The government clinic is housed in an old building built pre-independence. It is located at the outskirts of town, away from the urban congestion. I didn't actually know that there is such a place. The missus and I are there to visit someone. It is a brief visit.
As we walk back to our car, I study the surroundings. Although the building is old, it seems to be well-maintained. The grass is neatly trimmed and a few flowering bougainvillea shrubs gave the large surrounding compound colour. A big old angsana tree grows just next to the entrance, providing much needed shade. The presence of a slight breeze complements the tranquility of the mid-afternoon moment.
We get into our car that is parked in a small paved area not far from the main gate. I mention to my wife, "The peaceful surroundings sure suit the clinic... but for the general public who don't have their own transport, it can be quite troublesome to get to this place. I don't think the public buses come round here. I doubt there are any taxis either... it is too out-of-the way."
My wife nods in agreement. But what startled me is a voice coming from the back seat of the car.
"Betul tu dik... dah lama akak tunggu teksi tapi tak sampai-sampai. Nasib baik la adik bagi tumpang kat akak."
I turn around to see a middle-aged Malay lady sitting at the back smiling at me. Good God! Who is this woman? And how did she get into my car?!
"Adik turunkan akak kat bandar ye..."
I take a big gulp but my throat is suddenly dry. I can only mutter a muffled, "Uh-huh" in reply. She is already in the car... so I can't ask her to step out, can I?
I start the engine and slowly drive out of the clinic compound. My wife sits quietly, looking straight out the front windscreen as if nothing is happening. I thought she is doing a good job of remaining calm by ignoring who (or what) is sitting at the back and focussing her mind directly on the road ahead. Good move, buat tak tahu aje.
Throughout the drive into town, it is eerily quiet inside the car. Nobody spoke. I occasionally steal some glances at my rear-view mirror. Firstly, to check if my unexpected passenger is still there and if she is, to have a more detailed look at her appearance.
Well... she is still there. She wears a simple baju kurung in a light-blue floral pattern. Her hair is wavy and shoulder-length with streaks of grey showing all over. She sits there calmly with both hands neatly on her lap as she looks out of the window at nothing in particular. The slight smile on her face gives the impression of contentment. I couldn't see if she carried a bag or anything else.
We reach a busy part of town and the silence in the car is broken by my passenger.
"Adik boleh berhenti kat sini. Akak nak turun sini."
"Oh.. okay," I reply.
"What okay?" my wife responds. "And why are we stopping here?"
"Err... our passenger wants to get off here," I answer while twisting my head slightly to indicate the back seat.
My wife looks at me quizzically and asks, "What passenger?"
Both of us turn to look at the back seat.... but there is nobody there.
I ask my wife, "You didn't notice an old woman riding with us in the car from the clinic? She wanted a lift into town."
My wife has a bewildered look on her face. She slowly shakes her head and reply, "No... "