Deus Ex Machina

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

A realistic romance story with a twist

Deus Ex Machina


“You’re not from around here, are you?”

Saidah turned her head from the window. Next to her was an elderly lady wearing a loose pink blouse with a straw hat. She had dark heart-shaped glasses and carried with her a small black pouch. She was a woman of large size, a testament to the stereotypical idea of all Americans being obese. Saidah offered a polite smile and shook her head.

“Hi, my name is Patty. Or as the kids call me, Auntie Fatty. Or Patty Buns. I really can’t remember for the life of me.”

“Kids can be so mean. It’s nice to meet you Patty. My name is Saidah.”

“Saidah! Ooo so orientalist. Are you from Bali or one of those countries in Asia? Your skin colour, pardon my manners I mean no disrespect...”

Saidah raised a hand and offered another smile. Patty relaxed as she squirmed her way into her seat.

“Yes. I was born in Malaysia but I have been living in Boston ever since I got my green card. My parents move here a couple of years ago and I followed them. Doing the whole American Dream thing.”

“Ahh, haven’t heard of that term since Nixon. It’s nice to meet you, Saidah. Looking forward to meeting somebody special?” Patty replied, nudging her finger in the direction of Saidah’s hand where a faded photograph was being grasped tightly.

“Kinda. I’m still deciding.”

“Well, there’s no rush. Anyways my dear, forgive me but I need to get some rest. These damn flights take so long to start and hopefully by the time I get my forty winks, they would be serving breakfast!”

Patty removed an inflatable seat cushion and placed it around her neck. She went to sleep almost instantly, no doubt an ability forged due to her large size. As Saidah surveyed the passengers boarding the plane, her eyes turned to the tarmac and the crimson horizon as the sun rose from far away.


“What do you want? Tell me what you want! I’m not going anywhere!!!” Faizal cried.

Saidah jolted awake from her slumber. She noticed the passengers were still entering the plane. The memory of the incident was fresh on her mind as she realized she must have dozed off for a quick nap. She turned the gaze towards the photograph. It was laminated though the plastic was showing signs of wear and tear. A crash along the aisle diverted her attention to the passengers. She spotted a Briton family two seats in front of her where the siblings were involve in a loud squabble. There were two men of Middle Eastern descent where one was berating incessantly to the other about how United Airlines never left on time. Along her seats sat a young Caucasian teen who was sketching furiously in a book oblivious to anything that was happening around him. Kind of like her, she thought. Patty had started snoring with her straw hat tilted to the side, exposing half her head. Letting out a sigh, Saidah closed her eyes to get some rest. She forced her mind to fixate on specific memories, her favourite being one that was now being played in her head. It was a lecture at the Boston University by a professor in psychology, Dr Walt Tennorman. She focused hard remembering a specific part of his lecture that till this day, she still held dear.

“While we are indeed masters or rather slaves to routine, it is quite well known that a man serves his life trying to replicate or reproduce the most pleasing moments in his life. It is here that I wish to turn your attention to the idea of The First. Now first isn’t merely a position in life which defines success or what we want to achieve with the exception on what happens in bed. (This remark drew sniggers from the audience) The First is what we essentially define our lives as. The First is, in the simplest of definitions, a memory that we create from making a choice that affects our lives in a completely new manner. Take for instance the first time you drove a car? Or the first time you got an A for an examination? Or, and let us get to the good stuff now, the first kiss you ever had that wasn’t platonic in any way. The first time you do or think or create or get involved in something is a very important moment in your life. It brings out the beauty of the unknown, entering a new realm in which you took part in. Furthermore, the First may not just be of a positive nature. What about the first time you failed? Or the first time you were scolded? Or the first mistake you ever made? Nevertheless, what is crucial to understand is that The First is very foundation on a path that is you.”

Saidah remembered those words fondly to this day. She had never really given it much thought but the first time one does something does indeed play a very crucial role in defining oneself. She looked onto the photograph. It all came down to that. Saidah tucked her head deeper into the crevice between her seat and the plane window as she closed her eyes, trying to recall specific memories again.


Saidah remembered the first time she had her first kiss. She was still in Malaysia at that time and it was in her secondary school class where she met Malik. Malik was a cute but chubby Malay student who was often the butt of all jokes. Malik was often picked on by his classmates but she had a soft spot for him as he always brought her homework whenever she was sick. Malik became her best friend and soon, from an unknown source of courage he had in him, Malik had asked her to be his girlfriend. While she never really considered Malik as her boyfriend, she did recall on his birthday that he asked her for a kiss as a present. Never being kissed before, Saidah rose to the occasion and smacked her small lips onto his. She could still remember the salty taste of his tongue as he tried to bore himself into her. Yet Saidah was too focused on the actual kissing and how to do it right rather than the emotion that normally came with it. Malik and she would eventually part ways but she would always recall that kiss. A moment that gave her confidence to kiss the others that came next.

