When I was young, I didn’t live with Ma.
Many thought the both of us weren’t close. But distance has a way of bringing the hearts closer, and we were, as cliche as it sounded, the best of friends.
At 10pm every night, knowing Ma was home, I would pick up the cordless phone, lie on the sofa, punch her number, and call her. And we would chat.
When I was young, school was everything I cared for. Naturally, my conversations with Ma would revolve around that topic. We would talk about everything. Many times, I would imagine Ma standing by the balcony and listening compassionately, nodding her head and breaking into smiles as I shared snippets of my stories.
We would talk about the food I ate, the bus ride ‘home’, the girls I liked, the people I met, the things I learnt … Sometimes, Ma would reminisce her younger days and I would struggle to stay awake because it was past bedtime.
Sometimes Ma shared about her experience as a rebel. How she would get into fights to protect the weak and for the righteous. Sometimes Ma shared about her dating stories. How girls used to chase her when she was the notorious tomboy of the crowd. But mostly, she would share about how I came to this world.
She used to mention how I was a rebel like her because I refused to exit her vagina. And after 24 hours of deliberation, the doctor, had to resort to using a vacuum. She told me what my name meant. That is, when translated, “happy” and “lofty”.
Those 60 minutes conversations would be lost amid the receding radio waves yet remain forever etched in memory.
Life was simple then. Until age and responsibilities caught up. The 60 minutes conversations would fall short to 45 minutes, then 30, eventually 10. And sometimes the frequency of dialing would decrease altogether. Ma must have expected it.
Today, I am 22 and Ma is 53. I moved back and am living with Ma. I am in my prime but she is experiencing menopause.
Today, I know that the idyllic portrait I painted for Ma when she speaks with someone over the phone would never materialise. On the contrary, she would sit on the sofa, beer on the table and cigarette in hand, chatting away.
Sometimes, I would try to start a conversation.
“I’m not managing my life well.” I’d say.
Silence. She would look at me, hold her hand up, speak something into the speaker, cut her call promptly, before looking straight into my eyes and telling me to deal with it. She would take in a sip of alcohol and a whiff of cigarette, and wait not for my response but my solution.
Distance has a way painting false pretenses. But false pretenses are not necessarily all benign in nature. In any case, my interactions with Ma taught me many life lessons that I am grateful of.
Perhaps to Ma the manner she interacted with me was her way of teaching. To her, the 60 minutes calls were a substitute for the lack of contact comfort in my childhood. While her savage face-to-face communication was her way of telling me to solve problems and not rant about them. Ma was uneducated but she has always been an educator at heart.
Perhaps to Ma the way she greeted my question with silence was her way of encouraging me to try even if that meant I would come face to face with nothingness. Perhaps to Ma, trying was all that mattered because if everything fail, I would walk away with no regrets.
But for the longest of time, there is one thing Ma is constantly silent about — relationships.
And I pray she never will.
I have had very differing opinions on this.
One moment, I can hate those who write for the sake of writing. (For those who know me, I’m pretty sure ya’ll would have guessed who these groups of people are. But no, Nicole Choo is something else.) And almost instantaneously, I can empathise with them. I am pretty sure they have their reasons, and I wonder if I have had done something along the lines in the past …
Turns out, I don’t have to think far.
Academic writing, as it turns out, is a cliche classic. Everywhere, college undergrads and grads are writing, some nonchalantly while others voraciously, for their grades. I doubt anyone would succumb their minds to this voluntarily, or at the very least, wholeheartedly. But hey, there are some who do so right? And I applaud those who do. But let this piece define the former and not the latter, aye? (Sounds wholly academic here)
So, here am I, writing for the sake of writing in the confines of my relative’s place, hoping that the completion of this will prompt me to finish reading that last chapter of my textbook.
There is value in “shitty” writing. Because, at the end of the day, writing, regardless of authors or poets or writers, is telling. Writing is telling because it sheds light on the writer; writing sheds light on you. Writing tells a lot about you, a denizen of this sad, sad world.
In every piece of writing, you are writing about yourself. You cannot escape it. It is about the internalisation of details in the head and generating them eloquently onto a medium. Sometimes you get it right, and sometimes you don’t. Not because you lack the medium nor the medium, in question, is lacklustre in nature, but because that manifold transition from the head to the hand, and the hand to the pen, and pen to paper, is entirely tedious.
So, here’s to those who continuously strive to be better, to those who succeeded in writing things they never thought they would have otherwise done.
Because, im damn tilted la. #writingforthesakeofwriting
EDIT: I SWEAR I WILL GET BACK TO THIS.
somehow cny doesn’t feel like cny
i am overthinking alot
i hate the feeling of suffocation that’s in my chest
i wish i am a faster worker
i wish i am a better reader
i wish i can an efficient reader
academic rigor? im not used to it
i didnt sign up for this.
my father did.
I think I am happy because I have friends who care, people who eat lunches with me, and people who compliment me.
I think I am also mildy sad because things are happening in me, and it’s not puberty. I wish it was though.
I was also told that things happen because they are meant to be. I no longer believe in destiny. It’s not bullshit but nothing is really happening. On a brighter note, I was also told that my writing has a voice and it means so much. The same people also told me that I used the ’em dash’ incorrectly.
I think life is going well for now. And I am becoming braver. I no longer apologise to the things I shouldn’t be feeling sorry for. Likewise, I learnt that apologies shouldn’t be given for the sake of it; it should be sincere and precise. The one drawback is that it may not work and I am still trying to learn how to recover from that.
It’s also strange because people think that I am smart. I’d thank them instead and tell them I am not. I try to be but words and logic don’t pair well with me, and this explains my sporadicity (if it’s even a word).
I wonder if anyone would die for me. I think some would. On the contrary, I doubt they will ever live for me.
I mean, you live your own life, right?
I told you the word it takes for me to crack and crumble, and I told you to tell no one else because I want you to be the only one, who knows and be the only one to hold on and never let go. I told you who my favourite band is, why I like ‘Misery Business’, and why red was never my colour even though it is yours. You told me cryptocurrency was the way to go, and you built me the way fools would jump on the Bitcoin bandwagon, only to fall steep and whole, and for some, never the same again. You beamed as the lights transitioned from electric blue to neon red. You shuffled away as DNCE got on, as the lights turned bright scarlet. The dance floor was never lonely. I was. But I still danced to the flow, keeping pretence, even though I felt myself crumbling. It was never the alcohol, it was you. Picking up whatever remnants of self-dignity and self-respect, I left, never looking back, never returning again.
in bursts of neon red and orange,
when smiles smear surreptitiously
and faces gawk in contempt.
The room stretches longer,
and shadows blush a shade darker.
I gird myself in the sheets waiting,
for the cut that follows the fall.
The stench of tobacco and phlegm lingers droopy,
a pebble daggling on a thin thread by the uvula.
I imagine myself turning blue,
lungs wrung, like tablecloths over a parched sink,
knees wobbly, like drunkards disorientated.
But I know better.
the sun still sets
fist-planting on our faces,
in shades of scarlet and gold,
the subtle hints of goodbyes.
I was never a good man.
But I am merely one,
of flesh and cheap wine.
I choke back a word,
because my mouth is full of splinters,
and the air is flammable,
and my veins are gasoline.
I need a light,
I need a light.
“If it’s important, don’t let go”, she said.
“I won’t”, I promised.
Not because love triumphs,
but because years do.