The girl was cross. He was not doing it right.

“You’re not doing it right!” her words were brittle, like those thin layers of ice that filmed on window panes and the lids of icecream pints. Prickly and chipped at the edges.

He exhaled, soundless and loud at the same time. Vexation has volume.

The boy, whose right hand was tenderly cradling the girl’s cheek, shifted and adjusted. He cupped her cheek in another angle, a little lower, a tenser hand, a softer wrist.

“Like this can?” he retorted, his words jagged and sharp while his hand remained a gentle curve.

The girl, who was pretty even with testy dissatisfaction hugging her mouth, peered critically into the phone she was holding up. “You’re pulling my hair,” she muttered before forcefully tugging a few strands out of his cupped hand. She peered into her phone again.

“Okay. Now it’s okay. Okay, smile at me. Not at the camera! At ME. ” It sounded more like a command than anything else.

“No not like that.”

“Can you smile more naturally? You look so fake.”

“Yes like that, but we have to take again. My face looks fat in this one.”

Ten. Fifteen. Twenty four. The girl clicked on with militant determination, she beamed in megawatt joy, she grinned cheekily, she contorted her mouth into a half-laugh as her eyes turned up into commas, she puckered her lips into a kiss, she shuttered her eyes down in mock bashfulness, a secretive little quirk of her lips. Ah, yes, this. Perfect.

“Okay, we got it.” she turned her head away from his hand irritably and hopped off his lap. She returned to her seat across from him and pushed the menu towards him.

“You can order first. I want to edit and post on Insta.”

She was too engrossed in her phone to notice his eyes roll, or when his eyes widened, and blinked twice. If she had looked up, she would have seen him gazing beyond her shoulder at the group of girls seated behind them.

But she was adjusting brightness.

If she had looked up, she would have seen him shoot his smile, the smile he strategically made a notch shy, to the brunette at the table, who was looking back at him.

But she was busy meticulously reducing shadows.

If she had looked up just then, she would have seen him mouth the word ‘no’ when the brunette gestured to her, silently asking if they were together.

But she was busy Googling for a quote for her caption. Rumi or Lang Leav?

So she didn’t.

“There! Posted on IG,” she sat back with a self-satisfied sigh.

The boy shrugged. He stood up. “I uh, got to go to the washroom,” he mumbled.

“Now? When we are going to eat?”


Now it was her turn to roll her eyes as he left the table. Her phone lit, and she momentarily forgot about her annoyance. Somebody had commented on her photo. She smiled complacently as she clicked on the orange speech bubble.

Omg too cute you two! Relationship goals!

Remember this ambitious little post?

I have no excuses.

I could blame it on a new job, a new laptop, a new relationship, life. I could hide very safely behind the disconnection of the internet and not address why I did not mail those postcards out. But after all your lovely words, your unexpected kindness, and the overwhelmingness of it all, my shamefaced admittance is the least you deserve.

So I will post them out.

I have actually replied quite a number, but then there is the issue of stamps at that point, which later dissolved into being caught up with life, and somehow, remembering to buy stamps always falls somewhere below a wine-fueled dinner with girlfriends and a notch above remembering to clean out the underwear drawer.

There’s always an excuse if you are wont for one.

But I will.

I even bought the stamps already.

So if you haven’t forgotten me, or if you haven’t given up on this (which you more than reasonably should about a year ago), just give me a month to be in your mailbox.

I will be there.

I shifted my weight from one foot to another; switched the basket from my left to my right; shifted my weight back again. My mother was perusing watermelons. She ran a critical eye over the gleaming green globes, a herd that rested heavy and defeated in the crate. Hefting one particularly handsome one up, she knocked on its polished shell. It produced a curious hollow reverberate, and she shook her head disappointingly before setting it carefully back down.

“Watermelons,” my mother clucked regretfully in Mandarin, “they can look so good on the outside but so miserably pale when you cut them open.”


There was a window of time when my eyes decided what my heart would like. My eyes – they guided my heart to the men with a glossy head of hair and strong shoulders that tempt a weary head to rest. My eyes whispered to my heart about the kind of men whose arms have lines that ripple and eyes that crinkle. And my heart – that foolish unlearned thing – listened fervently and went along obediently, into those arms and those shoulders and those eyes,

but never into those hearts.

It was a feast for my eyes, a gastronomical buffet, but it was a famine for my mind. These men flexed their dimpled smiles with practiced ease, and cocked their good looks like a well-used Smith & Wesson,


But lust thrive on dimples and muscles that brunch under tight shirts, but affection, affection and warmth and that indescribable feeling of having your chest fill up like a good cup of latte – those cannot be nourished on looks alone. Conversations were dull and made blunt from repetitiveness, their personalities so closely teetered to their looks that one cannot function without the other, and it is truly difficult to feel affection for a man who would not leap into the pool with you simply because it would mess up his hair.

There is not much to be said about a gun that fires blanks.


“One way to find out is to knock them, the ones that can return a good knock are the ones you should pick,” my mother said as she gave a slightly misshapen watermelon a smart rap, and it delivered a satisfyingly deep thump.

“There! This one’s a good one.”

Hello b.

I’m not the craftiest of person, neither am I artistically inclined. While I do bake from time to time, I don’t have that knack for making flour and sugar come together into something spectacular, something amazing. The last time I checked, I did not receive any mysterious million-dollar inheritance from a wealthy relative who died, and the last time I checked, the string of digits I slipped a $2 note over the counter for did not make me rich. So I can’t get you what you really want, nor helped put a sizable dent in the funds you need for your project 964.

And yet.

And yet, I want to give you something – a token, to celebrate this birthday of us. Because the year has mostly been amazing and you have given me deep-seated happiness, effervescent bubbles of joy, and unfailing root – for you ground me to be more assured of who I am, and you make me feel beautiful. And that, my love, is leaps and bounds more difficult and worlds more rare than flowers and expensive sparkly things.

I do not see the point of a collage or a scrapbook of pictures, because photos are mostly two dimensional and the memories you can extract from them are limited and muted. Photos also depict false perfection. They capture us at our glossiest, when we are all cleaned up, and when the moment dictated for a photo. You look at photos and you derive a perfect relationship.

But we are not perfect.

We are not a carefully curated, meticulously filtered and heavily embellished Instagram account of photos. We are not artfully intertwined hugs, we are not deliberate laughing faces, we are not purposefully planted kisses. We are made of sloppy sleepwear, morning breaths, rumpled bed hair, petty tiffs, sleepy car rides, and the occasional snarky comment. We have fights and we have less than fun moments. But we also have laughter – so much bent-over-sideways, heart-filling belly-aching laughter, we have moment when our sense of humour dovetail seamlessly into priceless windows of comedic gold, we have flagrant displays of affection and kisses on elevators, lifts and every embarrassing public spot you can think of. We have sleep-in Sundays, sunny coffee runs and more morning/afternoon/night cuddles than I think is legal in this state.

We have love – in both its blushing splendour and its awkward and gawkier postures.

So I give you this.

This is a compilation of all the private blog entries I have written of us on a private blog, initially meant for nobody but my own remembrance. But I think nothing encapsulates and celebrates the past year better than words spilled in earnestness, in honesty, so here you are. These entries are unedited and uncensored, and mark the pulse line of our days – both the highs and the lows – so there may be entries that are not as pretty as others. But that is what makes this real, isn’t it?

Happy  Anniversary, darling.


one. I learned that despite what I thought/constructed myself to be – which can be quite laughably different from what you are truly comfortable with being – I am abysmally bad at making small talk with strangers, I take a fair amount of time before I can warm to somebody, and thus, I appear aloof, cold and unapproachable (i.e. bitchy) to most during this ‘fair amount of time’. And I learned that I am quite okay with that.

two. Iced soy lattes has been a regrettably late but glorious discovery. I learned that not all coffees have to be enjoyed rigidly black.

three. An expensive but flawlessly cut Little Black Dress is worth a dozen (or more) cheaper but mediocre floral frocks.

four. There is absolutely no point in investing in pricey authentic jewelry for my ears because I am remarkably talented at losing one side of every pair.

five. You don’t owe anyone a obligatory friendship pass, lest of all on Facebook. I’ve purged over 200 people from my account this year, and I regret nothing.

six. But you do owe to the people who matter a commitment to the relationship. Friendship is not a waiting game, text them first and ask them out for coffee, dinner or happy hour. A friendship cannot be nourished on merely Whatsapp alone.

seven. I have been an idiot about Lord of the Rings for the most of my uneducated past. It is, quite simply put, everything.

eight. Don’t be afraid of bolder lips and shorter snips. You never know what works for you until you have tried them, which in this case, both worked out pretty damn well.

nine. Exercise, exercise, exercise. Never forget how amazing it feels to have that heavy lingering weight of post-work inertia cleanly dissipated and your muscles tight with a delicious sort of ache. Remember how you slept better, woke lighter and felt brighter. Exercise, exercise, exercise.

ten. Keep documenting the intangibles into tangible words – write of moments that throbbed harder and days that burned brighter, and keep them sacred and locked. One day when time has faded the edges in your own memory, you will have at least this to render them sharp and alive once more.

eleven. Always make time to have breakfasts or dinners with your parents. The meals themselves are inherently unremarkable, and most of the time, rather run-of-the-mill. But what I have come to realise (and what my boyfriend noticed as well), was that if these meals happen too few and far apart, I start to grow restless and edgy and unsettled. And I learned that these meals, mundane and ordinary as they come, are what remind me of what is real and rooted.

twelve. Eating real food – honest-to-earth leafy greens, pumpkin and sweet potatoes, fat slabs of fish, beautiful palette of berries and nuts, instead of food that comes in synthetic flavours and lurid colours, have an actual evident effect on my mood and state-of-mind.

thirteen. You will always, always, regret that fourth glass of wine the next morning.

fourteen. When a boy with floppy hair and a smile that reaches his eyes accidentally sends you a wrong message on Tinder, deciding to reply, albeit with more than a little wry, will be the best decision you made this year.

Happy New Year, guys.

Words and I are going through a spat recently. My mind is a drought and my ideas are weak pitiable seedlings that wither faster than they can push through surfaces, and words have in turn, forgotten (or chose not to) to come together fluidly, gracefully, beautifully. More often than not, they are the plodding shuffle of a fat and unhappy woman – slow, unattractively weighted, and so very, very, miserably awkward.

