Monday, December 30, 2013

Things She Left Unsaid

As my steps carefully tread, my eyes catch glimpses of those familiar yellow pebbles. The pebbles that cover the same narrow path that leads to the same place from that distant memory.

Recollections of those few vivid moments that have been haunting me from time to time slowly build up and dwelled in my eyes. I can almost feel her coarse hand tightly gripping mine, clinging on for security, begging for reassurance. There was a pinch of fear and nervousness in her uncomfortably warm and moist grip that was telling me to turn around and insist on going home. But at that time, it wasn’t my decision to make. At least not yet.

I looked up and saw my mother’s cold, stoic face. Then I turned to the side and saw hers, the pasty skin and thousands of uncharted lines. Besides the usual sallowness, the lines around her eyes and mouth creased and bunched up in a way like I’ve never saw before, not even during my mother’s constant scolding of her, either for breaking another plate, or overcooking the cabbages or beef stew.

That was when her eyes meekly rolled and met mine. It was as if she saw right through the worries written on my face, and forced a sorrowful smile that was meant to comfort me. That smile. It was that smile that had haunted me for many years to come.

A smile that says
 “Don’t worry, everything will be all right,”
A smile that says
“I understand that this not what you want, I don’t blame you.”
A smile that says
“I still love you no matter what,”
A smile that will eventually fade into time, seasoned and aged by the bland taste of abandonment.
A smile that drove me to finally return to this place and bring my now demented grandmother home.

I sit there quietly as instructed by the caretaker. The space is filled with the shrill high-pitched noises coming from a bulky old television. I still can’t make out what sort of program was being showed even after few of minutes of forced concentration, but I guess neither can the rest of the people who are sitting in front of the idiot box. Their eyes seem to be aptly focused on the television screen, but their minds seem to be utterly absent from the room, hiding far far away at some better places or in some better times.

I can almost see her now, sitting amongst these aging faces, some older than the others, staring blankly at a space that is occupied by nothing, not a single shred of fond memories, nor any hope for the future.

I wonder how many of them share her condition. How many of them are actually spared the thought and sense of betrayal, as they are abandoned here to grow old and fade away as if their existence never mattered to anyone. To slowly burn out in isolation and desolation, merely because they are considered an inconvenience to the people they’ve loved and cared for with their precious youth and limitless patience.

My eyes shift from one face to another, trying to imagine and comprehend the kind of thoughts that might inhibit their minds.
Are they fond recollections of beautiful memories surrounded by white picket fences, green carpet grass and red checkered tablecloths?
Are they of the afternoon sun reflecting on freckled faces of innocent smiles and colourful rainbows reflected on soap bubbles?
Or, are they instead the cold frozen views of the blue crescent moon through these wooden window panes?
Are they the fading silhouettes of love and familiarity that now seem too far away to be real?
Would they be the very same thoughts that is harbouring in whatever space that is left in her vastly decaying mind?

My train of thoughts is hailed to a stop, “Here she is, Mr. J,”

I turn around to see her, that same frail petite frame wrapped in a grey shawl. Her eyes blankly staring at my left, even though her body is being held leaning towards my right. The caretaker, Miss T’s left hand was wrapped around her bony shoulders, gripping a little too tight as the brittle fabric creases underneath her crooked nails.
For a minute I stand there, deciphering the moment, uncertain of my next movement. As I take a few steps closer, I catch a whiff of a garlicky stench.

As Miss T’s hand loosen, I gently places mine on those withering shoulders.
“Grandma… It’s me,” despite my shivering voice, my eyes were determined to get the attention of hers.
Slowly, I turn and direct her towards me.
“Grandma,” my voice louder and my tone firmer this time, “it’s me, J,”
Her eyes idly shifted left and right, seemingly oblivion to everything that is right in front of her.
“I don’t think she understands what you’re saying, she doesn’t even know who… you…”
A sharp glare from me instantly instils hesitation into her words.
I pull a nearby chair closer and gently sit her down. This time, I say nothing. I just gaze at her wondering face, anticipating a shred of recognition. Something, anything to show me that she is still in there, that she still remembers me. That despite the time here, my grandmother is still within my reach.

