Absence diminishes small loves and increases great ones, as the wind blows out the candle and fans the bonfire.
― François de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims
So I’m walking down the slope when an overweight, balding, forty-something-pushing-fifty year old man looks me in the eye and practically lunges at me. It feels like it’s happening in slow motion and I can’t escape because it’s happening. He’s drunk and suddenly sitting on me as I’m lying on top of a metal barricade that has toppled with me. I can feel the bruises forming as the bars dig into my thigh and shin. I struggle to push him off. I cannot get up and he doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem. Nobody’s particularly helpful though I see and feel several pairs of eyes observing the situation. I completely give up and wait because it’s useless. Then finally somebody pulls him up (it felt like it lasted longer than it did) and I’m fuming. His friends are grinning. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” I yell. His eyes are glazed over and I think to myself that maturity and self control surpass age and experience. Just because you’re way over the legal drinking age does not mean you should drink.
After I’d calmed down, it became a hilarious story to tell. Now that I’m bruised and battered (not really), I cannot believe I got sat on by a huge man. I had no chance. He was seriously fat. But it bothers me how “what is wrong with you” seemed too easy a question to ask. As in, the words came out so naturally. And it felt right at the time. I should be more careful with my words.
Funny how in drunken scenarios the bystander effect is so much more pronounced. Nobody cares. Only one woman asked if I was okay.
Someone is lying on the floor. Another is hanging off a railing, like a shirt draped across a washing line. At first, I’m concerned. Maybe I should check to see if he’s okay, possibly call the police or something. Has he passed out? Is he breathing? How can this guy be taking a video of him if they are friends? He needs to get home. The floor is so nasty. I’m judging his useless friends as they do not even try to take him home. Then my friend points out that those two drunkards had it coming. True. They were responsible for how much they could drink and they went overboard. It baffles me how people let themselves get to a state where their lives are endangered when they’re hoping to have a good time with their friends. They ruin the night with stupidity. I grow impatient and frustrated with the situation, especially at this one friend who decides to sit next to the guy on the floor and make a scene. Shuddering dramatically, clutching the guy’s arm, probably crying instead of being helpful. Pathetic. I reflect upon the fact that I feel superior and I both enjoy it (it feels good to be better or at least think you are) and objectively don’t like it. I mean, if a person if a victim of his/her own actions, they may not ‘deserve’ sympathy, but compassion knows no reason. We all have our issues. Some actions are more idiotic than others but there’s something wrong with all of us. So I should remind myself of that and develop a willingness to serve and be compassionate- which still doesn’t mean that they are excused from responsibility.
This is beautiful though:
“From the perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy.”
– Rachel Naomi Remen
Distance makes the heart grow fonder. It’s like my feelings have experienced a time lapse; a lag. Being with you was like watching a glacier drop before it’s heard, and now that you’re gone the sound is deafening. My feelings work the way an audio track refuses to synchronize with murmuring lips on television. If that makes sense. I’m catching up and I miss you.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been granted time (from now to the indefinite forever) to uncover what I had missed when you were here. Maybe this is the unfurling of things that had passed me by- things that had gone largely unnoticed. Or maybe I’m recreating you, innacurate is the nature of memory. Your absence makes you more here than ever, because when I hear a song and think oh, you’d probably like this, I can’t make you to listen to it and say “sorry but you have to” (I admit I’m pushy and opinionated when it comes to good music). When I received an offer from University and I was happy, I wanted to share it with you but I couldn’t. When I’m out and surrounded by strangers in a tiny room (clubbing is not a social affair), I want to hold your hand but I can’t. And what you can’t do will always be more salient than what you can do. Longing is a powerful thing.
Somehow, your little idiosyncrasies have become more endearing. Like the way you draw out and swoop your o’s in ‘nooo’ and carry a kind of lisp when you say “yes” with a nod of the head. Like the way you self consciously tuck your hair back into place with a brush of your hand. Like how you sing random lines of random songs randomly or seem to enjoy singing the instrumental, dub-step bits in pop music even more. Like how it’s just so you to say “alright? How we doing?” every time we meet. And let’s not forget your winsome smile- like a puppy.
I’ve been thinking how it’s close to impossible to find someone who regards me the way you do. That there are certain things you’d give up to be with me because for some reason, I’m worth it. I don’t understand it but I’m thankful for it. I don’t know what to say, save that it makes me miss you that much more.
Happiness drops suddenly like the first baubles of rain after a relentless drought. It astounds like the unpredictable tremors of the earth that exceed all expectation, all preparation. Study the jagged lines of the seismograph, in awe of the speed at which the peak is reached, the gradient rocketing skyward. Know that it is not meant to be understood but felt by every shaking vessel. Happiness bursts momentarily like the spark of a match; like lit magnesium it glows and sparkles and illuminates with blinding intensity. It is the swelling of a euphoric, euphonious chorus, the collision of every song that has stirred your heart, a bubbling froth that cannot be contained. And it is whisked away by a slight of hand, the drop of a hat, a blink of an eye. Few and far between are these episodes- so cherish them with all your heart and let it consume you when it strikes.
