Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bingo on a Saturday Night

My oldest boyfriend, George, is in town. He's pushing 90 but still sounds robust on the phone. He called to tell me he landed in KL amidst a flurry of tragedies. A stroke, cancer, bipolar disorder. I listen sympathetically. KL ain't what it used to be, huh? Unhealthy place now. He laughs. He left in the 60s. A war hero. He's back for a World War Two Memorial celebration in Singapore.

George is a man of few words. I interviewed him for a project, getting his story for my collection. He doesn't take to many people but he took to me. Which was a mercy. And always called up to invite me for Dutch Burgher get-togethers at the Anglican church hall after that. Was fun, despite the fact that nearly everyone was twice my age.

Of course, they were curious, seeing as I wasn't the daughter or niece. They couldn't figure out the connection. And with a certain generation, connections are important. You need to be placed on the grid, so-and-so's daughter, so-and-so's granddaughter, so-and-so's niece. I was utterly, utterly unrelated to anyone. I was off the grid.

And I wrote the following after one such night out.

A Saturday Night

Bingo on a Saturday night
Old faces, eager young eyes
People I don't know.
Look at me in surprise.

Who is she, they ask Hyacinth
who walked in with me
George's new girlfriend,
she replies.

George is her husband.
George is 82.

She's very young,
Of course, says Hyacinth
What would he want
with another old woman?

Don't you mind?
Hell no.

What's your name dear?
Where are you from?
Are you related to so-and-so?
Their voices flutter,
Butterflies in my hair.

And then the bingo.
Pat calls out the numbers
22 is double chooks
and 11, legs.
(They always whistle when she says that)
8 the fat lady or gentleman.
Sweet 16 and never been kissed.
She chokes at 69, then accuses an old guy
of being obscene when he sniggers.

Bingo on a Saturday night,
Old faces, eager young eyes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Bellyful of Maggots

You see it's the extent of the treachery that gets to me. It's like the Dutch boy has removed his finger from the hole in the dyke. The trickle becomes a flow, the water gushes forth, the hole expands, the dyke collapses.

There is a flood. We are overwhelmed. We drown.

I'm drowning now. In all the lies you told me. I can't even seem to get my head around them.

Was there even the slightest semblance of truth in all this mendacity?

Each lie, like a maggot in my belly, eating away at me. And truth, like methylated spirit, to kill each maggot. But oh, does it sting. Each maggot killed feels like a tearing, a severance. I was cuddling my maggots, they took refuge inside me, my bastard children.

Lies, like tumours.

Lies, like festering sores.

Lies, like that look in your eyes.

I just don't understand why you would make all this effort. I'm not worth it. Really. And now, you're on the phone harrassing me. Constantly. Now that I don't want to speak to you.

You don't know, do you? You don't know just how much I know. And who told me. And how you now appear, a dimunitive figure, just sad and ridiculous.

Evil is, as it ever was, privative.

A lack of something.

A hole in the air.

An absence.

You shrink in front of my eyes. You become less and less. You turn to shadow.

While I keep vomitting maggots.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Sith Lord

He comes into the room and rubs his hands together. Affecting evil. Except that it is no affectation. He actually IS evil.

"You want a woman, you fuck her mind first. Then the body comes to you for free. Believe me, she will be begging for it. Look at me, I can't even seem to get rid of them. Which is a bummer. A guy gets bored. He likes some variety."

I nod fixated, wondering why he is deigning to share this information with me. Of course, I'm not in the running so I don't matter. But does he think I wouldn't share the information?

Then I glance across at the table. He's screwing four of the five women there. I watch their eyes as they look at him. Clearly, it doesn't matter what I say. He's got them wrapped around his pinky. He shares just a little with each. Just a little, just enough to let them know that the others are the enemy. Make sure everyone is civil. But always ensure there is an appropriate level of mistrust. We cannot have midnight bonding sessions. You know how women get when they're friends.

