Splinter

i fell into a tunnel. and not unlike the tunnel to wonderland, it is either very deep or i am falling very slowly. the transit time gives me the opportunity to revisit the far past and also to consider if i had thought about how i was going to get out. i suppose i haven’t, because here i am, not knowing where i’m going to end up or if there is even a way out of wherever i find myself. maybe despite any form of rationalization this is still what i am all about — the journey and not the destination. but it is easy to say that, just as it is easy to escape. it is easy to feel fortuitous and push my luck. it is, unbelievably enough, so easy to love. but i am alone now, with nothing but my own thoughts, music and a book i chose, with no tangible mementos except the fleeting, flitting stardust in my porous mind. perhaps this is how i deserve to be — by myself and grasping at golden threads as i fall.

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january usually feels like a period of awakening. i keep urging myself to put place-markers along the path on which i am stumbling, to remind myself of how i felt at pivotal moments, or the decisions that i find i’ve dreamed myself into, lest i end up changing my mind or forgetting key events. this place-marking is critical. when i was very young, i cried easily whenever chastised or hit by grown-ups. very often they would scream at me to stop crying. this was something i could never understand — how can adults hurt another person and scream at them to stop crying? i always wanted to scream back, it is not easy to stop crying when you’ve started crying! especially when you are in pain! it is altogether some mix of stopping yourself from breathing, swallowing hiccups and quelling your very anxious heart — it is just not possible. and so i promised myself that when i am older and have to deal with crying children, i must never forget that it is not possible for someone who has started crying to stop themselves from crying instantly, and that i should not make them feel sorry or terrible for not being able to do so. adults are forgetful and as they grow older they think they know everything because they have the benefit of hindsight and experience. but this thing about the crying: it is something my 6 year old self knows is true and important and will carry forever into the future. my only wish for this cold but hopeful january is that my 25 year old self can be as strong, steadfast and clear-minded.

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Storms Before the Calm

i am a field mouse once again, with the world swirling around me and a heart with open seams down the middle. selfridges feels like a lifetime ago, even further away from the bus in penang and the ashes of 12 sultan ismail. but here i am in another raging December snowstorm, as all the other Decembers conflate to reveal to me my true self, who i really am. it’s funny how much time has passed since i was last a field mouse, but the same old questions still run through my mind – what does it really mean to be on the same team? what does it mean to love? what does Radiohead’s song really mean?

in these snowstorms i like to think of the times in my life that have been pure, idyllic, and right. i move from the latte in coffee bean mt kiara to the stone bench at columbia, and then from under the teacher’s table in sri garden to the dusky rivers of pahang. these memories calm me and i feel real again — real enough to understand why it’s so important to keep my heart open to people and the small but special moments that they bring with them. i do see that the more wretched things one encounters — be they part of the world or part of oneself — the harder it becomes to remain open. but in so many ways there is something invigorating about the pain. it’s like a workout. it wrings you dry and stretches you, and suddenly there is just so much more skin to feel with. pain feels even more painful, but then the most wonderful things also expand and bloom to cover the entire sky, as far as the eye can see.

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Sleep

whenever i find myself on the cusp of doing something emotionally risky, i tell myself to sleep on it. inevitably when i wake up i no longer see the urgency and i pat myself on the back for being patient and making the safer choice. but in my dreams i find myself asking what if? what if something big, crucial and incredibly magical happened because i took the risk? but i guess i will never know

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Sparkles

it occurred to me yesterday that a full day had passed, in which i did not think about her. it troubled me. had i forgotten her? was this the slow beginning of a spiral into the ether where people left secret smiles on the faces of their beloved and then disappeared? but then i remembered that death can be a good thing. i tried to be very happy for her that she had finally found release and slipped free from all the pain that had caged her into herself for so long. but the truth is that i miss her very deeply, and that she had also slipped free from me, so quietly away into the evening humidity. i have now not known her for as many years as i have known her — her real, full, true, beautiful self who walked and talked, and sometimes laughed, and twice cried. this thing about the years is a fact that i find quite unfair. it is quite like art class in primary school, when we would paint half of an art block and fold the paper in two, to make a butterfly print: is the second half of the whole butterfly even real? did i only get twelve years or did i get twenty four? also, my memory is fading and sometimes i can’t remember if i’d held her left or right hand as we crossed the street to go to the market. and sometimes i feel that she went through so much suffering that there can’t possibly be anymore of it left in this world. i do wish she was here with me to experience this world without suffering… she is the only person i have ever met whom i have loved unconditionally. i can only hope that when she passed, she remembered me, my name and my face.

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Xianggang

one last thing about hong kong, this city perennially fatalistic and scowling, before i go: i will always think about you, and be grateful for how you found me at the wrong time and made something right out of it. it is far from biographically accurate but in so many ways i feel like i was born here, and then ripped away, and then joined back with shoddy glue, feeling out of place and like a stranger as i watched myself live a parallel life to this city’s own. it sprouts new and dangerous heads and limbs each time i visit, biting at my ankles and forming a far cry from the hong kong i first made the acquaintance of in the early 90s– a hong kong full of roast pigeon, naivete, my mother’s sheer laughter and this red lacquered sedan chair that i would never come to see again. then there is the hong kong of the evening sun that oozed its yellow yolk all over The Peak; and subsequently… subsequently the curtains upon curtains of spacemen and an ever-expanding lifetime over the edge of reason. it was an era characterized by hope, by true belonging, and the accompanying anxiety that somehow, somewhere, someone is going to do something very wrong and everything that has been achieved so far will be for nothing.

each time i come back here i peel back an old layer of skin from my footpaths around this place, and realize how blind i once was to what the truer ‘hong kong’ is. everything that makes it tick is not what i thought it was. i was totally oblivious to the superficiality and rugged judgments that strung its people together. and i’d also constructed this false sense of myself that earnestly believed there was a place for me here. why? was it because hong kong is so magical? was it because i could spend all day deep in the lungs of tsim sha tsui or the paper-thin cracks of hollywood road’s antique stores? was it the beautiful people i met who talked so often about awakening the sleeping dragon of 1960s HK? but hong kong is so magical. it is altogether accessible (you can buy a plane ticket) and mysterious (so many dark secrets). it welcomes you but doesn’t confirm anything. if you are lucky maybe you will catch it on a vulnerable night, and it will spill something out its mouth onto your shocked soul. and, still lucky, you will have no choice but to carry it with you for the rest of your life, never telling a single person or even whispering it into a wall.

i am aware with each thing i eat here that i am having all my favorite local foods in a silent sort of farewell. i am laying to rest something that is enjoyable but painful, like love or deviance… it’s just that at the end of the day a city is just a city, and it doesn’t at all owe you the obligation of loving you back.

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