The captain’s voyage (Part 2)

And so it is – a round of farewells and the necessary wrapping up.

***

Once again, the ship was prepared to leave this place, sailing into the unknown. This was despite the storm clouds that had gathered and amidst speculations that more tsunamis were heading its way.

As the strong gales of wind blew all round him, the captain shivered while pulling his wind-breaker closer to his body. This was yet another false dawn. Unlike all other sojourns he had undertaken – when he left on his own accord, the leaders of this particular island were requesting his departure by pointing the sharp ends of their spears at him.

He had fond memories of every place he visited, not least this one. He made friends with some of the inhabitants. He shared bits and pieces of his culture with them while they shared theirs with him. He felt it unfortunate that things didn’t turn out the way they should. And he thought he would be here for a considerable length of time.

The captain had been barred from the village closest to the harbour and he had limited means of saying his farewells to the friends he made here. He might never see them again and so, all he could do was to whisper his prayers for them, in the wind.

He had no idea how long he would be at sea again. Perhaps it might be weeks or even months when he would see land. Then, there would always be the chance of him and his ship not being too well-received by its locals.

He sat on the steps of his ship. Looking up he could see the sails flapping furiously as the winds blew while the dark clouds swirled all around. He watched as the labourers continued to load the cargo and supplies, which would probably last him a few months on his voyage to … nowhere.

He was once promised a map of the surrounding areas by the island’s leaders, but it was on the condition that he would give his ship to them in exchange for an old rickety skiff. Even a fool would know that a skiff in prime condition would not survive a storm at sea.

Burying his head in his hands for a few moments, the captain took deep breaths to calm himself. So much had happened during the last few months. So much of his hopes had been dashed.

Once again, he had no other choice but to brace himself for whatever fate, Divinity and the sea would throw at him.

***

(The text for Part 1 was lost during the numerous transfers between the hard disk and the thumb drive.)

From the AOT archives: How I wish it would rain…

How I wish it would rain
8 April 2002

I like the rain. I like the feeling of it, as I stand at my window looking at it pelting down on the world… rich or poor, good or bad… pretty or ugly, thin or fat…big or small…

It’s no respecter of status.

I was caught in the rain this morning. Never expected the weather to turn out this way, not when it felt like an oven the night before. I didn’t want to bring an umbrella. Never liked to and if I had my way, I would love to walk in the rain.

It’s nice to have the rain pelting down on your body, and making your clothes wet. It’s nicer even, when you turn your face up and look at the sky, letting the rainwater stream down your face.

Nicer still if your tears get mixed with the rainwater…

***

After-note: 8 April 2009

It hasn’t been raining that much during this time of the year. Somehow, I cannot remember the exact moment when I wrote that entry. I still love the rain but perhaps the desire to walk in it has somewhat dissipated. Maybe it’s a remnant of those silly desires I carried over from my teenage years to adulthood.

I don’t cry as much as I did when I was in my sillier late-20s. There isn’t anymore of those “emo” nights, crying myself to sleep. Something has replaced all of those — even as I am go through one of the darkest times of my life. It is as though a barrier has been erected around my emotions, preventing them from being manifested outwardly.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that at 34, the days of crying into my pillow (after a night of soppy songs) are over.

It’s the sunshine — typical of a late afternoon in April — outside the window now.

Tears or no tears, I still love the rain.

From the AOT archives: La Toux et d’autres Histoires*

The following is not an imaginary conversation during dinner.

Sophisticated Lady#1: Hi there. Where do you work?

Me: << Answer censored on this blog>>

SL#1: Oh… So what do you do there?

Me: I cannot believe that I am saying this for the fifth time this week! Power Point presentations.

SL#1: Oh…

SL#2: I do that too…

SL#1: Is that what you intend to do for the rest of your career?

Me: Nope.

SL#1: So what would you rather do?

Me: Something in the humanitarian field?

SL#1: Cool.

Awkward silence for a minute or two…

Then SL#1 picks up her packet of food, sits next to SL#2.

SL#1: (to SL#2) So do you know so-and-so who is working in your company? Have you seen him recently? Blah blah blah…

Me: (looks down and starts poking at my packet of economy rice)

***

Along with the tragedy that befell Cambodia when thousands of innocent civilians were slaughtered during the savage reign of the Rouge in the 70s, surely the genocide of the 90s would be Rwanda’s to claim.

Ten years after the mad 100 days of killing, where more than 800,000 innocent civilians perished, the Beeb takes a look at the events, which shocked the world, but not enough to garner any international intervention.

Two “take-home” lessons for me:

(a) Never trust or depend on anyone to help you in times of need (unless you have huge amounts of reserves, which will get your forever indebted to a more superior power).
(b) Men (myself included) are born evil.