I know I spoke of this at least a dozen, a hundred, endless times – is expectation itself, or the growing readership itself, the very undoing of this blog and of my writing? But when I was writing, when I was happy- well, maybe not so much happy, but when I was writing, furiously, incessantly, fervently – almost like perfect syntax and lovely clean phrases were shoving each other out of the way to mark themselves on the screen, wasn’t this what I have sub-consciously always longed for? To be recognised for this writing, to be quoted, to see little lines from this space scattered across the web like confetti – in Facebook statuses and Instagram Bios, to know that my words have helped strangers all over in articulating that dusty and difficult-to-reach nook in themselves, to have you going “yes, oh so much yes” as you read, as you nod and your heart expands in that encompassing relief that you are not alone in your fucked up state of emotions, somebody else is as similarly neurotic? Because I know I have felt and gone through every single one of those, when I read a piece of writing so striking to the heart, so seamlessly sewn together, and how it is both equal parts amazing and confounding that two-dimensional letters can be such a sucker punch to your brain, can make you catch your breath, can make you weep one moment and laugh the next, can make you rock on the heel of your feet, cradling the words with your body and letting them rest on your soul for a little magic while?

Yes. Yes, yes, yes and so much yes.

But some lessons you learn as you go and you go as you learn – like how recognition is not a very independent child, and she pulls along expectations everywhere she goes. And expectations has a pet plant of self-doubt, meticulously tended and cared for, so that its tendrils bloom and creep along the windows of your heart and the edges of your mind. And if you leave it unchecked, this is what happens: a month and a half without a new entry, and a much longer time without an entry you can honestly say you are proud of.

And some lessons you learn after you have gone and you realised you don’t like where you have gone quite that much, so you retreat and you back-peddle to where you were, and you learn to skirt little sink holes of unhappiness that pulls at you and claws at you. Most importantly you learn to tread on the precarious line of thankfulness, precarious because isn’t it so deceptively easy to just tilt a little left towards envy – wishing you were that impeccably pretty girl on Instagram who is always in an exciting country, or that one friend who collects expensive things and eats at expensive places like money is merely water and the world is her personal sink, and to just tilt a little right towards selfish dissatisfaction – why are you not accomplished enough at 25? Why are all your ballet flats wretchedly raggedy and falling apart? Why don’t you have a figure made for pencil skirts and careless little negligee tops? – and before you know it, you find yourself trying to scrabble out of a sinkhole again.

So you learn to be thankful, thankful for a family that is healthy not just in health but in love for each other, so well worn and given without question that overlooking becomes a habit, which is something that I have recently come to understand that is not as much a given in so many other families. You learn to be thankful for a body that is so strong and capable, that you have legs that can run for buses and sprint across spaces and leap into open arms, that you have skin that is not angry with you for reasons you will never understand and so it snarls at you in painful welts and lurid rashes, that your organs hum together and they do all that they do in flawless execution without hitches, and they let you see Christmas lights in its twinkling clarity, they let the steady bass of your favorite song bleed into your ears as you drip sweat on the elliptical, they let you breathe in the scent of your favorite person and remember how good it feels to belong, and they let you taste the quiet glory of a pumpkin chicken stew your mother kept warm on the stove for you one rainy Monday evening, and isn’t that amazing? So you learn to respect it, to feed it with good food – food of the earth, and not from boxes and Styrofoam cups and in unnatural colours and contortions, and to tune it and make it strong with perspiration and a good sort of ache. And you learn that when you gradually adopt that into your days and nights, the less it mattered to have a figure out of a Victoria Secret catalog, because inexplicably, or maybe not so inexplicably, you feel good and you feel strong in your own skin, and that becomes what matters most.

But you learn as you go, and you go as you learn. And to borrow from Robert Frost and partly inspired from one of my favorite reads on the net (thank you again Grace):

But I have promises to keep,and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep.’

Right now, words and I are not on the best of terms. And truthfully readers, the only way I could have written this length was a forcible restraint not to filter my thoughts and not to think ‘How does this make me look? How does this portray me? Is this a good enough entry?’ and it is not so easy, in fact, it is a teeth-gnashing sort of difficult, but I let/forced my thoughts to take the rein of this carriage and shoved my self-doubt and (possibly) self-imposed expectations to the backseat, and now look at how far we have come.

I suppose you can say it is a little, or more than a little sad that I am judging my own honesty on a space I used to call my escape, to be ‘not good enough’, that I have let my own freedom mutate into a performance stage of which I allow everyone else to judge me through readership ratings and peg my own worth in accordance to the spikes and dips of that hateful pulseline.

But you learn as you go, and you go as you learn.

And I will slowly learn to live by one pulse line and one alone, that I am only accountable to the cadence of my heart, and nothing else.

In the meantime, as I seek to repair the bridge between words and myself, I leave you with this beautifully written piece, and if you are capping your 2014 off with one last article, let it be this:

Dear Sugar,

I read your column religiously. I’m 22. From what I can tell by your writing, you’re in your early 40s. My question is short and sweet: what would you tell your 20-something self if you could talk to her now?

Seeking Wisdom

Dear Seeking Wisdom,

Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There is nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach is round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea.

In the middle of the night in the middle of your twenties when your best woman friend crawls naked into your bed, straddles you, and says, You should run away from me before I devour you, believe her.

You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart.

When that really sweet but fucked up gay couple invites you over to their cool apartment to do ecstasy with them, say no.

There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.

One evening you will be rolling around on the wooden floor of your apartment with a man who will tell you he doesn’t have a condom. You will smile in this spunky way that you think is hot and tell him to fuck you anyway. This will be a mistake for which you alone will pay.

Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.

You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.

Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.

One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.

Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.

When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn’t “mean anything” because, much as he likes you, he is not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes.

The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.

One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.

Say thank you.


Having finally (finally) bought tickets to Jason Mraz’s gig next Monday – I missed the first two, for reasons I cannot remember now but I’m most certain were stupid and inexcusable – I’ve been putting his songs on loop for the past couple of days in preparation for the show.

And there’s nothing quite like an artist that grew as you grew, whose songs held different context as I stumbled my way along 17 to 25 (sometimes not really understanding how I managed to get here without too much damage), whose lyrics string together like pearls on a necklace that you used to never take off and now it feels altogether foreign and familiar as you put them on again.

And I think there’s a sort of reverse ageing that goes on in yourself when you listen to the chronological arrangement of songs of an artist you loved since you were seventeen. You grasp glimpses of the 17-year-old you – hefty but happy because you’ve never let weight be a factor in your own happiness, probably also because interested boys were never something you had to be concerned about . You pass through the tumultuous phase when you were 20 and fragile – because along with the weight you lost, you lost your own centre, and you teetered and hovered and you trembled, whenever insecurity and self-hate threw an arm across your shoulder (which was almost every second of every waking moment). You dip into the slippery slope when you were 23 – careening a little haphazardly and skidding across dates with boys that all had English names, where you neatly hung your heart at the coat rack of your house before stepping out for all these dates with all these English names. At 23, you grounded your heart like a parent would a wayward child because you didn’t trust it to take care of itself.

And now at 25, he has a new album of songs – one lovelier than the next (try ‘Best Friend’ and ‘Quiet’), and they sit comfortably because you have found a place for all these songs; for all these songs that says ‘Thank you for keeping me grounded, and being here now.’ and how ‘Everything goes quiet when it’s you I’m with.’ And at 25, you’re in a good place now, not quite there yet because there are darker days and colder nights when the girl you were at 20 becomes less a past but more a harsh ringing rebuke that nothing ever truly goes away, but still, you’re in a good place, because you know you have somebody who is only eight digits away, and he is constant and he is here, and everything goes quiet when it’s you I’m with. 

I find that people-watching an extremely underrated activity. While I don’t recommend taking it up to my extent, which can sometimes border on intrusive (I cannot help it, chalk it up to writers’ hazard), I find that there are little stories in these fleeting moments, and I am going to try to log them in here whenever I can. I don’t have a purpose for this, nor do I think it makes for very interesting reading on your part, but it serves as a way for me to remember, and occasionally, learn.

In a crowded bar with an awful band and overpriced Sauvignon Blancs: A young man proposed to his girlfriend on stage, in between songs and to the incessant inappropriate egging on from the lead singer of the awful band. He knelt on one knee, a velvet box in one hand and in the other an alarmingly enormous bouquet of animal plushies (it was literally at least a staggering couple hundred kitten heads nestled in gift tissues). He tripped over words and stuttered poorly phased replies to the lead singer’s questions. “Do you have anything to say to your girlfriend?” “Say what ah?” before trotting out the correct line, stiffly couched in her full name and an excessive consciousness of a large waiting crowd and the bright strobe lights. And when she said yes, the bar thundered with applause and cheer, for every successful proposal deserves at least that. I watched him usher her down the stage and back to their table. I watched the couple for quite some time after everyone else had lost interest, perhaps because they were a better alternative than to what was playing on stage, or perhaps because I was just interested in other people’s business. And as I watched the newly engaged pair settle back to their table with much jubilation from their friends, I watched the woman take a dozen photos of her bouquet from a dozen angles, and then taking another even dozen of her new accessory on her left hand, and finally rounding it up with another dozen of both together, but none with her husband-to-be. I watched the guy receiving congratulatory pats on the backs before taking out his own phone and tapping his girlfriend to pose for the camera – left hand fanned out and right hand cradling the bouquet.

She posed, he snapped, and both of them went back to their respective phones, separately. And they remained this way for the rest of the time I was there.

On a Tuesday morning commute: At first it came across like they were together long enough to be comfortable, in a rumpled lived-in sort of way. They still held hands, loosely, palms clasped, dull silver gleamed on their left hands. There were no smiles, but then again it was a Tuesday morning on a 7am city-bound train. Not long after, the woman spotted a seat, recently freed and just across me, and none-too-gently shuffled her way over with too much haste and far too little grace. She settled in it, like how a queen would settle in her throne- entitled and with the slightest air of challenge: i was blatant in my want for this seat and my blatancy should be rewarded. Her partner lumbered over behind her – I chose this word with care and accuracy, for both of them were generously sized and moved a little too heedlessly on a Tuesday morning 7am city-bound train – and stood in front of her, a guard to the queen, his beefy arm pressed against my shoulders without apology. He then reached for his phone and lit the screen, and when you are pressed shoulder to arm with somebody, you see everything. He had his font set to the largest size, and I guess emojis follow proportionately in a chat window.

And when you are pressed shoulder to arm with somebody, you see everything- like the succession of bright red hearts and kissing emojis lined up like an army of affection from a previous chat bubble left unreplied. You see everything, like his laborious pecking at the keypad ‘B’..’a’…’b’…’y’….’gd’….’morning’….., and that overused and underestimated emoji that blows a tiny little heart.

You see everything, like the fact that his partner’s phone did not light up when he pressed Enter.

