In between hours of sleep, I woke up to a body that will never belong to me. But maybe it’s for the best, I don’t want it for long anyway.
After bottles of wine during the wedding, I slipped into an dull happiness and ended up wishing I could have this drunken happiness for the rest of my life. I get too happy during weddings — best friends loving each other, the worst deserving each other, and the fated being together. And it’s the only time I ever feel happy with all the alcohol.
I ended up sitting on your doorstep because you took too long to answer the door, and I never really remembered how I ended up in your house. I couldn’t remember if I stood up and walked of my own accord, or if as usual, I slumped into your arms with a tiredness that came from my bones.
"What happened to your Forever?" you asked.
"My Forever couldn’t… or maybe wouldn’t love me the way I would want him to love me," I said. "And I don’t think I would ever be happy if he didn’t." And it’s true — he wouldn’t. I just know.
"Did you ask? Boys are stupid and need prompting."
"Some things don’t need asking. You just know, you know? My Forever very quickly replaced me."
At that moment, I really wanted to cry at the realisation that human bodies are all the same. And I am but one.
"Are you okay with that?"
"Forever could never be anyway. My forever mostly means now. And if you keep thinking of forever as an infinite series of nows, maybe my love is doable."
"But you, you’re good. You’re so good." You pushed the hair from out of my face.
"Some people don’t understand an infinite present." I downed the entire glass of wine and stared at you for a long time.
"I do," you said very softly.
And then I hardly remember the rest of the early morning. The hours melt into one big mess and I fall somewhere between the present and past.
Between my soul and body is a thin layer of fury that I will never be able to understand. I woke up to a pile of tangled limbs and a breath close to my ear. And I wonder, what have your days and nights been? But the fury overtakes and I don’t understand. For the lives that don’t include me anymore, I spend too much time thinking of theirs. And the person lying next to me is suddenly not as interesting - because I know exactly where you are in this infinite present.
There are days where my head is not really on my shoulders and I find myself fighting against that haziness, that daze, that barely-there reality. I find myself touching my face to make sure I’m here, pulling my hair to make sure I’m real. There are also days where I’m hyper aware of an anger and rage that rises from nothingness. But the thing that angers me is the restrain and extra hard work to make sure that strange veil isn’t torn down. Today in the process of changing the water in the coolers and tearing apart the seal, I cut the flesh in between my nail. But what got me angry was, in that process, my nail polish chipped. The one that I put on barely an hour ago. I didn’t even know my finger was dripping blood till I realised my hand was sticky. And there was a good amount of blood. And my hands were shaking as I tried to sop it up. But most of all, I was upset that this could have happened.
It’s the little things that I fixate on – and now the little nail polish chip, more so than a bleeding finger, is a reminder of how I cannot even do something right. And likewise, it’s the little things about people that I cannot accept that I don’t know why. I love you, but I just cannot accept the tiny dents you cause.
One day I will wake up without a headache and heartache, and finally see that when sober, the world is a place worth living in. And one day I will wake up without an image of you, or you, or you, seared into the back of my lids.
We were supposed to take a long walk but it started to rain. I instinctively started the run back to the car but you grabbed my arm to hold me back. “What’s the rush?” you say.
(In the end we ended up running back for the rain grew too much. Sometimes you just don’t want to challenge God.)
It was a cold night, and it had been the first cold night in many days. I am convinced that the warm summertime clouds my memories and eyes, but I’m sure it’s part delusion and part wishful thinking that colder evenings change anything.
We dried off in the backseat of the car and as you toweled my damaged hair that would never dry, I briefly mentioned that I would do something about the horrible roots. You scoffed and said that’s none of your business.
I’m always with cruel men who never know what to say or do especially when I’m looking for approval but at the same time, I know it’s unfair to want for something you never really asked for in the first place. So I said, “none of your business as in you don’t care, or what?”
"None of my business as in, I don’t care what you do to your hair, but I care about your feelings that you have for your hair."
That’s when I laughed, and I laughed really hard. I laughed so hard that I had trouble breathing for a while. Yes, I have a lot of feelings about a lot of things.
"You could be dropping hair from multiple dye jobs and I wouldn’t care. But I would care enough only if you were upset that you were dropping hair. Then I would tell you to stop that shit and come back to bed."
I smiled. “You’re unreal, you know?” I wanted to tell you that, but I never did. Instead you reached over to close the distance between us and sucked out the words from the tip of my tongue.
On the way home this morning, I suddenly remembered why I stopped walking home. The journey felt seemingly far too long alone and I can’t bear to be in the company of just myself. And I called to talk to you along the way home.
We didn’t talk much, all I heard were words and the sounds of you breathing. “Are you drinking?” I asked.
"Yes. It’s empty in the house without you."
"I try not to drink now."
"That’s what you always say. I bet you were shit-faced at least once early this week."
