Lingerer.

I’ve earned quite the reputation of being a lingerer.

I was always caught a little too long in the warmth of morning sheets, and I took hours steaming up the shower, only to emerge, skin flushed and thoughts nebulous. Voted most likely to run into a pole while staring at the sky. Serial latecomer, eternal late bloomer.

I settle too comfortably into moments — I melt into them like candy on a summer’s day: messy, gooey and all over the place.

I can’t help it though: I’m just so in love with the idea of being. It is magic to just be. To be able to create thoughts. To move your hand just because you want to. And feelings — how deliciously complex they are! Like scents, they have undertones and influences that make them unique. But there are always the classics,too: love, sadness, fear, anger. And how intriguing to have a place for your thoughts, for your dreams, for every unspoken part of you. Do you realise that every idea you have first existed as a spark of electricity in your brain? All of the world’s greatest inventions and art were born in that liminal space. Inexistant to the rest of the world, to MRI scans and brain surgeons but so vivid for you.

There are worlds inside my head always calling me. The worlds I knew first.

And then, there’s the world world.

How it is both overwhelming and small at once.

The sweetness of it amid its acridity. A flower bursting from the concrete, flocks of birds flying over industrial zones, the lullaby of the ocean, minutes away from the national reserve bank.

So I linger. There is so much to take in, to admire.

A lifetime will never be enough for this purpose: there is too much out there.

The sun, the sky, the progression of the day, mountains, the rain, the unnamed stars that light up our nights. The people.

How am I expected to be on time when all these ideas orbit my head? How am I meant to just accept it all, to brush the world and myself under a carpet and pretend it’s all…normal?

It’s not.

It’s exceptional, all of it.

So I will linger, charmed by the world and its ways, entranced by the inner workings of my mind. And I will call the clock a liar for saying I’m late. Because I’m not, I’m always right on time somehow.


Note: Still alive! Very much enjoying it, too. I hope and pray you are all doing beautifully as well. Also, are you or someone you know also a lingerer? Please tell me I’m not the only one lol.

Listening to:

Perspectives, intersections.

young adult old soul magic realism writing

I understand more wholly now the little insights and accidental glimpses I have into people’s lives.

I must have been too submerged into myself to notice before, too busy exploring my own depths to contemplate others’. It must be that you miss these sorts of things when you jump headlong onto a moving train — the bullet train of a 9 to 5 fueled by your days, months and years.


Every other life flashed by as minuscule dots of colour; blinking lights in the darkness. Only I was in focus. Only I was real. Everything else was mist: the buildings, the people, the rhythm of life.

Other people were…ideas, intangible concepts. They entered my life too rapidly for me to seize them, to feel the weight of their words in my hands, to connect to their stories.

I caught a flash of colour.

I blinked.

When I opened my eyes, it was already gone.

I would shake myself off, clearing the last of these micro-second mysteries from my mind.

“That was strange.”

And on my way I would be again, drowning in my loneliness, surrounded by millions of unraveling stories, wheezing past them.

I couldn’t exist outside of myself. It was impossible for me to imagine someone not being the way I was. Life was the same for everybody, with no more or less enjoyment for one or the other. It was a tacit piece of knowledge, understood through the narrowing lens of my perceptions, the shriveling of my imagination, the drying out of once abundant streams of consciousness.

That’s what happens, I guess. Your mind is cut and dried, uniformised, squared off until it becomes one-track only — the track designed by those that came before you, a path well-trodden.

Only vaguely could I acknowledge the idea that people were different. Of course, it was just surface knowledge. Statements you have to agree to, like terms and conditions you sign without paying attention. A distracted agreement, a “Yes, yes, alright.” you dismiss a child with.


But the bullet train has slowed down.

All these unknown lives are blooming in a million scents and textures: the mother who smells of baby oil, the couple that walks closely but doesn’t hold hands, the fastfood joint run by two bickering brothers, the papercuts on the newspaper vendor’s fingers, the spicy, taste-bud-burning noodle soup in China town, the dizzy children who fly kites come evening, the white-haired ladies bent at the waist to catch a glimpse of the life taking place beyond their doors.

Perspectives, intersections.

The train has stopped at an intersection, a cross-hatching of stories and identities, names and worldviews.

The world is large when viewed in its numbers, the summary of all it is: 195 countries, 7.5 billion people and counting, 6,500 languages — it’s impressive, awe-inspiring. But when you get into the details, when you stop to contemplate even a hundred of those 7.5 billion lives, well, the world becomes infinite.


Listening to:

The things people leave behind.