But her eyes remain as vacant as the galaxy without a glisten of awareness. Regardless of how hard I try to stir and rake something up, they remain as deserted as a playground at dusk.

Upon realizing that it would take more than a few minutes of effort to restore what had been sedentary for two decades, I turn to the nurse and ask “What do I need to do in order to take her home?”

My question, like a bolt from the blue, seems to spark a glimmer of astonishment in Miss T. But she instantly regains her composure and instructs me to follow her to the counter to fill-in and sign a few necessary documents, while grandma continues to sit there, floating about indefinitely.

As the car pulls into the front porch of our somewhat decrepit house, I turn and take a good look at her. My mind can’t help but wonder, if not for her dementia, would she be excited to return to the same house where she married the man of her family’s choice, then bore and raised his children.

I swiftly kill the engine and walk over to lead her out of the passenger’s seat. Now, under the afternoon sun, the clothes on her seem to come alive with colour and texture. Still, no amount of sunlight seems to be enough to bring life to those ghoulish eyes of hers.

With a tiny bag stuffed with her personal belongings in one hand, I slowly lead her into the house. Auntie Bell, the new maid I’ve hired to help out in the household, hurries over to take her off my hand. I sternly shake my head and hand her the bag instead.

Leading her through the dim corridor seems to be the most natural thing to do. The fading mosaic floor, the somber portraits hanging on both sides, the opulent crystal chandelier that seems out of place at all time; everything seem to piece together at that very moment, as the missing piece of the puzzle had finally return to its rightful place.

Ever since my parents’ passing, and my return to the ancestral home, there has been this unsettling air of decay and chill, hovering and gnawing at every piece of childhood recollection I have of the place. But all that seems to instantly vanish at the sound of her trembling steps, resonating across the high ceiling, filling in all the empty spaces that she left behind twenty years ago.

And for a very brief moment, I can swear I saw a meek smile flashing across her wizened face.

Sunday, December 29, 2013




Friday, December 13, 2013

If I Write...

I wanted to write about love,

A love so gentle and kind,

A love so generous and forgiving,

It makes butterflies blossom in your stomach,

It makes poets weep in between the lines,

It makes rainbows pale in comparison.

I wanted to write about friendships,

The ones so true that it stay deep within you,

Shades ever so vivid regardless of time,

It lights up the darkest of room, warms up the coldest of heart

It makes even the most cynical

Eager to take a second glance.

I end up writing about lost,

About the tears you shed losing the ones you love,

About the fear that guards and defends your heart,

About the endless time we fall apart and see things shatter and break,

It stumbles people in their steps,

As they push open that creaky door that leads them to that place,

Where drops of tears fall silently as it echoes through the long cold corridors.

I end up writing about this world,

Every brick and stone that piled up around me,

Every path and lane that led me into deceitful beliefs,

Every face that I’ve seen and loved yet soon forgotten,

Footsteps that leads in and out of that sanctuary in your heart,

Every hard cold door that slams on your face again and again,

The very end that everyone seeks but fear to discover.

I’ll never write a story about us,

For our ending is far too cliché and predictable,

Chapters we revisit yet the blank pages remain,

Plots far too complex for words to decipher,

Yet so so easily erased.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Let me write...

Let me put into words,
The sadness of waking up every morning
With a heart filled with loath and bile
Yanking the covers and pounding each step
Without grace and out of spite
To a world that utterly disappoints you
Failing you at every turn and corner
Relinquishing every right you have for a refund
Toddling through the days and years
Wishing you’re at another time and place

Let me put into a song,
The joy of going to bed every night
Pulling the covers over your head
Breathing-in the only tiny sanctuary you can afford
Staring at the warmth that slowly envelopes you
Forgetting about the anger and pain
Towards a world that offers you no spring
Malleable to bitter words and cruel intentions of others
Who are equally sadden and jaded
and at the end of the day stepping out of the world
and timorously hiding underneath the covers

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Those Stolen Days

Those stolen days,
Of driving into slavery and laboring my mind and soul away,
In between lines and lines of empty spaces,
Amongst frozen cubicles of dying dreams and meaningless pursues.

