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12 hours into the New Year: how many resolutions already broken, not even surviving the first day? How many lives unwavered by the promise of a new beginning? How many 2009 calendars left on bookstore shelves (the real question we don't ask: what becomes of them, these expired prints, now that their future-telling days have become a thing of the past, and their numbers no longer have any purpose; what happens then? Left behind in 2009, like a toy that the world has outgrown as we look expectantly into the unfulfilled promises of 2010? No one speaks of this.)
Under the black light, I make out a stray thread of your right glove moving as your fingers tremble in the blasting air-conditioning. It all comes down to this moment: a fleeting instant on stage, an audition we did together. Something which we both thought we needed: a commonality, a shared space, a single connection in the growing distance between us. Something to talk about after the lights go down low, to break the chain of disappointments. A thousand other people gazing at us gazing at each other, suspending the disbelief of a love too heavy to keep afloat.
What is in a holiday? This presumptuous, over-advertised, over-anticipated activity that so often leaves its participants underwhelmed. Cluster around an enclosed carpeted space, waiting for a "trained" individual to fly you and 200 other people (equally anxious, equally impatient as you are) to a place less familiar than home to experience disorientation and periodic surges of xenophobia. Don ridiculously expensive outfits and gay apparel (those that would attract stares in your country's commute) that you would only wear this once. Smile in photos as if that expression is the only one you would wear for the entire trip.
But your days are over now. Walk along the empty school halls in attempt to rekindle that flame that is slowly burning out from the life we're rushing for and heading towards. It's all glass and steel now: the sleekness of it all implied a change at the helm, throwing the tradition of solid bricks and orange-tiled roofs and floors straight into the dimly-lit museum (location largely unknown). Can the new structure withstand it: the crap of a new generation, a century of fakers and mediocre talent? Masked in elitism, even the useless are clueless of their worthlessness.
It's been a while since I addressed you and your pretty face. But today, you chose to don that blouse + FBT shorts combo to strut the increasingly crowded Orchard Road, so I'm choosing to comment on the revelation of those gargantuan thighs. I am left, however, largely confused over the appeal of your bare legs and the length of your shorts: are they not supposed to be inversely proportionate? Is the sporty attire meant to give you the athletic look you always wanted, but never got off your fat ass to achieve?
Cover up or shapen up,
Inane thought: What happens to the profiles on social networking sites once the person's dead? Reminders of his 33rd birthday even though he was killed while scuba-diving at 28? Sticky posts on your sidebar to reconnect with him for the rest of your life? Write on his wall annually on his death anniversary recalling fond memories (Always mention that summer when he mispronounced "election" and you laughed till lemonade came out of your nose)? How is there no way for someone to tell Facebook, "Hey look just cancel this guy's account, he's dead."? How is this not a FAQ?
My year-old cousin is crawling in circles around my desk, wearing diapers which exaggerates his baby butt jiggle with each step he takes. It takes every ounce of willpower for me to not abandon my seat, sweep him off his knees and tiny hands to play with his fingers and toes, knead his chubby arms and legs, and make cooing sounds to watch him burst into childlike giggles and delightful drooling. His phalanges are like champagne grapes, his thighs the consistency of Play Doh, his complexion like soft snow. He wears a permanent look of nonchalant curiosity, beautiful innocence.
The sad truth is, some things are just not as pretty in real life. Walking past two girls, one leaning against a bus-stop pillar, the other in front of her, both either silently contemplating their bad romance or staring lasciviously at each other's crotch. Note to self: not all lesbians are hot.
Or seeing a couple frozen in embrace, a singular static force siutated in the middle of a bustling city of lights and people. Note to the alternate universe they seem to be on: People have places to go. Get a room or get out of the way.
I hate that my hair parts in the centre of my scalp. This bloody distinct middle line which gives me an eighties' Chinese gangster look everytime I let my hair grow out: What the HELL is that? Slick on some gel and I could be a poster boy for a kungfu movie with a bad plot and even worse acting. Why can't my hair grow out long instead of thick? Why can't it form layers au naturel without me having to feel icky for the whole day with product on my head? Why can't it understand the words, "Look windswept!"?
Oh forefathers, why did you choose to settle on such an impossibly humid shore? Your biggest mistake is geographical, I daresay. Why couldn't you bear the torrential storms of the open sea a little while longer, heading further south, or stopped more north, anywhere but closer to the goddamned equator?
Because of your folly, we start work with shirts already sweat-soaked. We can't parade on the streets in trench coats, scarves or boots. Eating piping-hot street food on a chilling autumn night is out of the question. There's never reason to snuggle under covers without the airconditioning on.
