One of the most disturbing memories of living at the Templer Flats was the suicides. The twin towers were easily the tallest buildings in Seremban, and the obvious choice for those wanting to end their lives by leaping off a tall structure.
We all knew what it sounded like – the sickening thud that signalled the end of another life. I recently saw a headline which mentioned a woman killing herself by jumping off a building in front of her young son – it had taken place in Seremban, and further research confirmed my suspicion that it was at the Templer Flats – I guess after all these years some things haven’t changed.
My older brother, a devout Christian, was convinced some of these suicides were caused by demonic possession. One time, there was this lady roaming the floors of our block, muttering to herself, and looking crazed.
She bumped into my brother, gave him a look and cursed in disgust – ‘Christian!’ – then went on her way. A few minutes later, she wandered up to the top floor and leaped to her death. He couldn’t figure out how she would’ve known he was a Christian without ever having met her before, hence his theory.
Not all the suicides were from jumping off the towers. I had a playmate on my floor, who had moved in after my family. She was one of four or five young kids in her family.
I remember not seeing her for a few days, then finding out the news. It was in the papers. Her mom had tied herself and her kids together with ropes and leaped into a river. They’d all drowned. Apparently, her dad had been cheating on her mom, and she had found out.
I couldn’t imagine the horror my friend and her siblings must have gone through.
Fast forward to my teenage years, and one of the publications I used to read was a weekly local paper that specialized in tabloid/paranormal stuff. It had a readers’ submission section where you got paid if you sent in jokes and poetry etc. that got published.
I started out writing rhyming poetry, which followed all the rules regarding stanzas, alliteration, rhymes and what-not. They all got rejected.
Then I started writing random prose that broke all the rules and had no rhyme or rhythm and very emo in tone – I thought they were rubbish, but the editors loved them and they all got published.
I started getting RM$5 cheques in the mail, which I was proud of, so I wrote quite regularly.
One day, I sat down at home at about 9am and started to write a new poem. I’d been feeling pretty crappy about some friendships at school – the usual teen angst stuff which I was sure, based on their track record, the editors would lap up.
I was struggling with writer’s block and over the course of a couple of hours, the poem evolved into one that involved a woman standing near water, looking at it contemplatively, then jumping to her death.
It implied that it had been because of betrayal by her husband. And she’d taken a life with her – their baby’s. When I looked at the clock, I realized I’d spent over 3 hours writing.
About that time, my dad came home and announced it – one of our relatives by marriage had just killed herself. She’d drowned herself in an old mining lake and taken her toddler son with her.
The suspicion was that her playboy husband had been cheating on her. I asked what time it had happened. About 11am, I was told. That was the same time my poem had taken a turn in subject matter.
I sent the poem off and it did get published. That was the last time I submitted my work to the paper, and the last time I wrote poetry.