Of girls and tea

Ephemeral is the steam rising from a cup of hot tea, going to where my eyes cannot follow.

It rushes into a nothingness as far as my senses can perceive, like the fleeting beauty of a girl I met on the bus today. She was all the more beautiful, radiant, because I know she will alight at a bus stop and her existence, winked out immediately. She was also the girl I met the day before, the day before yesterday, today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. On a bus, on a plane, in a foreign airport, for a drink, for a date, for a while, for a relationship, for a dream of a relationship, for a nightmare of a relationship. She is the girl for good, the girl for bad, the girl for everything. Thinking further, I think she is the girl in me, the boy in me, and also me, while at the same time she is not. Would it be that she is who I want to be if I was a girl? It’s slightly disturbing but maybe not. Still, she is the girl of girls, the beauty of beauty, an existence to be stamped out and relighted, relighted and stamped out throughout time. She’ll die many deaths and live many lives throughout Time. After I die, she would live on in others’ eyes.

When the bus arrives at my destination, I would have forgotten about her, just like how I forgotten about where tea goes to as steam when I finish my pot of tea. I would like to think that the steam is another side of tea, the side which I’m not normally acquainted with as I can’t drink it, can’t grasp it, can’t taste it, going somewhere else. It could be nowhere else too, since I think it’s a place beyond my senses.

Yet there are reminders as each morning I repeat to make a pot of tea, to take a bus to work.

On another bus on another day, I would see another girl and think about how ephemeral her beauty is, how fleeting the pretty.

Ephemeral the steam
from a cup of hot tea
going to where the eyes cannot.

Fleeting the beauty
of a lady passenger on a bus
heading to where I am not

Repetitive life is
looped thoughts are
when you cannot detect it.

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A Variation on The Theme of My Technological Love For You

USPS stamp showing a postman, from en.wikipedi...

Image via Wikipedia

Or how I kill the postman because I love you

NOWADAYS I regularly “disconnect” myself from the digital atmosphere. When I write, I ignore my BlackBerry. I ignore the flashing screen that signals a call. I ignore the instant or text messages that have just arrived. I silence my BlackBerry so that none of your calls would interrupt my thoughts. All these even though I paid fees out of my own pocket to stay connected to a place, a universe, a womb that is brimming with everyone’s thoughts. Because the device is my own.

But does it mean if you foot the device for me, I will have to remain connected to you forever?

SOMETIMES I even remove my work phone from its cradle, destroying its raison d’etre. When is a phone not a phone? When you remove it from its cradle, that’s when. A child pulled out of the womb prematurely, it becomes no more than a plastic object with some wires sticking out of it. It takes up prime real estate on my shrinking desk that has been occupied by foreign objects – press releases, magazines, papers, letters, invitations to launches, things to do, food to keep me at my desk, personal belongings to personalise the war zone (bleary badges of honour that also serves to keep people away). It just crossed my mind that I should dump it into the trash bin when this happens but I still need it to foray outside. I don’t write all the time, you see.

Put the phone back into its cradle and all’s well with the world. God’s in his place.

OCCASIONALLY I put on my headphones that can shut out any type of noise unless it is a screaming child trying to out-scream a chugging MRT in an underground tunnel. Earphones are useless because conversations and calls still filter through the music. But with headphones, you can call me all you want but I cannot hear you. I cannot hear your wants, your desires of me. For added effect, I choose a song from my iTunes library and loop it. for as long as I’m writing. Then I hear nothing but the song I want to hear, the mood I wish to evoke, my wants, my desires of myself. I will fulfill my emptiness through words, letting them do my labour in my proxy and hope that someday, one day, someone understands it.

Don’t we all? We write in different forms. Some call out, some tweet, some update their Facebook status, some whatsapp, some “tumblr”, reposting pictures that caught their fancy, mirrored their thoughts. Write – is it both wrong and right all the time? There’s no black and white – only liminality. 

ONCE in a while, I log off instant messaging as well. I have already made my exit from MSN Messenger a long time ago (and to think I used to spend hours on it chatting). I avoid your blinking messages, unread. They might as well have not been delivered because I killed the postman, your letter undelivered in his bag.

WHEN you succeed in getting my attention, I answer your query with the briefest moment I can spare. A brief departure from my world into yours. It is not that I don’t love you. I do. Your company, your jokes. I love that you are in my life. That I have met you. That you are reshaping my moments, my paradigms with your presence. Some of you may have left but rest assured, traces of you remain, affecting every decision I make.