I laughed. It was thrice. But it’s getting better. At least my hands don’t shake at work now.
"Why are you calling me?"
I contemplated telling the truth, but I figured you didn’t need to know all of it. “Just felt like it.” Just a little bit will do.
It was really cool that night, and even though it felt like my limbs were made of water and my lids were heavy after a really long week, my mind was sober for what felt like a long while. And I know what I was feeling and thinking. And the cool night made me realise that I hadn’t been out at night in a while. It seems like summer is waning, and so have all my loves.
"I like you enough, you know? And you should too."
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean. You always call when you feel a certain way about yourself."
That night, I drank myself to sleep and dreamt that my family had died in the waters. When I woke up, I half-expected you to hold me and tell me it’s okay. But I realised I was back in my bed alone. For a long while, I stopped crying in my hands, but waking up often feels like death recently and that’s the only thing that I can do to start the day right. I take the tears to be the restlessness and helplessness being squeezed out of every cell. If I can’t change anything, then I sure as fuck better make sure feelings don’t manifest.
I forgot why we stopped loving each other — something along the lines of not wanting the same things or going down the same path or you deserving better. I imagined you last night on your couch with a beer. If life went our way, I would be reading next to you on our couch and you would be working on your sums. None of us would be drinking heavily. None of us would be on the other side of the phone.
For a thousand what-ifs that hang in the air, there is a definitive reality. I opened my eyes and I see you seated across me having breakfast at the table. You smiled. And that’s the last I remember.
On a good day, especially when the weather permutations are right — when the air is cool, the wind is blowing and the sun shines right into my eye — I often see a future that I daren’t hold too close in my heart for fear the devil might see through the deepest desires in my wicked heart and take in away. And at that specific time, it’s a fleeting image right at the back of my eyelids - a quick glimpse in a blink - before reality snaps back and I sit back slightly pleased that no one probably saw that. On a really good day.
(On a bad day, the devil covers my eyes.)
That early morning, I woke up in a fit and you were still sleeping. And while trying to wrestle out of our tangled bodies, I decided that if I left that secret in an unsuspecting heart, the devil could never take it away. Because how can the devil take away something that you never knew was there? So in between gulps of whiskey, I managed to whisper something — softly, quietly, so neither of you would hear it.
And when I woke up, there was a sinking feeling and I knew for sure that I had left that secret in the wrong heart. For suddenly the future seemed too close to disintegrating on itself and I had been too stupid to know that the devil himself came to collect it personally.
Some nights, I really want to scream. And it’s mostly about the things I cannot change. Those that I can, I have. Those that I haven’t, I will. But those that I can’t, I haven’t accepted. It’s this dissatisfaction that causes this dull ache and these phantom tears and I will never understand why it’s hard to be.
Yet it’s this dissatisfaction which taunts me from behind that makes me want to look back and spit in its face. That does nothing to push me forward in life, but all I want to do is to finally embrace it so I may roll off a cliff with it.
I think of all my lovers — past, present and potential — and I wonder if the threads of fate are real, and if reality is could be a figment of my imagination. Or if I’m still sleeping in a drunken stupor, or if I’m a life-sized digital render of a another lifeform that couldn’t move in their universe?
I have watched multiple lifetimes and outcomes go by in a dream, only to wake up disappointed that I haven’t died yet.
"It’s too warm to move," you said. But you still pushed the hair out of my face. "It’s blocking your face."
"I know. This is my third popsicle. Stop touching."
Time blurs whenever I’m over at yours. I can never tell if it’s morning or night simply because you’re all curtains and no windows, and time seems to both speed up and slow down. Before I know it, hours fly by - yet when I look over at your clock, the hour hand still hasn’t moved and time is crawling. Is the heat draining away my sensibilities? I don’t know. Summer is a shiny sheen of slick that befuddles me and I can’t trust my own eyes.
I don’t want to do anything during the summer — not to work, to talk, to have sex, to eat, to run, to go out, to talk, to lie, to think, or to write. So during our break from work, all we did was to whine about the heat, to indulge in fantasies and whims, to read our own books, to roll a cold beer down arms before drinking it so fast it runs down our necks, to understand how the intricacies of the wretched weather affect the human condition (and us). “Did you know people are more prone to lying in hot weathers?” you turned to tell me. “That’s bullshit,” I said. “Of course, you gullible idiot,” you said. “That was the heat talking.”
But you were right. It had been too hot to think things through, and hot enough to have to lie so that I wouldn’t have dig up some sort of explanation to other people for my behaviours. The sweat soaks through the clothes, and seeps back into the machinery, rusting up the mechanisms and in return, nothing ever works during the summer.
