The day drips slow

Morning

I woke up to the sound of birds. The room was flooded with a gentle, morning light. Through the blinds, I could see that the ground was wet outside. It was raining lightly.

My mind still veiled with sleep, I tried my best to grasp at the threads of last night’s dream. I recalled that I was staying in a haunted house.

The air in the room felt chilly. I am reminded that autumn is here.

I turned over and rested my hand on my boyfriend’s chest. It felt warm, flat, solid. No matter how many times I’ve touched it, I continue to marvel at how men are hard and angular, while in contrast, my body is soft and pillowy, dipping in some areas and peaking in others.

I’m cold, I’m cold. Warm me up, warm me up. 

He drew me closer.

I lazily reached for my phone, and played some piano music from my Spotify playlist.

The rain fell harder.


Today’s outfit is:

Cat tights, with white overalls, and black, thin eyeliner.

It was still raining.

I waterproofed my boots with a protective spray.

Ready to go!


Afternoon

I was greeted with a plethora of colourful parasols, hanging from wires. The cultural fiesta was busy, despite the rain. There was a good energy about the place. Different stalls were displaying an array of food, each representing a country and culture. I saw bubble tea, German pretzels, baklava, tea eggs.

It was a little hard to navigate because people were holding up umbrellas and walking about. I closed my umbrella and stayed close to my boyfriend.

A boy from the Hong Kong society asked me if I wanted to try waffles. It looked soggy, from the rain. I politely declined.

We ended up getting rose apples, rice wrapped in vine leaves, African curries, rendang, curry puffs, and seri muka (a green coconut kuih).

From our tent, I could see an Afghan dance going on. It started slow, with a few people hesitantly joining in. As the music picked up in speed, more and more people joined in. There was a young man in a Turban, a tall South Pacific Islander with flowers in his hair, some Chinese girls, an Asian boy, and some other youths dressed in flowing robes.

Somewhere, a group of Pacific Islanders crowd together for a photo.

An elegantly dressed lady in a pink saree glides through the crowd of people in drab jumpers and jeans. She had silver spectacles. Her soft belly hung out, exposed.

It was a beautiful sight, like four corners of the world had connected in a lively ring of dance and merry-making. A true melting pot of cultures.

However, somehow, within me, I did not feel the desire to dance.


Back home.

He stroked my stockinged thighs. We sipped hot chrysanthemum tea.

“I’m listless,” I tell him. I wanted to drift far, far away.

We fell asleep again, and woke up in twilight.


Evening

I finished my bowl of ramen, right down to the last drop. Tonight, I ordered gyokai (fish based broth) with karaage. He ordered tomato ramen. Something new.

It was good. My stomach was full.

What about my heart?


Night

On the fogged up glass, I drew a dick. And more dicks.

I giggled at its absurdity.

The car was stopped by the side of the road. Droplets of water on the window looked like tiny golden orbs, as light from the outside headlamps dispersed through. It was a chilly, misty night. Songs from my Spotify blared through the radio. Some tunes we could sing, some we couldn’t.

I traced a smiley ghost in the condensation, and took a picture of it with his handphone.

“Here, your new lock screen.”

He kept it, obligingly.

Fin


What can I do to plug my emptiness?

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Happiness concept: apartment

Dear Seafarer,

This is my happiness concept, a snippet of a vivid future I want to work towards. I think about it a lot, when I feel down. It’s a bit like mental time travel. In your happiness concept, you should be able to envision where you are, the time of the day, what you’re doing, who you’re with, the feelings you have. I feel like the more clearly you can see it, the more likely you are to achieve it. Everyone should have their own “happiness concepts.”

May all these come true in good time.


Apartment

Where am I?

It is the year 20XX, and I live within a bright and clean apartment. It is a nice place; not too big, but not too small. It has a minimalistic, contemporary design, and pleasing colour schemes. Lots of muted monochrome colours, with a mixture of smooth teakwood and marble floors.

I don’t have much of a green thumb, but somehow, I’ve always envisioned plants within my home. I’d like to believe that I can keep a tiny pot of sage, and perhaps basil, alive. I would place this somewhere in the kitchen, where they get light. A corner of the apartment (perhaps a windowsill), would be designated for terrariums. I especially  like the way succulents look; soothing pops of green within clear geometric vases.

I like the sound of “furin” (Japanese wind bells) too, so I’ve hung one by the window. When I slide open the glass to let air in, I can listen to their sparkling chimes. They greet me cheerfully, every morning.

What time is it within this apartment?

It is late-afternoon on a weekend, and the sky is dipping gently towards dusk. I’ve installed flat Korean blinds in the house, at the advice of my mother (“It’s easy to clean!”). They are the texture of rice-paper and tatami mats. I pull on them to let more light in. The apartment instantly gets flooded with warm, golden light.

