Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Lifetime of Bad Decisions

Usually my bad decisions don't bother me that much because I am the only one who has to suffer from them. But when it affects the life of my kitten...

Moonbeam died. I took her in for surgery, basically to sew up the hernia in her diaphragm, and she didn't survive the night.

I didn't have to. No matter what the vet recommended, I could have held out. I should have taken more time to consider it. After all, she was still happy and active...she was playing, always hungry. The only difficulty was in breathing - she tended to get out of breath.

But...she was happy.

Fasting her for the night before the surgery was an ordeal. Moonbeam gets hungry like a newborn and grazes every two hours. I had to take away the food from the room and she cried and cried. My last memory of her are those cries.

She is afraid of Rose so she didn't cry with her. Only me. Because I was her Mummy. And you cry with your Mummy in a way you wouldn't with strangers.

Still...I didn't think...I knew the surgery was dangerous. I knew it. I just thought she would survive. I didn't even pray, can you imagine? I should have been at church, reciting endless Rosaries or novenas for her life.

Because it was precious.

Because I did love her.

Instead, today, they called me to say she hadn't even survived the night. They came in the morning to find her dead. That means, as critical as her condition was, there was nobody to watch her overnight and intervene.

I touched her cold, cold body, stroked her soft, soft fur.

She was my baby.

She was my kitten.

The one that everybody loved.

I could have held out and kept her close to me and fed her whenever she cried and maybe just treated her for worms (which would explain the appetite).

Instead, I took her hungry, to the vet, didn't even say goodbye properly, didn't take her into my arms and kiss her and hold her and tell her everything was going to be all right. I was so confident and callous about it.

And now she's gone, on her way to the crematorium to be reduced to ashes.

And I'll never hold her again.

As I've broken down several times, my friends tell me it's OK, I loved her, I did it for the best and not to blame myself for it.

But I do.

I can't help it.

Nothing will bring her back. She could have lived a little longer, she could have been happy. She could have still been here with me and she would have.

No more operations.

No more.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Pajamas and Valley Girls

I've just watched The House Bunny on Netflix (Colin Hanks was such a non-starter there, but then, it wasn't really about him or any guy, except for Hef, I guess) and now I have a Valley girl in my head and she's chewing gum and saying, "like, hello, like well, like whatever."

It happens some times after you watch these shows.

So because I didn't do anything remotely productive today (OK I did take the two kittens to the vet, and Boom Boom is real sick now, breathing funny) and Rose and I went shopping for the usuals (yes, I pluralised that word deliberately) but still, it feels like, I didn't write anything or clear anything so today was not productive. I am clearing one story to sort of even it out and I know I won't be sleepy after it (that's my days now, up all night because of instant menopause brought about by the operation) so maybe I could transcribe the rest of my story and maybe even write the story. That would be a productive use of my time.

I am in the middle of The Sweet Dove Died - I find Leonora Eyre quite a chilling character - so ruthlessly elegant and feelingless and about to have a major breakdown because the young man she fancies has a mistress, the typical old woman-young man scenario (no, you are not above it all, you just think you are).

I added a few stitches to the Christmas decorations I was supposed to have started working on in December.

The cat next door continues to scream piteously but after having him over once and finding that he's a bit of a psycho, I ignore him now. I need to be giving that love to my own cats, at last count, five. Maybe I can buy them a cat hammock so they can hang out comfortably.

I went online and ordered three sets of pajamas. I figure, if I am going to be spending most of my time in pajamas. I need buy comfortable pajamas. The ones I have are on their last legs. Actually, I have to go look for the pajamas I had before. Surely they have to be there, somewhere.

I think I want to put on the rest of Hot Chicks as background noise for when I clear my story.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

The New Normal

You know how we walk around like zombies, thinking this pain is normal, thinking that this is all there is, thinking that if we can just endure tonight, tomorrow will take care of itself.

And then you go for a doctor's appointment and he tells you that it is not normal, that in fact, something is terribly wrong.  And that they need to cut you up and take out pieces of you to make things right.

Except that it won't.

Things will never go back to the normal it was before things started to go so very wrong by stealth and you didn't realise, you just didn't.

And now you try to get used to this body, missing some parts, the parts that let you sleep.

Those parts would have faded anyway, with your fading youth.

Eyes bloodshot.

Body burning.

Dry, crackle, die.

Dry, crackle, die.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Number of Things

Life is so full of a number of things. I've just paid my TNB bill...just in time. I read the bill I picked up just today (if I had waited one day, it would have been too late) and peered at it uncertainly, trying to figure out how much I had to pay. RM123? Well, that must mean that I didn't pay last month's bill as I thought I had.

And then I looked more closely and realised that this bill had a yellow stamp on it - a warning - that my electricity was due to be cut tomorrow if I didn't settle last month's bill. So I logged on to my computer, it took forever to load as I had allowed the battery to run out for days, and then I tried to log onto my bank...which took even longer. And then when I had by some miracle managed to do that and positioned everything so I could pay the refused to click. It required me to log out and log in again...why? I don't know. Because that's what happens when you forget to pay your electricity bill and you have left it to the last minute and the power company decides to threaten you and you become all thumbs.

I have been on a course of Barbara Pym novels (interspersed with more serious fare such as Montaigne's essays) and I find the notion of a spinster rather romantic. Overlooked, sort of dowdy women who dress down, always full of good works - no one really sees you, but everyone knows you're there, especially when they need a favour because, after all, you have nothing better to employ your time with. Right?

We always read about the spinsters - those women of an uncertain age - from the slightly mocking vantage point of men, or even, married women. They are figures of fun. Sexually starved and so, always inordinately interested in everyone else's business.

I think I might like making cups of tea and always having a freshly (or nearly freshly) baked cake on hand for visitors who drop in unannounced to tell me their troubles and cry on my shoulder.

