Thursday, October 23, 2008


"What do you want to do now that you're done with uni?" he asked as he walked back in from the kitchen with my refilled glass of water. I hadn't seen him in awhile, but I was incapable of estranging him. Even if I lost all memory of him his familiarity would never leave me. We would rediscover each other in a heartbeat.

"I don't know," I replied. "I'm going to leave it to fate and whim."

"Whim?" he replied, cocking his head to one side with a slight smile. I felt tired at the thought of explaining myself, but he was the one who taught me the necessity of not leaving the other lost in my vagueness.

"I'm experiencing a brief interlude of liberty", I said, "and I'm feeling rather spontaneous. Spontaneity can be fickle, hence the whim".

"I don't understand," he replied. "You were always the sort to plan everything, why are you taking the easy way out? Isn't leaving things to chance or fate a little cowardly?" He said those last words insistently. I understood him. He didn't want me to change in anyway. He encountered happiness in the predictability of people.

"I suppose it could be cowardly, but only when you accept things without free will," I said. "I let things impose themselves on me, then I deliberate and intervene only when necessary".

He gave me an incredulous look. "How can you speak about intervening with your own life as if you were an intruder?" He leaned forward with a flash in his eyes. He was easily fired up; easily impassioned. He liked to find a cause in people and it sometimes overwhelmed me.

"It's not that," I responded quietly. "I just don't think life is something you always have to grapple with. Sometimes you go through the pain of creating something new, sometimes you let things happen to you. I feel like letting things happen to me."

"I don't understand your passivity," he said, looking a little dismayed.

"I don't understand your aggression," I echoed. "If you stop looking so much into the future you'd be more present in the present instead of living from one moment of despair to another."

"What makes you think I'm in despair?"

"The constant, restless anticipation of the future doesn't make you feel futile somehow? Like a hamster on a wheel."

"You can't compare me to a hamster," he retorted, but with halfhearted indignation. "Besides, I have ambitions to live for," he continued. "What happened to your aspirations?"

"You have ambitions to live up to you mean. Sometimes we poison ourselves with our self-expectations. I feel so much lighter without them."

"How can you take on any meaning at all without them?" he said vehemently. "Isn't that to say you've given up on yourself?"

"No. It just means I'm more self-forgiving. I still have self-expectations you know, like living an ethical life and such..."I said weakly. I hated how the conversation was taking him further away. It was as if he was trying to convince me of who I really was, and in doing so he was essentially abandoning me.

"But what do you really want?" He asked. "Surely you must have some kind of conviction no matter how abstract to go on living." He sounded almost desperate.

I hesitated. What I urgently felt like telling him seemed silly and insignificant, and much to vague to count for anything. I avoided his eyes. "I just want to be compassionate, whatever that means. I don't want to run out of people to love. If I didn't have somebody to love I wouldn't be able to express myself, and nothing would save me, not writing, not music, not art...I'd be ruined. Nothing else counts for much."

I don't know if he understood me, but he sensed the finality in my voice and remained quiet. It was already evening. The grills on the window were making shadows on the floor. Outside in the garden his dog was barking at some invisible intrusion. I had nothing more to say and got up to leave. At the door he gave me a gentle smile. "Take care of yourself", he said, and I was momentarily ensconced by the warmth of his voice. It moved me to think that he always tried in earnest to understand me, even when I myself had given up.

Monday, October 6, 2008


My sister has changed. Her once shoulder length hair is now cut into a stylish bob. Her lashes are thick with mascara and her large eyes are widened even more by shimmery eye shadow and expertly drawn eyeliner. When dealing with others, she has an almost American-like gregariousness. My sister can be cold-blooded. She doesn't know it, or if she does she can't help it. My sister's dream is to live in a castle with a prince. She tells me this half seriously. She is desperate to find the love of her life. The positive side of vanity is hope. She wants to be a tai tai like my mother. Like my mother whose eyes gleam when she sees diamonds. "Looks like I've earned another one", she says, everytime my father hands her another jewel. She measures her worth in gold and diamonds. My sister is gradually assuming the form of my mother, just like how my mother became like grandmother, who was equally bewitched by wealth.