He catches each eye in turn with a significant look. As if to say, "See what I'm dealing with? See how she is all over me like spaghetti sauce? This woman doesn't know what's what. She just can't let go. When you know, you're all I want."

He surreptitiously sends each one a text message in turn, assuring her of her utter importance in this bevy of beauties. He calls each when they leave and get home. To make sure they got the right impressions. It is so important, keeping all this square. Maybe he'll invest in the latest relationship management software - to square the stories, the birthdays, the anniversaries, the significant events. Yes, who would have thought that it could be used for this? To hell with customers, who cares about customers?

It's getting late. One by one the girlfriends have faded out, too tired to out-wait the other. They know he will call anyway. Maybe they wont get together tonight. Maybe it will be tomorrow.

He lights a cigarette and contemplates just how easy it is. Women are like dogs. You train them and they respond. Gets into his car and makes the five-minute drive back home.

Where he fucks his (ex?)-wife who just happens to live with him.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Onion and Garlic Tales

I realise that both Julie and I usually turn up in JB looking ragged and weary for Mum to minister to. (Mum's usual comment is aiyo, I wanted to cry when I saw her!)

And despite the fact that having one of us (OK having me, not Julie so much) around means double or triple work for her, she is usually quite cheerful about it.

Last night I crawled into Mummy's bed cos I was pretty cold. It had been raining incessantly. Now if you're going to crawl into somebody's bed at four in the morning, one would think you would do it discreetly, or rather silently.

Not me. She doesn't call me baby elephant for nothing. So it's pound, step on, oops, every step of the way. Mummy wakes up and asks what the matter is. I say I'm cold. So she cuddles me. And I warm up real fast. (I know, I know, disgraceful 36-year-old, but what to do? some of us never grow up)

Then I proceed to sleep till afternoon. I am aware of some vague ineffectual attempts to get me up, but I'm not budging.

So I come downstairs past noon to listen to tales of Elliot's latest misadventures. Apparently he stretched from where he was tied up to get Mum's slippers and chew them. She is livid.

"He's not a puppy anymore."

Then she ponders on it and decides he was demonstrating his displeasure not at her, but at me. For not taking him out for a walk yesterday. I was busy sleeping, remember?

"Ivan let them go the whole night and only tied them up when he was going up and he still does this!"

I am intrigued. Our two doggies are mortal enemies and cannot be freed together as fur and blood tend to fly. "He let them go together? And they didn't fight?"

"Not with Ivan around. He holds a broom and warns them first. They know what they'll get."

Now Mum is making chicken rice. And the kitchen smells very yummy. Chubs asked if I could make the lemon curd cake but I forgot to bring my recipe book. At least, I think I forgot. Must go look. Or ask Jackie if she has the recipe.

I like baking.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

JB Saturdays

It doesn't help that I only dropped off at five in the morning. Mum staggers to my door barely four hours later and starts her early morning chatter:

"Jenny, you wanna go Pasar Tani? Or you wanna go for breakfast? OK come, let's go for breakfast. Hurry up girl!"

So I wake up and shake sleep from my hair and throw on some crumpled clothes. Mum eyes me askance. "You didn't iron that." Then she shrugs philosophically. At least I'm up and that's saying something.

Chubs, who has been shaken out of sleep is also grumpy. I come down to greet the two doggies. I don't understand why Elliot is looking so worried (I realise later that he thinks I'm leaving already - poor Elliot, his life is so full of uncertainty, we come, we go, and he remains tied up).

Anyway we arrive at Kerala Restaurant too late for the appam. Uncle Joe is sitting at his accustomed place at the cash register looking placid. He smiles and nods. We order roti canai instead. And mutton curry. The mutton curry arrives sans mutton. Apparently they don't have the ones that have been chopped up small small. Bru Coffees all round. Mum glances at her watch and mentally calculates what time we can call Jackie to wish her. It's her birthday. I'm hoping that she has received all the cards by now.

