Since I’m trying to get back into the habit I might as well take advantage of it while I can. The highlight of my day came early in the morning (funny how the rest of it just pales in comparison soon after) when she told me, “wah you are really a thinker and this is why I love you.” There was nothing I could have said to that, only that I felt really happy (and slightly embarrassed). K called me on it the other day when he said, “you’re not used to receiving compliments, are you,” which surprised him (and me) and left me a bit bewildered for a short second. But ah well.
It’s been a strange night.
I had a couple of revelations tonight, including one about my old self. Or should I say, altogether too many, because the conversations I had tonight threw up many old things, strangely enough in light of all the old friends I’ve been meeting. It seems that when it rains, it really pours.
I sometimes think our old selves disappear under the radar for awhile only to resurface at the most random of times. (But that’s just the way time works. So this statement is redundant. But you knew that.) W. messaged me about his ex-girlfriend today asking for advice, and funnily enough I faced the same dilemma just days ago. We talked about it at length (and eventually came, as always, to the conclusion that neither of us would do anything about it) and we were surprised just how long ago all these happenings were. Were we only just teens? 13, 14, 15, teetering on the brink of possible self-extinction? The teenage years are trying, and even more so when we think we are in love. There were grandiose ideas, swirling about, and we were yet unhit by the mindblowing concept of survival after a broken heart. We thought ourselves perpetually on the brink of suicide. Dying for love seemed like such a good idea, and all the more so when our prescribed literature text was Romeo and Juliet.
(I wonder, on hindsight, whether the educators ever planned on such drastic emotional connections. Shakespearean tragedies, for all their lyricism, did little for the teenage constitution.)
We talked and laughed about it for a bit, thinking of all the times (all the first times, for as with every time, the latest time is always the first) we fell in love. He’d apparently forgotten I used to have a crush on him when we were kids. But I was mistaken; he did remember. With the advent of the Internet came an entire social network, much like things are now, only then it was the beginning, and we were at the beginning. We reminisced about stupid things, like how all the boys got excited over Maths Camp because it was the first time they’d ever see girls (single sex schools ….!).
We were twelve. How awesomely the GEP matchmaking system works. I mentioned I dated this guy for a few months when we were 14. We laughed, because all the questions one naturally asked were already answered. How on earth could we have known what we were doing? (We didn’t.) Did we really? (Yes.) Was it really? (Maybe not.) Yet it was telling, of how far teenage love permeated our past, that W. replied, “oh seriously, that’s as far back as S. and I,”.
S. was someone we both met on IRC; and slowly, through the unimaginably painful and socially awkward procedures of meeting another teenage person, we ascertained that she was a real person (she remains so on Facebook, now the ultimate arbiter of whether someone is worth seeing in person or not). Sparks ensued, as is prone to happen when one hormone-charged person meets another. He believed it was true love. For a while so did I. Then we pretended to be mature and ‘broke up’, because that was the Thing to Do. “I don’t want to hurt you,” became the tagline, as with “It’s not you, it’s me.” Endless reruns of HBO movies facilitated such utterances, as did the hours of Channel 8 TV serials. I fancied myself heartbroken. Then I moved on. I was 14. What on earth was I doing? It was a game then, and probably also now. In truth, everything always seems funnier on hindsight.
So it is strange now, to talk about all these exes as if they were real relationships. Some were, and others were not. This was one of the ‘not’s. I dithered on a reply to a request to meet up before finally deciding to hell with it. (The exact conversation with W. went: “My ex asked me to meet up one day; should I?” “You mean it ended that badly that you don’t want to see him anymore?” “Well no, not really … it was so long ago.” “How long ago?” “Sec 2.” “Chey.”) It had been really long.
All the same, I have no idea what on earth to talk about.
I feel like pieces of me are falling apart. Strange because all these physical things are finally starting to heal up and suddenly all the rest of it hits you like a moving train. These are things you thought you’d forgotten, but it turns out they never really go away.
I bumped into P last night while at Bar Bar, along with Z, whom I didn’t say hi to. As I predicted, it was an awkward mess of social niceties, something that was painful even though it lasted all of two seconds (“Hi! … See you around!”) and I felt slightly embarrassed that my smile was altogether too bright, and hopeful (with what? I have no idea). I quickly turned away, and so did he, and we resumed our normal conversations even as his friends tittered away, laughing at the awkwardness of it all.