Food for thought:

The number of people who died under the dictatorial rule of a certain Kim is still a question mark.

This may put the entire debate about the rise in transport costs due to additional security measures or the not-so-secret revelation of the day with regards to a certain non-profit organization (who had been lauded for “clever marketing strategies” in all its fund-raising attempts) into perspective.

***

Speaking of evil, a day after soap was re-discovered in the toilet, much to many corporate slaves’ relief (including mine), the air-condition thingy, never received any form of maintenance work, decided to go on strike.

As such, the windowless section of the temporary office, which received no fresh air ventilation other than from the malfunctioned air-con vents, has turned my work cell into a sauna of sorts.

While word had been sent to the authorities, the amount of red tape would ensure that a restoration of circulated air supply and reverting to less sauna-like temperatures would only happen in at least one or two day’s time.

So if you spot an obese 28.5 (some say 29) year-old man dressed in a purple long sleeve shirt on board a TIBS bus around knock-off time today, with a body smelling like rotten salted fish, it could well be D W. Be kind and say “hi” to him, if you dare.

***

The little production had given me a little new lease of life recently. However, I am fully aware that after we have done our last show, it will probably all end.

Until then, I am actually looking forward to engaging in a little bit of mickeying-around with a Brit who uprooted himself from the UK (London to be exact) 8 years ago to settle down here with his wife, in between the rehearsals. We had lots of laughs over silly expressions like “GMT”, “Lufthansa” and “Mediaworse” – all inside jokes. I also received a card from a fellow member of the cast. Though she gave it to almost everyone else in appreciation for the work they had done or as a form of encouragement, it left me pleasantly surprised.

On the love front (or should I say “crush front”), there were no developments of note between my latest crush and I. In fact, there was not even an exchange of greetings or words throughout the three hours when the entire cast was together.

***

Since my dad never had the habit of closing his mouth when he coughed, it may not be long before my mother starts her very own spell as well.

(This brings a whole new revelation to the meaning of the oft-spouted line during wedding ceremonies – “in sickness or in health”.)

It may not be an entirely pleasant thing to do, but as much as it worries me, I have been counting the number of intervals between his coughs, which are loud enough to wake up the neighbours.

Anyway, my weak respiratory system has finally lost the battle to keep the bug at bay and my old nemesis (even older than the D monster), the Cough, has returned. That is already despite the fact that I have been rarely around at home during the week.

***

Thanks to the production, I have finally gotten a taste of what make-up feels like on one’s face. In fact, I was given a quick introduction to the world of foundation, blusher, eyeliner, eye shadow, and yes, lipstick! Having all of them plonked onto my face, albeit with the make-up artist’s expertise, my face felt heavy and every little pore on my skin was like gasping for air.

Little did I know that removing the said chemicals on my face was a whole new experience (and a rather tedious one) altogether.

I don’t remember the Home Econs textbook (during my time) having an entire chapter devoted “How to put on make-up”. So where on God’s good earth did our girls learn this from?

* French for “The cough and other stories”.

22:21

The world has all the answers, but you’ll have to find them yourself. They may reside in your heart. They may appear in your head. They may just be an image that flitted its way in front of you.

They are there.

But you have to pull them out, lead them in and ask yourself if you believe them.

Then, there are truths and untruths.  These are words that further the good and (mostly) the evil of this world. How do you sieve them out? How do you figure out the ones that are good from the evil?

That’s wisdom, my friend. Wisdom will move you towards the truth. It will turn over the falsehoods in every sentence, filter out the nuances in every word and highlight the every piece of body language that suggests a lie is being told.

How do we become wise? Where do we get wisdom?

Life shows us the way to it. Realising every piece of falsehood from a lie disguised as truth teaches us wisdom. We see. We feel. We tell. We say. We observe. We try. We touch.

And then, we learn a little. We pick ourselves up. We dust away the dirt from our bruises and wounds. We walk on. We forge ahead. Lesson learned. It is sometimes painful, but enlightening on most others.

The world will never give you the answers we want. Wisdom lights the way for us to find them.

 

***

 

Saturday night. Once again, he was in admiration. His heart was filled with envy; his being was filled with awe. It wasn’t Divine, but it was close to it.

It made him wonder about measures. It got him thinking about his life.

He gazed – more than a few times that night – at her. He watched as she strummed her guitar as her fawning fans (he was one of them) shouted themselves hoarse that night.

He wondered if they ever shared some of his thoughts and his doubts about his life (versus hers) – even for a few seconds. Or have their made up their minds.

He admired her greatly for her craft. He looked up to her for her courage in pursuing what she was good at. He celebrated – in his heart – the success she has achieved in persevering in pursuit of success, which she had defined for herself.

Could he?

Should he?

Would he?