“Hahaha I never thought about it that way but it does make sense. I guess subconsciously we always feel that friends are temporal until we get married and have kids so that’s why we place so much importance on the SO (significant other) because he is our future. I think this mindset stems from our parents ‘cos we don’t really see them hanging out with friends so we presume as such will happen to us when we are married with family. But now things are changing.

And also true that we have many friends but one SO- so we tend to think we need to invest more in the SO because we always want to have a balanced scale of affection. Only give as much as you are able to receive. Not a very ideal way of gauging relationships- platonic or not, but aren’t we all guarded and calculative assholes? Hahaha

Anyway back to your message, I wouldn’t say I have a best friend either. I don’t think anyone truly has one unless by some fate you grew up with this one friend being unerringly and tangibly there for your whole life. I have groups, each group has their unique degree of closeness. And also of course a rare few solid single ones that I count on in my darker moments (you being one of them, natch*) and I think that’s good enough.

I think sometimes the concept of having one BFF is overrated and sold to us by books and TV shows. Hahah we are all different cuts of cloth after all, who is to say you can only have one friend who matches your fabric of thought and humor identically and thread for thread? Friendship is a patchwork and we are sewn to different people to create each our own quilt in life to protect from the darker days of insecurity, loneliness and heartbreak. One friend can’t be a quilt, imagine how vulnerable and kinda sad it could be if you can only count on one friend as your one and only best friend. We have best friends, and ain’t that even grander?”

-a particularly long Whatsapp reply in a particularly long (actually infinite) conversation thread with a favourite friend


Some people are like that,
They split up and they think;
Hey, maybe we haven’t hurt each other to the uttermost.
Let’s meet up and have a drink.

Let’s go over it all again.
Let’s rake over the dirt.
Let me pick that scab of yours.
Does it hurt?

Let’s go over what went wrong –
How and why and when.
Let’s go over what went wrong
Again and again.

We hurt each other badly once.
We said a lot of nasty stuff.
But lately I’ve been thinking how
I didn’t hurt you enough.

Maybe there’s more where that came from,
Something more malign.
Let me damage you again
For the sake of auld lang syne.

Yes, let me see you bleed again
For the sake of auld lang syne.

James Fenton

This poem is by no means a metaphorical mirror to my life at the moment, but it reminded me of an old friend who introduced it to me (hello Grace- if you are still reading this space, all my digital love) and the darker moments of the past when i was seeing all the wrong people (read boys) for all the wrong reasons.

“How much do you love me?” I glanced down sleepily as your question bubbled up from beneath the comforter – a languid mess of woman and fabric. Early afternoon rays filtered into the room, where we were still in bed without remorse. It was Sunday and the hours ahead stretched deliciously loose and obligations-free. Your hair disheveled, your eyes devious, and your grin wicked and always that little bit heart-stopping.

I cocked my head to a side, played quizzical.

“I dunno, how small do you think a thimble is?”

Wrong answer, as you leapt on me in a flurry of tickles, “OH so that’s how you want to play it!” My breath catapulted out of my lungs and did not return, and it was a blur of limbs and delicious struggle, laughter straining my cheeks and lighting your eyes. The question was left unanswered, but the rest of that lazy Sunday afternoon did not really need answers, or spoken words.


“How much do you love me?” your chin was propped on your hand as you tilted your head, the candlelight on our table turning the auburn in your hair into flames that danced and captivated. Crisp white linen and dainty glassware celebrated our 4th anniversary with us in a place where waiters materialise soundlessly and food came in delicate plated art. You wore your hair up, a haphazard tumble of curls. You wore your lips red, two shades lighter than the Bordeaux we were having and half shade shy of rendering me incapable of coherent conversation.

I cradled both your hands in mine and frowned thoughtfully.

“I dunno, how many decimal points do I get?”

Wrong answer, as you tried to yank your hands out of mine in mock indignation, your lips traitorously curved into a crimson crescent, before you burst out laughing. It was a startlingly loud snicker in an expensively hushed restaurant, and diners looked over reprovingly. “That’s going to cost you,” you warned, before you reached over and snagged the last bite of my dessert.


“How much do you love me?” you murmured through the side of your mouth, as we stood side by side, with our hands respectfully clasped and our eyes studiously fastened on the altar in front. We looked on as the stooped and wizened minister married our old friends with a droning monologue and unnecessary solemnity. As children of excessively devout Christian parents, the couple was resigned to marry in a staunchly conservative church with an equally strict dress code to observe, even in this supposed time of celebration. I could see you fidgeting in the outfit you had dejectedly chosen- tugging at the unnaturally high collar and fiddling with the stiff lines of the dowdy skirt.  I suppressed a grin as I heard you muttering about the vicious fate you had planned for the dress the minute we get home, and briefly wondered if our smoke alarm was in working order.

I brushed the back of your hand imperceptibly and gestured towards the pocket-sized bible that was placed in front of us.

“I dunno, how small do you think the font in that thing is?”

Wrong answer, you drew in a sharp audible breath, before dissolving into silent convulsions.  The matron standing next to you looked at you first in alarm, and then tightened disapproval, as your shoulders continued to shake uncontrollably and unrepentantly. Your mirth was infectious, as it had always been, and I could feel my own shoulders start to shake. You reached out for my hand, our fingers gripped, and there we were- two quaking laughing idiots, reveling in private jokes and the whole inappropriateness of the situation- learning and understanding what it means to love and to hold in sickness and in health, without needing to listen to a single word the minister said.


“How much do you love me?” you mouthed the question this time, as we stood facing each other. Flowers laid nestled in your hair and clustered in your hands, and your face demurely obscured by gossamer that fluttered like butterfly wings.  You looked every inch a vision, a picture perfect bride, as you walked down the aisle. My heart had smiled in affection. But it was when you lifted your eyes and I saw the mischief lit in them, and that touch of wicked in your smile, that I knew my heart was well and truly stolen. You were the most beautiful thief I’ve ever seen.

With a heart so full I wondered how my ribs weren’t straining against my chest, I mouthed back to you,

“Enough to put a ring on it.”

You beamed brilliantly, before leaning forward and kissing me soundly, much to the affectionate amusement from our guests. Our minister chuckled, “Well I guess we can cut right to the chase.”


“How much do you love me?”

“I’m not sure they invented a measuring unit that small yet.”

“How much do you love me?”

“That depends – are we watching Die Hard II or The Notebook on Netflix tonight?”

“How much do you love me?”

“Have you tried searching on Google?”


“How much do you love me?” I am glancing down at you, not very much different from how it was on that Sunday afternoon and yet there is so much difference, so much. Your eyelids are smooth crescents above the respirator mask that covers the rest of your face, no dancing eyes, no wicked grins. My heart stutters too, just like it did that Sunday that now feels like a lifetime ago, but today I learn that fear conducts to a different rhythm. Machines beep and hiss and pulse around you. I curse every neat flattened chirp they emit, for how they have reduced your life to mere impersonal sounds, but I cling on to them with crazed desperation, because they remind me you still have, and are, a life. You look so pale, deathly pale. I slap myself for using the word ‘deathly’, what if thinking the word makes it more real? I slap myself again, barely registering the sharp staccato it made in a room as hushed as the restaurant where we celebrated our 4th anniversary. But today I learn that an anguished quiet can be so loud, so very loud. “How much do you love me?” I repeat.

I lean down, touch my forehead to yours, and I let the words float in breaths that are full of weep and love and regrets, “How much do you love me?”

Wrong answer.

“Maybe it’s more like what you said before, all of us being cracked open. Like, each of us starts out as a watertight vessel. And these things happen – these people leave us, or don’t love us, or don’t get us, or we don’t get them, and we lose and fail and hurt one another. And the vessel starts to crack open in places. And I mean, yeah, once the vessel cracks open, the end becomes inevitable. Once it starts to rain inside the Osprey, it will never be remodeled. But there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And it’s only in that time that we can see one another, because we see out of ourselves through our cracks and into others through theirs. When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”

Paper Towns, John Green

I wish I had a thirst in me to create art- art in its wild and varied forms: splattered across easels, chiselled into sculptures or pottery, rippled into the sinewy muscles of dancers’ calves, carefully plated on porcelain and set before diners, flowing through musicians’ fingers, or even curved in milk into a coffee cup.

I wish I had that keening urge that consumes these artists I see and read about, the sort of dangerous passionate love for their craft that possesses them and takes them away from the present and plants them in this world that serves only for their art.

I envy them of the utter completeness of robbery- of mind, body and soul, whenever they seep themselves into doing what they love, and loving what they do. I envy them of the sheer agony of the process of creation, of compromising between earning your keep and earning your self-worth.

I envy people who are inflicted with this disease of finding their kinship in art, of how it crowds out everything else and shelves everything else underneath it, of how it sweeps a decisive arm across their mind to rid of clutter and heartache and life’s petty frivolities and materialism whenever it takes over, how it cleanses their soul so effectively, so efficiently.

Because their art anchors them, it roots them and it is a lighthouse in this terrifying sea of peer-pressured influence and societal envy and always wishing to be somebody else. And because the heart is a shelf and there is just not enough space for anything else other then their tangled knot of love and need and necessary threads of hate for their art.

It anchors them.

And I don’t know if you, you who are reading this and perhaps understanding where my thoughts are coming from and if you perhaps can pick clear through the jumble of letters and mess of words to see my reason for my envy, because perhaps, perhaps, you are just like me.

Then you’ll understand why it is desirable, and why I wish for it.

Because when you are not one of these blessed people with an anchor to an art, to a craft, to a calling, we get anchored to something else, something far worse and far more destructive.

We get anchored to people.

and I could love you in a Wednesday sort of way.

It’s a love that always meets in the middle. If I’ve taken five steps to be able to encircle my arms around your waist, it was also because you were five steps nearer from where you were before. It’s the love you take weighing in precise balance to the love you make.

I kiss you goodnight today because you had kissed me awake this morning. Push equates to pull, we poise our love on a balancing scale- retracting an ounce of urge for alleyway dances back into ourselves when somebody had carelessly flung in an ounce of stormy car-ride silences, swallowing trembling, unbecoming words of ‘I need you‘s or ‘I want you‘s, because we had fed on one too many nonchalant ‘see you if I see you‘s and ‘call you if I can‘s.

You forgot the time we had said to meet and I peppered eight unanswered call logs into your phone, so I proceeded to forget to linger in our goodbye kiss, and left eight messages unanswered until the sleep of the night had taken over  to tattoo the pinpricks of my unhappiness onto your awareness.

I took twenty minutes to return your text message because I was fighting traffic, you took twenty minutes and seven more to reply even though I know you were still in bed, and you were simply regulating.

