Yesterday I spaced out. And before I knew it, it was lunchtime. Where did time go?
There are pockets of time I don’t remember, yet moments that loop for eternity at the back of my lids. And even when I open them again, I find myself retracing the steps, only this time, it’s with other people. They say history repeats itself, but only because it’s impossible to let go.
There are days where I’m wake up and think it will be a good day. And it melts away two hours later. And on some not so good days, I wake up already a molten mess, hoping God would scoop me up and tell me it’s okay to have days like this. Sometimes people see the mess and would rather not touch it. And I get it.
There are people I love but would rather have them stay out of my life. But only because they don’t love me back the way I want them to. And if I can’t have all of you, then maybe I’ll take none. But I’ll save that speech for when I feel the bravery travel up to my knees and stomach. But today, they’re still residing at the back of my heels and I’m afraid I will collapse if I say it.
There are historical spaces I forgot existed, but are unearthed as time goes by. And the shared history is a little painful to re-visit - mostly because some are hazy, yet some replay on loop. And if time and space were jumbled up, then maybe the truth is, it never really existed.
I wanted life to a be movie — like a fast paced Chungking express with but that slow-mo shot of Cop 663 drinking the coffee — but my director’s cut is shitty.
There are very hot days (like today) when you wake up from a nap on the couch, alone and sweaty. Alone because everyone left the house, and sweaty because the heat has been so fuckingly unbearable and the still, warm air transforms and coalesces into a pool of sweat in clavicles.
And in the moment of frustration, thanks to the loneliness and the eternal stickiness on your skin, you eat the cold, leftover noodles from this morning wondering why you gave up the chance to be asleep in an air-conditioned room in someone’s arms.
Hot days give me a headache that blitzes through my skull each time I try to move, and the warmness sets off my restlessness and unhappiness like nothing else other. But I figure summertime is my personal hell, and I wish it would rain all the time. All the bloody time.
There’s a fine line between loneliness and solitude as I’ve figured out painfully over wasted years. And I wish I didn’t delude myself into insisting that amidst the slow crawl of a Sunday afternoon, that what I was feeling was indeed solitude. Because solitude meant productivity, and I haven’t done anything productive in years. But why is it like this? Why?
As I sat staring into an empty pot that was once filled with soggy noodles and limp vegetables, I realise how I lost control of time and discipline. The heat always makes me lose control and ups my irritation. Before I knew it, I finished old noodles that were meant for two and I had all the evidence on my shirt. I wish I gave a fuck about what I eat and my wrecked relationship with food. But as with life, I have better things to give a fuck about (i.e. nothing).
I also realise that the side of my lips were now bleeding because I keep biting into the same wounded spot as I eat too quickly. Yes, the wound is my fault, but it really can’t be helped - that area always gets in the way. After a while, it’s just become an annoyance. I’m okay. It’s okay. I even throw the pot and cutlery into the sink so I can wash it later.
It was a tearful, useless weekend, and I had done zero work even though I willed myself too. But like the cyclical nature of weather, the hot, frustrating days will pass. Right? Right?
Occasionally, I am frozen in my seat when I watch an Edward Yang film. Stricken by a past life that vividly plays at the back of my eyelids, I am thinking, is my present now then someone’s past memories?
There’s a silent suffocation that goes on in my home that makes it difficult to breathe. I’m not sure if it’s the warm air, or the ever-increasing presence of my mother. But in the summer, particularly this month, I feel like dying more often than usual. It’s the sweaty, wet nights by the window, the listless mornings where the sun rises too early to warm up the room, and the still, sticky air which sets off the boredom. There are only so many nights where I can work late, and so many people I can afford to meet.
This morning, I really hated you. And I felt like I couldn’t possibly like you anymore. I thought the feeling would abate by night, but going outside to smoke, I came face to face with the warm air again and I knew it was a week meant for boredom and burns on my thighs.
