Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Before the Storm

Happy Halloween guys. The spirits bend over the earth and sigh. And somewhere in Bangsar, a girl huddles in her blankets and wakes up crying.

"He's not even my type! Why am I reacting like this?" she wails. And sinks under the sheets sobbing.

Somewhere else, a woman wakes up tired. "I sleep and sleep and sleep and yet I'm knackered. What can be happening."

And I, I cry in my sleep. Having read Colette and The Dark is Rising and The Awakening all at once. A friend calls and tells me his grandfather just passed away. At 90. He's still sad. Last week was tough. But he's coping now. He sounds a little high. And I wonder.

Everywhere, everywhere the dark leans down and sucks out the joy. Ragged teary faces emerge, drained of happiness.

An eyebrow is threaded. Nice? Not nice? Who knows? Naz of the swollen belly works her magic with the thread. Hairs plucked. Eyebrows shaped. She works at home so you need to know where she is, to go there. You call first.

A Pay Less bookshop yields treasures. Tomorrow there's a book sale. More treasures. And I still haven't finished all the books from last year. More books. More books. More books.

Sometimes, there is a hush before a storm.

You hold your breath, waiting for something to happen, knowing that it will be major.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Crying in my Sleep

A mystery solved. I wondered, why, even getting to bed at a decent hour I wake up feeling so knackered. Mum, who was in my bed last night (she is down for a funeral) enlightened me. Apparently I have been crying in my sleep. I don't wake up. My eyes feel tired, but they're not red and stinging.

And I don't even know why.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Good Mourning Malaysia...

I'm alone on the leather seats at HUSH. They smell of expensive Cuban cigars and the table I'm at is supposed to be reserved. But the manager kindly let me have it. "Sit anywhere you want." he said. I'm waiting for my boss who happens to part own HUSH as well.

The boss is rushing all over the place. He's squeezed in some time before he's due for a flight to go over some stuff. I just had a great lunch at Tea for Two with ...

I feel a little sad, nonetheless, and I can't trace the source of this melancholy. Could it be the weather? The incessant rain? (But I like incessant rain). Could it be the two deaths that have taken place in the space of a day? But neither person was close to me and I really don't care. Was it the thought of death itself hovering over the people I actually love? (There being no armour against fate and such...)

Could it be the sentimental easy listening at HUSH which takes me back to earlier times and makes me feel a little sad?

Baby come back
any kind of fool could see
there was something
in everything about you...


Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Perfect Day

I would like to take off on the beaten highway and write a Road story.

So what if it's been done too many times? All stories are old. But new all the same. Every line is cliched. But fresh all the same. And what fun a journey into nowhere would be, meeting strangers, hanging with them for a day, adding them to facebook or not, and moving on.

How impeturbable the traveler who carries little and takes away less.

Ah me.

It's always a perfect day.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lots of Nothing

Despite the late nights and resultant exhaustion, I've gone through my two Margaret Atwoods and am now on to Colette. (I didn't tell you about Colette but I really, really wanted it and my good pal Mary found a copy of Cheri and The Last of Cheri at Pay Less Books, whereupon she uttered a shrill scream, grabbed the book, paid for it, and presented it to me. My friends are so nice)

It starts off with a guy and a pearl necklace. Am I supposed to take that at face value?

Snigger, snigger.

Work has been swirling and eddying around me. I feel the waves lap at my ankles, cold and slightly strange. Ah well.

Tomorrow's the last day before the festive break. People are already making their exodus out of KL. Driving to work today was wonderful. There was a noticeable dimunition in crazy traffic. I love KL when all the crazies (excepting me) have left. I can wander around shopping centres, my favourite bookshops, without bumping into a thousand other bodies. I will probably also get to the Sex and the City box set that I purchased last Saturday and haven't watched yet.

Time to kick up my heels and do lots of nothing.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Curious Incident of a Man and His Texts

So there I was, reading and re-reading affirmations, my ears plugged with Rhonda Byrne who was telling me in so many ways that what I concentrate on, I get. A very zen state of mind. I think the little birdies were singing and the mango tree was boogeying to the music. In short, God was in Her heaven. All was right with the world.

