dear diary..., wanderlust

A Rainy Day in Tainan 

Today, for the first time in such a long while, my heart fluttered at the first sight of a stranger. A glimpse of her pretty side profile and the tips of her eyelashes through the slits in the curtain of her soft hair was more than enough to bewitch me into momentary paralysis. I revelled in the air of admiration cloaked by a layer of anonymity.

The bridge of her small nose.

The heart shape of her lips.

The smooth arc of her jawline.

I couldn’t think properly, the kind of mental block that usually happens to me when I’m mesmerised by something or someone before my eyes and my mind is wholly fixated, consumed, beholden to it. I had nothing left to offer, except pure admiration and fascination. I had desperately wanted to speak, to communicate, to strike up some silly small talk no matter how incredibly disabled my Mandarin has become without the aid of some occasional English. I promised myself that I would overcome that invisible barrier that had been standing between me and all the could-have-been relationships and friends.

As I awkwardly sat on a bench nearby, I ended up speaking to her through the conversation that took place between her and my parents, who were much more proficient at Mandarin than me. They asked, to my surprise, all the questions I would’ve asked. I learnt that she’s from Taipei and she came to Tainan for a weekend trip with her pals. She isn’t a schoolgirl like I had initially made her out to be due to her small stature and conservative dress sense. She has been working for quite some time and is slightly older than me. She’s been to Singapore even. My parents went on asking her if she liked Singaporean food. I took every window of opportunity when she’s slightly distracted to steal a glance, at the same time trying my best to feign an air of indifference just in case she caught on to my obvious interest in her.

Ask her for her number, I silently urged my parents in futility. So that when she comes again we can bring her around. I knew that they wouldn’t. Why would they? It would have been really awkward anyway. After all, she’s just a passerby whom we happened to meet by chance at a bus stop in Tainan.

But, wouldn’t chance make this sudden, random, unexpected intersection of our two realities so much more meaningful and significant? What exactly is the statistical probability that of all the other places, times and people I feel a special feeling towards a particular someone? Sure, I have also by chance come across hundred of thousands of other people, far too many faces than I could have ever vaguely remember, but those were just passersby on the streets of my life, whose footsteps and impressions will eventually be washed away by the an occasional rain, or be buried under millions of other track marks in a perpetual cycle of appearance and erasure.

The surge of passion and everything by far still indescribable to me is something of a rarity. I don’t often feel this way, especially with strangers. It’s not like I’m extremely picky or have a very strict criteria for the people I decide to let into my life. I don’t quite know. But when it happens, the little benign sparks morph into an uncontrollable burning flame that resist immediate taming and I find myself plunging, falling, spiralling deeper and deeper into something in between the lines of love and obsession.

As I am writing this, I am on the same bus as her.

She presses the bell signalling that she’s about to alight and my heart breaks a little. Greedily, as if I could hold her back with just the power of my stare, I fixate entire being and attention onto her and just bask in the warmth of her presence, and fantasies that I know too well would haunt me with regret moments later.

The bus pulls to a halt.

The doors open and the faint smell of rain drifts in.

She gently threaded down the steps in the most graceful fashion and alights, brushing aside the bit of stay hair that has just came loose.
In that moment I turned shyly and slightly to catch one final glimpse of her and her beauty.

With a pane of glass wedged between the two realities of ours that only tangentially intersected, I smiled and waved her goodbye.

And she smiled an infinitely gorgeous smile whose warmth, I swear, could last me all the winters I will ever live through.

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wanderlust

Salam Ramadan☪️

Tonight, my heart is so full — it may be my belly speaking after a wholesome dinner of Tom Yum soup noodles and a gigantic jug of Thai iced milk tea, but truly, I was thankful to have made a trip down to Geylang Serai Bazaar tonight. Today marks the third day of Ramadan, a period (usually a month) during which Muslims are encouraged to pray 5 times a day and fast from before the break of dawn till sunset.

It was hot and humid and our shirts were clinging uncomfortably onto the skin of our backs. There is a perpetual stream of sweat down the side of our faces, sweat pooling in the creases of our foreheads and upper lips. An occasional sweaty jostle by a passer-by.  Incessant hollering from the adolescent and high-spirited stall vendors. Despite the discomfort, the unbearable temperature and phobia-inducing crowd, we pushed on and whizzed our way through the throngs of people trying our best to avoid the smokers.

There were kebabs, pulled lamb meat burgers, Thai iced teas, chendol soft-serves, Takoyaki, fruit bowls, Turkish lanterns…I felt as if I had entered Narnia’s wardrobe and set foot on an alternative world, one that has been compressed into this tiny space that has been coincidentally festively decorated in the spirit of Ramadan.

It is times like this that I truly, truly am thankful for the cultural plurality in my homeland, Singapore.

 

 

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dear diary...