If you raise your voice two tones higher, I recede mine two pitches down. If I let slip with an accidental word of colorful honesty, you then siphon the emotions out of your own replies to make them colourless and stark. You will match my blazing pantones with a carefully curated sepia.

We will never have full-blown explosive fights, we will never have to crest on unfettered emotions that crash and thunder in enclosed rooms, never will never feel white hot surges of hate and love knotting us tighter till we feel like we are going to break, or make.

Because we live on two sides of the equal sign. Because we will always be in a Wednesday sort of relationship- two days better then where we were before, but also an infinite pair of days till we understand the drunken, intoxicating sort of happiness of a Friday sort of love.

And I will love you in a Wednesday sort of way- where I will always meet you halfway, no less, but also no more.

photo (21)


While you were double tapping your endorsement on a flat two-dimensional image of a sunrise, you could have caught this brilliant burst of colours that spilled across the evening sky, your eyes soaking in that breathtaking bleed of lavender and tangerine. It could have all but lasted for two sharp intakes of breaths, before it subsided into velvet, into night.

While you were thumbing through photos of artfully plated food you wouldn’t really recognise, you could have shared a messy and giggly vanilla cone with someone who could actually make a messy vanilla cone something worth giggling about. You tripped and teased and pushed, and someone held you firm and laughed and pulled. It was cheaper than a dollar, it was priceless.

While you scrolled through the airily extravagant and immaculately put-together  photos of a life you wish was yours, you could be having coffee with parents who still tease each other and hold hands when they walk.

While you refreshed a feed that you have seen not just two minutes ago, waiting for a picture that will most probably not matter any which way, you could be looping an arm around an old friend, and coaxing her into singing an old favourite ballad together- shamelessly loud and gloriously off-key, knowing full and well that coaxing is really not all that necessary.

While you fussed over the filter you want to use and troubled over which is more flattering, you could have looked up and across at one of your favourite faces, and remember how some unfiltered expressions are actually the most flattering of them all.

While you obsessed over the pixelated window that allowed you a brief and valueless glimpse into somebody else’s life, you could be savouring the limitless expanse of your own that you have forgotten to live.


Today was one of those days when abrupt self-awareness clashed with a vague sense of detachment from life itself and derailed from the routines and habits that run it.

Days like these I am attacked with a strange muffled sort of panic, like the anxiety is submerged somewhere underneath my skin and scrabbling uselessly against my ribs. Are we all really sleepwalking through our lives, always stumbling through an infinite waiting game? Waiting for the coffee to hug your hands, waiting for lunchtime, waiting for the printer to warm, waiting for Fridays, waiting for the next paycheque, waiting for 630pms, waiting for an email, waiting to meet The Right One, waiting for an opportunity, waiting for something amazing to happen to us because is this really all your life is about? Sometimes I feel like life is one large waiting room and most of us are just holding a queue number and waiting for our numbers to be up- essentially, living to wait and waiting to stop living.

It could be because tomorrow is a Monday, it could be because I have an infuriating knack for occasionally throwing myself into a dark desolate place that I can never immediately snap out of, it could be just because. But an hour ago on the drive home, I remembered looking out the window and how everything was a passing blur and how it was strange how the trees melded together in a hurried motion of green and the vehicles on the road were reduced to tremulous pinpricks of lights along undulating ribbons of grey but yet the moon, the moon was so vividly still and solidly present. I remembered wondering how two different things can be in such clashing states of motion when I was moving at a constant pace. I remembered feeling a strange swell of melancholia in me that I could not weave into words- a hollow sort of ache that I could not locate nor placate, and an inexplicable urge for  sad enough songs and all the ‘it will all be okay in the end’s in the world to be pressed against my forehead and bolstering my heart.

But I was afraid of appearing foolish and more than just a little small, so I kept the sadness quiet and tucked the ache away in an unimportant forgettable corner, and count on the hopeful fact that sleep would dissolve what my waking hours could not.



It’s always the words.

It’s always the lyrics in a song that pulls me in, it’s the poem that anchors the melody in a song that helps me determine if I will be listening to the song on an infinite loop for consecutive train rides and walks home at night. (Right now, that would be John Legend’s flawlessly written All of Me.) For some reason, I am inexorably drawn to the written word.

Maybe it is because they give so much tangibility to emotions- they give weight to your sadness and they add lift to your joy, they are the vessels that hold all the cargo your heart couldn’t ship out on its own. Have you ever read something so good, so heart-rending, and so terrible in its pin-point accuracy on that one blind spot on your heart you never could reach- and you don’t simply just read it you savour them- one noun by one delicious noun, and then all together at once, marveling at how although you know all the ingredients, you never thought to pair them this way, to put them together the way this writer did and let its flavour burst across your mind.

And it’s the words that are always the hardest to push out into the open, to make that difficult journey from your heart and up your throat and into your mouth and then out. It always lodges somewhere in between for me- at the back of my throat, stuck on the roof of my mouth, or still caged between my ribs. I don’t know what makes this so hard for me, for some, or most people never had this issue- their words come fluidly, effortlessly, as if their insides are well-greased and it is just a matter of enunciation.

But never for me.

Maybe it’s the fear of laying out words in a space where others can hear them, and figure how and what they mean to you, and then using them to discover the shape your vulnerability takes. When you have walls and a sense of self-preservation so well honed from all the disappointments you have met and eventually walked away from, it is tough to think that it is actually okay- that it is not betrayal to yourself if you let your guard down and rein back on the prickliness a bit.

And it’s especially frustrating when the words you want to gift somebody with refuses to come out. In February, I met somebody- somebody who makes my heart trip and and laid truth to the many earlier entries I have penned that were all founded upon a knack for extrapolation and a way with fiction.

But they are always hampered by little things and big things- little things like feeling foolish, big things like the reflexive wariness that that little bit of heart that is sewn underneath these words could be trampled, or lost.

If I could, I would peel the lines that are stuck against the roof of my mouth or lodged at the base of my throat; words that tell of how he animates my heart- that he makes it smile, dance, leap and do distinctly biologically impossible things whenever he looks at me like I’m worth it, like I’m a prize, when I’ve never thought myself to be anywhere near something worthy of winning. If I could, I would shape all the times he made me laugh so hard over everything and nothing at all into spoken speech, and how incredulously comfortable I am in my own skin- that I never felt like I needed to filter traits of who I am whenever we are together because for reasons that confound me, he is okay, he is more than okay with the the snark-filled and occasionally ridiculous pincushion that I am.

But I can’t. So I write them here, in a secondhand cowardly sort of way. Maybe it’s because they are written in a universal font that doesn’t belong to me, on a borrowed space that doesn’t quite belong to me the way my voice is mine and mine alone, maybe that is why it is slightly easier here. Maybe I’m afraid of how much more of a risk it could be if I had housed all these words in my voice, maybe that level of personal attachment scares me, so I thought that having it written here helps muffles the truth in them. But it doesn’t really, does it? Because no matter the medium,

it’s always the words.



(Quick edit: I am staggered by all the lovely response I’ve been getting from all over the world, you guys are prizes I don’t deserve. But please, I would love to send you a card, yet some of you didn’t leave an address in your comment and that breaks my heart. Drop me a line so I can drop you mine? xx)


This entry will be a little different than the usual.

It could be an unusual sense of recklessness that February brought along, or a capriciousness that simmered under the mundane everyday-ness of work. Or it could just be too much coffee and replays of ABBA music.

But I am going to be trying out something new, and hopefully fun.

Everything is connect

This is one of my favorite Christmas presents from last year- a booklet of I’m not sure, 100? 150? kitschy postcards. All of these cards have cute missions, or little dares on them, they also have a space for me to scrawl a little something for the recipient. It’s a lovely book, and also because it sits so pretty on my shelf, I suspect it may continue sitting pretty there for a very long time. And that would be a waste because postcards are meant to be well, posted.

So here’s what I want to do, I would love to share all of these postcards with you. I will of course, scrawl a personal message, a (poorly) written poem, an old secret, a song I think you should listen to, a recipe for really great cookies, a somewhat awful pun-related joke, whatever really, on the card and mail it to you.

So if you would like to receive a little something in the mail from an old friend, a new friend, a friend’s friend, an ex-friend, that one date that went that little bit awry, an ex flame, somebody you only know as a URL from halfway around the world, somebody you have never met in person, or whatever I am to you,

then leave a comment on the entry with your name or what you would want me to know you by, your mailing address and a little line- it could be something about yourself, or a question you want to ask, or your favourite coffeeshop. And I promise you a card in your mailbox. (I have modified the settings on the comments section so you don’t have to worry about privacy, only I will be able to read them.)

There isn’t really a reason why I am embarking on this project, perhaps I am making this my little February’s fun, or one of those Pass It On missions. But not really either. I’m not doing this out of a need to check off something on a bucket list, or because I thought this as something socially adept bloggers would do. I just thought well,

Don’t you just love getting something unexpected in the mail?

I think what wrecks me is witnessing rebuffs. It doesn’t even have to happen to me, or somebody close to me. I can’t even handle seeing a puppy’s dejected slouch, much less a child’s smile collapsing or the shutters coming down on the hope in a stranger’s eyes. Sometimes I think we can all be so unconsciously cruel, not looking where we swing that knife of a rebuke- so sharp in curt and so lethal in dismissal; and whether we had accidentally made something bleed. See the thing is- hurt is such an enigmatic currency, taking on so many disguises and in so many forms, it can get difficult to realise that you have been trading in it until you witness somebody else dishing it out.

So here’s to all of you that I’ve somehow hurt, hairline fissure or big yawning hole regardless, I am sorry, I really never meant to hurt you. I’m sorry for all the one word replies to your well-meaning questions, I’m sorry for all the non-replies. I’m sorry for that one time you smiled at me and I didn’t return it, simply because I was too startled and the elevator doors shut too quickly. I’m sorry for that one time when I was so very young and my brother was so very much younger, and I agreed to a complicated card game, and when he finally and  painstakingly finished with the complex arrangement of the cards in order for the game to begin, I decided I couldn’t be bothered to keep my word and he threw a sobbing tantrum and I simply thought him a brat. It was such a small negligible incident, I doubt if he even remembers it 15 odd years on now, but I do. Maybe simply because I’ve never stopped feeling sorry about it.

