17 years old

I’ve stayed stagnant for years; lying or leaning against something due to the tiredness of doing nothing, but only moving my fingers against screens and buttons, and endlessly talking in my head. At some point of my life I wondered if I had turned into a robot. But robots don’t speak so loudly in their heads, right? What does that make me then? Surely I’m no human with this overwhelmingย stillness.

I watch crime shows, read mysteries, write my own, listen to Bon Iver, Radical Face, Birdy, Of Monsters and Men, Milky Chance and other indie folks just to feel the thrill. My body remains robotic, but I long for my heart to shiver in excitement and embrace the chills running down my spine. Iย don’t just want to feel, but be. I want to stand at the edge of somewhere life-threatening (for instance, a cliff) and stare head to head with nature as I brave myself to scream “I am alive.”

I want to feel my heart trembling.

It felt like someone was hammering a fat nail into the bottom of my skull, where it’s connected to the spine. My head became really heavy during lessons and I couldn’t keep my head up throughout the hour and a half lesson of Ust Sups. Believe me, I wasn’t sleepy. She asked me to pack my bag but I insisted to stay. How polite.

Of course, by the time I wanted to pack my bag my excruciating headache lessened toย tolerable, maybe even mild. Who cares? I’m still packing my bag anyway. Echa, Naad and I all packed our bags and had no intentions of writing our names down in the ‘leave early’ notebook at the General Office. We simplyย wanted to get out as soon as possible, and this school was so troublesome.

We three fled down the stairs to level two (Naad and I had to put our vests inside the discipline closet). It was fated for me to lead the way because I bumped into Tch Mah, Naad’s H1 Mathematics teacher. “Where are your friends?” she asked. I could hear the two behind me hurriedly hidingย by the wall. “Uh… upstairs I think,” I answered with an innocent face. She said “oh” and entered the lift. I walked toward the cupboard where I saw my form teacher from the corner of my eye.

Shit shit shit shit shit. Act normal. ACT NORMAL.

I was already standing in front of the closet, but my bag was so recognisable. Not being able to control my panic, I fled to Naad and Echa who were at the stairs, trying to control their panic too. It was Naad’s idea to put our bags at the staircase as we returned our vests to avoid interrogation sessions by nosy teachers. We did. It worked. We survived level two; the habitat of the teachers and staff.

(I also visited Hanan and Zuhrah at the infirmary. They were sleeping on the same bed. Took a picture of them. They looked like babies.)

Now it was time to go home.

Just as we went through the shortcut to the back gate (via the playground), Ust Sups, who was rounding the zuhur prayers, caught Echa walking. “Sape tu balek?” I froze. Echa continued walking without turning back. I followed her and forced myself to turn to Ust Sups. Yes, Zah. I’m the girl you told to go home earlier. The sick girl in your class who tried her best to pay attention but couldn’t. Yeah. Please don’t ask me anymore questions.

“Awak dah tulis nama?” she questioned. I could only nod without saying a word. She nodded too and turned. I turned, seeing Echa still making her way to the back gate. As soon as the both of us were exposed to the 1:30PM sun rays outside school, there was Naad waiting for us by the many vans waiting to pick primary kids up. “Korg cepat!!” she shrieked and ran.

Echa and I, without even looking at each other, ran for our lives. The three of us sprinted approximately 100 meters away from school while wasting our breath by laughing into the gush of the wind. Why were we even running? Was the security guard in our school going to chase us? Was Zah Sups going to come out of the back gate and scream at us and tell her older sister, the principal, about how three black-shoed students ran away from school? Were the vans going to come drifting from in front of us, surrounding us from running any further? Were we going to get caught for doing this? Were we going to get questioned by the teachers tomorrow and suspended? All these questions were popping up but we kept running and running, turning from corner to corner, with secretive giggles.

That moment… my heart finally trembled.

I remember the few days before turning 17 years old in March this year. It was the worst period of time I hadย ever experienced. It was emotionally torturing. I was doubting everything. I hated the feelings I hadย back then.

It’s been about seven months since I turned 17. My eldest sister’s fiance died. My grandma died. My aunt died. I screwed up my class performance. I got myself a therapy session with Cikgu about family problems. I fell in love. I broke hearts and eventually got my own heart to become a victim. Getting hurt by words became a daily obligation for my emotions. So much pain upon turning the sweet 17 everyone longsย for. So many times I wanted 17 to be written in my death certificate. But after the run with my two friends today, and the trembling of theย heart, I thought…

maybe beingย 17 isn’t as bad as I thought.


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