My partner is coming by this evening. I decide to make some soup. With my hair tied up in a loose bun, I get to work.

First, I put chicken bones into my soup pot, fill it with water, and set it to boil. Into the simmering mixture, I add a dash of salt and pepper, a cup of shaoxing wine, and some sesame oil. Finally, I add the secret ingredients; garlic cloves, anchovies and peanuts. I’ve prepared a bowl of lotus root, which I’ll add towards the end, so they don’t overcook and lose their crunchy texture, the way my partner likes them.

The apartment begins to fill with the rich, savoury aroma of simmering chicken bone soup. I put on some music from my laptop, and decide to cook some rice. Soup and rice always go well together, I feel. Along the way, I randomly decide to drop some fishballs with the lotus root into the soup.

Should I make dumplings too?

The bell rings just as I contemplate this question.

I quickly freshen up in the mirror and answer the door.

It’s him. He smiles and holds up a packet of “tau fu fah.” 

“It’s chilled. I’ve asked them to serve it with palm sugar syrup.”

I laugh and tell him he’s read my mind.

He comes in, kisses me on the cheek, and sets the dessert on the table.

I bring out the cutlery and a set of blue rice bowls, with peach blossoms painted on them.

“Soup’s done! There’s leftover minced meat and vegetable we can have with the rice.”

He makes his way to the kitchen, and knows exactly where to find them.

We bring the pot of soup, rice, and leftovers out, and sit down for dinner. We talk about work, and our plans for the week. I’m working on an editorial spread for a mental health issue. I can’t decide between washed out greys or baby blue, for a healing colour. He tells me about a difficult case he’s working on, but right now he’s hungry and he doesn’t want to care.

In between, he comments on the soup.

“It’s good.”

I ask him about his thoughts regarding a strange dream I had, about me waking up naked in the middle of the ocean, while shoals of fish fly above me.

He asks if he’s in the dream too, because he should be if I’m naked.

I whack him with a spoon, and he laughs, before telling me that he doesn’t know much about dream analysis, but that leads into a conversation about an article he read on sleep paralysis. We debate on the existence of ghosts, then he brings up a knock knock joke. I whack him again with a spoon.

After dinner, we wash up, have dessert, and make tea. The tea of the night is “barley tea,” because it’s decaffeinated. We drink it in our special mugs. He wants his in a mug that brightens with constellations when filled with hot water. I want mine in a proper Japanese teacup.

We settle into a corner on the floor with our tea, where it’s nearest to the window. From where we are, I see distant city lights twinkling. He wraps his arms around me, and I rest against his chest, feeling it rise and fall.

We breathe, slowly, in sync, and say nothing, for a long, long time. Steam rises from our mugs. It is peaceful.

A quaint apartment, a job that pays the bills, a man I love (who loves me back), and a mug of tea.

At that moment, perhaps, I might not need much more.

This is my happiness concept.

Lessons #2

If there is a splinter that’s bothering me, and it’s big enough to remove, tweeze it off. The pain is barely less than a second, but the relief is a lifetime.

 

Lessons #1

Going to Indooroopilly

Exit Indooroopilly Shopping Mall using Station Rd or Musgrave Rd.

The U-turn is slightly on the right.

Going to Suj’s house

You can stay on the middle lane to get to M3

Cooking breaded tofu

Use firm tofu. And mayo. More egg. Keep the tofu dry.

 

Making matcha cheesecake

Cut the cream cheese into smaller bits. Let it melt for a smooth finish.

 

A Person Who is Trying

Dear Seafarer,

 

Waking up is not difficult. Going to bed is not difficult. I am alive and well.

I am comfortable. Living in a bubble. Food passes my belly daily. A house over my head.

Family and friends and people I’ve loved and lost.

I am already so blessed.

This sadness will gently pass.

 

The Alternate Universe of an Unremarkable Life

Dear Seafarer,

I am dying, and I know it.

I mean, yes, technically, everyone ends up dead at some point, but I am dying in a way far more terrifying than the biological atrophy of my body.

I am dying in my soul. A death of the mind and its passions. An intellectual decay.

I profess that I have been feeling rather demotivated lately. I’ve recently flown home for a bit after completing an intense final year in my degree. I am now a graduate. In cruder terms, I  am also “officially unemployed,” and at a complete loss as to where to go from here. Prospective offers which once seemed promising no longer feel within grasp. My visa progress seems to also have stagnated. I have no idea if the application will be accepted.

There’s something terrifying about not having a concrete plan, and realising, with rising urgency, that time is ticking. The twenties seem to surge past us by like bullet-trains. Suddenly the thirties loom just around the corner.

My life, I feel, has not yet begun.

