After a year in university, I’m a changed woman. I now box/ kickbox regularly. And I actually enjoy reading the bible. That is all.
Sometimes I dream of people with faces that don’t belong to them. On the surface, I don’t get it right, but I feel the centers of everything, the souls of objects… Your voice, though. I know that voice. I hear it through different mouths, different lips, and I’m searching for your pair. I think I fancy people who look like traces of you– like you’re the first draft, the outline an artist makes before they begin.
I hold onto the voice, thin and wispy through the phone. I think I must have been the one to call you, because it’s the one thing I try not to do when I’m awake. I ask how you’ve been and I don’t ask because it’s the polite thing to do. I want to know. I want to imagine the new place, your home. This other world. Do the pillows match the curtains? Are you happy? Are you in love? Tell me how you feel, so I can recover who I’ve missed. Will you tell me how you are? I grip the phone, press it against my ear, and quiet myself. I want more before –
I lose you. The empty buzz over the phone, the connection gone. I hesitate to dial again. Will you call me back? And it wrenches my insides, realizing that I’m always calling first. Will you not surrender? Because here I am, waving white flags and poppies.
I don’t want this, I know that now.
When I find a good blog, I go on a rampage. I’m voracious, like I’ve been starved of words. I get through a year’s worth in no time, familiarising myself with a voice I’ll probably never hear. I’m that person who gives you 100 views on a day. Sorry not sorry.
I love it when people stop on the street to stare at dogs or babies. At first, I’m taken with the dog/baby. Then I’m taken with the person. It’s a soppy fest. Stop being so cute, all of you.
I might be a creep but I really like it when people are into their food. When they’re not doing anything but taking the time out to enjoy something as simple as a Subway sandwich. He was sitting there, no distractions, no headphones, no phone. Staring at his sandwich, biting into it. No laboured bites, no unnecessary mouth stretching. Not trying to get everything in now, at once. But slowly. Enjoying life.
Strangers who smile at me make me so happy. I mouth a thank you to the driver who lets me pass and I get a smile in return. I am waiting for the light to change and the construction worker smiles at me deliberately. Someone in a Ralph’s uniform shoots me a smile as I’m dazed by the pastry section. It’s a shot of happiness.
I was reading up on synesthetes on acid and a redditor describes in detail what it’s like to drive to music. I’m not going to share that though, because this is the best part:
‘But OH MY GOD WHEN PEOPLE SMILE. Sorry to shout, but it’s the most amazing thing. I make an effort to smile at random people all the time, because I love the feeling I get when someone gives me a genuine smile. It’s almost like an orgasm. I can see and hear and feel the happiness and friendliness. Almost any emotion, I think, is made more extreme by my synesthesia’.
Yesssssss! Mirror neurons at play? When you smile, I smile. My brain is literally firing smiling neurons before my lips get tURNT. And when you smile, I am reminded of the best feelings. Humans are so cute sometimes. We feed off each other’s joy. There’s a word for it– Mudita: pure joy unadulterated by self interest. When we can be happy of the joys other beings feel, it is called mudita; the opposite word is envy or schadenfreude. Unselfish joy inadvertently benefits the self, because nothing feels better than love. How selfish is love when you have obtained the most incredible gift ever? I see these paradoxes in the gospel. Lose your life to gain it. Jesus speaks the truth!
If you happen to lock eyes with someone, go an extra step: smile. I dare you. But not in a scary way. Practice in the mirror first.
I now know what I miss most about Hong Kong: bathroom doors that cover most of my legs. Why is it that in America, the doors are so darn high? Nobody should be able to see my ankles. God forbid, my undies. It’s not my fault I’m short.
In LA, pedestrians take priority. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a peasant in HK, so I tend to jaywalk and get frustrated when cars don’t let me pass first. They’re always so eager. It’s learned cultural etiquette, crossing the street. I remember the awkward stuttering feet, my hands and their hands waving back and forth when I first arrived in LA. What, me? Should I go first? No, you go. Me? No, you. I wasted everyone’s time. Move out the way, bitch.
When I hopped into a Taxi from the airport, I mentioned that “I’m going home!!!!!!!” The taxi driver did not dignify me with a response. And all of a sudden, I missed Uber. I’m going home! I didn’t vomit on my 15 hour flight! I’m happy and I want to share it with someone. Tell me about your home! Are you far from it? Do you miss it? Or do you know these streets like the back of your hand? Uber is a social experience. I love that- I meet the most interesting people. I may just write under a separate category for it. Apparently Uber is at work in HK. I doubt it’s very popular; most people I’ve spoken to have never heard of it. Taxis are cheap enough and people have better things to do. Such is the mindset of HK people.
MTR tickets are more expensive than I had remembered. Green tea is a whopping $12 HKD?! What has happened since I was gone?! Not impressed. It’s also been really really hot lately. It feels like a thousand mouths breathing on me, a centimetre away from my skin. For this reason, I’ve worn bare-backed shirts. But I quickly realized that I can’t wear them in HK without creepy stares on the MTR. People do not care if you notice that they’re looking. They keep staring. And when you move, their eyes move with you. I hate it.
The skies have been shot through with flashes of light- the way an old fashioned camera snaps in slow motion. The typhoon in Taiwan has left something that “looks like an apocalypse, no joke” said my friend in Taiwan. The world is turning to shit. Post-apocalyptic films always feature people with pre-apocalyptic attitudes that mess things up for everyone. Human nature, errybody. Mad Max knows.
