In and out, gently, like a whisper lost in the wind…

In and out, in…and….out, in….and…

My breath crashes in shallow waves, distant like the tide in a hidden cove. Slow and warm, this to-and-fro accompanied by a warm rise and fall is the sweetest, most subtle expression of life.

One after the other, the lights of my consciousness flicker; my eyes struggle to remain open, their tireless efforts to make sense of this strange world valiant but in vain. Far away, the curtains flutter and billow, the clock ticks and the indoor fan groans under the strain of a heat wave.

A heaviness cloaks me, pinning me under an unbearable weight until all the world and its sensations have melted in the summer air, joining the scent of wild palm trees and the tinkling of distant laughter the sea breeze often carries. Against my ribs, my heart hammers, unwilling to yield yet falling under the seductive spell of a too-warm afternoon and beautiful words that blur on a page, that slip into my unguarded unconscious — only to later appear in the fevered haze of an afternoon doze that feels like it has somehow lasted longer than a workweek, longer than the whole month of January and longer even than the summer holidays from when I was 16.

I have surrendered to the languor of the summer heat, melted into it as all things do — I have gained a lifetime in sleep, in the sweaty dreams of a 3 p.m. nap. I have lived more, I suspect, in my mind than I have anywhere else.

Between you and me, I sometimes wish I could fade into mist and slip, unknown and unmissed, into one of these drowsy afternoons, staying back forever in the moment instead of rolling on. It’s easier that way. Life would be so much easier if you could freeze moments and live inside of them: the same perfect happiness over and over — the kind of happiness that doesn’t wear out with time but that only deepens, reaching ever closer to your heart and making itself more precious to you.

I wish, I wish. I dream even within dreams.

But for now, this moment is mine.

Quote of the day:

“And take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time
Far past the frozen leaves
The haunted frightened trees
Out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow”

— Bob Dylan

Someone like me.

Young adult old soul magic realism
Art by: Xuan Loc Xuan

I hadn’t known he lived so close by, all this time. A mere 5 minutes’ walk away, in one of these houses I often see during walks but never really take notice of.

We had been out enjoying the night and the freedom to be ourselves: young and a bit reckless, drunk on the boundlessness of night. That’s when M. noticed him on the balcony. A man so young and pale and delicate, he looked like a boy who had yet to know what the night held. And he was a boy, even though I know that, like M., he had already made his way to his twenties and was reaching to grasp a quarter of a decade. He had been exhaling the smoke from a cigarette, contemplating life in shorts and a sleeping shirt when M. called out to him.

I had always known there were others like me. Out there, in the vast world, in the endless night. Others with eyes so tender from dreams. Others who could enter other dimensions, who could stay rooted to the spot, stuck in ordinary scenes and still be so far away. But these others were never corporeal. They were always nebulous like the night, far away in time and space, in their own worlds, leagues away from me. The others weren’t meant to be a mere 5 minutes from me, from my own cold nights, my silent howling, my early mornings spent awaiting a reply that never came.

It was unmistakable, that look on his face.

I’ve never seen it on myself, but I know how it makes you feel — foggy and infinite, the body merely an illusion of presence, like a boat moored to land but whose sails have long flown into the night.

I could taste that moment, the gentle loneliness emanating from the scene, the kind that comes from being the only one of your kind.

But he doesn’t know does he, I wondered, that he’s not the only one?

I had known of him years before that, short and just as boylike, with a feathery mustache. Our circles had crossed, but we had never really interacted. I had known of him as just another boy, a face with barely a name attached to i.

Who would have known that somewhere in the future, we would share in so many sleepless nights, so many stars without knowing?

He was now talking to M., a soft, tired smile on his face as his cigarette burned away and the night breeze brushed through his shock of black hair.

This changes everything, I thought.

I wasn’t the only one to whom the night had whispered her secrets. I wasn’t the only one who had lived to see nights without end cross over into the early morning. The night was not mine alone to drown in anymore, to wander through aimlessly like a sleepwalker under the artificial glow of the streetlamps.

