FOUR: Parallel Worlds

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Jenna’s Side of The World

Nine days.  After days of waiting, it’s all down to one digit.  Jenna felt as though it was only yesterday since she handed in her resignation letter.   No, it was two months ago when that happened, and waiting felt so slow.

But now.  Nine days.

It all seemed so fast.

She has no problem leaving the company, but leaving her students has begun to become an issue.  Those cute, adorable little children who didn’t know why they were sent to the center in the first place can now hum tunes and sing a song or two.  All thanks to Teacher Jenna.

Day Nine seemed to move particularly slower, not because it was a bad day, but simply because Jenna was observing a little bit more, as though trying to capture mental images of the place and her students frame by frame.  From their laughters to their whines, and the looks on their parents faces.

She paused a little while longer as she observed Mr Lim.  He was one of the only few dads in the room, as the children as usually accompanied by their mothers.  An IT-expert who had no obvious outward expression of affection for his son on their first few weeks, he now dances and sings with his kid with a warm, joyful expression on his face – sometimes as though enjoying the class more than his child does.  Jenna wasn’t sure if she was responsible for that transformation, but those were the little things that kept her motivated to do her job well.  She found herself drawing a clear  line between disliking her employers and a developing affection for her classes.

But the thought of leaving makes the line all blurry again.

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Sue’s Side of the World

The doctor-patient professional barrier has been breached alright.  From one brief visitation to her teenage patient, Sue found herself spending more and more time with Kar Mun – she would push Kar Mun around in her wheelchair as they talked about almost anything they could think of.  Maybe it’s because of the small age gap, as compared to older and probably wiser doctors, Sue found it easy to understand her young friend each she shared something close to heart.

Sometimes people along the hospital corridors would look on the two new friends and Sue did worry if it would compromise her reputation as a doctor, but the more she got to know Kar Mun the least she cared about how others viewed them.  It probably would have been less awkward if Kar Mun was a friend she knew a long time ago, but the way she saw it – it did not matter if she knew her then or now.  The onlookers would not be able to tell the difference anyway, not that it mattered to her.

As any patient would, Kar Mun continued to make progress in her recovery.  Sue knew she was going to be discharged soon, but was not aware exactly when.  Without the chance to say goodbye, Kar Mun checked out while Sue was out for lunch.  When Sue returned, she was surprised to see the empty room.  One of the nurses told her that her new friend has already left, and while Sue was glad that her patient was ready to leave the hospital, she can’t help but feel sad she’ll be missing a friend at the same time.

All along in meds school, Sue learned that doctors aren’t allowed to have personal relationships with their patients, for fear that it will compromise their professional judgment in making decisions.

But no one really emphasized that  it also made parting harder.

Sometimes, healing takes more than medicine and stitches and surgery.  Certain wounds require laughter, prayer and a dose of friendship.  As she stared at the empty room, Sue thought she may not be the best doctor around, but she knew that she had something to do with one small part of her friend’s recovery.

THREE: Will You Visit Me?

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Blood and gore was an everyday scenario for Sue.  Since the day she decided that she would dissect people’s mouth and teeth for a living she had seen all kinds of cases, all kinds of patients. From the easy going patients who would agree to whatever the doctor suggests to those difficult ones – Sue found her powers of persuasion increase day after day.  Sometimes, losing her patience works too.

But nothing prepared her for Kar Mun, a 17-year old with a severe injury at the jaw.

The injury was nothing new, as Sue calmly had her transferred to the plastic surgery department to get the damage fixed.  For Kar Mun, however, it was one scary endeavor.  Anybody who has met Sue would agree that she radiates a sense of warmth and friendliness, as a dentist or just an ordinary person.  Same went for Kar Mun, who soon found a friend in Sue and started to confide her true feelings.

A few days before the surgery, she gave Sue a call.  A little surprised, Sue asked her young friend how she was feeling.

“I’m in pain.  And I’m very scared.”

Sue felt a lump in her throat, even though she was confused how she got so attached to a patient.  She started playing the role of a caring doctor and gave her a few words of comfort and advice to help her through the pain, at the same time silently wishing she could take the pain away.  It was quite a one-sided conversation, mostly because Kar Mun couldn’t talk much without grimacing in pain her jaw was causing her.  When Sue finished talking, Kar Mun softly asked,

“Will you come and visit me?”

