Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Unknown Treasure

Hey, I'm back. Okay, let me fast forward a bit to Sunday and go straight to my trip to the most unlikely place, for a Malaysian that is. LOL!

I was out of ideas of where to head off to with my Adik, whom I meet like only once or twice a year. A bright straight-As Bio-Engineering student who is also a poet and a budding song writer, he makes an excellent company. He turned 20 this year. Usually, a big part of our whole-day date would include catching a theater, but this time there really was nothing on. It was between Christmas and New Year anyway. Okay, I wasn't in the mood for Sentosa, too loud and commercialised, I think. Furthermore, this is weird but somehow, I always find myself in search of nature appreciation outings whenever I'm in Singapore.

And then, I found out about the Hermit Trip to Pulau Ubin, for the first time it coincided with my visit. One would think that we Malaysians have more than enough islands, don't we? So, why go next door? For once, Singapore is tiny and well-organised. I don't have to plan in advance and I don't need a group to arrange tours. The way they 'preserve' things also amazes me. Ubin is sort of off-the-beaten track too. My Adik admitted that though he is a Singaporean, he had never been to the island and was damn curious. My Singaporean blogger friend hasn't either, so there you go.

So, we hailed the MRT to Bedok, then took a cab to Changi Ferry Terminal Point. The bump boat had to wait for 12 passengers before it would move. There were many people that day, so we hardly had to wait. We were lucky that it wasn't hot, cloudy though. Upon arriving, we found the man at the Information Counter clueless. The customers who saw the trip on the website had to inform him about it.

We had a quick lunch at a Chinese seafood restaurant. Our noodles were tasteless though. My Adik's handphone battery was running out, so he had to play the song he composed there and then. Titled Caroline, it was sung by his friend. It was a good song, nice voice too, easy on the ears. I was surprised that
it was about getting out of a nightmare, and not about a woman/romance.

We took a van to Chek Jawa. It was either that or 50-minute of walking or cycling. There were few houses there, all on power generator. The paths were crooked and narrow, poor cyclists along the way had to stop and made way for us. At the Chef Jawa Information Counter, we were divided into 3 groups of around 12, mostly locals and expatriates, hardly any tourists. The 3 tour guides were volunteers from different professions. Cool, they usually make the best guides as they do it purely for passion.

The tour started with an unused well, there used to be a Malay village there up to like 10 years ago. Next was puffy leaves, used to stuff pillows in the old days. Then, we adjourned to the newly-built boardwalk, more than a year old. It looks wooden, but was made of a mixture of fiber glass and cement. The wood-like pattern repeats after a few rows of 'wood'. Prior to that, visitors had to find their own way in the jungle.

From then on, the view was just stunning. We passed by the mangroves, algae, beach and sea. The roots of the plants stuck upwards out of the mud to get oxygen. We came across mud skippers, crabs and mud lobsters. I took lots of photos. Several shots remind me of the image of the earth, floating in the galaxy (see below). We came upon a tower. At first I hesitated to climb up the 7-flight of stairs. Somehow, slowly, I found myself arriving on top, the view was amazing.

Unfortunately, 10 minutes before the tour ended, I looked down and realised that the sole of my right shoe came out. It was an old pair of sport shoes but still, I had to drag my feet from then on. Ideally, as soon as the tour concluded and just as we were walking back to the Information Counter, the sky started to pour. Others called for the vans. When our driver arrived and saw us, he asked us to squeeze into the front seat next to him. That was a good ride, full view ahead.

When we reached the jetty, he showed us the old-fashioned retail shops selling slippers, among other things. The shop lots reminded me of my hometown 20 years ago. They also had Durians and Coconut drink, hence we stopped and relaxed for a while. After that, it started to drizzle again. Passing by a stretch of faunas, I decided to snap some shots. Hey, flowers and leaves during a rain - it may be suitable for my book cover - 'Counting Raindrops'.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Short Getaway

I'm off to the Lion City. Desperately in need of a break. See you before the New Year:)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kryptonite Immunity: Pride or Denial?

I met Mr Designer just now. Wow, the way he reacted to the blow was nothing like what his partner and I could ever imagine. The writer in me is beginning to get more and more intrigued with the complexity of this guy's character and personality. He even beat the 2 main characters whom I struggled to capture in words in 'Chestnut Chocolate Mooncake', my most well-praised short story; it depicts a conflict between a no-nonsense French Chef and an ex-military German F&B Director who thrives on creativity and doing things differently.

At first, Mr Designer tried to avoid eye-contact, ke kept looking far left. That was different from his usual habit of looking down, intensely. When he was 'certain' that his partner had not called or seen me since last week, he started to relax. And guess what? He straight away went into getting the status updates of the business pitches and quotations their company had submitted. Looks like I didn't even have to ask his partner to give him a percentage from the jobs they are doing for my company. Obviously, he himself didn't waste any time in identifying his share, and his clients. Since there will be no more fixed monthly income, he is dependent on that.

That reminded me of the time when we first met. I noticed that despite his soft spoken ways and blur-detached nature, he was quick in fishing for business. His in-depth technical knowledge and finger-tips recall of pricing helped too. In fact, even until now, he has been following up on the status of quotations that his partner sends me, and checking whether invoices have been sent after a job is done. When it comes to money, he becomes 10 times more alert.

He didn't break the news to me. Naturally, his ego didn't allow that. However, while he was getting his car to send me home, I managed to touch base with his partner. His partner quickly called and asked him to break the news to me himself, in his own words. I got into his car then and overheard part of their conversation. He said 'No need, it's only internal, not external.'

Whoa! Did he really think I wouldn't notice anything different? Like why isn't his Mac notebook with him for instance, and why he is not doing designs anymore (he knows I am particular and his designs meet my expectation, only they arrive way too late). I'm used to briefing him directly, and he always insists in dealing directly with me too, instead of letting his partner worry about it ('account servicing' is the guy's responsibility anyway, 'designs' are his). He actually agreed to email me the revised designs of the only outstanding item for my company tomorrow. How? The designs are in the notebook! Later, I found out from his partner that they would meet at the office tomorrow, and he insisted on finishing those designs himself.

He is either damn arrogant or still in a state of denial. I think he will act like the boss now that he doesn't have to do the designs (technical work) anymore. On the bright side, he can bask in his flexible schedule, focus his energy in bringing in business and not be bogged down with nitty gritty. It's not like I would find out about him being sort of dismissed from the payroll, or so he thought.

Also, there was a major problem with the printing for their other main client's corporate diaries 2009 just now - the colour was off. The diaries were supposed to be sent to their clients' offices nationwide with enough time to distribute before 1 January'09. There was no way they could do that. Funny but Mr Designer kept saying that their colour separating supplier and printing supplier were supposed to adjust accordingly. He has a very unusual way of working. As far as his partner and I were concerned, softcopy of the final artwork that you gave was supposed to be ... final, ready to go!

His partner and their senior partner were under grave pressure, almost broke down. On the contrary, Mr Designer himself was extremely calm. Of course, without the Mac keeping him up, he continued sleeping until afternoon yesterday. He then spent time playing the new Play Station with his kids at their house till late at night. So, he was well-rested for once in a long period of time. He even said he like that kind of problems... the types that could be solved. He didn't noticed anything wrong, yeah, his sense of time is almost zero. He commented that his calm and cool demeanour was important in the profession and he failed to see what the panick was all about. He made fun of their senior partner. Though said lightly, I sensed his hatred.