1. Often I am restless and bored, but I try to kill that boredom with other things. It’s like painting a fresh colour over a layer that I grew bored off - just that I realise that the need for new coats have increased over time. Sometimes, I’m surprised at how wet the paint is when I swipe the new coat across. And I’m not prepared for it when the colours mix. But it dries up and all I end up with is a really thick layer of paint and I forgot what it was I painted over. Is it a wooden block or a piece of canvas?
2. The other day, I removed my makeup and I found myself very unsatisfied with the spots on my face and how used I’ve gotten to looking at a made up face. My face is too sallow, rings too dark, lashes not thick enough, blah blah. I knew this day would come.
3. It’s April and my resolutions for the year have crumbled. I’ll try to pick them up, but I don’t have much hope for myself.
4. The other day in Seoul, I spent an evening in a cafe beside a stranger. We were outdoors, it was cold, I was smoking and drinking iced coffee, he was smoking and drinking something else. I was watching Pushing Daisies, and I’m sure he was watching me more than his own iPad. And I wonder what happens to the lives of others constantly - not in a jealous, covetous way. More so, I just want to know what’s happening in everyone’s lives. He would ask me for a cigarette later, and I even lit one up for him. Life is funny that way.
5. I want to try and make you happy, but I don’t know what to do. I stare at your face, often at your lashes and I get a funny feeling in my stomach. I haven’t determined what that feeling is. Sometimes I’m in the car and all I want to do is reach over and touch you, but then I wake up and realise I’m a fool.
6. Today I dreamt that I was getting married to a boy I never knew. It was going nightmareishly well and I was the best version of myself. Everyone was happy but most importantly, I felt like this was real. But I turn around to see R as a best man and I immediately felt my face melting and the ground give way - this had to be a dream. I woke up on the floor and I had missed the alarm.
Sometimes like today, I let me be kind to myself and allow the indulgence of taking half a day off work to be done with life and do errands. But at the end of the day, I’m still crying on the way home and into my packed dinner and trying to figure out what’s wrong with my life. I have what I need so why is it like that?
One day I will find someone who would be willing to love me and talk to me about Chinese cinema and cinematic culture in the 90s and early 00s. Till then, my Sunday afternoons will be spent watching re-runs of Stephen Chow’s and Wong Kar Wa’s early work.
1. On the way home 35,000 feet in the air on Sunday night, I watched August: Osage County and promptly cried my heart out. A family that has dirty linen to clean and dry out is perhaps better than a poor one with hardly any material..
2. Today, my sub-editor asked me for a “common happy memory with [my] mother” so he can contrast against the unhappy in my article. It took me a while to try and recall a single memory before I gave up and decided to lie. Because stories always read better in print, and real life in still images.
3. In a fit of anger and jealousy and an inability to feel useful, I am drinking far too much wine and whiskey in a ceramic mug tonight. But these kind of nights are the definitive moments of your twenties. There’s a silent rebellion against yourself while pretending to be a fairly good person in front of your parents. I’m sorry I was such a mess in my teens, but I try to be less in my twenties. Look, I even wash out my mug as I’m done with it so that you can’t smell it.
4. I bleached my hair thrice, but I actually wish I could bleach myself white in fear and loathing. I’m afraid the new hair is yet another crutch to my crippling insecurity.
5. On the way to town in a bid to do something normal instead of staying in the office for 12 hours dazing at nothingness, the rush of people, blend of smells and a Bjork song playing in my ears made me cry as I tried to run my errand. Just one errand. I tried to stop panicking but could not, gave up and then took the train in the opposite direction so I didn’t have to go home that early.
6. When I was in Seoul, I texted an old friend. Years pass and he’s like an old stranger whose familiarity bred contempt. We shared a cigarette. And a past. But that’s about it.
7. The other day, I remembered how R gave me very stable years in my life which I took for granted. The truth is, I very much forgot what it means to be responsible for yourself so that other people don’t have to worry. I also forgot what a “real” relationship means.
8. Some days, I wake up and think I can love you very much. Like a lot. Some days, I think I don’t. The rest of the days, it’s too warm to think about us.