Rebecca Mock Young Adult Old Soul Magic Realism
Art by: Rebecca Mock

A mug with the face of someone’s fiancé on it, a pair of size 40 sneakers, a mini Buddha statue, an umbrella branded with the logo of a sports meet, summer festival stickers, cables, a Chinese piggy bank named Marge, waxy plastic leaves, an inflatable parrot that can fit on your shoulder, printed quotes.

What do all of these objects have in common?

Well, they are all things people have left behind in the small open office I work in.

Nearly 3 months have passed since I was last in this claustrophobic place and its garishly yellow walls, its comparably drab grey carpet.

During that time, life had seemed frozen, struck by an immovable force. But life finds a way, always, even during the most desperate situations. So in the midst of this great immobility, life managed to happen in defiant trickles and uncharacteristic daredevilry, as though people lusted for life, were consumed by desire for it. Disease and fear, closed shops and confinement held most of us back but still, still there were weddings and breakups, fights and reconciliations, people left their jobs, others became their own bosses.

Now, three months later, life is rushing back to all of the places it used to inhabit, still furious with the unspent energy of three months’ isolation, like a tide that had too long being held back from joining the sea. People are running again into the arms of the normalcy they had been forced to leave behind, eager again for the spell of habit, the comforts of routine and a life with as many pre-filled blank spaces as possible.

Two people have left  — the office, the job, the shared time and space vortex of a corporate position — and since they quit during the lockdown, it is as if they had disappeared suddenly or better yet, never existed at all. They have been erased, only the eraser dust that are these odd objects a testament to their ever having existed.

It is shocking to me how easily we picked up after that, how quickly we filled in their absences, like potholes on the road in a particularly well-governed country. Soon after, we went about as if nothing had happened.

It’s scary.

You can give so much of yourself over so many years, dedicate your time and weekends, sacrifice parties and dinners, give up relationships for it all to mean nothing once you leave. You can build the most elaborate sand castle, but someday the tide will come for it.

But these odd objects are there, reminders to us; to them, things they will not come back for.

It leaves me feeling incomplete, faced yet again with the realisation that life does not always end neatly. Circumstances do not tie off reasonably well, in line with any character arc or plot point. People come in and out of your life abruptly. There one day, gone the next. Life is jagged and out of control. You think you have mastered it, successfully tamed its waves into serviceable currents. But life, like the ocean, is wild at heart. It swells and falls through no will of your own and while you may navigate it, you will not overcome it.


Note: So, it’s been a month since I last posted, but let’s not dwell on that 😂

Listening to:

The twilight in all things.

young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by: Oamul Lu

Do you believe in Fate?

I know some people don’t believe in it at all — to them, every event is a result of your choices and Life’s own randomness. Other people believe in it sometimes, usually when something big happens, the kind that makes them say:

“I don’t believe in Fate, but even I can see that this is not a coincidence.”

Then there are those who do believe in it, quietly, without raising much of a fuss about it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, are those who attribute everything to Fate, who remove free will from the equation altogether, choosing to be moved about by life, instead of choosing where to go. All the same, surrendering is a choice, is it not?

“To what extent do I believe in Fate?” I found myself asking, faced with a strange set of circumstances I itched to call by another name. These events spoke to my heart but failed to satisfy my mind with some rational explanation or other.

But is there a reasonable explanation for everything? Should there be, should we expect one?

I thought I had answered those questions with a good degree of certainty many years ago, during The Great Existential Crisis™ that started in my early teens and lasted well into my university days. But they resurface every now and then, as though they had not been properly quashed the first time around.

The problem is not what I think, but what I believe. I’ve learned the two aren’t the same thing, that I can hold dramatically conflicting views without flinching. Logically, I know, for example, that I can never attain perfection. But do I believe it, am I entirely convinced that I can’t secretly get very, very close if I do X, Y or Z? As long as my heart won’t agree to something, I’ve found that a crack of doubt will always remain, not allowing me to seal the deal, to set the answer in stone.

Do not let your mind meddle too much with matters of the heart, whispers a voice inside my head. Not all problems can be dealt with reason, and the heart does not have all the answers either.

In my case, I have let my mind talk over my heart, interrupt it, cut it in speech, berate it, silence it. I’ve starved my heart because the adult world speaks in binary, of functions and formulae, of surface areas and investments, 5-year plans, employable skills, ‘worthy’ degrees, settling down and the stock market —  concrete, well-defined things that form the foundation of daily life. This world does not make mention of everything that lies between the binary zero and one. It has no words to explain the twilight in all things, that which is flimsy and vapour-like, appearing and disappearing like the moon. It cannot describe, explain, understand or quantify anything that refuses to be corporeal, be it a feeling, an intuition, or a dream — and so, it casts it all aside.

