Growing up, I genuinely believed that I would always be alone. My non-platonic relationships never lasted, and my biggest fear sat on the spectrum between commitment and infinite loneliness. That was until I met my autistic former husband, Adam, who was one of the sweetest people I knew.
His forgetfulness, sweaty palms and manic episodes were easy to overlook when contrasted with his sentimental spirit and undivided determination to pursue me as a romantic partner.
We first met, both aged 34, at a therapeutical art class we attended in attempt to improve our cognitive function. His was impaired due to his neurodivergence, and mine, my hereditary insomnia. We were quick to bond over our shared struggle and wed shortly after, to the dismay of his loathsome, parents.
It’s not that they didn’t approve of me; they just couldn’t comprehend how someone could fall for their anak derhaka.
Whatever doubt I had about my decision completely dissolved following the birth of our daughter, Aina.
Adam was a better father to her that I’d have ever imagined. He was protective yet gentle. Though he sometimes mishandled certain situations, for instance, letting Aina do dangerous things like playing with cutlery just to entertain her, he never ever lost his temper or hurt her on purpose.
Naturally, she also grew to appreciate art, particularly portraits. She struggled with them at first, always unintentionally giving her characters wonky faces; but Adam kept her calm and patient through it all, telling her “Just erase, and try again.”
Overtime, it became their ‘thing’ for Adam to draw faceless figures for Aina to fill with features that fit her vision.
Sometimes, she’d grow frustrated, saying that no matter how many times she tried, she just didn’t like the faces.
“Aina tak puas. They look ugly. I want to erase and try again. My classmates pandai lukis, Aina seorang je yang kurang talented,” she’d whine. She got better at it, eventually- but the practice had become more of a wholesome habit by the time she was seven years old.
Unfortunately, that’s also when tragedy struck.
Aina hadn’t told us that she’d been walking home from school. Over the first few months, she hitched a ride with a female teacher who lived close-by.
But one day, Aina had forgotten to finish her homework and kena rotan in class by the same teacher. She held a grudge against her after that incident, and said that Adam and I would be picking her up from now on. That’s the stubborn streak she got from me.
I only wish she hadn’t lied to us about it, or that her teacher had bothered to check with us, because in mid-April, she got into a serious accident when the handle and headlight of a speeding motorbike collided with the left side of her face. This happened while she was crossing the road.
She suffered a fractured cheekbone, torn oral commissure and minor skull damage that all lurked below swollen, bleeding and bruised skin, particularly around the eye.
Adam and I took turns spending the night with her in the hospital for the first six days. She had been healing pretty well- owing to her youthful bones and skin.
Then, on the seventh night, Adam’s shift, I received a distressed late-night call from Aina’s doctor telling me that my husband had been acting up and viciously attacked our daughter.
I got there to find my husband sobbing, cupping his head in his hands, not allowed entry into Aina’s room. I rushed past him to check up on her.
She was sat there on the bed, both knuckles in fists, bandages and stitches undone, injured lip hanging off her face almost touching her chin; with blood and tears trickling down her hospital gown while two nurses asked my permission to sedate her, as she was in a state of panic and pain- heartbeat skyrocketing to a dangerous level.
I took a slow walk out of the room to catch my breath. Adam rushed over to me with large charcoal erasers in his bloodied hands.
“I’m sorry! She told me she felt so ugly and wished she could fix her face,” he said innocently. “I only wanted to erase and try again, but it wouldn’t come off.”
* All illustrations AI-generated by DALL-E, nightcafe.studio & hotpot.ai
* Malaysian Mystery Memoirs is a series of fictional horror tales by JUICE, for entertainment purposes only. Any similarities to actual persons or situations are purely coincidental.