Then I get a text. Wondering if it was someone from the office to ask me where the heck I was (it was nearly noon after all) I sighed. But it was a text from someone else. The gist of it was that he did not send the text he was supposed to have sent me on Sunday night.

Picture this: Me and Mary Z at the Bangsar Village Grocer picking up some fixin's for a sandwich or two on the Sunday night in question. My phone buzzes. Wondering who it could be at nine on a Sunday, I remove it from the clutter in my bag only to find the following message:

Jennifer I don't think I can make it as I just finished my morning meeting. (the message becomes garbled after and I don't remember what it said)

I smiled at Mary who was bending over, scrutinising a particular display for emery boards. "Huh, always amusing to get a message meant for someone else."

I shot back the following: "Wrong Jennifer."

And that was it. Or so I thought.

Anyways, come Monday afternoon, I get a confused message from SMS-er in question wondering what I was talking about. "What do you mean wrong Jennifer?"

Kindly, I explained that it was in response to his SMS on Sunday night. Perchance he had scheduled some meeting with some random Jennifer and clicked on my name by accident.

No, he assured me.

He hadn't.

Which is why Tuesday, nearly noon, I get a suspicious text informing me that he had gone through his outbox rigorously and found that he had only sent out 6 messages. And all to siblings.

(I don't know about you, but I thought this was belabouring the point just a tad. I mean, who cared, anyway?)

So I replied in a slightly irritated manner saying, so, you made a mistake, so just live with it and move on. And didn't think any more of it.

Unfortunately I seem to have unleashed a tidal wave. I got a mouthful of vitriol in reply. To whit: I know a good shrink, let me introduce you, you could really use one.

I mean to say what?

Can anyone say, uncalled for?

Conversation (yes even these breathless text exchanges qualify as conversations) deteriorated rapidly after that. I called him dumb and said I would be hurt by insinuations about sanity. Except that I never took anyone who couldn't spell seriously. Also, I said that being as self obsessed and self entitled as he was, the shrink had obviously not made much headway with him. But then, maybe he was just a hopeless case.

He said he had made an appointment for me as I desperately needed to have my head examined. Also that he had no desire to see me again because I needed to get some culture and my head out of the clouds and know there was more to life than a spell check.

Hmmmmm. I shouldn't have answered the first rude message of course. I should have been dignified and just "walked away". (I know this now after discussing it with one third of the 3K). Someone so childish and immature is just not worth my time.

But the exchange was so heated that I emerged bruised and shaken. Rhonda Byrne was still droning on enthusiastically in my ear. And my hand was trembling as I ticked off affirmations.

I sent off a text to Nits who called and consoled. It was too ridiculous! She was at a loss for an explanation. Just that this guy must really really hate me. It was obvious he thought I had hatched a deep dark plot to intrude upon his notice when he was busy comfortably ignoring me.

If I wanted to do that, surely I could come up with something more interesting and articulate than "wrong Jennifer". I'm a writer for crying out loud.

Anyways, I pulled into the office, wrote a speech, called Mary Z and we had tea at D'lish. Seeing I was very upset she made me order my food and have my roast beef sandwich first. She regaled me with tales of Jane Austen (I realise that for me, JA is the ultimate mood shifter) and we discussed Pride and Prejudice (the Jennifer Ehle-Colin Firth version) and she told me after watching just a few minutes of it she could have cheerfully killed Keira Knightley for that desecration of a Pride and Prejudice a few years ago. I nodded vigorously, mouth full of roast beef.

We talked about Jane's life (she's reading the Tomalin biography) and her loves (couldn't say really, Cassandra did her work well protecting her sister's privacy) moving off into George Eliot and Edith Wharton. It was satisfying and I leaned back full of roast beef and literary biographies.

When I launched into my story, Mary looked a little startled and then puzzled.

"He doesn't sound worth your attention. But did you really have to answer the SMSes when he got rude? Contaminating your phone with all that negativity..."