Now I know why despite losing RM300k in the stock market in 1998 and having to sell his house and car, he didn't fall into a depression. You will find a few characters based on him in my upcoming short stories collection. I may have to split up his personality/character:)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Under the Kryptonite

I was sitting through a business function just now, wishing non-stop that I was at home instead, when Mr Designer's partner's punchy sms came through around 9.30pm. Its' content: 'Mission accomplished with flying colours.' I had waited with baited breath for that update. It was a story that made 'Mawi's wedding' and 'a family member giving birth' paled in comparison. I immediately walked out of the hall to call him, missing the Shark's Fin soup and a few rounds of lucky draws too.

Yeah, he had been deliberating on the issue with his older partner and me for quite some already. Mr Designer's performance was going down rapidly and there was no other solution apart from removing him from their business. He had to delay it several times due to crucial unfinished tasks. At 9.00pm just now, he finally completed the only pending project for their other main client. His partner decided to risk it and not wait for my company's last item to be done. Mr Designer is going off for a 2-week holiday with his family on 25 Dec, so he wanted to settle everything before then. Hence, it was time to drop the bomb.

He warned me about it. I was glad that I managed to treat Mr Designer to a nice steak dinner last night. I wanted to cheer him up prior to him getting the earth-shattering news. Despite having rushed from their supplier and having to wake up again at 3.00am to finish an urgent job, he seemed happy. He listened to everything I said with full interest, as usual. And I had a lot to talk about then - my winter holiday, my stories, theatre, stress management course, developments at work - the stupid encounter with Popeye, his work, the health supplement he was taking - Harlem oil, which explained his great complexion, his short stint at Bukit Tinggi, etc. He even proudly showed me the latest design he did for their other client. Wish he could accompany me for the holiday I was planning next year. He assured me that I'd be fine on my own.

Man, looking at Mr Designer's innocent face made me feel really guilty. He had no clue what was going to happen the next day. He even complained about his partner - lack of persuasive selling skills (I agree) and managing him like a teacher with a remote control (they hadn't met for a week, Mr Designer didn't turn up at the office). I tried hinting to him to consider returning to the agency he used to work for 5 years ago; he was the owner's blue-eyed boy. At least, his working hours won't be so volatile. He said he wanted to see how things would go first.

Though the solution was crystal clear, execution was something else. His partner didn't have the heart to dismiss him. He was just enjoying his new found freedom, having fun with his kids and all, it felt sinful to break those young hearts. And me having a soft spot for him also made things worse; one time I was agreeing with his partner, another time when I imagined the consequences, I started pitying him. Even just now, he was taking his son to buy a new Playstation after their meeting. His partner was determined to get it done tonight itself no matter what; and also, to take back his Mac notebook immediately so he couldn't delete or flattened any files. That was another challenge altogether.

Judging from how he reacted during the incidence with my ex-friend, we were prepared for everything. His partner even polished his self-defense skills, in case he got attacked physically, punched or something. Oh, he was beginning to think that Mr Designer was under the influence of drugs, which explained a lot. But that is still unlikely, he is so proud of his looks and body, why would he want to destroy his system like that? The thought of split personality also came to mind. Remember Sidney Sheldon's novel where a multiple personality girl found herself falling asleep at odd times, had unaccounted-for missing hours daily and felt like she was being followed (by her other personalities, actually)

I have to say the guy was damn diplomatic. We explored several ways to do it, including comparing him to a non-performing football player and begging him to withdraw from the company. But the approach he finally adopted was far better. He didn't say anything about Mr Designer's slacking, etc. He said he wanted to re-designate Mr Designer post and make him the Business Development guy instead of the Creative Director. He will be paid commission for every contact he brought in, so it would be on a project basis. I asked him to give Mr Designer commision for every piece of business from my company. That is only fair since if it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't be dealing with their company at all.

He even told Mr Designer that at his level, he wouldn't want to come down and do a junior's running around work. So, the new arrangement would be better. He would be mobile and work on flexi-hours. He can make use of his shrewd marketing talent & high-profile contacts, without making others suffer from his very slow and unreliable delivery in designs. His partner didn't have to say it, but the biggest blow was he wasn't going to get a fixed monthly salary anymore. And the unspoken message was he screwed up big time. His partner was tactful to say that he could not afford to pay someone of his calibre. His replacement had already been found, a young guy whose pay is only 60% of his and definitely would be more productive. He is not very experienced though, but he was a top student.

Mr Designer must have been in shock because he hardly said anything except 'I saw it coming...' He maintained his usual expressionless face, but judging from the 4 cigarettes that he was smoking in an hour, he was in pain. It really caught him off-guard. Shockingly, his partner managed to take back his Mac, with only a little protest. I've asked him to keep my external disk drive (yeah the one I gave him money to buy when he was in big trouble 4 months ago), but he insisted on returning it. Now that he is notebook-less, he would need it to save his personal files. His partner asked him to keep it and he would buy me a new one.

I'd give him some time to digest it, for him to recover from the effect of the Kryptonite. His partner asked me to wait until he breaks the news to me himself. Yeah, we must be careful not to bruise his ego, especially when he knew that I look up to him in certain ways. And he didn't like me taking other people's sides against him.

Anyway, it is over. I hope this unpleasant development will work out a job with more normal hours for him, at least. He could use a better quality life.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

5 Flights of Stairs

My company held a stress management workshop in Bukit Tinggi from Friday to Sunday. While the content was okay, the total experience was torturous, physically I mean. My whole body felt 'stressed.'

It was so bad that I had a Chinese massage on Sunday evening, reflexology on Monday evening and finally, Hamam and massage on Tuesday night. I don't recall surrendering to so much luxury over a short period of time. At first, I thought only my legs were painful. During the first massage, I realised that my lower back was also aching, normally it is just my upper back due to a lot of sitting. The masseuse hardly touched my legs, too much focus on my back, hence the refloxology the next day... and so on. Hmm... come to think of it, the post-effect was not so bad, just slight pain. After going into the Pyramid of Gyza last June, I couldn't even walk properly for 5 days. LOL!

Right from when we first arrived at the resort... there was nobody to show us the direction to our apartment for quite a while. Then, we found out it was all the way down the hills. We had to carry our own luggage and take 2 long flights of stairs down (outdoor). There was no porter or buggy. Since our apartment was on basement 2, that means another flight of stairs down. Our classroom was located high on the hills, hence we had to climb 3 + 2 flights of stairs all the way to the training room. This was repeated 2 to 3 times daily, more than most of the females in the group could manage.

The outdoor staircases were really steep and narrow, it was dark at night too. The first time we climbed, I could feel my heart rate rising rapidly - 5min was equivalent to 30 minutes of warming up on the threadmill. I wasn't worry aboout muscle pains, but breathing is not something to be taken lightly. The women above 40 complained of backache and skipped the treasure hunt.

Anyway, the course was okay. My group progressed from having the lowest mark to being the champion in the end. The selection of team leader was interesting. Everybody appointed someone, then the person had the right to appoint a leader (to avoid the usual leaders) and finally, the real leader would be the one seated on the left of the so-called leader's (to avoid bias). So, we ended up with the ideal leader I would say... intelligent and a good listener. We had a 100% active-participant group too.