My heart is all of these things: feelings, intuitions, dreams, wishes, worldviews, philosophies, musings. Physiologically, biologically, my heart is right where it needs to be. But spiritually — hearts do not, should not exist spiritually, thoughts should not be invisible. All the same, they do, they are. I have to accept that there is some part of me that is not at all corporeal, that it’s all smoke and mirrors beyond a certain point. With grace, I must recognise that the heart, ever-mysterious, has its own worth, one not determined by a decidedly practical society. 

It’s a risky business though, trusting what you can’t see. Letting yourself be guided by what you can’t quite define. Seeing symbolism in things, treating events as signs. Yet I am also reminded, each time I venture beyond the gates of reason to dip into the pool-sky of my imagination, what we would be like if we didn’t colour a little outside the lines. If we dared not cross to other worlds, if we dared not believe in what has not yet been done or explained.

Free your heart, free your heart.

Do not let it be chained to a reality that does not understand it. Let it roam freely and find itself, until one day, its erratic intents align just as you knew they would.

So as I stare a fragment of Fate in the face, I ask myself:

“To what extent do I believe in Fate?”

And, well…


Note: I hope you are all keeping well, wherever you are. Where I live, the number of cases has dramatically decreased and lockdown restrictions have been extended until the 15th of May. After that, the country is set to slowly reopen.

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.

Publishing

Young adult old soul magic realism awkward yeti
Art by: The Awkward Yeti

“Get your short story published: it’s good.”

As a writer (welp!), this kind of recognition hits me in the guts. As cliché as it sounds, I missed a breath and a couple heartbeats when this was first said to me. Showing someone your writing means going against any and all survival instinct. It is one of the most counter-intuitive things I’ve ever done. It is the kind of trust that gives me anxiety in a flurry of a thousand questions, like furious wasps released and attacking all at once.

“What if she doesn’t get it?”

“What if she doesn’t like it?”

“What if it actually makes no sense?”

“What if she laughs at it?”

“What if it’s so bad she can’t bring herself to tell me?”

How can anyone reasonably lay out their heart like that? How is it not madness to cut open your chest and let someone else rummage in it? How can you let a stranger into your home, how can you allow them to touch your things, to play your memories when they have no idea how precious they are?

How can you trust someone else to understand who you are?

“If all goes well,” I comfort my trembling inner self, “She’ll tell me it needs a whole lot of rewriting, but.”

But it holds a glimmer of promise.

But it could be good, one day.

But, it has something.

And then, this.

My inner child is SQUEALING. She’s dancing about, going breathless, twisting muscles and not caring. Actually, that’s just present-day me.

I am always in doubt of my ability as a writer. Most days, I feel I haven’t even grasped the basics. English is not even my first language; my French is not always elegant, either. I feel a bit like a fraud. Like I’m making myself out to be more than I really am. I’m calling myself a writer now. What next, introducing myself as an artist, a “creative”?

But this, it’s like a push in the right direction. It’s like someone telling me: “Why are you walking down this path when you should be running along? Give it a try. Don’t hold yourself back. You have what it takes.”

I really want to do that. To try. And I want to believe I can reach somewhere with it. I’m not looking to create an empire or to become famous. But as J.K. Rowling so truthfully put it:

“I would like to be remembered as someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”

And could I ever ask for more? That is all there is to it: to try the best I can with what I have. Everything else is secondary.

Distant summers.

young adult old soul magic realism zuoji
Art by: Zuoji

Balmy summer nights. Condensation trickling down glass bottles no sooner are they popped out into the heat. Glistening droplets sliding down, making the bottle slippery, one moment away from crashing onto the floor.

There is a warm, orange tone to life. The everyday scenes have changed to reflect that. Dripping mountains of coloured shaved ice, necks glowing with perspiration, a looseness in the limbs, the general air of summertime carefreeness and mouths that sigh, sigh, sigh: at the heat, the late buses, the sweet, good times.

I feel like I am living in a metaphor. That somehow, this moment is more than its apparent sum, hiding more meaning than I am able to decipher. Summers always feel a little far away somehow; I know there is a large part of them I cannot touch even as they unravel underneath my fingers in waves of summer tunes and late-night conversations. There is a depth I cannot feel, a susurration my ear is not attuned to. But I believe that life happens twice: once in the moment, and then again in retrospect. So I stay up nights not to understand, not to grasp and pursue this vast unknown expanding in my chest, but to experience, simply. To sigh at the cricket concerts, at the humidity sticking to my skin like a layer of cling film, at the gentle smile of a summer love.

