Thursday, January 31, 2008

Losing It

I've lost the nice leather cover for my phone. I thought I lost my watch (but actually I didn't). I think I'm losing my sanity (what sanity, you may ask).

Some things you lose, others, you relinquish.

I've veering between both.

Need to go off somewhere and get some peace of mind and bank in salary cheque which I just received.

I don't know, but things seem have taken an unexpected turn.

Chaos, chaos, things falling apart, the centre not holding.

In times like these I light a candle...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Answer

The thing about asking God for an answer is that you're gonna get one. And it is probably going to be someone really unexpected to give it to you.

I have taken to going to this little chapel at SFX every day. It's a quiet, serene, prayerful place and I usually fall into a state of semi-somnolence. After a while, I get up, proceed to the grotto at the side of the church, light a candle or two, speak some more, and then I take off. For the office.

So today I was driving back to the office, still feeling that pale shade of azure. I parked and as I was making my way into my office building, I bumped into someone I used to know. We started chatting and he asked me for lunch. I replied that I had a meeting at 2, but he said, come have coffee anyway, I'm just going to the Mexican restaurant here.

OK, coffee I could handle. Now this friend has never been the most voluble in the world. He tends to speak in cryptic phrases and look at me with half amused attention, like he sees through my bluff.

Anyway, there we were chatting away (at least, he was chatting, and I was nodding seriously) when suddenly he asked, why I was being so quiet. I shrugged and all that heavy feeling, which had been waiting on the wings, came back.

He said my problem is that I live in the past and the future, and never in the now.

I was stunned.

I asked God, why am I feeling so crummy? Can you stop me from feeling like this?

And God said, your problem is that you don't live in the now!

And there was a nice glass of clear water in front of me and my friend asked me to pretend that I was in a desert and enjoy that glass of water.

"Look you can enjoy talking to anyone or being with anyone. Even if they're a pain in the ass. And if they're too much of a pain in the ass, you tell them to fuck off, without rancour of course, and go your merry way, busy enjoying the now. What is the matter with you anyway?"

"I want what I cannot have."

"Material things?"

"No, I don't really care about those. I mean, I do, but they're not central. They don't make me happy. It's other things. Qualities. You know..."

"I see."


"Learn to live in the now, Jennifer, it's pretty simple really. If I hadn't discovered this, I would have gone mad by now."


"Yeah, mad doesn't mean raving loony. It could just mean depressed and self destructive."

"Been there, done that. Saw in New Year's alone. Brief bout with alcoholism."

"Hmmm...if you're slugging down a whisky, enjoy that whisky...but don't do it everyday. It's when you get obsessed..."

"Yeah, that's my problem I get obsessed. And yes, it was every day. Until I stopped. And besides, it was brandy. Brandy or wine..."

"Whatever. Obsession is not necessarily enjoyment. It's just obsession."

I sigh. He sighs.

We look at each other.

He tells me about his little daughter, whom he refers to as the "joy point" of his life. He asks me to rake up some happy memories when I'm feeling down. I look at him with that mixture of sadness and perplexity that I have when someone asks me to rake up happy memories. I know they're there. I just can't seem to access them at the moment.

I know he wants to give me a hug. Instead, he gives me his ice cream, cookies and cream, which is just as good.

I dig into it happily.

We walk back to our office building slowly.

"Gosh, you must think I'm a real kook after that conversation."

I look at him in surprise: "Me? Think you're a kook? After that?"

The lift opens at the seventh floor. He's on the eight. I get out. He waves. I smile. The lift closes.

And here I am, back in the office, trying to live in the moment.

20 minutes overdue for a meeting to edit webpages.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Riding in Cars with Boys

Me (in belligerent tones, glaring at some pedestrian who is giving me a dirty look for no reason in particular): Why you looking at me like that? Did I just call your mother an accurate name?


Woody Allen to pretty female sidekick in Scoop: Is there anything you achieved last night? Other than a possible pregnancy?


Woody Allen to housekeeper in house of possible murderer. He is purportedly looking for a sweater his "daughter" left behind.

Housekeeper: You couldn't find the sweater?
Woody: It could be in another bedroom. She has problems with promiscuity.


Which is what Mary and I were doing yesterday. Eating at Angel Cake House, relating Woody Allen anecdotes, and busting a gut, laughing up our Aglio Olio and what have you.

