Monday, July 30, 2007


Sometime soon I will go far far away. I will sit in quiet streets, where there isn't the slightest possibility of running into anyone I know, anyone familiar, and write into a notebook. I will pour out all the twisted snakes writhing around in my belly, where they grew unheeded while I was busy trying to survive till tomorrow.

There has to be more to life than this.

This endless gray, this living from day to day, fully cognisant of the fact that I did not live up to expectations.

There has to be more...

Sunday, July 29, 2007


The Historian emails me: "Katrinka is in trouble with the people around her. She wants me to take her to the sea for a day. You can come along if you want. It would be nice to see you."

I read the short message and sigh. Katrinka is over 80. Katrinka is the daughter of a heroine. Katrinka is a very angry old lady, living on welfare, but with this huge sense of entitlement. Neither the Historian's suggestions, nor mine, that she learn to boil water to make her own Milo, have borne any fruit.

"I'm a doctor's daughter, H," she snaps. "In 80-odd years, I've never had to cook for myself and I'm not going to start now."

Problem is, in that 80-odd years, she has gone from being the cherished darling of a very rich man, to a cast-off, handed from person to person as a burden nobody really wants to assume with barely a few dollars every month to call her own. She has so little now, that some days, she sits at home and starves. She has so little now, that she spent her birthday alone, and she fell and hurt herself.

It's heartbreaking.

I went to see her after her birthday. With the Historian. We took her out for chicken rice and ice cream (two of her favourite things in the world, the third being fruitcake). We took her out to her mother's and grandmother's grave (which was even more of a treat). But she spooned three flavours of Baskins down her throat and ranted about this nice old man who had sent her money (a lot of it), for something so minor, I felt a surging tide of disgust rise in my gullet.

So this is why nobody helps you. You're never grateful. Simple gratitude would have kept you relatively comfortable...and I turn to see the Historian's face darken with anger.

"That's not fair Katrinka," he says, an edge to his normally patient voice. "Bernie only called Mrs R. to find out if you were doing OK. In case you've forgotten, you don't have a phone and you hadn't answered his letter. He had no way of knowing if you were dead or alive."

"NO!" she barks. For a frail, little old lady, it's amazing how much rancour she can fit into that tiny frame. "He called to gossip about me. To talk to other people about me. And I'm not having that."

I object here. Tentatively. I know it will not do to put her on the defensive. She's a frail old lady with a big, big hurt and it makes her ugly and cantankerous when she gets going. But beneath it all, is the sense of abandonment. She's 15 years old again, and her mother has done something unforgivable. And somewhere in her mind, she keeps fighting for things to go back to the way they were, before. When she was the adored little darling, the princess of her family. Before the intrusion of a little sister, before the war, before Mummy and Daddy got so distant, to when they were a happy family, whose acquaintance was sought by all. When she answered the door in her diapers and lisped charmingly at the visitor:

"Are you here to see the doctor, or his wife?"

Parlour tricks. But when you've been adored, you can never quite understand being reviled. Cast off. Unwanted. As she is. As she refuses to see she is.

"They've all been poisoned against me," she tells me, her eyes snapping.

The Historian had once told me how it was. How even her most sympathetic well-wishers refused to have her live with them, because the demands grew too onerous. How to bathe her. How to make her Milo. How her things should be treated. How her room should be cleaned.

"What Katrinka needs," I said, talking over her bobbing head, "is a full-time nurse."

At this she stops spooning ice cream and turns to me: "No, no, I don't want a nurse. I want a friend to live with me. Pity you don't live here. You could have taken care of me."

I blanch. I'm not the most patient person in the world. And I know she will drive me nuts. She has already driven the Historian, who IS the most patient person in the world, crazy and I can see his patience wearing thin as she continues to castigate those who would help her, who have helped her.

She turns to me after finishing the three massive scoops of Baskins - chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

"It was very good, but I couldn't taste the strawberry."

It's a small thing, but I feel like she's just slapped me. I came to Ipoh with a few dollars in my wallet. I've started a new job but since I'll have to wait a month to be paid, I'm at the end of my resources. I just thought, if she liked ice cream so much, let her have nice ice cream, which cost more than the Walls or the Magnolia she is used to, and there she is, hands folded primly, telling me it was not good enough.

I choke down my rising bile and look up to see the Historian grin at me sympathetically. This, his eyebrows seem to indicate, is Katrinka. This is why, after once or twice, people are unwilling to help her.