Interestingly, we bagged the best performance award during the barbecue & karaoke dinner on day 2. We opted for the easy way by performing P Ramlee's 'Aci aci buka pintu'. A bit of dressing for aci, nana and the 2 jembalangs plus the broom, parang kontot and flat house made of styrofoam - walla, very visual, lots of movements on the low stage. Nobody noticed the poor singing, hehe...

The most delightful task to me was to build an airplane model out of styrofoam. I had to admit at that time, I really had no clue how to do it. Luckily, my team mates, men and women, had enough ideas to combine to form an aceptable, functional piece. All the planes then had to go outside for a test drive. Our pilot couldn't manipulate the wind though.

There were tonnes of physical activities so we weren't sleepy at all, only exhausted. Morning exercise - Pocho pocho, Latin and traditional dance. Classroom jingles and silly games and treasure hunt. The instructor said we were a bunch of 'Shakers', people who go beyond what is expected of them. From the very first exercise, 'Who move my cheese', we came up with outputs he hadn't even heard before.

The most meaningful test to me was the Reef Knot. See the pic below? Imagine 40 people holding on to a giant version of that... and tying the knot while maintaining their hands on the string. A lot of going over and under people. Out of the 287 times that the organiser had done it, only 4 groups had failed so far. We managed after 2 trials, in 20min - I ended up at the first knot both times, painful la. Lessons learned: 1) You need strategy and system 2) Tell the leader directly if he is wrong 3)My company has so many so-called leaders who talked at the back but don't voice out through the right channels.

Normally, as an introvert, I'd stay away from the limelight and let others shine. But this time, I find myself taking charge several times, because some things just had to be said/ corrected. My overall feedback was that stress management course for all Muslim participants should incorporate religious elements eg stress tips from the Quran, Jemaah prayers, etc. I didn't feel de-stressed but it was a good experience, nevertheless. I can't wait for the feedback to next week's session, division heads would be attending then. Imagine the 'battle';)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Letter at Sunrise

During the long weekend, I also managed to start a new story, and finished it too. I've always wanted to write a story about Mr Designer. It occured to me that an interesting point of view would be from the man himself, it is kind of amusing actually. Imagine if he were to write a letter to his ex-wife...

I came to work feeling really re-charged on Tuesday morning. He smsed me at 11.30am, saying that he had emailed me a design due. He then called and said he was coming to see me in a few hours. At that time, I have to say that I really didn't feel like talking to him and wasn't looking forward to meeting him. He didn't have to come and discuss in person, it is his partner's job. He is the back end person. His partner called after that and so, I asked him to join us. He was delayed so I was left with Mr Designer for over an hour. I managed to find safe topics to talk about eg get his feedback on my stories, discuss rain drop visual for my book cover, etc.

His partner read the first draft of below, couldn't help laughing despite being really mad with Mr Designer and commented that I've captured him so vividly. Maybe I should show it to him one day, it may shake him to his senses. LOL!

Just now after having dinner with him and his partner, he sent me home. It was drizzling, traffic was quite slow. In the car, again I struggled for safe topics of conversation eg my new holiday plans for once. When we arrived, I forgot my normal departure 'salam' and straight away opened the door. He didn't forget, extended his hand, I shook it quickly and got out. Usually, I'd hold on for a while and squeezed his hand like there is no tomorrow. Hmm... I think he realised that too.

Sunrise - 1st Cut

My Dearest Hana,
I am sitting at the study desk in my bedroom, admiring the beauty of sunrise through my window. At this moment, you would be dropping Alif, Aiman and Aini off to school. I have always wondered how you do it. You know, taking care of the kids on your own, juggling that big job of yours as a Senior Operations Manager and managing the house as well. I sometimes ask you why you do not just put them on the school bus, along with the neighbourhood children. That way you would not have to wake up so early every morning. I know I could never do all that by myself. “Because you are useless, that is why,” you would snip at me.

Tomorrow, I shall be babysitting them at your house again. It has been every other Saturday for quite a while now. You said you have errands to run and it will be easier if I do not take the kids out. They are already 8, 9 and 11, I am sure I could manage just fine. It is not like I would forget about them and leave them behind. But then, you have never had much faith in me anyway. You did not even dare leave them in my sole care until recently.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Surreal, Sensual and Spooky

I got quite a bit of writing done over the long weekend. It felt good to finally complete 'The Lotus Twin'. I started this piece almost half a year ago. I'm happy that the plot turned out quite differently from what I initially had in mine. The heroine became someone else and got the story going in another direction too. I even freaked myself out in the end, spooky, hehe...

The setting was inspired by my short vacation in the 'City of the Angels' a year ago. I really love the Suk11 'little traditional village' - it consists of a backpackers' hostel, an outdoor cafe, a spa and a DIY cooking barn-like place.

The Lotus Twin - 1st Cut


The masseur gestured for me to lie face down and covered the lower part of my body with a large floral printed cotton cloth. She rubs the warm lemongrass scented oil onto my back, her fingers dancing in a rapid circular motion, the pressure slowly increasing as my body responded to her rhythmic touch. The fresh aromatic fragrant lulled me into a deep state of relaxation. The whole world was non-existence as I savoured every moment.

I nearly grumbled when she announced that it was time for me to turn around. She held up the cloth like a mini curtain as I lazily turned onto my back. My eyes half opened, I caught a glance of my look-alike again. She was dressed in the spa uniform and standing right behind the masseur. Her face was expressionless as her gaze rested on me. It was as if I was looking into a mirror. I shivered.

“Everything okay, Mam?” The masseur seemed concern. “Are you cold?”
I looked up again, my twin no longer stood there. I shook my head, “No, please go ahead.”
She spread the cloth onto my body and proceeded to massage my right arm. “You have very beautiful fingers, Mam.”
“Thanks.” I mumbled, still trying to calm the storm in my heart. I must have imagined it, I told
myself repeatedly.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Surreal and Sensual

When my instructor challenged me 2 months ago, I had no idea what it would trigger. He asked me to write a story unlike anything I'd ever written before, something not based on reality or real life. So, I shared 'Counting Raindrops' during the forum last Saturday. To my delight, the piece had evolved far from what I'd initiated a few months back. In short, the two characters had taken over and freely ran the story as their own, without me dictating them. Hence, my little experiment was successful:)

The audience's reactions were really fast too. I couldn't believe that they were listening intensely throughout; I thought the story was a bit too long for a reading, 2700 words. My instructor's immediate response was, "That sure was different!" He said he liked my writer's voice. It has become really confident, since I could talk about counting water in the pond and counting veins on the body without blinking an eye. I continued marching on without worrying whether people find it ridiculous or not. They were all going like, "Whaaat...?? It reminded him of Raymond Carver's story on the pet peacock. Who would have thought of something like that?

I knew the piece was surreal (the phrase 'magical setting' came out often), but I noticed several people also commented that it was sensual. Someone even said 'erotic'. Apparently, they all got it as a unique romance piece, one even commented that it should have more sex scenes. I cut it short for fear of it sounding like Mills and Boon. Surprisingly, even my instructor who discouraged sex-related stories said he was disappointed to find out that the couple was actually married, and that the heroine was a therapist. Hmm... looks like I can write 'unexplored' love stories now, rather than sticking to the 'safe' ones. LOL!