I thought about this for a while. The fighter cock in me would say, hell, yeah! But common sense, or the semblance of it that is trying to push a shoot through the dirt, said no. I should have ignored it. A dignified silence says plenty. After all, there was no way this conversation could have done anything but spiral out of control. If fat bald creepy dude was on the warpath he would have to fight with himself. As it was, I provided the perfect foil for him to unleash fury. Of course, I got a few choice words in, and some may have even penetrated that thick armour so he would have another hang-up to add to that overfull closet.

But did I want to do this?


I exhaled and felt the tension in my belly slowly dissipate. I was feeling curiously better.

OK, I need to go do some more affirmations.

I am calm and relaxed and centred and open....exhale...inhale...exhale...inhale... blow out the candle.

Later for you.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


I've just had the best day out with an old friend.

I was late. Late to bed, late to rise, makes a girl...crabby. (There was some drama with the car battery going phut on me which I intended to tell you about last night but I was too tired to and today the car story gives way to the fun in the sun with E story) Anyway I got a text message saying she was already there.


So I raced to the shower, threw on some clothes all anyhow, slapped on some lipstick and face powder with a vague idea of looking presentable. Arrived at said venue, where I said I would call her only to discover that my phone was out of credit. To whit, I could not make the call. So I had to waste more precious minutes getting a phone card and then topping up. (I really really need to switch to postpaid. I also need to get a credit card)

Anyways, she called me (in the midst of my top-up operations) and suggested Delicious for breakfast and I said fine by me and as I was heading for her, I noticed her face was all mottled red, like someone who has cried too much. Or someone who is trying not to cry. Grief, hurt, heartbreak swirled around her and I thought, oh oh.

Something was up!

She let me in on what very soon after we had ordered...I had poached eggs on toast and an orange juice, she had scrambled eggs on toast and a macchiato (just cos she likes the names of these foreign-sounding coffees). There was stuff going on in the office and the more she talked, the worse she felt. I listened for a bit, but I hadn't stopped my ears with The Secret for four hours a day for nought.

I made her STOP!

I just wanna STOP!
And tell you what I feel about you babe,
I just want to STOP!
The world ain't right without you babe
I just wanna STOP!
For your lurve...

And told her that she was giving these silly hos too much power. (Funny, it's always the cumulative petty things, like guerrilla attacks, that get to you, rather than the open confrontations) And asked her to switch her thoughts to what she wanted.

As the day progressed E, who is actually a cheerful contented soul, did just this. The energy switched. I could feel it happening physically. Sometimes, you just need to hang with a friend who's known you since you were 12. And talk all manner of rubbish knowing the other person will love you anyway. And listen to all manner of rubbish, knowing you'll love them anyway.

We sauntered off to check out music at the only CD shop at Bangsar Village. I bought five CDs.

She started to brighten up. Told me all about Hairspray and how brilliant John Travolta was in it. (Too bad, I didn't watch it and the illegal pirated version isn't out yet)

She dragged me to a little gift shop she suddenly noticed at BV1 and told me she spent ridiculous amounts of money on some cutesy gift figures (she showed me which one to get for her when she got married). Told me about a cottage in the country with a chimney and a garden that she dreamed off. We spoke of that half American, half-Korean actor she liked now. We had lunch at this Japanese restaurant at BV1 (E is a connoiseur of Japanese) followed by coffee and Coffee Bean and talked some more. Then, despite the rain, we charged across the road to Silverfish where I got Wilderness Tips (Margaret Atwood), The Edible Woman (ditto) and The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (Betty Edwards) because I flipped through it and it seems like the kind of book I would like.

Besides, I've always fancied myself a secret artist who wants to make pictures and if I do, you can be sure I'll be inflicting some of these on you, only because I'm so fond of you...I asked E if we could both go to France, set up our easels on some lovely field of lavender or something and paint. She said she didn't think so.

Then we went off to Czip Lee, this stationery cum art supply store at the end of that street so I could buy "artist pencils". I told the nice lady behind the counter I wanted to sketch and asked her to recommend pencils. She laughed heartily and said it would be like the blind leading the blind. E, who is a notoriously observant busybody (worse than my sister Julie) had in the meanwhile gone in search of artists pencils, found them and come back to plonk a box of them on the counter. I beamed at her. Nice lady behind the counter shook her head at the 6Bs and said I should get 8Bs instead as that was what the artists got. So I did without further ado.

