I’m Fine, Thank You
by The Dreamer
It’s been a while since I’ve penned down my thoughts into words. I have been searching for the right words to say; accurate diction that can illustrate my abstract emotions and the search hasn’t been successful. I wouldn’t say I lost touch with writing, but I do mourn over the certainty i used to have over my feelings, a time when sadness was sadness, anger was anger, jealousy was jealousy. And now everything seems to have adopted a secondary connotation and taken on different facades. Sadness could be anger…Jealousy could be loneliness…I’m just really lost.
So many things have happened during the absence on this blog, so many conflicts and sad truths and broken promises and it simply hurts to sit down and have to face the harshness of my thoughts, which is what one has to do when they write. I was suffocated and overwhelmed with fatigue but everyday I still had to plaster on a smile and trudge on. I’m not sure if that’s the definition of strong, or am I simply still a weakling for being unable to deal with the uproar inside of me. Nothing really makes sense even if I try to pinpoint a reason for every shitty thing that has been happening, not just to me, but to the people around me. “This is all fate’s plan” seems to be a flimsy excuse and “stay strong” rings empty and is bitter when it rolls off my tongue and leaves my cracked lips.
Hence, I’ve resorted to fiction. This story has some elements of truth in it, but it’s still ultimately just a figment of my imagination. I find that after writing stories I feel more calm, as if I have organised my thoughts, when really I have just discarded reality for fiction.
I’m Fine, Thank You
It’s 9.56PM and I’m sitting by myself at a corner booth of Mos Burger. There’s a smudge of ketchup at the back of my arm and it sticks uncomfortably to the greasy table as I rest my heavy head down, my eyes fluttering shut. Scattered around me are three empty large cups once filled with milk tea, a haphazardly crumpled burger wrapper and several napkins that is soaked with my illegible cursive handwriting and spirals.
The air is saturated with I’m so done.
Why am I still here, I groan inwardly. The waitress shuffles about, and I hear her restlessness stop right in front of my booth as she hovers nervously over me.
“Um…” She clears her throat.
I slowly lift my head and my gaze lazily rests on the figure before me.
It’s not the waitress.
My eyes widen by a fraction.
As in, 14 year old me.
I’m sure the caffeine was screwing my neurones up, because I had to be hallucinating. The me from 3 years ago slid quietly into the booth, her gaze cast downward as she focused on picking at the cracked leather of the seat.
“So…” She avoids my intense stare as I take in her looks. Her overgrown hair that curtains her face, her thin frame and the black top and jeans. She essentially resembles a shadow. I remember with a jolt that past me didn’t like people staring at her, and I sheepishly look away. “The acne clears up, huh?”
Her voice is soft and distant. It’s sad.
“Yeah,” I reply, sending her a nervous smile. “It took a while…two years of excruciating dermatologist treatments actually, but it eventually does.”
She tilts her head upwards, sensing the dosage of positivity injected in my voice and I see it. I see her face and I can’t help but cringe. There’s splotches of red everywhere, concentrated mainly on the cheeks, with a few volcanoes erupting at the chin and some peppered down my neck and arms. She looks like a walking disease. Correction. I looked like a walking disease. And it’s mean to be thinking that of myself, so I try to shut my own nasty thoughts up.
She scrunches up her nose and chews on her lower lip. “It really looks that awful?”
“No…” I drag the note and realise how unconvincing I sound, so I nod and roll my eyes skyward. Why was I trying to lie to myself, out of all people? “Yeah, actually it does. It looks really bad.”
“Okay, wow. Wonderful.” she says sarcastically, but I notice her self-consciously letting her hair fall over her face like a veil, breaking eye-contact.