As younger girls, my sister and I suffered from a debilitating shyness. We were afraid of emitting even a single sound in front of strangers. Our paranoia took on rather absurd dimensions. Instead of singing the national anthem each day at school, we mouthed it. We communicated with other people by nodding or shaking our heads, or not responding at all. We wouldn't even communicate with each other in public except by eye contact. It was almost as if our silence was part of the pact of sisterhood.

I don't know what defines our sisterhood now. Togetherness has been sacrificed for the sake of individuality. It is the past that links us in the present.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Dawn threatened to break. The early morning peace was fragmented by the melodic chirping of some invisible bird. He could feel the crisp, cool air against his skin through the cracked open window. In the seat to his left, the girl was still asleep. Her chest rose and fell to the calm rhythm of her breathing. Deep in slumber, she was unconscious of her own existence; of the automatic persistence of her body, and the serene, vital energy that emanated with each breath. From time to time her eyelids seemed to quiver almost imperceptibly, and her lashes would flutter lightly, as if she were on the verge of awakening. Every movement filled him with anticipation and drove him to the brink of his heart. He waited for slumber to release her.

When he turned back to look at her, he was surprised to find her already awake, and observing him with a steadfast gaze. In subtle ways like this, she was always evading him. Every time he blinked, or glanced away, it seemed as if some small, but essential part of her was slipping through his fingers. " You elude me", he murmured, a slight smile playing at the corners of his lips. The girl sighed heavily, as if in defeat, although it was really him who should be feeling defeat.

"I want to go home. I should be home," the girl said softly. Her voice was still subdued by the heaviness of sleep.

"You are home", he said quietly, not wanting to break the hushed interior of their insular world. The girl looked around her, and recognition flickered in her eyes. They were parked just around the corner of her house. She turned back to look at him, frowning in confusion. "What happened?"

"You feel asleep on the drive home. I couldn't bear to wake you". He became afraid that his impractical explanation would offend her, but she just closed her eyes for a moment and smiled.

"You couldn't bear to let me go you mean". The lightening sky cast an ethereal glow on her face, making her skin seem almost unearthly.

"I should go before my parents notice I'm gone," she said. She turned to face him entirely, but made no move to leave.

"Of course," he said, "I've held you captive long enough".

she gazed at him unblinkingly, and said gravely, "You can't keep me you know".

He had become accustomed to these moments when she confronted him with a deep sense of conviction, and urgency; when she expressed herself in matter-of-fact statements that exacerbated her mystery. Always, there was a glimmer of desperation in her eyes, as if she wanted to make him understand. But she wasn't the sort to elaborate, so he had to ask what she meant.

She hesitated and bit her lip. Her uncertainty always made him feel helpless. He knew she felt imperiled - caught between the safety of silence and the need to be understood. "I don't feel real," she said, "No one can have me because half the time I'm not real, like smoke dissipating within the physical frame of my body. I'm caught behind the obscurity of my own's no good you trying to keep me, or get closer to me. I couldn't get closer to you even if I wanted to."

He didn't know what to say. He feared moments like this when his skill of persuasion failed him. The girl seemed to know this because she wasn't looking at him expectantly. Finally he said: "It's as if you fill the crevices of my existence with some ungraspable force, as if you permeate my emptiness with yours'. Only it isn't really emptiness that you evoke. You're more like a weightless, forgotten creature that I ardently seek to excavate. Sometimes you fill me with my childhood desperation, when yearning was beautiful... You know, when I was little I wanted to be a cloud collector. I thought it was a simple matter of climbing the highest mountains and reaching up to pluck the tufts of clouds, all kinds of clouds - storm clouds, dawn-tinted clouds, clouds that looked like sheep's wool..."

The girl looked at him intently. "You agree with me then? It's no good trying to be with me. I'd only infuriate you without meaning to, and it would be an endless frustration without catharsis, a false promise."