6Bs, 8Bs, it made me no never mind.

In that same shop we found lots of card-making apparatus. E and I had hatched this scheme to make our own Christmas cards. I said I could print out my picture and decorate it with Christmassy-looking cut-outs and inflict it on all the people who loved me, liked me or knew me slightly from the blog. E didn't bat an eyelid and said that would be a good idea.

(Um, what do you guys think of it? Also, please email me your addresses, I'm making up my Christmas card list for this year and if you get your cards in October it's only cos I'm efficient)

Anyway, we made vague plans to meet at her house and go crazy with glue and glitter and coloured paper (and pictures of me) and other such necessities. I told her I would be making all my presents this year and she smiled knowingly.

E makes her own presents, her own cards, sometimes even her own wrapping paper. She's one of the most intensely creative people I know and her ultimate aim in life is to be a "domestic engineer". She loves taking care of people.

Instead, she drags herself to work with semi-literate baboons complete with bright red asses, stares at a computer screen eight hours a day and writes instruction manuals for DVD players.

Anyways, after dallying at the bookshop and the art supply shop we felt the need for something cold and creamy to repair the tissues. So of course, we made tracks for Haagen Dazs (Upper Ground, BV2) and had a scoop each. Mine was vanilla topped with hot fudge and hers was cookies and chocolate topped with almond flakes. At this point, stuffed with food and good conversation, I started nodding off. E was chattering contentedly and then she fell silent. I unclosed an eye to see her gazing at me with some amusement.

Ah, it was time to go. We paid and were told, to our pleasant surprise that we would get something free from L'Occitane. You know, that really, really expensive place where some handcream costs over RM90? Yeah, that one. Anyway, we got these sachets of hand cream and foot cream while the nice store girl extolled the virtues of Shea Butter (I dunno why but Shea Butter sounds vaguely sexual to me) and I assured her I'd come back when they're having their Christmas promotion (despite the fact that I'm making most of my pressies this year).

Then it was really time to go. E, home and me, to Jaya's to get some DVDs. (Yes, despite the day-long binge I was still not satisfied). I ended up getting all six seasons of Sex in the City. Of course, I couldn't watch it when I got home as Dadda was hogging the TV. Is it the EPL or something? Oh well, it makes me no never mind. Something else to look forward to now.

E called to tell me she got home safely. This was her first time driving to Bangsar and she found her way there and back again without incident. I told her I didn't have the luxury of tip-toeing round in the car but had to drive into the heart of KL, the moment I got the car because of my assignments. Memorably, for the first assignment I drove to, I left two hours early and arrived one hour late. To anyone who knew their way, it would have been a 30-minute journey at most. The HP people were a little stiff with me, so after apologising wildly and trying to explain that this was my first time...I ended up taking the guy I interviewed out to Bangsar to show him what Malaysian nightlife was like. After a nice Chinese dinner (this was when Cheap Charlie's was still cheap) we ended up in Bazaar where we reclined on red velvet cushions, smoked a hookah and watched a bunch of girls making out.

He asked if this was typical KL.

I said yes, no doubt.

And we laughed immoderately and took another drag of that apple-flavoured hookah.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wake Up

I'm sitting at Starbucks wondering why I feel so sleepy (could it be the vampire attacks at 3 in the morning?) Dunno. Anyways, I'm supposed to be writing a speech for my boss to deliver at Cambridge and my soul is just not into it. Instead I take to staring at cool new suitcases at The Luggage Zone and fine china at Royal Doulton and tropical-coloured pieces of art at Art Accent.

There's a guy sitting near me who is raising his voice and scolding someone. Not appropriate behaviour for Starbucks. Also I am so interested that I swivelled around to have a look at his mug.

There is a tall model (at least I think she's a model) in tight jeans, spaghetti straps and scarves. She's resting her chin on her knuckles and inclining her head at this very ordinary-looking man who looks red-faced and sleepy.