Those stolen days,
Of meeting random faces and having languid conversations,
In between free flowing caffeine and nicotine,
Amongst an ocean of banal bodies that yearns for more.

Those stolen days,
Of living up to relentless expectations and empty discussions,
In between fool’s errands and inane remarks,
Amongst nothing but another day of not really living.

Those stolen days.
Those stolen days of mine.
If all those days could be refunded with the wealth I’ve gathered.
Will I ever be able to relive it without a single regret?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chapter Three

"I used to believe
That love is many things
That love conquers all
Turns caterpillars into butterflies
Turns rain into rainbows
Turns seeds into blossoming bouquets
Turns pain into comfort
Turns two complete strangers
Into the back of each other’s hands"

“Mute little orphan girl! Mute little orphan girl! Poor little mute orphan girl!”

Steadfastly, she keeps walking.
Her eyes dead ahead.
Picking up her pace as the voices around her grew louder and louder, without even a backward glance.

The same corridor, but it now seemed too long winding and never ending.
It’s ironic how the same things and places can give you completely inverse feelings within such a short span of time.

Most of the eyes are on her, some curious, some amused, very few sympathetic.

From the moment she stepped into the classroom this morning, things couldn’t have taken a worse turn. She stood there, silently staring at her feet as the teacher urges her to introduce herself.
“If you’re too shy to say much, then just please tell us your name…”
She continued to stare at her feet. Minutes and minutes passed by.

“You may take a sit then…” She continued to stare at her feet. Until a girl who was sitting at the back of the room stood and walked up to her.
Without a word, she grasped hold of her hand, and quietly lead her to the empty seat beside her.
“Don’t worry, everyone gets nervous on their first day, I’m Daisy by the way,” she smiled while trying to make eye contact with her.
She looked up and saw a yellow sunflower, blossoming and basking in the tender morning sunlight, calm and beautiful right in front of her. She can't help but smile back…

She stood still at the school gate. Her watery eyes looked up from time to time, trying to spot a sight of him walking out of the school building. But whenever she accidentally made eye contact with anyone else, her pupils would shrunk as if coming in contact with glaring bright lights. And as if natural reflects, her face would instantly look down and her eyes back to fixating on the ground and the few strands of dried grass by her feet.
It was during one of those moments that she felt a thick warm palm resting behind her back.
Caught off guard, she quickly shifted her body to a few inches of safe distance away.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you like that,” he said apologetically.
Looking up, she felt a tremendous relieve at the sight of another friendly and familiar face throughout that unusually long day.
And again, she smiled. Vaguely but assertively.

"Love like water
A single stream that flows, calm and quiet
For it runs long, deep, and endless."

“So how was your first day?” He asked during their walk home.
She looked up at him, her grip on the strap of her bag tightens as she tried her best to force out a nonchalant smile.
“Not so great huh,” he said with a knowing smile, though her reaction pulled at his heartstring a little, “no worries, it will get better…” he wasn’t even sure if the reassurance was meant for her or himself.
"That's just how some people are, they tend to reject unfamiliar things. I guess you can call it a natural defense mechanism. Once they get to know the real you, all these other things wouldn't even matter anymore."
she stared at him, wondering if he was actually speaking to her or more to himself.
"Some people, we unconsciously put up a thorny front that would put people off and keep them away from even trying to come close to us. That is our defense mechanism. Like it or not, we can't help it, not after the sort of things we've seen, and felt..."
as his voice gets tinier, his otherwise tall frame seems to have shrunk along with it in her eyes.

Suddenly, for the first time, she had the urge to protect him.
She felt the need to hold him and tell him that things will be fine.
To stop the stream of sorrows and insecurity that had been pooling up underneathe that seemingly cheery disposition of his.

But at that exact moment he turned and looked at her,
"But we'll be alright, you and I. We have each other now, so there's nothing to be worried about. I'll be your friend, your family... I'm your big brother!"
as he grinned and held her hand.