Airports are funny places. I almost forgot I was still in America as I ate my sushi. I almost forgot to tip. I might as well have been in Asia, already home. We’re all on our way somewhere, not staying for too long.
“Is that a speaker?” they asked me.
“It’s a mic”.
“Yes”. And I was surprised by the approving looks security gave me. Maybe because I’m exiting the US rather than entering it they didn’t feel the need to treat me like a criminal- go terrorize some other country. Or maybe it’s the dress.
I find my seat between two big people in the last row. I’m not too pleased about the dude on the left with his tuna sandwich and having to lift the dude’s arm to plug in my headphones. I turn the hoody around and cover my face, like a fencing mask. Right Dude interrupts with a breathy chuckle and a comment to Left Dude: “just like my first date”. Ha Ha. I take the hoody off. I sleep face down on my personal pillow and ignore every flight attendant.
I watch two films. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is very good. Wonderful narration. I love older adults (old people) and I love films about them. I’m particularly fond of Mum from the James Bond movies (Judi Dench) and Dad from About Time (Bill Nighy). I fall in love with the culture, the vibrancy of the fabrics and spices, the beaming faces, the honking scooters, squabbling vendors, the children and the orange dust. I’m reminded of The Hundred-foot Journey, another amazing film set in India. These films depict a sincerity in their relationships, this respect and familial piety that’s hard to come by these days, especially in the western world. British dramas/ comedies and excitable Indians do not disappoint.
I watch While We’re Young and what strikes me is this: Jamie looks like this guy I knew. I met him one summer night, whilst cooking with the door open. I heard guitar strums, a voice, and I followed the sound to the roof. His friend was smoking, reclining on a deck chair under the moon. I sat on the floor, listening. I don’t know where he is these days. The last I heard from him, he was in hospital. I miss him. I’d tell him again if I could reach him.
It’s dark, aside from a few movie-lit screens. The Dudes are sleeping. And I think about you. Because I could’ve been on my way to see you that time you invited me. I could’ve stayed the weekend and for a moment imagine how I would’ve felt if this was it. How I’d shoot you a text when I landed with giddy fingers. The moment I’d see you again- how we’d both light up. And then I’m thinking about you sitting next to me, with the arm rests pulled back and the reading lights off. I think about your hands. And then I force myself not to think at all.
The hum of the blow dryer. Dad’s fingers sifting through the damp strands of my hair. Tossed, ruffled, falling like sand.
The sun on my chest. Blistering heat. Sticky thighs. Summer.
Thailand. I’m dripping onto the tiles and Iggy Azalea is trying to rap. She’s the realest. The taste of sweet sprite and raspberry vodka. Chips floating in the pool.
Grey. The sound of a thunderstorm. Calming. Blankets and cold toes.
Warm. Body Shop strawberry bath bubbles smell like candy. Sister and I are tasked with separating the big bubbles from the small ones.
I feel a lurch when I think about what happened. I don’t purposely reminesce. It’s your name on my screen.
I like how you look as though you’re fighting a smile when I talk. Jaws clench; a tremor across your lips. Your head moves infinitesimally, so as to suggest a nod. I felt this the first time we met.
I wonder how my sober self compares to the person sat on the edge of your mattress that night. I have come to conclude that first meetings should not happen when intoxicated. The bed frames were broken- a testament to the many strangers who had passed through. I too needed an escape from the chattering horde. So, I took refuge in your room and we passed the joint.
With heavy lids, we were introduced. And it was exquisite, the way you listened, the way a part of you seemed to agree with me. I told you that I’m anxious about making choices, that I hate how belonging demands exclusivity. How far can I go, how different can I be before I’m no longer a part of your circle? Is it possible to be bound together by one thing- by drugs even? Whatever my doubts were about the rest of the party, you assured me that I was worth getting to know. You made me feel like you had chosen to let me – a stranger- under your umbrella. With your blessing, any choice I made would be the right one.
We met up for coffee in broad daylight, tentative at first. Maybe you had changed your mind. Maybe I’m different today. You watched me drink coffee because you had already eaten, and my insecurities dissolved as you apologized for being distracted by the sunset behind my head. You were more articulate but as sincere as I had remembered.
After many failed attempts at meeting over spring, I saw you at a party. I didn’t expect to see you there and I almost didn’t recognize you. You had cut your hair and it suited you better; you looked less effeminate. I wasn’t prepared for the excitement that came over me. See, I’m over getting hammered. The stupidity, the temporary friends. But you didn’t feel like a forgettable remark, a shot of vodka somewhere between shot number five and whatever comes after. You weren’t a handshake and a name, nor a pawn in the networking game. There we stood by the door, preferring second-hand smoke to the reek of alcohol. Had I seen the creepy bathroom yet? The one with doll heads, ceiling collages and poor lighting? Yes, it was weird and I’m going to hold the pee in tonight. Besides learning about our shared pyromaniacal tendencies, I learned that I’ve finally found an American who can banter. What a model citizen you are, lighting cigarettes and opening doors. Although we had agreed upon tying me to the top of your car for a death-defying ride (since the seats were taken), I hopped onto the bus and you drove drunk people home (how responsible). It was a miserable ride back.
You’re going to leave the country for six months. I get it, you’re not sentimental. You worry about rambling and apparently your thoughts are hard to follow. But I need you to know that it doesn’t matter and that I am glad I met you (and scared this is the end).