Sue’s heart sank when she heard those words.  The thought of visiting Kar Mun did not occur to her, and it was against a doctor’s code to have a personal relationship with a patient.  If she gave in to her request, it would be her third time breaking the rules.  And if she kept this up, she could be in real trouble.

“Sure,” was all Sue could say.  After all, she was her patient – it would be okay to check up on her.

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Sue did not know what to expect behind those doors.  She has had her fair share of observing patients in recovery, but she had no idea what was in store when she stepped into Kar Mun’s room.  Her head was tilted to the uninjured side, to allow her wound to heal, so she could not see Sue enter her room.  Sue walked over to the side Kar Mun was facing, and the moment the 17-year old saw her dentist, she broke into tears.

Sue took her hand, some rules are meant to be broken.

Everyone needs compassion
A love that’s never failing
-“Mighty to Save”, Hillsong

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Author’s thoughts:

Sue (not her real name), is someone whom I’ve just befriended not too long ago.  She shared this story with me and though it was short and lack details, I knew I had to jot this down.

I live in a world where God exists.  A place where some people are searching for that higher power, some have already found it, while others remain in darkness.  Some have already given up, and they continue to live with the notion that everything that has happened or remains to be seen are entirely consequences of what they have done or are about to do.

I live, in a world where people search for hope within others.  When others find that in me, little do they know that I find it in them too.  Because when I was lost, I was found.


“Shhh… They’re Sleeping.”

About 15 years ago…(gosh, so long already)…

“Mommy, look at this leaf!  It’s so pretty!”  The butterly-shaped leaves had always fascinated me, and they were abundant at the playground outside the apartment.  Sometimes I would pick up the dried ones that had fallen on the ground, but the green, fresh ones that are still attached have always looked so much nicer.

“Don’t pluck it!  It’s already late, the plants are already sleeping.  If you pluck the leaf, you’re going to wake them up.”  That was what my mom would always say.  Apparently, it only happens in the evenings.  That’s “bedtime” for the plants.  And I’ve always disliked anyone waking me up prematurely, so I guessed plants shared the same sentiments too.  So I’d let go of the leaf, give it a soft pat, as if saying ‘good night’ to it.

“Okay, it’s time to go home now.”

“But mommy, 5 more minutes?”

That was my most popular phrase.  Be it while I’m sleeping, playing, reading, anything at all.  I’ve always wanted more time.  My 5 minutes usually equaled to half an hour.

There was no specific time as to when ‘evening’ really was.  I didn’t know if it started at 5pm, or 7pm, or later.  But I knew when afternoon started.  Right at 12 pm.  And morning was obviously before that.  So I’d resume my little hobby in collecting leaves in the morning, at the same time fascinated by the morning dew drops on the water-proof surface.

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About 10 years later…(when hormones start dancing)…

The one benificial thing about learning Science in school is that you get to bust myths.  At night, leaves aren’t actually asleep.  Because there’s no sun, photosynthesis (a process where plants use sunlight to make food) does not occur, so some leaves actually “close up” to prevent loss of moisture into the air.  I guess the more correct term would be “chilling”, which means they are probably watching TV or something.

I walked pass a tree with the same butterfly-shaped leaves, and even though I knew the truth, I left it alone.  Somewhere inside of me wanted to preserve that little habit – maybe it’s because I loved those times when mom would come to the playground to take me home.

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Two days ago…

“Eh Vern!  You see!  The leaves are closed!  Yer!  Why like that wan?”

Mildred and I were walking home from dinner, and she couldn’t help but observe the trees around us.  I looked at them and saw the butterfly-shaped leaves closed and limped.  I couldn’t help but smile to myself.

“They’re sleeping, that’s why.”

Her eyes widened like a child who has just discovered something new.  She started examining every tree.

“Wah! Really?  I didn’t know that!  So they close when they sleep?”

I chuckled, “Yeah.  Happens everyday.  You’ve never seen it happen before?  So don’t pluck them okay, or else you’ll be disturbing them.”

“Oh is it??  I’ve never noticed it before!  So cannot pluck them hah?”  She was getting so excited it amused me.

I paused.  Eventually I asked, “You believe hah?”

More pauses.  And then…

“YEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!! You bluff me!!!”