My co-author made a good point. He said he hated the second part of the story. After creating a magical world, I tried to explain everything in a real-world setting and it spoils the readers' mood, made the ending anti-climatic even. I should maintain the setting and weaved in the ending throughout. My instructor didn't think that would work. Others gave their views too on achieving a more subtle ending. Interestingly, this time, my instructor couldn't tell me exactly how to fix it. It was too different, even for him. He knew the 'counting' scenes were something that just came, wouldn't have worked if I'd planned it. He asked me to put the story aside and re-look at it in a few months' time. The solution could only came from me.

Oh, one girl's comment was totally opposite of the others. She said she liked the second part, the real world setting, but she hated the surreal first part.
She said it sounded like a typical Malay ghost story setting. Luckily, my instructor firmly waived away her comment. I think she was hastily stereotyping, perhaps because I am Malay or my characters are Malays. The weather effects were nothing like that. In fact, I couldn't help feeling like a film producer who leisurely punched buttons to produce rain, clouds or sun. LOL!

Anyway, that felt good, very uplifting. And to think that I nearly chickened out from reading that story many times. That happened to be my least confident piece. My instructor said it was because I hadn't ventured into that area before. This is a big step ahead for me, I understand now. He said I could take a couple more months to complete the collection for my second book, there is no need to rush it.

I had been so inspired ever since that I'm churning out quite a lot of work over the long weekend:)

Counting Raindrops - 1st Cut


She gestured for him to sit next to her. He did. She placed her right palm onto her chest. Her head bowed down, her eyes casted onto the water. Vibes of sorrow leap out from her. High above, the sky started to cry. Their surrounding gradually changed, the whole universe transformed to complement her sad song, drawn to its melancholic rhythm. He rubbed his eyes, they were misty.

He gaped, worried that she might fall into the pond.
“Try it, boy!”
He obeyed, like a puppet. He stretched his arms and touched the water.
“Boy!” His head jerked back upwards at the firmness of her voice. “Look here!” He turned to look at her.
She cupped her hands, bended down and lifted up a bit of water from the pond. She held her hands towards him. “How many drops are there?”

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Close but No More than Friends

'When there is no hope, there is no hurt.'


For a start, hope I hadn't hijacked some dead person's quote as above and claimed it my own. LOL! It's something I discovered yesterday. Yeah, the whole Friday morning was touchy. Thank God my staff was on leave and the office was quiet. I was practically in tears most of the time, except during the 2-hour division meeting. I initially thought that my healing process can be sped up if I don't communicate with Mr Designer for a while. I was so wrong.

I hadn't planned on talking to him at all yesterday. Unfortunately, he owed me a design which he was supposed to email the previous night. When we met the day before, he was supposed to save it in my thumbdrive but he had absent-mindedly switched off his Mac. He said he was lazy to switch it back on and would email me from his printer's place after that. I had to revert on the text yesterday itself.

At 12.00pm, I smsed his partner who was away outstation for help. I told him that I really, really didn't want to talk to the guy. And they better make sure I won't have to work during the long weekend. His partner asked me to cool off and he'll follow up for me after Friday prayers. Yeah, Mr Designer had made my blood boils practically every morning lately with his tardiness. When I exploded, it'd spoil his partner's mornings as well. I felt bad, I even apologised first yesterday. Hell, no client ever did that when it was their agency who actually screwed up.

He chased the guy. Just my luck, Mr Designer would rather call me than his partner. That explained why I always got panic attacks, he couldn't understand client servicing dos and don'ts. So, he called me. If it hadn't been work-related, I wouldn't have picked it up. He asked me whether I had eaten and was I busy, etc, etc. Then, he asked why was my voice different. Hmm... he wasn't as 'duh' as I thought. So, I took a deep breath and tried to sound cheerful. I asked if he had eaten, it was already 3.30pm. He hadn't. He had to call me back a few times to make sure that the file get through. He asked why didn't my ringtone come out. He casually mentioned again that he still hadn't eaten, and again. Oh! Normally, that'd trigger a lecture from me on taking care of his health, etc. He noticed that too. I started to relax and joked if he was fasting or... if he wanted to eat with me. Nah, too far, he was at his friend's studio.

That's another thing. His partner was away and he didn't bother turning up at the office. He is being paid on a fixed monthly salary and yet, he acts as if he's freelancing. Starting on Monday, he was supposed to be under their senior partner's military supervision, which includes being in the office from 9.30am onwards. Let me make a correction, their partnership deal had not come through yet. He was still being tested. And he's still a paid employee. Not only he gets a substantial monthly salary, his partner has kindly advanced his 2nd month salary as well. He pitied him. And that makes his partner his boss.

He didn't even tell the guy that he'd be joining his family island holiday for 2 weeks at the end of the year, let alone seek his permission. He claimed that he'd be bringing his laptop and he'd still be reachable. Yeah, but it will be exhausting to communicate and instruct him over the phone or email. I would know that.

Asking him to make changes to the text was as painstaking as always. The flow charts were too much for him. Despite wanting to change only 1/3 of it, I had to slowly go through the whole thing 3 times. It took more energy to manage him alone than to manage my 4 staffs. Briefing him was like briefing a fresh graduate, it was so texting.

The funny thing was that he was really chatty yesterday, he sounded very cheerful. He said he'd enough sleep. Perhaps because his partner was away too. So, I tried to dig as much info as possible about his other work commitments. If his partner is going to confront him next week, he better has his facts right. No point accusing in the dark. He is still working on a transition plan, or if it comes to it, a separation plan. As much as I care about Mr Designer, I think he's being gravely unfair to his partner.

Anyway, I mentioned my writers' forum today to him where I'd be reading a story. He teased me about not inviting him. I told him I didn't see the point since he won't show up anyway. He said he had to send his son to a football game. I said well, if it's not football, then it something else. I also realized something. When I don't hope for anything from him, it doesn't hurt anymore. No expectation equals to no pain.

I also saw another thing. He wants to be close to me but he doesn't want a relationship. That was where the confusion arose. Now that the pressure is off, I won't be surprise if we become even closer than before. And I have to be careful not to fall for him again. He's the wrong guy at the wrong time. I should do a solat syukur and thank God for getting me out before it is too late.

Interesting that a reader mentioned marriage in my previous entry. I mean I wouldn't want to be married to this guy. For a start, there's no telling how late he'd be for the solemnization of vows and the wedding itself. It will be a disastrous beginning to a bad marriage. Bear in mind that he was 45 minutes late in sending me to the airport in early Ramadan. He fell asleep after I called him, imagine. My heart nearly stopped beating for fear of missing my flight.

The conclusion is that I am glad that we had several long conversations over the phone yesterday. It gave me a clear perspective of everything. And no, there hasn't been any more tears ever since:)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ready to Take a Chance Again

‘I think it's time that I let you go. And it's really hard for me to do because I know that there's a part of me that will be in love with you for the rest of my life.’
~Dawson's Creek~

I finally did it yesterday. It was like the toughest thing I've ever done in my entire life. I can feel my heart breaking. So I made an error in judgement, I forgave myself. Hey, I've made much worse mistake than this. At least, I didn't fall in love with a Vampire and risk everything like that girl in 'Twilight' (the book my teenage cousin is reading):p. In fact, when my ex-roommate first told me Mr Designer was not good enough for me only 6 weeks ago, I didn't even have a clue as to what she was talking about. She told me to take time to get to know him, but don’t take too long. Is 3.5 months short enough? This whole episode felt like a marathon to me. She was right, a 40-year old doesn’t just wakes one day and decides to change. I pity his ex-fiance who invested 5 years in him.

