And so — how has it all changed?
This year things are very different. For one, I’m now typing in caps. I don’t know why, maybe I think it looks nicer, but actually I just wanted to do it for that particular post, but now I’m stuck doing it because I like uniformity (gasp) and I can’t stand it if the post is anomalous, not anymore. Which is also why I’m in the process of changing all my ITunes song info into capital letters, after I spent nearly three days changing everything to small letters when I first got ITunes, back in 2004. Maybe it marks a transition; who knows.
Being in university changes things. For one, I no longer really see January as the start of a new year, since I’m still in the middle of a school year, with the promise of a second semester, a second chance, looming in the horizon. It makes things that happened this January so far away, back in my first year of university, though still part of 2007. And it started with nearly getting bombed in Bangkok, spending our New Year’s Eve in a hostel room huddled together, playing drunken games with lots of beer, because that was the only thing we could do. In that time, how much I really felt as if I grew up was a mystery, and it has yet to be solved.
There were lots of holidays; a lot of travelling, and breaks. From Bangkok with my friends to spending a night in a chalet all by myself, Malacca, to visiting Bangkok with my mum when my dad first relocated (with all the promise, yet again, of strengthening old relationships, putting water under the bridge, etc), to Hong Kong, that wonderful place I will always love. During summer holidays, I went out unafraid into the sun for the first time, in a long time, without getting burnt, or any side effects that come with usually being in the sun. For those who have never had this problem, you cannot imagine how liberating it was, or how frustrating it must have been, all those years when I was never allowed to do anything for prolonged periods under the sun (effectively putting an end to whatever burgeoning sports career I had). The beach was there, and so was the sun. With the sun, came the food writing, and somehow I spent all those suntanning days reading about food; Anthony Bourdain, Jeffrey Steingarten, Ruth Reichl. Dealing with Law Camp in between. Crashing my car on the way to Ian’s house. And then, the drunken parties, the heart-to-heart talks, seeing how social dynamics changed from semester to semester, and all the histrionics that the aftermath of being in clubs brings. Seeing relationships get ruined, slowly but surely, with all the force of an oncoming train but being powerless to stop it, too much alcohol, a wayward hand, and strangely enough, struggles for power. When you think you can do anything, you really will.
Then there was the most difficult part; dealing with the aftermath of last year. When you think it is all over, it starts again. There was summer, when everyone came back, and there was MAF. Where I renewed old friendships and was glad for them, knowing nothing could replace them, and yet, feeling so far away. With each year comes the renewed feelings of clutching at straws. But no, some things are only as big as what you make of it, and I will take it as it comes, drunken spontaneous forays into Zouk after drinking like delinquents outside Cineleisure, and all.
This was the year I bared the most of myself, and had the most heartfelt conversations with people. Some regarding love, or life, relationships, family. There was lots of alcohol involved, or I would not have said anything most of the time. Circles of trust, in the dead of night with a dozen shots down, smiling drunkenly at each other. I wonder now if I really knew the impact of what I was saying, but no matter now. And a random day of skipping school, going to Far East, just hanging out and talking. We were supposed to have lunch, but we ended up talking for three hours. I was scared, most of the time: of disappointing myself, loved ones, hearing doors close, phones slammed, messages deleted. Communication being cut off. Things that didn’t appear to matter suddenly did, and became bigger than they were. When family to me was still a belated, distant concept. Maybe it still is now. Maybe my feelings are an intellectual construct. Who knows? And I thought to myself, maybe things would change, but they didn’t. Was it regret? Nobody knows. But I think not. Somehow this year I found out, and perhaps admitted to myself, what I knew all along, which is that people don’t change, or change irrevocably.
Am I too old to dwell on my pain? Maybe, and maybe I need to get over myself, or anything that stands in my way. We always have these conversations about people without realizing they are equally applicable to ourselves. Strangely enough, the best thing that may have happened to me was probably getting banned from Bogglific, without which I would have wasted my entire life away. And those days were dark. In April I huddled in classrooms, shivering from the cold on weekdays and sweating like a pig on Sundays, when the aircon was off. Waking up obscenely early, and going home at obscene times. Killing myself over moots with Patrick, determined that I should do a good job, practising again and again in front of people, getting shot down by questions again and again in front of a full classroom, going up in court, delivering my argument. I was damn bloody scared, but who wasn’t? Then, in second year, all those trial/advocacy tutorials, which we never put in effort for, till the last minute, where I decided that even if it wasn’t really graded, I would do this properly. In November, I left school at 4am on a regular basis, going home only to bathe and change, then come back, and start again. Getting intimately acquainted with the numerous delivery services across the island, bringing our own exam wellness pack, staying in the study room where the same old same old people came in everyday, sending each other nostalgic Chinese songs from our childhood and beyond. I went to Starbucks almost every other day, having some version of coffee or another. While I listened to Wu Bai on repeat I looked through mortgages again and again, trying to remember the rights of a mortgagee, arguing with others over the duties of a director, and what happens with a legal or equitable lease, making stupid and utterly lame lawyer jokes. Chomping on wasabi peas to keep me awake, constantly hounding the co-op auntie to bring new stocks in. Sitting outside on the canteen chairs way after closing, so that mine was the only chair left outside when the night ended. Seeing the number of cars along the front of the school dwindle to just mine, and whoever was in the study room. Honestly, I have never taken so much pride in my work.
And then, after all of it, I must let it go. All those notes, thrown in some random corner, while DVDs and Japanese dramas and random history books take centrestage. Then I went to Starbucks again and again, this time doing nothing but lazing around, reading and having a coffee, just like I dreamed of during the exams. And I took pleasure in the rain, the cool weather, pretended it was winter and it was freezing, though January is coming and it is no longer all rain and clouds. Tonight I saw the most stars in a year, and I thought of the time I was 15 in OBS looking at Orion’s Belt on Pulau Ubin, and that black, black sky in Mongolia where I stared up with no lights on for miles and miles, my legs up in the air. It reminded me of Christmas Day, with familiar and comforting rituals, which I know are about to end, because now all the boys will be going overseas, and nobody will come back anymore. Then I remembered that overwhelming disturbance I felt that day, whether it was due to family or new information or not, I will never know. As I drove home that night at 4am, it felt a little melancholy. It seems every Christmas there is some little saga, some revelation, and whether for better or for worse, at least some things remain constant.
I felt as if I should mention you, but I didn’t know where to put it. But you are everywhere, so maybe there is no need after all.