is and that they must be very proud of her.

But like all short encounters, those words are left unsaid. Those beautiful words resounded in my head, tingling in my ears with a tinge of regret. I hope my smile left a patch of warmth on their hearts, in place of those words that are lost in translation when my mind works slower than my mouth.

Beautiful Chaos

Today, she wakes up in tears. She doesn’t even know why. She just feel that she is overwhelmingly sad. In fact, she has felt that way for weeks. Probably months. Probably years. She lost count.

She experienced nearly drowning once when she was little. She was pulled by current at shore when she was excited trying to stay afloat by herself cause she had just discovered that she was capable of doing that. Her cousin sister saw what happened and pulled her up. She survived.

She still remembers that feeling. That feeling of almost drowning. You can’t grasp for air. Your mouth and nose are filled with water. The inside of your nose burns. Your lungs burn. You try to grasp for anything solid. You can only feel liquid in your hands that you can’t hold on to. You kick your feet around. You try to find something solid to step on. Your eyes burn. You can’t scream. You can only hear the water gushing in your ears.

That is how she feels right now. The difference is there is no water around her. She is just submerged in her own feelings.

Her friends told her it is temporary. They told her it is all in her mind. They told her she is actually okay. They said she just has to control her heart and mind.

When she said she’s tired, a friend told her to “get more sleep and eat well and exercise”.

When she said she feels low, a friend told her that she’s “the strong one”.

When she said she lost weight and she needs new pants, her friend told her to “wear belts”.

When she said she talked to doctor about it, her friend said “but you’re okay, right?”

So she stopped telling them. It is not their fault. Humans like to be listened to. And it takes a great deal of skills to really listen. She caught herself doing that to her friends too, sometimes. And maybe she notices much less than she actually really do that to her friends.

So she chose the easy way. She fakes smiles. She hangs out to laugh. She says she is okay every time people ask. She makes jokes when people ask why she looks so thin now.

She is afraid of herself. Or the demons in her mind. She can’t really distinguish. It is scary, what they say when she’s counting her pills. It is frightening, what they whisper when she’s riding her motorbike or driving.

So she chooses to cry. Because tears are suppose to release some hormones that calm her down. And because the sobs drown the voices of the demons, sometimes. And because she remember Allah every time tears roll down her cheeks.

She gets out of bed. She wipes tears off her cheeks. “I must go to work”, she tells herself. She looks in the mirror. She pats her cheeks. She smiles at her reflection. The tears have come out again.

“Five more minutes”, she said. “I’ll sleep for five more minutes and it’ll go away.” She pats her cheeks again.

She goes back to bed. As she drifts to sleep, she hopes she is just lazy. She hopes that if laziness can kill, it will do that to her in her sleep. And she lost consciousness.

Something To Be Grateful About

As she sits in the driver seat after stopping the car at the roadside, she grabs her phone and text them via their Whatsapp group. While waiting for reply, she lamented about what happened last night.

The night was pitch dark. Though it was not new moon or anywhere near that, the night was probably cloudy because it rained for a few hours after noon. The hole was quite big and the bump was hard. She was a bit dizzy when she stepped lightly on the brake pad as she steered the car out of the road, after feeling the steering give away to the front left tire failure. The oil palm plantation, though familiar, was so gloomy and silent as always. The only noise came from the irregular traffic.

Nobody would stop their vehicle at that place. Not even her, if she were them. She was too scared to go out of the car to stop anyone, anyway. Theoretically, she knows how to change tire. But it was too dark and she didn’t have torchlight with her. And she was too weary after a-day at work to even think of the possibility of doing that on her own. So she waited for their reply.

The reply came. She knew they were too far to come. But there was a suggestion to call insurance assistance. Good idea. So she did. It was helpful. The insurance helper at the other end of the line was caring and warm. But the panel mechanic needs a long time to reach there because it was out of town. So she waited.

She cried. Not because she was scared. She had face scarier situations. She cried because she felt pathetic. She was on the way to a part-time job, where she can earn money on the spot. Now, she lost the chance. Seeing the almost empty car fuel tank was not helping to calm her down. And this situation has went on for weeks. She started hating the decision. Why did she even bother to use this road despite her mother’s warning? What was she thinking when she thought she can save on petrol by risking this?

