I don't remember much of what happened in the rest of 1988. It was such a blur now, maybe because I chose to just delete some of the bad memories I had. In the few months that followed the disappearance of my late brother, we had to answer to the same questions over and over again, 'Dah jumpa Zul?', 'Mana peginya Zul?', 'Apa salahnya sampai dia lari?', 'Dia merajuk ke?', 'Dia frust bercinta ke?','Zul takde talipon?'. For me it was so frustrating because we couldn't answer any of those. The standard reply given by my parents was, 'Entohlah, dengor ceritanya dah nyeberang laut. Kome doakan dia selamat ajelah.'
It took sometime for my family to investigate the real reason why he disappeared. The nearest answer we got was he was probably in trouble due to one of his hobbies - which involved spending a lot of money. A few weeks after we realized he had gone missing a few people came forward to inform my father that my eldest brother owed them some money. So, my father went to ask further to find out how many people and how much money he owed. The total debt was actually not that much - well let's just say it was not something that we couldn't afford to pay and my father did pay-off all of them. For me, it still didn't make sense for him to leave everything and everyone he loved and disappear just because of some debt issue.
We couldn't investigate and probe further as there were no sufficient evidence. Although my late brother was a warm and friendly person, he's also good at keeping his private things from people. At the time of his disappearance we had no idea how much money he had or whether he had them stashed away in some bank accounts unknown to us.
Sometimes, after dinner we would sit down in my mom's room to chit chat and we'd always discuss about him. We kept on guessing where he's gone. Once I told my father that I thought he might have flown or sailed to The US. If I were him, with all that talent, skills and brain, I would have gone to a place far away; a developed country that offered mountains of opportunities. My father didn't really agree.
As for my mom, she was still hoping that my brother hadn't gone that far away. My mom visited me in JB quite often; she took the night train and arrived at my hostel at around 6a.m and then went back late in the afternoon to catch the night train to East Coast. She also went to Singapore during one of the visits. Years later she admitted that everytime she was roaming in JB she hoped to bump into my eldest brother. Well that explained why she always left my hostel at 5pm when her train only arrived at 9pm.
So, 1988 had been a dark year and it was not something we want to relive. The following year my second brother decided to get married and the family was happy again, not the same, but I consider those were quite happy moments. To have additional family member, and later a baby boy joined us in 1990, followed by another sister in law when my third brother got married on the same year. We still discussed about my eldest brother from time to time but we have stopped guessing or cracking our heads to come up with theories on why he left.
Then, not long after my first nephew was born, my eldest brother called home. He was in Labuan. Not The US, but Labuan. So, Tokki Jelani was right, he did cross the ocean. I can't really remember what made him changed his mind and contact us but I think one of our relatives who was then staying in Labuan bumped into him. Maybe she managed to influence him a bit. I was not at home when he called. My mom told me about it during one of her visits. Although he called home to tell us that he was alive and well, we still didn't know the real reason why he left. We lost contact soon after because he decided to disappear again. We didn't have his number or his address and his IC was still using our kampung address. So, we couldn't trace him back then, not in the year 1990.
..... to be continued....