I’m sorry for all the times I come home and pissed my weariness over the household. I’m sorry for all the brusque and close mouthed grunts I scattered at the foot of all my parents’ well-meaning questions on how my day has been. I’m sorry for not forgetting to replying in group conversations in Whatsapp on important things and happy things and sad things that some of you shared, it’s not that I don’t care, I guess I always took it for granted you would know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the four out of five times I have to walk past the gap toothed old man sitting by the sidewalk without stopping to buy his packs of tissue papers. I’m sorry I didn’t even thank you in person for the cookies you baked me for my birthday, and that all you got for your effort in learning it and doing it and bringing it was a weak and flimsy secondhand thank you. But thank you, and I’m sorry.


i. When we think of people we know, people we knew, people that have been relegated to the dusty back shelves of your archived past, we think of them in a sort of wonky GIF-esque motion. We hardly, or never, think of them in a nice seated smiling portrait, neither do we cull them up from memory by their Facebook profile photos. When I think of my father, I think of the rustle of newspaper and the crescent of his head peeking from above, I think of the back view of that comfortable slope of his shoulders, for on our walks home he would always be in front, always slightly ahead, slightly faster. When I think of one of my closest girlfriends C, I always think of her animated right profile- right because she has a thing about walking on the lefts, and we have taken so many walks along the asphalt of so many sidewalks in so many countries. I think of the chirrup of a question mark that furls the edges of her voice, because she is the one friend that makes me feel like everything that happens in my life is worthy of interest, of questions, of her concern. And friendship is a funny thing because do unto others as you would have them unto you has never shone brighter than it has here. When I think of my grand-aunt, the one who has taken care of me when I was in my early years, I don’t think of her the way she is now- a little bloated, a little faded, and a lot aged. I think of the linoleum of her old kitchen tiles and the amber tints in her hair when she’s bent over doing up the straps on my school shoes.

ii. Everybody that mattered or maybe those that never really did, everyone of them is a tiny stop-motion reel capsule in your head, an extract of a memory your subconscious had chosen to retain while the rest of them fall away as the years pile on. Some people I remember by the way their hair falls on their shoulders, some I remember by the shape of the stretch their smiles take, some I remember by the songs that I had on loop in that brief window of my life when you were ever so present, ever so important. One of you is all the lyrics of of Busted’s Losing You, another one of you rests in the melody of LFO’s Every Other Time. Why are old songs such gold songs?

iii. I can still recite the eight digits of my first crush’s old cell number, flawlessly and without hesitation- it’s almost as it my mouth kept them tucked away somewhere safe as a tribute to the first boy my heart tripped a little bit for. Conversely, I can’t seem to dredge up the numbers of my first boyfriend’s, no matter how hard I tried. Funny about the things we keep and we discard, even though both of them had a ‘first’ in it.

iv. You. You know what you are? You are that bubble of incoming speech that indicates that you’re in the midst of typing on the chat window, those damn dots. You’re everything that infuriating bubble of dots represents- the potential, the point where dizzying hope meets terrifying unknown, frustrating non-closure, and endless guesswork. Nothing certain is ever written in black and white, yet there is undeniably something hovering in the space between. I don’t have a stop-motion reel of you, all I have of you is this chat bubble that is infinitely in progress. But don’t you know, nothing is infinite, and nothing can hang in the air for such an indefinite length of time? I was never sure what I feel for you- is it an amazing kinship with somebody who makes me laugh out loud in public spaces and effortlessly picks up my dry and sometimes barbed sense of humor without feeling the pricks and tosses it right back? Is it a friendship that I foolishly keep trying to breathe a different sort of life into, or is it that stupzass ‘but’ that leaves what was supposedly a safe and closed statement gaping? Or is it me skirting at the edge of something more but refusing to confront, because like all movie shows, when you look down from that tightrope you are perched on, you always always fall?

v. Don’t look down tze, whatever you do, don’t look down.

vi. This morning, I got a playlist that was specially curated for me sent to my email inbox, with the intention of killing my Monday blues. It was such an unexpectedly sweet gesture and so refreshing, it killed more than just Monday blues. It made me realize that once you stop thinking about not looking down for a long enough period of time, you learn to look forward.

(Hi darlings, I’m back.)

Maybe it was my own restlessness at waiting for the green bar of Sherlock’s latest episode to unfurl itself, maybe it was just that sort of stupid thing you get up to during a particularly chilly 11pm where I remembered my feet being cold and I remembered tucking it under my legs and drawing them closer together and I remembered wondering impatiently when my hair is ever going to be a decent amount of dry so that I could go to bed, and I remembered thinking I might probably have three kids and a dog before I even get to watch Sign of Three. But what I don’t remember is how I came across your name on the sidebar and what I don’t remember is a name can cease being just a name but a cesspool of unresolved emotions and issues, and how easy it was to lock all that away with a click, and how equally easy it was to open it all up again by the same method.

Do you know how sometimes we try to untangle a knot in a necklace, in your earphones, in a ball of yarn, and the more you try to untangle and find the source of the mess, the more hopelessly entangled it becomes? The more you try to pick loose at a certain knot and the more certain the string you’re tugging on is the one that will make the rest fall loose, the more snarled the knots become, till it comes to a point where you just go fuck this shit, throw your hands up in frustration and shove it out of sight so you don’t have to look at it? I never thought you were a knotted ball of mess in my life, but I guess I have gotten pretty damn good at shoving things out of sight…out of mind.

I wish I could sack the shit out of whichever genius cell in my brain that has goaded me to find out how you were doing today. And well, you’re doing pretty damn well. I wish I could say I’m happy because that would be a clear healthy indication that I have well and truly gotten over whatever this is (I can’t even say for sure that it’s specifically you that I’ve gotten over, but maybe it is more of what we were and all the what-ifs that rode along with it), but I would be lying to myself. But neither am I envious, wrathful, bitter or any aggressive sort of emotion, I am…I don’t quite know if there is even a pert little word for this, but I suppose I am in that vague ombre shade between wistful and empty.

I can’t really begin to shake out why this displaces me so much emotionally when there has been a gap of almost a year and a half between then and now. There has been so many since then- many who have come and gone, there were even a couple who mattered enough to leave dents, and as a matter of fact, I don’t think I actually really thought of you for the whole of last year, at least not along the thread of regret or nostalgia, until tonight. I thought I was pretty thorough and ruthless in cutting myself off, and in flinging it all hard and far away.

But I guess life’s a boomerang sometimes, or perhaps you were that one moron who dented hard enough to make a hole.

Hi, new and old friends alike.

Thank you for subscribing to this space, thank you for an affirmation I don’t warrant. I wish I could say that there will be something well-crafted, something stirring and something with proper sentences and a unbroken plot- promptly waiting in your inbox for you at the end of everyday, I wish I could. But I can’t.

My stories are clumsily irregular- sometimes they nip close on the tails of one another, and sometimes the gap between end of one and the start of another yawns infinitely.

But today I realised that I was gradually but definitely losing my own voice here, where I have slowly succumbed to the pressure of having to produce a ‘proper’ entry each time- warmed with an appropriate amount of length and chunky paragraphs, cooled with a cautious sense of emotional detachment so that they wouldn’t come off too personal. And this was the point I paused and wondered: where was that line where I have started viewing this space as something impersonal and public, and how did I not notice that I’ve crossed it?

I started blogging as a form of personal catharsis- an emotional purge of the uncertain and the intangible onto something safely two-dimensional and solidly black and white. It was also partially a way to capture the clarity- of moments or a certain sort of feeling at a certain sort of time in your life- that age tends to diminish and blur at the edges. When I browse through old posts I have written when I was 17 and 21, they felt like an old boyfriend- so strangely familiar yet foreign in a lifetime ago sort of way.

And I miss that.

I miss having to write freely- about deeply personal things, about juvenile and trivial things, about any certain boy that is occupying my mind at any given phase, about frustrating work woes, about rusty insecurities in a less vague and oblique manner, and about how despite a fun-packed and merry-making weekend, it was a long quiet car ride back with an old friend on Sunday night that made me the happiest this whole week.

Occasionally, I regret passing over anonymity when I first started writing. Maybe if I’ve remained anonymous with nothing but a url to my name, I would feel a lot more at ease with writing with a more truthful and vulnerable pen. But I would have also then missed out getting to know precious gems of friends and reacquainting with old lost ones who have found me through this site. Then I figured anonymity is a small price to pay.

But I would like to go back to blogging, not just penning stories and prose, but a less regulated and more uncensored sort of blogging again. Of course, I can never completely go back to how I used to write, which was frequent and bite-sized and open and honest and raw and dangerously revealing, but I would want to take a few steps back from where I am now and be a little more personal and honest with myself. While I am always constantly amazed and infinitely grateful by how some of you said my entries have helped you get over, get up or get out of darker moments in your life, I also need my blog to start helping me again.

So if you feel like you have been tricked into coming here- expecting polished lengthy stories but getting emotional and disjointed snippets of incoherence instead, I really am genuinely sorry. Otherwise, I hope we can take a few steps back together, and you would hopefully continue reading this space, but less like reader and more like a friend?

After all, I am still a work in progress and am still very much clueless on where this mad ass ride called life is going to take me, but I will love it if you will hop on along with me.

xxo, tze

Do you measure it with the number of times you can curl his name inside your mouth every time you speak? Or do you count the number of loops he has knotted in every single thread of thought running through your mind? So much so that it was hard to think of something, anything, without a morsel of him- his laugh lines, the timbre of his voice, his cute punctuation-less texts, the syllabus of his name, the way he drives-  jarring and interrupting your thought processes- like potholes in the road and the skips on your iPod in faulty songs?

Do you count the number of free-wheelies your heart seems to make when his name lights up your phone, or measure the pauses your heart seems to take that moment you see him searching for you in a crowded place, and you hold back calling out to him, so that when his gaze finally finds yours, you can savor the way his eyes latches and settles on you? Do you try to chart out the mathematically impossible graph of how the more you tell him, the more you seem to have to tell him? Maybe you list down the number of things you see on your way to work that reminds you of him, or do you work out how the angle of your need for dry wit is perfectly met by his degree of deadpan humor?

Do you track the days when they pass until the next time you breathe in the scent of his skin? Do you try to figure out the bewildering formula of how the sum of all his good and his idiosyncratic parts is fast becoming greater than your entire world?

How do you weigh then, how much you love?

Do you weigh the kisses he presses against your mouth- wordless love letters sent on an express delivery route to your heart? Do you weigh the messages he leaves inside your wallet and between pages in your book, hastily scrawled ‘thinkin of you’s and ‘think of me too‘s as solid and sure as lucky pennies secreted in pockets of yourself, barely any weight at all but strange how we feel slightly emptier without them? Do you note the way it feels when he calls you ‘My girlfriend’ in front of his friends, and how you feel snug and safe wearing the weight of that title, and yet also somehow, it makes you feel invincible against the world?

Do you weigh the future you build together, gradually weaving ‘us‘s and ‘we‘s into vacations and christmases until it is an indistinguishable calendar of ‘ours‘? Do you weigh all the weaker and darker moments of his past that he had let spill to you and you secretly kept, in foolish hopes that one day you will be able to fix that part of him that you were never a part of?