IN sum I do all this, shut you out with technology, the other edge of the sword that so cleaved you to me, so that your thoughts, your psychic world, thus manifested, would not interrupt the birth of mine. No stillbirth. No punctuation but lots of commas, I wait for your waiting. Writing is selfish (and so is reading for that matter). I don’t send out every 140 characters that I have just typed (neither do I send out every 140 characters that I’ve just read). I do that at the end of the process when the task is complete and when I want you to know that I’ve done so, that the child is ready to be seen and heard by you.

I find myself shutting you out more and more, pitting technology against technology. 

HOWEVER at the end of the birth, I hope you’re understanding of my need to write selfishly. I would still like to converse with you, to reconnect with you, to share gossip or to just engage in nothing. To engage to disenage. To tweet, to update Facebook status and to love. Because sometimes, I do write about you.

And Words Kept Falling Out

When the writing fervour comes, everything is put aside in favour of the thoughts that pour out.

And it is at this very moment, this exact second, 11.50am on a Wednesday, that I feel these words dammed up behind my head. I always thought words were supposed to come out of your thoughts and then, physically translated through your fingers. But I was wrong. They build up in your brain, that humongous lump of Omega3 acids, of which 70 per cent is just fats. That’s what I learnt from my colleague yesterday. Our brains are just fats. I think the words pile up gently at first. You can’t feel them initially. You would just wonder, “Hmm I haven’t been writing for a very long time, have I?” Which is true. Because the words have not accumulated at all. But letter by letter falls out from that deep dark hole, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. And sometimes the black opening gets stuck. There was once, I think, where the capital letter A got stuck in the black opening because it came out in too big a font size. That peak got caught in some mess and A was stuck there for a long time. Slowly other letters started piling up behind it. There were a few that were impatient and began horning. These inconsiderate letters reminded me of some people. But horning is pretty much useless when you are stuck and you have no hands. A’s not like the letter T. Eventually the pressure behind got so great that A was forced out, by force, and letters, words, sentences, started pouring out like there was a flood somewhere. It was like what they said in the papers – a once-in-fifty-years event. Which doesn’t mean that it takes 50 years to happen but rather the probability of it occurring is 1/50. How plebeian can the masses get? The masses are uninformed and inert. Anyway, back to the dammed up words. Such situations lead to things like theorrhea. Words and sentences kept spilling out for quite a while until the flow gradually eased. The damage was done. The buildup force had resulted in A widening the opening. It was easier for the letters and words to drop out now. No more limitations. No more getting stuck.

At the end, the torrent will turn back into a tiny stream of words. Word by word. Letter by letter

And things get quiet again.

Warning: You Can Only Kiss At These Selected Venues

The airport is a place of departures and arrivals, of separations and reunions. And because it is such, the airport is also an officially gazetted venue where we can put on public displays of affection without fear of reprisal from the authories.

If I so choose to grab my girlfriend by the waist and lock lips with her in a passionate swoop, I am certain there will be no citizens standing a few metres away, silently observing, recording the scene with their camera cellphones. I am certain there will be no pictures of me and my girlfriend locking lips, giving each other the tongue, uploaded on the internet a few hours later. And I am certain there will be no infantile comments chastising me and my girlfriend for such a blatant display of public affection. Because this is the airport – a venue where public displays of affection are approved of, if not encouraged. Still we can only display public affectations in approved areas that are marked by red boxes – a leftover from the state’s history of demarcating smoking corners by painting yellow boundaries. I think it is no coincidence that our lips are red as well, boxes of passion.

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Things Are Still The Same

It has been a while but some things never change.

There is still the same old whitewash on the walls, with some rubber stains growing like rot at the waist-level, only because my expensive armchair keeping scraping against the hollow wall whenever I step out of it.

The wall – a piece of prime estate that should be utilised – has remained vacant in some parts. Some colleagues left their part of the wall alone – some, like me, try to cover the deadwood by scattering flowers over it. No matter how much we scatter, bits of the dead still pokes through from below, an eye staring heavenward. There is a poster that my predecessor left behind – a Formula One poster denoting the various racetracks in 2008, I think. The bikini-clad girl is somewhat impotent, yellowed. I don’t think it will turn on any male libido in the office. I decorate the wall with postcards of cars and various automotive paraphernalia. It’s a feeble attempt, a masquerade and I hope no one will see through it.

The carpeting is still the same, perhaps getting a bit dustier as people get more relaxed and accustomed to the environment and start walking barefooted on the carpet (I can’t do it – my feet will itch). The carpet is still the same, I guess, except for a pile-up of crumbs from the snacks that I binged on while hunkered over my workstation, from the patch of coffee that I accidentally spilled some time ago. Or was it Coke? It looked like a bloodstain, this darkening patch that refused to go away, no matter how many carpet cleanup squads they sent.