Simple gratitude goes a long way.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Nipples Galore

If you're a guy and you live in the KL vicinity, would you consider squeezing into a fetching pair of fishnet stockings, donning a wig, dusting on some make-up and sashaying so they believe you?

Too macho for that?

Pity. My gym locker room is like no place I've ever been in Malaysia. Turn around and you're confronted with a pair of nipples unashamed as some girl, who has just worked out, examines her breasts critically, trying to decide if she's lost weight there. Even better, today, her friend keeps poking her perky boobies, to help her decide.

I avert my eyes, with typical Jacobean embarrassment. We don't do nudity in our family. No, not even among the sisters.

I think the women are becoming more comfortable, with each other, with the gym, and just can't be bothered to trudge all the way to one of the showers, to disrobe. No, they do it in front of you, with a lack of self consciousness that I both envy and eviscerate.

Sometimes, they strip off their knickers (although this is rarer) and there they are, perfect long tanned bodies for all to see, while they pull on their fancy gym doodads which probably cost more than my last three outfits put together. The type of girls who don't sweat at the gym, they glow and acquire that attractive rosy flush.

Geez, re-reading this post, I think I'm not pretending about the lesbian thing any more...I just well might be.

Do They Allow You People To Breed?

I just liked the title. It has nothing to do with the post.

Am in my regular office/haunt, Starbucks, and my eyes are glazed over from staring at the computer for nine straight hours. Give or take an hour or two for lunch. I got some work done, but was distracted. My focus seems severely affected. I feel sort of ADD.

I am trying to read Leading the Revolution and Wild Mind simulatenously while imbibing numerous caffeine shots and checking my Facebook. I am also trying to figure out what my boss' second speech should say. It doesn't help that everything has turned blurry.

I am wondering whether to have a doughnut. Or burn off some angst on the treadmill. Or resume my serious study of A Year Of Yes.

Ducking for apples. Change one letter and you have the story of my life. Dorothy Parker

I mean, isn't that like, the most perfect quote ever?

The barristas over here seem to be having some sort of dispute. One slapped another on the face. And the slapped punched the slapper in retaliation. Even at Starbucks, drama is going on around me. I am avoiding the office because of drama but it seems to follow me wherever I go.

Drama, drama, drama...I think I'll go burn some angst.

Later for you.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wine Coursing

We use love to write our poetry,
Instead of poetry to write our love,
Strange really...

It feels as if something
is not quite quite,
As if something
is not quite right.

But I don't care,
Wine coursing
through my heart,
Blue ink, red blood,
red, red blood,
on fire.

I let it course...

Without words, without touching,
Love's a whisper against the skin.

It does not smell.

This Terrible Silence

As for me
I am a watercolor,
I wash off.

There is an art to goodbye. Someday I'll learn it.

There are days

There are days
when you taste of brimstone,
and burn my tongue.
I need a glass of water
to wash you down.
These days I can take you.

There are days when you
bite into my heart,
like a Snickers bar.
It hurts, but I am
accustomed to the pain.
These days I can take you.

But there are days
when you smile sweetly,
look at me with compassion,
and seem to understand.
It is then,
oh love, only then
that I cannot take you
at all.

The Calm Cool Face of the River Asked Me For A Kiss

Maybe I would start with
I am sorry,
(but am I?
if I was,
I wouldn't)

Then I would say
but I can't go on.
Life is not worth living.
It's not that I feel too much,
It's that more and more
I feel nothing
Nothing at all.
Like there is a scar,
where my heart used to be.

Even pain can't hurt me anymore.
Isn't that terrible?
Even love can't make me feel.
But what am I talking about?
There is no love.
Only lovers,
And sooner or later
they all merge into one.
The one I don't want to be with.

And maybe I would say:
I am sorry to do this to you,
to leave you with this grief,
these questions.

But who am I kidding anyway?
Let's make a deal,
I won't pretend to be sorry,
and you don't pretend to cry.

What I am sorry for is the embarrassment.
Suicides are always embarrassing,
If I knew how to do this quietly,
so there would be no body,
I would.

But as it is...

Don't bother with a funeral
No open casket with the curious
breathing into my skin.


Burn me instantly.
And scatter my ashes anywhere.
I'm not particular,
Maybe on a vegetable patch
Where I could fertilise tomatoes
or broccoli.

I could end by telling you I loved you,
in spite of it all,
And that I would miss you,
but let's keep it simple, shall we?

Good luck with your life,
Hope it turns out better
than mine.
And if it doesn't
you can spend your time
perfecting your own suicide note...