Do you weigh all the promises both of you have knitted around each other, binding you to him, and him to you? Both the spoken and the unspoken ones?

How do you then determine how much is too little for it last?

Do you take the silences in the lapses of conversations you have now, and weigh it against the quiet in the lulls of conversations you had before? Why does the former feel heavier than the latter when none of them actually have any words? Perhaps unspoken resentment and subconscious disinterest have a tangible weight of their own. Perhaps everything that you no longer bother telling him, or him you- the tiff you had with a colleague during work, his best friend found a new job, your favorite aunt is critically ill, he got a speeding ticket today- all of these that both of you used to couldn’t let spill fast enough every time you meet- are now pooled into the space on the table, shoved aside to make space for both your smartphones so you can better see what your other friends are up to on Instagram, and how his favorite soccer club is faring in the league so far.

Do you measure the gradual chipping away in his text messages? ‘K.’, ‘Ya.’, ‘Nvm.’ – Do you wonder how so much hurt can be packed into so few alphabets? Do you try to measure the amount of tears you shed in screaming matches where nobody wins, do you measure how many ‘fuck this‘s he has gradually started peppering every argument with? Do you tick off the number of days you can go without getting into a fight with him-“Well, we went for seven days before today’s argument, I guess it’s much better than the previous time. Maybe we’re getting better.” And how you have been slowly reduced to thinking of something like this as getting better, instead of worse?

Do you count the number of words he said that night in the park behind your house, wrapping his words in a cloud of cigarette smoke, as if that would help obscure the piercing edges of ‘end‘ and ‘break‘ and ‘us‘ when you finally let them sink into your mind? Do you measure the cautious distance between his body and yours, and how he was careful not to let any of him come into contact with any of you- already marking both of you as separates, even when you feel like your heart is still burrowed somewhere between his floppy hair and restless hands? Do you fixate your eyes on the amber glow on the end of his cigarette, fastening your gaze on the only light you can see at the moment because you’re so afraid of the crushing dark that is lying in wait for you once he gets up and leaves this bench?

When he finally gets up, toes the cigarette into the ground, gives you an awkward pat on the shoulder ‘text me or something when you get home okay?‘ and leaves, as you watch the dying embers flicker and fade on the ground, do you idly wonder how if tobacco yellows teeth and fingernails, then is it possible that heartbreak can stain the soul?

This is an open commiseration to the few girlfriends that I’ve had wine and conversations that make my voice break at its seams, for the one person I find myself running to at 11pm on every Sunday night that finds me clutching at the end of yet another unraveled heartstring, to all the girls who find themselves having to pace themselves on the number of the times they check their phones for a new Whatsapp message, because there is only so many times you can have your heart return to you a little soggier, a little weightier, before it crumbles.

The simplest, and the most difficult, concept for us to grasp in this foolish, soul-devouring, terrible yet morbidly wonderful game is this– input is never going to equate to output. For everything else in life we operate on the infallible theory that the harder you work, the more effort you invest, the more time you dedicate, would correspond to the better your career, the leaner your figure, the fatter your wealth. So why does the same theory that is the foundation for every other aspect in our lives, collapses like a badly built house of cards here?

You could be at your wittiest, your prettiest, your quirkiest, your most capricious, but you can still not be enough for some. But you would convince yourself that this person is perfect for you- because he makes you laugh, because he happens to like the same type of music, because he has dimples when he smiles, or merely because  you like how his name rolls off your tongue. So you tell yourself that if what you feel for him is so strong and so reassuringly certain, then there is no way he can feel anything less than that. Input equals to output right? If I volleyed my entire heart over to his side of the court, it only makes sense- both physically and gravitationally, that I get an equally powerful return. Newton’s third law, isn’t it?


So you try harder, you fling in more hooks, you steep your messages in so much cheeriness, but you made sure to squeeze in that airy couldn’t-care-less nonchalance by the side , you stack disclaimers heavy with indifference against hopeful hints light with affected chirpiness so that your message balances out- not too needy but not too aloof.  You tear off a minute knob of your heart and tucked it in a corner of the message, and in the end there is so much of you in that one innocuous chat bubble you wonder how it doesn’t have actual tangible weight in your hands.

But see, here’s the thing. Love shouldn’t be this difficult.

Love shouldn’t be an impossible math equation of parts that do not add up and your find yourself steadily giving up a decimal point of yourself with every two-word reply you get from him. Somehow the fact that he cannot be bothered to string more than three words together is inexplicably, but CLEARLY, due to something you did or the way you look. Because it’s your fault that they are two-word replies- you haven’t been engaging enough, you’re not interesting enough, you don’t know how to keep the conversation going, you’re not witty enough, you are not skinny enough, you’re not pretty enough, your eyes are not big enough, you are simply not enough.

And the thing that nobody tells you and you never tell yourself is that- love shouldn’t make you feel like a fraction instead of a whole. If it does, then it is wrong.

Think about the last time you had somebody who was sweet on you, who obviously liked you. Maybe the feeling regretfully wasn’t mutual, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is think about the way this person texts you- he never made you second-guess yourself, he never made you doubt your own messages. Conversations should be easy because he had bothered to ask about your day and yourself. You find yourself answering more than questioning because there was always a question embedded in his messages. He remembers your habits and whatever you’ve carelessly let drop but forgotten- “How was meeting your friend who just got back from the States? Did you have your favorite froyo in the end?” You would never have to painstakingly embed a hook in every single message you send in order to bait a reply, he would still reply anyhow.

Most importantly- he never, ever, made you feel like texting is a game of tag where you deliberate over the precise minute of the day to send that last text message because you know, you know that once he’s It, it may take an agonizingly long time before you’re tagged with a reply. So you would rather not reply at all, and clutch onto his last reply like a talisman, this way you can indulgently deceive yourself into thinking he’s suffering through the same waiting game that you did, though deep down in a rusty unvisited part of yourself, you know he probably have already forgotten about the reply the minute he hit send. It should never be this difficult; texting should never have to be such emotional warfare, because if it is, it’s wrong.

But the thing with us self-destructive delusional idiots, is that we always hope against hope. When something that looked promising begin to show cracks, we refuse to see it for what it is- that this could just be another bust, that this one just isn’t the one either. Remember when we were kids and we picked at healing scabs? We couldn’t leave it alone, even though it had hurt with each tentative probe we gave it. It was like we had refused to believe from those telling twinges of pain that it was a legitimate wound, not until it bled.

Well, we haven’t changed much since then.

Game’s a bitch, isn’t it? It doesn’t have any rules, but it has all the punishments.

I live in a peculiar place but I take pride in how I keep it. I love how neatly categorised I have it- there are places for serious things, and shelves for secrets- each level for varying levels of secrecy. I have little corners to keep my favorite jokes and funny memories. I have vases to keep hopes blooming, and snug cushions that fit the curve of my smile perfectly. There are locked drawers and chests tucked in neat corners to keep what’s important, and air-tight safes for precious things that I don’t want broken when guests come over.

And I do receive guests at my place. Some I welcome more than the rest, some I don’t welcome at all.

I have always enjoyed Content’s company. For one, she never makes a fuss, and she always makes me feel like I have the best place she has ever been to. She doesn’t come very often, but I wish she would though. It’s funny how she always insisted she did, but somehow there are more occasions than not that I never ever heard her knock.  It’s a sore point between us- how I always felt that she pays more visits to my neighbours than me, and she always insisting that I never gave her a chance to come by for a proper visit because I was too busy entertaining other guests, like Euphoria.

Euphoria is a fun guy to have over. But he never stays for more than a few minutes. Sure, he blows in, always a grand entrance, always a sweep of excitement, always a irresistible ball of movement. He brings with him a six pack of temporary courage and a party platter of impulsive decisions. It’s funny how I can always remember how he enters my place, but I never could for the life of me remember how he leaves. All I know is, he has an annoying habit of opening up all the windows when he leaves, because I always wake up a little colder, a little more vulnerable.

And there are days, when I only crave for the quiet presence of Melancholia. It’s strange, because he isn’t exactly the best company around. It’s not a light-hearted afternoon like the ones with Content, neither is it a night of revelry like it is with Euphoria. Whenever Melancholia comes over, he brings over an excellently aged bottle of vintage regrets, and a mixtape he has mixed from all the What-Ifs and If-Onlys he amassed over the years.  And there we will be, spending a bleak but oddly peaceable sort of evening sipping glasses of his bottle- tasting its bitter-sweet notes and feeling the dance of wistfulness on our tongues, while his mixtape croons tunes with beats that have gaps big enough to fit my thoughts in between, and lyrics with enough underlying spaces between each line to accommodate a sense of uncanny relation. The thing I like best about this guest is his inherent understanding that sometimes, it’s alright to indulge in feeling sad without a reason.

But there’s one guest that I dread.

The first time I had him over, I was blissfully unaware of the chaos he would bring with him, and the wreck he would leave behind. I foolishly opened my doors wide open, and welcomed him in. The second time, I was slightly warier, but nevertheless willing to give him a second chance. And then the third time happened, and the fourth, the seventh, the eleventh.

He is the worst sort of guest you can ever have. He immediately makes himself right at home- rifling through my shelves of secrets, propping his feet up on my coffee table and leaving scratches on the surface that I could not get out, no matter how hard I tried. He is careless, and has broken my vase on more than one occasion, leaving the blooms of hope that I have been painstakingly nurturing, broken and scattered on the floor.

It was not easy trying to put them back together again, and it came to a point where I resigned to rather having them withered from neglect, for what is the point of wasting effort on trying to grow them when he’s only going to break them again when he comes over?

But the most infuriating habit of all- is the fact that each time he comes over, he would leave my place slightly altered but definitively changed. Instead of suiting me, it now accommodates him.  He leaves traces of his scent in sheets and linen towels, and the cushions on the couch now fit the tilt of his smile more than it did mine. He empties my fridge and leaves water rings of self-doubt on my table. Sometimes, when he stays long enough, he manages to get into my safes and fiddles with the fragile things I keep in there, with a manner far too cursory for my comfort. Drawers where I keep what’s important, now contain his things as well.

It’s a spectacular mess.

And it takes an agonizingly long time to clean up and make my place to a semblance of what it was before he ever came.

If I could, I would never have him over again. But somehow, it is impossible to expect his visits, for he is unpredictable and never calls before he comes over. So I started barricading my door, and buying shiny new locks, or even pretending I am not available- finding ways and means to deter his visits.

But Love, the sly bastard, waits for the moments I am caught off guard, to slip right past, and right back in.

