Friday, December 28, 2007

Merry Christmas Virginia!

So Christmas came and went. There were presents but we seem to have spent most of it comatose. Three nights in a row of going to bed at four in the morning takes its toll. We didn't even have the traditional Christmas present-unwrapping ceremony after midnight (which is like, my favourite thing about Christmas) because an uncle wished himself upon us and proceeded to raise holy hell when one of us insulted Singapore.

By three Julie was nodding at the table, Dadda was upstairs asleep, Mums was so tired she nearly passed out, and we sent said uncle and his two bratty kids back to their hotel.

As if one night of him wasn't enough, said uncle called the next day and invited us out to lunch. Note: Mummy's Christmas lunch is like my second favourite part of Christmas. He said Mums would be too tired to cook (she was) so why not eat out.

They all agreed and I went upstairs to catch some shut-eye, begging off. I was too tired to go and make nice at some stupid restaurant, pretending like I was having a good time. Mum woke me up to tell me to feed the dogs before she left.

So I made my way downstairs, cooked up what I thought of as a feast for the doggies and just chilled in the empty house, listening to Esther's present of plinky music which she said she hoped would "calm me down". I gave her crystal balls arranged in the Star of David, for good feng shui. She will put it on her desk, and hopefully it will give her good vibes for the year ahead.

Yesterday, I followed Mums and Chubs to go do a whole bunch of errands - fixing broken stuff (like my car) and repairing my broken gold chain. I also bought 11 DVDs (at five bucks a piece) and so far, only one is not working properly. When I went to the DVD shop to change it, the guy told me that the "Operasi" flers had been there and he could not replace broken DVD. But that was OK. He would have new stock in two days or so. The resilience of crooks is amazing. Almost as amazing as the resilience of those like me who support these crooks with my custom.

I watched a whole bunch of DVDs last night. (OK, four, but if the broken one had been working, it would been five) When Nietzche Wept was a surprise. I hadn't even heard of it, and there it was, this sort of brilliant movie with Armand Assante and Ben Cross.

We are more in love with the feeling of desire, of passion, than the object of desire...Yes. It's about the feeling of love and loss and helplessness and falling down the rabbit hole isn't it? Most times the objects of our desire are merely projections, not real in themselves - come to think of it, that was what Stardust was about, wasn't it? I also watched Stardust, cos Anita recommended it. And yes, I did like it.

The Perfect Holiday was a little two dimensional - the good guy being too good and the bad guy being too noxious. I also watched Uptown Girls which funnily enough, I found unbearably tragic. As it was my second time watching it, this time around, I noticed what sad heartbroken eyes, the main character, the supposedly fancy-free party girl, had.

I'm reading Black, White and Jewish by Rebecca Walker now, which is seriously good. But then, what could Alice Walker's daughter be, if not a good writer?

Coffee Bean again. It's crowded and there are a bunch of kids near me on their red Dell laptop. The automatic door keeps opening and closing. I'm part of the madding crowd and yet apart from it.

You know how it is.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I'm reading Marya Hornbacher's Wasted which is ostensibly about her eating disorder, but really, it's about her resolve to disappear, to achieve a state of non-being, which may be the opposite of Zen, but then, I wouldn't know. I throw the word Zen around without being fully aware of it's meaning or implications. Maybe not the book I should be reading now.

I'm writing this at the local Coffee Bean, the house being short one internet connection. Chubster will look at it sometime or other. At the moment, you can only get on the computer to play Mahjong, only to be unseated by the Big M who is a Mahjong fanatic who says, get up Jenny, let me play, aiya let me playlar, then I'll take a nap.

Only she doesn't. She gets lost in the game for hours, racking up high scores, while I creep upstairs to her bed, swathed in the womblike silence and fall. Asleep? Into a torpor? Who knows. The house smells of turpentine as an old man with a face like crushed brown paper instals the new kitchen door. He is painting it.

Yesterday, Dadda painted the kitchen. Today he is exhausted.

Mums asked, "John, do you want me to buy you jeans for Christmas?"

He says: "No, I want Jackie home for Christmas."

Mums says: "I thought I was the only one who missed Jackie. It's not the same when there's one of us missing."

He says: "You should tell her she must come back every year for Christmas."

And I say: "Look, the only reason she isn't coming back this year is cos she's coming in April."