In one way of course, I typify the classical spinster - I live in a house full of cats. And I mean full. Last count, 7. I need to find homes for three. Maybe four. Now, more than ever, I regret that I didn't give Smeagol up for adoption when I could have. Now it's too late. So I need to give up one of my adorable kittens.

They were orphaned at a week - their mother was run over by a speeding fiend who doesn't realise that you're not supposed to rev down condo carparks - while she was heading to feed her kittens. I came back from work at 10 at night and heard one crying. I couldn't resist that cry so I went in search of the one making it and found a tiny kitten, eyes and ears not open. I gathered her up and called Veronica - I needed help as I went about in search of milk for her. We found it, in a pet shop that was already closed (I banged on the doors in desperation) and the very nice people there let me in, listen to my garbled, rather hysterical explanation of finding the kitten, and sold me a jar of goat's milk powder.

I took her home, made the milk, fed her (Veronica was still there)...and then went to bed. Only to be awakened about one and a half hours later when she was hungry again. After I had fed her, she went to sleep. But the crying went on. I went down all 17 floors and found the next kitten. There was another one crying but I couldn't find it. And this one was screaming fit to beat the band. So I took her upstairs quickly and fed her and pooped and peed her.

At eight in the morning, Veronica called me. She had found the third. Actually the guards had called her at 3 in the morning but she was so tired, she didn't go down till five. And she brought the little ginger ball of fluff up to me, almost dead. She had been warming him (they were all so cold). I fed him and put him with his sisters. The next day, I took them to the vet who said they were healthy...but how was I going to keep them when they needed to be fed every one and a half hours and I had a full time job?

Here's where I have learned: just step into the breach and do what you can. Help will come for the parts that you can't. I called my friend Jacqui - she told me she could take them temporarily as her brother-in-law was due for an operation in three weeks. Well, three weeks were all I needed. When I took them back, their eyes were open and they could stagger around like little drunks. I quickly taught them to eat wet food (rather than drink milk) and Rose taught them to use the kitty litter. In one day.

So, here was the routine. They slept in the cat carrier (there was a hot water bottle under towels there) and they would come out to feed, use the kitty litter, get some cuddles, then go back to the cat carrier to sleep. They were good kitties.

Now they are about two months old and so cute, they'll melt your glasses. I wish I could share their pictures. But Jacqui hasn't shared the ones she took yesterday, with me yet. When she does, I will. Then you'll see.

Anyway, I'm sitting here writing this, when I really should be cleaning up their kitty litter (oh, there are reams and reams of poop in the sand and some smeared all over the floor) and then reading a few essays by Montaigne, then perhaps taking a shower (I'm covered in sweat because I have just run 5km, mainly because my body has become to unwieldy and caged in flesh and I need to create some room to breathe).

I want to continue to sit and write this but I know I will feel more virtuous if I go look for the wet wipes and start tackling the poop. Then maybe I can go downstairs and deposit some of the stinky plastic bags in the trash. Also the aluminium cans and plastic bottles and glass bottle in the recycling bin.

Life is so full of a number of things. Why is one of those things always poop?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

You Stopped Crying

You stopped crying because everyone told you how pathetic you are. That you should get over him already. That he wasn't worth it. You didn't believe them but you hardened your heart until it was nothing but an empty Coke can you could take out and kick around when you felt like it. It didn't matter. It was just your heart. This pathetic old heart that got broken because it didn't deserve to have its love returned.

You stopped crying because the tears and the source of the tears dried up. You stopped crying because something inside you died.

And you felt it die. And you knew that the world was a little duller, a little more bleary, that the colours you had before, were now gone. You stopped crying because you got used to the pain. This dull ache inside that twinges at times, but doesn't bleed. Not anymore. Your blood is thick now, it moves more slowly. It clots quickly. It is not thin and sparkling like champagne leaping through your, nothing makes your pulse race or your heart skip a beat.

You stopped crying but your eyes are shaded, hollowed, haunted. Not so as anyone would notice. But enough so you know that deep inside you, it's gone.

He's gone.

And your pain is not his business. He doesn't care but it is not for him to care.

In fact all he feels is disgust because your pain was so potent, so public and it rained down recriminations on his head. His friends said, how could you? How could you? Look at her! Don't you have a heart? How could you do this?

And he said, I can't pretend to love where I don't love. And please stop making me feel guilty about it. I want to move on with my life. You're either my friend or hers, and if you're hers, please just leave me alone. I don't want to hear it.

I'm tired of it.

I'm tired of her.

I'm tired of you.

You stopped crying because they told you he said that. What sort of fool could continue to love after you heard something like that?

You could.

You loved because you couldn't help yourself. You loved like a disease, an affliction. A weakness. A giving way. A tearing. A dissolution.

But you forced yourself to stop crying.

You also stopped laughing. But nobody noticed. They were just so glad you'd stopped crying.

And you stopped loving.

You wanted to stop breathing. But that was not allowed. They rained their voices down on you. Their concern. And you didn't want to disappoint them.

You were pathetic.

You knew that.

But they didn't have to know that.

So you went skydiving and wrote about it. You ate food and you took pictures of it. You joined clubs and you told the world, hey look at me, look at this, look how happy I am.

You smiled. You forced the light into your eyes. You posted your pictures on every social media platform you could lay your hands on. You wanted to be everywhere. In everything.

No one could miss you.

Look at my fabulous fabulous life, you said.

Look at all these friends. My friends. People I hang out with. People who care about me.

Look at how I'm never alone. Not even for a day.

Look at me.

Look at me!

LOOK AT ME!!!!!!

I'm not crying anymore, do you see?

I'm not crying.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

My Book

So my book is out. And I've run through the first very limited printing of 50 copies. Who would have thunk it? I thought 50 would be way more than enough. But, apparently not. So I'm printing 100 more.

