The bubbles forming above my haphazardly-placed laptop stickers remind me too much of countless tears that can’t be wiped away. The variation of alphabets on my result slip remind me of efforts wasted and motivations lost and dreams misplaced. The restless buzzing in the still air reminds me of the solitude that is far too loud on a chilly night.
And you will consciously learn to forgive these misgivings, because every second spent dwelling on them is loss, surreality, a shadow creeping over the moon’s shine.
You will learn to unlearn the way you make judgements, the rhyme and reason of the world. You will decide for yourself what is valid and relevant, and you will fight for them. It’s a tough battle; when logic and boundaries are pressing in against you, and you are defenceless when tears suffocate your only weapon – your words.
You tell yourself it’s okay to believe in what you believe. It’s fine to hold onto these blinking half-truths you weave for yourself, because it keeps you safe, and it doesn’t hold any dangers to others. And everybody else is screaming CODE RED, and the more they do it the more you shut them out, like a body that starts to reject painkillers when the dosage gets too high.
Self-destructive, that is what you are. Bitter is the medicine, but oh so necessary. You should know better that too much candy will cause tooth decays and type two diabetes, but for now, you just want to wait until the cherry mint dissolves entirely, held between your tongue and the roof of your mouth.
My eyes follow the moon the way the moon follows the car the way my heart follows my childhood beliefs. For just that moment, I am invincible. The moon chases after me because I am worthy of chasing; because it finds something in me that’s worthy enough to seek out.
In a white coat of purity, I plant myself in loose soil. I make roses bloom on my cheeks and tinted lies grow on my lips. I am the In-Between, the Neither-Here-Nor-There. The thoughts flourish, and the emotions ripen.
The beauty of youth is so fleeting, and the people around me have weathered three decades of elapsed seasons. Bittersweet like the Winter, Fresh in Spring, Passionate Summers, and Perpetual is the Fall. Somewhere deep in them, they’re wishing they can bottle up this miracle essence, but it has long passed its expiry date. They’re now emptied and filled with new contents, repackaged and branded anew: Mothers, Fathers, CEOs, Retired, Menopause, Grey Hair.
But in this habitat, they are immortal. I see these adult men morph back into the young boys they once were, with their pants tucked high, their gangly legs with knobby knees, thick golden rimmed glasses, and glossy hair parted 50-50. Their smiles are still the same, just with less yellow and wistfulness. They’re hiding in rental bookstores, holding in laughs as they read scandalised content under the blushing light. They’re flailing around with badminton rackets in empty carparks. They’re enjoying the night breeze on the school rooftop, singing off-tune to 70s music to amateur guitar plucking. They’re crushing on girls who will eventually become their wives.
It’s heartwarming, and I love to sit on the sidelines and watch these interactions unfold. I like to imagine the past in which I do not exist in.
That way, I become lightweight, like a dandelion seed that floats away with a breath holding a wish, a promise. No longer grounded.
Watch me fly.
This is the fluorescent light that flickers for a good few seconds before burning bright. We used to pretend it was a disco ball, and we would dance crazily to the flashes of white-black-white-black, giggling breathlessly as the whiplash hit us like the canings we received after.
This is the bed that was able to fit all six of us, big and small. We would play rock paper scissors to decide who would sleep by the edges, and who would sleep in the crack dividing the two beds. We would fight for an inch of the blanket, and we would engage ourselves in made up stories until the door opens and the light floods in and an adult head peers in. Someone would be kicked off the bed by morning, and someone else would be half slotted in between the two mattresses with numb limbs and a sore waist. Now we are all big, and now there is only me, and this isn’t my bed no longer. But the smell remains the same, and it smells of security and home.
This is the hand that used to stroke me to sleep. Calloused and thick and firm, rubbing patterns and giving pats on my back until my breathing evens.
This is the radio with the antennae bending out towards the window the same way the plant beside it reaches out towards the sun. The voice that filters out is crackly and monotonous as it reads out lottory numbers, followed closely by screams of distress from my ancient great-grandma as she mourns over her loss and could-bes, and it is almost strange to see her upset, when she has witnessed losses greater in breadth and depth than this.
This is the deck of cards that has been shuffled countless times as the elderlies entertain themselves with solitaire and blackjack. This is the deck of cards that has taught me how to add two numbers to make ten, and the deck of cards the kids used to pretend were currency.
These are the familiar voices I will never get tired of. As I pretend to sleep, I listen intently to their conversations involving me, and I smile discreetly to myself.
This is the smell of dinner. Garlic and onions in the pan, roasted chicken in the oven, painstakingly brewed soup over the stove.
This is the sound of the gates swinging open and clanging as it closes. It is never locked, and I used to sigh in frustration as I had to waddle through the sea of shoes till I reached mine, but now it is a heartwarming sight.
This is the apartment I grew up in. It is the noisiest one in the hallway, the brightest one in the night, and it is filled to the brim with love and warmth and I will always be in love with every corner of it.
Step 1: “Wonder at something.”
Step 2: “Invite others to wonder with you.”