Aug 29, 2012

to society's rejects, to the queers,

the ones who feel they've been cursed with a talent in something so unique that there's no way to quantify it, no way to show it in a qualification, nothing useful to get you where you are told you need to be. To those whose parents want you to do what earns the most money and respect, but you know all you want to do is work with paints or words or music or people to create immeasurable beauty.

You are blessed. Too many people have mastered the art of pleasing the system and satisfying people, working their magic formula through the years, without ever finding that spark in their hearts. They have never found something they loved doing so much that all their thoughts morphed into it. You pass by a grandmother embracing a child and you freeze and set ablaze the image in your mind. You hear a neighbour crying at midnight and you play a soothing song in your mind, your heart aching for whatever's breaking hers. You look at a friend's new watch and mentally take it apart right away, taking in every bit of the intricate work. Or a slow song plays in a store and you immediately picture the stage, the soft lights, the magic.

Few people see the beauty in the everyday things that you see. Few people notice it at all.

And then, when the road of exploring and igniting becomes overshadowed by adulthood and they aren't as blessed to have found that inner flame in their youth, they become too caught up with the endless demands of work and family to be able to care anymore. Nothing's more important than making sure you don't lose your job. Nothing's more important than supporting the family. The boss, the kids, the money, it will all eat away at their lives. Those without passion become jaded. They become dead. Or they might not, but they've never been alive.

You've been alive. You are alive in that flame that burns in you; it's the reason you were placed in this world. And no matter how much your passion is buried under the boss and the kids and the money, it ensures you never become dead.

You have a gift. A gift so unique that there's no way to quantify it in this world's free-size system. It's right for you, or you struggle to put it on, or you just don't fit. And because you don't fit, you're either a stick in a dress made for Other People, or too full of life, trying to contain it all, praying it won't rip apart and reveal all of you. Either way, you wish you would fit. You don't want others to look and laugh.

Let them look. Let them realise this world was never for you. It's a gift you were blessed with. Only you. It's your responsibility to bring that gift to the world. Go out, now, and try to bring life to those who never had it. Or show the others that they don't have to be afraid of their gift. If you have that flame, don't try to quench it. Let it burn. Let it spread.

this is for you, kev. and ian, and mad, and wl, and my writer friends 

Aug 24, 2012

A Yale-NUS education, anyone?

"Finally, our curriculum is being designed to elevate knowledge as a good in and of itself – not as a means to create a better employee for corporate life that we see increasingly driving higher education priorities in the American academy. We will champion the idea that the broadly educated person will be better qualified for professional careers and in business than more narrowly trained students in other bachelors programs. Their abilities in the arts, humanities, mathematics, social and natural sciences will indeed prepare our students to enter into corporate or professional life. But they will do so upon the bases of a wide and complex understanding of the human condition through deep humanistic and scientific inquiry as it developed over five millennia across the planet."

 - 'A first meeting of minds and a new philosophy of history for the liberal arts and sciences', Bernard Bate, Associate Professor, Social Science, Yale-NUS College

This is it, guys.

Aug 19, 2012

That's when Lisa spun out.

I didn't expect it, but I should've; she was standing there tighter than normal, standing with her four feet of self, that's it, that's all you got, said God, that's all I'm giving you to contain it ALL, and she had this blank look on her face and i was back to my elbow, still watching, about to close my eyes again when she gritted her teeth and in the center of a second reared her head back, and before I even knew what was happening, hurtled it forward and slammed it with all her might into the hard wood of the door frame. And before I even knew what I'd seen, I heard it, heard the batter and bash of her skin and skull, the weight of the blow, and her forehead split open, broken continents, bleeding.

She drew her head forward and slammed it back into my chest, ramming so hard it clipped me on the chin, socked me with the weight of her cranium, and I could feel the breath knock out of me for a second, feel my sternum bloom open and bruise, but I held on even tighter, and she tried again but this time I clamped a hand down on her forehead, palm on her skin, wet now with blood, mashing her head into the nook of my neck.

She was kicking up her legs, thrashing around like a drowning man.

Now you're going to get FIRED, she said. No more math class. Her head was bucking but I kept my hand hard on her forehead, pressing down, her whole brain, her small skull. She kicked her legs up higher and harder. And by the end of the summer, no more mother, she said. And soon a new math teacher and Ann is going to be going to the school for kids with no legs.

Lisa kept kicking and thrashing in my arms and she swallowed and it turned into a gulp and I could feel her whole body starting to shake. And she yelled, Let me go, and I didn't say anything back this time and she kept wriggling and thrashing and yelling Let me go! Let ME GO! Come on! I want to be one of the bloody children, I want to have cancer too, I want cancer NOW! and she was twisting and twisting but I kept holding her as tight as I could, fierce as a vise, and she said: I wanted to cut off MY arm, I wanted to do it, how come Ann got to do it, how come Danny's dad got to do it, how come Ann got the ax, I wanted to bleed all over the carpet, I want to have chemotherapy, I want to have no hair, I want to be in the hospital too, Mum's going to have to die all by herself, and she swallowed again, ragged and raw, wheezing, her body rabid with shaking, unstill, blurred, and her breathing was thick, and it was my turn to talk but I kept holding her close and I had nothing to say, there wasn't much I could say to that. No matter how many times she kept her mother company, it was clear who was leaving, and who was staying put.