I watched as he took another drag of his cigarette.

Before long, before I could formulate a plan, his cigarette had burned out and M. returned to the car.

We left, accompanied by loud music and the vivid image of a cigarette being lit in the darkness.

I left him to his freedom as I went to seek out mine.

A Thousand Little Suns


Like a golden coin glinting under the sun, hidden amidst swishing blades of grass, he appeared to me as though a midsummer night’s dream one late morning at the end of June.

I was being carted off — There is something about routine and contracts that turn you against yourself, that make you wake up in spite of the sleepiness assailing you, the feeling of being yanked back into dark unconsciousness as though knocked out by a gloved hand, emerging only because of sheer duty…fear? And yet, I chose, choose everyday to do this. Not a day goes by that is not my choice. It is not obligation that wakes me. Not the idea of losing a job that fuels my fear—it is dreams, growth, the many small, wonderful things that can happen during the day. I am not repulsed by this routine because I am not trapped in it. I am not caught in the stream of everydays, submerged by the currents of norms and expectations, struggling to break through and ultimately resigned to be taken wherever the waters will. No : I choose. I choose everyday to do what I do.

And so, I was carting myself off to work in a shuttle that seemed to be going both slow and fast, as though someone was playing with the fast-forward and rewind buttons in a film. Some moments passed in a blur, evaporated from my consciousness as though they had never existed. Others were so startling, so vivid I could almost touch them through the glass of the window.

We were going through what, next to the glittering shore and the tunnel of trees bent over the road, is turning out to be one of my favourite passing-places. Going through there feels like exploring a painting. Or better yet, like the mental image of the artist painting it. We were navigating  rows upon rows of fields that stretched on beyond what the eye could see. Layers of rich, tilled soil gleamed under the sun, and the soft greenery of saplings covered the slopes and dips of the scenery as though a coat of light snow. Shimmering, the tender pink of crop-flowers bent with the wind, spreading a delicate scent of wildness about.

And in the middle of all this, the dwarfed bus puttered on in the motorway that had never, before that moment, seemed so narrow, so modest.

There were grass-cutters about, busying themselves as though ants in a great wilderness. The smell of freshly-cut grass sliced through the thickness of glass windows, filling my nostrils, memories of an old garden rushing back lightning-fast.

And there he was, liminal, someplace in between the fields and the motorway.

A midsummer night’s vision that appeared one late morning in the month of June—lying in a roadside ditch.

There where the strange trees grow, the ones with the large gaps in their foliage that let sunlight stream through as though through a sieve. There, where the grass stops just shy of growing, where, a few centimetres away, gravel crunches underneath your foot. There, right there in the softness of the earth, he lay. And looked at indescribable things some ways beyond the interstices in the yellow-green leaves. A thousand little suns danced in his vision, kaleidoscopic and infinite as his arms crossed behind his head. His legs were sprawled out, his feet pillowed by a mattress of grass and roadside flowers. He looked as though he had been dropped from the sky, and his first instinct was to lay down and contemplate the worlds around him.

All around, the grass-cutters and their scythe-like machines buzzed on, sending grass flying up and down and sideways, over his head. But with a thousand little suns shining on brightly all around him, he simply did not belong to the same stratosphere.

The way the bus whooshed past, I could not have seen him for more than 3 seconds.

And yet, one late morning at the end of June, as I was carting myself off to work, I saw a man lying in a roadside ditch, a midsummer night’s vision, an image of freedom seared into my mind. And oh, the choice he embodied, to be lying under the trees one late morning, to be swimming in the lights of otherworlds….He was…ethereal, superlunary. It was his choice to be. For a split second, I envied him but I knew he had made his choice and I, mine.

But the light of a thousand little suns, even through a bus window,  even for 3 seconds’ time is not something that you can forget.

