a work in progress. we are still trying.
circa mid 2016:
descending from liquid pliancy and vivid dreams, the buzz of being amidst people yet absent stagnation within the self, humility and warmth from a touch, sun soaking into skin and escape into visceral realities. the voices are getting louder as you moisturize your hands with detergent and somewhere along the sixth tributary that crawls down your cheek to your collarbone the voices in your head escalate and the words stop making sense, syntax is the first to depart, an amalgamation of remote misses. here is the part that no one is prepared to admit: much as it is beautiful in subverting it is exhausting, and as selfish as it is immeasurably tender. but here: the day will come where I will stop looking for pieces of myself in others, in giving, and giving, and giving, till I am spent, the day where I will learn to give without subverting, when the possibility of joy is closer to us.
tell me again how we spent that day that golden day how the hours and the days themselves seemed to roll into one another and unfurl into one long lovely moment, a carpet, a song and a storm. tell me you’ll run our bodies into the lake.
flecked birds. the wings of your pulse. a topiary of thought, palimpsest of denial – I’ll hang them up and I promise you, each one will be better than the last. i’ll clip away the parts we defiled, the scarred bits that you attacked with your hands. an ineffectual gesture at best, but the point has never been and will never be about effect. no, it’s always been about the gesture itself, the point that we’re even making it at all. the scabbed ends are an accusation, an ode to guilt.
look, I can stand here waiting and you with your mirror deflecting, but to what end?
never mind the scribbling over. look ma, no hands.
when I told her that things could not continue I did not expect the response that came. see, up till then our exchanges had been clinical. every move was calculated. clipped. no room for mistakes. error 404 was not found. did not exist, not in this space we had created. it was the tacit agreement that we’d made, but what we’d never prepared for was the flouting of what we held inviolate.
it is a strange word, violate. the soft insistence of the v tugging on the mouth, the rest of the vowels io slipping out, the liquid pucker of the l and gently, almost an afterthought, ate. v-io-l-ate. so gentle a word, but for all its insulation, a cruel one.
here is the part where I am supposed to say: I’m sorry, it’s going to be okay, or some other platitude. but I am tired of trying and tired of – look, can we just skip this already? can we jump to the end where we can stop mouthing the words that have become too predictable? this is not my favourite song.
try the speech again, this time without these words: truth. honestly. genuine.
there is this constant obsession with authenticity and rawness, but the refusal to acknowledge its farcicality.
there is the moment where rebuttal slips into regret. the gentlemanly thing to do, of course, would be the performance of the sidestep, but you and I both are no gentlemen. far from it, really. so instead, we revert to what we know best: a push-pull seesaw of cease and desist letters, both too cowardly to face the other. it’s a dance: the pas de deux of apologies, where A (how easy the labels make it, to separate things, to convince ourselves!) and B are both flitting around each other. here’s what’s not in the books, in that heuristic math question with train rides and time and three hundred and seventy six oranges in the same damn supermarket cart. (Of course Tommy isn’t going to give Sally his oranges. In reality, he will set up a Ponzi scheme or slice each orange and suspend it in a rotting wall mural of Picasso’s face titled “Ephemerality of the Great Masters Past” and choke on the cloying tangerine scent before he gives her a single pip. that’s just the way it is, see.)
we hide behind language as much as we do behind gestures, but what kind of game is it, really, if we both know the rules?
this bell jar is cracked, but it’s amazing what you can ignore when you choose not to see it.
“Coffee joints were for young students with overlarge spectacles and overlarge wallets who threw around words like bildungsroman but who were just anxious to continue their own romantic delusions (including the over usage of terms such as “romantic delusions”) (which held an air of grandiosity all on its own that fitted perfectly into the personas they were struggling to create). The archetype of the struggling student, seeking as much definition as the movies they streamed on their laptops, looking for unique and difference and struggling to articulate just how different their struggles were when really they knew it was the same, and trying not to sound like the art movies they were engrossed with at sixteen, but failing anyway. Identifying with the protagonists in their literature texts in the same way (and feeling simultaneous guilt at the similarities, yet unable to resist the lure of self-projection.) Fitting the physical archetype too: overlarge sweater and short shorts, owl eyed wire rimmed tortoiseshell spectacles, reading the same books thinking the same thoughts.”
Botanic Gardens, April 2017, A.
