Raise It Up

There is a story here, somewhere, there always is.

I have been living through terminal transfers and airport arrivals — Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Singapore, Kota Kinabalu, Subang — and I don’t stay long enough before I have to depart again. I check into hotels and check out again. The names and the destinations start to blur. Hotel rooms and deluxe suites and a smattering of stars. They all have swimming pools and air-conditioned gyms. Housekeeping means fresh towels any time you want it, and tiny bottles of soap and shampoo mysteriously materialising everyday, like magic mushrooms.

I have meetings, meetings and more meetings. I can’t remember if I’m pitching to clients or if I am the client myself. I give talks, I stand up all day talking and talking. My feet are weary, no shoes are made to keep me comfortable for these many, many hours. They always run out of water; they always underestimate how much I can drink, how thirsty I can be. They don’t satisfy me much.

And in the evenings, I always return to an empty hotel room, a clean king-size bed, fresh sheets and puffed-up pillows. It looks perfect and is perfectly depressing, you know, to go to sleep alone. There can be no view outside these windows, no beaches or sloping hills or endless sea, that can compare with the sight of you lying in bed beside me.


The story, and I am sure there is one, is about to start, I believe.

One fine day, he decides he is terribly weary. One hotel room too many. One nondescript meal from restaurants that all look the same. The meetings and the clients, they can wait. They can survive without him, they’ll have to. He packs his suitcase swiftly (this comes easy with practice) and grabs his jacket. He wheels his suitcase out of the room, into the elevator and down to the lobby. He checks out with a smile, has the bellhop get him a cab. He tells the taxi driver to head to the airport. Which terminal? The nearest, please.

There is a short but almost interminable wait at the ticketing counter. His number gets called eventually by the LED signboard above. He pays for the earliest ticket he can manage, waits on standby for an earlier flight still. Fully booked, none of the passengers fail to turn up and they fly off without him. Fuck.

Finally he gets on his plane, puts his laptop bag away in the overhead compartment and settles into his seat. There is a nice lady next to him who tells him the time. Only two and half hours more, dearie. Okay, right. Thanks. Two and half hours later, the plane lands and he begins to breathe again.


There is a lesson in this story; I trust it is simply “Do Not Do What He Did.” Your mothers warned you against guys like me, they did.

At the airport, his suitcase is the last to come through on the conveyor belt. Well, that is not true. It is the third last, but that is almost the same as the last, isn’t it? The girl at the taxi counter tells him there is a thirty-minute wait — ohshitfuckityfuckdamnit — but tells him he can take the express train into the city and grab a cab at the central station instead. It’ll probably get you to your destination a lot faster, sir. Thank you. Thank you. Who said customer service was dead? Bless you. Bless you, my dear.

He sits in the train and looks out the window at the world passing by. He sees only one thing and it is not the scenery. Less than thirty minutes later, he is at the station and gets a cab, the first available one, apparently, for the past two hours given the rain and flash floods in the city. The world has been crashing down while he was gone. But now, now things are alright. There is something quite beautiful about a city freshly scrubbed and smelling clean and pure after a storm. It smells of hope.


Raise it up. Raise our game, work it harder. Get the results we want. Raise it up. Raise our standards. We should be living better, fuller lives than this. Raise the lanterns, the beautiful, bloody red lanterns. We should make love like we were new lovers, like we have been doing this together since forever. This is the start of forever, don’t you know?

Raise the curtains and see the world outside, the real world we are living in. Raise the veil and we can stop hiding. This is who we are, this is the sound not of silence, but some sort of wonderful contentment. We are at peace with ourselves. We raise it up.

And I tell the taxi driver to stop outside the guardhouse. I can walk in myself. He’s a nice Chinese uncle, been driving for 40 years, he tells me. Never seen a storm like this, floodwater rushing in faster than you can blink, he had to seek refuge in a nearby kopitiam and just have an early dinner. Taxi drivers don’t often get early dinners, it seems. He took me home through a shortcut, through Brickfields. The smell of jasmine in the air and the giant, bold Bollywood-like billboards and all the bright, bright lights. I felt as though I was in the cinema as a kid again, as though I’m in a movie myself. The crescendo, the climax: Coming soon to a theatre near you.