I have lists of people to send it out to, people I want to give a copy (because they are not depressed enough, and a little more sadness is always good).

These are strange times.

I can't believe that I printed so many copies, that I'm doing readings and parties and book launches and signing the copies and and and...putting myself out there, as if my life depended on it.

And, while all this is going on, putting together the next book...and the next.

Why the urgency?

Beats me. I really have no idea.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Come What May

My dear, I don't know if you still read this; we have drifted so far apart...but yesterday I launched my first book. I selected a collection of my work - poems, prose pieces, formatted them into a proper book, designed a cover on Canva, found a printer...and printed 50 copies. They were beautiful.

Then, I organised a book launch. In a proper venue. OK, the venue was sort of informal but there was food and wine...both the best of the best...and I asked Mark to bring a speaker and a mike so I could give a reading.

I went up on stage, hammed it up, told a few lame jokes, then read three of the pieces. People clapped. I don't know if they were being polite or they actually enjoyed the selections. I realised that everything I write (even the stuff that is supposedly quirky and crazy) is sad. And that I am sad.

One of my guests (I invited quite a few and some didn't turn up which was good because there was not enough space for everybody) said the book was so sad. He had flipped through it.

(A horn is blasting away now, or maybe it's a car alarm)

I chose the 28th of April for a purpose. It was my mother's birthday. The book is dedicated to her and this was my way of honouring her.

I felt happy, sad and drunk, all at once.

Everyone wanted to buy a copy.

I handed them out for free and wrote things into the books...signed copies.

My dear, you're gone now. But I thought you would have liked to have seen me, liked to have seen me or been there.

Life goes on.

It does, you know. And things only happen when you make them happen.

Most times I feel like I'm being impelled by a force stronger and more resonant than me. I dig my feet into the ground and resist, but it lifts me up effortlessly and bears me along...and I'm too tired to fight it.

So I give in.

I give in, my dear.

I give in.

Come what may.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

That Awful Feeling

On Sunday I got the news that an uncle had died more than a year ago. On New Year's Day last year to be exact. My godmother had texted me the news.

I didn't really react - he was old, and it was so long since I had considered him family - he got together with some low class female almost as soon as my aunt died all those years ago and kicked his own children, my cousins, out of the house.

OK it's not as bad as it sounds because they didn't really live with him. Both were at boarding school and they simply went to stay with the aunts for the holiday. But being rejected by their only remaining parent in favour of some stray woman they had never met who was now employed in 'comforting' their father because they could not accept her? Well it was bad enough.

I had not thought about this uncle very much through the years. I heard about him from time to time - he was running a post office, he was jailed for suspected arson - but not much else. As far as I was concerned he was subhuman. What man does that to his kids?

I would have probably continued to feel the same way if my intensely nosey godmother hadn't done some detective work and stalked his new son's FB page. He had another child with this woman... And his son, more than two decades younger than his other children loved his dad. In fact, he considered him a great father, husband and a true inspiration.

His grief at his father's passing was apparent. As was his estrangement from his half brother and sister. He never contacted them to tell them that their father had died.

And as we went further back in his posts, we realised that my uncle had been sick a long time; that there had not been enough money for his treatment; that his youngest son had actually tried to do a crowdfunding campaign and only managed to collect some 30 pounds.

It was all so heartbreaking. That he died poor and sick. No matter what he had done. And that he never got to see his other children again. That he never got to meet his grandchildren.

And I thought about whether it was worth it, all these grudges we hold on to, way past their sell-by date.

And I thought about the grudges I hold and tried to imagine what it would feel like if they died while we were still estranged.

It's been a troubled few nights.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Little Birthday Interlude

It was close to 11 at night and I suddenly bethought myself of my father who was turning 80 in an hour. I assumed he was with one of my siblings because I didn't think they would let him see in his birthday alone. I called him. He didn't answer. Then he called back. I asked him where he was. At home. Who was with him? No one.

I said, OK, I'll come over.

I'll come over and see your birthday in with you.

I called Chubs. He was already in bed. And not willing to get up and drive all the way to see in the birthday. "I'll see him tomorrow," he said.

I rang off.

I called Sue-Ann. She was the one person who would know where I could get a cake, a birthday cake, at the last minute, this close to midnight. She did. She came through for me - first she tried to describe the place to me, then she sent me a location on Google.

I changed out of my nightclothes and sallied forth to look for this 24-hour cafe that sold birthday cakes. I found it. I parked. I bought the cake. I made it to my father's house at 11.23pm. There was loads of time to arrange the cake.

I stuck the eight candles in.

Then I decided that it should not only be the two of us celebrating the birthday.

I started calling and texting around.

Finally by 12, I had assembled my sister and her family on one phone and my two aunts and cousin (my father's sisters and niece) on another.

We sang his birthday in. He blew out his candles and cut his cake. It wasn't that great a cake, but it was miraculous, given the time of night. And here's the thing - it LOOKED the part. With strawberries and oreo cookies and chocolate cream.

We put away the cake, sipped the wine and then I was out of there and back home by 12.20am.

I felt sort of satisfied.

It was no great shakes, but at least, he didn't see in his 80th birthday alone.

That's something, isn't it?

And now I'm back home, resuming the transcribing that was interrupted when I suddenly had my brainwave.

Later for you.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The Smile Of A Mona

I watched the video where you were led to your death. Death by hanging. Rumour had it that you went defiantly. Rumour had it that your last words were that you could not die. They said you smiled on the way to the gallows.

I watched the video and saw, it was not true. Your face was contorted in fear. You were an ordinary woman, being marched, handcuffed, to your death.

An ordinary woman with an ordinary woman's terror.

And you died, after all.

None of this, of course made the slightest difference to the stories, the legends that grew up around you.

