Friday, April 30, 2010

Be Still My Heart

Sometimes the storm simply means you're moving through it. The pain comes up to the light, only to be absorbed by it. It's an excruciating process, but clean. Necessary. Better than bearing all my griefs in my arms.

So yesterday was a day of monumental migraines and an expiration for most of the day, when I had planned to leave, to drive some 300 kilometres down South. Instead, I curled up for hours, trying to get comfortable, to get some blessed relief. But someone stood on the inside of my head and banged away with a sledgehammer.

I felt it.

Dhoom, dhoom, dhoom.

And I kept feeling it, until tired from all that pain, I succumbed and took two Panadols. And then a half hour later, the pain subsided. But by then, I was too exhausted from wrestling with the pain, and too weak, to pack up the car and leave.

And now it's today and I can go. I need to get a birthday cake along the way. And I want to go alone.

Somehow, as time goes on, I seem to place a higher and higher value on being solitary. When voices crowd in, I put up my hands and push them away. Shut them out.

Shut everyone out.

For now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Giving Up

Sometimes when all else fails, all that's left is for you to get over the one you had given up trying to get over.

I feel myself tear open and I'm falling and I don't know what to do when I hit the ground. It being me, I know I'll bounce a few times before I shatter. That's the way it goes. That's the way it always goes.

Why aren't I dead yet? If life is all pain, where is the savour?

Tonight, I got lost in Shah Alam and I thought of you and I missed you. If you were around, I'd have called you to say, hey I'm your neck of the woods and I'm lost. How do I get to where I want to go?

You were always brilliant with directions.

And I miss you. And I wish you were still here.

Why did you have to go?

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, and thou no breath at all?

Maybe you're reading this somewhere. You always said, write to me. And I did.

And guess what? It's been five years and I'm still writing to you.

My heart is broken, the way yours was. You willed yourself dead. How did you do it? What's the secret?

I have an interview tomorrow and I have to be there bright and early, asking questions, nodding and looking interested.

I have an interview and I have to bathe my eyes, red and small from too much weeping.

Why should a horse, a dog, a rat....

I've decided to give up. Something happened and I can't go back there. And I felt my heart start to shatter. And you know the thing with my heart. It keeps shattering, but doesn't quite kill me. It leaves me suspended, neither living nor quite dead.

Are you happy now?

Was it worth it?

We never said goodbye.

I love you.

And we never said goodbye.

And I love you.

And we never said goodbye.

So I'll keep talking to you if that's OK.

And maybe I'll see you around sometime.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


We both drove out, two cars, which seems a little wasteful, but then Maggot destroyed both our number plates. Her back one and my front one. He goes mad dog when it storms (this is a new manifestation and quite scary) and destroys something. Destroys it so utterly and effectively that there is no putting it together again.

We made it to the mechanic fine, my car following hers, going slowly, our lack of number plates on display. The mechanic fixed our problems, laughed at us, asked about the destructive dog (Maggot by name, maggot by nature) and then I prepared to follow Mum back. Which is when things went horribly horribly wrong.

I'm following her as she misses the turning we're supposed to take, the turning she has probably taken, like a million times before, and goes on to Courts, beyond Courts and then the road ends and we are forced to turn into this posh housing estate. A posh housing estate with one entrance which also functions as the exit and Mum is manipulating her car through strange roads trying to find a way out. Instead of simply turning around and going out the way we came in.

We arrive at a great expanse of sand, a house under construction, which effectively puts paid the the road we were on. It's time to reverse, to get out of there. But even then, as she reverses, she stops a postman who is on his rounds, delivering mail in that very isolated and empty area, eyeing us curiously. She stops him and gets him to tell her how to get out. When it should be obvious. I mean, just the way we came in.

And then she turns the car and heads out the way we came in and we arrive at Courts once again. Now if you turn right at Courts, you end up the wrong way on a double lane going in a single direction. What you have to do is cross over to the other side of the road and make a turn into the road going in the opposite direction.

You'd think Mum would know this. She's lived here all her life. She's lived here as we, one by one, moved to KL. Instead, she gets on the wrong side of the road and starts trundling down happily in the wrong direction. I watch horrified, unable to do anything. I horned a few times when I saw she was about to get into the road, but Mum, not knowing who it was horning, ignored it and went anyway.