I said goodbye a long time ago; you just weren't listening.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Last Minute Sprint

You can all draw a collective sigh of relief. I found a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in Johor. Yes, at Tesco. It was the most beautiful place in the world. Unlike the grotty Carrefour we tried before Tesco which was full of people and rubbish and sadly bereft of Deathly Hallows. But these things, as my sister Jackie would say, are sent to try us.

We must be patient.

We must bear up under the weight of these crosses.

We must forgive them for they know not what they do.

I don't know if I've ever shared it with you (though you may have gathered as much from reading these desolate pages) but the last-minute sprint is kind of a Jacobs family speciality.

Which is why, when my Mum was due to fly off to England over the weekend, we did everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) last minute. Last minute shopping for odds and ends. Packing of bags barely hours before plane was due to take off. Writing out the immigration cards to get into Singapore very very late. (In a bid to be helpful, I tried to write out Mum's cards. After ruining two, I gave it up as a bad job. My Chubby brother assumed it (because he said, Mum, left to her own devices, would take hours to fill up said cards). He ruined two cards as well, but went on to third. And the third, like the morning, brought joy.

I morphed into bossy self, packing Mum's bags for her, insisting she take a shower and have a foot massage and get some rest before flying off. Of course, being so competent that I surprised everyone, I managed to leave out two of Jackie's presents in the general bustle of packing.

And unfortunately for all concerned, there was Harry Potter to be contended with. He stared at me from the dust jacket:

Jennifer, I will not be ignored!

I was helpless against the siren call.

Which meant that I was torn between pretended competence (look, leave it all to me, I'll get it sorted) and moments of utter absorption when I started to read and my eyes glazed over and I didn't hear what anyone around me was saying. I got to page 43 and felt guilty, and so sprinted upstairs, two stairs at a time to help the big M.

Her room was, in a word, bersepah. There were clothes lying everywhere, and various bottles, and odds and ends from other was every packer's nightmare. I emptied her already half packed back:

Tsk, tsk, tsk, what were you thinking...we need to put other stuff on the base and where's your Lomotil again?

While Mum moved leisurely from side to side, emptied her handbag to get rid of anything remotely liquid or sharp (you know they confiscated Auntie Jega's lipstick?)
examined her various documents, asked if she should take Aussie dollars (since she was not going to Australia, I didn't think so), and asked me not to get so stressed.

We took off for Changi and made it there with simply hours to spare. Unkley was waiting for us, playing with his new phone. Ivan, who went off to park the car, joined us shortly, playing with HIS new phone. My face was buried between the pages of Harry Potter.

So much for a send off by a loving family. Poor Mum was tired, but said she fully intended to sleep on the plane, if she didn't decide to watch a movie or read a book instead.

Did I tell you that Jackie upgraded her to business class?

It being my Mummy, this was a federal offence.

Jackie just SMS-ed to say the Mums arrived safely.

I am sure we will be entertained with business class stories for month to come.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Desperately Seeking Harry Potter

It's Sunday morning, and while the rest of the world (I'm talking about you Jackie) have their noses pleasurably buried between the covers of the latest Harry Potter, I'm re-reading Pickwick Papers.


Because I haven't got my hands on the Deathly Hallows.

Johor, in its infinite wisdom and ulu-ness doesn't seem to have a copy for love or money.

But all is not lost. I'm going to Singapore tonight, and perchance, at the airport, I can scare up a copy.

I think the lowest circle of hell is reserved for those who perpetrate Harry Potter spoilers on the fans. Dante didn't think to include them because he hadn't read Harry Potter yet. Am sure, he's somewhere in Paradiso now, nodding and agreeing with me.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Shades of Mourning

In the dazed confusion of our lives, in a world of contradictions and unreality, we constantly seek to affirm ourselves, to give meaning to the chaos, substance to the substanceless.

And in this pit of heaving magma, we find there is no ground beneath our feet.

We have to make the ground. We have to imagine it into being and give it fixity. And if we don't we are constantly swept by the tides.

We can try to share someone else's ground.

As I have.

I wake in the night,
my mother's voice at my ear,
a river of sighs.
Darkness, the oddest country,
ghosts more living that the dead.

But this won't work.

Not now. eyes, boiled eyes, melting the bottom of my brandy glass, rolling down in rivulets on my windshield, staring at me from the mirror.

The eyes of a corpse.

My eyes.

Not ever.

Dependent wives become widows.

There is no certainty in another.

Nobody to save us from our private hell.

Because nobody can.

I'm drivin' a stolen car on a pitch-black night
And I'm tellin' myself I'm gonna be all right
But I ride by night and I travel in fear
That in this darkness, I will disappear...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bonny, blithe and...?

