Sitting by myself amongst others having math class was not the most ideal way to spend my morning, and my frequent yawning couldn’t agree more. I got teary eyed and I’ve wiped them away for the umpteenth time, having no luck trying to keep the tears away. The air conditioner in the room whirred softly–a constant reminder of cold air circulating the room, and of how my cardigan wasn’t doing its job. I pulled the sleeves up to my palms and crossed my arms.
Time felt all but moving and I had to force myself not to look at my watch every other minute, otherwise it would seem like it was trying to win a race against a snail on who would be the world’s slowest.
The best thing about having tuition classes was that the place was located near a bookstore. Somehow I managed to make it out math class whole and alive enough to head straight over there. There was just something about mountains of paperbacks, glossy papers and hardcovers that made me feel happy inside, like a little girl who just entered a candy shop. Some of the bookstores I’ve been to, had the scent of old recycled paper and you just know they came from good books. Like how you could smell the scent of sweet pastries baking in the oven, filling up the whole house, and even if you were nowhere near tasting it just yet, you just knew it would taste great. This bookstore however, didn’t have that, instead it had neutral air-con-scent bouncing off the walls, which wasn’t as great, but it was fine.
I’d already set my mind on which bookshelf I wanted to explore that day–Self-Help. Frankly, if I could, I would come here and read a fictional novel every week until I finish that particular one and move on to the next. Well, I could, but there weren’t any chairs around and I would feel self conscious sitting on the floor, so there’s that. The weird thing about me is, I could read a non-fiction while standing, but I couldn’t with fiction. Self-Help books came to my interest just recently because I saw one of the versions of the Chicken Soup For The Soul series called Inspiration For Writers and I wanted to read it. Alas, this bookstore didn’t have that, but I browsed through the racks anyway and found myself hooked on some book on getting whatever you want. The author sounded like some parent talking to their child in a sort of demanding tone–at least that was what I got from reading it–and that was what made me wanted to read the book, to be quite honest. And since then I kept coming back to read more of those books.
That day was one of those days. Leaning against the bookshelf and standing in a sloppy manner, page after page I read and flipped until an uncle, around his forties or fifties approached me and asked for a favour.
“Are you free right now?” he asked.
“Great, could you help me vote for my daughter for this contest that she’s in?”
“You just have to fill in this form to vote for her.”
“Okay, how..where–” I was stumbling on my words as I was still caught off guard. Rarely does anyone approach me like that.
“Come, you can write over here.”
“Okay, I’ll just put the book back in its place for a sec.”
Then, I did as he asked–followed him. Just steps away, I used the books on the “recommended” area that were stacked neatly on a table as my surface to write on. The uncle said he was doing this to help his daughter win and I thought, wow he’s a really good father, but at the same time, I was really paranoid. Perhaps it was due to those crazy schemes or scams people use nowadays to trick people into thinking something that’s actually legit, but they’re not, or perhaps I naturally just build walls around strangers. Either way, it made me ask him, “Have you paid for this magazine?”
“I did, don’t worry,” was his reply.
That calmed me a bit and I wrote number 6 on the glossy paper, the contestant number of his daughter. While filling in my particulars, I paused midway, giving in to paranoid thoughts once again as unwanted circumstances started playing in my head. Ultimately, my head screamed: what if he was onto something? With that thought in mind, I wrote down a fake age, fake IC number, fake telephone number, real address whose house was not mine, real first name, fake last name, real gender and an e-mail I don’t use anymore. After I was done, he tore the page and told me I could keep the magazine and thanked me for helping him out. I replied by thanking him for the free magazine.
While I was exiting though, I was still skeptical and braced myself for the security sensors to shout when I was walking through the exit.
Only at that point I started to think maybe he was being genuine after all. Maybe I was just over thinking. The thing I hated most was how I couldn’t even wholeheartedly do a good deed for a stranger without thinking twice about it.
And that’s the messed up part about society today.
I really hope my vote for that uncle’s daughter counts.