“Hey,” I whisper placatingly, placing a hand over hers. It’s surprisingly solid…she’s not a figment of my thoughts. I try not to freak myself out even more. “You’ll survive through it. It’s funny, really. Just recently I asked Shumin if – “ I notice her trying not to roll her eyes. “Yes, Shumin will eventually be a great friend, even if she is a horrible project partner. Anyway, I asked Shumin if she remembered my acne days, and guess what? She said that honestly, she couldn’t remember how disgusting it was back then. She didn’t even knew we suffered through this shit. Morale of the story? Don’t sweat it. People care about themselves more and everyone is busy dealing with their insecurities. Your skin is the last thing on their mind. Don’t let their insensitivity affect you either. If one more person tells you to go wash your face more often or asks you about your third knee aka acne – wow, they have wonderful humour – tell them to go fuck themselves.”
She dissolves into giggles. “I didn’t know I would be so vulgar three years down the road?”
“Yeah, well.” I can’t help but grin as well. “I can’t really give two shits anymore.”
“But wow…” She trails off, her face slowly collapsing. “I think I really needed that. Thanks. It was good to meet you, I guess. There are some days where I’m not sure there’s anything beyond fourteen for me. Things just feel so crappy, like all the time. ”
I look at her sad eyes, the back of her palms that are smudged with ink, the way she hunches over so nobody can see her body. “Everybody’s life is crappy sometimes. Right now, I’m going through a pretty sucky period as well. But besides that, other times, it;s pretty wonderful as well. You’re going to meet incredible people, your writing is going to get better and you’re going to start liking yourself more. One day, you’re going to be able to meet your own eyes at the mirror under a fluorescent light without feeling like smashing your reflection.”
“You may not believe it, but you are so, so loved.” I give her a sad smile. “Don’t waste so many of your days crying. It’s not worth it. Especially when you go to Hong Kong this year, try not to break down at the harbour, okay? That was not cool. Just because the entire concept of weeping to the roaring of the waves sounds hella poetic doesn’t mean you have to do it. It’s still embarrassing when I think about it.”
She blinks away tears that are brimming and tries her best to smile. I remember how much effort it took to tug the corners of my mouth upwards back then and suddenly I feel like the weight in my chest didn’t feel that heavy anymore. I had been through so much last time and I still survived, didn’t I?
“So what are you frustrated about, anyway? It looks like you spent a lot of time alone here.” She inquires, surveying the mess on the table. Her eyes turns round. “Is it boyfriend problems?”
I cough out a laugh. “Please. I’m not even sure if I will even get one. So no. It’s—“
“Scoot over.” A familiar, but at the same time, foreign voice interjects. Fourteen and I glance up simultaneously and both of us do a double take.
The girl in front of us is really pretty, I have to admit. Her hair cascades down her back in smooth waves and it’s a healthy glossy black. Her cheeks are tinged with a light shade of rose, her lips a dark wine-red, and her smiling eyes delicately lined with winged eyeliner. She’s in a breezy white dress and a thick oversized denim jacket that is dotted with badges and iron-on patches, screaming out names of cool bands like Simon and Garfunkel and also corny things like Rad! and LOL!
And I’m not trying to be narcissistic, but she kind of looks like me?
“That’s because I am, kid.” She’s holding back a laugh, and I’m awed by the way she covers her mouth with her hand. “I’m you from four years later. That mean’s I’m you at the age of 21.”
“Okay, wow.” Fourteen lets out a low whistle. “Life does get better.”
“Yep.” Twenty-one replies matter-of-factly, popping the ‘p’. She inches over to me and nudges me towards the wall. I catch a whiff of her woody perfume scent. Future me rocks. “And yes, you will get a boyfriend. Don’t worry your pretty little heads.”
My heart misses a beat. I part my lips to speak but Fourteen interrupts. “Is he cute?” There is so much excitement in her tone.
Twenty-one grins knowingly, eyeing both of us. “He’s really dreamy, has really amazing eyebrows,” she pauses and stares pointedly at me. I hold my breath. “And he will be your best friend and he will love books and romantic movies like you do. Most importantly, he will be there for you through your sucky times, which means no more pathetic hobo sessions at Mos Burger.”