I have a choice. I could follow her on the wrong side of the road. I could cross over and get onto the right side. I cross over and get onto the right side. After all, two wrongs don't make a right. And watch in horror as the legitimate traffic coming in the opposite direction start honking and flashing her. What on earth does this old lady think she's doing? We continue like this for a while, me watching carefully, Mum, having lost sight of me thinking I'm lost, till we come to a traffic lights. At this point she crosses over to the right side of the road. (which is the left).

When we get home I ask her what she thinks she was doing. She covers it up. I said, why did you turn into that road? She said, she forgot. Didn't know. I say, why did you take us to that housing estate? She says, I missed the turning. How could you miss the turning when missing the turning meant crossing a whole road over to the other side?

She's been sick, very sick this week. That's why I'm here. I came over to look after her. She could barely get out of bed, heavy with phlegm and a shattered throat. I cooked and generally saw that she took her meds, etc. We went to the hospital and to pay a couple of bills on Wednesday. I drove.

Today is the first day she's driving. And I'm starting to be afraid that my ultra-capable Mum, the one who could do anything, talk to anybody, get anything she wanted, is no longer roadworthy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Backyard on a Thursday Night

Raymond and Mark have taken the floor
And I'm ensconced in my corner
A glass of white to chase
A glass of red
A notebook,
a volume of Sexton
And the music pulses.

I'm alive!
and the world shines for me today,
I'm alive!
suddenly I am here today.
Seems like forever (and a day)
thought I could never (feel this way)
is this really me?

I look up, clap, sing along,
Go back to my book.
Errol asks me: why so alone?
The deejay wants to know:
How can you read in all this noise?
Jerry is curious:
What book are you reading
In all this commotion?

Eccentricity by any other word
is still strange.
He turns over the cover
and shakes his head
Kisses me, and moves off.

Suddenly came the dawn (from the night),
suddenly I was born (into light)
How can it be real?
I'm alive, I'm alive, I'm alive.

And I read some more Sexton.

And the drunk get drunker
Move together
Bodies offering warmth for a night
What's your name again?

And I read some more Sexton.

Avoid the eyes of those who are too dumb to know
that eccentrics are not to be engaged.

Down on the corner
Out in the street
Where the poor boys are jamming
Bring your nickel, tap your feet.

They finish their second set
My cue to leave.
And I do, I'm outta there.
At 39, you're allowed to be weird
No one turns a hair.

A Letter to Whoever

Dear Barry,

There are levels to selling your body; selling your mind; selling your talent, hack though you may be. I've done it in various forms (as you so rightly pointed out, one needs to eat and fork out more than 10 bucks for a coffee at Starbucks, if one is to rest, complacent in these shifting sands of commerce and philosophy) but being a PR, writing what I knew not to be true, pretending honesty and upfrontNESS and manipulating outcomes, that was something else.

Some people are good at this. I used to despise them for being good at this, but now I don't. It takes a certain sort of toughness to be able to look someone in the eye and lie convincingly. In many ways I think I am still a child. I try to occupy my body, to be real, but more and more I float off.

I'm reading The Waves again, and funnily enough the character I most identify with is Rhoda, the girl who ends up killing herself, but you don't know it because of the way the novel is just don't hear her voice again, and later someone happens to mention poor Rhoda's suicide...all those years trailing after Jinny and Susan, trying to step firmly in the earth, make an imprint, matter.

At the moment writing is pouring out of me, but mostly broken, twisted things. I got myself a supply of sleeping pills for five nights, but the problem with sleeping pills is that the effect tends to stay in your system a lot longer. I didn't take one yesterday because I had come back to Johor and I only want to take them in KL, when I have to wake up early and work...and I tossed and turned and threw off the twisted sheets and generally made a nuisance of myself.

There is something in me, something, something, slick and slimy and writhing...that I grow so big to contain it and end up disappearing...I don't know. Nothing makes sense and I don't expect it to anymore. What I think is, plod, one foot in front of another, take the next step, do what needs to be done, just do what needs to be done and then see if you can finish it. I hate the tattered remnants of projects unfinished, unnamed, unsigned, like aborted children trailing around, their vague pale faces full of question, full of longing, full of this great big NOTHING in the centre of me.

I'm sorry for inflicting this on you, Barry. It's relentless, I know.

But you caught me in one of those moods.

Monday, April 12, 2010

My New Best Friend

One little pink goodnight
and I'm floating over my body
trying to absorb the intricacies
of financing the roads we travel
the highways
the byways
and the little roads between.

My own road story
to be written by talking to
cotton heads nodding over
glasses of water
or sneezing over
dusty reports
churning out words
I don't care to read.