They turn away sour-faced, missing their daughter. It's true though. Christmas isn't Christmas when there's one of us missing. It's just something to get through. The tree isn't up. The presents aren't wrapped. The cakes aren't baked. (I know I was supposed to and I have even bought all the ingredients, but what with all that paint, turpentine and chaos in the kitchen, I kinda can't)

We had breakfast at Kerala Restaurant this morning, the lovely pal appam and roti canai with mutton curry but Dadda complained the service was too slow. I didn't think even he could find fault with Kerala Restaurant. But evidently I underestimated him.

On my birthday, Jules took us to a trendy new place in Section 11 owned by these two photographers. Dadda went through the usual motions. First he looked at the menu with disgust, thumbing through it and exclaiming at the prices. Then, he tried to order beer (it's owned by Muslims which means no alcohol). Then he asked Jules in an audible whisper whether these people would be capable of making any of these steaks. When I saw the smoke finally emerge from young Julie's ears, I started to laugh. She asked him: Why do you always do this? I answered: Look, if he didn't do this, it wouldn't be him and what would I have to write about in the chronicles of my crazy family? Julie replied: That is not necessarily a good thing. But she calmed down.

I've already given my difficult father his Christmas present - a 29-inch television set. He didn't like it. Mainly because it unseated his 14-inch television set, which, although it was too small for the hall, was in perfectly good working condition! I came down to breakfast yesterday to hear him complain to Mums and the Chubster about it.

When I told Jacks this, she said consolingly that at least he hadn't tried to give it away the way he did Julie's present of teacups. Although I share the same premises as those two eccentric beings, I hadn't heard the story. Jackie kindly enlightened me.

It seems that my father had been bellyaching for years about getting new teacups (all but two of the old teacups had been smashed over the past 14 years). Julie finally forked out for a funky set but when she brought them home, my dear old dad, as is his wont, went ballistic.

Apparently these cups were too BIG. If we served tea in them guests would "drink us out of house and home". Julie filled one of the old cups with water and poured it into one of the new cups. It only required about a millimetre more of water. She tried to point this out to Stubborn but he was adamant and gave said cups away at the first available opportunity to his nephew for his housewarming.

Things that make you go hmmmm. I said, if he dared to do that with the tv, he would have been looking at the business end of a hissy fit. We laughed and pondered the mystery that was our father and his determination to never be happy with anything anyone could give him or treat him to, no matter how nice or expensive or fancy.

I wonder if it runs in the family.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

As I Walked Out One Mid-Winter's Day

I've been going through this slow process of defamiliarisation, creating new patterns, mostly to do with alcohol. And inebriation. The world seems slightly off centre as I stumble around coming off a high, looking for the next...the next fix, the next fix, anything to stave off today, anything to stop from feeling like this.

Mornings, I sleep off nights of red wine
Nights, I go out of my mind...

I don't feel bad most times. In fact, I don't feel anything. But then these feelings spring out of nowhere (not nowhere, the cold dark centre of my being that for the most remains hidden, protected, buried under layers of denial) and I double over gasping, reaching for that brandy, that wine, anything, just anything...oh fuck, does it have to hurt like this?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Treading Water

It sometimes happens that suddenly the oxygen is extinguished and you find yourself gasping for breath wondering whether you can make it to tomorrow, whether it is worth making it to tomorrow.

In Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl went around the concentration camp working on those who had given up, by trying to help them discover their one reason to live.

Everyone has one.

But what happens if you can't remember and you're so fucking tired of it all?

You put up a suicide note on Facebook. Give yourself a month to say goodbye to everyone. Try and figure out how you can do it, to make it look like an accident. Resist crashing your car into another on the long, dark would be so easy, so easy...

A voice on the line, filled with warmth and love and hope, reaching across the miles and the anonymity.

Thank you.

A trip to Backyard to listen to Mark play (he always cheers me up), getting pawed at by an Indian drunk whose wife left him (so, what else is new) in the process. Four brandies and the inevitable drying out, the hangover.

The sadness, the spiralling out of control, the knees-to-the-chest ragged sobs, huddled in the front seat of my car, in some anonymous car park. The wondering about ways and means, what tools, rather than why build.

The Alice-down-the-rabbithole descent.

And then, and then, and then...yes, you can take your leave, yes, you can go somewhere regain your soul, yes, yes, yes...

So here I sit, trying to decipher an insurance policy document as my eyes give out and my brain shuts off. I've finished writing out nearly all my Christmas cards and even sent out a batch.

