I left with a note by the staircase,
With newly baked bread sliced on the counter,
And freshly squeezed orange juice in the fridge.
I’d prepared for goodbye the best way I could,
But I never thought to explain why I’d gone.
Knowing you, my reasons would warp into excuses:
Forget the message they’d been meant to convey under your careful tutelage,
Their carefully strung thoughts extracted from my stone walled heart
Invalidated by your better judgement.
I left with a heavy heart,
But you saw it as folly--
A woman who had no courage or honour or courtesy.
A woman who was a child in an adult’s body.
In my defence, I am no longer a child,
At that point in time, I was more than able to make my decision,
But even children are their own selves
And perhaps they’re just as entitled to the good faith I ought to have received
So I would not offend them by invalidating decisions such as these--
Decisions you refuse to acknowledge.
I left with a note by the staircase,
Because what needed to be said
I had already told you
In between packing my bags and breaking my promises.
If you’d only listened to the sighs that escaped
From the space between my teeth.
If you’d only noticed.
But you did.
You knew this was coming,
And so did I.
So I left, hoping to send a letter wherever I arrived.
To explain why I did not need to explain,
But if all had gone as I had hoped,
The letter need not even be sent.
You’d have understood.
I’d have cried in relief,
And you’d have lent me your shoulder.
Instead, you presumed me dead,
And you buried me in the ashes of the blueprints you burned.
After three days of mourning, when you tried to pull me from the grave,
When you saw my flesh and bones
And finally believed I was not a ghost,
You said I’d changed into a monster before your very eyes
As if the mess that I was was undeserving of kindness.
As if our friendship was reduced to a single act of treason:
The charge against me? Your unhappiness
But I am my own person
And I have long stood mirroring the smile on your face
Though the curve lipped grin was not my own.
I suppose it’s for the best
That you see me as a fallen angel with broken wings
Because I’d always tried to tell you
That I was exactly that.
And if you could not see past my demonic nature
Into the desperation in my eyes
Then I suppose it’s best that I was the one who left.
After months of avoiding the task, I've finally made an 'About Me' page.
And why have I been dodging the task? That is a question even I know not the answer to. Perhaps the idea of having a page centrally about myself bothers me. Now that I think about it, it does bother me. Is this strange new page feeding my narcissism?
I sincerely hope not.
Especially not after I'd already put it up.
I suppose it'd be nice for you, reader, to get to know little old me. Even if we are, in fact, strangers.
Also, I expect you've noticed how different the website looks. I like it this way.
It makes the story-reading easier.
Half across the world, the trees are stubborn today—half their leaves are golden and half are still green. The memo announcing Autumn must have been blown away by the pesky wind. But there are other ways to find out: the sullen faces of the children, being forced back into the classrooms, the pumpkin patches swelling with pride, the pumpkins themselves pumping their chests out, hoping to get chosen, the golden fields being stripped of their sprouts for the harvest, the general death of living things.
Unfortunately, in my portion of the world, the memo announcing Autumn never came.
Instead, the humidity still clings and the trees are evergreen—not pines, mind you, just leaves that never feel like dying the street a reddish hue. Our Summer ends when the rainclouds hover like they do in Spring. They cloak the sky and lend us shade, and then they tumble over each other, and brawl it out in the heavens. We hear it from the ground and call it thunder. The flash of anger in their eyes we call lightning. When they shed tears as they lick their battle wounds, we call it rain.
Big fat raindrops fall upon our city, bombarding the pavement in their eagerness to ride on through the canal. They don’t particularly like cruising through the air. Perhaps, they’re afraid of heights.
They preferred the ground, so the raindrops rush towards it, their little chests pulsing, like rapid heartbeats.
And we big folk complain of the rain as we do of the heat—but secretly wish we were children again so we could jump into the puddles that didn’t make it into the canals.
I wouldn’t expect much rain, though.
Not this year.
They say this year ushers in a slight drought—Summer being persistent after finding out how much people complain about it. It’s decided to strike back until we’re ready to admit that the Summer heat isn’t as bad as we make out to be. (Truth be told, however, Summer will always be myself as a steamed bun in this city. I’ve heard of Summer winds, but we have none of that here.) Or at least until the thunderclouds decide to play war again.
Sometimes, the absence of Autumn isn’t too bad.
I wear cut-out shorts long enough to get me through the uni gates, but short enough to stand in the sun and avoid the shade.
On rainy days, I twirl my black umbrella and send rain bullets in my friends direction. We play as we would if we’d been a decade younger. We play as if there was no homework. (But there was homework! Loads of it!) We play until the thunderclouds dry their eyes and we find our exposed toes blackened by the city streets.
Today, however, I wish Autumn’s memo had come.
I dreamt of a place I could layer up my clothes. I dreamt of a pile of red leaves sitting by the side of the road. I dreamt of pumpkin patches and children’s voices echoing through them.
Here, the leaves are too green; the clouds are too peaceful; my dreams had not vanished after I’d woke; and now I long for a plane ticket to leave.
Maybe if Autumn came, I would no longer want to.
But I know better.
I would still want that plane ticket.