But now it’s just me. I wheel the suitcase past the guards and to my block. I take the elevator up to my floor. I stand outside my door and I hit the speed-dial on my cell.

“Hi dear, I just got back.”

“Good lor. Was it far from dinner to the hotel?”

“Uhm, no, not that far.”

“Better get showered, ok? You must be tired.”

“You have no idea. Wait, someone’s ringing the doorbell. I’ll call you back.”

I put my phone back into my jacket pocket and hit our doorbell. It rings twice before I hear you shuffling to the door. I imagine the bafflement in your face, then your astonishment when you peek through the peephole. You open the door with a flourish, and I greet you with a smile and softly



Copyright © 2010 Kenny Mah Ying Fye.

54 Responses

  1. Kenny Mah March 14, 2010 / 3:16 pm

    @thenomadGourmand: Thank you, dear. Needed that.

    *hugs back*

  2. Michelle March 14, 2010 / 4:28 pm

    Somehow, after reading this, I feel tired. I feel haggled and all shook up. (Which might be how you’re feeling, but this comment’s for me. Hehe..)

    We need the share a hug, the both of us. We do.


  3. Kenny Mah March 14, 2010 / 4:29 pm

    @Michelle: *shares hug. hugs tighter still*

  4. Snow White March 14, 2010 / 4:29 pm

    Raise what up?

    *winks cheekily*

    The surprise?

    *wide grin*

  5. Kenny Mah March 14, 2010 / 4:30 pm

    @Snow White: 1. Raise up anything you might think need raising, ahem.

    *winks back cheekily*

    2. I would like to have imagine the surprise was simply me turning up on the doorstep when I was supposed to be 1,000 miles away on the island of Borneo. But then again, maybe not. Blek.

  6. Casey March 14, 2010 / 5:07 pm

    Just like the crazy storm that causes flash floods and havoc to the traffic, sometimes these crazy travel schedules pushed the boundaries within us, they really do. And when it’s finally over, a priceless sense of relieve; and we’re ready to go again.

    Just like the weather.

  7. Kenny Mah March 14, 2010 / 5:08 pm

    @Casey: Just like the weather, we never know where life takes us, do we? It’s an adventure one way or the other. A big, magnificent adventure!

  8. Kenneth March 14, 2010 / 5:40 pm


    Reading this entry, all I wanna share with you is this: welcome home to the arms of your Devil! ;) I’m sure the trip was worth it.

    so lurve la your entry. i like. ;)


    we need more writers like you. never, ever stop writing.

  9. Kenny Mah March 14, 2010 / 5:41 pm

    @Kenneth: Haha, I’m not sure if the trip was worth it but it sure cost a pretty penny. I sorta got scolded for doing such an impulsive thing — last minute plane tickets aren’t cheap apparently. Yikes.

    But kidding aside? It was so worth it.

  10. Sean March 14, 2010 / 6:05 pm

    this piece might make u feel a weeeeee bit better about all that traveling: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2010/mar/14/why-travel-makes-you-smarter
    i have to confess that i loathe traveling, whether it be for work or pleasure. or more precisely, i like being in unfamiliar territory, but i loathe the packing (argh! the packing!), the cab rides, the trying not to miss flights, the waiting for flights, the tedious hours in a plane. maybe that’s why teleportation is my no. 4 most desirable superpower (behind invisibility, telepathy and ironically, flight) =)

  11. Kenny Mah March 14, 2010 / 6:06 pm

    @Sean: I love this ‘nugget’ of a quote (pun quite intended):

    “Travel, in other words, is a basic human desire. We’re a migratory species, even if our migrations are powered by jet fuel and Chicken McNuggets.”