Although only the last anecdote is relevant. Because I wanted to share a little secret with you. I have problems with promiscuity. On Thursday there was one woman. On Sunday, another. And possibly next Saturday there will be a new one. I feel positively manhandled. Especially since nearly all these women are pretty rough. They claim it's good for me. So what was supposed to be relaxing, even pleasurable, turns into the rack.

Sway me smooth, sway me now...

I have to bite my lip to keep from screaming. And I don't mean that in a good way.

"Aiyo Miss, you got so many knotslar, so tension your back, look your shoulder so hard, look your muscle so tight lar...if I do, you pain, if I don't do, you not relaxed..."

Yes, I can see her problem.

But that doesn't make it easier to bear.

So I am walking around pretty sore.

Should I forsake the gym?


I just saw my picture in the papers and whatever I forsake (food, alcohol, cigarettes, LSD, any smidgen of self respect, meths, dexies, strange men in seedy motel rooms, strange women in seedier motel rooms, Wilkie Collins, the love of shop assistants) I will not forsake the gym!


Thursday, January 24, 2008

It Feels Like A Monday

Yesterday there was a break in the middle of the week - Wednesday, Thaipusam, a nationally-declared holiday - so today feels, ironically, like Monday. I don't feel like being at work (but then again, I never do) and I am simply going through the motions.

Had a long involved chat with a colleague about the movie Cuci (we neither of us were very impressed and we thought that even for slapstick, it was wanting) and then I called my friend Mary and asked her out for chicken rice at Megamall. Yum! That's the best darn chicken rice this side of the hemisphere.

She was busy watching A Streetcar Named Desire, and said she wanted to slap Marlon Brando. I replied that he was supposed to be that crude and belligerent and that was why I couldn't watch Streetcar. I found it too hard to take.

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers...

Mary and I ended up at Backyard last night through a series of misadventures. Actually, just one misadventure. Mary has these neighbours, well one neighbour in particular, who could pass off as a serial killer. After beating his wife and kids out of house and home, he takes up with a girlfriend.

He continues dysfunctional behaviour with girlfriend and yesterday, she screamed so loud and long that all the neighbours rushed out of their houses to see what the matter was. Mary's hand was on the phone and she was all set to dial the police if the woman screamed again, when the two combatants emerged very demurely from the house.

He slid into the driver's seat of his car, she into the co-driver's seat. She patted her hair and adjusted her make-up while he drove off. There was no evidence of the hysterical screaming match, except for the neighbours who were gathered, all agog outside.

In relating the story to me, Mary said, "Real Keling, I tell you!" (Note: we use the term in the most derogatory sense of the word, but we're allowed to because we're both Kelings ourselves).

Anyway, as she was coming out to get into my car, she saw the crazy dude's housemates and she asked: "What was going on? Did anyone get hurt?" And they smiled uncertainly at her and shrugged non-committally. So she said: "You mean it was just the usual drama? I nearly called the police!"

Anyways, I was sending her back at 11 at night when we saw crazy dude standing close to the front of her house. She said: "Angel child, I don't want to get out. What if he accosts me and asks if I was going to call the police and not to interfere with his business?"

Far from doing any of this, crazy dude had smiled and waved at her. So I said, OK, we'll go one round. We did. Crazy dude and two housemates were still there.

"OK Mares, we're going to Backyard. Woo hoo!"

Mary adjusted her lipstick and I adjusted nothing. We sat outside and Jerry came and hung with us for a while followed by Victor, Mark's bestest friend. Victor is the strong silent type. He barely smiles and he acknowledges you with only the slightest inclination of his head.

I had never seen his so voluble, but I guess beer tends to loosen the tongue. Victor informed me that I had a split personality, which was kind of interesting because I didn't know. I didn't realise it, but I have started to swear like a trooper. Oh dear.

Fuck, fuck, fucketty fuck!

Anyways, we chatted till past one in the morning and then Mary and I took off. This time, crazy dude was no longer waiting outside her house to jump her unawares with nasty questions about the weather.

I'm not as sleepy as I thought I would be this morning.

Just bored.

Terribly bored.

And Tony and gang are over at our office for a board meeting. Whopee doo! I thought he sucked out loud in Cuci, but maybe that's just me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Off the Wagon

Hmmm...does succumbing to four white wines in a night count as falling off the wagon?

Because in that case, I did.

Started out at lunch after which I developed a severe migraine (fighting KL traffic after a thunderstorm didn't help)...but did that stop me from going to Backyard?