"Let’s move to where it’s colder," you murmured. I sucked up the last of the popsicle and left the sticky, wooden stick on top of your singlet. I turned to look at you and it was a funny sight. Your eyes were half-closed, a languid hand wiping away the ceaseless sweat, the furrowed brows — the heat has left you in a state of laughable helplessness and it’s funny. This situation is funny. And laughable.
I don’t recall last summer to be this warm, but this time round, it’s unbearable.
I scooted into a seat at the back of church, not in my usual place. And it took me a while to realise that I was standing behind you - I forgot that the mole on your neck existed. And while there was still a faint wrenching pain somewhere in my chest, I think I’m glad that my memory of you has turned out better than real life.
The thing about oversleeping is the gamble on the train I have to take - which side to sit on so the sun doesn’t shine from behind me. It has to be a quick one because too much dallying would result in me standing - a choice far more regrettable than the sun burning up on my neck.
Today I made a wrong choice. I sat where the sun would burn up my neck, where the screens of my devices would be black no matter how much I turned up the brightness, where I develop a headache, where a heartache festers.
We met during a really warm and sticky season. And I think that’s all I’m going to remember for a while.
The reason why I overslept in the first place was because I decided that life could perhaps be on the pause today. It couldn’t. And I spent a long time under the sheets thinking about ways to write out an existence but I couldn’t find one I liked enough.
My hair has been a mess — a dry, unattractive mop of blonde. But unlike other people, you seem to keep your comments to yourself. I know you’re amused and slightly perturbed by the state of it, but at least you’re not dramatic about it.
That night, in between whiskey and a a lot of smokes, you put your head on my shoulder and you said, “Finally the strands can touch my face.” I laughed because you’d been whining about that for a while. And it really has been a long time since I could tie up my hair, or have someone tug at it. Your hand reached up to touch my hair on the other side of my face and I asked, “How many heads of dried hair have you touched?” You said, “Only one head who deliberately does this to her own hair.” Then you kissed my neck and ran your fingers through my hair. Black, red, brown, blonde, short or long — you were there at all stages. Just that some fingers felt more ghostly than the others.
I tell people that I don’t drink anymore, but the fact is I still do, especially when I’m with you, or when I’m thinking about you. Which is most of the time. And it’s also cheaper to drink at home — because my feelings are cheap anyway.
There was one warm night where I lay sprawled on your floor smoking and drinking. It was so warm that it got too troublesome sitting on the couch. And when you laid beside me, I remember telling you about the adventures of a boy. I said, “it’s nearly been a year we met.” And you said, “and yet, here you are.” But that’s because I have no where to be and I haven’t built a home, I frowned.
"You finish work at 10 and come home at 1130. How’s anyone going to meet you?"
"You would try if you really wanted to, right?"
"That is true. I try all the time. That’s why you’re here."
I wanted to pack up and leave, but the humidity of the night and the slow heat melted me into your floors. My hair smells like smoke, but you’re the only one still willing to put your face into my hair to smell it. “Smells like home,” you mumble. I hate summertime most of the time, because that’s the time my relationships spontaneously combust due to the heat. But slow nights like this, coupled with the sheer comfort in knowing that someone wanted me, made me stay to see what happens.
Sometimes I get really confused about reality. And when it gets too hot and my eyes cannot re-focus back quickly enough, I am convinced about another life. Sometimes, I turn my head in another angle and at the right time, the sun rays bounce off a car hood and into my eyes. And I am so sure someone is fucking with me on purpose.
There are days like today where I wish I were ten years younger, or ten years older. And I’m sure that when I’m in my mid-thirties, I would say the same thing. But today, I thought about it so hard with my eyes squeezed shut that I started to panic and cry.
This weekend has been exhausting and tiring, to the point I needed a drink or two more to put me to sleep, so that I may not have to relive loops of hell in my head.
The burden of a corporeal body that has been and can be violated will remain and all I wish for are mechanical hands that let me crush the throats of men who so much as utter, “but not all men”.
In life, there is little point in trying to see the oppressor’s side anymore, especially when they cannot and never will be able to understand. People may not be an intentional racist, misogynist, bigot, oppressor whatever, but they still say racist, misogynist, bigoted and oppressive things unintentionally. But at certain point in life, injury goes way beyond intent. I can forgive you once for a mistake, twice for a mistake, all my life repeatedly for unintentional mistakes. But how many fucking unintentional mistakes do people have to make before I die? I don’t want to hear it anymore.
It tears apart scar tissue repeatedly and it gets too tiring – I rather avoid people who hold the ability to hurt. “But who will teach them? But who will carry on the good fight?” Sorry, but there has never been anything more burdensome that being a woman and I wish I could shed this skin and be a bird. Some people will literally have you die because you’re trying to be the best you can be. And some will think it’s only worthy (or worth it) if you die fighting for it. It’s baffling and it drives me to tears. But what about me? But what about me?