Quite frankly, I believed them too.

How could you not be swept up in the hysteria? The murder was so cruel. Unnecessarily so.

And you smiled in court. Every picture they took of you, you were grinning like a chimpanzee. You relished the attention. It was what you had longed for all your life.

You didn't look evil. Just crazy.

You didn't have the strength to carry out the heinous murder. The strength to slice through the bone.

It was the man who did it. Even the courts accepted that. You were just the third most culpable. There was the one who committed the murder. There was the one who got rid of the body and the weapons.

I am not quite sure what you did. Maybe you sliced off the easier parts, the parts with tendons rather than bone.

But the legends about you continued to grow. Men were afraid to look at you, afraid you would curse them with impotence.

And that was the real trouble.

Your smile emasculated them.

It fed into their primal fear of the female, the weaker but deadlier sex.



The man who was killed was a loathsome creature. He was willing to traffic with the devil to gain more power and wealth. During the documentary, they kept repeating - this was all about greed. They meant your greed. And your husband's.

Because you did what you did for money. But he did what he did for money too.

So, whose greed?

Your face as you were marched to the gallows said it all. Gone was the false mask of bravado. Gone were the one-liners that sent shivers down the spines of a nation obsessed.

You died.

You just died.

But oh, how they want you to rise. And show your face again.

And smile, Mona, just smile.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Panic Attack

There was a time when I used to cry on Sunday nights because I was terrified of Monday. I was about 9 years old at the time and in the wrong class. My class was too smart for me and I was way behind on every subject so I had not passed up my work for weeks, if not months.

Every Sunday night, I would hang out near the bathroom for some privacy and feel the tears roll down my cheeks. I would weep as if in despair because I was. I felt dumb and graceless and in the wrong place. I felt like everything they said about me was true, only more so.

I hated my life. I wish I could have gone back to pre-school days when I didn't go to school, when I could run and play in the park behind the house, when there was nothing either ominous or foreboding in my life.

Today, all of a sudden I had a panic attack. My stomach squeezed tight and I thought of Monday, of being unprepared for Monday, of being useless and of everyone hating me at work, and I felt sick.

I have no idea why I was revisiting one of the worst years of my life (there have been a few of those but none, I come to see, as bad as this one).

I am now trying to breathe slowly and calm down.

All the intervening years have disappeared and I'm back to how I was...frightened and so very, very alone.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

I'm back from Vegas and I'm exhausted. Not for the usual reasons. I ran past the slot machines while trying to make it to the various talks or presentations I wanted to attend - but because I flew there and back in a week - travel time equalled two days and the stay there, three days. I didn't get over the jet lag when I was there, and now I'm back and things are passing by in some sort of amorphous haze.

One good thing happened when I got back. Tim Tam was adopted. By the sweetest young expat couple who saw his pictures (and my snazzy write-up) on PetFinder and fell in love with him. He was delivered safely to his new home on Saturday.

A friend's mother passed away while I was airborne - the KL-London sector. Life has been going on with a vengeance while I was gone - but I feel strangely out of it - waking up when the sun has gone down to resume my nocturnal existence. This was the last day I could do that, though.

Tomorrow, real life begins again, with interviews, etc.

Tonight, I have to edit something, write something - I was supposed to meet a friend for dinner, but she's strangely silent and hasn't been answering the phone. It's OK. I will work and pay bills until she does.

I don't mind, really.

I don't mind anything at all.

I'm in that strange half world, out of sync with the rest of the world, and not really caring.

The cats love it. Firstly, they're so glad that TimTam the bandit is gone and that room is open territory once again. So after sleeping there some nights, they have come back to sleep with me or on me (as Sheba would prefer it). They're just enjoying the companionship after a hiatus of one week.

One week is a long time in the life of a cat.

I really wish I could rescue the cat next door. She cries so piteously and the owners are hard hearted. They keep her locked up in the balcony, without any companionship or attention. She is beautiful and she has the saddest eyes.

I dreamt that some rat was bothering me. I would have ignored me but it came right up to me and started nibbling or trying to bite me. Anyway, I picked it up by the scruff of its neck and threw it against a wall. It splattered. In my dreams, the rats splattered easily.

And then there was another rat. This time, I was closer to the wall, so I was not sure if there was enough distance to create the force to make the rat splatter. But splatter it did. There was a lot of other stuff in this dream, about being at the base camp of a mountain in the Himalaya and other things...which fade. What stays with me is the rat splattering.

Yesterday I dreamt of my grandfather who has been dead for 32 years. I dreamt he was alive and strong and buff. He was working out and muscled - and I calculated his age and realised that in my dream, he was 110 years old. He was going strong and writing his will so that he gave away his money to other people, people who were not his family. Because as he said quite clearly, he didn't like his family.

And I thought in my dream (being a member of his family) that he was wrong. was HIS money and his choice about what to do with it.

Friday, March 16, 2018

What Matters The Most

So I find out today that one of my best friends has cirrhosis of the liver. We haven't really kept in touch and honestly, are any of these petty fights or slights worth it?

Yesterday I humbled myself abjectly and apologised to Sheba for hurting his feelings (he had stopped talking to me and was manifesting his hurt and outrage by alternately avoiding me and puking his guts out) and I was sorry, so sorry.

I think at some point you figure out what and who matters the most.

There are those that you love, companions along the way, and you reprioritise and refocus.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

I Don't Know Why

There is a certain nervousness that starts moving in your blood, when you haven't moved enough. You become suspicious, paranoid, you pounce on words that have no meaning, no intention behind them.

This is me.

I sat in Coffee Bean having my dinner and reading my book and a strange man followed me out of there and tried to strike up a conversation. He looked harmless and I felt vaguely sorry for him but any attempt to answer his question and cut short the conversation led to another question, another attempt to prolong this pointless conversation...and suddenly I felt weary.

