Month: January 2017

The gift

“Ming, tell us a ghost story!!”

“Tell them about the time you played catching at the old blocks!”

Ming fell silent. The things he saw at the old blocks had scared him. “No la, nothing to say.”

“Tell us about your old house leh!”

“Eh do you think it’s just you, Ming? And all these things are looking for you?”

Ming shook his head. “If they are, I don’t know why they’re looking for me. I’ve never helped any of them before.”

Ming never understood why people were so interested in the things he saw. He also never understood why the spirits kept coming to him. Some beckoned to him, spoke to him in languages he could not understand, and followed him home. Some people called his third eye a gift, but it was hardly a gift. There was no use. He didn’t know what they wanted from him and he couldn’t help them.

——————————————-

Ming lived in the same flat for two years. Strange things started happening when he first settled in. Initially, it was just things going missing and then reappearing somewhere else. There was once he heard knocking on the bathroom door when he was inside. It was several loud raps. Thud thud thud thud. He opened the door but there was no one outside. The house was empty except for him.

For the first few months, he didn’t see anything. But then, they started appearing. There was a girl who sat on a chair, her hair cropped short, framing her pale face. There was a woman who stared at him from outside his room. He hung his clothes at his doorway, and she peered at him from between the fabric. Sometimes, from his room, he would hear women talking loudly in the kitchen, laughing, enjoying themselves. Curled up on his bed, he felt like these women in the kitchen were the real occupants of the house that he was paying rent for. Amidst the noisy chatter he was the stranger, quietly existing in a place that was never truly his own.

Every space is shared. No space is truly our own when we share it with the other entities that drift in and out. Different energies, converging and diverging. The strongest point of convergence happens during the seventh month, where different streams of consciousness interact easily with each other.

That was also when Ming met Shan again.

Shan was about his age, with a pretty oval face and a skinny frame. He was sitting on a park bench when Shan saw him. She asked if she could sit beside him for a while. “Go ahead”, he said, trying to conceal his excitement. Ming sometimes saw her when he walked his dog, but never quite had the courage to say hi. She was too pretty and he was too shy.

Ming took a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, lit one and took a long drag from it.

“I’m Shan. You’re Ming right? You stay at the block behind?”

“Yeah, I uh- I used to see you around sometimes…When I walked my dog.”

“Used to?”

Ming was hesitant for a while. “Ah, my dog passed away.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

A few moments of silence passed between them.

“Nice night.” She mused.

Ming nodded. “I see several others are enjoying this weather too.”

“You know, my mother always says: ‘Girl ah, don’t stay out so late, now seventh month you better come home quickly!’. But I like being out at night, you know? It’s so peaceful.”

Ming lit his second cigarette. “She’s right. You don’t know who or what you will encounter. Or if they are good or bad.”

“Well, then are you good or bad?” Shan teased.

Ming smiled. “What do you think?”

They spent a while more talking. Shan was chatty that day and Ming liked it when she was chatty. He liked many things about her. The way her lip curled when she smiled. How she threw her head back when she laughed.

“-Anyway! I have to go now. See you around…Next year maybe.”

Ming watched as she walked away, disappearing into the night. For a brief moment, all the other spirits had vanished from his sight and he focused only on her…Her skinny silhouette slinking away. He finished his second cigarette, and walked back up to his flat. Exhausted from the day, Ming lay down on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. His thoughts drifted off to Shan. She was an attractive young woman, and he would have wanted to date her. It was a pity that he was a year too late for any chance of that happening. Ming remembered how he recognised her photo immediately as he walked past the void deck. He remembered being in disbelief, feeling like someone had punched him in the throat. One moment she was here and the next –

Ming sighed a content sigh. Well it depends on where ‘here’ is. She’s still here now. Perhaps his third eye was a gift. Perhaps it wasn’t given to him so he could help others, but rather, to prepare him for the yearly encounters that were to come.

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Rooftop

“Hello, my name is Tom, and I work with the police.”

Tom lived a life of detail. Purposeful words chosen with precision. Varying tones, often tailored to suit specific circumstances. Yet, Tom’s gift was in listening. Listening to every detail and absorbing every word, he lapped up thoughts and stories in their entirety.

Five years of persuading people off rooftops could not prepare him for this day.

 

Tom got a call in the morning from his boss. The boss gave him an address. “Woman. Roughly in her twenties. How soon can you get there?”

He reached the building in less than twenty minutes. The woman was sitting on the ledge with her legs dangling loosely below. She appeared relaxed.

“Hello, my name is Tom, and I work with the police.” Tom begins. “I know you’re not here by choice.”

These people don’t believe that they have other options. That’s why they’re here.

Silence.

“I’m here to listen to you.” He usually got people to tell him why they were on the rooftop. Tell me more. Did I get this right? How did that make you feel? Keep going.

“If you kill yourself, it would be a permanent solution to an impermanent problem.” People contemplating suicide do not believe that anybody can help them. This is where you come in. You have to, as much as possible, let them help themselves.

The woman regarded him curiously and finally, she spoke. Her response surprised him. “I am going to jump, but killing myself is not my intention.”

She looked out at the city. Glass, brick and metal sprawling.  “The charm of cities,” She began. “So full of everything and yet nothing. Cities give the illusion of purpose but everything is really just hollow chaos. Like everything else.” She paused, silent for a few seconds. “When the charm is spent, we move on, roaming like nomads from one chaotic universe to another.” The woman looked at her watch. “Looks like I have one more minute.” She says.

“One more minute?” Tom realised that he did not understand what was going on.

The woman rose to her feet and stood on the ledge. “Before the portal opens.” Her skirt swelled around her ankles as it caught the wind.