Pointless note to self: You know your watch is 5 minutes ahead, so you're actually aware that you still have time. And yet you know that the 5 minutes "leeway" you have, to most people anyway, is not that much (so little of import can be accomplished in 5 mere minutes), so you hurry nevertheless. At the same time, you're aware that if you were on time by your time, that is, 5 minutes early, that 5 minutes of waiting will seem eternal, being the freak you are who gives a damn about time in ways no one else would.
Another neglectful parent, probably too busy yakking on the phone or with hands too full of grocery bags or other shit to remember to hold onto her child's hand. I walked the crying girl to the bus station office, and received weird stares from strangers, to which I could only return my best You Misunderstand The Situation look. Another thing I love about people: Staring at you like they're invisible.
I stooped over and used my firmest tone, "Cry somemore and you won't get any sweets," and she sniffled quickly to silence. I don't get older, I just get better.
The text was written in a font that I wasn't used to, but not wanting to sound like a typography geek I wasn't, I remained silent and kept reading. As the lesson progressed however, my only thoughts were how the space in each slide was so poorly utilised. How chunks of words could be replaced with short bullet points, or how unbolded italics should never be used for an entire paragraph of words at font size 12. Has the bad influence finally sunk in? Have I become what I had always feared: he who judges a writing by its font?
This year, I resolve to spend less time whining and more time facing irritations head-on. Instead of venting frustrations here, why not I tell the sulking waiter upfront that really, no one is forcing him to work on minimum wage? When they insist on adding pickles on my cheeseburger even when I specifically requested for the opposite, I remember that I didn't pay to remove the pickles myself and taste the tinge of vinegar in my mouth. If no one tells the shoving commuters to watch where they're going, how will they ever learn to behave like decent people?
Hilarity in Taiwan:
a) Changing S$ to Thai baht instead of the New Taiwan Dollar.
b) Jordan's explosive reaction when we chanced upon his preferred channel in the hotel room.
c) Losing our check-in baggage in transit at KLIA on the way to Taipei, and finding it chucked at some obscure corner 7 days later at the same place.
d) Spending S$2 to detonate 3x water bombs at the theme park's log flume ride - straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.
e) Planning routes to our hotel to sneak in one more guest without paying extra (so Singaporean).
Kneeling before the corpse of his father in the one-room apartment, presently filled with strangers rushing about with the ceremonial details of post-mortem, R never felt more alone. A recycled cardboard box lay on the bed, with his father initials scribbled on the front. A man with 70-odd years worth of life stories and experience, only to be summarised into contents of a single box at the end of it all.
Dare I venture to look into the box? R ponders. To see which things he chose to cling to, and whether I was part of them.
It's a challenge to not stick my fingers into my mouth and yank the shit pus and whatever else there is out of that frickin ulcer that's been camping there for days, reminding me of its accursed existence each time I pass substances through my mouth. Oh, the things I would trade for an ulcer-free life! My lack of acquaintances complaining about the same problem is what confuses me: is the irritation of this common symptom not mindbogglingly significant? Or is it something uncommon that I'm just especially prone to? I don't know. No one ever tells me anything.
If you packed it in a box which you haven't opened in a year, you probably don't need it any more. Of all the things we own, that's how little we actually need: the rest can be packed in a trunk and shipped off.
But in the attempt to save space and discard waste, I didn't receive the memo on the importance of reminiscing. On spending rainy days cooped up at home, looking through textbooks with your scrawly handwriting 15 years ago, recalling what you got that gold medal for, revisiting the places you have come to fear the most.
Witnessing an RI boy wearing ACS(I) PE attire during RJC Orientation week:
Oh heavens forfend, if I could slit a pigeon's throat for every decibel or kilobyte or whatever unit is used to measure the amount of negative energy and vengeance one feels upon encountering such bestial sights there would be a wildlife fund created to prevent the extinction of those feathery aerial pests. Oh holy mother of lord help me not to dig into your hairless chest through that bloody yellow singlet and rip out your still-beating heart and stuff it up your AC-cock-stained asshole.
Hey you three,
From your faces, I can make out the light banter and splendid mood that seems to linger in the air you're breathing. May I offer a suggestion, however, to step out of your Life's-Perfect bubble for a second to realise how your three bodies are blocking the entire walkway. And with your arms swinging so casually, it is unlikely anyone in a less jovial mood could squeeze past without receiving an unintentional slap. Otherwise, you might increase your walking speed before a horde of growling pedestrians form up behind you with baseball bats in their hand.
What is it in a few riffs or chords that can make your hairs stand, your stomach lurch, and your entire being just float 6 inches into the air? What is this feeling? It's not the words: it's the stirring up of age-old secrets kept hidden by wise sages who bound them up into these instruments. Centuries later, they are discovered by geniuses of our generation who braved the labyrinths and found the formula to unlock and release such music of our souls. It transforms, creates, and unhinges something so innate that we wonder why we weren't dancing before.
