Nov 30, 2014

Perfectly Normal

At the institute of mental health, an old woman meets her husband clad in a pale blue uniform. He is in a wheelchair; she takes the bench. She lays out a small spread of packed food - bee hoon, chicken rice, curry. They share their lunch in silence, make home of whatever they have.

 At the institute of mental health a pretty girl who looks slightly older than me holds her bible close. She is quiet, mousey; she retreats to a corner and reads and reads and reads the bible. The way she walks reminds me of how I walked through the school corridors once, for two weeks in 2012; as if caught in a trance, a zombiefied version of luna lovegood, shrouded with an aura of grief. She will not talk to you. Behind me an old man brings food for his wife. they are having a casual chat in dialect, probably hokkien; she’s just digging into the food and talking and talking about what people did and said and he has his food in one hand, he looks at her, smiles and grunts in affirmation, leans back against the wall.

"These two girls, early in the morning they’re singing the national anthem, it’s so funny. And you see all these people just stripping out of nowhere. Like nicki minaj but not hot. But it’s really sad that there are some people here who are fine, but they express themselves differently, but society deems what is right and normal and they don’t fall within that spectrum.

“Here nobody will judge you. You can sing to yourself or twirl your hair the whole day and they will just smile and acknowledge, you're okay. Everyone knows that everyone has gone through something terrible that brought them here, they are all good people but something happened that made them this way. Here we all understand that.”

A woman is banging furiously on the door. Threatening them to let her into the meeting area. Shouting with a passion. A soft electronic beep, she storms in, a torrent of the food so bad they don't let me go out i cannot see my family. I look around at the double-enforced window grills and the pale yellow hospital concrete walls and the complete lack of natural scenery and the doors you cannot open without a staff pass and I think,  I would be just as enraged if I had to live in an environment like that, and then they would simply prescribe me a longer observation period. The woman shouts about having a settle to score with the nurses. "Don't be a coward ah, hide in the glass box. You want to fight you come out and fight lah. I not scared. My father is a policeman. Although my parents are not alive."

The old man has left, but his wife is still talking.

Nov 11, 2014

city night

i fall asleep comforted by the stars of lit bedrooms, students at their desks. they watch over me. the glow-in-the-dark Orion on my wall is my guardian. i fall asleep to the hum of aircon vents and the occasional song of traffic. the city is omnipresent.

Nov 9, 2014

You have not loved;

you have not known the way your heart expands beyond the ribcage to fill every fibre of your body, the way the world stops at the slightest touch. You have not understood the emptiness, the unwholeness when you are not held, the arms that ache. You have not understood the desire to simply sit and be with, to rest, to feel at home tucked into the embrace of another; to breathe together; to hear nothing but breath and heartbeat. The way your soul simmers into white tranquility. You have not understood the way the universe revolves around your hand in hers as you both observe, learn fragility. Incomprehensible beauty. You do not see the glory that has been built into this world, the mystery that puts a filter over your eyes that you cannot see anything for what it is, she becomes your world, and because of her the world is beautiful, all the curiosities of the human condition encapsulated in your first kiss.

You have not let all your treasures and insecurities fall to the floor in a careless heap, you have not put everything you live for into cupped hands as an offering, all that you once worshipped now worthless in the light of greater beauty. You have not allowed your monsters out of the deepest darkest place, you remain afraid. You remain sealed, a Ziploc full of air, self-sufficient. Never a leak. A leak is dangerous.

You have never let yourself be abandoned to danger. The moment you realise what you have given away it will be too late. You have not let go. One day you will. One day a girl will capture you in the most curious ways, you will wonder what has come upon you, why your thoughts won't leave you alone; you will get frustrated. You will agonise. And you will give yourself away. And later when she walks away and tears off a bit of your soul you will be left with a permanent hole. And you will struggle for duct tape but you will leak. And then you will be left naked and afraid.