Not like Kerouac
who took off on his own journey
who imbibed the necessary
I want some of that
I want to drink
and write
and drink
and write

and hang by a thread

and fall

and fall

and fall

and fall...

I'd like to make myself believe
that planet Earth turns slowly
it's hard to say I'd rather stay awake
when I'm asleep
cos everything is never as it seems

And Kerouac told me to
Accept loss forever
Loss? I can't feel it now
Pain? I can't feel it now
I'm in the air looking on
at the body scored and riven
wondering what it's going to feel like
to crash all the way back down




I'll set my alarm now.


Saturday, April 10, 2010


Can't you stay a few days? You're just what I need Ben, because I - I have a fine position here, but I - well Dad left when I was such a baby and I never had the chance to talk to him and I still feel - kind of temporary about myself. Willy Loman, Death of a Salesman.

She stands a little ways away
looking in through the window
always on the outside
looking in.

I live a borrowed life, she says,
Unresolved, temporary
on someone else's time
floating over heads
like a thought

And she wonders
what it's like to breathe
to feel her chords vibrate
and words carry over the emptiness
filling the space between.

And she wonders
what it's like to occupy space
solid in this wooden chair
in this anonymous bar
full of people
empty of dreams.

And she wonders
what it's like
to have more weight
than a passing shadow.

Forever on the outside
looking in
she'll never know.

Lodged Between the Cracks

Back at Starbucks. Where it all started out. Well maybe not all. Maybe some. Starbucks takes me back to the one job I loathed probably the most in my life, and the one that paid me the most. Strange, isn't it, how money is unable to paper over misery? Or maybe not so strange.

Anyways here I am, ostensibly to do some research for my next project. Instead, I've had a shepherd's pie followed by a noir (gooey chocolate with cookie centre) and then read some of Naomi Wolf's memoir about her dad. Well, the book is actually about creativity and about how finding your creative passion is the one important thing in life.

And I arrived here with my laptop and bag of books (including a very very heavy coffee table book I will have to go through carefully) and my eyes were assaulted by people. People on people on people. Oh yeah, well, it IS the weekend. And Bangsar IS very popular. But still. Not a single solitary table for me with all my stuff.

And then I saw Adrian, my friend from Hollywood that I had met at a networking event. We don't stay in touch. We see each other once in a few years. And we catch up. He's a writer. And he tells me things I remember. About exiles being walking wounds. About the manipulative games supposedly nice people can play. About superficiality. That sort of thing. He's into a million projects at the moment, chasing life because someone happened to die in his arms. Someone, he didn't know. Someone who was only 40. Someone who had come for a quick game of football. Someone who had a wife and six kids depending on him.

Makes you think, huh? So Adrian has plunged himself into life, this endless eddying stream, not allowing a moment, a microsecond to escape. While I'm sitting here trying to ease myself into being silent and solitary.

I asked Adrian if he was happy. He said yes, most times. And he asked me if I was happy. I told him I was liminal. And he said that's not a word he hears in this part of the world. In fact, he's never heard it here. And I said, yeah, I read it in some poem in Australia.

And before this, on my way here, stuck in traffic, I kept telling myself, I control my moods, not these cars, not these badly behaved drivers, not this heat, I don't have to lose it...calm down, Jenny, calm down.

Then Rod Stewart started up on the radio and I found myself smiling. Rod Stewart reminded me of an old boss who would say, Jenny, do you have a hot date this Saturday? And I would ask why cautiously, knowing where this would lead. And he would say, how would you like to date me? Meaning, how would I like to write this particular column for the week, after which he would treat me to butter prawns. He had something about him, he made working Saturdays fun. I never knew how much fun until he left and working weekends became both interminable and untenable.

And I had a meeting with some bigwig who asked me if I would like to go back to my old newspaper and I said no. It was home, I grew up there, I loved it, but all the people who made it home, all the desks, chairs, clunky old computers, all gone. It had become a foreign place, gleaming and arrogant, not somewhere I would want to be. I told him, I don't fit into organizations. If you want to, give me work to do separately. But I'll never go back. Who was it who said you could never go home?

I don't remember.

But it's true.

So here I am at Starbucks, just getting along, trying to make it through today, trying to go home.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

I Don't Know How Not To

Yesterday I gave away my favourite fountain pen. I was sitting in one of those cute little armchairs, all curled up, scribbling away for dear life, when the man I loved showed up. He sat down next to me and chatted. It was one brandy later with no lunch after about a month of not drinking. So I was just a little high. No, higher. Yeah, higher.