Scene: Grand City.
Cast: Me, Mary Z and some guy who is a friend of Mary's and an acquaintance of mine.

I toy negligently with my new citrine ring while shooting barbs at acquaintance who has decided it is his mission in life to provoke me. Acquaintance notices.

Acquaintance: Are you engaged?

Me: Yes.

A: Who's the lucky, I mean unlucky guy?

Me: You heteros are so presumptuous. What makes you think it's a guy?

A (does the goldfish mouth thing) Then turning to Mary: You knew she was ...?

Mary (raises an eyebrow as in what's the big deal if she is): Yes.

Acquaintance lapses into blessed silence for the first time tonight, shooting baffled glances at me. I handle these baffled glances with equanimity, feeling smug and implacable.

Bonny, blithe and...?

Kinda Temporary

I still feel kinda temporary about myself. Willy Loman (Death of a Salesman)

There is much to be thankful for. Much. And yet, I drift from day to day wondering at this succession of illusions/hallucinations/pictures/soundbytes that make up my life.

The narrative has ceased to be coherent. It's more of an impressionist painting. I take in splashes of colour, a cacophony of voices and try to assign a meaning to any or all of it.

Nada. No dice. Sorry honey, no cigar.

One boss says:

"She needs to calm down." (he was speaking to someone else about me)

Another says:

"Jennifer, you need to learn to get along with people."

Personally, I think yoga is the answer.

And if it isn't, I'll take up knitting.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rosamond Vincy

She frightened TS Eliot far more than Regan or Goneril. She didn't try to justify or defend her actions. George Eliot hated her - the delicate flower, with blue eyes, golden ringlets, a mincing walk, a tinkling laugh, who played the piano so prettily.

The infamous Rosamond Vincy of Middlemarch.

Capricious? Petulant? Spoilt?

Yes, yes, yes.

Also very pretty.

And she always got her way.

So I'm thinking that instead of trying to move mountains (for mountains, read resident MCPs or nasty partners who think they should always have the upper hand) I shall Rosamond Vincy them. Smile prettily (well, as prettily as I can), nod my head earnestly while they explain to me in words of one syllable why their way is better.

Then go ahead and do exactly as I please.

EXACTLY as I please.

Monday, July 09, 2007


The office. Me bent over a piece of typed paper, following, as the boss practises declaiming speech. The boss, busy declaiming.

Me (interrupting): Hey Boss, I need July 21st off.

Boss: (interrupted, mid-declamation): Why?

Me: Harry Potter coming out. I need a day or two to read it.

Boss (checking calendar on his computer): OK, you can have the day off.

Me (gaping wordlessly, wondering why boss is being so nice to me):

Boss: In fact, I'll let you take the next day off too, if you need to.

Me: Why?

Boss: Weekend.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Madding Crowds

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Because I felt like it!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Only More Night

There was an elusive quality to my time in Australia. Sometimes I seek to confine it in words - but it escapes - no boundaries, no explanations - just a feeling, a freshness, a coolness inside.

Sometimes I find it too hot here. Oftentimes too dusty. And the noise and the blare, you have to shut it out. There is no place in my silence for all this.

A trip to Blockbuster for an arthouse movie. Or another season of Sex in the City. At home again to make muffins. Albin smiling at me from the sink. Music moving through my little laptop.

Literature to peruse in-depth. What do I think of this? What do I think of that?

Where ideas are important.


It was quiet.

Even with the noise it was quiet.

A walk along happy streets.

Lazy smiles.

All of this I had.

All of this was mine.

I was happy, but it was the happiness of knowing there was a fullstop, an end, and beyond that, only more night.


A woman like that is not a woman, quite,
She takes you where you don't want to go,
Limbs open, heart locked, brain on suspend,
You see mauve lions and
tell her you want to go home.

But she lets you fall,
down the warm cave of her throat,
and you sing of dead birds and Gruyere,
as she licks wine upon your tongue.

The wound is exposed
and you bleed sadness.

You will never stop falling,
She has gone now.
You will never stop falling,
It has ceased to bleed.
You will never stop...
love at midnight.
You will never...
La dolce vita.
You will...


In 1997, I went to sleep.

In 2007, I woke up.


Got out of bed.

Looked around me.

The world has changed.

It feels different.

And I've forsaken my faithful blue-lined private journals, to type all these words on a keypad.

As real as reality tv.

I edit.

Shhh...come here, I'll tell you a secret.

(sotto voce) This is not really me.

But then, you probably figured that out by now, right?