9. One day I will be lucid and happy to make sense of life. But till then, I count on insobriety to make one or the other work.
I am supposed to go to bed early because I have to do work in the morning, but at the back of my eyeballs is my socket slowly drying out like they’re burning up because I hate sleeping alone and I hate having to go to sleep. And the sides of my fingers are bloody and the skin’s all torn because I lie in bed thinking about a past I can’t change, a present that I’m ambivalent towards, and a future that seems bleak. I can make a future for myself, and unchain myself from the past, but it takes too much effort to desire something good for myself.
Nowadays I just lie in bed awake till the early morning, or wake up suddenly at 4. I could watch TV, but even that level of concentration seems too much. I used to punish myself by staying online, but these days, talking to people seems cumbersome. My colleagues and a select few other people are all I know and spend time with now, which is why I also notice myself being obsessed about them. Downright obsessed, like whyarentyoutalkingtomenow obsessed, like areyouangrywithme obsessed, like amibeingagoodgirl obsessed. To the point I know you’re actually the people I love. Because I actually don’t care about a lot of people. But I fall in and out of obsession so easily I don’t trust myself anymore.
There are people I love, and there are people that I love love love to the point of addiction. The truth is, I don’t know how to let go, which is why my grasp towards certain things seem to loose and apprehensive. If I had to second guess your actions and thoughts, then is it because I’m not good enough for you to be sure about me? And while I don’t think I’ll ever love anyone less for being unsure about me, because obsession is love and it’ll only run dry when I’m not as interested on my terms, it turns me into a raving maniac on the inside and I want to kill myself because of that.
TV relationships take over because even the most imperfect duo on screen could have the most perfect toxic repartee and best destructive moments that are actually moments of self-actualisation. Or how two perfect people could be so unreadable to everyone else but themselves. Scene 1: My best friend of 10 years is actually a manipulative bitch, but I have the perfect closing speech to cut it off. Scene 2: I actually love you a lot but I have the perfect heartbreaking speech of why I suck. Scene 3: I don’t like you anymore, please go you’re disgusting and your slap on my face will never hurt. Reality: I had all the lines in my head waiting for someone to deliver it but they never appear.
If, and by “if” I mean in another lifetime, if I unravelled our timelines and laid it all down on the floor, would we have met each other earlier? Or later? Or never? Or if I had said no to that random Sunday outing, or to further late nights? Or had the courage to spit out in rage what I swallowed in resignation one drunk lonely night? What would our TV ending be? What would my season finale look like?
Two days ago in the midweek, I drank a bit too much and fell up the stairs. Apparently, I had insisted on using the stairs when we could have taken the elevator. The truth is, I just wanted to spend a little more time with you, and for you to hold me a bit longer. We sat on your couch and drank some more, but I babbled a lot of the day’s happenings into the glass of whiskey and let my feelings out through tendrils of smoke. You asked me if I wanted to go to bed, but I said, “I have to work in a few hours, I need to go home.” I ended up sleeping on the couch with a blanket over. And you never moved an inch while my head rested on your lap.
Last week, I played coy even though I knew exactly what people were up to, but I just couldn’t deal with disappointment so I decided that if I expect nothing, I wouldn’t be disappointed when handed with nothing. That night, I pretended to sleep, but I actually couldn’t. And while you drifted off to sleep and I heard your breathing, I closed my eyes and dreamt of film endings. I think I am a continuity mistake in your life, but you just don’t want to admit it. That morning when I woke up, the sky was still dark outside and I realise maybe I didn’t even sleep that much. But I could see your face and I’m wondering, what are you dreaming of?
A couple of weeks ago, you buried your face into my neck and couldn’t stop laughing. I forgot what the joke was, but it doesn’t mean a joke didn’t exist.
The truth is, I cannot differentiate what’s real and what isn’t. The seemingly real incidents turn out to be as fleeting as the smoke you blow into my face - I just can’t grab hold. Yet the ones that keep playing at the back of my head, that materialise and burn into the back of my eyelids, seem the most plausible and attainable.
