When I Am Old, I

when i am old, i will look back at the ice and the mines, and wonder, what was it about the day? what was on his mind? why did he help me look for my phone – was it me or was it some sense of civic duty? and i will look back on cold wintry nights in the lower east, sharing a cigarette, laughter at the cross street with our heads thrown back, hair in the wind. is it any wonder that this pandemic finds us all in varying degrees of despondence? i miss the moments of magic that our lives before afforded us – kisses that happen unexpectedly, a pikachu popping up in the ss2 playground, beautiful video montages at a wedding buzzing with love and life. in small bursts of strength through these tedious and grey days i try to appreciate the smell of home-brewed coffee. sushi game in the background. the roof over my head. the job that i love and still have. gratefulness, appreciation, well-being, i hope this email finds you well. i take the time to walk and talk, and it’s weird but i really love walking now.

when i am old, amidst the ailments of age, etched deep in my heart will be the memory of me walking up the stairs in school, taken by surprise because someone believed in me. encik iskh asked if i would like to try out for the debate team two years ahead of time because he thought i had it in me – fighting spirit, a flair for language, and a structured mind. at high school graduation, he would get angry and call it a waste of talent when i said i didn’t want to be a lawyer. and somewhere in between, in a moment of very public stage fright at an interschool competition, he was there for me at the end with sad but trusting eyes. i promised myself that stage fright would never happen again so that i would never have to let anyone down the way i let him down that day. as a young soul, it is immensely powerful to know that a teacher believes in you. the word “potential” means nothing to a fourteen year old but the confidence is something that is carried for life, despite stage fright, despite horrible breakups, despite a failing grade in add maths. this era of the pandemic claimed his life and i could not be there. the pandemic took away a high school reunion that he was planning, and now we will never have that experience – for me to look him in the eye and say thank you for believing in me, so many years ago, even though i never did any of my homework.

when i am old, i hope to be at peace with all of the decisions that i have made, be they wrong or right. i hope that i have chosen to walk a path that makes me happy and that there are no stepping stones of regret.

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Doctors

when this topic was chosen, i pondered it for days and backspaced many initial drafts. i felt so far away from the concept of doctors that i didn’t know what to say or write about. “essential” came to mind and disappeared. “grateful” lingered longer. and that was it. wispy words and a thin film of emotion. it occurred to me today that this is how i would feel about any subject right now, as the days fold into each other in meandering, meaningless waves.

and yet here i am today in front of a doctor. in this blue and grey room, she reminds me to feel and not to think. i stare hard at the blue walls and wonder how did they get the walls to match the blue of the cushions so precisely. i stare hard at her and think about whether she might help me with this piece of writing. before i know it, i am crying – meandering, meaningless waves of tears. how am i supposed to talk about how i feel when all i feel is emptiness inside?

somewhere in the vacuum, i find a small, searing cut of anger. i almost miss it amidst the murky gloom, but it is there. anger is better than nothing. maybe this is what will propel me forward into a place where real connections, real love and real friendship exist.

meanwhile a planet full of pandemic ailments continues to spin.

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i’m still learning

i’m still learning that when two grey, jagged, otherwise meaningless rocks scrub against each other, they produce beautiful flints of light that ignite. am i the rock? am i the flint? some days all i feel is the pain and the burn – and then i realise, i am the side effect. i am the extra energy that dissipates as things around me catch fire. and all i get to do is watch these things burn brightly, whilst i disappear.

i took a long walk by myself today, and in my head i went through all the little steps i would take towards freedom. it made me happy just to think of the possibilities. what if, if only, what could i, what should i. i’ve reached a cliff where i would not feel bad or sad about leaving anything that i have behind. the joy rests in what could be and no longer what is. i should go for it, right? the moon illuminates the path ahead and appears to agree with me.

i’m still learning that my capacity for happiness grows. it grows like my skin – ever expanding, warm and yet shedding layers. i want to set myself on fire, skin and all, and melt all of my sadness away.