I was laughing so loud I think people staying in the area heard me.  But Mildred wasn’t too keen on dropping the whole “sleeping” theory.

So we tested it out.

The two of us chose a tree, and then I started jumping like a mad person to hit one of the leaves in order to “wake them up”.  Which, of course, didn’t happen.

“You don’t remember your biology, do you?  There’s a reason why they close.”

“YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRR!!!!!!! I dowan friend you liau.  I hate biology.”

After a few “YER’s” and childhish comments, we both laughed it off and headed back to our rooms.

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Until today, I still don’t pluck leaves in the evening, or at night.

Shhh… they’re sleeping.

TWO: I Dare Me

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Danny had never felt so alone in a crowd.  Everyone seemed to have something to say, something to be interested in.  So did he, except that nobody would listen or care.  They would speak about the latest gossips, movies, TV series, mainstream music and all other things that he didn’t know much about.  It’s not like he was interested anyway.  And when others started speaking a language other than English, Danny was lost.

He never fit in.

But Danny has his own world.  And in that world, he was good at everything.  And by everything, it refers to things that he likes, or loves.  He could strum the best tunes out of an ordinary guitar, serenade hearts with his deep, haunting voice and a few other talents not many people knew about.  He was a hero in that world.

He wanted to be somebody out there too.  If only they could just see him.

“I heard you play the guitar really well.”

That voice almost made his wish come true.  He turned around and saw a familiar face, one that he has always seen in school but never had the chance to know.  Ironically, they were coursemates.  She was a tad shorter than him, wore black nail polish and had a hoodie on.  Danny couldn’t make out if she was a goth or a punk or if she was just confused.  He chose confused.

“I’m Mia.”

Mia the emokid with an unusual nice name, he thought.  Grasping it was his cue to say something, he asked, “Hi, I’m Danny.  How did you know I play the guitar?”

Mia hopped on the stool next to him, popped open a bottle of beer and took a sip.  “People talk.”

They talked about him? It was hard to believe that he was actually noticed in school.

“I know, hard to believe they’d talk about a kid like you right?  Well, you play in church, so I guess some of your church friends must have said a thing or two.”  Mia offered her bottle to Danny to which he politely raised his hand to decline.

“Uh, right,” was all he muttered.

“Are you socially inept or are you just shy?”  At that moment, Danny didn’t know how to respond.  How do you choose both for a question like this?

“This really isn’t my kind of crowd.”  Danny shrugged, hoping the topic would divert in the next second.

“What’s your kind of crowd?  Sunday churchgoers, hypocritical Godly people?  Can I hear an “Amen”? ”  Mia was really pushing the limit – and he didn’t like it at all.  But he didn’t tell her.  He didn’t really know what to say.  Mia continued, “Okay, I lied.  I didn’t hear about you from people.  I’ve been to your church before and I know what you can do.  And you were totally a different person over there.  You spoke out loud, made fun of people, you know, the entertainer.  But you’ve been my coursemate for almost 2 years now and you’ve never had more than a handful of friends.  What’s the deal?  We’re not good or holy enough for you or something?”

It’s not the church, he wanted to say so badly.

“Shut it, Mia.”  a voice said from behind.  It was Sam.

“Sam, I can handle this,” he softly protested.

“I wasn’t defending you, Dan.  I just don’t like the way she speaks about me.  I go to the same church as you too, remember?”  Sam was annoyed at both Mia and Dan – one for provoking the other, and the other for not taking a stand.  If they were a married couple, they would be a match made in heaven.  “Listen, the world does not revolve around you.  What you do, or do not do, affects others.  I know this isn’t your scene, but that doesn’t mean you have to be drowned in it.  And I’m not asking you to blend in.  But perhaps you should just try stepping up.  Your cheese has been moved – but that doesn’t mean you have to starve.”  Sam grabbed Mia’s bottle and walked away.

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“They told me I had to pay a sum of money for breach of contract.  But I saw it coming anyway, just that the amount can be a little painful.”  Jenna sounded stressed out, but slightly relieved at the same time.

“Maybe they’d reconsider a partial waiver, or work something out.”  Sam threw Mia’s bottle into the dustbin and switched the phone to her right ear. “So what are your plans now?”