Just the other day, my nose started to bleed and you wiped it away with your finger. The floor under my feet started to shatter and I felt it gave way.
On the way to work, while waiting for the train, I looked up from my phone and I thought I saw a man who looked like you from the back.
Everything - his outfit, the back of his neck, his hair, his shoulders, his waiting stance, his posture. Everything reminded me of you. If I could verify its authenticity, I would stand behind and see if my head fit the shoulder blades perfectly. But it wouldn’t, because he turned around and dissolved into the surroundings. I knew it would have been physically impossible for you to be at two places at one time.
Or is it not? Maybe there was a glitch in the motherboard and my visuals didn’t make it to my brain. But this morning, I felt better about myself, so I was okay with seeing a ghost of you, but then later I felt a cold hand grip the back of my brain.
Years after a displacement that could have been avoided, I wonder if I’m playing a very long, drawn video game with no end in sight. Yet. And I’m wondering, if my last saved moment was when you broke up with in the kitchen, then why haven’t I desperately saved many other moments where I could possibly go back for a do-over after the countless times that I died in the game?
And after years and years of rewinding and trying numerous do-overs that don’t make sense nor work out, I think I’m finally starting to feel the gears wearing down and the screen burning up into a permanence. I don’t want to keep going over the same restart point, but neither do I desire enough to finish the game that I may see the end.
In another lifetime where I’m answering the question in person, I must remind myself to dig my fingernails deeper into my thighs this time round to make sure that it’s real thing, and that the feeling of tackling a disarming question head on is fear and loathing.
"Are you happy?"
My eyes snap open and I forgot what my answer was at that time. Then I wonder if I had already dreamt of a definite answer or if God had refused to let me see into my own wicked heart again.
If I shut my eyes tightly to try and let my brain project the images onto the back of my eyelids, I realise it’s just really only images after all. I remember you driving at night with your head faced front; I remember my body facing you and my hands were all over the place; I remember you turning to look at me with angry eyes and the car swerving into another lane; I remember the car jerking to a stop by the side of the highway as we stewed in a lethal concoction of anger, tension and disappointment.
It’s only just images after all because years later, I realise that I cannot even remember what we fought about.
Even when we’re far apart, we gravitate back to each other. Turns out we were like two cores sparking off even when just near by and when we finally collide into each other, the heat gets too unbearable, a small explosion ignites and a fire starts to burn everything along our path.
That was yesterday. Or feels like yesterday, at least. Today, I sit by my window with a drink and watch you from across; and I wonder what would a randomised, computed future with you be like.
The January winds finally shifted and the cold snap that passed over this warm country finally went back to where it belonged. And while I had hoped that things would go back to where it was when I opened my eyes, I settled for cold fingers tucking my stray hairs back behind my ear.
"When will you stop cutting your damn hair?"
"When it stops looking like an ugly mushroom looking thing."
"It looks fine to me."
"It doesn’t to me."
"You’re never happy."
I whirled my head round, ready to argue, but I could never find the anger nor courage to be angry at people. Ryan Adams played in my head and I decided to smile and forgive you. And you smiled back.
The January winds were so cold at night and I wish I could stick my head out from the car when we were driving home one night. It was quiet and the moment I pulled down the windows, the rushing roar of the wind filled my ears and the cool wind stirred a restless heart. I know that it will be warm the time February comes, and I constantly worry about the fate of my loves that start and end in a sticky mid-summer.
This time, I simply let it fly loose in the wind and hope that whatever belongs to me will come back.
I had a Hugh Grant crush early last month that lasted for a while. It was a huge crushy moment that started the moment I decided to watch Notting Hill and it transpired into a weekend of Hugh Grantlyness and the cheesy 90s that I greatly adore.
But I will admit that by the second movie (Bridget Jones’s Diary, if you must know), I realised that I got so enamoured because his screen-self reminded me so much of you. Floppy hair, wry wit, self-deprecation and everything else. Just that I refuse to admit it. But it’s very hard for me to shake off my feelings.