So here I am, back at home, attempting to recalibrate my life. I find myself back in limbo, deeply uncertain of the future, and threading the line of apathy and hedonism. I wake up as the morning tips into the afternoon. I eat what I want. I catch up with my friends. I talk to my parents, and listen to my mother complain about the maid. I watch mindless Youtube videos of a bleached blonde ranting about her cheating boyfriend, and manage to be strangely invested. Occasionally I’ll indulge in a documentary, or an intelligent commentary about the veiled meaning behind so-and-so movie, but that only slightly  alleviates the guilt that I am wasting my life, potential, and opportunities away.

It is effortful to plan and get productive. Somewhere within the recesses of my mind, I recognise that I am being foolish and irrational, but I simply cannot bring myself to do anything. My brain is trying its best, sparking off with lists and creative fun activities and miscellaneous things that will probably make tomorrow a better day, if I committed to doing them. But somehow, I don’t get to doing anything substantial. One by one, I feel my ideas die within me.

It’s a disconcerting feeling. Each idea feels like an electric impulse, travelling down a neuron, only to meet a dead end, because it isn’t paired with immediate action. The idea fizzles out at the synaptic terminals, and I go back to my mindless Youtube surfing, with guilt and self-admonishing mounting within me. My mind palace is  gradually beginning to go gray, and crumble.

This has prompted me to start thinking about the lack of momentum I’ve been experiencing in my life, and how this could pan out, a few years down the road. Here is one plausible scenario:

In an alternate, bleak future, I’ve forgotten how to feel passionate about anything. I haven’t drawn in a while, and I no longer get creative visions. Art no longer excites me, and I can’t be bothered to try either. I’ve missed out on amazing opportunities, because I haven’t been able to stick to something long enough to see it through. I’m still dependent on my unfortunate parents, who are worried sick for me, because I haven’t been able to find a job. My peers and siblings have moved on, and are flourishing in their careers. I’m poor, afraid, lacking in imagination, and terribly lost. I don’t have much job experience, or skills that I can offer. This affects my self-esteem, and I end up developing social anxiety, making it difficult for me to make friends or sustain a relationship. In attempt to cope, I delude myself into making grand plans, none of which I’ve actually taken action to accomplish, out of said anxiety. I stay within my comfortable bubble of “anticipation,” without actually moving an inch.

Also, I probably still use cheap dollar-store make-up (gasp).

Back to the present.

I’m here, today, writing this blog post, in attempt to dissect the anatomy of this rut. I have 48 drafts of things I’ve started but never finished, but somehow, I feel like I need to push through for this entry. If I do not force myself to break the spell, I feel like my life will somehow go on, underwhelmingly, comfortably. It is one of the most dangerous things that can possibly happen, to someone of my placcid personality.

I am thinking about my unremarkable future, and I wonder, from where I stand now, if I could still change it all. Crossroads terrify me because they unfold the story in very different ways, should one road be taken over the other. I have this feeling that there’s no turning back.

I do not like to seal my own fate. It is far too much responsibility. If I screw up, it’s on me.

However, in the words of Thomas Carlyle,

Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. 

I’ve been there before, rooted to the spot, afraid to act out of fear. Suddenly, my life passed me by, and I was struggling to keep up. Will I make the same mistake? Is that a future I can accept?

I shudder to think of it. I must not allow it. I must do something, anything.

Tomorrow, I’m driving myself to the salon, to cut my hair. I will make my bed, and declutter my room. It is a small thing, but it is a start. Perhaps then I will write my goals down in a little notepad, and think deeply about how to go about achieving them, over roasted green tea.

Come to think of it, I’ll need to make a dental appointment,  call the immigration centre, update my resume, and work on that drawing….

I must move, somehow. This amniotic sac of time will only last me for a bit, before life ruptures upon me, and grants me rebirth.

The search goes on.

I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone

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Placeholder image until I draw my own. The night at Mt Cootha. I was supposed to take pictures of the Supermoon. Oh well.

Dear Seafarer,

The worst part about getting used to someone else’s warmth, is forgetting how to sleep alone. Some nights start to feel tougher than most.

But ah, it’s not all that cracked up to be, when you really think about it, right?

First, there’s the stickiness, perhaps of sweat, and the stink of other bodily fluids. Sometimes it gets a little too hot. You’re cramped up a tiny space, or you swear to God that some part of your body’s blood circulation is getting cut off. The blanket-to-person ratios are off-balance. You tangle limbs. You turn around, and your face is buried in the crook of someone’s armpit hair. The bed feels too damned small. You become an automatic audience of gassy fanfares (farts and all). Let’s not get started on the sonorous symphony of snoring, or the flattering view up someone’s nostrils.

But then, they reach over, and pull you close. You feel their heartbeat. You feel their flushed skin. The softness of their fat, or the hardness of their bones. The rise and fall of their chest. The sound of their breathing. Their warmth, right next to you. A tangible reminder that you are not alone, not tonight.