Not even now. In my head, it is the same as that day. A thousand suns burn bright, infinite.




Blush Pink Afternoons

“But I sink so comfortably into afternoons— I unwind and my dreams, like birds, take flight, reaching the crisp saltiness of red and white lighthouses, or landing by the distant mystery of the lights blinking owlishly far up the mountains.”

Art by: 9Jedit

I want to swallow these blush pink afternoons the way you inhale a scent deeply, deeply to cage it in, to make your lungs swim in the perfumed pleasantness of it. Those I-can’t-wait-for-it afternoons after school and now after work, slipping out of civilian life, scrubbing off the city from your skin, all the smog and car honks and ruthlessness gone. Your skin clean, breathing again.

You know, these afternoons that dip into evenings, where the calm, ethereal colours of evening drip down the sky like watercolour.

I laugh now when I think about it. About how I used to think I was this mysterious night owl, how I embraced the night and stars.

But I sink so comfortably into afternoons— I unwind and my dreams, like birds, take flight, reaching the crisp saltiness of red and white lighthouses, or landing by the distant mystery of the lights blinking owlishly far up the mountains. My dreams, they soar, unshackled and wild into the sky, flying away into the sunset, towards that place beyond the pines and city walls where freedom lies. They fly beyond time, beyond physics or cosmology or sense. You see, the afternoon unleashes all sorts of otherworlds—dimensions that only tiredness can reveal. Colours that you can only see as sleep blurs the barriers between all the worlds, lulls your brain into letting the child from your memories out.

These afternoons, they’re also deep quietness and music that will not be listened to with eyes open. They’re for watching fingers that are not mine tracing the trail of smoke left behind by passing airplanes.

That brief twilight moment between afternoon and evenings are for warm hands that comb through headaches and glossy hair, that hold your hand as you bid farewell to the day that’s passed, wishing with all you have that you may be granted this kind of peace again.

via Blush — Prompts – The Daily Post

Note: There’s probably a second part to this coming up, so stay tuned!

Conversations With The Past

Art by: Luceferous

“Have you ever wanted to be a thing?” she asks, her eyes wide and expecting.

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of being something other than human. Most days, I’m quite happy being a complex constellation of thoughts and emotions and occasionally, home to one or two indescribable inner phenomena.

“What do you mean?”

Her face scrunches up, thinking. Then, she points to the sky. Too bright, too blue, and scorching my retinas.

“The sky?”

She shakes her head, pigtails swaying with the movement.

She points harder, her hand moving to follow something.

It’s a black plastic bag, stark against the summer sky. It is flying higher than the tallest building, dipping and soaring, flailing and being blown away towards the harbour. It’s drifting, drifting…

Free, free…

Maybe it’ll even stick to the masthead of one of those sailboats. All the while uncaring of the business of humans below. Unconcerned by the clinking of coins, the rustling of bills. Or the man shouting through a megaphone that you get 2 pizzas for the price of one in the next hour. The whirring of the slurpee machine, blending a rainbow of colours and the condensation gathering on the outside of the clear plastic. The crowds of people trying to enjoy their Saturday. Café-goers sitting by the terrace, one leg on top of the other, loose and content, sipping on some cold thing as the wind ruffles their hair, threatens to pick up their large hats. Or even the thick, black fumes of vehicles and the mellifluous yet angry “Dring! dring!” of a bicycle bell caught among car honks.

“You want to be a plastic bag?” I laugh.

Her pudgy little face scrunches up again, growing red and angry this time.

“Hmm, I wanted to be a clear plastic ball once.” I tell her.

She peeks at me, as though giving me a chance to redeem myself. It’s not everyday you get the chance to impress a child, you know.  At least not intentionally.