Her heart was filled with the warmth of his words.
But besides that, something else was pulling at her heartstring. Tugging it deep into the pit of her stomach.
She couldn't decide whether it was a good feeling.
She knew she was supposed to feel joy, now that she had someone, she had family.
But why was it that her heart refused to agree with her head?

As she gently placed her left palm on her chest, she could feel the beating, no longer strong and steady, growing weaker, and weaker... Something inside of her was slowly withering and died, as something else took over...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Becoming My Mother

Every sunday,
I put on an apron and become my mother.
I tiptoe through the living room,
Flip on the light switch,
And skim over the ingredients for lunch,
Contemplating the appetites to serve.

Every Sunday,
I put on an apron and become my mother.
Running water through strands of green,
Slicing and chopping each and every minute away,
Stirring and tasting every second at the tip of her finger,
Eyes lighten up as the extra pinch of salt is dropped.

Every Sunday,
I put on a apron and become my mother.
A glass of red wine with a good movie she wonders,
How'd it feel like to just lounge on the couch, 
Away from the stove and the hot oven,
With the air condition blowing cool air straight at her face.

Every Sunday, 
I put on an apron and become my mother.
The peaceful sound of the ticking clock that she misses,
The lingering smoke from the cigarette that burns itself to ash,
The absence of the occasional resentment of returning loved ones,
The simple joy making plans for no one but herself.

Every Sunday,
I put on an apron and think of my mother.
The burden, the responsibility, the suffocation,
Her eyes, her words, her steamed eggs with soy sauce,
Her time, her wrinkles, her roast chicken recipe,
All that she is, all that defines her,
And I know that I'll never live up to her.
I'll never be my mother
Everything that she was and is.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chapter Two

"She started to cry. Unable to hold back this continuing sadness that had, without her knowledge, become a part of who she was."

As months went by, she had grown accustomed to how, at the home, days would past by without anyone even realizing it.

Until one unusual morning, when the caretaker gently called her over.
As she slowly stepped towards her, then she took out something that was hiding in her lap underneath the apron.
 “You’re a big girl now. You need to start going to school and learn about things. This is the school uniform, I’m sure that you will look so pretty in it.”
Puzzled, she stared at the tiny stack of faded clothes in her hand, and then at her.

Attending school, she had always wondered how it would be like.
She had stood at the fence and watched him and the other children leave for school almost every day. Her heart had yearned to follow, but her pride would never allow her the permission to say it.
Now that the opportunity has presented itself to her, she was a mixture of anticipation and resentment.
No longer would she have to stand alone at the gate and watch him leave with the others. Yet, no longer would she get to anticipate his return everyday and feel that tingling joy of seeing him walking towards her and holding her tiny hands firmly in his as they walk into the home together.

She is definitely reluctant to give up that odd sensation of his rough palm rubbing between her delicate fingers.

She took two tiny steps forward.
Her hand reaching out, casting a slim long shadow over the apron, as she gently traces the lines on the washed fabric of the school uniform that now belongs to her.
The caretaker looked hard and deep at the face of this beautiful little thing.
Trying to explain the calmness beyond her years that had suddenly overtook the hesitation that was so prominent just seconds ago.

This is not the face of a typical six-year-old.
This calmness does not belong to this delicate untainted porcelain face.
Such expressions should only be seen on grown-ups who had bare witness to almost everything in life.
Yet, there it is now, reflected as somber as a crescent moon on the calm surface of a black lake.

She then lifted the stack of school uniform, turn around and walked back to her bed.
 Leaving the caretaker speechless and lost in a maze of her own thoughts.

“Those moments. Those moments with your hand in mine, will walk with me for the rest of my life.” 

The next morning, he slung his school bag across his shoulder, grabbed his partially filled water bottle and walked towards the gate, expecting to see her there, waiting to send him off as usual.
But there she was, delicately neat in a plain navy dress, the same type of blue that he had on.
She lifted her eyes from the ground and saw him staring at her.
Whether it was the coldness of the morning or the reflection of the gentle morning sun, he could have sworn he saw two rosy blush on her otherwise pale cheeks that very morning.
He smiled, walked over, held her cold little hand, and this time, the two of them walked out of the gate together, hand in hand.