Then it's off to Pasar Tani. Chubs stops near the rickety stairs. He's gonna stay in the car and read his PG Wodehouse. I am going to follow Mum and be the pack horse. I look around trying to take note of this pageant around me. Two people quote higher prices than what is written on the cards and Mum bristles up in conscious reproof. The vegetable ladies are grumpy. The fruit guys are jovial. One old fruit guy offers me a slice of jackfruit. It is very very sweet and soon my fingers are sticky with juice.

"Alamak, mak mertua lalu belakang tak nampak." (roughly translated: your mother-in-law has just passed behind you, you didn't see her)

I stare at the man in surprise. "Sorry?"

Apparently it is a pepatah Melayu (Malay saying). I'm not sure if the saying has to do with eating jackfruit, or sweet fruit, or sticky fruit and forebear to ask. I am allergic to mothers-in-law, imaginary or otherwise.

Being a lazy child, not interested in lugging around a lot of heavy plastic bags I make frequent trips to the car where Chubs is relaxing, seat back, reading his Wodehouse and listening to the radio (some things never change).

Finally, all the marketing is done and Mums has arrived at her plants stall. This signals the end of or Pasar Tani trip. Her mouth opens slightly and her eyes zone out into her junkie look. (some things really never change)

Then I think, OK we're off home. But it is not to be. Mum doesn't get a chance to run her errands often, what with Chubs busy with peak period at the office and all (altho I did tell her I'd be back for a week this time, which means we could spread them out), so she wants to go to the Post Office to pay a bill. And stop along the way to buy bread. Lack of sleep is starting to get to me and I feel myself getting grumpy.

But Mums says - go get your refund (the car petrol hike refund thingy) and I say, aiya dowanlar...and Chubs says, you'd better, after all, they reduced petrol prices today, so they may take this off. So I go, pay the bill and get my refund (it takes all of five minutes, for which I am pleasantly surprised) and then finally, finally we make our way home.

Time to shower and sleep. Except that I need to get on the net to check my Facebook and email. Mum looks at me and shakes her head: "You are addicted, aren't you?"

I nod, eyes riveted on the screen.

For sure.

Say What You Need To Say

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open

Say what you need to say...

I'm back home in JB. Took a slow drive and calmed down. I am a child of highways, the road soothes me, it lulls me into a meditative peace. I need to drive alone. I need to switch off the phone and just be alone with my thoughts for a while.

From that calm sometimes leviathans emerge, but oftentimes I just watch the procession of thoughts tread by in my head as my fingers search out the best radio station. Sometimes I hit a song I like. Sometimes it all goes distorted. Sometimes, there is only silence.

And I talk to people in my head and tell them what I have to tell them. I compose beautiful letters and messages and blogposts (pity I forget what I think as soon as I sit down to write them)

And what I need to say is:

No cause. No cause.

It explains everything. And nothing.

So you go figure it out.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Going Home

The morning after a binge, the world seems tinged with ashes and dust. The light is rusty, the air unclean. And the music comes to me distorted, like a soundtrack by Teenage Fan Club.

Let everything that is to fall, fall, beginning with tired love.

I'm glad I'm leaving. If only temporarily. There are places to visit, people to see. Nothing to tie me here. There was little before and now there is even less.

We met Rejane yesterday. And that was interesting. We met Richard (not the yoga nazi) yesterday. And that was interesting. We ate the best prawn sambal in the world, at Backyard and that was interesting. We shared some very honest moments fuelled by the alcholic haze. (OK Richard and Mary weren't drinking, Rejane and I were, but everyone seemed sober and real. Very real)

I had four whiskies (four!) all told, and still drove back sober (I am seriously going to have to do something about my increasing tolerance level).

Mary and I are out to Mid Valley today to eat the incomparable chicken rice. And get a refund for my lost parking ticket. And then I'll be off with Nits and Adek to WIP. Maybe call Rejane to see what she is doing later as both my amigas are going to ditch me early. Prior engagements.

Maybe it will be an early night as I intend to take off early tomorrow.

I just want to go home.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Morning After

I wake with a pit of heaving magma in my centre. Doesn't this feeling go away in the morning? Isn't it a denizen of the night? Apparently not. Apparently it will stay with me until it is fully out of my system.