It all started when I caught a friend's sad status on facebook yesterday morning. So, I did a google search on 'moving on' quotes to share with her. I found a good one – ‘Letting go isn't about giving up. It's about accepting that there are things that cannot be.’ I decided to put it on my status box instead. Anyway, she saw it and commented that it was very well said. Another friend who had just gotten a divorce associates well with it too. I’d also been listening to Barry Manilow songs on Youtube. Somehow, I got hooked onto 'Ready to take a chance again' and listened to it repeatedly. Man, it worked like a therapy. Then, I saw Lenzaidi's comment for my previous entry, and somehow the whole big picture just clicked.

...And I'm ready to take a chance again
Ready to put my love on the line with you
Been livin' with nothing for show for it
You get what you get when you go for it
And I'm ready to take a chance again with you~

Mr Designer came to see me on business yesterday afternoon. He requested to delay our meeting by 1 hour, but still arrived 30 minutes late, that was like a record for him - his earliest ever. We met at the cafe at my office's building, he chose an isolated area that we'd never been to before. We sat facing each other. I waited quietly and patiently for him to touch up his design on his Mac. He was unusually calm. Not only he was 24 hours behind deadline, he wasn't even done yet. I smsed his partner who was away outstation. He apologised and asked me to leave in 15 minutes if the design was still not done.

Surprisingly, I told him it was ok. I'd just continue chatting nicely with him. I had a feeling that that would be the last time we met under such capacity and I wanted it to be pleasant. I continued talking about my stories. Then, I showed him the Statement of Plans I made for the Stegner fellowship submission. He was impressed and wished me luck. I got carried away and started sharing my holiday plans for January - we ran through a list of possible countries. I even told him about my parents plan to go for Haj for the third time in 2010, and they’ve asked me to go along again, Insyaallah. I also showed him the schedule for the design software courses that I found online. He seemed surprised that I was actually serious about learning how to use it. When he sent me home, I shared interesting developments about my unique friends from boarding school.

He was alert and more responsive too. It felt like the first few dates that we had, those were memorable. Why? Because I was doing most of the talking, and he only listened. The trouble is that I'm not the type of person who likes hearing herself talk. I don't think he was reluctant to share, but rather he really didn't have much to share. The problem started when I tried to make him talk and unveil, probed him with questions that he either found personal or exhausting. Hey I’m a creative right brain person. It’s not like I pressured him into giving views on serious world issues, only on light topics, okay. Hmm... that would be the last time I wish for a man who listens to me... the saying goes - 'be careful what you wish for'. LOL!

I still remember… 3 days after we started clicking and on our first real date, he told me that he really enjoyed my company. He had never become close to anyone that quickly. He said he learned a lot in a short period of time; his mind didn’t just remain dormant. At that time, I could feel all sorts of emotions coming from him, and he was struggling for the right words.

Sad... but initially, I thought that he had so much potential, personally and professionally. I really believed in him, in us. But every time I moved, I kept on hitting dead ends in both areas. I am so tired of bumping into walls. The very instance I sms his partner, I knew. I was ready to let him go, at last. I felt very relieved after making that decision. His partner said it was like the final chapter of a novel. Yeah, except that I better make sure there is no spin off.

I didn't have to share my decision with him. Only 3 days ago, he told me clearly that he didn't want a relationship at the time being. Only time would tell. All his life, he was always in a relationship. He needed a break, freedom without having to answer to anyone. I guess he had been hinting that all along, but I wasn't really listening. Perhaps I was in denial. Cut me some slack, he misheard my most crucial question during our first date. He told me that he broke off with his fiance 1.5 years ago, but actually it was only a week before we met. They were engaged for 1.5 years. Because of that error, I let my guard down. By the time I found out, it was already too late. I had already let him into my heart.

Forming a relationship with Mr Designer was like swimming in shallow water. Not only there wasn't much to explore, I couldn't go very far either. I've never been involved with a man like that before. He was like the star quarterback whom I happened to catch at his most vulnerable moment. I reckoned that I didn't miss much, but it was an enriching experience altogether. Hey, I took a chance with him. I put in everything I got and at the expense of quite a few others too. I jeopardised my job, my health, my peace of my mind. But it didn't work out, he wasn’t ready. It’s not just the wrong time, but also the wrong guy. Now... I'm ready to move on and take a chance again... with someone else.

I guess I won't be meeting up with him much on work anymore. I’m just waiting for his partner to return from outstation to discuss transition plans. The next time we work closely will be when he designs my book cover at the end of January. Yeah, his partner said I should still let him do it. It would create a lifetime memory, something for both of us to remember each other by. Whoever said that a fiction writer and an artist are a matchmake in heaven.

Last night, I forwarded him the Happy World Best Friends' Day wish through sms; he immediately returned the wish to me. We will always be friends, that I know. Even after we had that 'big talk' argument in his car 3 days ago, he teased me on the phone later that night. 'Apa la you ni, relax laa you...'

Yeah, we are still friends... just no hope, no expectation and no future together…

p/s: I’ve fallen heads over heels with this guy. There will definitely be many more teary days ahead. This entry serves to remind me how difficult it was for me to let him go… and how hard I tried. I didn’t give up easily.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

If he were a woman...

Last night, anxiety attack kept me awake till around 3am. I was crying my eyes out prior to that. And I woke up a few times afterwards too. I think the last time I had it was when Ad supposedly fell into a coma 1.5 years ago. It is rare, it normally comes when I foresee bad news in the near future, something I'd really dread. In this case, it would be the email from Mr Designer.

I know it's cowardly but I decided to take the easy way out. My head is telling me that I desperately need a break from him, but my heart wouldn't allow it. So, rather than detaching myself from him, I opted on pressuring him to do it for me instead. He cracks easily under certain kind of pressure, so that could be done easily. When he sent me home from work last night, he said he would not waste a single more of his brain cells thinking about questions/ possibilities that I'd been throwing at him all evening. He would only send an email to reply my first question, the biggest one: "If I just disappear one day, would it make any difference to you?" He insisted on replying within 2 days and via email too.

Gosh, what I'm about to write here would sound really brutal, I hope Mr Designer himself is not reading this entry (he'd kill me). If he is, then he picks the wrong time to do so. He hardly visit, he finds reading my blog entries exhausting and unsettling. Well, I'd say this: Dear, I'm trying to talk myself into letting you go, of course I have to list down all your minus points to make me see how foolish I've been. But that does not mean you don't have many plus points, okay!

While waiting for my breakfast at the Kopitiam near my office this morning, I had another long talk over the phone with his business partner. The statement I made surprised myself. I told him that if Mr Designer were a woman, he would be a dumb blonde. Beautiful on the facade, but empty underneath - that goes for intellectually as well as emotionally. His partner cackled, he said I couldn't have chosen a more accurate description. Since inteligent men don't go for dumb blondes, should the same be for the reversed? I deserved a knock on the head, don't I?

Okay, on a more serious note, his partner and I are getting really concerned. Despite Mr Designer's unrealiable, inconsistent and arrogant ways, we both genuinely care about him. Never mind that he makes our blood boils and increase our chance of getting a heart attack; we are beginning to suspect that his problem lies beyond attitude and expertise. It's not that he's not equipped, overworked or just lazy, we are now beginning to wonder whether he has some sort of impairment, a learning disability even.

