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.
In the countless universes and timelines and probable situations, we just so happen to melt into a single night in a car that was too small to fit the entirety of our bodies. I contorted my body to fit on top of yours as I sat on your lap and you kissed my ears. I thought it would be different, but it turns out affection and physicality is all the same. Change the hands that run down my back and up my thighs, and it all feels the same. Boys are all the same. I am the same.
Did I expect a magical healing flower to sprout overnight from the soils of two lonely hearts? Or was I expecting an old monster to emerge rabidly from the ground when this love pours on it? In any case, something took form and I don’t know what it’ll turn out to be.
Twenty-four hours later, I saw a bruise at the side of my thigh while showering. If our love left a mark on my body even though it doesn’t hurt, it must mean it’s real right?
Maybe as I grow up, I understand relationships better. It’s perhaps more than just closeness and intimacy, which I had initially perceived what a solid relationship should be. But no matter what relations, be it best friends, sisterly, familial, working, romantic, or whatever, turns out it’s all about power and dominance. Of course, it’s easier if you’re holding on to more, and people often don’t realise the amount of power that they wield over other people, but the true test is what you do with that sort of power and dominance.
Perhaps also, the question that I should ask myself is, am I comfortable with the amount of power that anyone has over me at any point in time? Relationships are not my forte, especially the Romantic ones and I’m terrified. And I don’t want to fuck this up because this one feels like it’s okay. This one is comfortable. This one feels kind of safe. For now.
Last night our knees touched under the bar table. Then, as you’re saying something - I can’t remember what - I wonder what’s real and what’s fiction, what parts were the truth and what parts were not, because while I was not entirely truthful last night, I didn’t say anything untrue.
But the thing is, the memory, no matter how embellished, stays true in my head. I can’t remember exactly what so-and-so said during that time, or how so-and-so reacted to certain things, but in my mind, the memory is preserved and maybe that is the reality of the things that I remember. So it’s the truth.
As I’m enamoured by you and the things that you say the entire hazy night, I am reminded the next sober morning at seven that the best storytellers are also the best liars, because everything is a story, a possibility, a myth. And I know, because to a certain extent, I am sure that I am a liar and a storyteller; and if you’re anything like me, I think I’m going to be in trouble.
I sat on your bed with my back facing you and I said it really slowly - only because I don’t know how else to see you and say to you. I’m not sure how easy is it to pull away from familiarity and ease but I can’t let an empty spot revolve my entire life. Do you see it? I’ve been letting an empty spot dictate my possible futures. And of all the possible, infinite futures that I could have created, you were still in it.
And yes, I’m still mad, and when you’re mad at someone you love, you just can’t finish them off. And I’m mad that I can’t finish you off once and for all. I’m mad that I don’t have that energy anymore. I still want to kick your face to the ground and make sure that you never exist in the other timelines that I exist.
And then you take my face and say, then see, what’s so bad about us?
I say, I’m a bad person. And you’re a sick person. But mostly because I’m a bad person with little regard for you because you’re not the most important person in my life, but I let you pretend that you are. You say, “it’s okay, it’s okay, we can pretend for as long as it takes.”
"I’m just afraid we’re too comfortable pretending all our lives, you know?"
"Is this it?" you say.
"Let’s try and make this ‘it’."
It’s countless, this kind of conversation that I have with you. At the end of the day, I still climb back up the stairs and bang on the door when I’m drunk and ask you to let me in, or you come home drunk slumped out on my lap. I don’t know how to stop revolving around an empty space. I don’t know how to.
This morning, I sat up by the side of the bed and I turned behind to look at you. You were half awake and reaching out for me to get back into bed. I turned back to the front and I felt your fingers slide down the knobs of my back slowly one by one. And I wish you could simply reach in to tweak buttons and controls for the right permutation of reactions for us to be happy together. Instead, all you got was a broken machine whose only spare parts are lost in an old junk yard.
When you stay mad at someone you love, your anger will never cease. You can’t forgive them, but you can’t bear finish them off once and for all either.
I told you last night between tears, that I was so angry, I am still angry and I’m not sure if this anger will ever cease. And I”m stuck between a limbo of love and hate, forgiveness and revenge. Other people have moved on and moved in, so why haven’t I?
In the end, I fell asleep with my glasses still on my tear-stained face and a whiskey glass still in my hand. You took both away from me and we slept sitting up on the couch. In the middle of the night, I woke up and realised what you did. I touched your face and you woke up and said, “Let’s go in to bed”. I nodded. Warm bodies are all the same.
Before drifting back to bed, you asked, “When will you forget about it?” I replied, “Never. I think never.”
I drank outside tonight and I drank even more before slamming my fists on your door. You opened up and I cried and I said I didn’t want to be at home tonight or tomorrow morning. I said please, I don’t think I’m going to survive tonight alone.
With my face very close to your chest, I whispered, he’s getting married tomorrow, he’s getting married tomorrow and I don’t want to see him from across my home getting into the car in his suit and bringing his bride home. I’m not sure if you heard it but you pressed my face into your chest and wrapped me tighter around. And when finally I feel your limbs drop and your hold on me loosen, I slither out of your touch to sit by the couch to drink some more. Was it two hours ago or just merely five minutes when all that happened?
There is also a scar right down your palm when you smashed your mug against the counter one night after we discussed something. I saw it play out in slow motion in my head and I felt like I could reach out to stop your hand but I knowingly let you smash it down with a force you could not fathom.
In another timeline, I”m not sure if you would have smashed it across my face if I had stopped you. Or if in another timeline, you might have dropped the cup entirely and sat down. Or still smash it anyway, this time a shrapnel entering my eye. I don’t know, but in the present, your mug smashed into pieces in your hands and walked away while I sat there trying to hold the pieces of my soul together.