"You don't understand," he said, "it's the impossibility of you that transfixes me. Your transcendence compels me. Perhaps you will forever be beyond my reach, but I'm like you, helplessly caught in the dreamworld".

Monday, August 11, 2008


At times she found herself so deeply lost in the cavern of her being that a single utterance to another human being could leave her drained. Only empathy and compassion permitted her to overcome the alienation. Sometimes these emotions would consume her so completely that she had to fight back tears. Then she could no longer tell the difference between empathy, compassion, and pity. It ailed her to know that the emotional force which so often tied her to a fellow being was sadness.

There are people like her who are made for solitude and shadows, but sometimes the silence becomes frighteningly singular. When the silence starts to ring in your ears, it becomes necessary to fight it with the voice and presence of another human being. But how arduous it was to speak to this other presence with the distillation of who she was - to articulate in quotidian verbiage, the trickle of clarity that dripped so placidly at her core. She felt at her pith, a concentrated radiance that could never emerge. She liked to believe that everyone possessed this same crystalline thread of humanity; that it was just concealed beneath the congealed layers of despondency and human error.

It would startle you, to catch her gaze. Even in daily affairs - ordering food at a restaurant, paying at the cashier's....her eyes do not merely flit across the surface of the other's existence. Her fiercely searching eyes, sometimes forlorn, tend to pierce one with disturbing recognition. She knows that sometimes others mistake her gaze as one of judgment, and so she looks away when she speaks, peers out at you beneath her bangs, but still can't avoid searching for the diamond of luminosity hidden in the other human being.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Into Slumber

Here, the sun does not set till after ten. The light takes on a dusty glow before settling into darkness. Imminence does not encapsulate me as heavily as it did before, because sometimes I fall asleep with the light, before the day softens to rosy hues and finally to star speckled sky. Yet, just the thought of night awakens me to vastness. It is as if the relief of some prolonged yawn overcomes me, and transforms me to a weightless shadow, and then the universe within me lengthens into sleep. Consciousness dips into the pool of dreams. Being settles and surrenders.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Moving Curtain

The methodical ticking of the bedside clock accompanies the incremental progression of the day. The curtain ripples and billows gently, giving form to an otherwise invisible breeze. I am placated. Even though the din of city traffic refuses to die, nature continues its silent exhalations. The curtain stirs, dancing to the gentle breaths of some magical force. Its movement lulls me. Serenity permeates me. Limpidity becomes me.

Friday, June 6, 2008


In shadows he stood, his own shadow before him was a harsh, black, cutout. He was in a valley somewhere, with the moon looming large, and emanating a strange, white light. The kind of light that is like a flash; light that transitions the soul from one state of consciousness to another. The light was a catalyst to the foreign. In the light, his shadow seemed to him, a silhouette of his errors. It terrified him to see this flat echo of himself - the thin slip of his being that was so weightless. His terror was like the light - point blank without crescendo or decrescendo. Fear was nakedly present within him, like an alert startle. The light had trapped him in suspended terror, and it seemed that he was fated to stand there at the mercy of light and shadow.

His shadow wavered gently, as if struggling to awaken from its stupor and metamorphose to some new physicality. He gazed up at the moon - the perpetrator of his angst. It was not beautiful. It was only a colossal electric orb that hummed and flickered, and his shadow was like a dumb moth, bewitched by its luminosity. He began to hum the tuneless rhythm of panic even though he realized that it was his distorted imagination that was fabricating such fear. Even as he quickened his pace, he knew that on another night, he would be just as likely to find the ghostly moon, and its conspiratorial shadows things of poetic intrigue.

Monday, April 14, 2008


The little girl has her head tilted to the side. I think she listens out of habit. Even if there was nothing but silence, her head will always have the tilt of an inquisitive listener. Her hair is neatly done up in braids, and her uniform is perfectly white and uncreased. Her white socks and bata shoes are equally pristine. She is sitting on the concrete steps with her hands in her lap as she watches the other little girls playing hopscotch and jumping rope. From time to time she watches the black crows swooping down in front of her, and pecking at the ground.

