Hamid Roslan

Artwork by Ifada Nisa


Afternoon. A living room. AHMAD is sitting down. There is a small coffee table that has been draped with a white lace tablecloth, and over that, another clear plastic tablecloth. On it are three cups of hot tea. He is drinking from the cup in the middle, blowing over the top before he does so.

AHMAD:  Who made this? It’s nice. Not sweet. (Pause.) Your aunty used to make the tea very sweet when I come over. She would say “put your own sugar” but I never lah. Put more sugar for what? Kencing manis?

(He smiles, but stops short. He drinks the tea again.)

I saw your aunty at my cousin’s wedding. At Simei. (Pause.) Hari Raya finish but everyone still wear their new baju kurung. I saw your mother eating with your aunty, but later when I try to find them again they disappear.

(He drinks the tea again. He smiles.)

You are so big already.


A kitchen. ROSEMAH is at the kitchen sink. She has her back to the audience, and looks to be washing the dishes—although you can clearly see that she is washing the same cup, over and over again.

ROSEMAH:  I told you we settle everything already. My husband, your uncle can do it. (Pause.) I check with the mosque. The ustaz say, ok, considering the circumstances, the story, ok. We allow. Your father no need to come.

(ROSEMAH forcefully puts down the cup in the sink.)

Engkau dah kenapa? You think he is a good man? The first day your mother introduce him to us, your arwah nenek and I already know lah. This one. No good. Wear expensive, talk like he so good because go polytechnic. Tapi hutang banyak. This kind of person never change.



A bedroom. MURNI is sitting on the edge of the bed. She is hunched over. Her body looks very small.

MURNI:  I don’t know where I got the energy . . . drawing on the wall, the kitchen floor kembang because all the water go in . . . all my things. Five-room flat. But I only one person, with you and your brother. (Pause.) You all still very young. Aku macam nak gila gosok tembok nak keluarkan conteng. I just know, I want to sell the house. (Firmly.) Aku nak jual rumah ini.

She help me scrub the wall until the crayon disappear, she help me pack his things inside all the box, she help me ask him go and take. Now she help you with this wedding. Dia dah banyak tolong kita tau.

You want to talk to him you go. Go. Go outside, go coffeeshop, go interchange you go sit down with him and minum kopi. Don’t bring him come here.



The kitchen.

ROSEMAH:  Six years. Then I don’t know what happen. Your mother say—I don’t know lah. She say your brother pick up the phone then pass to her. He don’t know who. She cry and cry with you still inside. (Pause.) When she in labour, my husband and I had to drive her to the hospital. But the divorce haven’t settle yet, paper haven’t sign, so he is still your father.

But he scream at her. He scream at her when she was having you. Your mother trying to bring you into this world and he wanted to make sure the first thing you heard—

(She stops herself. She has gone too far. She regains her composure.)

This is your wedding. You can pick who you want. I don’t know. You are old enough already.


The bedroom.

MURNI:  I don’t know why I want to marry your father. Your aunty, my mother, all don’t like him but I still want. Maybe he do black magic. I know. His family all orang Jawa, must be keep all these spirits.

When your father was around . . . I don’t know why lah . . . but I always very tired. Like my mind was somewhere else. Cannot focus. (Pause.) But I remember, I remember the day he jatuhkan tiga talak, when he divorce me. I suddenly felt . . . like suddenly. I free. My mind open like suddenly I can think for myself.

Last month I saw him. Now he come here. (Pause.) He come back for all of you.



The living room. The cup in the middle is empty. The other cups are untouched. The tea has turned cold.

AHMAD:  Maybe next time we can meet at the interchange. Kopi. My treat.

(He smiles. Silence.)

Your mother and I.


This is all a misunderstanding.


Kirim salam to your mother for me.

(He smiles. He leaves.)


translated from the Malay by Hamid Roslan