And I wonder where I'll go.

I need to disappear.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Ballad of the Sad Freeloader

I knew she had been staying with Mum for way longer than she was supposed to, but other than tentative inquiries from my siblings: "Hey, is that girl still there?" I wasn't aware of anything untoward. Mum never mentioned her. I hardly saw Julie as we led our own separate frenetic existences, coming home to crash and then up in the morning for another round of madness.

Then my birthday happened and everything had to slow down. Mum called. Siblings called. Julie took me out for lunch. And somewhere during all this I learned of the freeloader and the extent of the nuisance she had made of herself in our house.

She came for a weekend. She stayed for a month. In that month, she left of trail of snotty Kleenexes in her wake. All over the house. In that month, she expected my mother to wake up at 6 every morning to send her to the hospital (she's doing her housemanship) and pick her up. She expected my brother to do this as well, but Chubs got fed up and in a typical Jacobs response, stopped talking to her or answering the phone when she called:

"Auntie," she wailed. "Auntie! I can't get a taxi." If she had just stayed in the quarters the hospital provided, a taxi would not be a problem. But a determined freeloader will freeload for as long as she can.

"I'm leaving this weekend," she said, every weekend since she came. Then the weekend would arrive and she would make "donno". As in act stupid. Or oblivious. As in not move out for another week.

When Chubs told me she was making Mum drive her around, I was livid. As the information sunk in and started to curdle I could feel the rage rise in my throat. If my family was "too nice" to do anything, it would devolve on the family thug (i.e. me) to take matters in hand.

I called to tell my brother that I was coming back to JB next weekend to "help" this girl, a second cousin, move out.

A second cousin I hardly knew. I remember her as a very thoughtless kid who cheerfully destroyed other people's property. The only things that came to mind when her name was mentioned were "stupid" and "spoilt". To think of this stranger squatting in our house and driving up my mother's blood pressure (only her children are allowed to do that) was more than I could stomach.

Oh, I would be polite. But there would be no room to negotiate. She could either accept the lift, or she could have her things thrown out and the gates locked on her when she came home.

Mum found out I was coming. At first she thought I was coming to collect my present. When she learned of my true purpose, she was distraught. Yes, in coming to get rid of this nuisance I was just upsetting Mums further. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

In typical Malaysian fashion, Mum didn't want a confrontation. I said there wouldn't be one.

"Why are you coming back?"

"To kick that bitch out of MY house!"

"Aiya Jenny, don'tlar, she will go by herself."

"I don't trust you. You have been saying that for a month now. She won't go unless you kick her out. You're not gonna. So I will."

As I was driving back to JB (I was sleepy and took my time so it took me all of five hours) I wondered about the perfect outcome. I didn't really want to fight. I wanted it to be all solved when I got there so I wouldn't have to deal with it. Then I could concentrate on my wonderful birthday present and having a good time and being spoiled rotten.

There was no question of being merciful and just allowing her to stay. Some people are users and they walk all over you if you let them. And the longer they're there, the harder they are to dislodge. As Jules pointed out, it was not like she had no place to go.

When I pulled up outside the house, Mom came out grinning and opened the gate for me. She moved the dogs as I negotiated the car in. Then she gave me a big hug and wished me a belated happy birthday.

Inside, the Chubster was on his Xbox.

There was no third person present. The room she had been occupying was in darkness.

Chubs glanced at me: "You don't have a job."

I wondered briefly whether my boss had called to complain about me and tell my mother that I was now jobless.

No, that was not what he meant.

Apparently, the Mums, had finally cleared out the pest. And she had gone kicking screaming, a nuisance till the last. She made Mum drive her to her new quarters. And wait there 30 minutes where some poor doctor or other came to help her move. Apparently the fairy princess was above carrying her own luggage.

"Why didn't you just ask her to unload the car so you could leave?"

Mum sighed. "Anyway there was nice music on the radio."

All of which meant that I didn't have to kick anyone out. How delightful. Like my new Nokia 6500.

And I woke today to nice fresh appam and roti canai at Kerala Restaurant. Then it was a trip to Pasar Tani (Mums moved tentatively towards the orchids but resisted). Ivan stayed in the car and played one of the games on my phone. I traipsed after Mum carrying stuff.

We got home and I fell fast asleep while Mum made a really nice lunch.

Everything is so...peaceful.