Syifa Nur Fadiyah/180410150059
To be able to read was a gift for me, something I could boast of. My parents always requested me to read everything that had words on it. It grew on me as a habit. But, that day, I assumed Papa grew tired of hearing me reading aloud. “Kak,” he called me while his eyes perched on the car windshield, “Can you please be quiet? You don’t have to read everything on the road.” I turned at him with wide eyes, startled. I was just trying to make him proud as usual. I kept staring at him, expecting him to mend what he had said but he was still, focused on the road. I felt agitated so I said nothing in return.
Soon our car stopped in a car wash. I got off and saw my murky reflection in the black door. The sun flared its heat that day so it was easy for the shadow of Papa emerged as he approached me and shaded me. I relaxed my furrowed brows and craned my head to look at Papa. I did not ask him why we must wash the car. He hated my voice and I was still offended, so I said nothing. His palms reached my hand which I used to scratch the dirt with and held it. We walked into the room with glass walls which apparently was the waiting room. As I stepped inside, I felt my skin was burned. I screened the room and noticed the buzzing AC. I loathed the sensation of changing temperatures gave. It excruciated you for few seconds.
“We had another four cars in line, Sir,” said a woman behind the counter after Papa handed his key to her. I could see her chapped lips behind that pink lipstick, too bright and too thick a swatch.
Papa nodded, giving his approbation, “No problem.” The woman smiled at Papa and smiled to me too. I watched her handed the key to a man and conversed for a moment. I could not hear it but I could read the sign behind the man.
What is staff?
No, I should not ask Papa. I restrained my mouth from uttering anything. He would know I read it.
“Would you like to have anything?” The woman asked Papa as she looked at the refrigerator beside the counter. There were bottles of various soft drinks, from tea to diet coke. I put my hands on its glass and quickly drew it. It was so cold.
“Yes, please.” Papa lowered his head to talk to me. “What would you like?”
I remembered watching a new bottled tea brand advertisement on TV and I realized the drink was there, inside the refrigerator. I named the brand and Papa ordered two of it.
“But I want it cold, Papa,” I blurted.
My mouth closed abruptly as I realized I should not have said that. I knew the answer. Oh, why did I say that? He wanted me to be silent.
“No. You’ll get cough.” I pouted at him.
The woman smiled at me again. “Two bottles, both non-chilled,” said my father again.
The woman said that the payment included with the car washing and paid later. She said we might have the seat and she would then serve our drinks.
We picked the long sofa so we could watch the TV that was hung from the ceiling. There were not many people inside the room. There were two men who were older and fatter than my father. The car wash was next to a supermarket so I bet the other people shopped while waiting for the car. I swore if I were old enough I would do that. I would do that instead being trapped here and forced to drink hot tea in a hot day.
The woman behind the counter finally walked her way to pick our drinks. She bowed a little as she reached for it in the stack of drink container. She pulled her hands out of it with two bottles in a palm.
If only I could have all these bottles in my home and stored them in a looking glass refrigerator. But that wouldn’t do. We needed bottle opener to drink that and we didn’t have bottle opener in our house.
The woman put the head of the bottle in the bottle opener that was attached to the refrigerator. I really wanted to rush to her and asked her if I could try to open the bottle. But I remained seated. I would be nervous.
She picked up the lid from the hole in the opener and dumped it on a bin right underneath it and walked to us. Papa didn’t take a glimpse at his drinks being served as he watched the TV but I did. I smiled at the woman and she smiled back at me. She was very nice.
The drinks looked so dull without the water droplets that glided down the curvy bottle, plain as it could be.
I sank myself to the sofa. It was just so soft that it drowned me down to drowsiness. It was not even half an hour we waited but Papa’s head was held back in the edge of the sofa. His eyes were closed and there was a subtle sound of snoring. I looked at him in horror. Luckily, people around us did not seem to notice.
I gazed at the whole room and decided there was nothing interesting at all. Everything bewitched the atmosphere to be idle and tiring. The only thing that kept me alive was the television even though nobody was paying attention. What I meant with television was the commercial break. I found it more engaging than the main show. With my back completely laid to the sofa and my arms were folded to one and another, I put my eyes on the TV.
It was the bottled soft drink advertisement again. The advertisement was just a common drink commercial video. A group of people was in outdoor activities in the middle of sunny day. They exaggeratingly sweated and wiped their forehead with the back of their hand. Out of nowhere, a box full of ice appeared near them and as they dug into it, the advertised drinks surfaced. The thirsty people then gulped the drinks. I wondered how they managed to sound the gulping that loud without being choked. Those people were amazing. They released the ‘ah’ sound and laughed to each other, something I would call as the drinking aftermath.
Unlike the usual, there was an extended time of the commercial duration. In a yellow background, the bottle cap was flung away and there were some letters, very small indeed, in the back of it. The voice in the video said that if we were lucky enough, we would find the cap with a prize to be traded. The chances to get the reward would be many if we bought as many bottles as we possibly could. It was written on the screen so did I read.
A prize, I had always wanted a prize. I never had that. Papa always bought whatever I had asked for my birthday so there was no surprise on it. I did not remember what the prizes offered but as long as it was a prize, who would deny it? I could imagine what it would feel like to get a prize. I would brag it to Papa. A prize, whatever it might be, I did not ask his money for it. He would be beyond proud.