As I get older I realise I am less and less prone to subterfuge. It may be a good thing or it may not, but somehow I can’t find the energy to hide behind words anymore. There used to be a time when I took great pleasure in making everyone guess what I was talking about (strange how people put up with me, sometimes) but nowadays I’m tired of mind games and second guessing all the time.
Things begin, things end, things begin anew. The logic is the same and it is always the same cycle, and everything appears to be a game. You play, you win, you play, you lose, you play. You win again, or you lose. There are never grey areas; everything is one or the other. Still you play. Everything defines itself by something else, and when there are only two alternatives there is always something that has to give. Rarely are we faced with more, and like most life-changing decisions, there is really only one way to properly go about it, which is to say, not at all. Nobody thinks. Nobody cares. We remember the times that we sat together by the riverside, thinking about our lives, wondering where we would go. We eventually came to the conclusion that there was nothing we could do; this is the way it is, this is the flow. If we make a mistake, so be it. It is our life to live. We win, we play, we lose. Everything is a risk and we pursue the exciting rather than the familiar, because we are free, because we are young, because we can. It is the reason why nobody turns back, why nobody wants to be faced with regrets, why everyone looks forward and keeps going, because the past is painful and hard to bear. There are only two alternatives. And yet everything in the present must also have a past, in the same way that it must also have a future. It may not be better, it may not be worse, just — different. And then how much remains the same is the scariest question, because it is possible to come full circle and realise one has never moved from the same spot. It may be the same as watching someone sit quietly by your side, not saying anything, but understanding. It may be that someone’s back is turned away from you, someone who doesn’t look at you anymore, who doesn’t say anything and will never say anything anymore. It may be the case that having someone is like not having anyone at all; or that we are faced with the ghosts from our past all the time, pretending all the while that someone is there when they are not.
There will be times when I falter, when I lose sight of myself, and what I’m supposed to do. There will be times when I cannot deliver what I promise, times when I don’t tell the truth. There are times when I mock people behind their backs, to their faces, whether I truly mean it or not.
This is me. All of this is me, but I am also other things. And what matters is to know yourself, to know the things that you want and the things you don’t want, to keep looking straight ahead, at the future, even though past mistakes don’t disappear.
When God closes the door, somewhere he opens the window. I’m not everything anyone wants me to be, but I have strength, and courage, and hope, and lots and lots of friends who love me. I know that if I keep believing, things will definitely change.
And whatever happens, you save yourself, or you remain unsaved.
Written one May Sunday after exams sitting at Starbucks and watching people. My mind… goes in weird directions. Also, I didn’t forget about the Japan pictures. Except I’m still editing them (only got Kyoto left though!) and they will be all up soon. Yay!
I thought about it and I thought it would be better if I left it like that. Hours later I’m still wondering why I didn’t pick up the phone. Strange? Maybe yes, maybe no. I keep having to pretend I’m not there or that I forgot about it, or that I completely missed it. It’s selfish to start thinking about how I shouldn’t have to be dealing with this right now.
Endless phone calls? How old are you, six?
I don’t even understand why there is all this bitterness on my part. This doesn’t even have anything to do with me.
I, we. There’s no doubt about it.
Yet another round of Things You Never Needed to Know About Law (School).
Today I thought about a lot of things. When we first started out, we met each other at the bookstore, and I was reading Gathering Blue, after a long and painful search. We then went on a trip for tea and then to search for the perfect present, before calling you up and finally settling on something. And then, as time went by, the conversations got stranger by the minute, always talking about things other than us, about our surroundings, our plans, and all of us talked about the wine, the food, the random people who were not there, the people in the room, the Japanese embassy. Each story was filled with vignettes and things to remember, as well as very forgettable things, which we only listened to because we were polite. And so on.
Then as the night died down and the people left, we went on a wild goose chase for an alcohol binge, which came lately in the night, though whether it was much appreciated or not went unanswered. There was alcohol, yes, though some of the pleasure was diminished, and there was good music, and for a few moments all of us were intoxicated and happy, and eager to dance and forget the world. Then we sat down on the plump sofa and realised that it was not our birthday we were celebrating, and as we looked down on the people dancing, I realised what an elaborate mating ritual it was, just like a poem you wrote about so long ago.