I was there till the wee hours hanging out with various people I never met before who became my new best friends in that haze of alcoholic camaraderie, talking about really deep stuff like plimsolls and dancing to music in my head.

Also music that was actually playing.

As in not just in my head.

This morning I was jolted out of a post-binge guilty sleep by Nits who wanted to do breakfast. At La Bodega. I made haste to the bathroom, brushing my teeth while still on the phone...toothpaste talk is so intimate don't you think? And who should I bump into when I clatter into my seat but the good ole boss, TZ himself at a nearby table, having a serious discussion with two colleagues.


Except for saying, yes, I see you're working very hard Jennifer when he was leaving, he was cool about it. At least, I think he was. I could be wrong. But then, when you're hungover (oh how familiar these fumes) nothing much matters...

As I stuffed my face for breakfast I feel like going to the gym for lunch. Working out some of the excess adipose. Burning off the alcohol fumes.

My phone is nearly out of battery.

Such is life when you're off the wagon.

I want more!



Monday, January 21, 2008

And Later That Same Day

I'm squiffy. Just had lunch with Nits and we chased mussels and salad with white wine, Pinot Grigio as our pleasant-faced waitress informed us.

Does it make me an alcoholic that I suddenly feel so good and so relaxed like nothing can bother me?

It hit the spot. It just hit the spot.


A Brighter Day

Sometimes you wake up and the sun creeps in through the window slats and tickles you. And unaccountably you feel better, no scrap that, you actually feel good. No brandy for five days now...and the numbness on the tips of my fingers is fading.

I listen to Sarah Mclachlan and although her songs are sad, I appreciate them aesthetically. Beauty is always uplifting...I like autumn, I like fall, I like golden leaves buffeted by gentle currents falling....

And peace comes dropping slow...

Friday, January 18, 2008


For decades I see ghosts. They run and run around the house; they stare in at windows, hold their limbs up to the glass. They like a game. They know just how much to show, for just how long, and how quick to run. They are not the ghosts we meet in books - those elegant, serious figures. They don't stand tall or turn slowly to meet one's gaze. They are not sad. These ghosts like to hide; they are nimble and young.

They appear, of course, in unexpected places: in the street, walking away; on a passing bus; exiting a bank or cinema. I have learned the ways of ghosts - that they sunbake, drive cars, enjoy parties more than I do, and that they must have access to surveillance equipment. This can be the only explanation as to how they follow me from house to house, suburb to suburb, beach shack to wheatbelt farm, to interstate cities and other continents. They even follow me into dreams, where they smile and pull up a chair, or watch me pass by, leaning easily in open doorways. They say:

Girl, come closer. And I look up. There are men and women. They seem happy to see me. I slow my step; a smile staggers in my mouth.

Girl, what is it?

Nothing, I say.

What is it you want?

Nothing at all.

They turn to each other. Then a short, fat woman with a mild round face and pale eyes cocks her head a little, like a dog might and, with a small smile, says: What is it, grand-daughter, you want from me?

I try to smile back; my face feels like a fence. Nothing, I say. No thing, not one single thing. No stone, no tree, no blanket, no book. No word, no touch, no house, no song. No fire or light or star or dawn.

She looks at me.

Turn away, I say. Be a statue. Be stone. Turn your back, your shawl, your long thick hair, your skirts, your coins, your crucifix. Turn away your arms, your singing arms, your arms once full of bracelets and your bracelets full of song.

But she looks at me.

Leave me. Leave me be. Be a stone. Be a tree. Be a stitch. Be still.

What does she think? That she can turn up now?

Don't look, I say. Don't look at me. I will take up threads. I will stitch you up. My needle is sharp. My needle is intent. I'll use skin and hair. My wire hair, your plaited hair. I'll use your shawl, its fine black threads. I'll use your home, your voice, your dreams, your arms. My needle is immense, my needle is obliging. My needle offers no resistance or opinion. My dumb needle does my own bidding. Your eyes and lips like three dumb leaves. I'll sew them up, your own dumb song, the dumb leaves of your face.

When I look again, she is gone. They are all gone. Hovsanna, grandmother, I've seen you always, everywhere I look and sleep. Now, I am older and less afraid. I want only to touch your face. Come back to me.