    And packing, my friend, packing’s the easy bit. I can come home, unpack, repack and be out in ten minutes flat. And the thought of this newly found skill? Scary…

    P.S. Teleportation would be very high indeed in my list of mutant superpowers. #1 is the ability to generate tons of cash at will. Ahem.

  12. Paul March 14, 2010 / 9:27 pm

    You see the romantic in everything :)

    Envious, I am!

  13. Kenny Mah March 14, 2010 / 9:28 pm

    @Paul: Ah, it’s more like the everything that surrounds us is romantic to me… *winks*

  14. jemima March 15, 2010 / 9:47 am

    When I read your 2nd line.. for a moment I thought that you’re doing Clooney’s “Up in the Air”. :P

    Here’s a huge hug for you. ;)


  15. Kenny Mah March 15, 2010 / 9:48 am

    @jemima: Haha, I don’t feel that different from Clooney in “Up in the Air” — just less money, sex and alcohol. *chuckles*

    And, dear? HUGE hugs back!

  16. cumidanciki March 15, 2010 / 11:00 am

    thought you were going to say raise up the RED lantern :P

    yea, i totally get what u mean.. transitioning from airport terminal to airport terminal is no joke. Takes a lot out of you. Even though u don’t notice it, more time has gone by.

    oh, but for the pleasure of hearing shuffling footsteps! for me it’s more like a groan, snort.. and Oh, you’re back ah? HUGE HUG! hehe :P

    laidat.. nice hor?

  17. Kenny Mah March 15, 2010 / 11:01 am

    @cumidanciki: Hehe, I did mention raising the red lantern too… It’s a nice symbol for everything I enjoy, oh the pleasures of the flesh and the fabulous… Ahem.

    But yeah, most days when I drag my half-dead carcass from the cab and up the elevator back to my apartment, it does sound more caveman-like. Snort, urgh, ook, ook, burp.

    *grabs cavewoman ciki and bearhugs*

  18. asstha March 15, 2010 / 2:55 pm

    awwww… cho chweet… diabetic-inducing-kind but dat’s wat ur posts do to me no? but really thankew so much Kenny for writing this post…

    If a person like you who is running around and flying everywhere make a snap decision to juz drop in 2 surprise ur loved one make brings me much hope… so nice… so sweet… and giving me ideas… :P

    • asstha March 28, 2010 / 2:40 pm

      errr… dunno actually… must’ve been dem Monday brain x functioning… :P

      • Kenny Mah March 28, 2010 / 2:45 pm

        Hahaha… There might just be no typo at all! That’s funny, really. Yay for Monday Malfunctionings… :P

  19. Kenny Mah March 15, 2010 / 2:56 pm

    @asstha: Gosh, I hope I didn’t start a buy-plane-ticket-rush-minute-and-fly-impulsively trend. But then again, it might just help the travel industry…

  20. asstha March 15, 2010 / 2:57 pm

    alamaks… got typo… sorry… it is a Monday after all.. :oops: :P

  21. babe_kl March 15, 2010 / 5:49 pm

    mmmm the surprise at the end can take away all the weariness in an instant ;-)

  22. Kenny Mah March 15, 2010 / 5:50 pm

    @babe_kl: Oh it so did. *beams*

  23. fufu March 16, 2010 / 5:06 am

    damn you write fucking good!!!! ops yeah i mean really nice!!! i enjoy reading =p

    yay, i strongly agree that we should be living better… ><

    what happened actually after the surprise? lol

  24. Kenny Mah March 16, 2010 / 5:07 am

    @fufu: What happened after the surprise? Haha, well… That might just be another story by itself… Ahem.

  25. lingzie March 16, 2010 / 11:19 am

    awwwwwwwww…. kenny seriously i think you and i are hopeless romantics. i think i would’ve done the very same thing in your shoes :P (expensive last minute plane tickets aside)

  26. Kenny Mah March 16, 2010 / 11:20 am

    @lingzie: Hugs to hopeless romantics everywhere! Hooray!