I sometimes wish I had a few more skins.

I like how it feels not to feel.

Think I'm gonna get drunk tonight as well.

Later for you.


OK I'm drunk now. I'm writing this on two whiskies. Which is like way above my limit. Although I wish I could open a bottle of wine by myself and chug it down like mineral water. Maybe that would numb me.

Everything hurts. A mass or raw nerve endings.

I drove to Backyard with Mary Zack of the broken toe fame. She came because I told her I seriously needed to get drunk and there was so much shit going down that I could no longer handle it. Too much sadness and misery and despair and illness and hurt. All at once.

Too much!

More than I could handle. Not without a drink or a hundred.

I think my tolerance is rising. Two whiskies and I feel nothing. I mean everything is thrown into sharp relief, even the pain, even the sense of abandonment, but still...I discussed Jane Austen and Jane Eyre and drove home sober. Although I was drunk. And my heart felt like a lump of lead in my chest. Even then.

Look for the girl with the broken smile, ask her if she wants to stay a while and she will be loved.

But I'm not.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


OK time for a good old update, the old-fashioned kind, the kind that tells you what's going on without me without resorting to poetry or metaphors or streams of consciousness. Or hints.

A lot in fact. I quit my job. My last day was 8/8/8 which is kinda cool. I still work for the company though. Sort of. I'm supposed to be on retainer. In fact I'm at D'lish Bangsar waiting for the ex-boss to come and practice his speech. Same old same old.

Having given up my job, I had to surrender my laptop (definitely the more painful sacrifice of the two). But it was a blessing in disguise. Having to surrender my laptop, I had to go see what was available in the shape of laptops. And I got my wonderful PollyAnna, a red Dell, which is not just functional, it's pretty. And having a laptop, I needed to get a laptop bag. Did you know that these are now fashion accessories? Go figure. Well anyway, I got a pretty red laptop bag from Mid Valley. I love it. Fits all my stuff. And PollyAnna. What more could I ask for? (I'm getting the 'my life is now perfect' feel to this).

I'm supposed to buy a digital camera, and the one I want, I'm attracted to because of aesthetics rather than functions. It's so pretty. When I asked the girl to remove it from the display window, I felt a thrill. It's red, see? BMW red. I love red. Or did you already guess that? However bossy boots little sister asked me not to get anything without checking with her as cameras may actually be cheaper in the UK. So I held off. With heroic restraint. Sometimes I actually make myself proud of me.

I lost my parking ticket. (Which is not a major change, but just the kind of pulling a Jennifer that I thought would amuse you). I found it again after I had paid the fine. It was on my windscreen where some kind soul, who found it on the ground, had put it. By that time it was too late to get a refund (apparently the refunds need to be approved by executives and the mere cashiers who took your money cannot give it back) so I'll have to go to Megamall once again. With Mary. Maybe not. She is still hobbling. Her toe remains broken.

I'm supposed to be a freelancer now but haven't actively started looking for work. Feel tired. A bone-deep weariness that comes from somewhere and goes to nowhere and there is nothing I seem to be able to do about it. Can't wait to get to Campion's sequestered vale, altho Jackie has threatened to drag me off to France instead (but since I love France and Paris is my favourite city in the world, I'm not objecting).

Last night I dreamt somebody loved me.

No hope.

No harm.

Just another false alarm.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Groundhog Day has decided to extend its run.

Monday, August 18, 2008

GroundHog Day

I did it again. One every year. Every 10 years. Who knows? I never seem to get out of today and into tomorrow.

Yeah, the body ages and weakens. The mind becomes more clouded. So we mark the passing years with decay rather than the onset of wisdom.

Round and round and round we go, where we get off nobody knows. Moving in circles, always pain, nobody to turn to, nobody.

I wish I was real.

I wish I was not a watercolour.

I wish I didn't wash off.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Dream Within A Dream

The crow lands on my shoulder: "Give up Jenn. Move on..."