As soon as they reached the school gate, she panicked.
There were too many people around, kids, parents, teachers……
She tightened her grip on his hand, her steps froze as she tried to hide her tiny self behind his towering frame.
Instantly, he sensed her anxiety, he could feel her timid hand shaking and sweating in his. Reassuringly, he held her hand just a little bit tighter, turned his head around, and flashed her another one of those smiles that is just comforting enough to ease any fear or doubt in her.
He could feel her grip loosen.
“I’ll walk you to your classroom,” he asserted with a smile on his face.
She nodded, vaguely.
As she took quick tiny steps behind him. The morning sun shone brightly along the long school corridor, casting warm lively shadows as they walk hand in hand along the winding path to their classrooms.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Chapter One

She sits there, smiling at the empty seat in front of her.

A man stared at her while passing by.
Another stared at her, then the empty chair in front of her.

Alone at the table, she is nothing, but a pile of ruins.

Alone she stood, A lovelorn bird on a dying branch.
She was six when he first held her hands.

Distracted by the colourful fireworks exploding in the dark blue sky, she loosens her grip and failed to catch the sight of her mother ever again.
So there she stood, amongst a sea of enchanted strangers all but too distracted by the firework display to notice this lost little girl.
She was scared, very scared. Fear was creeping up behind her, crawling all over her skin until the hair behind her neck stands. Her big hazel eyes started to well, but she bit her lower lips and refused to show this sign of fear.
 “A brave princess will never cry,” she recalled her exact words. “and only a brave princess deserves a strawberry ice cream at the funfair tonight.”

“I had a nightmare last night. My heart, it hurts.”

Yet, she never kept her promise. The imaginary ice cream melted, dripping away putrid pinkish tears along with her blurry recollection of her face. The only face that she had known and believe in, nothing but make-up and lipstick all smudged up on a ball of powdery flour.

She stood there the whole night. A brave princess in the cold night breeze.
The sea of faces passed by. Some lid by a flicker of curiosity, some dimmed by a veil of callousness. But none mattered to her, none except his.
The face of a boy who bended over and presented itself right in front of hers. Dark bushy eyebrows that curved awkwardly over a pair of concerned brown eyes. His right palm unfolded itself in front of her, and without a word she placed hers into it. Gripped tight, she knew that she would since follow him wherever he goes.

He took her home. A home for abandoned children like him and her. The adults at the home were deeply puzzled by her appearance, nobody was able to find out anything about this silent little girl.
When she tried to undress herself in the shower, she found an envelope, carefully folded and stuffed inside the pocket of her favourite yellow dress. On it was mommy’s handwriting. She might not have been able to read, but she readily understood the content.

And in the shower, she finally allowed herself to cry.

Him. He became her guardian angel, her knight in shining armor. Most of the time, she refused to be around anyone but him. Her tiny little wounded heart refused to feel safe or at ease around anyone but him. It didn’t matter that she never had a father or brother in her life, to her he was none of these.
When he was away in school, she would sit by herself under the big oak tree beside the gate.
Upon his return, she would walk over and grip his hand tightly and follow him inside.
She would sit quietly at the other end of the table while he and the other older kids burry themselves in books and books of homework.
Whenever he’s done, he will look up and smile at her.
Her face will light up and her tiny hands would stop tugging at the hem of her skirt. He would come to her, and the two of them would sit at the corners of the bookshelves as he recited pages after pages of stories to her.
It was always her who chooses the books, and she never let him read her any stories about princesses and their happy endings.

Some other days they would walk underneath the trees, picking up fallen leaves of different shades and shapes. Whenever she manages to chance upon any uniquely shaped ones, she would excitedly show them to him, and then the two of them would spent the afternoon lying on the floor of fallen leaves, staring at and analyzing the possible shapes of these leaves.
Sometimes he would even spin her a tale or two using these to represent the animals or characters in the story. These are the only times when he could see her showing any expressions that bear any faint resemblance to a smile.
No exchanges of words were necessary. Their connection was beyond words.