Children, before you were ever born, I wondered what building a house actually entailed. When your Dad and I decided to start a life together, I moved out of my house and did not need to wonder anymore. I found out for myself.
At stage zero, we had a budget plan and a contingency plan (a.k.a. The apartment we almost lived in) and a few more contingency plans.
First, we looked at a lot—I thought this was the easy part. Find a space I could call my own, and a space your Dad could call his own.
It was a nightmare.
Every area I absolutely adored, he hated, and vice versa. We probably looked at half the city before we decided on a perfectly ordinary looking lot with vines wrapping themselves around the ‘For Sale’ signage, and a view overlooking nothing.
But it was a space we could call our own, so we did.
Then, there was all this business of testing the lot conditions—think of it as geology, only we aren’t looking to take anything out, we were just making sure our house won’t sink when built. Things seemed all right, but looks can be deceiving. More on that later.
Second, there’s the blueprint: how we wanted it all to look.
I don’t know how architects or engineers can make sense out of rectangles on blue paper (your Dad knows this about me—see, he’s shaking his head now!), but I didn’t find this much fun. I knew we’d have a kitchen, a living room, a study, three bedrooms and bathrooms, a decent sized laundry room, and a garage—and that’s all I could make sense of.
Third came the paperwork.
Fourth came the waiting for the paperwork to get approved.
Fifth came more waiting whilst revising the paperwork and resubmitting it to this or that municipality.
Sixth was the buying of the materials.
Seventh was perhaps the most exciting part of the whole project: we broke ground!
The whole building process was exciting, but in anything you do, the most trouble comes when you’re actually laying the first bricks. You plan and plan and plan, and planning is great, but not everything will go according to the plan. That’s why our house had to be built on stilts: when we first started building, the whole thing began to sink.
I don’t consider this house perfect, but building it was one of the best mistakes your Dad and I ever made: we learned how much effort it took to make something functional—I did not say beautiful because the house we had up in our imaginative little heads was much nicer than this place, but we make it work. And we’re happy with what we have.
Children, sometimes, you need to build your house on stilts.
Because sometimes, things don’t go the way you’d like.
And that’s not good or bad.
It just is.
But what you do will yield what you’d like it to be.
Four Days Left
There are four days left before Pinwheel Poetry's In Transit event, (which I will be performing in: open mic glory and all) and I've gotten quite nervous about it. Thus, I wrote this little piece of fiction to make myself believe that Saturday will be another normal day. And that hope is always present.
That is, a normal day with performance poetry in it.
It's been too long since I've shared a story on my blog, so here it is. A story.
The Boy at Number 4
There she stood over the counter sink, her tight bun undone and her face as pale as the flour tucked away in the pantry. The words had escaped her throat before her mind had processed the consequences. And there, alone in her kitchen, she began to understand the full gravity of what she had done. The cake batter littered the counter like the pieces of her heart—an utter mess in the midst of perfectly arranged furniture.
Four minutes had passed since the door had been slammed shut, and still she stood unmoving over the counter sink. Her hands were clenched into quivering fists. There was no need to blink back tears, for none flowed out. She was not sad, she was angry—irrationally, unconsolably angry. And not with him, oh, no, that was quite impossible. She was angry with herself.
From the outside, the whitewash house at Number 4 was perfectly quiet and peaceful. The streetlamp did not flicker, and the driveway was free of overgrowth. The neighbours liked it that way. Tonight, though, Cassie didn’t care what the bloody neighbours thought! The perfectly manicured lawn was nothing now—not when she’d added too much sugar into the cake mix. (Although this was not the real cause of Cassie’s little kitchen scene.)
And what would the neighbours say tomorrow when she’d show up at her sister’s perfect child’s garden birthday party with an overly sweetened cake instead of her Jordan by her side? What would they say?
The most terrible critics were those closest to you, and Cassie, standing over the counter sink, her cheeks smudged with flour, but now tomato red from shame, knew that tomorrow, everyone she held dear would be the most terrible critic.
“It’s because you nag him about his late hours,” Dad would say. “He works hard all day, and who are you to nag him? You’re just the woman he lives with.”
Or “it’s because you’ve gotten much to busy with this bakery business. How can a man love you when you’re in love with your cakes more than him?” (Of course, this was not true, Cassie was just as much in love with him as her cakes.)
The boy at Number 4 was everyone’s hero, with a walk as straight as his hair. He looked you squarely in the eye when he reprimanded you, and looked away when he complimented you. The boy at Number 4 was technically a man, but with the innocence of a boy. And she? She was just that girl who wasn’t good enough for him.
Suppose Cassie always knew this—from the neighbours, from everyone. Suppose she knew it was only a matter of time before he left. The boy at Number 4 was too good a dream to stay for so long with her, the spirit who was too free to hold him down.
Suppose Cassie always knew this, but hoped still that the boy at Number 4 would turn the brass door handle of their house and come in and say he didn’t mean to walk away and that he didn’t really want to fight.
Suppose she hoped to brew a cup of tea for the boy who never went to bed without it that night.
Suppose she was sorry.
The door handle did not turn that night.
But the doorbell—much to Cassie’s surprise—rang.
