A Sorry Episode at the KLCC

Could he be armed? I thought. He was not big, but he had youth and was wiry, and he had an energetic stride.

A Sorry Episode at the KLCC

So many kinds of ethnic dresses are on display before the fountains there. Wearing them are black and white and brown people, each differentiated further by tones, shades, and features on face. Caps and capes and scarves and hoods and robes and chains and beards affirm old and new faiths and traditions in our world. As many babies arrive as the hobbling old and, of course, the place abounds with the beautiful young.

The sight, sound, and feel of water draw these people there. And the 88-storey Petronas Towers, which, standing by the waterbody, add the mountain's majesty to the scene. Everybody wants a selfie, even the self-effacing Buddhist monks in maroon robes who sport a selfie stick each.

I've been watching them nearly every day, smoothie in hand, bought at the Cold Storage store right behind, at the Suria KLCC.

At the fountains today, I accepted a box of chocolates from a teenage group that was handing them around with the sweetest of smiles — "For the Prophet's birthday." There was a message on the box: Send Mercy.

After almost an hour by the fountains, I walked over to the KLCC Park, to a high quiet spot with four benches and a pavilion with its own three-sided seating. I sat in the open. On the bench behind mine was sprawled a forty-something-old man. The pavilion hosted two young women. The cellphone had taken possession of all three.

I settled into that cosy world hemmed in by trees but open to the sky with the mandatory kite in it, sailing round and round without once flapping a wing. Only an occasional drawn-out mumble between the women broke the silence. A couple of times, the man behind me shuffled, and just once, Middle Eastern music set off from his handphone, to which he gave a few seconds of airtime. These few were the only jarring moments.

Some twenty minutes had passed, when a man in a yellow T-Shirt came down from the rise on the right. His eyes glanced off mine and fell on the man behind, to whom he held up his hand, palm flat forward. "Salaam," the man behind me said. "Sorry," the new entrant into our little cocoon said. "Sorry." Another ten steps, and he stopped and said, "Sorry." He was addressing the ladies this time. Then he carried on down the slope toward the pool with its playing fountains and the crowds.

We fell back into our quiet. I bent back my head to watch the sky, feeling pleasure from the squeeze in the back of my neck. I stayed in this blissful pose until I heard the now-familiar "Sorry" again. Our intruder had reappeared, and was saying sorry once to the gent, and twice to the ladies. This time he sat on the bench next to mine and, turning to me, said, "Sorry, uncle." I smiled, noting the distress on his face. And did a small wave. He turned away.

"Can I sit here?" he shouted out to no one in particular. "Is this reserved?" And then he said that word again: "Sorry!"

The ladies rose, patted and smoothed their dress. I heard the man behind get up as well. They gathered their things, and they started to leave. The lad turned his head, twisted his torso, watched them take the track toward the Mandarin Oriental, hurrying, but affecting a relaxed pace.

Now it was just the boy and me. He was really only a boy, Chinese and about twenty, and he wasn't interested in me. He, and I, we both looked through the openings between the trees to the water and the fountains. The fellow couldn't hold his gaze. He started to shift and scuff his feet, and he swivelled in the direction of the departed. And he looked at me. His eyes had gone tight, and a terrible desperation had taken over his face.

He was up and running after them, and, soon, in the distance, he could be heard wailing, "Sorry!" and, "Sorry!" — the mysterious apology fading with each utterance until I could hear him no more.

I wanted to leave too. There was a small cloud of tiny insects circling my head, a number of them detaching and coming after my cheeks. It was getting dark as well.

Halfway down, I sighted the boy, his arms swinging loose. Could he be armed? I thought. He was not big, but he had youth and was wiry, and he had an energetic stride. We passed each other in silence, but after a few steps, I heard him stop. "Sorry, uncle!" he cried. I waved and smiled. "Not at all, young man," I said. "Have a very nice evening."

I felt stupid saying that.