I took these some time ago back in April with a dear friend. The Botanic Gardens can be unexpectedly quiet on a weekday, after you peel away the layers of it being a national heritage site and the backdrop to the cyclical waves of students on orientation camps – trepidation, youthful exuberance, sun-on-face-sweat-on-back tableau, tourists with oversized DSLRs strapped to their chests – what remains beneath is the quiet beauty of a park that manages to convince its visitors for a precious, fleeting second that maybe, just maybe, we aren’t in Singapore anymore.
Sweaty backs. Oversized shirts. The distant hum of a child’s laughter. Park benches and patterned bottles interspersed with the gravity of frank conversations and shots of the park that will fall into our laps with the same easy grace of girlish confessions.
I won’t remember the Roscharch- blot mosquito bites as much as I will the peace of that evening.
in pain there is privacy
still struck by this quote from The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison):
“Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. the loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover’s inward eye.”
it’s just us trying to carve out the trajectory of our lives // me questioning what is the self. what is self beyond that which is acknowledged by others. the human a catalog of touch, a cradle of fragments given and received, and us a series of choices moving from collecting to classifying these touches? the human fraudulent, ironic and precious in equal measure. heads disembodied, from voices from thought and tender limb. // I am learning that purity is ash. told that nice expires. redefining boundaries. learning to embrace extroversion like a second skin. realizing you’ve internalized it to the point that you miss. missing fully. what is it that i miss really. realizing i have embraced stagnancy for years, and appreciating this need, this compulsion, the urge to create, so intense and whole, all the more, fully. what will what i do matter, except in this interim, the transient and temporal, to me or at least to this collection of touches i have sustained, but why must it mean more? // wondering what it is that makes us vulnerable to others, and what is it that creates that want in us to be vulnerable. wondering why intimacy in any human relationship demands that vulnerability. why it is that we find it the easiest to hurt those who are closest, and why they hurt us the most. whose words leave the most indelible stains? // I am rediscovering the way I navigate and negotiate my relationships with the male gender, be it paternal or patriarchal or avuncular. I am looking at the power dynamics of these relationships. working, watching, waiting. rolling into myself. willing myself blank. boneless pliancy. a soullessness, empty, that I can throw into the vat of humanity, and emerge stained, to add on to the self. yet all the same I am marvelling at the human capacity. for tolerance, for pain, for affection, for self deprecation. for love; for faith. for consciousness.
Private and obscure: what comes is the faint blue flutter of panic. Months after we have finished there is only the sense of a conclusion, the relief of no longer looking out for milestones, for landmarks, of making people into landmarks, to stop crafting them into sentences inelegant. There are memories that I have stopped convincing myself are worth invalidating, a convenient Hot Pocket exercise of memory-funk that we all like to engage in occasionally, prompted as we are by the wistful beckon of nostalgia goggles to exploit the fluidity of time. Time which we have rolled over, gritted with powder sand, punched kicked pushed pulled left our floury imprints of whorls and scratches on.
My word for 2013, and indeed much of my jc experience, was evaluate. First from the process of PW in J1, it became a word that encompassed so much of my time in jc, from its constant appearance in general paper essays to ell essay prompts (and here I resist the urge to continue waxing lyrical about jc, getting caught up with nostalgia.Then again, so much of my time there is a bit of a blur now; whether from nostalgia goggles or the brain’s tendency for economy of memory – for every vivid, visceral memory there have been five others that were mundane, but arguably no less meaningful); it was and still remains a word I’d rely on to articulate what happened in those three years. 2016 was a few words: fraudulence (re the human condition), toxicity, care, and self.
Baby steps into 2017. Let’s see where this goes.
“What right have I to judge? We affirm, we console, condole, despise, give, take, and the cycle repeats itself again, all from the stubborn refusal to accept that it is what it is, this is as good as it gets. Maybe the point is that there is no point. Nihilism becomes an irrevocable phase, thoughts are recycled, fragments rephrased, add a semi colon here, a noun phrase there, what is the point when the thought is the same, only phrased differently to resonate with our contrasting experiences? It’s the same thought. Just different metaphors, that’s all. The grotesque becomes the most vivid becomes the most, because we resonate most deeply with what lays bare the bones of life, and we are drawn most deeply to the lowest depths, because they compel us to appreciate the apex. The flower of life, and its fragility. How different am I, how different can I get from the man across the train, sweat stained rumpled and leaning exhausted against a glass panel that must be polished, to create more sweat?”
and life one protracted, glorious struggle – may we find the strength to persist, even if it means throwing ourselves continually against brick walls, again, and again, and again – as we struggle shaken, lost, ravaged – may we struggle gracefully.