This month was such a drag. A long, boring drag of monotony and routine, of chasing other people’s timelines that ultimately do not contribute anything to my own timeline, of ghosts who linger far too longer by my side.
The nights have been long and I just spend them outside the mosquito-infested balcony smoking and drinking the minutes away, wishing that some nights wouldn’t be so long sometimes. There was a pair of speakers that crackled - so when I played 90s mandopop complete with the electric guitars, electone and drum beats that echo, it feels like the 90s memory is real.
When you remember something, you don’t actually remember the incident that happened itself. You retrieve the last remembered memory, and copy over it. And in that process, maybe the bad bits get removed, and you add another dash of hope. The last memory I have of you is probably a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy — so corrupted that it’s probably the most glorious memory there ever was. And I should know better than to crave for a past that never was, but it’s all I remember now. And time is best ingested when cold.
As the night wore off, my concentration began to wane. The discipline to keep my head upright on my own, firm shoulders began to dilute and I found myself resting them on yours. The gin and constant smoking start to burn up my mouth, but I let it be. It’s the sick satisfaction of doing all the things that you didn’t like me doing, and the funny realisation that if I had not veered off from the predicted timeline and path set for us, things would have been very different. It would have been very different.
In dreaming about alternate timelines, I didn’t realise that the cigarette had neared its end and it burned my fingers.
Today, a colleague is in Seoul. The temperature is still cool, but when I look at the weather on my phone, it’s just starting to get warm. And when it gets warm there, I remember the warm summer days that I spent there once. Just once in 2012 where it had been so sticky and unbearable. Otherwise, Seoul was always cold and in need of an extra blanket and person.
There’s a writing season for me, and it always seems to be the mid year. The heat brings out a frustration that I cannot contain. The other day, I was watching Days of Being Wild again and Yuddy starts off seducing Su Li-zhen. The flirting moves to after sex pillow talk with the fan whirring in the background. And the scene gets really silent, like with us because my Korean is shitty and you hate speaking in English. But I’m sure heat is heat anywhere - Hongkong, Seoul, Singapore. And when Su Li-zhen reaches over to touch Yuddy, I imagine her to be touching a slick, sweaty mess, not an actual person. Just a pool of languid solid melting like jello in the slow heat. The languid summer always looks better than what it feels — the manual fan whirs noisily, the sheets squeak, the singlet silently and slowly squelching as it separates from flesh, sweat drips so loudly it resonates. It’s unbearable, it’s unsettling yet I recall it the most.
I miss the city because I miss the people there - the old people that I (mostly) never want to see again. But going back to each place evokes a certain old memory that I think I can indulge in. A warm coffee, a subtle hair tuck, hand holding, coat pocket sharing. Today, a colleague is in Seoul. And I’m in Singapore. And you’re everywhere.
By the sixth drink and well over 24 hours of too much alcohol, I felt waves of nausea ebb and flow through time — time passes by ever so slowly and uncomfortably. I wanted it to come crashing and take me away, but it ends up lapping at my feet ever so consistently.
I feel like we’ve so many things to say, but we never really talk about ourselves. Maybe it’s because I never know how. I wanted to tell you I got into a minor accident, or that my father went to the hospital, or that oh never mind. Never mind.
But the slow burn of our love really upsets me. And coupled with warm afternoons that we’ve been having, I really just want to kiss someone. And I keep going back to the same house, the same cigarettes, the same feet tangled up on the couch, the same sloppy seconds, the same neat gins and tequilas in the middle of the night, the same pitiful look from a person who even though would love me back, would never have me. If I were a moth, I should be hovering near the heat source. But the truth is, all I really want to do is to dive right into it for the flames to engulf me. But I make do with what I have.
The degradation of relationships with the people I love always surprise me even though people upset me so much, and they never return my love in the way that I want it. In the span of three days, I’m sitting there wondering if something had been wrong with my calculations of love.
The other day I spent the entire night drinking wine with an old friend who somehow sees though my partial lies and hazy truths. And as the night wore on and bottles accumulate, I realise that adulthood is getting less and less daunting, but only if I truly did not feel the need to place my markers against others.
But I cried, and asked, that my life is not my own and it affects ten million others - how can I continue to live life like waste and not care about what the people I love think? Even if they don’t love me back. And I felt a flickering light slowly die out.
When I stumbled home in the wee hours, I came home to my mother sitting by the couch playing with her phone. My dad was not in his room and I found out he was in the hospital. If life were a movie, there would be rapid flash comparisons of my father in the hospital while I cried my tears into glasses of wine. But life is not a movie, and I couldn’t have known unless my mother called me. That night, I confirmed that my mother and I were shitty versions of the same selfish, unyielding person, and I really want to snuff out our futures.
You hardly play life by your own rules, if you have even any say at all.
“The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential.”—donna haraway, the cyborg manifesto [x] (via elucipher)