He is lucky that his father was in the international education sector and not ignorant as fathers of that generation had been. Mr Designer was sent to do a Degree in Arts and Design in a low-cost part of the UK, but the university's standard was high though. He didn't get a scholarship, his parents supported him. It was an unusual choice at a time when young people (especially boys) were were being pushed into Medicine, Law, Engineering, Accountancy, etc. It showed how advanced his father was. But what trigger such an uncommon decision in the first place?

Let me share several causes of our worry. This is beyond Mr Designer's blur-blur and poker-face appearance. You have to work very closely with him to notice. He has a problem working with text. He treats text like pictures/objects that can be moved around on a design without understanding what it means. He could not even arrange the text that I've clearly typed out and explained - he couldn't differenciate between basic info and supporting info to promote a seminar for instance; he lumped everything together. Bear in mind that I didn't brief him quickly like I did other suppliers. I would personally sort the materials/papers, slowly run through in detail and ensure he follows and give him the exact text to place. Sometimes, he would produce advertisement that does not make sense to readers, obviously he himself didn't read to understand it first. He was following intructions blindly like a parrot.

He's really slow in working on amendments, even minor ones. Remember the Saturday night we stayed late working on the presentation? That was when his partner and I realised that what we were looking at was his actual productivity level, he was not fooling around. He seemed to be moving the text boxes round and round in a circle, instead of amending them straight. For someone who's a veteran in the industry, it doesn't look like he has mastered the design software. Minor changes in text took him around 2 hours.

Recently, I was looking forward to the flow charts that he was doing for us. He showed me these 3D shapes that he could use so they won't look flat and boring. When he shared the initial stage with me (he was behind deadline as usual), I was shocked to learn that he doesn't know how to do a flow chart eg when do one use diamond, rectangular, etc. He simply 'belasah'. I'm not sure if this is common among designers though. Nevertheless, there were times when he missed my points altogether and I couldn't help thinking whether he was making fun of me on purpose. His partner assured me that he was trying his best. He also couldn't spell quite a number of common words in Malay and English too. Yeah, we are very concerned. It would be cruel for us to push him to deliver more if he has an unknown handicap.

Anyway, discipline and commitment wise, his partner and I finally decided that we have tolerated enough. Both of us need to stop pampering him and let him get away with everything. It is time to enforce plan B, part of it includes us both learning to use the design software, minimising my work-related interaction with Mr Designer (I assured his partner that I don't mind working with another designer if need be), etc, etc.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Running Away

During the weekend, I submitted my story, 'Sunny Side Up' to Writers' Digest short short story competition. The fee was USD12.

Perhaps I was inspired by that. Yesterday morning, out of the blue, I decided to google the net on writers' competition. Guess what I found? Submission for the Wallace Stegner Fellowship creative writing program at Stanford University was opened till 1 Dec 2008, 11.59pm (our time at 2 Dec, 1pm). It is a 2-year program where a living stipend of USD26,000 and a tuition fee of USD6,800 is provided. The fee is USD60 and foreigners can submit too. 10 places are offered for fiction writers and another 10 for poets. Most fellows tried a few times before they were accepted.

Hence, I spent last night sketching my Statement of Plans. First thing this morning, I wrote it. This was to explain your writing plans and how you see the fellowship contributing to it. A Manuscript of around 9,000 words was also required, this included published stories. So, I chose Chestnut Chocolate Mooncakes, The 50-Sen Queens & Swimming Elephants in Habarana from my book. The first two are the most well-praised, so I reckoned these were safe choices, the third one represents a non-human point of view. In addition, I also sent Nose Job, my new unpublished thriller, something very different from me. The total came to 10,300 words, 40 pages.

After clicking the submit button, guess what I discovered. The payment voucher appeared and I was required to make payment within 24 hours. Bear in mind that they only accept postal order / money order to be mailed over. No credit card, tt or anything. Man! No wonder I only see American names in the previous fellows' list. Also, they all have a Degree or Masters in Creative Writing, though no formal education is required. No age limit either. It all depends on the Manuscript and Statement of Plans. After all the hassle, there was only one way - to send the bank draft through DHL. The courier man came to pick up the document from me, it would still arrive like 24 hours after the deadline though. How much did it cost me? Yeah, another USD60. Man, an expensive investment in total.

When I asked my instructor's opinion, he said go ahead, there's nothing to lose except USD60. But he warned me that it would be tough, they would want to see creative work and I don't have much. He suggested the Iowa Writers' program instead. It's a 3-month fellowship for foreign students only. He could recommend me to the Embassy. Why not, I'd just give it a shot. Iowa sounds more do-able. He also suggested that I concentrate on my book first and try my luck for Stanford next year instead. What? Well, I think he meant that I was not ready. I beg to difer. This year is great. Next year, I may already have a fantastic job, a great boyfriend or something, I won't risk it la. I'd rather lose USD60, whoops, I mean USD120.

The underlying message is also I'm trying to get away from Mr Designer. I'm hoping that fate would rescue me. Oh yeah, I asked him a big question just now. He will email me the answer within 2 days. Let's say I'm already in tears. Man... what is it with this guy? Why so difficult?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coconut Fury

Yesterday afternoon, due to the on-going manpower problem, I had to replace my staff for an international trade mission meeting. This particular one is being organised by another government agency, so our role will be much lighter than usual.

I arrived too early, so I decided to hang out at the building's cafe. The first time I went there was with my ex-friend, Mr Designer's ex-boss. She brought my staff and me for a meeting with her husband. So, imagine the kind of recollection that I had. It was scary, her aura was everywhere. At times, I almost felt like she was watching me with disapproval.. Okay, I know, I know, she had a point when she wanted to break up Mr Designer and I. However, her main intention was not for my own good, it was out of her rage with him.

I have to admit that it ended a bit too harshly. The main reason, or rather the only reason, that we ever argued and stopped being friends was him. Nevertheless, she was someone that I'd do better without in the long run. I could see a lot of damage arising in the future. With her, everything was conditional... she must get something out of everything, even friendship. And she's ridiculously competitive. In order to succeed, she'll stop at nothing too, she'll exagerates, she bitches, she lies.

Man, when she matchmade her pet brother, Mr Coconut, with me, guess what she said. Her husband's posting means that they will be abroad for many years. If her pet brother marries someone she gets along well with, at least, her family and her can stay at his place whenever they are in town, Yeah, she had thought that far ahead. However, when she was angry at with me for defending Mr Designer, she claimed that her pet brother was actually not that keen in meeting me, she pushed him. Yeah right!

And when she harrased my staff for giving the business that she thought was hers to another supplier, she threathened to send her pet brother to talk to my boss, they are related. It was weeks after Raya. I called him to get down to the bottom of things, not realising it was almost Maghrib. It had been a long time, and he thought it was a personal call. He started asking a lot of personal stuff, he sounded cheerful. Man, he refused to pick up my calls for 3 whole days; what made him think that I would make a personal call after 2 months of zero communication? The moment I had a chance, I cut him off and went straight to the point. He assured me that his meeting with my boss would be on another matter, nothing to do with my ex-friend's company at all.

