Hair Like Snow

when i was in standard one, my grandmother showed up outside my classroom at school, a little nervous and jittery, and asked to speak to me. it was a strange obtrusion, but i was quite pleased to see her nevertheless, so i hopped out of my seat very quickly and scurried to the door in excitement. she told me to bring out my schoolbag, and when i did she quickly opened it, revealing thick stacks of foreign currency in the front compartment of my bag. i had no idea that there was any money in my bag, or why she put it there that morning when she was packing my peanut butter sandwich lunch for me, but she seemed relieved that there was even any money there at all.

when i went home after school, i found out that the money belonged to my dad, and the news around the house was that i had stolen the money. no one ever yelled at me (i think they thought i saw some money and just grabbed it without much thought) so i wasn’t too perturbed. i knew it was my grandmother who had put the money in my backpack, because she does things like that sometimes, putting things where they don’t belong or forgetting what she had just said a few minutes ago. i wondered for a brief moment if she had defended me or if she had allowed everyone to believe i had taken the money… but then i realized i didn’t care either way. there are these people that we love, and sometimes they do very strange things, but you love them anyway because you know they are good people.

a year later i got in trouble with my dad over some chinese traditions (he is quite superstitious) and he had started to cane me. my brothers are the type who run helter skelter around the house when caned, but for some reason i never knew i was allowed to do that, and so i’d sit and grab at my legs, howling like a dog while being caned. at some point, as she always does, my grandmother tried to stop him, but she moved a little too slowly and got slashed by the rattan cane on her arm. she has this condition where she has very thin blood viscosity, and bruises and bleeds easily, this occasion being no different — and the night was punctuated with a long bloody gash on her right arm. later that night (after she made us some hot milo) we sat in bed putting talcum powder on each other’s wounds and talking until we fell asleep.

i’m missing my grandmother a lot tonight. it’s about 5pm in KL now so she’ll be just about getting ready to have dinner – this disgusting porridge blended with carrots that smells absolutely foul but is supposed to be good for her. i haven’t had a real conversation with her since i was 13 and even those were disconnected smatterings of sounds and words. in this world very few people can be that proverbial friend who sits with us on a swing, saying nothing, and leave us feeling like it was the best conversation we’ve ever had. my grandmother is one of those people for me. whenever i have the opportunity to go home for breaks over the school year, i like to lie in bed with her and just sleep. she pulls my hair sometimes to wake me up but those are still the deepest sleeps that i will get to have for a long time.

some pictures of old people, taken while i was working in hong kong this summer:

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Sunset during Seminar

as i was sitting in seminar the other day, the sun was setting and slicing through the blinds, throwing onto the ground right at my feet a slender blade of golden evening sunlight. it was a simple and small sight that took my breath away, and it is such moments that hold before me, in a quick flash, all the things i enjoy doing and all the things i want to be. i was reminded then of how long it has been since i have written anything, let alone anything that i was proud of. but these days i feel no urge to write. moments like the one in class do sometimes tug at me, and then i feel a spark deep inside me to plunge once again into my quiet writing space, but this flicker quickly dissipates. i remember how i used to think that worlds besides our own were best looked at through the lens of prose and the written word… but it has been the longest time since i have made that argument to any willing listener.

why, then? it’s a little bit like the case of Sumire from Haruki Murakami’s book Sputnik Sweetheart, and how she felt that she couldn’t write anymore after she had met Miu, the subject of her love and affections. since meeting Miu and spending time with her, it was as if Sumire had stopped thinking and started living, expanding the boundaries of her world no longer through writing and reading but simply by sharing experiences with Miu. that is how i feel now. i feel as if i have found the one best friend whom i have been searching for for so long, and now that i have him i don’t need to put anything down in writing in order to understand it better. all i have to do is talk to him. when something excites me he is the first and many times the only person i want to tell. when i am scared or anxious he takes it all away just with one phone call. it sounds silly and dangerous but so often i feel that my deepest and truest self feeds on existing in the same world as his.

ah. dont i sound like a silly 14 year old girl :) when i was 14 i was rather emotionally vulnerable. by the time i had met kafka i was a wreck – an angry wreck who couldn’t trust perfectly anymore and had little faith in things and people. but then i met him, and could not believe how lucky i had gotten. i think i am slowly but surely getting the hang of this trusting and loving thing… i feel better and stronger. i am still vulnerable but i know that i am in good hands.