The air-conditioning is the same. It comes to life at 7am in the morning, if I recall correctly. Sharp, nonetheless. A mark of our clinical efficiency. The air-con seeks out each and every corner, every crevice and fills it with cold air, as if it thinks such will wake up the drowsy person that is me, sitting at his workstation, peering over lifeless morphemes to be strung together so that they can be understood, easily consumed, for the masses. It is cold after a while and I will put on a jacket. Or make a cup of green tea for myself.

Like clockwork, someone will stride into the office an hour later. It is our help. S/he is here for another day, like every other day. There should be applause, a standing ovation for such courage, coming here to face a cerebral firing squad. How much matter dies everyday I do not know but gradually, even the very best lose themselves, a pale shadow of what they once were. These heroes, there ought to be a retirement village for them. We should find them some employment! Make them sew buttons onto shirts or something! Don’t lose them to the enemy! But still, we lose them. Some we keep. But there are changes, small ones that we pretend not to see. Those who are keepers, who stay, they come in every morning but not at 8am any more. They grab every bit of rest they can. Half-time. And we send them back to the frontlines but come Christmas, they’ll be sharing turkeys and drinks with the enemy. Just a day. And then it’s back to war.

Will I rise above your material mess

Or sink clasping thy chaos close to breast?

I like

Photo: Eduardo Kobra

I like

scuba diving, green apples, red apples, all sorts of fruit except starfruits, running forward while letting my rationality stay behind, sometimes hitting the gym, the smell of freshly baked bread, good bread (but not breadtalk), stars flickering in the sky but not being blocked by HDB flats, an azure Singaporean skyline without hideous HDB flats, a Singapore with less people, an island that’s really an island – sandy beaches and coconut trees with a gorgeous sea, good tunes with discernible beats, all sorts of music but not jazz please, L’Arc~en~Ciel and X-Japan, a lot of manga and anime, Japanese culture, daifuku, Japanese red bean should rule the world, an ordinary but fulfilling life, happiness, universal love, Volkswagen Kombi, manual cars, never-ending roads with no cars, empty streets, empty HDB flats, empty Singapore, my friends, my colleagues, my colleagues who are also friends, categories, dichotomies, typologies, Lacan and Freud, pseudo-intellectuals, random bits of knowledge, instant noodles with an egg and luncheon meat, espresso, English breakfast tea, 24-hour breakfasts, places that serve 24-hour breakfasts, quiet cafes, That CD shop in front of Pacific Plaza, that 24-hour Starbucks in front of That CD shop in front of Pacific Plaza, double chocolate chip cookies from Subway, Breakfast King from Burger King, sometimes fries and double cheeseburger from Macs, Late Night Alumni’s Empty Streets (Original Mix), Love Generation, intense talks with friends, liking nobody and everybody at once, liking women.

I like
the smell of paper, the smell of Monocle, that English paper, the smell of freshly shampooed hair, the look of that damp hair hanging, touching the shirt ever so gently and leaving a patch of their existence behind. I like French and Japanese languages, French and Japanese people, travelling to unknown places alone, savouring cuisines, driving, the alienated feel of cars, the ridiculousness of this society.

Because I like so many things

I think I like
having no favourite colours, having no favourites, having nothing fixed about what I like and liking your smile when I look at you.

I like these small little things in my life.

What do you like?

in the shadow of the shelf

I loathe to open those boxes of chocolates, boxes of which their contents are unknown to me.

Yes my dear, I know they’re chocolates but what kind, do you know? At what price shall I have to pay to open a box and find out that they’re not the ones I really like. Actually those I could probably tolerate. Those that I cannot are boxes of chocolates with weird, posh-sounding names that cost a bomb. Or those with weird flavours. Like coconut. Or wasabi. Why can’t they just leave chocolates alone? Why can’t they just give chocolates simple names? We’re already living in a complicated world where chocolates are no longer fit for kids because they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and flavours. I’ve seen alcoholic chocolates, and penis-shaped chocolates for hen nights (and probably some other nights…though I’m not sure what they sell on bachelor nights). So most of the time, I like to leave those boxes of chocolates on the shelf.

And if I really tiptoe, I can reach the highest shelf. If if I exert enough effort and just shove them right at the back where those cobwebs and dust bunnies gather, those shadows, I think I’ll be able to forget about opening them.