Sadness sinks its claws into you and likes to sleep under your skin. It strokes your cheek and betrays you. It grows like the vines and weeds of an unkempt garden, snaking around your neck, choking, drowning. It blankets you and lingers like smoke caught in the fabric of your clothes. It is a muted drumming, a gentle pain that won’t let you forget. Sometimes it sets you on fire and burns ever so slowly – but it never quite burns through. It pushes against your organs so you struggle for air, stiffens your back and cripples your mind. It tires and chaffs until there is close to nothing left because it thrives on emptiness and hollow clavicles. It is a disease that tests your strength, your faith, your imagination. Remember, it is a test.
But joy… Joy is contentment. It is a steaming cup of coffee on a cold day, sitting on a roof on a Sunday or at the park on a Wednesday, watching the sun paint the sky and make way for the moon. It is cuddling with a book, your favourite movie or person. It is lying on the bed with speakers next to your ears, letting the vibrations surround you and lift you out of time and place. It is hearing mum’s slippers creak and slap against the floor, and dad’s whistle as he comes home from work. It’s the sound of your grandmother’s voice echoing down the stairs. It’s sitting up before sleep takes you, knowing God thinks I matter. It’s letting life loosen its grip, allowing yourself to untangle and unwind and observe the mess from a distance. It’s there when you’re feeling happy or feeling sad. It is not a passing state. It is a quiet knowing that nothing lasts and that you’ll be okay. Joy is, in other words, freedom.
Where do you find joy?
I cannot and will not tell my parents that I’ve lost my NOKIA! Because losing a prehistoric brick makes me the most irresponsible, unqualified person to carry any electronic device. And I’ve already lost my fair share of phones. Unfuckingbelievable. I don’t know if I should laugh at the sad hilarity of the situation or hang my head in shame and disappointment for the next few months. I think I’m going to work, and hopefully earn enough money to buy myself a phone before I leave Hong Kong.
When adults cry it’s like seeing a teacher out of school or a shark washed up on a shore. What to do? What do I say? A feeble, useless “are you okay?”. The answer is obvious enough but it comes out like word vomit. “I hope you feel better”. Because there’s nothing I mean more. I’m so utterly powerless.
I’m on the floor and I’m begging You to show me mercy. Forgive me. And she comes beside me and shows me love with her arms wrapped around me.
I woke up today feeling like I wanted to bury myself in a hole. Shroud myself in deep darkness and be hugged by a small space. I didn’t want to move and I didn’t want to leave the comfort of the sheets. Mostly, I wanted to disappear. Guilt does that.
To keep my emotions somewhat balanced, I received an offer from UCLA. I was expecting to feel the plunge of disappointment but was instead met with a jolt of joy. My future is set. Thank You God.
Just because I’m happy doesn’t mean I’ve lost all capacity to empathize with someone who is experiencing sadness. Just because I find it awkward with my parents doesn’t mean I can’t fathom the idea of gushing details of a date to a mother. Just because I’ve only lived my life doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion that may be applicable to yours, or that I can’t imagine any circumstance other than my current one.
True, we’ve never been on the same plane. I’ve experienced less than the tiniest fraction of all the experiences life has to offer so I can’t say I truly understand anyone’s problems. No one has been in my situation exactly as it is laid out in front of me, and thus no one will ever be able to understand my predicament in its entirety. Who can understand the extent of fear I have when thinking about the inevitable death of my grandmother? It’s not something I can explain in words. You can ‘get it’ and ‘understand’ it on the surface but no one truly GETS IT. But that doesn’t mean they can’t try. And I may not know what it’s like to be you, or how it must feel in your situation, but I can try to think past the boundaries of my own existence. We all touch on the spectrum of emotion at some point in our lives. Sometimes, we come close to one another in those beautiful moments when our shades are similar. Most of the time though, we’re just listening and trying to understand.
The bottom line is, nobody understands but you. In fact, “understand” is a useless word when it comes to anything and everything. But it’s one of the most hurtful things to push people away with a “you don’t understand”, because it means you see them as insensitive and trapped in themselves. We all can’t understand. But we’ll try because we care.
Whenever I have work to do, I blog. I have an essay to write and a work book to finish by tonight.
Why do I do this.
She wakes me up at 8:10 and I shrug her voice off. “Time for school already”, she says gently. And she repeats it and paraphrases it as if hoping to hit the jackpot with a certain phrase programmed to prompt a reaction. It’s highly irritating and all I want is to block out her voice with the blanket I have wrapped around my head and body like a cocoon. “Five more minutes”, I mumble, abstractedly waving her away. The difficulty I have getting out of bed reminds me of how I’ve often gone to sleep at eleven, setting the alarm to midnight to remind myself that I have to wake up and work, no matter how tired I feel. Every time, sleep cannot resist seducing me and coaxing me back to bed, leading me to wake up in the morning feeling disheveled, disorganized and panicked. I simply will not get out of bed unless it is absolutely necessary. Like, my bladder is about to give up on me, I’ve got an exam to take or there’s a fire burning my house down.