Excerpted from The Edge of The World, by Marcella Polain

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kiss Today Goodbye

A curious lifting of the mood. It happens sometimes. I pushed myself to the limit in that room of machines yesterday. Wondering if the physical pain would overtake all others. But it didn't. I felt nothing. Which is good. Depression is a great time to work out. You don't feel anything and don't care if you do.

But after a while the mood shifted. The darkness lifted. I think I'm getting addicted to the gym. For once a positive addiction. And as much as I wanted to, I did not repair to the local to have a shot.

No, I went home and listened to Copperline and read and fell asleep. Only to wake up early for a management meeting that never materialised. When my phone goes off at 5 it plays an eerie tune and I am jolted out of sleep wondering what the heck is happening.

Not that I wake up at 5. Only to switch off phone and crawl back into bed. After which Dadda's phone goes off. And Julie uncloses an eye and shifts herself out of bed. She actually gets up early enough for the gym.

Early morning meeting with the boss since management meeting was cancelled and I cleared some outstanding work. Which is always nice.

And may be why I'm feeling singularly uncrummy today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Only More Night

Your words flicker across the screen,
Shattered glass on soft white bread.

The minutes creep by with vague surmise. There is work to be done and my fingers, ever agile, fly over this dusty keyboard, willing myself to make sense. But sense is annihilated by a cold draught of pain, and I pause to take a breath and anasthetize my solar plexus. Or try to. The pain is constant. It doesn't pause, not even for breaths.

The world has turned black beneath my fingers.

The mist, a torn curtain made up of wispy ghosts, parts to reveal the centre of darkness.

And beyond this darkness?

Only more night.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sex Without Love

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health--just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

By Sharon Olds

Monday, January 14, 2008

Just Another Painted Lady

I get into work at two minutes to nine. Something is missing. That flurry of activity preceding one of these meetings. No one seems to be in the meeting room. I glance around to see what the other HODs are doing. Nothing, seemingly.

I sidle over to Vincent, our head of marketing, who is placidly tapping away at his keyboard, either answering emails or checking out X-rated sites, and ask him about it. He says it's been postponed. And besides, today's meeting was supposed to be at 2.

Then he turns his quiet scrutiny on me and asks me if I'm feeling OK. Hmmm. I've just emerged from the gym and I'm supposed to be rosy and flushed. Apparently not. According to Vince, I look ill. (I'm thinking more upset than ill but we won't split straws here)

So I proceed to what is euphemistically known as the cloakroom to paper over my emotions; to acquire that smooth veneer which only make-up gives, swallowing lines and individuality so I emerge, more of the same, more of the same, more of the same.

Just another painted lady.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


The long slow mourning has begun
and the air resounds
with the gentle sounds
of someone weeping
You go creeping
into night
I watch you leave
and know I can't follow
You were never mine
but I don't know
how to let you go.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Joy in the Morning

I finished the speech. I got an SMS from my boss last night asking for it and it was one in the morning and I was already pickled on two brandies and no food. So I asked if I could send it this morning.

He said OK.

He sounded stern.

I think he was disappointed in me. I'm the one who writes a speech in half an hour. Usually. But there was this writer's block to contend with (why do writers have to be such fucking prima donnas? Why can't they just deliver on demand?) and much as I wanted to, I couldn't write a single word.

Not one.

Troubled dreams, words swimming in and out - what to say, what to say, what to say that hasn't been said before?

This morning, I made my way to D'lish to write. Words pouring out because I had no choice. Fingers flying over a quiet keyboard. The speech took shape.

Re-reading and this enough, does it say what it has to?

I don't know.

Performance anxiety cripples me. In my last year at uni, I would get physically ill doing my assignments. By then my lecturers had soaring expectations. The higher their expectations, the more like crap I felt. I was so afraid they would discover that I was really not worth that much after all.

Then the boss SMS-ed me back:

"Read it! This is the best one!"

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Lush Chronicles

There are different qualities of silence. Some silence is soothing. Like the silence after a nuclear holocaust. You traverse the dead rows until you lie down and become part of it.

Put your hand in the hand of the man who made the water...

Sometimes there is silence in a bar, amidst the noise and revelry and dancing and carousing. Sometimes it is a screaming silence and you wonder, whither the devastated landscape? At least that was right, appropriate, familiar, comforting. I can't take this silence. Somebody please, put me out of my misery.

So I pass out. (it's the only thing to do)

Sometimes the silence is in your mind. And you sit in front of the computer trying desperately to type out the words that will form part of another blockbuster speech to be quoted on blogs, discussed as part of the cult of personality that you don't approve of but have been so busy building, nevertheless.