If I could see the world
Through Galileo’s telescope
On a hot air balloon 1,500 feet from the ground
Beginning from Antarctica heading south,
It would not be the same.
If I could see the world
Through photographs and maps
With careful annotations for every historical figure or event,
I would know of the world
But it would not be the same as having seen it
And I want to see it
They say when you travel, you’ll learn to really see people
Beyond the daily masks they wear.
If it were up to me, I’d backpack ‘round the Middle East
To Turkey and Egypt and Syria
And look into the faces the newspapers have often called ‘casualties’
As if accidents wiped away their stories from history.
As if the result of this war or the other was more important than knowing their names.
I know, I’m not part of this civil war,
But they had no choice.
The war came to them.
Children are not meant to have battle scars on their forearms.
Children are not meant to have fear embedded into their pupils from the stories they’ve heard through whispers
About the town next to theirs that was burned by men who call themselves ‘liberators,’
About the screams of mothers who have had their sons taken as soldiers and their daughters as slaves.
I’d sail to Africa, to Nigeria
Where 200 school girls were taken from their classrooms
And their books replaced with chains digging into their wrists,
Because in that part of the world,
That’s what smart girls deserve:
Punishment for wanting an education.
When the truth is before you
With no journalist to snip off harsh edges,
You see the words written onto paper come alive before your form.
There is no cropping an image to fit perfect little squares
There is no “editing” to keep the violence to a minimum.
You will hear screams
In places where city lights are not those that light the midnight sky
Where Orion is not the only visible constellation
Where the northern lights dance like the ocean’s waves with the current
Where the night is green, and pink, and purple:
Nature showing off
And its audience letting it.
I’d take a plane to China
To see the old dragon rooftops
With moon-shaped gates and foo dogs to guard them,
See all the old neighbourhoods before they are torn down
In favour of new replicas of all the old neighbourhoods.
See what it’s like to have your culture stripped from the walls in honour of the greater good.
I want to see the world
Through the clarity of my glasses
No blurred out backgrounds
No filter besides my own.
Gandalf was right to tell Bilbo
That “the world is not in your books or maps.
It’s out there.”
When nature reveals itself
In full colour, and retina replicated display,
It will say:
This is who I am
If you’d only be brave enough to see me.
With a brush, she painted a stranger’s portrait onto her face.
She’d practiced this:
The perfect combination of different shades of red
Layered one over the other
Like icing on a cake.
I was supposed to know her best,
But I only ever saw her with her mask on.
It was natural for her to draw the curtains over her birthright
The pale cheeks and the smallness of her eyes
Because it was then she felt most like herself.
She concealed her arms in silks but forgot to bother with her legs,
As though it had slipped her mind like most things do these days
And she wore a smile she’d bought along with the face paint.
It grew wider with every compliment and every free drink,
Her eyes glazed over, and her shoulders no longer tensed when touched,
But when all that was left of the spotlight was the streetlamp outside her door,
It faded like a used battery,
Her body drained by the desires of others
Others who could not light themselves up otherwise.
Like a broken record of last Friday,
She called me up and whispered her sins,
Half-bragging but really asking for God’s forgiveness with me as her proxy.
I’m not God, so I don’t catch her drift,
And I said she should spend the next weekend with me instead.
But she loves the flash of the camera at night,
So I’m not surprised when she declines.
The phone line went flat
Like a weary hospital patient,
And in the quiet of her room,
Drenched in someone else’s perfume,
She told herself,
“Tomorrow will be different.
Tomorrow, I will be myself.
Tomorrow, they will see me.”
But ‘herself’ was already obscured by the paint on her eyelids
It was how her acquaintances recognized her.
How do you escape a room you’ve locked yourself into
With the key on the other side of the door?
The side that the wall separates you from,
And why is this story too familiar to ignore?
As if our own ragged breaths echo this fear:
That our faces are strangers’ portraits
And we are but shadows
Trapped in paint that will no longer come off.
Just an update about what else I've been doing lately.
I am trying to be more candid about these things without flitting around too much.
Who am I kidding? I flit. It's nearly impossible for me to stop.
Anyway, I've exciting news!
In my attempt to somehow make something out of my free time, I've put together a little event with my friends (the first of many, we hope).
Either I shame myself by revealing that I generally suck at utilizing the internet, or there aren't many spoken word poetry events/collectives/whatever-you'd-like-to-call-its in my area, so I had the idea to start one.
If you do live in the area, I encourage you to come to the event. Not just because I have vested interest in it, but also because it'd be an experience for those who haven't experienced this sort of experience yet. (Well, that sentence was an experience in itself...)
The details are below.
Hope you can make it!
There are some trips you come back from a completely different person.
I wish I could tell you, reader, all about my trip to Japan, but to tell you about the trip like I would a story inevitably means I'm likely to leave something out.
Because isn't that what perspective really is: a mold through which we create our own reality?
If I were to do so, I suppose I'd like to do so quite deliberately.
So, instead, I shall share the stories and the poems I've written during my brief stay in the land of the rising sun.
Hopefully, you, reader, will feel as I felt while reading my works about my trip. Hopefully, it will matter a great deal more than mundane things do.