My future boyfriend sounds amazing.
“Is he like Park Sheridan?” I question.
“Mmm,” Twenty-one ponders, drumming her fingers on her lap. She breaks into a small smile, and I know she’s thinking about him and I’m so eager to know how he looks like. But I will not spoil the surprise for myself, so I keep my burning questions to myself. She squeezes my hand reassuringly. “Probably even better.”
Okay. Maybe life doesn’t suck that much after all.
“But before that, you need to snap out of this daze.” Her eyebrows (perfectly angled ones, I might add) knit together as she frowns at me, her voice clipped.
I exhale and pout.
“It’s not the end of the world, “ she tells me. “Just like you told Fourteen.”
I let out a long sigh again. “It’s just…it’s kind of hard to see how these shitty things in my life are all a part of fate’s plan for me. It’s so hard to believe that ‘everything happens for a reason’, and it’s easy to just fall apart.”
“I think I remember vaguely about feeling insignificant and unimportant at seventeen. I’m not gonna deny that it sucked really bad.” Yes. It does.
“Dear, anyone can give up. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.”
Her words are touching, but they kind of ring empty, especially if the inside of you is a black hole, a vacuum. “I’m so unsure about everything. The definition of everything I once knew seems to have changed. People have changed. And it’s so difficult to try to understand why sometimes people can be so shitty. It’s so hard to see past all their bullshit and to find their inner ‘niceness’ or whatever.”
Fourteen and Twenty-one are quiet for awhile. The air turns pregnant with silence and a tangy kind of sadness. Then suddenly, Fourteen pips, “Some people come into our lives as blessings. Others come into our life as lessons. I read it somewhere I think, I dunno. Heh.”
Twenty-one pats Fourteen on the head. Her voice softens. “Some people can be genuinely mean and those people should just go to hell.”
I chuckle. “That’s right.”
“But really, time heals everything, even if it doesn’t fix it. And being at peace means accepting that every single bullshit is temporary and irrelevant.”
I let out a whimper.
“Not convinced?” she asks. I nod.
She picks up the napkin at the corner of the table and carefully unfolds it. Then, she gently clears her throat and reads:
“Everyone who terrifies you is sixty-five percent water.
And everyone you love is made of stardust, and I know sometimes
you cannot even breathe deeply, and
the night sky is no home, and
you have cried yourself to sleep enough times
that you are down to your last two percent, but
nothing is infinite,
not even loss.
You are made of the sea and the stars, and one day
you are going to find yourself again.”
For some reason, I start to cry. Twenty-one envelops me into a hug and I press my forehead over the warm fabric of her denim jacket, making myself as small as possible.
“It’s a beautiful poem, but these will only be words unless you start to believe in it…and believe that eventually everything will be okay.”
Fourteen grabs onto my hand and squeezes tight. “You taught me that I am loved. Maybe you should start believing that you are too. Buddha once said, in the end, only three things matters: how much we have loved, how gently and kindly we have lived, and how gracefully we have let go of things that are not meant for us.”
Right. I forgot how much I loved collecting quotes at fourteen.
I pull myself away from Twenty-one and smile tearfully at the both of them. My lips tremble a little as I watch them disintegrate and fade away and I mutter a soft ‘thank you’. It’s so soft that perhaps I didn’t say it at all. I close my eyes to blink away the moisture in my eyes and suddenly First of May by the Bee Gees waltzes gracefully into my ears. It’s a beautiful song that I hadn’t listened to in forever.
I can still feel the lingering woody scent of Twenty-one wrapped around me. And Fourteen’s warm fingers entangled in mine. But it’s only the waitress – a kind looking grandma.
“Hon,” she crinkles the corner of her eyes tenderly. “Are you alright?”
I press my lips together and send her an affectionate smile. It’s probably crooked, and I still feel the dampness evaporating from my cheeks, but it’s okay. Everything’s okay.
“Yes. I’m fine, thank you.”
钧 x x
j e a n x x