Unfamiliar faces at the beach


Brilliant colours of blue, light grey, pastel pink, golden yellow smeared across the sky, shifting as quickly as the wind hurries the clouds. One frame morphing into another, no two moments are alike. I share the birthing morning with coconut trees, boulders and sand, moist from last night’s high tide. Unfamiliar, nameless faces cross my gaze.

A prisoner of circumstance

A line producer who just quit his job because he refused to work with thieving assholes. Now he sells motorcycle accessories in Subang. Arrived in the rain last night and plans to head home today. He still has to go to work tomorrow but at least he’s happy. Pulling his long hair behind his ears, he returns to his camp for a smoke.

The wandering enthusiast

Khaki pants, sport shoes, a friendly smile. He had the same bag as I did. He pointed at the rising sun and said “WE should have been here earlier”, not knowing I’ve been planted here well before first light. Click click click. He was surprised to learn that sunrise is the exact moment the sun appears on the horizon, a full hour before the sun actually pops up from behind the clouds. With his digital camera on a silver tripod, he had up his GoPro on a smaller tripod to photograph himself with the camera, basking under the morning glow after an entire morning of waiting and hustling for the perfect shot. Bravo.

The tortured soul

Between bites of chocolate coated peanuts, he declares himself a camper, a drifting soul who “belongs to nowhere”.  This newly minted graduate in fishery studies camped on the beach before being woken up as his camp and backpacks were slowly being dragged seaward by the tide. He plans to travel south to Johor Bahru to escape the monsoon and with only RM600 left in his bank account, hopefully find a job.

The morning refugee

Because he couldn’t sleep. That’s the reason for putting on track pants, sport shoes, a light wind breaker while stretching on the beach. He runs past me before turning back, mustering enough curiosity to bother me with the usual questions on camera, film and intention.

Just as the much-celebrated sunrise is only a short moment from the sun’s daily routine, these encounters happen and then they move along. I remember their stories and subtle inflections the most, their facial features are already a blur, and their names remain theirs to keep.

And I will never meet any of them again.

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