It is a sweetly comforting feeling. I’ve always wondered why strangers crawl into bed with each other. I do believe I am beginning to understand why.

We don’t want to sleep alone. Not all the time, anyway.

Touch is one of the most basic foundations of human contact. We hug, kiss, hold hands, make love. We are reminded of how we are essentially one organism, pulsing together to the beat of life. We connect when we touch; silently, powerfully.

In this wide, wide universe, with specimens as vast as the stars, we are not alone. What a miraculous, beautiful blessing that is! It is one I hope to never take for granted.

But these days, I think, I will have to get used to sleeping alone again.

Yesterday, I wrote one of the hardest message I ever had to, in my life, and sent it. I essentially told a man who loved me, that I didn’t know if I could love him back, at least to a similar intensity. I had been agonising over this conversation for a while, and it finally came to a breaking point.  I had to confront it, as difficult as it was. I felt like scum. I felt foolish, selfish, ungrateful. I cried the whole night through. But, it was done.I did what I thought was the most honest thing I could do, to honour him, and his feelings.

Despite all that, I was miserable, and I only had myself to blame.

I don’t wish to romanticise loneliness. Sure, they wax lyrical about self-empowerment and being “your own person,” before you get into relationships. They tell you to sort out your emotional baggage, or it’ll come back like a demon and haunt you relentlessly, no matter who you end up with. And yes, I largely agree with these principles.

But there are some days when I honestly just… don’t want to be alone. I had gotten a glimpse of warmth, and I craved for more. However, I couldn’t do it, at the expense of someone else.

Yesterday night, after sending the difficult text, and crying my eyes out, I texted a friend. Then, I made mushroom soup, entirely on a whim. I chopped a bowl of button mushrooms, a potato, and some onions. I simmered them with almond milk, covered the pot, and left to cry some more. The pot boiled over. I rushed back to the kitchen, and cleaned the mess on the stove. Then I added salt, herbs, and left it to simmer some more. I started crying again. My friend eventually came, close to 10. P.M. I answered the doorbell, red-eyed, with tear-stained cheeks.

We sat down on the couch, and talked.

I sobbed about how I was afraid I had made a mistake, about how I was afraid, fundamentally, that I’ll end up alone forever. What if I don’t find a man who will love me that much, ever again? What if THIS was it, and I had royally screwed myself over?

She spoke, softly, gently. Her hands were on me, her eyes were tender.

There it was. The touch, the human connection.

The conversation eventually drifted to other things, but I didn’t mind. In that moment, I was not alone.

Warmth, I had to remind myself,  takes different forms too. Sometimes in a friend. A mother. A cat. A cup of tea from a stranger. It most certainly is not exclusive to lovers. But we can forget, sometimes. Somewhere along the way, within a quarter of a century, I myself had forgotten how to sleep alone. It would be a struggle, for a while, to get comfortable again, in my own silence.

But while I sleep alone (for now), I would not be lonely.

Today, I woke up, and my hand itched to text him. Itched to tell him I was sorry. Itched to ask  if he would take me back. My emotions were taking me for a ride, and I knew I would cave in.

So I did the only thing I could do. Remind myself, that I didn’t have to stew in my own loneliness.

I spoke to someone else. I messaged my sister. I confided in a friend. Then, I studied. Surprisingly, I was pretty productive. I hadn’t been flowing in my work, not in a long while.

Around midnight, I went to see the supermoon with another friend, and her sister. I had my tumbler of home-brewed chrysanthemum tea with me. I sipped it on the viewing deck, underneath the stars. The “supermoon” was bright, but still small and blurry from where we were. My camera could not adequately capture it. I did  not bother taking photos, and just took in the atmosphere. Couples were everywhere. The place was abound with chatter. It was noisy, chaotic.

I thought about him, and if I wanted him by my side, at that very moment. I realised that while I wouldn’t mind it, I suppose, I wouldn’t mind this temporary solace, either.

My friend came bounding back to me with her camera. We got up, dusted ourselves, and went home, both agreeing that it was an underwhelming experience.

But still, it wasn’t unpleasant. I had company of my own. Within that security, I was fine being by myself, for a while. I wasn’t envious of the couples around me. I was okay, despite the weariness in my heart.

I suppose, that’s what it is. Ultimately, as long as we have loved ones to return to, we’ll be fine. That’s something we need to remember. Company and warmth does not start and end with a lover. At the same time, solace gives us the space to properly miss, and truly appreciate the people important to us.

Tonight, I sleep alone. Tomorrow, I will wake up fine, just as loved, and entirely blessed. I will miss him, of course. But life moves on. If we’re meant to be, we’ll fall into each other’s orbits again.

Let the healing begin.