Sometimes I catch myself still smiling a little stupidly - a lot less than several months ago, but it’s still a stupid smile. And I’m a little upset that I allow myself to continue and make excuses for people who repeatedly pull cruel moves on me, but I don’t know how else to create stories of us anymore. Funnily, I thought I would be writing tons of stories about us, but I ended up keeping it all a secret because I couldn’t bear to write fiction about us, because I had desperately wanted it to be real so, so much. God, I’m a fool.
And while I might never understand the affairs of honest hearts because I don’t have that (yet?), I think I will spend the rest of this life trying to understand the motivations and fear of a person who would rather settle for a half-fuck than gather up the courage to ask for the truth.
Two years later in a young women’s magazine, I’m still asking myself - where do I fit in?
I have come to fiercely love and defend women’s magazines, and especially so for the one I’ve been writing for. But women’s magazines are so difficult to love, and will always be for me. It’s just a personal thing. Or maybe it’s like a family thing - you get angrier and have higher standards because you just have too much… feels.
When you talk about “being real”, nothing is ever realer than tabloids because they never shy away from who and what they are. And increasingly, I find that female magazines take on such a facade that it becomes tiresome to keep up with. With tabloids, they give their readers exactly what they want - albeit as unhealthy as it is (but that’s another story for another day) - and that perhaps makes the tabloids a lot more palatable than female mags. It tough to keep down the lump in your throat when in this world you write about body empowerment on one page, and sell ads to cellulite busting product on the next.
It’s about makeup, and looking young, and shapewear, and healthy lifestyles packaged in rigid diets, and thinspo masking itself as fitspo, and pleasing boys, and sex tips, and dealing with bitchy female bosses (because only women can be bitchy and manipulative).
But it’s all neatly packaged as empowerment. They tell you that you should, or can put on makeup, look young, lead healthy lifestyles and exercise - but make sure you do it only for yourself, only to make yourself happy. Yet at the end of the day, and years later, it’s because all our value is still on the outside. At the end of the day, someone wants you to buy something. And to me, it’s even more apparent when I remove my makeup at the end of the day. I am both pleased about how I look, yet displeased that I’m only happy when I conceal and enhance. I’m sure it’s normal.
Beauty, health, men, sex, fashion, travel, confidence, money, career are all essential facets of a girl’s life, and no we shouldn’t shy away from it. Beauty and fashion, above it all, are not banal, fluffy things as I’ve come to learn. But somehow it frustrates me so much that it’s just… this. I’m neither deluded, nor jaded with my industry, yet at the same time, I lie awake with the choices that we could give each other. And to myself. And one day I know I will finally believe it. That we are more than our damned bodies and corporeality.
In this life, I am a girl with a body too difficult to love. But perhaps in my next life, I am a girl whose soul is so large that the size of her body is enveloped by other important things that matter. And perhaps in my next life looped infinitely, I still am finally, finally, a girl with a large soul bursting from a body that’s unthinkable, unfathomable, and unbreakable with ten thousand different mechanical, metallic parts. And perhaps by then it will be okay.
“Long ago, when an early galaxy began to pour light out into the surrounding darkness, no witness could have known that billions of years later some remote clumps of rock and metal, ice and organic molecules would fall together to make place called Earth; or that life would arise and thinking beings evolve who would one day capture a little of that galactic light, and try to puzzle out what had sent it on its way. And after the earth dies, some 5 billion years from now, after it’s burned to a crisp, or even swallowed by the Sun, there will be other worlds and stars and galaxies coming into being — and they will know nothing of a place once called Earth.”—Carl Sagan (via applekings)
Bodies work in the strangest ways. After months of learning and undressing and recalibrating and disarming, I’ve come to realise that you can understand a body, but perhaps never know it at all.