She is startled when one of her schoolmates runs up to her and tugs her hand. She wants the little girl to join them in their game of hopscotch. The little girl shyly shakes her head no, and the other girl pouts, sticks her tongue out, and runs off. The little girl is relieved. She is too afraid to jump rope, or to dangle from the monkey bars. The extremity of her shyness immobilizes her, and she is too young to know that fear is surmountable. For now she watches the others. She waits for the bell to ring, and she gazes for as long as she can at the shifting sky before the sunlight becomes intolerable.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Can't or Won't

I am afraid.

I'd never say it out loud, except maybe to a lover without looking him in the eye.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


At the end of the corridor, you will notice the silhouette of a woman. Her back will be turned to you. Her head and shoulder will be leaning against the door frame. From where you are you will conjecture that she is deep in thought, but she will be waiting for you, listening intently to your hesitant approach, to your barely audible footsteps against the cold marble floor.

All you will be able to distinguish is the saturated, velvet darkness of her form. It will be too dark to distinguish the color of her dress, or the hue of her skin. The woman is the shadow. She will not budge, and it will make you wonder if what you see is a phantom. I cannot tell you what she is, only what you will perceive. If she moves it will frighten you. You will be so intent on preserving her stillness that every step will become threatening, every foot forward, a controlled endeavor. You will not know her name, but suddenly, and without knowing why, you will sense something familiar about this woman. This familiarity will terrify you, but you will not flee because of the perversity of hope: the hope that when she turns around you will realize how beautiful she is.

But you don't know if you will be able to survive the split second of horror: the moment right before she fully turns around and reveals herself to you. You cannot turn back. It would be worse if she saw you leaving.

Now you are right behind her, and still, she has not turned around. She will not reveal herself until you want her to, because she senses your fear as if it were her were own. She is hardly breathing because of your fear, not hers'. You place your hand on her waist, and the warmth of her body floods into you.

She feels a hand slithering and coming to rest on her waist, then sliding to her front. She reaches down at the touch, to the touch, for touch. The hand presses her backwards towards the strength of a human body - your's.

She leans back into your chest, and feels the violence of a man's fear. Or is it the cadence of passion that she feels? She doesn't know. She won't turn around, until she knows you want her to, until she knows for sure that you want her.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Girl, The Woman, and The Man

When the girl was first treated like a woman it alarmed her, but she took it as a necessary rite of passage that could only take place with the compliance of the man. She only felt like a woman in relation to the man. When she was not with the man she felt like a girl again. This change in feeling came so naturally that for quite awhile it was imperceptible to her. It's hard to say what being a woman felt like to her, as opposed to being a girl. It wasn't just the loss of innocence that made her feel like a woman with the man, perhaps because she never lost her innocence for good. She was perpetually losing her innocence with the man, or rather, she was always discovering that she knew more than she thought she did. So then she realized that it was not innocence, but ignorance.

The girl started to suffer because she believed ignorance to be more blameworthy than innocence. She started to use the man as an antidote. The man didn't seem to mind. Regret always comes too late. She sought him out with the urgency of one distressed.

But when the man was not with her, she reverted back to her old world. She somehow merged back with its familiarity, and remained cocooned there until the man coaxed her out again as a woman. But after her encounters with the man, there was always the inevitable retreat.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Silence: his and mine. Our bodies lie side by side.

The sound of waves. Laughter from some distant party. The cloak of night conceals his features.

There is movement. He is mindlessly tracing something in the sand.

Out of boredom his hands begin to fascinate me. I hold his hand in mine, turn it over, squint at it in the dark, trying to determine the intersecting lines of destiny engraved in his palm. It doesn't occur to me that he will take this to mean something. Later, he insists that my interest in his hands is a sign of my attraction towards him. Later still, he tells me that my interest in his hands was a sign of my yearning to be possessed by him. What is for me, the innocence of touch explodes in his eyes as uncontainable lust. He has a habit of telling me what my desires are. He does so urgently, telling me what I want with conviction and force, and such utter persuasion that in order to thwart off my imminent surrender I either resort to flight or insults. He suffers from impatience, restlessness, recklessness. It makes him audacious and insistent, and sometimes a downright bastard.