At the end of the concert, she waved shyly back at the thousands of fans whom she’d leave behind. He waved back, almost instinctively. Although his gesture was one of the many thousands of others, it was, for him, the closure to an almost magical and enjoyable night.

***

She said it was beautiful.

He wondered if she said it because she was paid to listen to him.

He wanted to ask, “How beautiful was it? Why did you find it beautiful?”

He didn’t. Not because he didn’t know how to. It wasn’t because he was shy about it.

He knew that her answer would never be something that would strike a chord in his heart.

There simply have been too many condescending words. Too many flippant comments said in mock sincerity or political correctness.

How can one find beauty in less than ten paragraphs of words on a piece of unfinished work?

He knew she had been genuine. He was grateful for her. When so many others have tossed his words aside, stamped on them and kicked them into the mud, she simply took every one of them and acknowledging every one of them as his own. Cradle them, she did not.

She cried uncontrollably when he told her about a bad incident once. There was no hint of emotion (usually characterised by the not-so-masculine quivering of his voice) when he talked about it. Yet, still she cried and apologised to him for doing so.

Was this the worst she heard? He thought to himself.

Surely she must have heard more painful accounts in someone else’s life.

The incident meant nothing to him anymore, other than a footnote if he were to write his life story.

 

***

It wasn’t that long a time ago that they were chatting about (almost) anything and everything under the sun.

A few months later, every attempt to initiate a conversation drew a cold response.

He wondered why.

Perhaps she thought of him as someone irresponsible.

Perhaps in her mind, he was too self-absorbed.

Perhaps he whinged too much for her liking.

Perhaps he wasn’t a friend strong enough for her.

So, somewhere along the way, she decided to draw an imaginary line – thicker than the ones seen at the MRT stations – and told herself that was it.

He had to stand behind it.
Watch the passing trains.
Without boarding any one of them.
Yet hoping that one day,
The doors would open invitingly for him,
Once more.

From the AOT archives: San Visage

San Visage
6 April 2004

The lack of updates over the weekend was simply because… it was the weekend (duh!). The lack of an update on Monday was simply because I was down with an infirmity. Not a surprise since I have been going on two consecutive 12-hour days filled with activities from Sunday onwards. I guess the little “under the weather” bit was an indication of how my body was responding to a drastic change of lifestyle within a short space of time.

It will not end soon though, as I have two more 12-hour days to plough through (today and Wednesday) before I finish the week with a bang on Friday. While the activities were interesting enough to keep me going and committing the now-obscene amount of time for them, there had been times when bits of it left me emotionally high-and-dry with a sprinkling of insecurity thrown in. There had been times also when I thought I had met the woman of my life but I guess with my “not unattractive” face (which I believe is not on the same level as an “attractive” face), I did not and would not be making enough of an impression to get anywhere with her. Possibly in her mind, my face was ordinary enough to be just one of those hundreds and thousands of blokes she met in the train, on the streets, while sitting in the bus or at work every other day.

Not that I have a crush on her yet. The last time I checked my heart, it was still scarred but the yearnings were not present. I would still be meeting her again for the rest of the week (excluding Thursday) but after the Easter festivities, there would be a chance of us never engaging in small talk or even never meeting again for the rest of our lives.

For anything to happen, it would take a miracle and a big, big one at that.

***

He won the unofficial “Best Actor” award last evening even as I sat there listening to the debrief with a bladder bursting at its seams. All of us clapped acknowledging the fact that he earned it with his hard work. Perhaps having the edge of doing drama in school as his major contributed to this, but that would be taking away the merit of having done enough to pull off a potentially difficult part.

I have never come close to getting the award during the past few sessions. Frankly speaking, I blame the part for it since I thought it was boring as hell and it would take someone with exceptional talents to pull off a stellar performance out of it. Of course, the problem is I have never been that someone in the first place. In fact, I kept asking myself if I was doing the right thing.

In one of those rare moments when I decided to take the initiative to improve my lot, I suggested to the Director some changes to make the part interesting. She good-naturedly agreed with her eyes sparkling away, giving me the hope that I would be able to fully ravel in the role for the first time since taking it on.

Three hours later, when I thought I did enough, the bombshell was dropped and I found myself having to come to terms with having to revert back to my flaccid role.

“Immense disappointment” is an understatement.

***

For the others who got themselves an interesting role, it would be a good excuse for them to get their friends to support them by being present on the day of the show. I can envisage them telling their friends about how they would be playing a nerd, an Ah Lian or a wrestler on stage, their eyes sparkling with excitement.

I would love to be in their position as well.

Yet, because I could not, for the life of me, conjure up a good performance for a flaccid role, inviting the very few people I know in my life would be pointless, unless the production (and not me) is their motivating factor for spending the public holiday watching the performance.

In conclusion, I do not think I will invite.