Dear Mr Flowers,
I feel as if you were all along bent on getting down on your knees, unzipping our pants, and whipping out our balls for the biggest bailout ever. By announcing the cancellation of all your Asian performances, yet going ahead with the Australian shows scheduled as the last for your tour, what are you trying to imply? That our stereotypically smaller members aren't worth following through to deliver a climax? Or that you have decided two days before the concert that you will only go Where The White Boys Dance?
Are we coming...Or are we cocktease?
14 years later, I found myself rewatching the video of one of MJ's live performances. This time it was on DVD, instead of the VHS tape that my elder cousins recorded it on when it aired past bedtime. I recall the anticipation as we waited for the tape to rewind. Back then, my cousins told me to look out for audience footage - some sobbing uncontrollably, some having fits and evacuated on stretchers. Paramedics slapping the faces of the unconscious amidst the epileptic lights and pounding bass. And now 'twas I teaching my 7 year-old cousin the magic of MJ.
Dear "Hypermarket" chain,
May I suggest you introduce trolleys with refrigerated compartments? Because from what it looks like, it'll take another 30 minutes before I get my groceries checked out and by then, my ice-cream would've melted and my milk turned sour. Since your roaming "supervisors" don't seem to give a shit about the snaking queues, why not take some of their salary to hire engineers to come up with such a genius invention? After all, you seem to think that hyper-long queues is truly part of a complete hypermarket experience!
-Hurls my lukewarm yoghurt on your storefront-
Sometimes all I want is to pull over a hoodie, stand in the middle of the street, hands in pockets, and feel the relentless wind blowing against my face, keeping me from walking too fast. See the dead leaves and old newspapers whooshing past, occasionally grinding against the asphalt before regaining air time and drifting again. It will be slightly dark (because overcast skies are needed if we want even a faint breeze around here), and the roads will be deserted even though it's 4 in the afternoon. A breeze to send us off, a kiss to make it all okay.
Two minutes after stepping on stage, he flung his shoes aside, and remained in his striped socks for the rest of the evening. Which was spent mostly whistling in amazingly perfect pitch, juggling between his violin and guitar and the occasional glockenspiel. His erratic tics of the head coupled with hopping in circles on stage bore close resemblance to a performing hippie on the Atlantic City boardwalk. Then there's the voice. It was as if the instruments had all along been playing just to draw it out of his quirky shell, and boy did it have a ring to it.
So a lot of my creative juices this month has been spent thinking about how to conduct English lessons for the 14 year-old kids I'm teaching. How to keep them interested and at the edge of their seats for the entire lesson. No idea how my English teacher used to do it - I literally looked forward to her lessons. Silence came naturally, and everyone wanted to listen. In fact, she played it so cool that she regularly skips her own lessons and gets all naturally outraged when we didn't take the initiative to do constructive work during her absence.
Deadbeat, faces crumpled to wrinkles by the hands of time, we put down our knapsacks and turned our backs to face this jaded nation. At the back of the truck, with the road ahead coming at us from reverse, this twisted polarity seems befitting of our degeneration from the hopes of a now forgotten generation. Didn't anyone think: where then, should the rejects fit in? The mediocre and less motivated, labelled and thrown into a truck, shipped off someplace else: Would we have a shot there? A chance for redemption in this rat-race to the death of our culture?
Same place, same people, no more in uniformly white attire. Same figure of worship sitting on her throne (a blue chair koped from a classroom), with us devotees surrounding her cross-legged on the familiar concrete. 5 years ago we learnt English grammar, but today's out-of-classroom lesson is on Life After School. We reminisced: the Japanese food vendor who reused his disposable cups, the chaos all the other teachers walked into during our lessons, the people who've vanished. Take a picture, remember this like it was yesterday when we were young and wild, fearless of the days ahead.
Surely nothing beats having a big breakfast for dinner: 2 eggs (sunny-side-up), back bacon, an oversized swiss cheese sausage, grilled spinach with mushroom and two slices of toast. Slurp the runny egg yolks down with your toast, add the salt and spice from the sausage that oozes with cheese when pressure is added. Fork down the greens and mushrooms and pretend that the nutrition you're getting overrides the oil it is cooked with. Smack on some ketchup for flavour. Wash it all down with a glass of orange juice. Does it get any better than this? Not likely.
When your parents unpacked you from the box, it should have read, "Brain sold separately." Haste therefore, must be made to purchase one and fix you up with it as soon as possible, before you commit deathlier blunders. Perhaps the presence of neurons will inform you that the top you're wearing is a blouse, not a dress. So when you raise your arms in the air, we too, raise our eyebrows upon confirming the answer to the sacred question, "Cellulite, or none?" Also, a brain will fill your head better than that ridiculous headdress you're wearing. To the hospital,
The Tip Jar