My body recoiled. I don't like people who steal my energy. It is unbecoming.

So I cut short the conversation abruptly, since he hadn't allowed me to do it politely, with my body half turned away to flee...he hadn't respected my time or space and I had no choice. I realised that Malaysians don't like confrontation and we don't like being rude when strangers accost us in shopping centres to ask what book we are reading. Even if there is something vaguely suspicious about these strangers. Even if they carry blue canvas bags and sit in Coffee Bean without buying anything. Even if they say that my newspaper is way too expensive and we should distribute it for free. Even if they get on every last nerve. Even if their eyes are desperate and they want to talk and they want to talk.

So I cut short the conversation and turned to leave. His face fell, it shut like a parasol and I felt sorry but I wanted to be away, not there chatting in the middle of a shopping centre with an uninteresting stranger who sought desperately to be interesting, who pinioned me to the ground, demanded my time.

You can't have my time.

You can't have my time unless I choose to give it to you.

And I don't choose.

Not anymore.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Written On The Body

I need to use my body more, because when I don' messes with my mind. My blood congeals and I start holding my breath, my thoughts stagger in the same familiar loops...and I weep, I weep.

I walked far today - I walked and walked and I would have walked some more, but a light shower, like a blessing, a benediction started - and I didn't know if it would get heavy, if I would be soaked. There were not so many people around today and I wondered at that. It was dark (the street lamps were not lit) and I wondered at that. I had no idea that it was so late.

But there were cats out, and every so often I stooped down and placed a handful of biscuits on the ground where they could get at them once I had passed on (they are shy, they do not know me, they do not trust me). I fed many cats. Or maybe they were the same cats, over and over. I do not know.

I listened to Bernard in his last soliloquy and then the book ended and so I started it again. I tried to share the book with Tommy, gave him my own copy, the copy that I loved, went home and typed out Jeanette Winterson's long essay on The Waves for him...and it had the opposite effect that it had on me. When I read Winterson's essay, I wanted to dive back into the book that I had rejected as so much unnecessary nonsense. I persevered and it opened itself up to me, its hidden beauty which had actually been there, in plain sight, but I had not the eyes to see.

I wonder at that. How much beauty is hidden from me because I refuse to see? I see what is glaring and brash and obvious. I see it and although I should have more wit, I fall for it.

I fall for it.

I brush away my feelings and I need to stop doing that. Walking helps me put things in perspective. It helps me think about things, sort through strands.

Being sedentary - I guess our bodies were not built to be sedentary. Ivana told me that once. She said, our bodies haven't evolved to suit this sedentary lifestyle and that is why - we grow sick and swollen, and that is why we lead such unfulfilled lives. Running on a machine in the gym does not feels...industrial.

I want to be as natural as possible.

But I don't know how.

So I stagger about, stop breathing, feel my mind congeal into something hard, unlovely.

I write because I try to make sense of the world.

But the world remains impervious and unexplained.

My mind has tried to save me and it hasn't succeeded.

My heart simply leads me astray as often as it can.

Maybe I should be looking to the body for salvation.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Figment Of My Imagination

I think I know but I have no idea. This is what writers do. We make stuff up. It's all in our heads. Most of our conversations are imaginary. We don't know. So we imagine.

And because you are a figment of my imagination, I felt free to make stuff up.

But then, you read it and were offended, maybe hurt?

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. I was just trying to make sense of it to myself.

And in some alternate reality, where we are still friends, where you still talk to me, where you care about me, there I am, apologising to you.

Friday, March 02, 2018


We talk with the outsides of words, skimming the surface. not saying what we really feel. At one time it was enough. It was enough to hear your voice, to listen to how you formed the words, to imagine the cadences underneath, the things unsaid.

Your smile was enough.

And now your smile has disappeared.

Your words have disappeared.

And when I have nothing, those empty words, those soufflé, meringue words, are not enough.

Wrestling Angels

I go for a walk today and do only half the required steps. Who requires it? I don't know. I listen to Bernard talk, then Neville, then Louis, then Rhoda, Susan and Jinny. I listen to each cadence and until my steps start to flag. And then I make for home because I am tired, because this walking in circles is pointless.

And whenever you interrupt their words, my thoughts, I walk faster, trying to work you out of my system. I try to walk through that slight ache that tugs at my chest. I know when I come home, having tired myself out, I will find no word from you, nothing.

This silence.

I think you will be here tomorrow, I am almost sure, but you were supposed to be there yesterday, and you weren't.

You called and cancelled. You said, no, next week instead.

Nothing compels you. You will not be compelled. You will come and go as you please. You find any sort of clinging distasteful.

And I have uninstalled Skype from my phone because I was tired of checking for a message that never came. I needed to stop.

And there is so much work now, so much. I have created it for myself because I need the distraction. I need to think of something else, someone else.

But there is no one.

I listen to Neville obsess about Percival and for the first time, I understand him. I understand how he loves Percival for leaving his letters scattered about unanswered, among his guns and dogs. I understand how he loves Percival for agreeing to meet him under a clock in London and then not showing up. For not understanding Catullus and yet understanding him, better than Louis who would understand the words perfectly.

You can love someone because they are perfect and remote and unattainable. Because they are ephemeral and disappear just as you are about to turn around. You can love them because you can only catch sight of them from the corner of your eye. You love them because they are fleeting and insubstantial, the substance of dreams and daydreams.

And even though love is too strong a word, too final, too finite, too all-encompassing, you attach that word to their face, their form, and it feels right.

Maybe tomorrow you will cease to remember, this obsession will pass.

But for today, you love them and you love them anyway.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Your Fragrance, Your Dust

Because I lost you I search for you in the oddest places; under rocks, behind doors, under sheets laid flat. I search for you longingly, desperately, and sometimes I forget what I'm searching for and the search takes over.