When everyone else was asleep at night, she would sneak out of her bed and slowly tiptoe to his.
She would stand there and stare at his peacefully closed eyes. Until he stirred and saw her, just a fragile silhouette wrapped by the gentle darkness.
He would sit up and peel back the worn out sheets covering his paper thin mattress, she would then timidly crawl underneath it before he covers it back on top of her.
Both of them would then fall sound asleep, cradled by the silence of the night and, the warmth of each other.
He never asked her for a reason and she never seemed to have found any explanations necessary.

“The world is so quiet. Sometimes, it scares me.” 

The adults were starting to find her relentless silence concerning.

Why is this physically sound little girl not making a sound?
What sort of life was she leading before this and what family did she had or have left?
Was anyone looking for her?

Not him. He understood. He understood the reasons behind her silence.
He knew that she was perfectly capable of speaking, she just refuses to.
He will wait. He will wait for her to be ready to speak again.
Besides, he was never one to care much for words. Words are overrated.
To him, words are instead the source of all miscommunication and misunderstanding. Words are the reason he was here to begin with. Why let words interfere when they were perfectly capable of understanding each other without.
It’s like whenever Miss Carter takes the class to visit the museum. He would wonder off by himself, seeing and experiencing each of the artifacts on displayed by himself, rather than having their stories and his imagination bounded by the explanations and demonstrations from her.

Eventually, the adults cease to fuss over her silence. Everyone at the home had either given up or decided that her disability of speech was just another ironic tragedy.

Once in a while there would be some couples who would visit the home in search of a suitable new addition to their perfect family. Being one of the few younger kids at the home, they would look at her and see a beautiful little girl who would look perfect in a Sunday dress or at a tea party.
The caretakers at the home would then pause and pull these couples aside while trying to explain her condition to them. While these couples would stare at her with the same heart-rending look that she had grown rather accustomed to. Some of them would even walked over and gently touch her cheeks while tears glistened in their sympathetic eyes.
This too she had grown accustomed to. She would usually just stand up and walk away from them. This was the time when the couples would usually move on to other more promising little boys and girls.
She knew exactly what they wanted. But she wasn’t interested. Family is just a promise that could easily be broken, just like any other promises in her life. Big or small.

She sat beside the window, her eyes glued to the outside.
It amuses her how tiny rain droplets could completely change how everything looks.
The usually proud trees would frailly sway along the wind, crestfallen.
The birds would not be hopping around the freakishly brown soils looking for worms, and the grass would no longer look as green.
They used to do this together. Whenever it rains. They would cuddle up underneath a tiny blanket on the couch beside the window. She would even make a cup of warm cocoa and they would take turns sipping from the delicate porcelain cup.
Warm, despite the lack of a heater in the house.
Sometimes, if she’s lucky, or if it’s a very long rain, she would even tell her stories. Castles, princesses and weird horses with horns. The twists and turns of how the kind princess is bullied by the evil queen, stepsisters and witches. Even though her tiny heart would still pound and skip a beat as the princess unknowingly bite into the poisonous apple. But she was never really afraid, as she knows that in the end, the princess would always be rescued by the dashing prince and lives happily ever after…

She shook her head… reminding herself not to remember.
The she shook it again, even harder this time in order to shake away all the fond memories.

“Letting go isn’t a onetime thing. It’s something that you have to do over and over again, everyday.”

 She had chosen to not be a part of her life, so she is no longer allowed in her memory!
From then onwards, she refuses to remember, or even think about her.
She let the emptiness she left behind consumed her, she intended for the hatred she harboured for her to function like one of those wooden dusters that can be used to erase everything off a blackboard.
She was something that she wanted to erase, needed badly to erase.
Still, she had no control over her mind.
In her sleep she still remembered her.
She would see her standing there as the crowd faded away with the night, arms outstretched and every feature ever so vivid. And no matter how hard she told herself not to, she would still run into her arms and hugged her tight, overjoyed as she hears her murmuring the words My Princess…
She would then wake up feeling guilty… and emptiness would once again fill the rest of her day.
She knew from then on, that these dreams would haunt her for years to come.