– – – – –
I start with the intention of taking a taxi to school but find myself walking briskly across red lights, past the hospital and finally through the school gates. I’m early for my Spanish orals and luckily, I bump into a friend who directs me to the right rooms. I am honestly so clueless. Then I bomb my orals.
– – – – –
The day is pointless, if not for my exam and CAS interview. I read the timetable wrong and rush into the room thinking that I’ve missed my appointment. “Sorry! I thought it was at 1:15 instead of 12:15”. He shakes his head and says “no, it is at 1:15”. “Oh”, I smile sheepishly and let him finish the interview I’ve just interrupted. As I wait outside and overhear an Indian girl (I could already tell by her accent) in the middle of a monologue about the place that India has in her heart, the principle walks by and I wave. Apparently, the wave is an invitation for a chat. He asks me questions and compliments my singing. I continue to say thank you and it’s awkward. Always awkward. And he’s always supportive and adorable in the you’re-old-and-excitable way. When it’s my turn for the interview, I can’t seem to say anything other than “cool”, “it was a great experience” and “it was rewarding”. Formulaic responses imbued with a false sense of enthusiasm. I swear, he’s heard it all before and he’s got no real interest in my activities whatsoever.
– – – – –
I write myself a note, sign it, and leave. She says “come to my house” so I roll with it. We get on a bus and we’re engulfed in fluffy white fog, rising from the trees like a scene from twilight. Soon enough we’re off the bus and we’re walking towards her house, along a street that looks as if it could’ve been lifted from another country. She gets changed into “ratchet” clothes, consisting of some random shorts and a t-shirt with hair pulled on top of her head in a bun. I think she just looks comfy and at home.
First things first, we snack on apple pie, coffee and huge chunks of Toblerone. We proceed to the basement and flop onto the couch, where it’s dim and quiet. Sometimes she says the most ridiculous things (the good kind) and she’s utterly sarcastic. You can tell she’s sarcastic by the way her eyebrows go up and how she speaks with the corners of her lips curled upwards, threatening to break into a real smile. Which does happen when you respond with laughter or another comment that takes the ‘joke’ a step further. We then look through thought catalog and mutter in disapproval over articles that try to justify cheating. Articles that are too long. Articles that are just lame. And then there are some posts; compilations of quotes by poets and famous people which we pause to appreciate.
After a while, we raid her fridge. I find pomegranate seeds and I pinch a few of them. “Don’t worry, I’ll only have like, five”. She raises her eyebrows and goes “fine, but only five. If you have six, I’m not your friend”. “I’m not your friend” seems to be her go-to threat.
We also have dumplings but she ‘cooks’ them in a way that I’ve never seen before. She dumps them into a bowl, pours water into it and then microwaves it. I’m hesitant and weirded out but she assures me “hey, I’d be dead by now”, so I take a bite and they’re great.
When people say “what shall we do now?” or “can we please do something fun?” or “why are our lives so boring?” I never know what or how to answer. What should we do? What better things are there to do? Eat chocolate cookies I guess. Savour the moment. Do teenagery things like watch Last Vegas and feel drowsy slumped on pillows in the dark.
We talk all the time it’s hard to remember specifics. But she said “I guess we’re lucky we found each other”, referring to our group of friends. And she is so right. We are kindred spirits and we each ground each other, support one another and understand each other in different ways. Friends are the best. And I tend to overuse understatements.
I love my grandmother to pieces. I love her I love her I love her. I know she won’t be around forever but I will pray every day for her so that she may be even more blessed than she already is. I pray that she will one day see my children (or child) and that they will have the privilege of meeting her. This is what my heart aches for. Literally. I want it so badly it hurts. It’s slighty selfish because I feel like I need her; she strengthens my faith. And my prayer is really a three-in-one request.
1) I’ll have a husband
2) I’ll have a child and most importantly
3) that my grandmother lives to see her/him.
God’s will takes precedence over my plans. I just pray and hope that He’ll grant me these blessings.
“Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:17-18
Everything between you and I can be explained through lines. Thin traces, tethered strings. Tied too tight, pulling, though in the wrong direction. We’ve intersected, and now it’s all space (the absence, the stenciled remains, the conversations we could’ve had) and lines compressed and flattened through the internet every few hours. Already you’re onto the weather.
We’re not so much parallel as we’re not running the same course, but we both know where this is going. Nowhere. I know it’s going to happen, I know that the oceans and the day that must happen once before you experience it are too far a stretch. It’s only a matter of time before the words dwindle altogether. And I dread it. I’d rather we had sliced our lines quickly, almost painlessly. Smooth edges, clean cut. Instead, it’s a slow, anxious wait for us to unwind and eventually regard each other with an awkward, perfunctory ‘hello how are you?’ and a faint sadness.
How much more poigant you are when you’re out of reach.