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You have withdrawn now and I can no longer see you.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.