That question made Jenna’s heart skip a beat, in a good way.  She suddenly realized that the resignation letter was in a way, the ticket to accomplish unfinished dreams.  When she was working, it hardly dawned upon her that she would ever get out of the life she was living.

“I’ve been thinking about going back to study.  I’ve always been interested in sound engineering.  Did some homework online and saw some great offers.  But…”

“But?”

“…at the same time I’ve always wanted to go somewhere else to see the world a bit.  Somewhere like New Zealand.”

Sam chuckled, “Whoa, slow down girl.  I asked plan, not plans.  Anyway, do you want to go to NZ to see the world, or see the place where they shot Lord of The Rings, like you’ve always wanted to?”

Jenna smiled, “Both.  My sis has been there, I don’t see why I shouldn’t try it.”

“One big step after another.  I’m beginning to wonder what sort of conversation you had with God the other night.”

Jenna opened the refrigerator door to see if she could get something to nibble on.  “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  The timing just wasn’t right.  But soon I’ll be free from this job and I’ll have my options again.”

“Looks like someone’s taking a stand,” Sam replied.

“Well, it’s not easy…” Sam interrupted her and said, “No wait.  I meant someone else.  Sorry, I’ll call you back?”

“It’s okay, I’m tired and I want to go to bed anyway.  Talk tomorrow?”  Sam heard a soft yawn at the other end of the line.  “Alright.  Nights.”

Sam headed back into the hall and saw a crowd gathered around the raised platform where unplugged gigs are held.  They weren’t cheering, nor jumping or throwing insults.  The crowd was just plain silent.  All that was audible was sweet, acoustic music coming from a guitar, and lyrics sung by… Danny.

Mia stood next to Sam, and said softly, “I gave him a guitar.  The rest was him.  He’s better than I remembered.”

It was pure 5-minutes of Danny.  No one else, nothing else.  When he hit the last note, there was a pause.  Mia removed her hoodie and led the thunderous applause.  And for the first time, Danny saw her smiled.  He wasn’t sure what he accomplished, but as he headed off the stage, Mia asked him, “What got into you, Danny boy?  That was amazing!”

Danny stared at her and replied, “The moment you sat on that stool next to me, there was “CHALLENGE” written all over your face.  I did what you wanted me to do.  I dared me.”

Their conversation was cut short when people began to approach him and commented about his performance.

Danny dared himself to step out of his shell to show the world what he’s got.  It was sweet victory.

On another side of the world, someone has never felt happier about a resignation.

ONE: The Resignation

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Jenna saw this coming.

“I heard that Larry is quitting.”

“Yes, you heard right.”

“Why?”

“He lost interest, that’s why.”

“And can’t you convince his mother?”

“Why should I convince his mother?”

“So she would ask Larry to stay.”

“It’s his choice. If he doesn’t want to be here, he doesn’t have to. There’s so many other things that he can do.  He’s young!”

“Talk to his mother.”

“What?”

“Talk to his mother.”

“Or?”

“Or I’ll have to start videotaping your classes and re-evaluate your performance.”

“It’s not my fault that a 3 year old doesn’t want to learn music.”

“Talk to his mother.”

Jenna gave up. ‘ Unbelievable, can someone videotape this old hag instead?’ she silently cursed.  She turned away from her manager and headed to her teaching room, half-slamming the door.  The class paused to look at her.  Jenna swayed her attention to the window and caught a glimpse of her manager staring at her, with multiple invisible messages transmitting through the glass panel as if Jenna could read her mind.  She took a deep breath, put back a smile, turned to the kids and cheerily exclaimed, “Now, who wants to see Mr Sun?”

Mr Sun is a sock puppet that Jenna creatively made as a teaching aid.  When you have a class that comprises of 1-4 year olds, you need to think like them.  Even bringing out the sock puppet has to be dramatic enough to catch their attention.  And on that particular day, Mr Sun has to pay a special visit to a little boy.

Impersonating her infamous cute but deep voice, Jenna approached Larry, who was sitting at a corner of a table, doodling.

“My, my, what a beautiful picture!” ‘This kid doesn’t know the first thing about drawing,’ Jenna thought, ‘he probably doesn’t know what beautiful means anyway.’ Larry ignored Mr Sun, and continued to progress in his Picasso masterpiece.  But Mr Sun was persistent.

“Is that a piano, Larry?  Do you like piano?”