  27. gina March 16, 2010 / 12:35 pm

    Drink yomeishu lah.. and maybe, you need another holiday. Heh!

    • Kenny Mah March 16, 2010 / 1:05 pm

      Forget about the Yomeishu, just gimme another holiday! Hehe.

  28. tigerfish March 16, 2010 / 3:26 pm

    You can say that again “…I don’t stay long enough before I have to depart again”
    I have been living this till now…exhausted.

    • Kenny Mah March 16, 2010 / 4:29 pm

      It is exhausting, isn’t it? I am seriously considering taking a leave of absence and instead of taking a vacation, just disappear for a couple of months…

  29. Jun March 16, 2010 / 7:34 pm

    this is one of ur best stories ever! (or at least, one of my favs). it captures the mood and the city so well. more please! *raises glass of shiraz*

    • Kenny Mah March 16, 2010 / 9:01 pm

      Thanks, dear! *raises glass of shiraz back*

      P.S. No one can make me wanna revisit Oz as much as you do, you know that? Talk about evocative stories of cities… ;)

  30. Selba March 16, 2010 / 10:36 pm

    Is this a hug time? *hug.. hug.. hug…*

    • Kenny Mah March 17, 2010 / 9:50 am

      *hug hug hug HUGSS!*

      Yeah… totally a hug time. :D

  31. zewt March 16, 2010 / 10:53 pm

    some ppl dying to travel… some die travelling…

    i supposed you’ve caught a glimpse of both?

    • Kenny Mah March 17, 2010 / 9:51 am

      I am just dying, mostly. LOL

      But yeah, it’s amazing how different work travel is from leisure travel. Still, it makes coming home to my loved ones all the more special and meaningful. :)

  32. ToyGirl March 17, 2010 / 1:50 pm

    do you get that relieved feeling everytime you arrive at at our tanahair? like finally, I’m home.

    Nothing beats coming home. Especially when there’s someone special on the other side of the door waiting for you.

    • Kenny Mah March 17, 2010 / 2:39 pm

      Yeah, relief is a good way of describing it. It’s kinda like “Finally! Thank Goodness! I. Am. Home!”

      Plus, having someone special on the other side does help plenty. Hehe.

  33. Nic (KHKL) March 18, 2010 / 12:29 am

    This is not Up In The Air lah. You obviously had a better ending than Clooney when he tried to surprise Vera Farmiga. Good to know! :)

    I read that the buds are expected to bloom early next month. It’s a reward for all your hardwork in the past few months, dude. :)

    • Kenny Mah March 18, 2010 / 7:13 am

      Oh ya hor… I totally forgot Clooney’s character tried surprising Vera’s in the film. Yeah, I guess my version turned out much, much better, haha.

      And yay for the bloomin’ buds! Just a couple of weeks more… We can hardly wait! :D

  34. keropokman March 25, 2010 / 1:16 pm

    * i am wondering *

    how much frequent flyer miles does this guy have?
    how much hotel points has collected?


    • Kenny Mah March 25, 2010 / 1:36 pm

      Who do you mean, George Clooney or me? :P

        • Kenny Mah March 25, 2010 / 5:24 pm

          Hehe… none? Guess why. :P

        • keropokman March 26, 2010 / 1:11 pm

          u used up all of it?

        • Kenny Mah March 26, 2010 / 1:18 pm

          Not quite. I never had any. Company book tickets ma… :P

        • keropokman March 26, 2010 / 5:17 pm

          U know company book one, u can still show your frequent flyer card! and hotel card! imagine the miles that you have lost!!!

          it would be a few free flights round the world! (with the amount of travel u do!)

        • Kenny Mah March 26, 2010 / 5:22 pm

          Haha, that’s great to know! Time to store some frequent flyer miles… ;)

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