by Yusuf Martin
There were times I would sit and stare out at the spindly breadfruit tree, knowing how hard the soil is and just how difficult it must be for those roots to push against the compacted soil; aided only by infrequent rain and chicken drop pellets. Other times the harshness of the sun would prevent my gaze, even if I cupped my hand over my eyes, trying to shield them from its rays, but still the blazing sun would strike through my pinkened fingers and pain my eyes, making them dry.
In the evenings, when it was a little cooler outside, I would sit in the gazebo and listen to the children playing by the ditch. I could hear their little squeals and squeaks of joy as they played with the water, or traced patterns on the hard earth then run laughing up the road to see the two white ducks waddling, uncaring.
I’m not sure if I missed her most then, or all those other times she was away. Maybe it was all of them. Maybe I just couldn’t find one single occasion when I missed her more than any other, they were all equally as lonely, melancholy.
I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t or wouldn’t put that burden upon her. I didn’t want her to feel bad about leaving us. I wanted her to know that she was missed sufficiently, enough, but no more. I felt, in a way that was my duty towards her, to swallow the emptiness I felt when she wasn’t there, I owed her that, surely.
That day, before she left again, we walked in the drying garden as she pointed out a fruit bud on the breadfruit tree, smiled, put her hand on mine, looked me straight in the eyes and said, I know.
© 2008 Yusuf Martin
Creative process: Yusuf Martin: I wanted to write a prose poem/ flash fiction story about love.
Often you only get to realise how much you love someone by how much you miss them when they are not there, so I projected that into a story about missing someone, loving and in a strange way fulfillment too.
The dryness of the garden is barrenness, the feeling of being drained, dry, not fulfilled until your lover is with you, empty, thirsting but not necessarily in a passionate way.
The heat of the sun is not the heat of passion but the heat of longing, of wanting, in a way it is IBAADAT - devotion.
Why the breadfruit tree, to me a pomegranate would have been too obvious and too much about passionate love, too much about eros and not enough about agape.
The two words which make up the name are enough -
bread, staple, stable, that which sustains.
fruit a delight, something which has the very seed of being, a tinge of eternity
The breadfruit tree, like love, is fast growing, and like love the wood is hardy and its fruit sustains life.
Old Hippy, former bookbinder repairer and restorer, dustman, road sweeper, factory worker, mental hospital porter, graphic designer, digital artist, social worker, guest curator at one of London’s most prestigious museums, now exclusively writes short stories and essays from his country home overlooking lakes in the South East Asian countryside.
Yusuf was born in London but lived mostly in East Anglian, England, briefly in India and has finally retired and settled in rural Malaysia, amidst the water buffalo and civets.
He has written several short stories published in collections in Malaysia including Silverfish New Writing 5 (2006); Silverfish New Writing 7 (2008); Urban Odysseys, due shortly from MPH; and an essay for New Malaysian Essays 2, due next year by Mata Hari.
Yusuf Martin is currently putting the finishing touches to a book of short stories about kampung life in Malaysia (Kampung Tales) , writing more fantasy stories about a bomoh (shaman) called Melvyn, magic and ghosts (Melvyn the Bomoh) and a novel based upon his social work experiences (The Unsocial Worker).