On our 1st date, our hands fidgeted. You twirled the fork between your fingers, an effortlessly graceful motion. It looked impressive, but you said it was easier than it looked. And that you picked it up during long boring lectures back in college. And that you do it without even noticing now. My hands were a flurry pair of housewives, as I straightened the cutlery to parallel precisement and smoothed invisible creases out of the napkin. I told you it was a habit I inherited from my mother and that I too, do it without even noticing. I was lying of course, I only do it when I am nervous.

On our 11th date, our hands were intertwined under the table. Looking back, I wasn’t too sure how it started, was there even a definite point where we decided to do it? I remembered it like how one would remember a painting- in brushes and textures. Our knuckles brushing briefly, the dry warmth of your palm, and the gentle squeeze you seemed to unconsciously give whenever you made a point. Wasn’t it almost comedic how we never acknowledged our hand-holding throughout the night? There we were, talking about our families, my annoying new neighbor and your disastrous summer vacation, all tinged with an emphasised touch of nonchalance, while our hands clasped in a loose bow beneath the tablecloth. It was our first secret and it made me feel like your every smile that night was meant for me and me alone. I remember our water glasses were virtually untouched.

On our 101st date, you couldn’t see my hands. They were on my lap, clenched and bloodless. Yours were on the table, your fingers drumming the impatience that you couldn’t or wouldn’t convey in words. I remember vaguely wondering how the same table we had shared for so many dates could suddenly feel like a much further distance. I remember desperately flinging questions into the silence between us, like lifesavers from a ship, thinking that if I could somehow throw enough, then maybe we wouldn’t sink. But you taught me that night that lifesavers would only work if you grab onto them, and that replying a question isn’t the same as answering one.


On our 13th date, I told you I am a writer. You looked impressed, and you asked me to show you some of my work. I demurred and said it was no big deal. You didn’t push it, but later that night after we parted, you texted me to say you were sorry but you Googled for my published stories. You told me that you don’t know where I got my inspirations and ideas from, but that you aimed to be all of the reasons for the future ones. My stories were love stories.

On our 30th date, you asked me why I never used you in any of my stories. You said you caught glimpses and snatches of our friends- Michelle’s favorite tattered sweater, the way Bruce honks when he laughs, and Anna’s almond shaped eyes; but you never found any of yourself in the stories. You tried to ask this lightly, tried to pass it off as a casual offhanded question, but I saw the bewildered hurt in your eyes and it broke my heart a little. I told you it was because you were too precious for me to share with the world, and that mollified you a bit, but you weren’t completely convinced. The truth was, you were in the stories, but you wouldn’t recognize it.

You were the part where I described how it felt to have your heart leap into an infinity of stars. You were that giddy happiness that buffers characters from bad hair days, rude people and Monday blues. You were the part where I described how something as innocuous as a slow-forming smile can make such a mess of your insides, you were that intangible weight of contentment that had anchored all my recent stories around falling in hopeless love. You were weaved into almost every ending paragraph of every happily-ever-after. You wouldn’t see it, nor would you ever realize it, but you were the poetry that underlines my writing.

After our 103rd date, I stopped writing love stories.

I wish I was that little girl, perched on her knees upon the seat on the train, the only future she worries about is when are they ever going to arrive, and the only numbers she counts are the remaining stops left to her destination. I wish I was wearing her shiny Mary-Janes, trimmed with frilly socks turned down at her ankles- special occasion shoes that her parents must have only allowed her to wear if they are going somewhere far and exciting. I wish I still thought of Orchard and its thereabouts as somewhere far and exciting.

I wish I was that tall drink of career woman- all cool poise and a reservoir of grace. I wish my hair could fall as perfectly across my brow as hers does- a thousand dollar haircut on a three dollar commute, or that my shift dress would stay crease-free even after an entire day of humidity and impatient crowds. I wish I had her discipline to go for kickboxing lessons three times a week, hot yoga on the other three, and no carbs for dinner- for how else did she get those sculpted arms and killer legs? I wish I had her unshakable control and confidence- this woman looks like she had never suffered a smudged eyeliner, a wrinkled shirt, rejection, a bad hair day, or moments of crushing inferiority.

I wish I was that pair of chattering junior college students, clad in shirts the right amount of baggy and skirts the wrong length of decent. I wish I still had a future so deliciously malleable and at a peaceable distance away, so that I am still of the age when I can proudly crow “What I want to work as? That’s still long way away! Just go Uni first then decide after that!”. I wish I could take part time jobs that I want to and not because I need to. I wish I have their anticipation of university days, of falling in love with cute college boys, of making a whole new bunch of friends that are for keeps and of still tapping double beeps on buses for a long time to come.

I wish I was that mother with the beatific smile and contented eyes, with the best of her heart and soul strapped against her chest making cute gurgling noises. I wish I had crossed that yawning gap of uncertainty and put to rest that undercurrent of anxiety- of never knowing, never realizing, never finding. I wish I had her settled ease of knowing her life has stopped moving in haphazard half-circles and had finally hunkered down next to somebody whom she can sit next to for an infinitely long time.

There are days I wish for a lot of things, there are days I wish for a lot of non-things. There are wishes that are silly, there are wishes that are poignant. There are wishes I wished I never made, and there are wishes I wish every year on every candle on my cake. But ultimately, I think about all the undeserved gifts in my life that are probably only fervent wishes of other people who are not as lucky, and then I would wish for nothing at all.

We were ambling along a ribbon of concrete pathway along Robertson Quay on a sun-scorched Saturday afternoon. Our stream of conversation tripped over erratic topics and broke around lapsed silences, in the comfortable and self-assured manner that can only be achieved with a friendship that spanned ten years. Inevitably, it trickled back to love, boys and all of that tiresome in-between.

“You know what I hate the most?” I threw out vehemently, suddenly.


“I hate the part that comes after the realization that this one isn’t going to work out either. The morning after equivalent, the lousy long-winding road of self-admonishment, and most of all, I hate the sickening, sickening, but thoroughly familiar road back to the state of being okay again.”

“Oh my god. Yes.”

“And the worst part is- you actually can detach yourself from your emotional mess for one brief moment and be aware, that okay, I am not going to be okay. This is going to be painful, but I know how to deal, I know all the steps and the correct things to tell myself in order to reach the path of moving on again. But that’s like running the 2.4km in school and you are standing at the start- you can tell yourself that this is going to end and six rounds is really not all that much in the big picture, and in less than 15 minutes, it will all be over.

But at the same time, you cannot deny the dread coiling up in the pit of your stomach, taunting you that sure you can tell yourself all of that, sure make yourself feel better, sure pump yourself up with you-can-do-this’es, but the fact remains that you are still at the start and this isn’t over yet.”

“F*cking A.”

“Because in that instant when you stand at the beginning of that tiresome ass 2.4, with six rounds of hurt waiting for you, no matter what you tell yourself, no matter how many times you have ran it before, no matter how much you psyched yourself up, you know that you still have to suffer through it, that you still have to go through six painful rounds that seem to stretch agonisingly forever, that that little voice in your head would still be screaming at you ‘Why is it not ending yet? Why don’t you just give up, give in, give out?‘,

and that there is absolutely nobody, nobody at all, not your best friend, not your parents, not you, not anyone, who can take this shit away and finish this for you, that the ending point is yours and only yours to reach.”

A brooding silence ensued.

“I really fucking hate 2.4.”

She paused mid-stroke, the slim pen hovering over her right eye, as she lifted a questioning glance at the rearview mirror.


He cut his eyes hastily away, “Nuttin,” the cabbie mumbled.

Slowly, his eyes crept back to the rearview mirror to fixate upon his passenger.

Her hand had resumed its deft movement across, leaving a smooth unbroken inky black line in its work. An expert flick of her wrist, and the line was flourished with a perfectly winged tip. A fatter pen this time, with bristles at the tip. It looked like a tiny toilet brush to him. Her mouth parted in concentration, the lady brought the brush close to her right eye and made a few indiscernible quiver with her hand. Suddenly, her lashes looked fuller and darker.  His own mouth went slightly agape in astonishment- how on earth did she do that?

Her made up eyes abruptly flew up to the mirror again, catching his gaze. Her glance was no longer politely questioning, and flashed with irritation.

“Is something wrong?”

He flushed with embarrassment and fixed his eyes resolutely on the road again. “No, Ma’am”

“Well then, if you don’t mind, please speed up a little. I’m late for my meeting.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”


“Omigosh this is like, THE BEST lippie ever. I like, got it as a birthday present from Danny once? And I-”


“What? Hang on, I need to tell you how amazing this lipstick is. I mean, it doesn’t even fade after I ate like, McDonald’s and stuff. I mean, can you believe that? Most lipsticks can’t even last through-”

“Sheila, I-”

“No seriously, lemme finish. Most lipsticks can’t even last through a freakin’ Starbu-”


What?,” the slightly plump and not-as-slightly chatty schoolgirl asked in an aggravated tone, as her friend, a taller gangly girl, interrupted her for the third time.

“That man there is creeping me out.”

Sheila craned her neck down the aisle in the cosmetic section of the drug store where she was browsing around with Megan- a routine that both girls religiously upheld on their way home from school everyday. She caught sight of a slouch-figured man who had turned away a moment too late to hide the fact that he had been avidly listening in to their conversation.

“I saw him at the aspirin section when we first came in,” Megan whispered, “but he started moving towards us when we were checking out blushers, and became like, a total pervo-lurk after that. He followed us from like, aisle to aisle, Sheils. Do you think he’s, I dunno, trying to ask one of us out or something?”

Sheila casted a disbelieving look at her friend, “Are you insane, Megs? Look at him. He’s old enough to be our Dad. He’s probably just another pedo-perv. I’m going to set him straight. HEY YOU!” she shouted across the aisle.

The man started, and turned towards her.

Sheila, who was never one to mince words, continued, “Are you like, thinking of perving on us or something? Because seriously dude, my dad is a cop and he will have your ass.”

A familiar crimson worked its way to the man’s face again, as he lowered his head in mortification, painfully conscious of the suspicious glances from the other patrons in the store who had overheard the schoolgirl’s belligerent words.

“Didn’t mean no disrespect, Miss,” he muttered before making a beeline for the exit.

Sheila stared scornfully at his retreating back, “What a nutcase,” she told Megan, before resuming her tribute to the lipstick.


“May….I help you, sir?”

The salesgirl at the makeup counter asked with more than just a touch of skepticism in her voice. For one, this man was alone with no wife or girlfriend in tow. And second, his shabby clothes and the tattered hat that he was twisting in his hands did not inspire the salesgirl to hope that he would be a prospective customer.