A few days ago there might have been a lunar eclipse. Only when we looked up into the sky, we saw no moon, and thought it was a normal thing. And so, both of us missed a momentous event, as we always have.
It’s 6am — what do we do?
Today I met — no, I bumped into — no, I saw — the ex to end all ex-es, in the midst of my alcohol-induced high, in Phuture. The very first. But not the very last, in the string of secondary school mistakes (which amounted to two, including this one. There was another, which was also… what we could call a mistake, but for different reasons). And that was a really big mistake. I remember feeling stunned, for a long while, just before a PE lesson when Charlene told me some very bad news. One is aware that I would not be so honest if not for the alcohol now running through my system, but we must take these moments of spontaneity as they come. I didn’t feel much, because I hadn’t been thinking about him in years, but seeing my friend go up to him and say hi reminded me just how long we hadn’t talked. And I thought that things, after so long, would have changed (he even refused to say hello to me when we were in the same school, years after the debacle, totally unaware that all of it was his doing, but that’s another story), but clearly they haven’t. It’s not that it’s a bad thing; I just hadn’t thought of it in years, and suddenly all these intellectual thoughts come sprouting out of my brain, in the midst of an alcoholic stupor.
Now I am carrying out an (very enjoyable) intellectual conversation with Daming, which I haven’t had in ages. While half-drunk and at 6am in the morning, and listening to Beyond on repeat, which in my opinion is the greatest Cantonese band that ever lived. Even though my boyfriend is currently in Genting gambling his life savings away with the Catholic Boyfriends’ Association, I can honestly say that I’ve never felt this breathless and carefree in a long time.
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.
I’ve submitted it.
So now I am officially known to my mother as the world’s most spoilt child.
Everything comes back to the same thing. Must it come down to this before we realise how screwed up it all is?
I just had the most random thought.
The person that your brother marries is your sister-in-law. But now they are engaged, and they are not yet registered at the Registry of Marriages. Does that make your brother’s fiancee your sister in equity?
An equitable sister! HAHA
So — I don’t know whether to believe you. I don’t know if it matters whether I believe you. It feels strange that after so long, you’re still trying to be someone else, fit into somebody’s conception of you. Creating new identities, a new backstory. A new past to tell your future, since nobody knows.
A year back you told me something else. Everyone has something to hide, but you keep creating lies for yourself. Maybe you didn’t trust me enough, but who knows? My head is having a hard time wrapping itself round this — thing.
Who knows, indeed? I see how it is now.
I was right, in the end.
strange, isn’t it? life is not turning out the way everyone thought it would be.
J told me the other day that i am not a romantic. that i don’t believe in forever, don’t think about getting married when i’m in a relationship, about having kids together and living life like an old couple in years to come. and yes i don’t, but that doesn’t make me unromantic. why think about the future (and so far ahead) when you have the present? why do you spend your days thinking about what’s going to happen and forgetting that if you don’t keep the person here, right here right now, all your daydreaming is going to go to the dogs? to me, that’s not a smart thing to do. and that’s not because i don’t believe in love, because i do. but it’s not all sweet smells and roses and walking down the aisle. to me the greatest fear of thinking so far ahead is that you will end up regretting it, when it is all gone. it seems at once presumptuous and pompous, to assume you’d (he’d) be the one. as if all of it were something you could take for granted, that lasted forever and forever.
and no, so i can’t do that. i don’t do that. at the end of the day i feel stupid, for wishful thinking. maybe it’s the painful voice of experience talking on my part (okay it is, but you don’t know everything, so don’t judge.). people change. sometimes forever is not an option.
today we handed in our assignment. then, with liwong, kaiyong, denise and iris – ramen at robertson quay, dessert at ricciotti (half-price after 9) and pizza. 15% off with UOB card (no GST! gasp). stupid jokes, boggle, half-baked cantonese. i died laughing. it was a good night :)
there was so much alcohol on friday. i mostly like anything with green tea. sitting at the playground, just like the year before, only so many things have changed.
outside on the kerb
at the playground – pardon the wonky jeans, and i dunno why i always wear this top in pictures
us stealing food (again)
then emo-ing in the KTV on saturday night after a nice old school dinner, rugby finals at jon’s place. i was quite sad england didn’t win, but it was inevitable, it seems. and percy montgomery reminds me of lancelot.
