“Wouldn’t a trip here give them inspiration to work hard and earn enough spending money in the future? It can provide motivation to make their dreams come true,” I try to counter his words.
“Dreams? Bah! Dreams seldom come true. See that couple there?” He points to a couple whose backs are facing us. The woman had tilted her head to rest on the shoulder of her husband, while the guy had his hand encircling the waist of his wife. They are strolling towards the escalator that will bring them up to the first floor.
“They are probably here to live their dream. This is their dreamland. They are here dreaming about all the things they can’t have and the life that they can’t afford. He will go to the computer shop upstairs, caressing the sleek edges of the MacBook Air notebook he knows he can’t have. He will type a few sentences on the keyboard and wish he can do it forever. His wife will probably go to VINCCI, trying on a pair of Manolo high heels she saw on Sex and the City. She will feel that she is on the catwalk, sashaying about like a model. Then they will stand in front of a 42 inch plasma TV, marveling at the high definition images, trying to transpose it into their living room. Then the spell will be broken.”
His face is a little red now, as if all the blood had left his body to congregate there. I could detect wheezing undertones beneath his labored breathing. Probably early stage of emphysema due to chronic smoking, I diagnose. Pink puffers, they are called. He pauses momentarily to catch his breath.
“They will realise their living room is too small, and their car is also too small to put the TV into. Then they will be reminded that they haven’t finished paying their home as well as car loans. The ticket to realising their dreams rests solely on the shoulders of their son. They are now investing their money on him, sending him to tuitions, with the hope that he will find a good job and command a high salaried job one day. He is probably in one now. To kill time while waiting to pick him up, they are here to escape the harsh reality of their life. But looking at those things they can’t have…” he shakes his head sadly.
“Can’t even guarantee the son will give them the money.” he mutters.
The couple has disappeared from view. The old man’s words bring images of hamsters I used to have, running hard in the round exercise wheel but ended up getting nowhere, into my thoughts. A wave of pity washes through me. How long will they stay trapped in the rat race? But at least they have each other. That will alleviate the pain.
I follow his eyes which have wandered back to the four teenagers, who are ambling out from the ESPRIT store. They are walking towards the direction of the food court. It may be a fraction of my imagination, but they are more subdued compared to the time before they ventured in. The gaiety has been diluted from their face. Maybe, like the old man had said, they suddenly realise that they don’t belong.
“Poor kids, this venture into a rich men’s mansion will scar them for live. When they reach the food bazaar, they will be pawing into the deep reaches of their pockets, hoping to discover another crumpled ringgit inside to add to those few blue notes in their hands. They will travel from stall to stall, looking for food they can afford. Probably ended up sharing a plate of Nasi Lemak bought with a price where they can get two plates each at the village warung.”
The old man’s eyes dart around the mall again, like the searchlight from a light house, searching for a new target to harp on. Like a bald-head eagle finding his prey, he swoops down lithely on a young couple emerging from a corner of the mall. They are probably only around seventeen. They look sweet together, holding hands and sharing a single scoop ice-cream.