Romantic Grocery List

Since young, I have been confronted with societal ideals of the kind of men I should be dating, and resultantly, marrying. They were subtle back then, appearing in the form of male protagonists in superhero movies, television shows and comic books. Some of them weren’t even human in form, but the fact they they prevailed at the end of the day appeals to me. I had known, that I wanted a hero, someone who can save me from all my problems as much as cure the world of its diseases, someone who can tirelessly give me all the material and emotional comfort that I crave.

Then in my teens, and as the societally approved dating age range approached, discussions about our ideal “types” of guys began to surface frequently, often being a hot topic among close friends. My group of friends was no exception. One day, someone initiated the discussion and I found myself running through a grocery list of things I want and envision to be consumed in the next few weeks, except that this list wasn’t about vegetables and ready-made food, it was about a human being, one that I forsee myself being attached to.

He is to be tall, have a matching sense of humour, attractive (a lean physique, and nice facial features)… I had ran out of things to say. As embarrassment visibly spread across my cheeks, I scrambled for other traits previously spoken by my friends and made them seem like I had included them in my list as well. Ambitious, financially stable, chivalrous, responsible… Having averted a small crisis, I was contented with myself and did not put much thought afterwards about the traits that I had just listed about my “dream guy”.

In college, after dating a few people, I realised that my list was futile, useless. It consisted of mere conjectures, of fantasies, an idea of romantic connection inspired by the unrealistic expectations driven into our young innocent minds by TV dramas and Hollywood Rom-coms. It has never felt the ground of reality. In reality, when I am attracted to someone, when I’m in love with someone, I don’t actually tick off all the traits that I had listed on my “grocery list on romance”. I love them without a reason, I love them for everything they are and everything they are not. In reality, “a good sense of humour” is as ambiguous as hell — someone could be funny but in an abrasive way, someone else could be good at cracking intellectual jokes but anything beyond that his jokes induce more of a cringe than a guffaw, nonetheless they are all compartmentalised under the trait “good sense of humour”. Sometimes, you find yourself in love with a guy who is not fantastic looking but makes it up in his character and how he treats you when he’s with you. Sometimes, you may be attracted to someone who’s not doing so well financially and is in a phase of limbo in his life. In all, human attraction is way more complex and unpredictable than just simply a fully checked list of traits, or a block of code that you type into a program expecting a desired end outcome.

When you are attracted to someone, you abandon whatever criteria or yardsticks you previously held. You like them for being them, even if they don’t perfectly fit the mould that you’ve constructed for them. You will find yourself loving how your hands fit perfectly together, how his touch could warm you even in the coldest nights, how he would run to the McDonald’s a couple of bus stops away just to get you McSpicy when you’re a whiny mess complaining of hunger, you’ll appreciate his courage even if his peck on your lips or cheek was sloppy, you’ll find yourself wanting to share with him every intimate secret about yourself, you’ll find yourself letting your guard down for once in a long time, because there’s nothing and no one to guard yourself from anyway.

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Just quotes

On Life

“The world goes on whether we choose for it to do so or in defiance of us. And I, like millions of mankind, walk and move, generally by force of habit, in a long caravan that ascends and descends, encamps, then proceeds on its way. Life in this caravan is not altogether bad. You no doubt are aware of this. The going may be hard by day, the wilderness sweeping out before us like shoreless seas; we pour sweat, our throats are parched with thirst, and we reach the frontier beyond which we think we cannot go. Then the sun sets, the air grows cool, and millions of stars twinkle in the sky.”

— Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North p.51

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dear diary...

A Friday Night 

It’s a Friday, the end of a hectic week, the metaphorical comma in the middle of a college semester.

That Friday night, we sat on the cusp of spring break, brimming with the hope of more moments spent together, of more memories of each other.

But you had to leave. You had to leave so early in the week and return just before the madness begins. I couldn’t help but think the universe had conspired against us. But loving you would mean wishing the best for you, to support you in the things you love, even if it means distance, even if it means time away from each other, or two longing hearts across the continents.

It was a quiet night. Most people were out — clubbing, waiting for their flight at the airport or hanging out downtown. We sat on the stone bench next to each other, leaving a small gap between us, as if to signal caution and respect for each other’s space, evidently the signs of a couple still in the infant stages of love. We talked, I whined a lot, sighed at the speed at which time has past, sighed at how quickly were growing up, at how in a blink of any eye we’ll soon be finding jobs, tossed into the ocean that is adulthood. I looked up at the ocean of stars above us, the sky a deep mysterious blue with overtones of black. The chilly wind flirted with my hair and caressed my skin, making me yearn for some warmth. I shot you a cursory glance hoping that I didn’t get caught in the act. Oh how I yearn for your embrace on such a breezy spring night. I just couldn’t find the words to say it nor the courage to lift my arms. You seemed deep in thought, your kind eyes afixed on something afar, oblivious to the tempest of emotions stirring within me nor my desire to hold you close and never let you go.

As I’m writing this, you’re on your way to the airport. I write with a reminiscing and slightly melancholic heart, clinging on to the memory of your hug, a hug that has been so long overdue but one that spoke most directly to me. In that instant when my head collided with your chest, I heard you beat the rhythm of promise, of love.

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