by The Dreamer


… Earth
does such things
to itself: furrowing,
cracking apart, bursting
into flame. It rips
openings in itself, which
it struggles
(or not) to skin over. The
doesn’t care about its
craters and bruises. Only
we can regret
the perishing of the
burned place.
Only we could call it a
Margaret Atwood, from ‘A Fire Place’, Morning in the Burned House

I should’ve been there on her final few days. My alarm bells should have started to ring when they deposited her in the hospice, when they told us “she has only a few more days to live”, when the resignation shimmered in the doctor’s tired eyes, when they shook their head as if to say i’m sorry.

I should have been there to take in her yellowing skin, the way she opened her mouth and gasped, reaching out to her unconsolable sons, trying to voice out her last few words, but the cancer clogging up her entire throat so words remained forever buried in her, and now buried with her in the coffin, under the ground.

I should have done more than just sit here, sobbing incessantly as I type this.

There are many things I regret.

When my mother texted me of her passing, I should’ve dropped everything and rushed back home.

But I simply just voiced out dumbly, “my aunt’s dead.” and my classmates simply asked me “were you close to her?” as if that mattered. And I don’t know why but that made me angry. I can’t explain the sudden resentment at the action going around me. More than that, I resented how no tears came out of me, even though my pillows have been damp for the past few nights. I hated how my face remained blank, how I laughed and said I’m fine when people asked if I was okay when I clearly wasn’t.

But I continued on with my life. I numbed myself, I made jokes with my friends and I went out for dinner with them. I laughed harder than I normally did, until my cheeks were sore from stretching into wide grins. I ate ravenously. I sang and danced along to the kpop songs from the neighbouring restaurants. I continued breathing while she ceased to breathe forever.

Fuck. I hate how I slept fitfully. And went for funfairs and played with children. I consciously ignored the emptiness that rang in my ribcages. The past few days, I’ve suppressed my thoughts – thinking “Stop thinking about it” over and over again until it filled my entire head more than actually thinking about my thoughts.

I hated how at the wake, when my mother asked me, “Doesn’t she look peaceful?”, I fucking nodded. Even though I didn’t agree with her. I thought she looked desperately sad. With her ashen grey skin and tight features, she looked defeated, as if she fought till the last second. She looked like she didn’t want to let go. There was still tension between her brows and at the corners of her lips, which was coloured.

“They made her look real pretty.” they commented. I wanted to scoff. But I simply nodded. The foundation caked on her skin couldn’t mask the blackness of the cancer surfacing out. She looked thinner and older than my 89 year old grandma who tottered around her coffin, caressing the wood, her eyes flickering with something that conveyed inexplicable melancholy. Like she couldn’t stand another death as she continued living.

My great grandmother always had a soft spot for this aunt who wasn’t even related to our family. Her son had abandoned her, taking the easy way out by flinging himself down a building and leaving his wife a widow once more, with two young sons.

Those two young sons stood beside me quietly and suddenly I froze. I couldn’t meet their eyes. All I said was hello. My two uncles – 21 and 18, the closest thing I’ve got to older brothers, and yet I felt so distant from them all of a sudden. They hadn’t shaved, they had bags under their eyes, and they only smiled with the bottom half of their face.

I remember the time the younger one and I lay side by side in bed, and he asked me, “Do you miss your father?” I said no, because Dad was coming back this weekend, and that I missed my teddy bear more.

“I wish I could miss my dad as much as you miss Mr. Snuggles,” he said quietly to the ceiling, ” I wish I could even remember how he looked like.”

I thought about how years down the road, they would have kids, but the kids would never know how their grandparents ever looked like.

I should have went up to them and said something, anything. Acted normal. Joked with them like I always did. But I couldn’t summon it within me. I couldn’t even look back at them as they trailed behind me silently while I looked at my aunt for the final time. When my mother wrote in the consolation book, I wish I had taken the pen from her too.

“Don’t you have something to write?” My mom asked me. “Aren’t you good with words?”

I couldn’t even say no, because I was busy swallowing the tears that were quickly welling up and blurring my vision. I shook my head, which felt so, so heavy. My neck hurt. I just wanted to hang it down and face the floor.

I hated how everyone was laughing while sitting around the table, talking as if nothing had ever happened. I hated how my uncle was still struggling through his math homework while sitting beside the coffin. I hated how my uncle’s hand trembled as he passed me a drink, and how my voice trembled as I said thank you.

I looked down at my hands and did nothing. Remained unusually quiet. Froze up when my uncles came over to the table a few times, attempting to strike conversation.

I was sad. I still am.  I felt like throwing up on the way back home. I wish I don’t feel as much about everything.

That day, I read a book to my class called “The Book of Fears.” The fear of the dark, of scary teachers, of monsters living under the bed, of heights, of insects. I asked them, “What are you afraid of?”

And then I asked myself that.

I was afraid of death.

Death was finality. Death was the unknown. Death was an eternal goodbye.

I can’t express this to any of my friends. They wouldn’t understand. My family members seem okay with this. They don’t even seem sad.

There’s so much fatigue in me, from pretending to be okay. I don’t know why but I keep smiling, I keep laughing, I keep cracking lame jokes even when I don’t feel like it. This is the persona I have adopted and impressed on others, straying away from it would make others uncomfortable. I don’t want to feel more distant than I already do with everyone in my life. After all, no one really fucking bothers or cares. They’ll say I’m sorry for your loss, but deep inside they’ll think she’s just your aunt, and then they’ll go back to worrying about themselves because that’s just human nature.

And for once, I want to be selfish. But things don’t work the way I want it to.

So I pretend.

And life goes on.

钧 x x

j e a n x x