"Quoth the raven, nevermore?" I retort mockingly.

"Poe? I would have figured you for better...but if that's how you want to go...Take this kiss upon thy brow," he pecks me hard and flutters away.

I lift my hand to stem the trickle of blood from my forehead and continue where the denizen of doom left off:

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand --
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep -- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why I Love Tristan

I am surveying the wreck of my latest almost-relationship. There is my heart lying battered on the ground, smoke rising from the crevices. It feels strangely peaceful to have my heart outside my body for a while. It doesn't hurt so much.

Tristan appears behind me and looks over my shoulder.

"Another one Jenn? Boy, you sure know how to pick 'em."

"Sometimes, they pick me," I say, hiccuping between a chuckle and a sob.

"Yeah sweetie, but you can always say no."

He examines the grooves on my heart and shakes his head: "Addiction."

"Not love?"


"I thought for sure it was love this time."

I lift the messy organ off the ground and hand it to him: "Why don't you stomp it some more while you're at it?"

Tristan smiles, dusts off my heart gently and places it back in my chest cavity. "A sting, and then peace..."

I start to cry of course. It's all I ever seem to do at this stage and he holds my hand and just allows me to wail. (This is why I love Tristan. This is why I will always love Tristan)

When the sobs subside, he swings my hand in the air: "Let's run away."

"OK, where?"

"The beach?"


So we pack into his rattletrap of a car, stopping along the way for supplies. At the beach we unpack our cask wine, served up in jelly glasses and prawn cocktail, which we eat with our fingers. Somewhere at the back of my mind I am aware of the consequences. I know I am going to feel plenty sick tomorrow. But who cares? Tomorrow is tomorrow. And it is still only today.

As we chug the cheap wine, we grow maudlin, sing songs, swap stories. I ask about boa constrictor girl, one of his girlfriends who insists on sleeping with her snake. And I don't mean that in a sexy way. Tristan shakes his head and sighs. She was interesting, but she is so over. I ask about the bliss-fairy and he perks up. Yes, they went out a couple of days ago. May be something there.

And he asks about Rumpelstiltskin, my latest disaster. And I tell him. Thus, we reduce our exes to some strange quirk or body part, draining them of humanity. They're easier to deal with like this. Not real people anymore. Just a collection of foibles and ANYONE can get over a collection of foibles.

Even me.

It's early and the sun is rising. Tristan gathers me close and I lay my head on his shoulder and shut my eyes. There is a hush in the air, and in that magical moment, the pain dissolves.

I open my eyes to find Tristan has vanished.

I feel sick from the cheap wine and cold prawns like I knew I would.

Tomorrow has come.

But I feel better all the same.

And this is why I love Tristan.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

There Is A Crack In Everything God Made

Look at me.

Look closer.

Right deep into my eyes.

See the crack?

Yes, it's been there for so long now. Tired of trying to hold it together.

Everything crumbles. Everything fades. Everything tastes of ashes.

See the crack?

I don't remember when it got there. But I feel it at the centre of my being.

See the crack? I'm Humpty Dumpty and you can't put me together again. I'm Alice in a Wonderland falling through the hole. Slick walls. I cannot hold on.

You can't help me.

Nobody can.

I know you want to protect me, but you can't.

Nobody can.

There is a crack, a crack in evertyhing
That is how the light gets in
That is how the light gets in
That is how the light gets in...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Fray is Right; I'm Starting to Unravel

In sooth, I know not why I am so sad.

Maybe it's all the late nights. Maybe it is the unaccustomed alcohol. Maybe it's the new people seeping in at the corners of my life. But I feel like something's changed, something profound and I'm left helpless, staring, wondering what's down that road, what's around the corner.

Words bleed from my fingers...I can't stop them. And I re-read things I wrote before and think oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, I remember how I felt then, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, this blows my mind.

Lear: Be your tears wet? Yes, faith. I pray, weep not.
If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me; for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong.
You have some cause, they have not.

Cordelia: No cause, no cause.