Strangely, when she wanted to handover her company matters to him before she left the country for good just after Raya, he 'disappeared'. It seemed that he was overseas. Only now did I realise what he was trying to do. He was trying to get himself out of the responsibilties of running her company, but he didn't have the guts to tell her off. Coward! Naturally, her business fell apart, rapidly too. A few weeks back, she even emailed Mr Designer's partner to ask him and her pet brother to 'inject' some money into her company. Wow, she gave a new meaning to the word 'dreamer'. Her pet brother asked her to come back and discuss how she intends to run the business from abroad. She is coming back soon, once her visa is approved.

Last but not least, around a month ago, Mr Designer's partner shared an interesting development with me. He is close with Mr Coconut and the man told him he is getting engaged next month. To whom? Hmm... his 27 year old secretary. She had been working for him for like 5 years. He said they only started to get close recently. And just how recent was that? My ex-friend only introduced us in August. Obviously she knew nothing of their relationship. I also think that he shouldn't let her matchmake him if he was already serious with someone else.

And what's more... he is already 47 years old. When she introduced us, my ex-friend was concerned about the age gap between us, especially when he always told her that she was young and hasty. She is already 3 years older than I. So, how come his secretary, who is 9 years younger than I am, is not too young for him? And I thought they were related... probably they were just from the same clan. My Designer's partner has the answer to all that. She is divorced with a child, so he is doing something good - taking care of her and her baby, etc. Hmm... that still does not change the fact that she is 20 years younger than him.

Gosh, I am dying to text the news to my ex-friend. There is a 99.99% posssibility that she didn't know about this, despite claiming that they had been close for 10 years, etc, etc. She will flip, especially with the crush she has on him, and the fact that she doesn't think much of his secretary...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Very Long Morning...

"I've never had a friend like you... who cares so much about me...I really appreciate it..." was among the combination of nice and nasty things that Mr Designer said to me this morning.

We met at the cafe near my office. Him looking so fresh and well-groom like that is a rare sight indeed. He was dressed in a pressed, short sleeve, lilac shirt and jeans. He said he slept straight from 1am onwards last night, which was really long and early for him. Normally he'd turn up in a t-shirt or wrinkled shirt, sometimes only semi-awake.

The session started off rather unpleasantly though. I wanted to continue my advice on the phone the day before on how he should support his partner who had done so much for him and given him a huge opportunity, that he should not ruin the guy's company's name. He was grateful then and even smsed me to thank me. However, just now he wasn't as receptive. I thought it was poor timing, their older partner had already 'grilled' him the afternoon before.

Only later did I realise it was the mention of their older partner & what a bad impression he was getting of Mr Designer that triggered his temper. He blasted out that he didn't need his partners & he didn't give a damn on what they thought, that he was a veteran in the industry and could do well without anybody's help. Fuh, his ego... he didn't like the idea of me being on anybody else's side other than his either.

His partner returned half way through our conversation but he caught my hand gesture and quickly turned back and left us alone. I had to 'pujuk' (sweet-talk) him for almost an hour. I had to switch angle and focus on prioritising his time for his own good. I had to convince him that it was part of 'my caring about him' efforts.

He should identify a main partner and concentrate on their set of clients. He should not try to please everybody by taking on more than he could chew and make people lose confidence in him. I stressed to him about working smart and go for the jobs with highest returns with minimum time spent. Hence, he would have space to take a breath, be with his kids, parents, etc.

I was relieved when I saw him softened and started to relax again. It was my repeated words of 'if you could just listen and consider...' that caught his attention, that made him let down his defense. He even apologised for his harsh words, saying that normally he was less patient and wouldn't calm down like today. He asked not to assume his lack of emotions or interest based on his expression-less demeanour. As for us, I wanted to keep an open mind and just let things roll naturally between us. He said that was what he was doing too. Okay, not the first time he said that but I believed that he meant it this time. Yeap, like his partner said, 6 months is too long for me to assess Mr Designer's intention. But 4 months is too short for me to get to know him.

Anyway, the presentation to my MD yesterday morning went amazingly well. Unfortunately, Mr Designer wasn't present. After he handed the design mock-up to his partner, he left. His partner said his eyes were ' kuyu' like he was high on ectasy or something. So, he prohibited him from sitting-in during the presentation, despite my earlier request. And he was an hour late, which already put them on edge. I wanted to update him on the good outcome but his reply irritated me - he cut me off and asked me to update his partner instead, he was afraid that he might miss something.

I asked him to back track and stress the main reason why I was giving their company a chance on that business (which has gone back up to be major budget thingy) - it was him! And he went off like... oh, man. I couldn't believe that he had forgotten that. Sure, their rates are the lowest and their older partner is knowledgable, but it was he who got that project in. I made it clear that I wanted him present in the next presentation to my MD, smartly dress and awake like just now. I wanted him to be part of the drivers, not a mere back-end supporter. He was used to operating at that level, and he shouldn't take a step backward.

Surprisingly, he had been meeting 2 super-quick deadlines for the last 2 days. Their older partner toughness on him must have worked. But I think he is vengeful with that guy. Whoa!

Last but not least, his partner had just submitted a bill for the work he did for my company. 90% of that will go to him alone, and he said he wanted to get a handbag for me once the cheque is cleared. He remembered that I was in the midst of buying a a new one. So, despite his macho couldn't care less attitude, enhanced by that deep scar at the side of his forehead, he was paying attention:). Oh, he didn't get the concept of 'little things that matter'. To him gifts and treats must be expensive, definitely he's not from 'it's the thoughts that count' school. He wouldn't even take me for a simple affair of Sup Tulang somewhere, even though I knew it was his favourite.

p/s: Anti climax, but his partner didn't give me any new updates about him from my previous entry. It is the same old thing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Very Long Night...

Last night from 8.30pm onwards, I sat across Mr Designer at Starbucks, Bangsar. His partner was seated at a sofa on my left and his right. Mr Designer was working on his laptop, he was more than 24 hours late on the designs to be presented to my MD on Monday morning.

As I watched him in action... casually dressed in a white t-shirt and blue jeans... eyes down in full concentration... his curvy eyebrows and the lines on his forehead became more prominent... his blue sneakers thumping lightly on the floor from time to time like a kid... a question kept coming to me.

Why is it so difficult to pull the plug?
What was stopping me from ending this hopeless relationship there and then? I looked at his innocent face and pictured telling him that... I imagine what it'd feel like with him no longer in my life... and my eyes started to water.

While the answer is staring at me in the face, I am still not making any decision right now. Things are just too unsettled with him. He seems to have lost his direction again. I want to see him when he is stable, without a hurricane throwing him around. And then, I shall decide for good.

Last night too, his partner finally admitted what he really thought of us. He told me that he agreed with everything my ex-roommate had said, that Mr Designer was not good enough for me. Last week, he already mentioned to me about the lack of 'give and take' with this guy. Their older partner had advised him not to interfere but since I asked him directly, he decided to be frank. He didn't tell the man about us but the man guessed, he said it was obvious that we had something going between us.

Mr Designer has always been a bit late with his work and in terms of punctuality, but his designs had always been up to the standard, if not excellent. Unfortunately, lately, his performance has suddenly dropped rapidly. His partner has broken down a few times with all the trouble that they are in with their clients. They are very late with everything. It is so bad that their older partner is pushing his partner to take back his Mac Plus and terminate whatever agreement he has with the guy.