I don’t know why I still remember though. That clear beach ball. We’d lost it in the summer of 2004 to a roaring ocean. We were playing catch in the sand, right next to the sign that said “Dangerous bathing”. And then the ocean breeze caught the ball mid-throw and it disappeared in the froth of the sea, between the large, black rocks. Afterwards, we could see it drifting ever further from the coastline, reaching for the horizon. There was no saving it, either. We could just watch dolefully as it went away.

Drifting, drifting…

“It’s strange, but I still think about that ball sometimes.” I muse.

And it’s true. Many times after, in class or on the bus, I caught myself thinking about where that beach ball could have reached. Only later did I consider the possibility that it could have burst. But it didn’t matter long, that idea. The image of it drifting away was stronger than any imagined truth.

By now, my little companion has forgotten all about her grudge. Her eyes are twinkling, focused on some blank space, living the tale of the departed beach ball.

She grips my hand suddenly, tugging on my sleeve.

“And then! And then! What else did you want to be??”

I laugh as we walk away into the city, navigating the cobbled roads.

“Well, once, I wanted to be a parachute…”

Listening to:


Trouble in the City

“Houses so close to each other you can almost feel your neighbour’s breath on your cheek, rooftops so close they almost collide like artificial tectonic plates, making the sky look like an azure crack in the ceiling.”

Art by: Grant Snider

As thrilling as the city is, its modern interpretation is more lacklustre than not to me. There’s something about it that doesn’t seem natural. Something that’s not quite right.

Houses so close to each other you can almost feel your neighbour’s breath on your cheek, rooftops so close they almost collide like artificial tectonic plates, making the sky look like an azure crack in the ceiling. Apartment buildings and flats too small to house any imagination, to welcome any overabundance of ideas. But at the same time, it’s almost impressive how we are living lives of hedonism and intemperance in tiny rooms only large enough to fit our limbs. But what do we do of our dreams then? What place will they have to grow? Do we just throw them out of the window? Bid them goodbye as they go with the winds?

We’re too stressed, too hurried. Like the White Rabbit worrying about lateness, but more generally, time. We’re constantly worrying about missing out on something because there’s always something  happening. And it’s exciting that there’s always a fun thing to do anytime, but it’s just that for some reason, everything in the city is “important”. From the emails to the brunches. Yeah, even brunch holds a certain authority. Everything in the city seems to be an institution. But even so, everyone seems to be aware of it. Like we know not to take it too seriously.

But I just worry sometimes, as I gaze at the last stars in the sky, the ones under threat of disappearance by smog, that we will forget. We will forget to spend time watching ships as they go quietly by in the harbour. I worry that we will stop watching birds fly, that we won’t people-watch or contemplate the rain.

What I fear most though, is that we will stop admiring our place in the Universe. That our lives will be confined to this city and our gazes will never travel beyond its well-defined borders.


Note: This is Day 20 (!!!) of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. I’ve also written about the city before, so you can also check out this piece of writing here 🙂

The Oldest Happiness

“In these last moments, it will always be the quiet, innocuous days that stand out most. Nameless and blurry, anonymous as they may be, I revisit them with a warm, gooey feeling even now. “

Art by: Anna Pan

When I die—or at least right before—I don’t think I will think about all the crazy, wild things I will have done. In these last moments, it will always be the quiet, innocuous days that stand out most. Nameless and blurry, anonymous as they may be, I revisit them with a warm, gooey feeling even now.

Late breakfasts eaten on the terrace
The warm glow of the sun on round cheeks
Easy chatter and even easier laughter
Midnight conversations spoken in hushed tones
The spaces between printed words where you get lost in a novel
Finding out a surprising thing about a sibling
Watching kites in the sky

Or quiet, otherworldly afternoons-turned-evenings, dipping wooden spoons into mounds of delicious, melting ice-cream. Staring ahead, above the clouds, wandering past the limits of the Earth, travelling to moons and planets far beyond. Then being startled back into the here and now by very fluffy cats. Then wondering what life as a cat is like.

It’s all such idle contentment, such effortless happiness. It’s the oldest happiness I know.