The sky’s overcast again. From a bright sunny morning, it is now filled with clouds. A day of promise turns into gloom.

But a day of promise?

I lack optimism, he smiled wryly as the thought hit him.

He has long forgotten what it was like to wake up feeling, no, appreciating how the new day has dawned and looking forward to what good it will bring to his life. The memory seems so distant that he thinks it never existed.

Waking up now means a day of dreary routine. All the hopes, ambitions and dreams that he held so close to his heart once are now like footnotes in font size 6 at the bottom of a page. They no longer take centrestage. Instead, they have been relegated to an obscure place and in their place, were just a jumble of words that mean nothing.

When there was once a thin sliver of hope, he now fights daily battles. Doing the right thing feels wrong, especially when he finds obstacle after obstacle in its way. His intentions, well-meaning, were trampled upon by legs belonging to beings who just didn’t like alternative perspectives. When the motivation is no longer there and that every step forward requires more bravery than he could muster, getting to the end of the day becomes a chore. Making a difference doesn’t apply to folks like him.

Stop being an idealist! You’re killing yourself, a voice screamed inside him. He couldn’t quite make out if it was screaming in injustice or mockery.

Everyone was wondering what happened to you.

Seven simple words appeared on the screen. He had no response to that because he didn’t know where to start. The damage was worse than he thought. He foolishly believed he could ride above all of that, like a warrior charging into the crowd of sword-wielding enemy soldiers. He thought he could ignore every slash on his arms, every cut on his legs and every bruise on his head. But now, over and above the wounds, his regret was amplified by the shouts of those who mocked him. At the end of it, he knew he was defeated by the mental and emotional exhaustion.

20 years of hurt, was a recurring thought in his head.

More than 7,300 days have passed and less than 10% of them were spent trying to find a way to heal the hurts. Telling himself that “tomorrow will be a better day” no longer worked by the 1,000th day. He wasn’t sure if telling people who cared about what he thought he would need to get better worked. They might flippantly dismiss his request or that they think he’s a little off the rockers. But what came his way were requests demanding more of him. He has given up trying to understand why it takes so much for someone to care.

Fixing someone who has been broken for decades won’t be an easy task. He was told it would be expensive. He told himself it would be traumatic for him to unravel all of them and put them back in their place. He would probably have to relive the voices and images of the haunting past before they can be exorcised. He would need something to take their place, something big enough to plug a hole that has been dug for the past 20 years.

7.21pm, 5 April (亂寫一篇)














* 聖荷西謀殺案

Gramps (Part II)

He watched as she winced in pain, for the umpteenth time.

He would love to know what she was like during her youth. From the bits and pieces he was told, she was a hardy woman who started working in the fields – barefooted – when she was nine. She left her home village a few years later – with her mother’s hand in tow – and settled on a tropical island, miles away from familiar faces, sights and sounds.

Amidst the silence of the room — interrupted by the beeping of the machines, the fields and images of a woman and a child, clad in samfoos, filled his head. He would have loved for her to tell him more about her younger years and how she survived the war with her husband. He had watched so many drama serials about the war, stories told by other people, but never ever got to hear them – first hand – from the people who experienced it all. What he could remember, again from the bits and pieces told to him, was how his grandfather hoarded a suitcase full of banana notes. They were useless by the time the war ended.

She shifted uncomfortably in bed. The tubes, all four of them, made it difficult for her to move to a better position. Not used to sleeping in an air-con room and having suffered from rheumatism since her 50s, she needed three blankets to fend off the cold she was unaccustomed to.

Gently, he brushed her hair off her face. They were now all white. He remembered how he would follow her to the hairdresser’s as a child and watched as the chatty woman put rollers – in different colours – all over her hair. A few hours of wait ensued before the job was done – her hair all curly and dyed in black. It was what she wanted. As the strands of her hair slipped through his hands now, they were wispy, thin and soft.

They didn’t know what was happening in her body. She was admitted for extremely low blood pressure. They hooked her up to a machine which did the work of stabilising the blood circulation. She complained of pain in her stomach. The doctor said there might be some infection somewhere which caused the sudden drop in blood pressure.

A few years ago, he would visit her unannounced at her tiny two-room flat. There was not once when she didn’t ask if he had his meal already and was ready to offer to share her food with him. He would give his usual reply about how dinner was already waiting for him at home. He would stay and be her silent companion over dinner until she was done with her food. There were times when he caught a glint of a teardrop from the side of her eye. She lived alone and the moment he leaves her flat, he knew that she would be faced with the deafening silence until the next visit from one of her sons, daughters or grandchildren.

There were times when he wanted to ask her to tell him stories about her youth. How was it like in the village? How did you catch the frogs in the farm? What did you eat in the evenings when your family would huddle round the table after a hard day’s work? What were your first impressions of this wee island, which you came to live for the rest of your life? How did you get to know my grandfather? What was work like for a laundrywoman? What was it like trying to bring up eight children in spite of ah gong’s meagre earnings as a trishaw rider?

As he pulled the blanket closer to her body and yelled in her ear for the umpteenth time (that the sky was overcast because it was evening and not that it was raining outside), he was glad for the stories – in bits and pieces – she told him. Like how she learnt to cook by watching the neighbour’s wife, smiling as she rattled off recipe after recipe, dish after dish she picked up through the years and perfected.

Quietly, he left the room after she had dozed off with her body in an awkward position, wrapped under three thin cotton blankets.

To-do list for 2011:

- Do more than just step into the immigration office of a particular country which apparently welcomes wee islanders.
– Learn shorthand.
– Invest in commodities (or commodity) to prepare for a rainy day.
– Prepare for next year’s trip to an arts festival of a particular city, just to soak in the arty-farty atmosphere. (travelling companion(s) will be a bonus rather than optional)
– Learn to … love.