p/s okay okay.. very cheesy, i know :) but i’m not usually like this…

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Burst

it is –

the sandy shore of monday morning once again, grainy crumbs of the weekend past are under my feet, and the sharp, hopeful air of dawn makes me feel like i am invincible. the sounds of the azan from the nearby mosque are mingling nicely with kafka’s snores from the next room, a pale contrast to the euphoric shouts and the frantic uproar in libya as she claws and crawls her way to freedom. i’m slightly delirious from the lack of sleep but this is such a great morning. i could not miss it even if i tried. hours like these make me feel like stretching out! my arms and embracing the world. doing lots of homework. smiling hello to everyone. reading the newspaper end to end. going to the morning market with my grandmother, just like in the years when she could still walk and talk, and recognize me.

oh world. oh life. you can be so humbling at the weirdest of moments. why is it that the right answers come only when you stop searching, exactly at the right times, at the very last possible fraction of the minute?

there is something so funny about knowing that you have the right answer. my benchmark is that first taste of roti kosong and a small pinch of sugar in a mouthful, when i was in kindergarten. perfection, and so simple too. okay. delirium taking over. going to sleep. goodnight! tell me a story if you have the time.

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Beauty

sometimes when you love someone, you desperately long to grow at the same pace as they are, just so no one outgrows the other, and that everything will remain the same even as you’re both moved endlessly through the machinery of life. in the wake of frightening events i sometimes panic and fret that i am not keeping the right pace, that i am losing the real plot in my pursuit of transient things. but then i say a quick prayer and i am, incredibly, back in the warmth of these bubbles that i adore, so perfectly filled with the words and the fragrant hair of my soulmates, with whom i can unabashedly and excitedly be myself. in here there is no room for hesitation, apologies or second thoughts — it is a space that bursts at the seams with a kind of love that is tough and yet so humorous, tinged at the edges with inside jokes and immortal admiration for each other, giving me these silly smiles as i float away.

tonight i am thankful for buddies: old time, late time, and long time. and in just a whisper i will admit that i am thankful even for the sometimes.

but if i tell the world i’ll never say enough, cos it was not said to you…

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Spirited Away

has it already been two months? two months since waking up in hong kong and realizing i was going to be late to the party, and after a flurry of champagne flutes, stumbling drunk out of the club onto hollywood road to find myself face to face with a shade of myself, still lingering shyly there from the past. it’s strange but it’s like meeting a pale old friend whom you know you’ve simply missed your chance with. there is this pang, and all you want to do is stay and ask how are you? over and over again in as many ways possible. but while so many things about hong kong remain the same, and palpably so, the city is different to me now. it is bitter, impatient, and almost hostile even as i gingerly try to navigate those old narrow streets and the expanse of dripping air conditioners across which the entire island is strung upon. i’m just a normal person in a strange place now.

i’m leaving hong kong soon after a summer’s worth of work — next week to be exact. i’m looking forward to going back to KL for many reasons, but most of all to be with kafka again. i’ve always very much appreciated having space (perhaps explaining why this is my 6th year in a long distance relationship) but i have just learned how sharply and painfully difficult it is to come home to a dark, dusty and empty apartment alone at night, and knowing that the same thing is going to happen tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. it doesn’t matter how loud or filled with people the preceding hours of the day were, or even if i’m brimming with happiness as i step through the door — it is an acute and exhausting acknowledgment when i brush my teeth and get ready for bed that tonight it’s going to be just me. get ready for bed… such a sad and pathetic phrase. can it be true that i haven’t lived alone before? yes it is. how funny. here i am, always thinking of myself as this independent, strong thing who enjoys competing with her boyfriend (and subsequently winning) at everything… but really, i’d lost the battle the day i agreed to meet him for a second time.

(though true to my perpetually disgruntled competitive spirit against him, i must remind everyone for the billionth time how he was a huge jerk to me when we first met. not to mention he was posing at the street corner with this cup of coffee like he’s some connoisseur when in fact he doesn’t even like coffee…… who ya think ya kidding, boi? unfortunately, me.)

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