The poor kid stared at his teacher with fear in his big round eyes, and ran to his mother’s arms.  Mrs. Wong, Larry’s mom, kindly excused themselves and went outside.  Jenna looked at the rest of her class with a big pang of guilt.  ‘I’m torturing these kids,’ she sighed.  That one-hour class felt like forever.

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“He doesn’t like playing the piano,” Mrs Wong, Larry’s Stepford mom gently explained as Larry continued to hung onto his mommy.  She continued, “We’ve seen how Singaporean kids have been pressured to do things beyond their years and the only reason we’re sending Larry here is due to the persistence of my mother-in-law.  But if he doesn’t like music, we’re not going to force him.”  She stroked her little boy’s hair.

“Could it be that I’m doing something wrong?  Perhaps my teaching methods?”  Jenna humbly asked.

“Oh no!  Larry loves you!  He keeps mentioning ‘Teacher Jenna’ all the time!  Remember the Teacher’s Day card he made for you?”

How could she forget that cute card with a huge elephant on the cover.  Well, it took her awhile to figure out what that giant gray mass was, but it was a sweet gesture nonetheless.

“You’re doing fine, Jenna.  Larry is stopping simply because he doesn’t like what he’s doing.  He says he prefers drawing, and I think that’s rather obvious.  Sometimes we think that kids don’t know what they’re doing.  Most of the time, we’re wrong,” Mrs Wong said with a chuckle.  Jenna forced a smile and gave Larry a big hug for one last time.  As they left, she chucked Mr Sun into her bag and heaved a sigh.  She didn’t like the idea of a re-evaluation.

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“I wish I could murder that woman for you.”  Jenna’s daily dose of sarcasm and listening ear was Sam, a stranger whom she met by accident and somehow became a close friend.

“I’m really stressed out with the whole situation at work.  They give us crap all the time.”  Jenna let out a heavy sigh.

“You really need to stop doing that.”

“Do what?”

“That, whole sighing thing.  Mom says each time you sigh you get 10 years older.  But I just think that if you continue to sigh the insides of you would just spurt out someday.  Not that you have much cos you’re so skinny.”

“Sam.”

“Kidding.  What kind of other crap do they throw at you anyway?”

“No employee’s welfare, put all the blame on teachers, twisting our words, always declining our requests and my salary was deducted on the very rare times I called in sick with MC!”

There was a moment of silence there, before Sam asked, “So, that kid, Larry.  He quit?  That boy has guts for a 3-year old.”

“Yeah I know.  I’m actually happy for him.  At least he doesn’t have to be stuck doing what he doesn’t like anymore.”  Jenna wanted to let out another sigh, but stopped herself.  Not that she believed what Sam said.  Then something struck her mind.

“Sam, I have to go.  There’s something I need to do.”

“Like…wallowing in self-pity and plotting a revenge against your boss? I think I’m a better cure.”

“NO.  I need to think, and maybe pray a little.”

“You know God’s not really into murder, right?  Somewhere in the commandments…”

“Sam.”

“Alright, alright.  Just let me know how things go tomorrow.”  There was a soft click at the end of the line.

Jenna turned to her computer, and started to think of the correct words to say.  As she started to type, she muttered softly under her breath, “Oh God, let this be good.”  And pray she did.

When she was done, she emailed a copy of her resignation letter to Sam, with a note saying, “Please proofread.”

That day, for once in 12 months, Jenna became a student, and a 3-year old taught her something that would change her course of life forever.

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Author’s Note: Inspired by a true story, the names have been changed to retain anonymity of the characters.  Catch the 2nd part next Thursday, where more characters will be revealed and we’ll see how Jenna’s resignation went.  If you have any ideas, or feedback, please feel free to leave your comments.  =)

Krumbs: Definition

crumb (krum)  *from yourdictionary.com

noun

  1. a very small piece broken off something; small particle or bit, esp. of bread, cake, etc
  2. any bit or scrap crumbs of knowledge
  3. the soft part of bread within the crust

krumb (krum) *from the-kooky-jar.com

  1. a very small but significant piece broken off a big picture, esp. of story
  2. based on real-life stories, mixed with a dash of fiction
  3. the best part of stories within imagination
  4. could be your story.

    Krumbs.

    krumbs

    Coming soon.  =)