It is important. We are human; we all have our patched-up tears; it is the condition of love. One day you will know, and you will curse yourself for your childish stupidity, you will not understand how the majestic parthenon - a temple of love - can so easily crumble. And we will all lie upon our ruins. One day then, perhaps, you will also find it in yourself to pick up the bricks again. Pristine, we are only young. We all have to break. Grow. Build ourselves from ruins.

Nov 2, 2014

I am an aunt

Today I went for my cousin's baby's first-month celebration.

I wore an electric blue dress. This was the second time I wore this dress - the first time I wore it was in this same house, the day she got married. My brother and I happened to be somewhat colour-coordinated again. We stood at the porch, bracing ourselves for all the aunts we were supposed to greet, and we mused about how in ten years' time, this was going to be us. In ten years' time I'd be 31 and he'd be 27, and the baby showers and weddings would be for our own friends (and hopefully ourselves). My aunt despaired that none of my cousins were going to be doctors. My family sat at a table and talked about that morality course I did and the expectations of working life. My brother and I traded stories of the week in hushed tones, away from the crowd. On the way back we shared music, Ed Sheeran and Charlie Lim.

She still looks and talks like a university student, which makes me nervous. I'm supposed to pass through this ritual, too, not too long from now. Her friends were there, other young people with babies, and I thought: will that also be us in ten years' time? My Council friends and me, my college classmates and me, gathered round in a house with our kids running into table corners and demanding to see the koi in the pond? Who the heck are we going to marry?! Roi, Welly, Abi, Emme - where will we be, and whose rings will be around our fingers? Will Alex and Geri still be together, and together for life? (Please get married, y'all are so sweet)

And will we remember these days, too, the 7ams on the bleachers sleeping on our schoolbags with our skirts too long and our hair too neat; the days we watched the football boys practice and mused about how love was a war and "we are veterans"; the days my friends skipped lunch break to hold me as I cried. The late nights in bedrooms and common lounges talking about Aristotle and morality and life; the 4ams we discussed theology and cried and prayed; the days we tried to use words bigger than ourselves, and the days we jumped on bouncing castles. The days we travelled, a bunch of schoolmates sharing our love stories in a Greek bar and lying on a Greek pavement to look at the Greek night sky. I think about New York and the first memory that comes to mind is of the night I missed my flight - me screaming falling flying towards carnival lights and Sabri laughing the most carefree laugh.

Will we look back and think of ourselves as kids? Kids trying to be all grown-up with grown-up philosophy, kids talking about Marx's fetishism of the commodity and the tyranny of bureaucracy like we understand this society, arguing for/against feminism in lengthy scribbles in the lift, kids puking in the corridor, kids falling in and out of infatuation. I have the habit of thinking of my past selves as far more immature, perhaps because I change and learn so much each year. But I also always think I'm stronger than I really am, more mature and disciplined, and I fall to the bottom and remember we are only human, we are still in many ways children.

Will we ever feel 'ready'? Will we feel ready to bring up another life, to wipe a child's ass and chide him for biting his fingernails, to explain why the sky is blue and why we should share our toys and why we cannot eat too much chocolate. Will we ever feel ready? I guess many people are never ready enough. Parents are also kids. Parents are also navigating a new world. We are always incomplete, inadequate. We will sit around cut fruits and cookies and our own children will befriend one another and we will fight with the person we're supposed to live with for a lifetime. We will throw things and words around. We will share our parenting woes and we won't know what to do. And there will come the day our children realise we are also only human, just like them. They will become disenchanted, and we will feel like we've failed.

When I'm married and my kids are teenagers will I look back at this and laugh at myself? I enjoy reading my primary school diary entries, that's for sure, and I'm quite ashamed at the weird kid I used to be but I still am one; I still say stupid things and dream stupid things. Also, I want to be a taxi driver, but I have to be at least 25. I want to travel. I hope I travel. I wonder if one day I'll be able to think of myself without deriding the immaturity of all my previous years, accept that we learn by trial and error, through elimination and scraped knees.