Tom looked on in horror but maintained his composure. Years of negotiating taught him to stay calm. “You do not have to do this.”

The woman looked at him and smiled. “Some people are meant to stay in this world. And others, to explore.”

“Explore where?” All his negotiation and persuasion techniques were failing him. His words became desperate utterances struggling to latch on to the baffling conversation.

“We only live in one version of a possible universe. Imagine all the other versions and possibilities-” The woman grew impatient. She was running out of time. “-I’m sorry Tom. I have to go.”

Wait! How do I get there? How do I ..explore?”

“You have to jump. Take a leap of faith! …And if you do not end up on the pavement, then maybe I’ll see you sometime.” And just like that, she jumped off.

Tom held his breath and waited for the familiar thud but it never came. His heart in his throat, he ran to the ledge and scanned the street below. He expected to see a body but the woman had disappeared. Confused, he pulled out his phone to call his boss when he noticed something very strange about the call log. The last call was from his girlfriend the day before. No call was recorded that morning. It was like the job and the woman never existed.

Tom looked down at the street again and then out toward the city. The city was filled with tall buildings, their magnificent and tangible height a metaphor for heights of success. The irony of people leaping to their deaths from buildings that symbolised everything that they once strived for. Tom made his life’s work about rooftops and he knew very well that the rooftop held different meanings to different people. Rooftops would never be the same again for him.

Tom thought about the woman and his mind brimmed with questions. Not knowing what else to do, Tom climbed the ledge and stood at the exact spot where the mysterious woman stood.

The city sprawled out in front of him. The wind echoed with the whispers of all the other explorers who had come and gone, but there were no answers, only ghosts.

 

bodily struggle

1. The calories,
the fucking, FUCKING –calories
they tell me that I need 2000 a day
to keep my weight up
but
they don’t mention anything about
struggling to keep the food down.

2. Sleep is not rest
when I am haunted by a visual stream of
ghosts in my head.
The gravity of my bed
-traps- me in my nightmares.

2a. I straddle worlds of sleep, dreams and waking life,
while beasts straddle my chest,
their invisible weight
keeping me awake at night.

The exhausted self-
A bodily struggle.
A disembodied consciousness:

Whirring mind,
still flesh.

On running

Originally written: June 13 2014, edited January 2017

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“Find what you love and let it kill you.” — Charles Bukowski.

It’s a ‘what’, not a ‘who’ and running does this easily. The magic from the fluidity of running –the rhythmic pounding on the pavement, the bounce in your stride –it becomes an endless chase when the track becomes a metaphor for futility. I often struggle because I find myself asking: What is ever good enough for me? Where exactly am I going with this? What is this magic permutation of numbers on my watch that will bring me happiness?

First off, it’s easy to wish that I were less tired -brimming with hopeful vigour, enthusiasm for my future, and the prospect of untapped potential. I have been tired for as long as I can recall, but exhaustion is a feeble excuse for poor performance. My coach used to tell me, (bright-eyed and naïve a 14 year old I was): “If you don’t train for it, someone else will”. So I spent year after year telling myself, “If you can find an excuse for today, you find an excuse for race day. You will find an excuse for your lack of speed. You will justify the mediocrity.” You will end up a could-have-been.

So there it was. That little voice at the back of my head telling me I chose this and will continue to choose it. In the midst of all my doubts (and times where I tell myself that it’s not going to be worth it), I remind myself there must be a reason for why I chose it. We sometimes forget why we train in the first place. Passion is measured by results. We measure dedication by attendance, and measure determination by the extent of pain etched on one’s face. Everything is a calculated measurement but these numbers mean nothing. The universe is so incredibly indifferent to them. They mean nothing to the vast cosmos.

Find what you love, and let it kill you – because in getting killed (utterly wrecked by the workout I might add), you also develop a startling awareness of your own mortality. Awareness that you are alive and subject to a multitude of possibilities. Let it kill you, but not consume you -and the latter was exactly what I did. In the quest for feeling alive, I conflated my desire for pain in itself with pain as a means to an end, with the latter consuming me. What I really wanted out of the sport is to chase the high -a profound sense of satisfaction derived from having gone through hell. Anything to make me feel like the pain coursing through my body really does mean I am alive.

“Dolor hic tibi proderit olim.” Someday this pain will be useful to you. Perhaps it might, and I will go on to be faster and stronger. Unfortunately, nothing is ceaselessly useful and such is the law of diminishing returns. The same holds for pain. Surely there are instances of unnecessary, excessive pain that destabilizes our faith in a noble, metaphysical purpose of suffering. However, I just need to remember that in that very moment, I am nothing but alive and that’s all that matters. That’s all we have to hold on to and it is enough.

chemistry

mild alkali burns:
(i am careless with most things)
rinse/repeat does not soothe
the searing burn of love and loss

i peered at lab samples
searching for that one test tube-
-“you are not a fuck up”
(i spent half my life waiting
and the other half hoping)

they taught me to identify molecular structures
and when i find that one sample
with a

perfect configuration

i should draw graphs
plot curves
check for experimental errors

girls like you should come with a warning label:
feisty as sodium in water
rare as astatine
carbon makes up 18% of your body weight
but you withstand
pressure beyond your strength-
neither graphite nor nanofoam
you are diamond

you are a perfect arrangement of atoms
so i traced your curves
hoping that
you were my best fit line.

lover on canvas

I love like an artist’s brush:
fierce, purposeful –
and (with my poetry),
carefully annotate the winds of change
that wind-sweep wounds of
loves (un)forgotten.
No-
you do not understand this panic sentiment –
of how much you have stirred
the recesses of my (previously) unmoved heart