Saidah remembered her first date. She was fifteen then and she was with a guy named John. John was unique, given his Caucasian heritage and quite the good looking specimen. She recalled her glee when John confessed his feelings for her. He took her to the beach where she would see the blue waves of the South China Sea crashing against the sand. It was a picnic and John had brought food he had packed from the canteen. There was kissing involved as well and John even made her a card which she realized after was the work of another student that John had apparently bullied in order to make him look good to Saidah. This completely shattered her illusion of John and she moved on from there.

Saidah remembered her first gift. She was sixteen then and she had already amassed quite a number of dates and exes if one could call them that. Yet none of them had ever given her anything of significant value. Saidah’s family was staying in a small apartment in Kuala Lumpur and the person had left the flower on her doorstep. According to his card, he said he noticed her crying after her last paper and wanted to cheer her up. After finding out that blue lilies were her favourite, a single stalk in a glass vase had mysteriously appeared in front of her door. On it was a card where he wrote down his sentiments and yet the mysterious individual has never revealed his identity even till today. Nevertheless, she kept the fond memory in the deepest recesses of her mind.

Saidah remembered her first heavy make out session. She was seventeen and at the age where girls tend to go wild on several nights. She went out partying almost every single day and liquor was a common a drink as water. She met Javier, a senior in her school, at a bar and quite frankly, their relationship was animalistic to say the least. He would rain kisses down her neck as she groped the tight abs that made many girls swoon. Often they would emerge either from a washroom stall or a janitor’s closet sweaty and trembling with excitement. While she and Javier would indeed have such steamy moments, she never gave it up until she met him.

The first time she had sex. His name was Faizal. She met Faizal just before graduating to pursue a degree in psychology in the US. Indeed, it was quite cliché where they met. A bookstore, an uncommon sight in a Malaysian mall that had tucked in its trove classics written by Hemingway, Poe and Virginia Woolf. Saidah was in an intellectual phase, as she put it, back then and reading paperback novels by some of the worlds most accomplished writers had been a strong interest of hers. Faizal was a year older and he too was interested in reading such stories. Many meetings, phone calls and letters shared back and forth later and soon, a relationship was cultivated. While Faizal was not her first boyfriend and arguably not her first serious relationship, there was something different about him. He never pushed her in any direction he wanted her to take and was a completely honest person, sharing every single thought that came to his mind, rational or irrational. He would even chastise her on many occasions and was not fearful of going toe to toe with her on many hot button issues. She remembered the night it happened. She had just received word of her acceptance into Boston University and instead of sharing the grief of her leaving or the usual anger and resentment of watching her walk away to achieve better things, he reveled in her happiness and this on that rainy Sunday night, led to her opening herself up completely. She remembered the clothes tossed on the floor, the fingers running through her hair, the kisses on her cheek, on her neck, on her chest, on her belly button and finally the spot where she had kept sacred in almost two decades. She remembered the strange sensation of him entering inside her and ecstasy that followed along with her radiance warmth of finally finding someone she truly loves. It was that night that Faizal and her confessed their love for each other, not holding back anything. Before she left the following week, Faizal gave her a photograph he took of her sleeping the morning after.


Saidah jolted herself awake. It seemed almost Freudian, admiring your naked body covered in sheets while some external force is taking a picture for you to have as a keepsake. Faizal did follow her to the States a month later but he went to Los Angeles to pursue a career in photography while she wanted one in psychology. Faizal would contact her every day and even made plans to see her fortnightly. Yet with the amounts of schoolwork, exposure to new cliques and pursuit of different goals had split them apart and Faizal had taken it hard. They still kept in contact as friends. It was six months into her course at the University did she met Derrick.

Derrick was unique in his personal likes and dislikes. He was tall, good looking and a fantastic dresser. Derrick loved to play the guitar and would often bring her to indie music festivals. She recalled how she would stare at him for hours as he played various genres of songs on his balcony. She remembered the chats they had on the subway and the trips that would take to small independent filmings. Derrick brought out an exotic side of her, one which she loved. The idea and pursuit of the unknown. It was strange. It was new. It was refreshing. Once Derrick asked her to be his girlfriend, Saidah made a huge decision. She rang up Faizal to tell him she did not want him to come see her anymore.

“You’re making a mistake, Saidah! This Derrick isn’t even Muslim!”

“So what?! If he loves me, he may convert one day. Besides he doesn’t make me feel like a foreigner here. He makes me feel welcome. I feel something special with him!”

“Okay fine so you do! How does that lead to you and I not being friends?”

“Because you’re a part of my life that I want to forget! I loved you. I did. But that was then and this is now.”

“I thought love is supposed to be forever.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. I just can’t be with Derrick if you’re still around. There’s no explanation for it. This is it.”

“Why can’t we be friends?! I don’t get it! Do you still have feelings for me or something?”

“What are you trying to do? You think you mean that much to me? Look, it was good but let it go! Move on, Faizal!”

