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