- An Invisible Sign of My Own (Aimee Bender)

I found a tidal wave begging to tear down the dawn

to the sunflower:

I always thought of you like the Sun. Radiating all that life and enthusiasm and energy, unceasing. But a young sun. One that had only given life, that had not yet witnessed death. A beaming radiant ball too happy, too innocent, too pure.

We all have to die to live. It's just that one taste of melancholy. Death opens your eyes to how many shades a single flower can have. How it's pretty in the light, but even more beautiful in the dark, where all you see are shadows and outlines, where you're left to miss, to imagine the colours of daytime.

memories like bullets, they fire at me like a gun

You see the same world in a slightly different, slightly tinted lens. As you continue to swim, you'll choke on the salt water from time to time. The water will sting your eyes, make you tear, make you blind. You'll drown a little. Your muscles will cramp up.

I swim for brighter days despite the absence of sun

But with each time you hit the dark bottom, you remember the beauty of the light shining through the calm waters. Darkness makes light so much sweeter. This is only the first flash of darkness. Blackout.

The light begins to come on again, slowly, as the bulb heats up. There's all the darkness slowly crawling away, but just a millisecond, a hair's breath away. It will creep up on you again, slowly, when you're alone and unsuspecting. Appreciate the beauty of day. Let the darkness add depth to your light.

Aug 17, 2012


You see his silhouette approaching you in this smoky place. You know what he wants. Not you. He wants any girl. You play along, but you turn to face the blinding flashes of green and white so that you can't see his face. In order to prevent yourself from falling into the trap, you must not recognise him. Must not make eye contact. You're just a toy, and he's just a silhouette.

A breath away from you, chuckles, whispers something incoherent, you don't want to hear. You smile, but you never look at his face. You concentrate on the deafening beats to drown out his voice; you don't want to recognise it, either. You both know what he wants. His hands slide onto your waist, brings your body closer. You look down, over his shoulder, close your eyes, but you never look at his face. Skin meets skin, you feel him hard. He's nothing but a silhouette, a mannequin maybe, a stranger you will never know and therefore can't love. That's how you guard your heart. He could be anybody, or nobody. The stranger has his hand on your neck now. You're laughing, your body's pressed against his. The stranger wants to take you out to the back. Yeah, you say. As long as it's dark and you can't see his face. His hand's in your hair, his head's against yours. Close your eyes. Close your eyes. You let your lips meet his, your tongue. Come and play me, stranger, because I don't know who you are, and I can't love you.

Aug 16, 2012

speak now

You, whoever you are, you might think you're hitting it off really well with him, but you don't know him at all. You don't know him. Do you like his jokes, the smile in his eyes? It doesn't tell you anything about him. If anything, it tells you about the other girls who have his name scrawled into their notebooks. Guard your heart, and remind yourself that you don't really know him as well as you think. He doesn't tell you what he hides in his heart, or the memories he buries beneath layers of hardened muscle, or the emotions behind his soft eyes. If he tells you something without much reservation, it means nothing to him. He's an iceberg, burying almost all of him beneath the calm waters of his smile. There is a lot more to him than the hilarious chats you have and the photos you take. Try it. Ask him. Ask him about me. You don't know anything.

these walls that hold us back will fall down

Growing up, half your life is surrounded by adults who gush over how brilliant and smart and talented you are, and how you'll grow up to be a beautiful bright young woman someday. The other half of your life is spent feeling inferior to all the other young people around you - the other girls in class who are prettier, or who sing better, or have nice hair and lovely eyes; the older girls you see around who exude beauty in every step they take. They radiate sunshine and their lips spill melodies and they don't even realise it. And how about yourself? You have fat cheeks. Your words always come out awkward and stupid. You have a chest as flat as a runway. You can't pull off anything pink. You look dumb in glasses, and even worse in braces.

As you grow older, the light begins to shine in you. You realise there's more to a person than the features she was blessed with - you take an interest in astronomy or singing or animals, and your passions show in the spark in your eyes. It's passion, not physical attractiveness, that makes a person's face radiate with the aura of youth. As you're learning this, people begin to gravitate towards you. No longer the loner with low self-esteem who sits in a corner. You take on different interests, meet different kinds of people, and realise that it's a person's personality that captures you, not her looks.

You become a person with passion. People start to know you as the passionate, enthusiastic ball of light. You realise that all a person needs is to come out of her shell to become the beautiful lady she's always dreamt of being. You know what you're worth now. People appreciate your contributions, and you realise that you are, in fact, significant. You know your worth.

And then you swim out of your little wading pool into the rough, infinite sea. The roaring currents hit you on every side. You try to keep afloat. They try to put on different masks on you, tell you what you are not. They'll say that you aren't fit for the seas, but you know what you're worth. You know what you can contribute. Nobody seems to be believing in you, and there's no lifeboat to save you, no pillar, no stronghold. It's just you now. It's a reversal of roles; as a child, others brought you up to uncover the light in you, but now they try to bring you down again.

You've gotta swim, swim for your life
Swim for the music that saves you when you're not so sure you'll survive
You've gotta swim, and swim when it hurts
The whole world is watching; you haven't come this far to fall off the earth

The currents will pull you away from your love
Just keep your head above

I found a tidal wave begging to tear down the dawn
Memories like bullets; they fired at me from a gun, cracking me open now
I swim for brighter days despite the absence of sun
Choking on salt water, I'm not giving in
I swim

The currents will pull you away from your love
Just keep your head above

- Swim (Jack's Mannequin)