Today, my dad and mum left me at a nearby community school. I wanted to show Ms. Rayhan pieces that I’d written since the day I passed her writing test. In her olive drab uniform and matching-coloured jilbab, her image constantly resounds in my mind whenever I completed a piece. Emanating love, wisdom, and strength, her admirable figure portrays kindness enclosed in dignity.
As I walk towards the school gate, a stretch of greeneries welcomes me friendly, showering heartfelt countenance and rejuvenating freshness. Last night’s rain has seemed to drift away all dirts and leave traces of life-giving dews on leaflets of chlorophylls in different shades — spring bud, apple green, forest green, hunter green, and olive. The dampened, moss green soil also permeates its own characteristic smell. I love the smell of the soil after the rain!
Cruising ahead, I slowly approach the steel, pistachio gates with cemented concrete, asparagus pillars. I peek through between rows of metallic bars and see children in red-and-white uniform forming lines in front of their classrooms.
The bell is knocked twice and the children enter their classrooms neatly, one after the other.
A middle-aged man of my dad’s age comes over hastily. In his mantis-coloured security guard uniform, he looks overpowering and alarmed, eager to investigate my presence.
“What do you want?”
In a split of a second I wonder, “Should I tell him the truth?” My shabby honeydew shirt and old, impaired Persian green skirt clearly informs him that I am not a student; and more with the dark green flip-flops I noisily drag across the jagged pavement. Honestly, I green-eyed envy those kids, whose only justification of unquestionable admission is a simple set of uniform.
“I’m of their age too. I deserve to be in school,” my heart argues in pain.
Anyway, I decide to tell him my actual intention.
“I’d like to see Ms. Rayhan, please.”
“What’s your business with her?”
“She had helped me writing fluently. I wanna show her my pieces. Not that they are any good, but… Just let me see her,” I beg him for mercy.
The man leaves me, heading towards a nearest classroom. I notice him knocking three neighbouring rooms and pausing at the doors before he finally enters one.
“Must have been a greenhorn,” I mumbled.
Ms. Rayhan makes her way towards me. From the far, I could see her Paris green jilbab and teal-coloured jellabiya flapping in the wind. “How graceful she is,” I thought. As she approaches, her face lights up. She must be happy to see me!
“Humayra, how are you?” she asks me gently while opening the right gate for me.
“Alhamdulillah, I’m good, Ma’am,” entering the yard.
“How’s Aba and Ummi?” she continues.
“They’re well, alhamdulillah.”
“Alhamdulillah,” she smiles, relieved.
“Do you wanna join the class today, Dear?” she kindly offers. “We’re learning basic Maths, simple multiplication and division.”
“Thank you, Ma’am. But I have to tend to our cardboards left laying outside at home.”
I then continue, “I just want you to see these,” showing leaves of carton on which I’ve been scribbling my writings on.
“What are these?”
“My writings, Ma’am,” I hesitate a bit, feeling embarrassed and uncertain of their quality and improper presentation.
She looks through every single piece one after another, reading the title and briefly browsing through the content.
“These are great stuffs, Humayra! I’d certainly read them during breaks.” She then suggests, “Perhaps you can drop by again next week to hear my feedback?!”
“Certainly, Ma’am… Insya Allah…”
As we reach her classroom’s entrance, she asks me to wait there for a while and enters the class. I hear noises inside, telling others to keep quiet, “Sshhh!” Shortly after, Ms. Rayhan comes back out, carrying a tea green, ring-binded book in her hand.
“Here’s for you,” she says as she passes me the book. “Don’t ever write on loose pieces again!”
“Thank you, Ma’am,” I reluctantly take the book, feeling shy to accept such a generous and thoughtful gift yet, at the same time, extremely overwhelmed with it. I’ve longed for a book to write on for quite sometime now.
I take her right hand and kiss it, saying, “Assalaamu’alaykum.”
“Wa’alaykumsalaam,” she replies and continues, “Be careful!”
I turn and walk away from her, towards the school gate. My eyes wonder towards the greeneries around, towards the steel gates, towards the watchful school guard who apparently has been observing my interaction with Ms. Rayhan closely from far. Feeling awkward, I look down at my new book instead, stroking my hand over its hard and lustered plastic cover all the way to sensing the embossed silver outlines of two leaves on its centre. “What an elegant book,” I thought.
Still walking, I flip through the clean pages of plain paper. Ideas begin to pop up. I want to write about how I could read and write; I want to tell stories about my kampung people; I must draw Pak Mamat’s ducks on one of the pages. Blown away by streams of inspiration, I don’t realise that tears of happiness have dropped on some of the white pages.
“Neng, are you done?” the school guard startled me from bewilderment.
Before I have the chance to answer him, a familiar voice calls me from far behind, “Humayra!”
I wipe off my tears and turn around to find Ms. Rayhan running breathless, trying to catch me. I stop and walk towards her.
Once I am within her reach, she says, “Here’s for you,” while taking my right hand and putting crumpled pieces of pine green cash into my palm. “Buy some sweets or cold beverage on your way home,” she advises.
I don’t know what to say. The book itself is already a great enough gift. And now, I get to treat myself some more.
“Thank you,” I smile, but this time I express a genuine prayer for her, “May Allah bless you, Ma’am.”
“Amiin. You too,” she responds. “Please send my salaam to Aba and Ummi, k?!”
“Insya Allah, Ma’am,” I kiss her hand again and she kisses my forehead.
“Take care, Dear.”
“Will do, Ma’am.”
For the second time, I turn around and walk away from her. The school guard smiles at me as he opens the gate for me.
“Mampir lagi, Neng,” he invites me to drop by again sometime.
“Insya Allah, Pak,” I give him reassurance as I step out.
The sun is no longer gleaming softly and the smell of the wet soil has disappeared. Mint cream dews evaporates, leaving shades of green absorbed in their surrounding fresh air. I sit on the pavement, wishing to pause for a while enjoying the moment and pondering on the fortune that has just come on my way. I’m overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness, “Love is in the air.” To me, this comforting love is like the overcasting canopies of trees; like Ms. Rayhan’s gracefully fluttering jellabiya; like the promising hope sprouting from the wonderful gift of a clean and empty book; and like the surprising treat of pocket money. I’m so touched. Alhamdulillah!
“Tung tung tung,” a cendol peddler captures my attention. So, I hail him over and order a glass of ice cendol drink to celebrate the moment.
The yummy, lime green cendol pieces has only reaffirmed the theme of my day — that is the miraculous power of loving green. I can’t wait to tell my mum and dad the whole story.