“I admired my Mother in someways, although things between us were never easy. She expected too much from me, I felt. She expected me to vindicate her life for her, and the choices she’d made. I didn’t want to live my life on her terms. I didn’t want to be the model offspring, the incarnation of her ideas. We used to fight about that. I am not your justification for existence, I said to her once.” — Offred (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Why is it that all things have to be rushed?
The voices around us relentlessly indoctrinate and perpetuate:
Time is of the essence.
Time is our only non-renewable resource.
Time is a scarcity, unfortunately, that will only run out.
But some things, only time can tell;
some things require precisely the growth and maturation
that can only take place through time,
and feelings fermenting.
Why is it that everything that has happened between us
is all but a means to an end?
Why is it that even if the shot has missed the bullseye
by just an inch,
the bow has to be broken, shattered, abandoned
and never to be picked up ever again?
Why is it that we could have climbed a million steps
to get to where we are today,
but a slip,
an innocent stumble
has the magnitude of an earthquake
revealing the vast chasm between us
crumbling the very delicate road we once tread?
Perhaps all is needed is
a little more time,
a little more patience,
a little more understanding,
a little more forgiveness.
You spend hours in front of a computer
till your eyes begin to water.
that you think best flatter.
Do they make me sound hip enough?
Book titles so unheard of,
you’ve got them penned down on the back of your hand.
The bigger the word, the bigger the impression, right?
An eclectic taste in music
A Flexitarian foodie
A sapiosexual nerd who embraces all things geeky.
You take the bits and pieces of your life
and your self
Until they don’t look like you no more.
Arrange them in order,
like pieces of artefacts in a museum.
play the docent who walks them through.
Exhibition after exhibition,
room after room,
spinning stories that you know aren’t always true.
A haphazard patchwork of tales.
And like a chameleon,
your opinions turn from red to purple to blue
Sand down the rougher edges,
the distressed voices,
Polish the panes till they glisten
with a glare
a little too bright
for those who stare.
When you get back home near midnight,
after being touched all over,
and the ice of the marble flooring slowly bites away
at the antecedent warmth of
you peer at the three strangers in the mirrors,
“Who the hell is this?”
Recently, I broke my drama hiatus by watching the oh-so-popular Weightlifting Fairy Kim Pok Joo. I devoured it like how a hungry chap wolfs down his lunch having skipped breakfast.
One thread that ties the narratives of the different characters together is the theme of family. From Bok Joo’s unconventional family unit consisting of just her, her ailing father and uncle, to Joonhyung’s troubling and traumatising familial past since his mother suddenly left him in the custody of his aunt’s family, to Siho’s already faltering family ties further destabilised by the confrontation of financial difficulties brought on by her increasingly demanding gymnastics career.
They are all adolescents, at the cusp of adulthood. And to strengthen the notion of independent living and self-sufficiency, these characters are required to stay on campus, I suppose, as part of the college’s residential living programme. For the most part of the drama, we are shown the perspective of the main characters as they get by day after day, week after week of gruelling practice, their personal problems with relationships and their struggle of finding themselves, their own identities. Occasionally, the family intervenes be it through financial difficulties, the threat of break-ups and divorce, or through the worrisome health of an important family member (like Bok Joo’s father).
Having experienced a year of living independently on campus away from my family, these problems and some of the scenes in this drama resonated strongly with me. At times, I found myself getting really caught in playing this independent adult character, someone belonging to no one else but myself. I do my own laundry, I eat whenever and whatever I want to eat, I sleep the number of hours I feel like sleeping on the weekends, I invite the people I loved having over, and the list of liberties from living alone as my own person goes on. It felt good to throw away whatever troubles and considerations that would usually crop up when making decisions involving more than one person about the things they may not like, the compromises that I’ll have to make, the extra responsibilities that I’m expected to shoulder, the times that I have to fit my own schedule to in order to make plans work…the worries are endless, too.
Somewhere in the middle of the entire drama, Si Ho finds out about the impending divorce between her parents not from the parents themselves, but from her younger sister. She had an idea all along that if anything is going to break her parent’s marriage, it would be her budding career as a professional gymnast because of the financial strain it has brought upon her parents and the conflict of interests between her parents right from the beginning. Si Ho confronts her mother at her workplace upon receiving news of the divorce with anger mixed with disappointment. A squabble ensues when Si Ho says she’ll quit gymnastics and work for an income instead. The following in the translated dialogue between the mother and daughter:
Si Ho: I’ll quit gymnastics. I’ll work and make money instead.
Mother: Who says you can? Who says you can quit gymnastics? Do you think your life is just your own? Wrong, your life is part of my life, too.
Si Ho: That has burdened me the most. The fact that my life is also your life. Why are you being greedy over my life? You should have lived your own life better. Why did you have to put me through all of this.
(a thundering slap ensues, duh. How dare you challenge your mother’s authority and decisions, you ungrateful wretch.)
So, I have been wondering, at which point do I have full autonomy over my own life? Do I even have complete sovereignty over my self? Do we ever have full autonomy over our lives? Because, what about our parents, people who have made my life possible and existent in the very first place? Or perhaps our parents’ ownership over our lives ceases the minute we exit our mothers’ wombs. If so, how then can we explain the years of love and care given to us by our parents. Is that a simply biologically programmed instinct in parents for nurture or a socially constructed expectation that oblige human parents to care for their children till they are at least of a certain age? If my life is part of my parents’ life too, who makes the final decision?
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.