Once, too many…

I once loved a girl… she was the prettiest of them all and from her, I knew all about Axl Rose.

I once loved a girl… she came out top of her all-gals class in Sec 1 and I admired her brains.

I once loved a girl… for her slim and athletic frame, which I admired silently and secretly from afar whenever we took the same bus home. (And oh, her scent too…)

I once loved a girl… because her long, wavy tresses with a hint of brown when all other girls wore their hair black.

I once loved a girl… when I found two postcards she sent to me from her holiday in Hong Kong for no discernible reason.

I once loved a girl… just because she came from one of those convent schools.

I once loved a girl… so much that the memory of her, decked in her IJ blouse and my CJC PE shorts, lying next to me on my bed, lingers in my mind to this day.

I once loved a girl… after she painstakingly copied all lyrics of GNR’s songs from their UYI I&II albums into a scrapbook and gave it to me as a gift.

I once loved a girl… for the hours we spent chatting on the phone till we had to whisper through the mouthpieces for the fear of waking up our families.

I once loved a girl… but had my heart shattered when she told me her fiancée is the owner of a shoe boutique.

I once loved a girl… but I had to keep my calm when she told me about how she was abused and forced to abort their first child.

I once loved a girl… the moment we were placed in a group when I was on course; her dimpled smile and the short bob enthralled me.

I once loved a girl… when I finally realised why she didn’t head home after our lessons but stuck around in the studio while I was working on my radio project.

I once loved a girl… who shared my love for watching the setting sun at the beach; I didn’t hug or put my arms around her when all before us as the beautiful sky of pink, orange and yellow.

I once loved a girl… who would call me suddenly on a midwinter’s night and ask me out for Macca’s ice-cream via the drive-through in my beat-up 1981 Toyota Corolla.

I once loved a girl… whom I watched silently as she lay sprawled on my mattress, sleeping as though the entire world’s at peace.

I once loved a girl… enough to pop the question at the 24-hour café to her, only for her to say “let’s wait”. This was the only time in my life when I mustered enough courage to have done that.

I once loved a girl… so much that she became the first recipient of flowers that I bought from the florist’s. Until today, I could still see the knowing grin on the cashier’s face as I parted with my money.

I once loved a girl… whom I would have given anything just to give her a tight hug and whisper words in her ear that could have made her smile. I never did.

I once loved a girl… whom I cried silent tears over when she disappeared from my life.

I once loved a girl… whose face I could hardly remember now because it has been 20 long years.

I once loved a girl… I pored through the archived yearbooks in the National Library just for that chance to remember her face again.

I once loved a girl… whose voice I could no longer recall in my head.

I once loved a girl… but she appeared on my dreams just once.

I once loved a girl… I once loved a girl… I once loved a girl…

36 years of my life, I’m still alone and all I have are memories of the girls I once loved, fading by the day.

The unbearable heaviness of being

“I am not pretty.”

That was her message on Whatsapp. Mystery solved.

===
“How would you see your life after 40?”

The question eventually led to an epiphany (how we wish life could send more of these our way). Wishing for life to end at 30 and not having enough courage to execute the plan resulted in a rudderless excuse of an existence for years on end. When, for 16 years, I believed that there is nothing beyond a certain point, there is no need for a plan. Therefore, there is only nothingness if I were to close my eyes and try to imagine what life would be like when I’m in my 40s.

I could plan for it now if I were to start. There are dreams that angels (i.e., if you believe they exist) drop from time to time in my brain, which is saturated with pessimism and jaded from the battles in life (within and without).

But first, I have to think about coming home to an empty house for the rest of my life and away from civilisation.

Back to the question, I’m laden with guilt at how it popped up in the midst of a dinner celebrating someone’s birthday.

===

Eight reasons why I hate my birthdays

1. It inevitably reminds me of death, i.e., you’re destined for death the moment you’re born.

2. It reminds me of the plan I hatched and declared at 14 to die by my thirtieth birthday.

3. It reminds me of how I lacked the courage to execute it.

4. It reminds me of the unhappy childhood (during those unenlightened times). (This manifested in the form of trillchotillomania, which taught me the harsh lessons on what social embarrassment is.)

5. It reminds me of birthdays that went uncelebrated as a child.

6. It puts me in the centre of attention, which I absolutely detest and will avoid like the plague.

7. It reminds me of the many mistakes I’ve made in all of my existence.

8. It forces me to act happy and smile when there’re not that many reasons to.

These are from the top of my head. There may be more.

===

On a less morbid note:

“Where death is the great leveller of life, a legacy attempts to reverse it.”

If the clouds knew…

“You date but you’re underwhelmed by everyone. You know in the first five minutes whether or not it will work. Five minutes. You take people home sometimes anyway and you hold them so tight. You pretend that you love them and you create your own fantasy. ‘In this fantasy, I don’t want to get rid of you in the morning. And action!’ You get sad when they leave and you don’t even know why. You used to always know why you felt something but it’s becoming less clear these days. This, somehow, seems like the scariest thing to you. This idea that you’re losing touch with yourself and forgetting the reasons why is terrifying. Because at the end of the day, you only have yourself. If you don’t know yourself, you know no one.”