Once, I tell him what he is with overwhelming sincerity. I march into his apartment with uncustomary determination. I tell him he's arrogant, egotistical, selfish - derogatory adjectives that I supplement with generic expletives like "asshole" and "fuck you". It doesn't last long. I'm a failure at tirades. When I'm left rummaging for more insults he raises his eyebrow, laughs and tells me that is exactly what he is. Then he turns his back to me, faces a half-finished canvas and starts working. I stare at his back, the way his muscles move as he paints, the image being born...He's not working for the image. He's painting to avoid me.

It's quite awhile before he steps away, and turns back again. He looks surprised to see me still standing there. I don't know why I stayed, didn't really realize I was still there till he looked at me and I started into my own presence.

I blink, the room suddenly seems too bright. After awhile he says he's glad I'm still there. I half hate him for saying that.

"I've destroyed it", he says, glancing towards the canvas. He fills a glass with whiskey and downs it in one shot. He fills it again and asks me if I want any.

He scoffs when I tell him I don't drink. He says incredulously: "How can you not? How do you manage to write?" He says this with the unflinching complacency of an artist acquainted with suffering, an artist who believes in its necessity, and who believes that drinking is the fundamental mechanism of expression. He says he always needs to drink when he paints. I tell him his drinking is just a gesture of despair. Evidence of suffering that makes him function as an artist. Suffering is his artistic identity. Without the belief that he is suffering, his whole artistic world would shatter. This makes him sullen.

He looks at me intently, with the gravity of silence, and says: "Well how do you do it then? Write..."

"I hardly write. Even when I write it's never much. I might as well not have written." I say with a shrug, and deposit myself in the chair by his desk. He keeps on looking at me as I swivel from side to side. Then he sighs and shakes his head. "Don't move so much," he says as he turns towards his canvas, "I'm going to try and capture you".

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Rain

It won't stop raining. I am ill with the desire to make it stop. Wind and wetness lash against the window pane. The shades are down. I wont look. I can only hear it: nature doing what it must unforgivingly. Violence. Malevolence. Rain. It makes me feel fragile.

When I was a child I'd swing the window open and stare out at the heavy, grey sky without really looking. All I wanted was to feel the wind and the light sprays of moisture against my face. I can't do that anymore. It reminds me of the melancholy I felt as a child. I don't know what I was melancholic about. There was nothing but my innocence. It must have been the greater sensitivity, but I don't know what that is either, or rather, I don't know if it can be explained. The greater sensitivity: it's empathy with an unknown cause.

In the car the rain would stream down the windshield. The child's eyes would follow the progression of a raindrop to its final conclusion. Poetic fluidity. A raindrop sliding down a window pane is inimitable, irreplaceable. Maybe that's what the greater sensitivity is: to be taken by a raindrop.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Malady II

Recently I've been afflicted by indecision. It occurs at random, with the simplest things, like choosing produce in the supermarket, or deciding which shade of lipstick to wear, or what to do with myself after I finish a certain task.

Soon I shall be immobile. I've already become more silent, and I was already silent.

Choosing the right words, that's the hardest. Too many synonyms, and then there are the tenses.

With indecision comes the requisite exasperation. Painful deliberation - Yes, No, Yes, No, Maybe, I don't know, Whatever.

It gets more dangerous with the opposite sex. I should stop seeing them before my ability to discern fails me completely. It already happens with M. Sometimes I let him do all the deciding. He says it's because I trust him.

"What do you want?" , he might ask.
"I want what you want," will be the unvarying response. I hate how it makes me seem submissive. The only time this response varies is when it concerns sexual desire. There's no mistaking that. You either want it or you don't.

He asks what I want. I say "this" and make a grab at his crotch, wrap my legs around him, kiss him, take him in my mouth, etc. - That's the only thing I really say yes too, and I say it often, for the sake of certainty. Which makes me wonder at unhealthy forms of self-affirmation.