“I did move on! There this girl...”

“Ok, good for you. But I don’t care.”

“Let me come to Boston. Wait, why am I even asking you for permission? I already bought my ticket. I’m still going.” said Faizal with an air of defiance.

“Come if you want. But we’re not meeting. I do not want to see you.”

“What do you want?”

“Just to be away from you!”

“But it’s not fair!”

“Life’s unfair. Didn’t you tell me that when Javier wanted to chase after me again and I shot him down for you because I moved on?”

“What do you want? Tell me what you want! I’m not going anywhere!!!”

“Goodbye Faizal.”

Saidah recalled slamming her phone and tossing it under her bed. Her eyes were strangely dry. Normally such an emotional moment would have her swimming in tears and yet, she felt nothing. It wasn’t strange for her to feel nothing. Saidah went to sleep soon after. The next day, she looked at her phone. No calls made. She went online to check her email. There was one sent by Faizal.

“I’m here no matter what you choose. You know where to find me.”


Saidah felt the doors of the cabin shutting. The stewardesses were rushing to get everyone seated. It was surprising seeing the number on empty seats on a United Airlines flight. Patty was still unconscious. Saidah went back to her thoughts as she felt the first tremors of the turbulence that was about to come.


“Dr Tennorman. May I have a moment?”

“Yes what can I do for you, Saidah?”

“Could you explain to me again, your idea of The First?”

“Ahh, you want a more in depth understanding I see.”

“Yes. It’s for the assignment you gave us.”

“Naturally. However, you should wait till tomorrow, dear. Where I give out my next lecture of what precedes and also follows the First.”

“Which is?”

“Ahh impatient I see! Well, Saidah, while indeed the First builds our foundation as to our identity, you must know that our identity is ever growing. Yet there are many moments in our life that help solidify our identity. A person who chooses to be a soldier for example may come to identify all the years to come with the idea of war and terror. For you see, what is sometimes and I believe more important than the First is the Last.”

“The Last?”

“Yes. I will continue more on the subject tomorrow.”

“Please, sir, I really want to know more about it now.”

Dr Tennorman sighed. He stared at Saidah for the longest time before placing his briefcase on his seat and motioned for her to sit across the table. He sat down and smiled, no doubt admiring the inquisitiveness of the mind that lay before him.

“I can share you a snippet I suppose. The Last is without question the choice that alters everything we do. Because it means we can never go back to what we once were. It makes the past stay put and never to return again. Yet the Last can be complex in its nature as we often need to ask ourselves what we choose to categories with the Last. Let me put it in an example…

Imagine you’re in love with someone. That person is perfect in every way. In every way. Until one day something happens and that perfection diminishes. Yet you’re getting older and you want to get married. So then the question formulates itself. Do you let this individual be the last person you ever date and hereby relinquishing all ideas of the First and what is new to be with this person? Or do you let this individual’s flaws be the last mistake you ever make and you put yourself on the task of finding a new person who you girls love to call the One? What Last is this person? To put it in a pun, do you make him the last or do you make yourselves last?”

Dr Tennorman raised his hand and pointed at Saidah.

“What do you want?”


Saidah jolted from her sleep. Patty had awakened too and was hurriedly trying to buckle her seatbelt on as the seatbelt sign was switched on. Saidah looked out the window to see the brightly lit sky and the sun rising over Logan Airport. She recalled a final incident that happened a few weeks ago. She and Derrick were arguing over getting a place together but could not decide on where to get one. Derrick had raged on too her and with assignments piling up, Saidah had cracked under the strain of stress. It had been coming for weeks. She and Derrick parted on mutual terms although they were still dating. Saidah was rummaging through her drawers when she stumbled upon the photograph. Call it nostalgia. Call it an epiphany. Call it just a moment when she needed a friend. She had to see Faisal. But what does she say to him? Deep down in her heart, she could feel the tremors. The feelings she kept buried for so long. The happy memories she kept in the storage area of her heart were threatening to burst. Yet she still had no idea what she wanted with Faizal. There was only one way to find out. In the smallest vacant corner of her mind, an inkling of a future was starting to fester.


A stewardess walked down the aisle. As she stood in the center of the plane, she motioned for all passengers to seat up straight, buckle in tightly and pay close attention to the announcement. She spied the Malay girl seated by the window and signaled the large Caucasian woman next to her to wake her up. In the background, the captain’s voice could be heard booming loud and clear through the intercom.

“Good morning ladies and gentleman, this is your captain speaking. My name is Victor Saracini and I am pleased to welcome you on board United Airlines Flight 175. It is now 758am on this lovely Tuesday morning. We will be taking off shortly so please do stay in your seats. We will be arriving in Los Angeles in approximately three hours so sit back and let us take care of you. Thank you for flying with United Airlines. The date today is September 11, 2001.”



Submitted: December 25, 2017

© Copyright 2021 RocketJones. All rights reserved.

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