Kuala Lipis is about three hours derive from Kuala Terengganu. That makes it easy for us to visit Siti’s parents during the weekends. We would stay one night in her parents’ house and one night in our village house. Our village house is a small three bedroom Malay traditional house, located at the spot where my grandfather’s house used to stand. It is meant to be house where we can spend the weekend under village environment. The rooms are not spacious but enough to accommodate two persons per room, one room for Siti and I, one room for the boys and one room for the girls. We hope to have two boys and two girls in our family.
The house was completed one year after we had got married. It took that long to complete because we wanted to build one which incorporates as much as possible the features of a traditional Malay house. Although the structure is made up of concrete and bricks, it looks like a wooden house. To achieve this, we had to decorate the outside wall with wooden planks and the inside wall with wooden panels. To add to those features we used ornately carved wooden panel as the roof barge board. The barge board was especially designed for the house. I made all the trouble to go into the details because the house has great significance to our relationship, which is a symbol of promises being fulfilled.
But the process that was needed to fulfill the promises did not come easy. Happiness does not come automatically. Often happiness begins with a problem. The problem has to be scrutinized and the solution has to be discovered. The process of discovery may take a while to materialise. One should not lament the loss time, because, discovery means building up understanding between each other. The longer the time taken to understand each other, the more closely a couple will become. Patient holds the keys to success.
The process of discovering Siti was the discovery of the woman in Siti Rahmah. It was true that I had known the ins-and-outs about Siti as a little girl. I was true that I had known much about Siti as a young girl. But I admit that it took more time and painstaking effort in discovering Siti as a woman. I only realized the difference, when we first met after ten years of separation. Now, I am happily relate to you my experience in my voyage of discovery.
I could remember very well the events that had occurred the night of Siti’s homecoming ceremony. The homecoming was very eventful because it was also the night when we were engaged. Despite the sour relationship that we were experiencing following the afternoon miscommunication, we had no objection to the occasion. Perhaps both of us were thinking that the problem that had just cropped up between us was temporary. My father, mother, Salwani and Irfan were present for my side. Mr. Abdullah, Mrs Aminah and two cousins of Siti’s parents were present for Siti’s side. The occasion went smoothly because everything had been planned and agreed upon way back before we knew the meaning of marriage.
All of us went back to our destinations the following day. I went back last as I needed to discuss some important matters with Siti, my fiancée.
“I will rebuild this house for you as I have promised.” I reassured Siti about my commitment, just before I left that morning. I was facing the house as I was talking.
Siti was quite, absorbed in some unsolved fundamental issue that I could not figure out. When I looked sideways, I got the glimpse of the inside of Siti’s mind. She was looking at the house with empty mind. Why Siti? What had I done wrong?
“Siti. If I had said something wrong, I apologise.”
“Sani. You have not said anything wrong. It’s just me.”
I wanted to ask further, but I was afraid to hear the answer that she would give me. From the way that she responded to my questions, I assumed that there could be someone else in her mind. It had to be someone who was dearer to her than I was. That was the notion that I had in mind when I left Siti’s house.
I was already in my car, ready to leave Siti’s house. Siti waved her hand. I did the same. It was a wave to say goodbye, alright. The question was whether it was just for that occasion or forever. I drove slowly, while my eyes were fixed at the front mirror. When I saw her wiping her tears from her cheeks with her hand, I became more confused. If she had another person in her mind, would she cry? The answer could be “yes” could be “no”. If she had felt sad for me because she could not fulfill my wishes, the answer was “yes”. Yes, she had someone else in her mind. But, if she was just hurt with what I had said to her the previous day, then the answer had to be “no”. No, she had no one in her mind except me.
I took the challenge positively. That was to say that she was a bit unhappy about something that I had said to her. If that was true, what was the last word or words that I had said just before Siti, out of a sudden, changed her mood from being happy and excited to being cold, gloomy and unresponsive? I began rewinding the sequence of dialogue between Siti and I that afternoon. It was about the house that I had said I would rebuild for her. I recollected the conversation word by word. After I had analysed every single word that transpired between the two of us that day, I did not see any reason why she would be upset with me. The words were perfect and understandable. When I repeated the pledge in the morning just before I left her, her mood did not worsen. So, it was not what I had said that hurt her feeling. She already acknowledged that fact herself. It must be something else. What was it?
I scratched my head in despair. I was clueless.