She was so thirsty but she couldn’t drink because she needed a bathroom so badly. She drank, anyway. But she choked. The water spilled. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she threw up on her lap. She grabbed the nearest towel in the car clumsily, only to realize later that the towel was dirty. Instead of cleaning, she smeared dirt on her cloth.

She broke down again, praying hard that something good is going to come. She needed something good so badly.

Her friends offered to come when they were finished with their business. She was too exhausted to think of an answer when asked whether she needed them. She couldn’t decide whether she should say no cause it was very far from them or she should just be selfish and say yes. But the mechanic arrived when she hesitated, so she said ‘It’s ok now’. This was more than an hour after that.

She startles when the phone rings. They are coming this time. Without asking whether they are needed anymore. How could the same thing happens twice in no more than half a day? This time she needs a tow truck. The spare tire was a goner. Luckily, the insurance also covers that. When they arrive, she can’t say a thing. She is overwhelmed with sadness and self-pity and touched at the same time.

She feels a pang of guilt when she finds in between the words of Allah:


She recalls how happy she was to be home last night. Even the warmth and the purr of her cats felt and sounded different, more calming. She is grateful for her exceptionally noble, caring and selfless friends. She is safe. The car is good. The damage is covered by insurance. She is calm now. How could she not be grateful? There are so many things to be grateful about in her life right now. How could she ever forget those things in the face of difficulties?

She remembers her friend mentioned:

“Say you face the worst day of your life, when you get home that night, what will you be thankful for? Think hard of the list and never forget.”

God promised in Quran at 2:155,

2.155And she finally finds peace and prays that something significantly good will come out of this. Amiin.


They have been best friends for a long time, longer than they care to count. They are confidantes to each other.

She is not in good terms with her father. Always having to follow her father’s rules, she dreads to get out of his way. But she couldn’t because it is a promise that she had made. She had promised to stay.

She always tells stories about she and her father. He would listen attentively. Sometimes, offering suggestion when she asks for it.

One day, it just dawned on her. Something peculiar yet never came to her mind before. So she asks, “Why do you never speak about yours?”

He smiles and says, “Oh… He’s fine. But he’s rarely around.”

She runs out of words to say.

He clears his throat and continues, “You know… At least yours are always around.”

The Gift of Silence

Call me wood
for not being able to show emotions.

Laugh at me
when I don’t show my disappointments.

Tell me I’m dull
when I keep quiet to critics.

Say I’m boring
for not getting angry.

Label me stupid
for smiling at negative comments.

Accuse me deaf
when I appear not listening.

How do you know I’m not disappointed?
How do you know I’m not sad?
How do you know I’m not angry?
How do you know I’m not intimidated?
How do you tell the difference?

You don’t.
You judge.
You assume.
All the time.

I embrace the gift of silence
when emotions surge through me.

I choose not to tell
what I don’t want to tell.

I’m different
than you.
It is simply this.

Stop it.
Don’t judge.
Don’t assume.
No more.
I’m tired. Insomniac.

Don’t probe me
when I’m in the nothing box.
For the gift of silence
in order to be grateful,
must be celebrated
in silence.


One day, a leaf had a conversation with a girl.

Leaf: How are you?
Girl:  I’m in pain.

Leaf: What happened?
Girl:  First, it burns. Second time, it was excruciating, throbbing and scorching.
Now, I’m numbed.

Leaf: Oh… How come?
Girl:  First, it happened. Then, it happened. After that, it happened again and

Leaf: Poor you… Who did that?
Girl:  Someone close. It is easier to say if that person is no longer here, or tell
people that that person has walked away, or I have left that person. But it is
not. It is not that simple.

Leaf: When did it start?
Girl:  Since I can remember.

Leaf: That’s a long time. Where does it hurt?
Girl:  (points to her heart)

The leaf floated and rested on the girl’s chest, right next to her heart and the girl touched the leaf and kept it in her weak palm.