what does it mean to say you regret it? these words keep coming and going, but they never stay. all these sorries and maybes fly over my head, and deposit themselves far, far away, somewhere i can’t see. when i was a child i thought about a lot of things. what i would do if this or that happened, and how i would react. she was shocked to find out i was thinking about certain things, but her silence told me more than i needed to know. she never said anything, because deep down she knew all of it was true.
there are times, like today, when i cannot help it, and i give up trying to be positive and happy, even if it is just for today. it has been a long time since, and it is disturbing to realise that while the reactions have not changed, the reasons for them are different. and the problem remains the same.
i promised her it would not affect me, so i try, but it is not easy, and she knows. which is why we dance around each other lately, giving each other space, because we know the other is hurting. and we give way. it is the only way we survive each day, crawling through this mess, in the hope that somewhere along the way there is a man who will come and save us. but maybe he will never come, and slowly we lose hope.
who knows what happens tomorrow?
高处不胜寒 起舞弄清影 何似在人间
转朱阁 低绮户 照无眠
此事古难全 但愿人长久 千里共婵娟
I AM SO – ANGRY.
i am hitting a wall again and again and nothing is moving
there are times i think about everything that has happened to me. and i always try to tell myself that no matter how hard it is, life goes on and we will get through it. so it is a blow to find out that this is not always the case, though perhaps deep down in my heart i always knew the real answer.
it is easy to say that all i have been doing this while is feeling numb. watching things unfold before my eyes, things that are supposed to concern me (in an extremely intrinsic sort of way) are just not hitting home. i feel like i am watching a drama serial on somebody else’s life. this was not supposed to happen to me. and even if it were, why so many times? i wish i could say that i believed what i told people. have hope. always be there. treasure things, before they slip away. at those times i convince myself as much as i am convincing them.
but every time this happens, and i hear about it, all i think i feel is nothing. i am not surprised. i am not hurt, i am not crying. i do not sympathise, nor empathise, though i know i should. i do not reach over and hug the persons involved, wounded as they may be. these non-emotions come back to haunt me in the middle of the night, when i think about how life has passed, neither meaningfully nor painfully, filled with promise of what should have been. all these endless maybes, and in the end i wake up every morning to realise that nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing has changed. that it is completely out of my hands. and i cannot breathe.
it is not grief, nor sorrow. maybe it is despair.
there are times when you believe some time together, and other times away, will help matters. while others live in their own dreamland, here another suffers. being caged in like a bird, dragged across the floor like a prisoner. images that keep flashing in your head, things that make you cry – only to haunt you later, in the worst places, in front of the person you cannot decide if you hate most. there may be worse things than scrambling to get into a room you are locked out of, only to find the door slam in your face. such lines are drawn everyday, walls built and torn down, some permanent. if we spell forever on our hearts today, who is to say it will not change tomorrow? and so we take one day as it is, biding our time, feeling alternately sorry and thankful, praying for the day separation never happens; that these walls, not having to be built, will never have to be torn down.
as trite as it sounds, some things will never change.
being friends is like saying i will be there for you whenever you need me. that i will always look out for you, and tell you the truth when it needs to be known. what it does not mean is an unequivocal intention to tell you everything, or nothing, or things you want or need to know. we live solely at one another’s discretion, and whatever we know about our lives is defined by the truths and half-truths that people tell us. these things, they are like lines. they are like balls of thread that bind us together in a huge web, that make us unable to go further or backward, trapped as we are by somebody else’s manipulations. our own manipulations. the way we manipulate others, tying our lies slowly but surely around their necks and ankles, pinning them there, strangling them, till they cannot move.
sometimes we change our minds. sometimes we try to untie those knots. those who see the light about the other people bind the truths they know to other people’s hearts. this is worse, knowing they cannot move, here or there, or anywhere. sometimes we put our hopes up only to find someone has taken them down. ripped them off the wall, and thrown them into the bin, or maybe burnt, or buried. we feel stifled, as if we have been choked. as if a ball of string, another lie, the unkindest of them all, has come, from the back. we feel these things. we will never know for sure. knowing too much about other people — it is never a good thing.