And he said, what a beautiful pen, and reached out to take it. Running his fingers over the black and gold, he told me he loved fountain pens. And gave it back to me. I screwed the cover back on and held it out to him. My favourite fountain pen. The one that just minutes ago was recording this whirpool of longing I felt for him, washing over his waterproof boots as he smiled tolerantly.

Polite, but distant, as always.

What the fuck is wrong with me? I wondered. But it wasn't even a question. Here, take the pen. And I fished into my pencil box for the refills. You need to get more of these for it.

He tried it out on a piece of paper I had torn out of my journal. A firm hand. A few words. I don't think I'd really seen his handwriting before. He doesn't write. That's what I do. He sings. And suddenly that torn piece of paper became precious. I wanted to keep it.

So he sang. And I read my book some, clapped some, finished my journal entry some. And at the end, three brandies later, I collected my stuff and stumbled over to where he stood, behind the stage. Here, this is yours. He smiled. No, I can't do that. I can't take your pen. But I held it out, swaying silently, drunkedly determined.

And he took it, thanked me, collected his stuff to head out. No, he couldn't stay and hang out. No, not even for a while as he was meeting someone for dinner and then heading home to sleep. Bad throat and all that. You know how it goes.

Write something, I proferred the piece of paper. He wrote some Lennon lyrics. Signed it. I folded the paper carefully and stuffed it in my wallet.

No, I don't know why. No, I don't know what. No, I can't justify a single thing.

I'm so far past gone that I don't even remember what it was like to be heart whole.

I don't know how to love someone who will never love me.

And I don't know how not to.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter

Easter feels weird this year. For the first time, in a long time, I did not observe Lent. Did not give up alcohol or meat or sweets or anything. Did not give up being angry with people who made me angry, did not give up my unforgiveness or judgement, did not give up anything.

So when Mum asked if I was celebrating it, I said, feels strange to celebrate it without preparation.

I have done the fasting and abstinence thing before. Many times. But what I've never given up are my prejudices, my anger or my hatred. Those I've clutched to my chest like treasured bastard children I did not want to abort.

I'm still mad at drama queen though every day I tell myself, look, she's moved on, and I have to forget it. If I get the money back from her, bonus. But really, she didn't ask me, and I can safely blame myself for the whole drama of the weekend. Yes, she led me by the nose. But for someone who's been a reporter all these years and is trained to sift apart what people tell me (if I'm interviewing them) I swallowed everything she said hook, line and sinker without investigation.

I had coffee with a friend yesterday and we discussed my dreadful naivete. And I came to see that if I like you and esteem you as a friend, I probably will not question what you say even if your actions contradict your words. Case in point, a friend who told me she didn't know why she couldn't lose any weight when she ate so little. Of course, when she was saying this, she was stuffing her face with handfuls of greasy French Fries, but my brain could not make the connection between her rather disgusting eating habits and her considerable girth. No, instead, I believed her until another friend pointed out....poor thing, she does like to eat doesn't she?

Reading the transcendentalists now, who require you to make up your own mind about everything (so I can't sail along oblivious like I usually do) I realise that I have to come to some sort of understanding about myself and the world I live in. It's just dumb to take everything at face value and never question what anyone says because it hurts so much to view anyone I like with suspicion.

Better by far, to question everything, and not get caught out or surprised later on. Because I notice that when the disillusionment sets it, it goes pretty far and I tumble down the rabbit hole and take a long time to emerge. I go from a simple and transient liking to black hatred which eventually dwindles away to an even blacker indifference. The kind of indifference where, if you see the person being mowed down by a truck in front of you, your only reaction would be to turn and walk away in the opposite direction because bloodied corpses are icky and you have no room for ick in your life.

So now it's Easter and I'm still trying to figure out what to give up for Lent and what to give up for life and how to live my life.

I woke up to an empty house - Dadda and Julie must be in church. Years ago, Easter was a time for celebration - there was midnight mass which was always more impressive than the Christmas midnight mass, the lighting of the Paschal candle, the church in darkness....the sweet voices of the choir...all of us decked out in our new Sunday best. The final hymn was always a rousing rendition of "Jesus Christ is Risen Today". And we'd file out of church, hearts beating wildly to kiss all those friends and wish them a Happy Easter.

No presents, no Easter bunnies, no chocolate, but a feeling of joy, nevertheless.

This year, it's all ashes and dust, like Good Friday has decided to extend its transmission. No triumph, no starbursts, no joy.

Just a feeling of lingering desolation.