– Ryan O’Connell, How To Be Single

===

He went to bed last night, fighting lingering thoughts of fading hopes and receding dreams. In the midst of fending them off just so that he could be lulled into sleep and finally get some peace, an idea dropped in his head.

In response to “How to be Single”, you could write “Confessions of a Single Man”. You can spark off something.

It was tempting for a while; it silenced the rest of the voices in his head. For a moment, he thought he could see them cowering in shame for gnawing at his confidence and whatever’s left of his resolve. Here it was, from somewhere in him, an idea presented.

But it didn’t take long before a sole voice threw a question which threw a spanner into the works (i.e., the idea). His confidence was shaken once more and in mere seconds, the barrage of voices returned, louder than before and way harsher.

He had been fighting them for a good part of his life. He had been living with them. Sometimes he found success in ignoring them. A decade ago, he thought he was tired and it would only be a matter of time. Now, he knew it was only the external shell of whatever resistance he had that they broke into. They were now moving into the core – his heart.

In frustration, he let out a silent scream. A few moments later and exhausted from a recent sleepless night, he finally found peace albeit temporal.

===

He woke in the morning and lazed in bed for an hour. His head was muddled by a dream he couldn’t remember the details of. It lifted his heart because its entirety was about a date he had. Because it was just too perfect, he knew it was merely a dream.

Sadly, he couldn’t remember how the girl looked. She didn’t remind him of No. 7 (thank God). He only remembered how she had a smashing figure and she wore a pink flare dress. In this paradise his brain created, they shared a meal, laughed and enjoyed the conversations before they held hands whilst strolling in some unidentifiable shopping centre.

And somewhere, the gods of happiness must have thought that was enough for him and the dream ended.

He sat up and buried his face in his hands. The hum from the air-conditioner was barely audible. The beams of the morning sun were streaming into his room from the sides of the blackout blinds which were never aligned properly (such that they failed to cancel out all lights). He tried his best to recall how the girl’s face but the image that held in his mind would always be that of a blank.

He got up and stumbled to the window. Pulling the side of the blind, he saw the world outside and that this was another new day, complete with its promise of drudgery at work, a lunch spent in solitude, many hopeless glances at the mobile phone, and a lonely commute back whilst drowning in the sea of drone-like humanity.

His stomach growled, reminding him about how the day passed with the intake of food blatantly halved because of his masochistic pleasure. Any pain was good, he reasoned, his body needed to suffer. A step closer to anorexia would be welcome.

With a heavy sigh, he grabbed his towel and made his way to the bathroom.

So, another lifeless and cheerless day began. By the end of it, he would forget everything but that faceless girl. Even so, she would fade away. Eventually.

Leaving

“老實講,你樣子不錯。尤其是少年時,冇理由冇女埋身。”

Unexpected, but subjective.

===

I made my bed with the devil and now, I may have to sleep in it. Perhaps it was borne out of desperation. Perhaps it was her profile which was interesting in so many ways. Perhaps my senses need more calibrating.

===

“過了三十歲,他們(人們)幾乎完全放棄了作為個人的感覺–他們主要是為他人而生,或者是在苦差中壓得喘不過氣來。但是還有另一小部分具有天分、隨心所欲的人們,他們決心一輩子到底為自己生活,作家就是屬於這類人。”

– 奧威爾

“After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.”

– George Orwell, “Why I write”

There lies another missing piece from the jigsaw puzzle of life.

There was once I was told that not every living human on this earth knows exactly what he is living for. Since we cannot be living for nothing, we may just be living for others. Maybe we don’t really know who but for whoever, we shall have to live.

Mr. Orwell was right about being smothered by drudgery too. For five days a week, many plod, trudge and drag their feet. Perhaps there would be one moment in our lives when we paused to think what this is about. Some would brush the thought away and mutter to themselves, “No point dwelling on that.” Some would seek wisdom from books, quotes and the collective wisdom of men. Some would turn to the book of Ecclesiastes. Some would spend the rest of their lives looking for a way out of the drudgery.

Then, there is a collective mass of people who simply get smothered.

===

So it’s au revoir. He tried. He pushed. He pulled back a little on numerous occasions. Yet, that first date would be the last time he saw her.

He wanted to make it work; she didn’t, as evidenced by the questions she left unanswered and the number of times she flaked. There was a time when her texts would offer some glimmer of hope (and a chuckle) but none of it led to a meaningful conversation. Without a proper conversation, there wouldn’t be a way to move things along.

She’s young. She’s 27. She’s keeping her options open.

But there’s a thin line between all of that and disrespect, intended or otherwise.