There are some nights when I still think of and am reminded of old lovers, bodies and ghosts, but as with memory, they become hazier and I cannot tell if it’s a real thing that I’m missing, and in a sense, perhaps it is for the better. Yesterday, I closed my eyes and I know something is finally for real, for real, for real, because I can feel the shivers right at the tips of my toes, and the tingling go straight to my teeth. This feeling is real, and this is reality.
In order to understand men and relationships and all the messy things that come out of it, I let them have all of me. But as it turns out, that so-called all of me isn’t that important and special after all. That’s why you can have all of it.
I cut my hair this afternoon and 12 hours later, you run your fingers through my hair; they escape much faster than before. “It’s really short,” you say.
"Didn’t you want to keep it long?"
"I do. But I don’t know what to do with it."
I never really had a chance to do much with my long hair and my short hair seems to have an affinity with all the boys. The last serious relationship withered away slowly just as my hair touched my shoulders — the longest it had ever been at that point in time — and it was a pity because he couldn’t wait to see my hair grow out. But instead of cutting it off to signify the end of something, I just let it grow and grow because I couldn’t be bothered and it turned into somewhat a signature look. And now I just keep going shorter and shorter because I don’t know how else anymore.
"Just let it grow out." You mumbled a bunch of words as you ran your fingers down the back of my head and caressed the back where the baby hairs stuck out.
I blow a whole bunch of smoke in your face before resting on your shoulder. It’s easy to say.
As it turns out, I’ve been deluding myself all this while. The parallel life had been one full of emotional intimacy and with it came all the physical benefits while the alternate life which I thought would come to fruition turned out to be a quick fuck most of the time. And in my head, I’m just laughing every day. Life is funny. And the things you have you’re never satisfied.
On Friday night, I really couldn’t be half-assed to take off my dress, but you insisted because, “the dress will be dirty”. I stared at you for a while and then decided, you’re right, my dress will be dirty. And it’s best to just feel dirty instead of being dirty I guess. A body is a body.
Halfway during the ride home, driving through the tunnels, I felt an inexplicable need to cry.
In this lifetime, I fell in love with a physicist at the wrong time and if he knew how to manipulate time and space and turn the past into the future, we would be perfect. If the physicist turned up at my doorstep with that letter from ages ago and said, “let’s change our future”, I would try all over again. But none of us were brave enough this lifetime, and will never be — and it is an irrevocable variant that would stain the futures so badly no matter how many pasts we desire.
In the next karmic cycle, I fell in love with a memory that was too good to be true, even with the flaws that I gave — the marriage, the unavailability, the volatility. But my memory is decaying and the half-life is increasing and I forgot if we were even that good in the first place.
In the dying days, I fell in love with a biologist who doesn’t know how to look hard enough into my heart and insides (or maybe doesn’t want to?). In between flashes of electricity and pain, I close my eyes very tightly and wish that this lifetime, our brains were perfect and the best for each other. And I have nothing else better for our present — because reality is so boring and the short circuits in our brain make us badder people than the better people that we so badly want to be.
As I turned into the corner leading into the lobby of my apartment, I saw you sitting by the railings listening to your music. Probably the same sort of dance music that I don’t really fancy. But if there’s one thing we have in common, it’s that I understand how music can make you weep because it reaches into a soft place somewhere.
And as I saw you, I felt my heart drop ten thousand feet into the ground below and I hope never to be found again. Because what I imagined in my mind, finally wasn’t him but you instead. And when I opened my eyes finally, to walk closer, the mirage had disappeared and I realised that my imagined reality is better than anyone else’s reality out there.
As I sucked all the remains of your feelings out from your mouth, I realise it is the familiarity that I wanted and a warm body back in my bed. In the dark, while we were asleep, you sounded a lot like him, right down to the things that he would ask a sleepy me. And for a while, I closed my eyes, and I let the feeling of guilt wash over me while you try and lick them off.
It’s new bodies that are fresh off the boat which clash in the dark. There’s the clumsy fingers and the overeager mouths that are all waiting to find a sort of symmetry and routine to settle into. We can say that we’ve made it only when two bodies can move seamlessly and perfectly in the dark.