The man shifted his weight from one foot to another, “Yeah, um…well, uh-”

The girl gave an inward sigh. It had been a long and busy day at the departmental store. Her feet hurt from her new flats and she had been unlucky enough to have been stuck with a group of bratty teenage girls who came for the free makeovers that the store was offering as a promotion, and left without buying anything. And now it seemed like she would be ending her day with another non-sale nuisance too. “I need a bitchin’ drink,” she thought aggrievedly.

“We are closing in half an hour, Sir. Is there anything I can do for you?” she cut his stuttering short with a tinge of impatience.

The man hesitated, and pulled out a crumpled magazine cutout from his pocket. He laid it flat on the counter between them and told her in a low voice, “Yeah, I saw this in the magazine and I want…I want to redeem that.”

The girl glanced at the cutout. It was a coupon that offered a free step-by-step makeup tutorial that comes with purchase of their basic make-up kit. She frowned, and looked up at the decidedly un-metrosexual man in front of her. “Sir, this make-up tutorial is a practical session, and we would need to apply it on-”

“Yes I know,” he rushed to cut in, “I would like to know how to- I just would like to learn.”

“Sir, I’m not sure you understand….we would have to do this on your face.”

The man set his jaw resolutely, while his face turned an interesting shade of maroon. He gave an almost imperceptible nod, and mumbled, “I understand.”

The salesgirl stared at him for a moment. Just when she thought she had been in this gig long enough to have met every possible sort of whack customer, life went all out to color her surprised. “I guess drag queens all gotta start somewhere” she mused silently.

Out loud, she said, “Well, if you say so sir. Could you please come around and sit in front of the mirror then?

He stayed silent through the entire demonstration. She would have thought he was just mentally unhinged, if not for the fact he actually scribbled notes in a looseleaf notebook as she explained to him the function of loose powder, and how eyelash curler was seriously underrated, and that one should always, always dab with a stingy hand.

As removal was not included in the package, the man went home with smokily accentuated eyes, rouged cheeks and softly glossed lips. Passer-bys slowed down and stared, and he suffered through wolf whistles and taunting insults as he made his way back to his cab from the mall.

“Mommy, why does that man look like a girl?”

“Don’t look, sweetie.”


The man dropped his keys on the mantlepiece as he entered. Clutching the bag of newly acquired cosmetics in one hand, he took out the looseleaf notebook from his coat before slinging it over the newel post.


“In my room!”

He jogged up the stairs and went into the bedroom.

A girl was seated in front of a vanity mirror. She caught his gaze in the mirror and beamed at him, “Hi Daddy.”

His throat caught. “Hi Princess, you look beautiful.”

She grinned impishly, “Beautiful enough to be voted Prom Queen?”

Her feet were encased in diamante studded shoes that shimmered with every move she made. Her hair hung loose and cascaded in curls down to her waist. Her dress, a floaty periwinkle blue that fit her to perfection, had a princess neckline and split-sleeves.

The sleeves were specially tailored to end an inch above her elbows, where the skin of both her arms puckered like a closed rosebud, from the amputation done after the accident she had when she was 5. She had lost her arms as well as her mother in that one nightmarish event.

Her father folded her into his arms and pressed a kiss on her forehead, “Beautiful to be voted Queen of anything. Your mother would have said the same.”

She sighed wistfully as she leaned against him, “I know this sounds stupid, Dad, but somehow, I wish I could find a way to do my makeup though. I mean, it doesn’t bother me on regular days, but I guess I wanna look a little special on Prom night.”

She felt the edge of his mouth lifting into a slow smile and asked, “What’s so funny?”

“Well sweetie, I have a surprise for you……”


Happy, happy Fathers’ Day to all the fathers out there. This one is especially dedicated to my own superhero dad, who always make me feel like I have been blessed inordinately more than the rest.

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for attending. Thank you for the flowers, for your occasion appropriate gravity. Thank you for the new black shoes, for the waterproof mascara, for your tears. Thank you for your grief.

Leah would’ve been deeply moved to know if she was here.

But she isn’t here, which is why this is even happening in the first place. Because if she were here, there wouldn’t be all of these- all these new black shoes, these sprays of white lilies, all of these solemn gravity and all your tears. And she would never know, and she would never be deeply moved.

So I guess the comment I had just so cleverly made was like one of those stupid looping spiral toys that defy you to find its ends or its starts.

Leah had loved those confounding things.

She lined them all over our house- in the bedroom, along the bathtub in the bathroom, in kitchen cabinets, on the living room’s mantlepiece, hanging on window grills. It didn’t do much for the decor, but it made her happy.

She said it made her felt like a collector of little infinities.

You see, that’s the thing about Leah. She had a knack of turning everything around her into neat metaphors.

She sews- sewed, little gold heart pieces into the right cuff of all of my work shirts. She said this way, I will always be wearing her heart on my sleeve.

It was not a breezy chore, I have seen her bent over the kitchen table, eyes narrowed and lips pursed, painstakingly removing the stitches and sewing them back in the same precise minute pattern. And I have a lot of work shirts. Of course, it didn’t look or feel any different after she was done with it, but it made her happy.

Every 9pm of every Sunday of every week, she would take out the batteries of the clock on our mantlepiece and put on one of those jazz-tinged house compilations by That CD shop that she adored. Sometimes, she would pull me to my grudging feet for a dance. Sometimes, we would just curl up on the couch and let the buttery smooth music wash over us. Sometimes, we would unspool long unbroken strings of conversation: letting little niggling troubles unravel, or planting little seedlings dreams- of places we would go and the things we would do, all  all laid down in the spaces between our words. Other times we let our own thoughts knit a cozy quilt of quiet between us. It varies week to week, but one fact stayed unchanging- she would always empty the batteries of the clock beforehand.

Of course I asked why, and this was what she told me, “I find this couple of hours so precious, I always felt that time should stop, just for us, just for this little bit. And then I thought to myself, well, why not?”

(And if I have to sum Leah up in two words, though that is laughably impossible, but IF I have to, it would be that- why not?)

And so she did, she made time stop every 9pm of every Sunday evening ever since we were married. It didn’t do much for the clocks, we had to keep replacing them, but it made her happy.

It didn’t take much to make Leah happy, which in turn, meant it didn’t take much for me to be happy.

Here’s the thing. Every eulogy I have read in books, seen in movies, witnessed in life, they all have one similar trait- they all but lifted the deceased into sainthood. It’s true. Every person who was eulogized was unbearably kind and incredibly lovely. They were all overwhelmingly generous in spirit, they were the life of every party and the riveted centre of every social group. They were also the life-turning change of every one’s lives. In fact, it would almost seem like the dead are worth a hundredfold more than the living people put together.

I am not in any way discrediting any eulogies here, but what I am saying is, somehow by doing this, by determinedly trying our damnedest to lump every positive characteristic we could think of on this person, we are, ironically, diminishing them.

So let me tell you about Leah. Leah was neither unbearably kind, nor was she the life of every party. As a matter of fact, Leah was crap at parties. If parties was a college degree, she would have flunked straight out. She was socially awkward, and easing into light conversations with people was tantamount to asking her to breathe and sing underwater.

Leah had no patience for niceties. Many people found her brusque and verging on rude when they met her for the first time. If tact was a currency, she would be flat ass broke. You will not believe, or perhaps you could if you knew her well, the countless times I had to intervene hastily on her behalf before somebody….actually just her, got hurt. Or the amount of friction it has caused us in the initial stages of our relationship.

Leah was also, above all, a slob. She was appalling in her untidiness, and her wardrobe looks like Gap gave birth in it….thrice. She cluttered up tables, shelves and generally any flat empty spaces. But the amazing thing was, there was order in her chaos. She knew exactly where everything was, and could locate whatever she wanted in an instant. It was her mess, and needless to say, nobody could touch it.

I tried to tidy her work desk once when she went for an overseas work trip. She came back and realized what I had done. And…let’s just say that I am a staunch believer that the road to hell is truly paved with good intentions.

You must wonder why I am sharing all these unsavory parts of Leah. But I just want all of you to know that this was her, this was unapologetically and unadulteratedly, Leah. She would have wanted you to remember her as it was, instead of an sympathy-brushed and condolence-glossed rendition of her.

I love her, my God, I love her. I love how she always looked alarmed whenever an invitation to a party or a wedding comes in the mail, and her mutinous expression whenever I insisted that not attending is out of the question. I love how she could park herself in the middle of the floor in our spare room, surrounded by paraphernalia of every junk imaginable, her whole attire in disarray and her hair in a knotted mess, but still sew surgically neat stitches on my shirts’ sleeves after tucking a tiny heart inside.

And there was this one cloudless night when we had stolen into the public pool with an unfinished bottle of red wine. Buoyed on the childish triumph and a whole lot more alcohol fueled bravado, we were laughing ourselves sick over nothing at all, that was when she abruptly paused and turned to me, and said in a slightly astonished tone, like she could not quite understand how she got there, “Oh my god, I love you.”

It was that moment, I knew my life has peaked.

So you see, Leah was not a rousing applause of social change. The harsh fact is that her death does not make a difference to the world. Come tomorrow, the trains would still run on schedule, the schools will still start on the first bell, work would commence, the coffee shop at the corner of our street would still raise its shutters at 7 in the morning and dispense coffee and muffins to its stream of regulars. Parties will still be fun, weddings will still be celebrated, another funeral will still be held. The world does not change just because Leah’s not in it anymore.

But my world does.

Mine, and her parents’, her sister’s, her family’s and friends’. All of our worlds have been altered to fit Leah in, and now that she isn’t here anymore, there is a hollow space, there is a Leah-shaped hole that gaps like an open wound. And experiences and memories that we usually share with her- thanksgiving dinners, christmas, her sister’s graduation, when her favorite trashy gameshow comes on, every morning when I wake from now on, every dinner at our kitchen table, every tie I would have to fumble on my own from now on, every Sunday at 9pm- they would all fall into this hole, only to find that Leah is no longer there to complete it. And that is when it would hurt, and Christ, it hurt. So much.

But Leah my darling, if you can hear me now, know this. Know that I have bought a sewing book. Know that I have been looking out for that wretched slinky toy in every toy store I passed. Know that I no longer replace the batteries in the clock and its hour hand is now permanently lodged at nine.

Know that I wish I could have traded in all your little infinities for just one more day with you, so that I could tell you not to go for work that morning, not to cross that traffic junction the minute it turned green, not to be the victim of a careening lorry that went out of control. Know that my infinitesimal regrets are as deeply sewn as the little hearts and I carry both of them now, wherever I go.

I carry your heart on my sleeve, always.

Thank you, all.



For Jules, for being unwavering even when I was. x