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writing

few things in the world center me, or help me see the world better, the way writing does. recounting experiences, describing moments, opening up thoughts in the most befitting of adjectives and adverbs bequeath upon those occasions an added texture, extra clarity, a bulls eye of an encounter. and to come across old words and be transported back to those same sentiments is almost like time travel – being able to see faces of loved ones past and touch upon forgotten conversations on forgotten sidewalks.

doing this 7 day writing challenge with my friend jason has awoken something deep inside me. i’d stopped writing for a very long time upon developing a crinkly paranoia and a sudden desire to protect my innermost thoughts. over time, however, i found that this has turned me into a grey, brittle ghost with no memories. an intensely private, amnesiac, constructed, grey, brittle, quiet, ghost. many wonderful things have happened over the years but i can’t seem to recall any of them particularly well – the shadows, the outlines, the details. and so saying – fuck it, it’s time to feel again – was a lot easier than i thought it would be, and much more edifying than i could imagine. this is our fourth day and our fourth topic, and i am already four days freer than i have ever been. thank you, jason, for layaning me – i am eternally grateful for that scrabulous game. thank you, blog, for still being here – albeit not mobile optimised and a decade outdated.

so what has been going on in my life since? it’s been about 14 years since the peak of pinkpaudom when i used to get paid for writing and had no shame prancing around in ladybug costumes and supermarket trolleys. i graduated college in one piece and am still somewhat healing from the experience. i miss new york tremendously but not as much as i missed malaysia when i was there. i work now in the company of my dreams with the best colleagues and team one could ask for. martian and kafka are each married now to wonderful people and they are doing very well – we are still friends and catch up occasionally. martian just reminded me recently of a bookshelf we used to have and wished he could have given it to a quaintly.net reader who said how much she liked it!

as for me, i am now dating someone who – believe it or not – first got in touch with me through my blog. yes, it is entirely possible to fall in love with someone who first only knew me as pinkpau and would sneakily read my blog in his college computer lab. my mother calls him cheerful face, which is really quite funny because he’s not really all that cheerful. the first name she gave him was pure face, which is also funny, because he really is quite pure and innocent :D ice cream, coffee, books, movies, long conversations are all still things i love. i don’t take as many photos as i used to though, and am barely on social media. the only blogger i still see often these days is suet li, who has just given birth to the most beautiful and perfect baby. it’s hard to believe i’ve known her since we were both 17, and even more unbelievable that she would end up marrying someone i used to have online debates with. on some lucky days i bump into or cross paths with some bloggers – suanie and kyspeaks while out and about, once kimberlycun, and sometimes fourfeetnine and boss stewie. tim 2, the “tech guy” from nuffnang, who i used to talk to about ad fill rates is now one of my best friends and closest confidantes. i wonder if nic chay remembers that i still owe him an advertorial. kenny sia’s second child just turned a year old. everyone is so grown up and settled now, moving along the vectors in life that they’ve carved out for themselves. i look back on old blogging days with so much fondness, and every day i am thankful for all the people it brought into my life.

and so with this writing challenge, i’m learning to discard mistrust and peel back layers of myself that had built up and hardened over time. i am reminding myself that it’s okay to feel and it’s okay to be vulnerable. feedback is good, dialogue is good, inspecting oneself is good. it’s seven days of sheer immersion into what i’ve been avoiding for so long, and hopefully this helps me become a 4/10.

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love in the time of covid

for some time, cheerful face had been suggesting we move out to our own place. we eventually found a place we loved, bought it, and left it in varying stages of almost-completion for a long time. “we are choosing tiles” became both the joke and the metaphor with our friends. there isn’t really a good reason for why we (i) couldn’t just choose the tiles – it’s some parts cold feet before taking such a big step and some parts me simply loving being in a house with lots of people in it and perennial chatter, hustle and bustle.

but then covid hit, and the pent up tension really brought to the surface some ugly facets that had been buried deep down. in tears, i told him we should move out or i would just not be able to bear being in the same room as him. and so we chose the tiles, furnished our new home in record speed, built me a bookshelf of my dreams, and moved in together. and here i am – writing this from our new dining table, which seats eight and that my mother loved so much, she went and got the exact same table. cheerful face and our old friend joe are just beyond the table, playing some basketball game on the playstation and they are both yelling way more than a basketball game should entail.

it’s funny but joe played a big part in me and cheerful face reconciling our relationship. for a long time cheerful face hated me and for an even longer time i hated him even more. i hated him so much, that many years ago i got on a bus in a breezy evening in new york city, saw him sitting in the back of the bus looking out the window, and promptly got off, walking thirty blocks in anger back to campus. we sometimes laugh about how this slice of our history is generally emblematic of our state of being – him blissfully unaware and me destructively defiant. and then joe sort of clumsily glued us back together, amidst some rock band and mentaiko pasta sauce.

completing and filling out our own intimate, cosy space in this chaotic world is quite possibly the best thing we’ve done for our relationship. selecting little imprints to make this space our own, having friends and family warm the floors and walls, feeding each other things we’ve cooked, naming our plants, hours upon hours of long conversations on the balcony, kisses in the morning and before we go to bed – love in the time of covid. years from now we will look back on this time and be so glad we did this thing for ourselves and chose each other above all.

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