Sometimes, I would thank my brain for holding memories for as long as I could remember it, and it was actually a long period. I recalled how the cashier woman picked up our drinks from the container and opened it with a bottle opener. Yes, it was right what was underneath it. Right underneath it was my destiny! I would be finding my prize right inside the bin! This might sound so ironical but I would do anything for prize. Therefore, I would be the most laudable little girl who could read.
I was so determined. I wanted a prize and I knew where to get that. A grin without anyone noticed craved on my face, almost a smirk. My spirit rose as if I was about to conquer the world and I knew it would be fun. In hasty I grabbed the bottled that had stood still ere time. Even though I was not that sweating and the bottle was as plain as it could be, without any droplets on the glass, I drank it as much as I could, not to forget to do the aftermath too. I made it loud. I was just so ready to pick up my destiny.
Nobody looked up as I walked my way to the refrigerator to reach the bin. Nobody, not even the woman who laid her arms on the counter did. But that would not bother me. I felt a little gush of wind blew on my face. I could feel that the nature stood by my will. I hopped as I walked, feeling the joy I was about to achieve. And there I was squatting on the wheel of fortune, or, it was even better, the bin of fortune.
Without any hesitation, I plunged the bin that was layered by trash plastic. My finger tip could sense the jagged of the bottle lid. I stirred them and hoped my luck would bring my hand to find the blessed one. I could not see the content because of the swinging cap of the bin and so my fortune played the role. I pulled my hand out and got the bottle lid. Unfortunately it was not the brand that offered the prize. I put it in the hollow my dress made. I knew if I drowned it back to the bin it would decrease my chance.
I kept stirring and pulling out but none of the lid has any letter on the back. The lids on my dress were almost six or seven, I did not know. I had lost my counting. But I knew I would not give up just yet. That woman had opened many bottles this day, I was sure of it. One of them must have prize on it. I could felt my hands a little wet from the bin but it did not stink. Some tissues paper was also in it. But they were all dry, though were folded. Were those were used, was not a big deal as long as they were not smelly.
As my intensity in digging and the number of bottle lid increased, the late whispering somehow became a chattering sound and soft sound of newspaper page turning became fast crackling noise. My spirit was in flame. With my hands still dipped inside, I looked around me. The people were looking at me and the old man had his eyes above the newspaper so he could see me. I turned my head to the left and the woman also stared at me still with her smile, but slightly different. Her eyes widened and the smile was only a few inches stretched, more likely a forced smile. Her brows furrowed. I smiled back at her. She was so nice.
I tried to focus myself and had all my nerve system to be on the tip of my finger so I could feel which one was the prized bottle lid. I dug and dug and still with the woman’s unusual smile my dress was full with the unfortunate bottle lid. She knew what I was up to. The more I saw disgust on her face, the more I knew I was going to win the prize.
Then as I searched a shadow came cover my body and my view fast. The bright day had turned cloudy just in sudden. There came the thunder, Papa. Everything was gray. “What on earth are you doing, kid?” His voice full of shocked, anger, and I could tell he was mortified. “My goodness what is your hand doing there? Get up now!” I did not move, in fact I froze.
Papa wanted me to get up? Why? There was nothing wrong with this. This was just a bin. It did not stink either. “God’s sake! Get up now!” He picked me up and I felt the lid of the bin scratched my arm. The bottle lids fell and clashing each other in the floor.
I did not say anything. “What were you doing there? I slept for five minutes and I had to wake up to see you groped inside that dirty container?” He yelled in a low volume as he rushed me to the toilet. I said nothing. “People were sneered at you. You embarrassed me. What was it for?” He soaped my hands then my arms.
I hesitated for a moment before I answered, “I was looking for prize behind the bottle lid.” I didn’t look at him. “What? What were you thinking? There is no such thing.”
“There is. I read it on the TV.”
“My God, there is no such thing.” He sighed. Papa surmised lottery as nothing more than superstitious. Why did I even think to give it to him? Ah, I didn’t get it anyway.
“You should not believe everything you watched on TV. They made it up sometimes.” I nodded slowly.
We walked back to the waiting room and the woman stood beside the bin and the bottle lids that scattered before I left were not there anymore. She cleaned it up. I was in resentment so I exhaled my breath loudly so Papa knew it. He just glanced at me without saying anything.
“Do you what you look for?” asked the woman. I knew she knew! I did not answer her. I hated her smile now. She looked sly. “I am so sorry. She was looking for prizes behind the lids. Kids. I’m sorry.” Why did he apologize for I did not do anything wrong. “Oh, I know.” Ha!
We sat back in the sofa and Papa whispered to me, “Now sit still!”
We waited for some more couples of boring minutes before our car was finally washed. We got up and paid the cost for the service and the drinks. Papa and I walked hand in hand to leave the room. Just as I about to walk out the door, the woman called me. “Hey!” She whispered from afar. I turned around but kept walking. She had a bottle lid and there was something behind it. I could not see it but there were letters on it! That was the lid! I was going to let Papa’s hand go but she winked at me and put the bottle lid to her pocket.
I leered at her as distance tore us apart. Bin of fortune may you know where to stand.
Word Count: 2.499