Whatever meaning there is, whatever lesson or symbolism lays dormant in these moments, they will come to me when they need to.

Presently, I am filling up on the sticky sweetness of right-nows, enjoying my gentle metaphors, my odes to freedom and pink-peach summer skies.

 

One last twilight.

Young adult old soul ghibli writing magical realism
Still from the movie “Howl’s Moving Castle”

I want a little more time to feel these in-betweens. Why do they have to come in flashes? Why do they have to be windows of opportunity forever lost if you do not jump through them? Like twilight, why do these moments have to be fleeting? I want more time to decipher this melancholy, to unravel my feelings, to pick out my memories from the film roll of my life.

Yet it seems so selfish to ask for more time when I have already had so much of it. The clock has been kind to me this year, allowing me more moments of peace than I thought I could get. But as the decade draws to an end and the sun sets on another 10 years of my life, I need a moment to stomach it all: how far I’ve come, how far I’m meant to go.

I mean, at the other end of this coming decade, I could emerge as a 34 year old. At the beginning of this decade I am leaving behind, I was 14. My twenties feel like a whole moment in-between so far. A transition period, a world made of bridges I have to cross or build or repair.

So forgive me if I am holding onto time, begging it to stop for a little while for me, I just want to understand. I want to clearly understand the immensity of the ten years that have passed and the ten more to come, maybe.


Note: It’s not yet 2020 where I’m from and as I post this, but I hope you can take the best of this decade with you. I do not like to think that new years can bring anything, so to speak. My belief is that we are the ones who bring change. But it’s hard not to get swept up in the spirit of newness, to not feel a swelling of hope in spite of every evil thing we know exists in the world. So I wish that, wherever you are in the world, you can take some of that hope with you and hold onto it. Happy New Year, everyone ❤️

Listening to:

Risk-free.

 

young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by: 9jedit

I’m thinking no, I know it is time to move forward, to take that leap I have been preparing for, knowing I am not ready for all of it, knowing it is not risk-free, knowing I would be safer if I didn’t. And trust me, I don’t want to be out there, exposing my weakness to the world, defenceless as I put myself out there to be criticised freely.

But things have already gotten so far, life is already losing its flavour to the everyday hassle, the torturing boredom of accomplishing the same repetitive tasks. Life is worth more than that. A slow extinguishing of dreams, the death, drawn-out, of magic, fantasy, curiosity. Life is worth being hurt, being vulnerable for. Everything, everything to unsettle the deep aching, the profound unhappiness rooted in ourselves. We need to treat the roots, even if it hurts more that way. Even if we are left with emptiness, not knowing how to fill the hole that is left behind.

I need to grow, to push against the dirt and emerge, leaves tender, afraid of being burnt by the sun, blown away by the winds. I could stay safe, but I would never know the beauty of the sky, the sight of rain, the lightness of the wind.

So in that way, I must rise. I must rise and emerge and use what I have to shape the future. Or else I must choose to fall back into a safe darkness, forever wondering.

I must make my future, hard as it may be.

Escapist.

writing young adult old soul magic realism james fenner
Art by: James Fenner

And now, the truth I have been unwilling to admit to myself: I am escaping. Sentenced to unexciting realities, my mind cooks up elaborate scenarios, my body busies itself in all ways it can think of.

I am living for dreams that have yet to be, trading the certainty of “now” for the maybes of tomorrow. I know that no matter how much I plan, there is always so much that is left in the air, so much I cannot control. These doubts infiltrate my small, ordinary day and grow large and looming until they fill up my breathing space and the only way away from them is distraction.

Daydreaming, entertaining the idea of smoking, putting music on every time silence stretches or boredom reaches to the bottom of my soul, risking myself in brazen speech, scrolling through social media, snacking on things I don’t even want to eat, texting “people”… All things I’ve done or attempted in an effort to escape from life, actions very much like the moments when, as a child, I would plug my fingers in my ear and go “Lalalalalalalala, I can’t hear you!” at the world.

So I’ve come to abhor silence; these thoughts only echo louder in it. Instead of facing them, I fill every moment of idleness with something else. I drown out my thoughts in loud music, I forget about my troubles through conversations, I escape reality with all the swiftness of a gazelle being chased by a lioness. This is nothing new, it is something I’ve always done. I just thought I was past it. That I had harnessed this proclivity to escape into something beautiful that I could use at will. But I am reminded that this is what it looks like when I mess up: I run away, I hide, I escape. All that’s left to do now is to understand, to look at the wreckage left of these few months and examine them without trying to criticise.