I look for any trace, ANY trace of you and when I find it, some dust you left behind, some salt you scattered in your wake, I pause and I breathe it in, I savour it, I run it through my fingers, so precious, so wonderful.

Your dust. Your salt.

I know that all this is strange and sad and crazy.

But to me, they are traces of joy.

My heart beats quicker and I feel my eyes blaze and shine forth.

You have withdrawn now and I can no longer see you. You have receded into the horizon and there is only the faint fragrance that you've left behind.

It lingers in the air.

I breathe it in, exhale and fall back, relax and sleep.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Little Girl In A White Dress

She was a little girl, rather tall, quiet, well-behaved in a white dress. She had on socks and shoes, the kind I wore when I was small. Mum dressed her the way she dressed me.

Mum was looking after her. Mum had taken her to church and oh, such a church. Words were written in the sky rather than projected on a wall and the Mass, the was always beginning and never quite begun.

And she sat there, this little girl, this nameless little girl, so sad, so quiet, so well-behaved, she sat there, making no sound. Contained in herself.

I knew she was loved.

That much I knew.

That's all I saw. 

And then I woke up and remembered that Mum was no more. 

And I wondered who the little girl was. In my dream it seemed obvious but when I woke up, less so.

Let Her Cry

The tears, they were a long time coming. But now they're here. It's OK. Just let her cry. She needs this. This release. This slow giving up. This acknowledgement that there's nothing there now. Maybe there was nothing there to begin with.

Just another illusion, delusion, that falls like delicate blown glass to the rough canteen floor and shatters there...ignored, to be swept up with the rest of the gunk later.

Just let her cry.

Empty and Sad

TimTam is blind in one eye and it breaks my heart. The person who was supposed to come to see him didn't call, didn't come. And I don't care about that. But I do wonder how to get these four cats, getting along with each other. They don't have to love each other. Just be amicable. They each find their own little niches in my tiny apartment and it is hard when one whole room has to be shut off to the other three and one of them has to be confined to a single room. I wish he didn't. I wish I could let all of them mingle. But he's full of rage and when he attacks, he hurts.

Is that what I'm like?

I don't think so. But I'm not sure.

This weekend I wrote five letters using a quill I had bought from Dove Cottage (think Wordsworth, Grasmere, the Lake District) and Indian ink that Wan Yee had given me last Christmas. The thing about Indian ink is that it dries to a goo-like substance.

(Oh dear, Tim Tam has pooped and there's  a pong in my room. I think I am going to have to pause this and go clean it up). Also, open a window and air out the room.

Done and done.

Life is a series of things on a to-do list. You move forward. You do one thing, You tick it off. You tick if off. And you tick it off again.

And time moves on. It just moves on.

And all you are at the end of the day is tired.

And sad.

And empty again.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Fireworks Symphony

I am transcribing an interview that I should have transcribed weeks ago with the idea of working on the story tomorrow. It's the Hokkien New Year today I think - that from midnight onwards, the fireworks have been going off so continuously, they sound like rain on a tin roof. I pretend to myself that it is rain...I love the sound of rain when I am about to sleep.

But right now I am full of nervous energy that comes from transcribing an interview. I am hanging out with TimTam as I transcribe - so we get some face time. The poor boy has to be kept apart and I feel guilty when I am out there with the others (although I would like to be). I so wish he could get along with them and didn't always feel compelled to establish his dominance.

I haven't gone walking for days now, so I have not finished the last 54 minutes of The Waves. Maybe I will start again tomorrow.

I think I have plans for the weekend. I am not sure. I do know there will be work...because there is always work now.

I have gone for a slew of interviews - which need to be transcribed and written up. I keep cranking them out like gunshots. And maybe, at some point, I will be able to lie back, close my eyes, exhale gently and sleep.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Customary somnolence

I've elapsed into my customary somnolence.

It was nice to be out of it for a while.

But now I trudge on, each step heavier than the last, breathing in and out and just trying to get through today.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


I love my cats; I have four of them - how typical and old maidish - to give your love to cats and not to a man, not to children.

I take long walks on stone pavements and tarred roads and all I see are foreign workers taking walks - them for necessity, me for exercise because I have swollen to a monstrous size and I think, I can no longer ignore it. Even alone, I want to be acceptable to myself. I want to fit in clothes again. I can understand why this land slowly passes to them, the foreign workers. To know the land, you have to tread it, feel it beneath your feet, walk slowly enough to take it in. Travelling about in air-conditioned cars, we do not even let the air in. We swish past so quickly, noticing nothing except the car in front of us. We do not take in...anything.

Today I walked to a shopping centre that it would have taken me 10 minutes to get to by car. OK, maybe 15. It took me the best part of an hour. I really FELT the distance. I was looking for a photo shop because I wanted to take a picture for a visa. There were none along the way, so I walked further and further. I cut my hair to take an acceptable shot, but it was unacceptable anyway. I mean the hair was alright; the face was greasy with this thin film of sweat.

I listened to another two hours of The Waves. I honestly thought I would have finished it by now....but it is 9 hours long. Not 6. And I have about 54 minutes left. I think I am at Bernard's last soliloquy, but I may be wrong. Listening to it like this, the words make sense - the drum of words illustrating each character. The reader, Frances Jeeter, is very good. I like listening to her, her posh accent, her reading at the speed I think Virginia Woolf would have read it, but we cannot know, no we cannot.

Sheba decides to bully Pablo because he is cuddling and grooming Smeagol, his paw clasped lovingly around the kitten. I think Sheba is jealous. He strikes out, then strikes again - and now Pablo is hiding under the armchair. He is wise enough to know that is the best course when Sheba gets jealous.

There are 39 days more of Lent to go.