He was 3 hours late for their meeting that afternoon and he had not even started working on my designs yet when he arrived. He said he fell asleep after they called him, he'd been up working all night. Their older partner was so pissed that he walked out there and then. He's not going into his military regime to shape up the guy as planned. He said Mr Designer is a real hopeless case and he didn't want to get himself entangled.

And what's this thing about not sleeping during normal hours everyday (he likes to sleep from 7pm to 2.00am, or less hours)? He's a designer, not a newspaper sub-editor who works night shift. If something is due during office hours, why can't he go to bed by midnight and wake up by 7am and continue work?

His partner and I came up with several possibilities on what is actually going on with Mr Designer. With this guy, everything is possible. Could it be...
1) He's having 2nd thoughts about living in the real world and is considering returning to his ex-fiance and their cushy life or...
2) He found another partner, one of his oldest friends, but didn't have the heart to tell his partner because the guy has been so nice to him or...
3) He owe so much money and is in deep trouble with a loan shark or...
4) He is having an affair with a client and is wasting time going to that client's office unnecessarily (not me, okay) or...
5) He had picked up drinking again and often konked out till morning because of that or...
6) Beats us, like I said, with this guy everything is possible.

At midnight last night, we were thrown out of Starbucks and had to adjourn to Devi's Corner. When I had dinner with him at Chawan earlier that night, he told me that he had to leave by 9 or 9.30pm, he had another client's job to attend to. That was after not noticing that I had asked for the bill. Sad, but that was the only weekend that we'd spent together, and I was trying to chill and enjoy being with him before we start work again. The Nasi Lemak with Ayam Goreng had never tasted that good, and he enjoyed his Mee Rebus Tulang too.

I was really pissed when I saw his designs, they were far from my brief. I lost my temper and told them both off. I ordered him to make amendments on the spot and made it clear that nobody was leaving the place until I was satisfied.
For some reason too, he always takes very long to make amendments on his designs. And we had to baby-coach him through the minor changes, he seemed fixed on doing things the way he was used to. He wasn't open to different ways and new ideas, he thought he knew better. He didn't, I had done that with a former client before and I knew it was do-able, despite his excuses. I even showed him samples weeks earlier. Did he have a memory relapse or something?

I could not feel any more foolish than I did when we left Devi's at 2.30am. That was after closing my eyes several times, it was hot and I was damn sleepy.
Then too, the designs were only 90% done. 6 whole hours just to make amendments? That wasn't how I intend to spend my Saturday night either. His partner and I are going to learn how to use the software so we know whether he is conning us with the speed or that is just normal. His partner agreed to try to 'dig' and get to the bottom of things when Mr Designer sent him home after dropping me off. I can't wait for the updates...

p/s: His partner had just smsed me that he managed to talk to Mr Designer. He will update me later. Of all the possibilities, I know No 1 would hurt me the most. Though that would make things a lot easier as I won't have to make any decision, especially one that could ruin my future.

And yikes, despite getting an ideal spot upstairs for breakfast, the waiter had just spilled lot of water on my table. I have to wipe my mini-laptop and cable dry.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Beneath the Surface

I had looked forward to a relaxing evening with Mr Designer after work today. I'd even packed a change of clothes. But instead, I found myself being sent home by his business partner with both of us being extremely pissed with him this time. Even the iceberg couldn't get any colder than the treatment we gave him just now.

On Tuesday, the 3 of us and their older business partner discussed the upcoming presentation to my boss. We waited 2 hours for Mr Designer, that was after speeding up the meeting time to him only by 1 hour, if not he'd be 3 hours late. I went through a lot of trouble getting that Monday morning presentation slot for them and a radio station. I had already briefed them weeks earlier. We agreed to pre-screen the Powerpoint slides and advertorial designs this afternoon.

Imagine my shock when Mr Designer called me at 2.30pm to inform me that he won't be coming. Another urgent client job had just turned up. Excuse me, the presentation to the head of my company is due in 0 working days' time. I don't see what else could be more urgent than that. And that wasn't the 1st time my job was bounced off by another client's, come on, I gave enough time. He has to sit Client Servicing 101 course, he fails even in the basic 'Dos and Don'ts'. I happened to know for a fact that he didn't do anything productive on Wednesday.

He asked whether we can meet tomorrow (Saturday) at Coffee Bean or something and do the designs and changes simultaneously. The conclusion was that he hadn't done anything and was trying to take advantage of my fondness of him to get himself out of trouble. It didn't work this time. I told him I would talk to his partner. I had to keep my temper in check and not yell at the poor guy, it wasn't his fault that his partner/designer was missing deadlines again. That was my 2nd warning to their company.

I also complained to their older partner over the phone. He is strict and like a headmaster, he said he would take it tomorrow once he arrived from outstation. He has his own old-fashion methods. During our meeting on Tuesday, I stressed that Mr Designer wasn't looking at the big picture and was still thinking like a technician, rather than a manager. Their older partner's point was much simpler. Lateness indicates a lack of discipline which is unacceptable. An unrealiable designer can make their whole business colapse. Both partners assured me that they would meet Mr Designer to screen his designs first tomorrow morning. They will only call me tomorrow afternoon to view once they are satisfied.

Man, on the ride home, his partner and I realised one thing. The women in his life... they had been very tolerance of him and they'd let him get away with everything, even murder. His ex-wife supports their 2 kids on her own and has been paying his stock-market debt for the last 8 years, his ex-fiance used to support him for 1.5 years and won't let him work, his ex-boss considered him her blue-eye boy, his ex-clients let him get away with an open affair with their engaged colleague and another single colleague while he was still married and... his petrol station-owner sister gave him a coupon book for unlimited free supply of petrol. Wow! Well, I guess that this woman would tackle it a little bit differently.

It seems to me that he works unnecessarily during weekends, it was as if he was trying to prove that he works hard. When he's late on a client's work, he gives another client's job as an excuse. For somebody who's trying secure a formal partnership, he is doing really poorly. He also gives have-to-work excuse to escape the happenings in his personal life, which doesn't benefit me at all. Talking to his partner helps . I'll do whatever I can until I'm satisfied that I've exhausted all avenues. I don't want to have any regrets in the future, that I should have done this or I should have done that. Right now, he is going through a major transition phase in his life and it's not even a good time for me to decide whether we should pursue a relationship together.

Actually, when they treated me to lunch at TGIF 2 weeks ago, I did the Keirsey personality test on them. As expected, his partner core and sub personalities match mine ie he is an Idealist-Healer, we represent 1% of the world's population. Shockingly, Mr Designer wasn't solely an Artisan like what I thought. In fact, his personality falls under 2 core-groups and 4 sub groups ie Artisan-Performer, Artisan-Crafter, Rational-Inventor and Rational-Architect. Imagine the complexity of his character - Elizabeth Taylor, Woody Allen, Albert Einsten and Thomas Edison, all rolled into one. It answered a lot of my questions but brought out another set of concerns altogether.

All in all, he is damn lucky to have 2 Idealists taking a strong interest in him and wanting him to succeed. His partner is a real angel, he is sincere and committed about helping the guy progress and trying to change his bad habits. That is different from me, I like him a bit more than just friends, hence the interest in his well-beings. I am also certain that I can fix whatever is wrong with him. At this stage, I think there is something else going on with him, something neither of us knew about. And I'm determined to get to the bottom of it...