The words don't come.

things fall apart; the centre cannot hold...

There is only silence.

Silence and tears.

In secret we met
in silence I grieve
that your heart could forget
your spirit deceive
if I should meet thee
after long years
how should I greet thee
with silence and tears.

At Starbucks now, charged on caffeine, shots and shots and shots of caffeine. And these voices in my head that won't leave me alone.

They tell me to jump.

I wonder: jump where?

I think

I need



Sunday, January 06, 2008

Just Sad

I met an old man once. He lowered his pants and invited me to come touch him. I backed away horrified, trying to make out just what the chubby satyr was trying to show me. He was so tiny it would have been laughable if I had not been nine years old.

He was sad in his absence.

So sad in his absence.

Years later, Anita and I were having tea with another man. He was supposed to talk about the upcoming National Budget. Instead, he sipped his Lapsang Souchong, licked creamy fingers and spoke of life's ethereal unreality.

"Everyday, I put a fresh rose in the vase on my table to remind myself of how fleeting life really is."

He strove for depth as his eyes undressed us. Anita flashed me a look of irritation; this is not what we came for.

He was sad in his absence.

So sad in his absence.

Today I find myself empty, emitting smoke, shadows, my pen dry, my spirit withered. I reach inside me and find nothing; rail at the heavens but the angels are silent.

And know for the first time I'm truly alone.

I am sad in my absence.

So sad in my absence.

Just sad.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Meandering through foggy streets in a strange place...

I went to Fraser's Hill because a fire was in my brain. Like Yeats and that hazel wood. I didn't see the silver apples of the moon and the golden apples of the sun, but I did spend a lot of time by myself writing and reading.

I wandered lonely as a ghost through foggy winding streets at night in short-sleeved tee-shirts and shorts. I kept myself warm with a bellyful of wine. Wine on an empty stomach is kind of vertiginous. I was falling, falling, falling...

When it got too cold, I crawled into my bed-curtained, four-poster bed (I was staying at the Smokehouse and as the staff were only too pleased to point out, it tried to retain its 1920s charm), pulled up the covers and shivered drowsily.

Not that I slept. Drunk as I was, I couldn't.

It was New Year's Eve and my phone connection was wonky (I couldn't receive calls and texts were intermittent at best). I wrote furiously into my journal and just before midnight peeled off my clothes because it seemed more honest to see in the year naked, cold as I was.

Yes. To be naked was to be free of artifice or at least, freer than this.

The hotel was famous for ghosts and they invited me to come out and play. Friendly ghosts who creaked and rustled and listened to me pouring out my madness and misery until I was empty and ready to fade.

I sent a friend the following message:

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind. Happy New Year!

And I had. I just don't remember when.

The old-fashioned streetlamps glowed yellow in the fog sending forth cupolas of light that stood out in the misty whiteness illuminating nothing. Diamonds flowed from the pine tree leaves onto the parked cars. I sat cross-legged on a park bench outside the hotel wrapped in nothing but complacency and watched. Some cars sped by looking for parties but it was Fraser's Hill and there were none. At least, there was supposed to be one, at Pine's, and I went looking for it, driving drunk on narrow unilluminated windy streets and got lost.

Blackest night.

Unfamiliar roads.

Head not right.

I found my way to the town centre and parked. Getting out to greet the hot dog guy. I thought I would see in New Year's with him, over a hot dog, but I finished my dog and it was still half and hour to, and I decided it would be less lonely to see it in alone. So I wiped my sticky hands on my t-shirt, tipped him generously, wished him a Happy New Year and took off.
Back to the hotel, to sleep perchance to dream.

Ay, that was the rub.

But I didn't sleep (no, not even the sleep of death and no dreams came).

A few more text messages, another glass of wine...and I huddled under the thin blankets feeling something tear inside.

Then it was morning and I woke up just in time for breakfast. And went back to sleep after, hungover.

I wandered through the friendly roads, and leaves brushed silently against my face.

Someone asked me: "Miss are you alone?"

I said: "Yes."

He said: "Do you want to come on a trail and look at the birds? We have beautiful birds here. I'm taking some Japanese guests and you can tag along for free. It's an easy trail. You'll like it."

It was kind.

But I wanted to be left alone.

So I said: "Thanks."

And didn't go.

I've made up my mind about some things.

And not about others.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

Happy New Year.