I downloaded a pedometer and then uninstalled it because it was not really recording my steps. I also uninstalled Skype from my phone because my habit of checking it 300 times a day was getting too cumbersome. Also, the disappointment when there were no messages for me.

I have finished reading In The Restaurant by Christoph Ribbat but I skimmed and it is a good book so it will bear re-reading.

I posted five letters and two presents off today. And bought a bunch of stamps. I am glad the presents have been despatched; the thought of them was weighing me down.

I have changed my hairstyle and it looks too hard for my moonface but what can you do.

Of such trifles are a life made up.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Thoughts before retiring

I wrestle a lot with feelings of rage. Something flashes into my mind and it's like a lightning bolt. I go from relatively indifferent to consumed. I think about this as I walk, as I spend my energy (I did it again today, though not as far, and I turned back - so as to get home without the need for a cab). I find walking useful, to absorb my misplaced passions, to quiet my mind, to listen to the beat of The Waves...

At home I stroke my cats. I watch them play. Feed them, Clean out their kitty litter. Read "In the Restaurant" by Christoph Ribbat (I am on page 78), think about showering before I go to bed, think about rubbing my very expensive frankincense on my aching parts, thinking about writing the last letter that I was going to write...except that now I am tired and have run out of inspiration and flourish..

(Here is how Bernard writes a letter, I suspect that this is how VW wrote a letter):

Yes, all is propitious. I am now in the mood. I can write the letter straight off which I have begun ever so many times. I have just come in; I have flung down my hat and my stick; I am writing the first thing that comes into my head without troubling to put the paper straight. It is going to be a brilliant sketch which, she must think, was written without a pause, without an erasure. Look how unformed the letters are — there is a careless blot. All must be sacrificed to speed and carelessness. I will write a quick, running, small hand, exaggerating the down stroke of the “y” and crossing the “t” thus — with a dash. The date shall be only Tuesday, the 17th, and then a question mark. But also I must give her the impression that though he — for this is not myself — is writing in such an off-hand, such a slap-dash way, there is some subtle suggestion of intimacy and respect. I must allude to talks we have had together — bring back some remembered scene. But I must seem to her (this is very important) to be passing from thing to thing with the greatest ease in the world. I shall pass from the service for the man who was drowned (I have a phrase for that) to Mrs Moffat and her sayings (I have a note of them), and so to some reflections apparently casual but full of profundity (profound criticism is often written casually) about some book I have been reading, some out-of-the-way book. I want her to say as she brushes her hair or puts out the candle, “Where did I read that? Oh, in Bernard’s letter.” It is the speed, the hot, molten effect, the laval flow of sentence into sentence that I need. Who am I thinking of? Byron of course. I am, in some ways, like Byron. Perhaps a sip of Byron will help to put me in the vein. Let me read a page. No; this is dull; this is scrappy. This is rather too formal. Now I am getting the hang of it. Now I am getting his beat into my brain (the rhythm is the main thing in writing). Now, without pausing I will begin, on the very lilt of the stroke —.
That is how Bernard writes his letters. Dashing. That is how VW writes her letters - it is performance, it is art, it is artifice, it is highly polished.

But I am tired now. All my reflections sink under the the dark waves of slumber. I shall take a shower. I shall go cuddle TimTam who is in disgrace for escaping and attacking Sheba and who has been ignored for the rest of the day in consequence. I shall put my phone on the charger and set my alarm so that I may wake up and go walking early enough, this time to the Kiara Hills, so I may listen to The Waves without having it drowned out by the sounds of traffic. 

And so to bed.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Today I stepped out of my house to post letters and maybe buy bread and I decided to take a walk, a walk that would last at least two hours, while listening to The Waves which I had downloaded on my phone. The words they spoke to me, and I understood them at a deep, deep level as I trudged through the rainswept streets, which wet my sneakers, then my socks, through.

I listened to Rhoda's lament:

There is some check in the flow of my being; a deep stream presses on some obstacle; it jerks; it tugs, some knot in the centre resists. Oh, this is pain, this is anguish! I faint, I fail. Now my body thaws; I am unsealed, I am incandescent. Now the stream pours in a deep tide fertilising, opening the shut, forcing the tight-folded, flooding free. To whom shall I give all that now flows through me, from my warm, my porous body? I will gather my flowers and present them -- Oh, to whom?

She, whom of all, I love the most, I identify with the most. I know now why. It was Standard One and I was confused and out of place and I watched others to see what was supposed to be done, what I should do...I was a cipher with no face, no voice, no volition. They took my money and beat me, and I handed over my money willingly, if only it would make them like me.

But I told Mum and she got mad and scolded them because they were not supposed to take my money, apparently. Who knew?

I walked and walked and felt my feet grow tired. The roads I have drive over thousands of times seemed strange, unfamiliar. I stepped over frogs, crushed some snails (I didn't mean to), and saw the city from another perspective. The cars, they shone their lights in my face, avoided me or came too near, sometimes flashed me, and still I walked.

I made it to Bangsar and stepped into Bangsar Shopping Centre to get a bottle of Evian water (because that's the kind of water you get at Bangsar Shopping Centre, it's that kind of place) and then sipping my water, I made it all the way down to Bangsar Baru, where I stopped to rest at a bus stop and tried to get a GrabCar because I was too tired to walk back. My Grab driver (when I eventually got one) was surprised that I had walked all the way from there to here. He said, wow, you must have covered 7km, and I said, I don't know, maybe. What I do know (from the place I stopped at The Waves) was that I had been walking for two and a half hours.

I walked through the pain of unrequited love and this longing inside me, unassuaged. I thought I could spend some of its fury in the movement of my feet on the mushy ground or hard pavement.

Solvitur ambulando.