There's a girl applying lip balm to her dehydrated kissers. She has been surfing the net and now she's stuffed her tiny laptop into her cool sling bag and sauntered off into the art shop.

All around me, people, people, people...I'm trying to capture moments, little droplets of intensity, I'm trying to wake up.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now

When I was young (or at least a good deal younger) I always thought there were goodbyes that would last forever. That this was IT.

No more, no more, no more.

That no matter how much some people meant to me, I could cross them off some proverbial list, erase them from my life and henceforth, they would cease to exist.

I know better now.

As long as I loved them, as long as they really meant something to me, they will show up again. Sometime. And when they do it will be like no time has passed.

Time: silly illusion.

What is one year, 10 years or even 20?


And Dan Fogelberg is playing in my head now for some reason or nother.

Trust isn't something that's spoken,
Love's never wrong when it's real...

There is only purple










Magic seems to be creeping in through the crevices. There's a muse out there, a whisper, a breathing in, inspiration.

There is poetry waiting to get out.

Dry ice and pretty dresses and rainbow-coloured park benches.

Something is happening here, only I don't know what.

I arise from exhausted sleep to lavender-scented air. France is peeping at me from the behind the bedpost.

The shepherdess comes alive. She smiles tenderly.

I take myself off to KLCC after a long long time and buy books of poetry. Books and books and books. There's Lorca. There's Whitman.

I'm alive. And the world shines for me today. Suddenly I am here today. Seems like forever. Thought I could never. Is this really me? I'm alive, I'm alive, I'm alive...

I invoke the muses.

I reject the gray.

No dust.

No despair.

No traffic.

No haze.

There is only purple.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Death, Art, Knots and Poor Quality Guides

There I was in the office bright and early (for once), my management updates all handed up in time, smugly anticipating (rather than dreading) the management meeting.

And then my phone went off. When I saw it was Mum trying to call, my stomach took a dive. Thing is she never calls in the morning unless there's bad news. Like last week when she called to tell me that my crazy aunt (known elsewhere in this blog as Old Lady) had been attacked by parang-wielding Indian hooligans who tried to push her in the house and rape her.

Old Lady's nearly 70.

It was not an edifying story.

Mum: Jenny ah?

Me: Hi Mum.

Mum: You at home ah?

Me: No, at the office.

Mum: Oh, I just called to tell you that Elizabeth Chew died.

Wham! I goldfished in shock for a while. Elizabeth Chew was my old art teacher at the Convent. She was a cantankerous old biddy who yelled at the girls, slapping a few (and what's more getting away with it). But still. She was one of those people you sort of forget after school, but who form part of the landscape of people who continue to exist until it's time for them to die.

It was not time for her die. Not to my mind at least.

An early disappointment in love had turned her into an angry bitter woman who could spew venom with the best. But there were flashes of colour. She was a very good art teacher. She was the only one who made me take that "free period" class seriously. And, when not in temper, she could be pretty inspirational.

She was also our Girl Guide mistress. My most poignant memory of her in that role is of me failing my knots exam and of her saying in front of a class of strange (meaning I didn't know them) girls: "We don't want poor quality Guides like Jennifer!"

Why are my thoughts of the dearly departed so uncharitable? Anyway, back to my conversation with Mum:

Me(in strangled whisper): How?

Mum: Snatch thief.

Visions of her being dragged by those blasted motorbikes swirled in my brain. Oh dear. Not what I wanted to hear or think about or imagine, first thing Monday morning.

Me: Really? You mean they...?

Mum: After church she went to Holiday Plaza for dinner. As she was getting out of her car, three men jumped her and took her handbag. She fell and her head hit the car. Went to the hospital to get stitches. Then when she got home, she started vomiting. And then she died.

(As you can see, Mum doesn't believe in beating around the bush)


Mum: Yeah, so be careful OK? First day of the month and all. Some more Hari Raya holidays coming up.

Me: Yeah, OK.

Goodbye Miss Chew.

I hope you find peace.

And I forgive you for calling me a "poor quality Guide" which translated into a belief that I was a poor quality everything for most of my high school years.