I have wanted to walk for so long now, but not, as it turns out, to be healthier, but to walk through my pain, my perplexities. I want to listen to my books unencumbered with chatter, with others in my space, begging for, demanding attention. 

Let's see if I walk tomorrow. I want to walk tomorrow. I also want to do...

Oh, so many things on the to-do list. 

So many things.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Oxytocin Man

You throw words
against a canvas
this blank white wall
this empty space
whimsical smile playing
on your lips.

Not caring that some shafts
find a mark,
and the target
is vulnerable,
as you have previously

You watch, you wait,
you evaluate,
You can't help yourself,
it's what makes you you.

But you want infinite variety
always the spectacle
of something different
and eventually
variety turns into sameness,
and you're done.

Nothing touches 
your teflon heart
Oh oxytocin man
She knew what you were
But fell for you

You were a rush
to a tired heart
that had stopped 
that had almost 
stopped beating.

But day turns into night
the four hours are up
and you're weary.

So you smile,
and turn away
you're done for today.

Oh oxytocin man,
You're done.

Enough To Be On Your Way

I just listened to "Enough To Be On Your Own Way" by James Taylor. I had never heard it before and it is filled with unutterable sadness because it's about his brother who died of alcoholism on JT's birthday.

So the sun shines on this funeral, 
Just the same as on a birth
the way it shines on everything
that happens here on earth
It rolls into the Western sky
and back into the sea
and spends the day's last rays
upon this fucked-up family.

The song is up on YouTube and someone commented that they don't like his new songs because the songs are too happy and it doesn't capture his tortured soul. I was wondering then, whether the whole point of the artist is the pain, the torture. Maybe if you're happy, you can no longer write.

It's the unhappiness that beams out of your writing that people want to read, that they identify with.

And so if I clear this unhappiness from me, this heavy, heavy sadness that I have carried for so long...will my pen dry up? When my heart opens will I cap my fountain pen and put it away?


I'd still like to be happy though.

I'd still like to be happy.

Moving on

I see you've unfriended me. I didn't realise until I looked.

It's OK.

We both need to move on, after all.

Good luck with your life.

Hope it turns out some kind of wonderful.


It's funny. But you're offended if I'm not hurt or broken enough. You've taken everything and that's not enough.

You still want more.

I used to hate you about it.

I didn't understand.

Now I do.

So you're welcome to whatever you've taken.

I don't hate you anymore.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cold Turkey

You dole yourself out
in nano instalments
so little
not enough
to satisfy
this raging thirst.

You breeze in and out
Call, and then don't,
Disappear for acres
of bleak unremitting time.

You're there,
and then you're not,
You disappear.

This silence,
It breaks me,
It breaks me...
And then slowly
the fissures close up
And I become strong.

I no longer notice
If you're there
or not.

I don't know if you intended to
But you healed me
of you.

Cold turkey was painful.
Cold turkey was for the best.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The Calm Between Storms

It is after midnight and I am just so tired. I'm trying to clear stories because there are so many to clear by Monday when we close before Chinese New Year and I haven't even gotten started. My brain is not working.

And the volatile oscillations of my heart which hits me at the strangest times, does not help.

I just want to curl up in bed with Tim Tam and allow myself to drift.

I wish someone nice would adopt him. It's hard him not getting along with my cats...and I feel so sorry for him, alone all day, that when I come home, I try to spend time with him. They get jealous and it manifests in various ways. Like sand all over the kitchen floor. Sheba attacking Pablo viciously because he tried to cuddle her.

It seems like everyone is frayed at the edges now.

But I am so tired.

This is the calm between storms.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Coming Undone

My heart is oscillating violently.

I have no idea what to do.

I have no idea what to say.

I have no idea how to act.

I am coming undone.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Soft kitty, warm kitty

Lost is my new normal. Except that it feels old. I just didn't realise that it was normal. I didn't accept it. Until now.

So I gather other lost creatures around me. Hold them in my lap and sing to them:

Soft kitty, warm kitty,
little ball of fur
happy kitty, sleepy kitty
purr, purr, purr.

They go to sleep while I stay up and worry about the work I haven't finished. The work I have brought home for the weekend.

The work that means I need to live another complete it.


I have cleared a story. It wasn't too bad. I am still way behind but, well, what can you do? The road goes on and on...

Bleeding all over the page

So I've decided that this kind of existence is not worth it. Work and more work. Caught up in the rush of busyness...while my soul weeps silently, unheeded.

I need to do something, something... I don't know what.

So for a start, I'll nick myself, open a tiny vein and bleed all over the page.

This page.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Simple Transaction

It's a simple transaction, really
Those who care
Those who don't.

So don't walk around
feeling bruised
No one is OBLIGED
to care for you
No one.

Remember that.

And get on with your life.

This Side of Despair

I have questions, naturally.

Or rather, I had questions.

Now I have peace.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Flawed human beings

Today, somewhat inexplicably, I stalked the Facebook page of someone I considered an enemy and the epitome of evil: beautiful, ruthless, mendacious. And I found two grammatical and spelling errors in what she said.

And suddenly, my animosity dissolved, not knowing where to go. Her mistakes made her fallible, with English that was not very good...OK they could have been typos. But two? For an editor? And suddenly she was just a vulnerable human being who had made mistakes. A human being I had liked before she turned hostile, but not one that was dangerous or evil or anything.

She was just a child clutching at happiness, because, let's face it, she was always on the outside looking in.

She had hurt someone to get what she wanted. But that's what we do. We hurt other people. We don't think about what we are doing. We don't consider.

Maybe this is a minor miracle.

Who would have thought that finding two errors would lighten a load I had been carrying for all this time.

I hated her because she hated me. I hated her, because she pointed out my flaws.

Now I find that she has flaws.

And, everything is all right again.

Lord if you marked our transgressions, who would stand? Thanks to your grace we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb...