I scribble down
Handwritten grocery lists:
Alien invasion things to do,
Shooting star wishes to buy,
I scribble down
To get through long, fleeting days.
1. Get up and try not to fall back to sleep
2. Get up after falling back to sleep
3. Get up to snooze the alarm
4. Get up to the snoozed alarm
I scribble down
Long winding lists
In the hope that one day I’ll get it right.
1. Decide what I want in life
2. Decide what I really want in life
3. Stop changing my mind about what I want in life
My pens are now hollow tubules,
Memories of lists
I basketball free throw shot in the trash,
And my eyes are aeroplane air dry
From deciphering letters in the dark,
Hoping to find riddles
Hidden from the light.
We step into wardrobe worlds
And find breadcrumbs in the forest
That lead us to riverbeds
Where we skip flat stones
And dream of solace.
You divulge your secrets,
Whisper the words
The way the sun sets:
With streaks of colour
That match the beating of my heart.
I divulge my dreams,
As if you were soft powdered snow
Freshly fallen upon my face,
A canvas my hands can form elaborate snow castles with.
But the ground
Drags us back from our secret passageway,
And our blooming garden withers before us
As hot air growls against our cheeks
Leaving tiger breath patches on our skin.
I watch the glass towers
Strip us of our souls,
And program our bodies to walk their streets.
But they forget to program our eyes,
And though I shouldn’t,
I watch as our feather light ghosts
Hang from the highest peak
Like white flags fluttering in the wind.
They dare us to surrender,
But your hot air balloon limbs carry us upward,
And we scale their glass towers,
Claim the ghosts we always were,
And float away
Until we walk on clouds.
To get from scratchy tones to smooth waves of music involves a great deal of practice. Yet not all practice yields proper results. Screechy scratchy practice will yield screechy scratchy mastery, and the converse is also true. But over time, if one practices right, screechy scratchy tones give way to pleasant melodies.
It just takes time...
In my case, a fair amount of time.
A rookie like me, then, has to start somewhere. So, I started with scratchy tones, disturbing most of my family by playing at odd hours. Mum claims that my violin sounds like a baby crying, and my sister wears headphones to drown out my playing.
Mum used to read us this story that ends with "try, try until you succeed." I wonder if one tries and tries and simply doesn't succeed. What must he do to succeed then? Try harder? Try smarter? Give up?
After months of playing like a musician overcome by stomach cramps, Mum and the rest of the family were just about ready to throw me out through the window, but miraculously, after somehow blistering my fingers and breaking a couple of strings, I drew my bow and out came a melody.
How odd it is that the smallest successes are often those that provide the most comfort.
And how wonderful it is to finally achieve some small success.
an adaptation of the old Chinese idiom
Thirteen metres high, five metres across, no corners, or anything that could connect her to the outside world except a full moon shaped hole where the roof was supposed to be.
This was Claire’s sanctuary.
She woke to the sun lavishing her with warm kisses, and fell asleep to the wind singing lullabies in her ear. If the sky began to cry, her tears never seemed to fall into her deep hole. If the sun seared the soil in anger, his hot claws never seemed to reach her pit.
For the most part, Claire was left to her own devices—which, given that she never left her little hole, were scarcely abundant. There was daydreaming, then there was stargazing, and of course there was sunbathing—not that the sunbathing ever improved her pale complexion. Besides her pallor, she was (contrary to popular expectations) quite content with her lot in life—and more so with the hole in which she lived in.
The only time her contentment was ever up for discussion was the only day of the year she ever had a visitor over—but her visitor never came in, mind you. Robin was not very tall, and would most likely tumble to the bottom and never ever get back out if she did try to get in… Not that she ever wanted to, anyway. Instead, Robin poked her head into the hole, and had a long chat with Claire.
“This year, the gardeners planted rose bushes,” she said to Claire. “Oh, how I wish you’d come up to see them.”
“Come up?!” Claire gasped. “But-but there are people there! And snakes and birds! No, Robin, I’d very much prefer to stay in here where it’s safe.”
“But the rose bushes, Claire,” Robin said with a dreamy sigh. “They’re beautiful—all red under the sun.”
“Never you mind that,” Claire said, sticking her nose up. “I, too, have seen the sun’s beauty as it rises. And I’ve seen the full moon in all her glory. Frankly, I doubt I’m missing out on very much. I do believe you should have your own little hole to find safety in.
“And give up the vast horizon?” Robin shook her head. “Not for the world.”
“Horizon? The sky is round, with edges, you see, Robin,” she clucked at her friend. “How distorted the upper world has made you. Vast skies? Bah! It’s such a queer thing! Preposterous! Everyone knows there’s no such thing. The sky is shaped just like the moon—completely circular.”
“Oh, yes,” Robin said, rolling her eyes. “Everyone knows that.”
And Claire was quite confident in her own little hole, thank you very much. So Robin said goodbye, and watched the roses stretch their petals towards the sky as night fell wondering as she got into her car how anyone could think of full moon shaped skies and remain contented with their life.
There it was. The countdown had begun.
The ticking of clocks, so much like the impatient tapping of Father’s shoes at parent teacher conferences, irked him. It was all too familiar—the squid tentacle sensors glued to his skin, the sterile smell of nothing in the ICU, the numbness that came with being cognitively sound and yet physically incompetent. Bass was used to this now, really.
Bass wondered what was beyond death—that was where he was going, after all. This… This experiment, as the white coated non-medical doctors liked to call it, was nothing more than an organised murder.
The sky above him was plaster paint illuminated by the lightbulb sun. He cringed as the room wobbled about him. His existence would end the same way it started: in a manufactured clean room with life that was more artificial than intelligent. No trees, no rivers—just white walls and faux wooden floor panels. No Father either.
A blonde doctor wriggled out the IV drip tube that circled its way into Bass’ left hand, and another held up a syringe filled with bluish liquid in preparation for what they dubbed the best option Bass had since he got here. It certainly felt like a joke. Who would have ever heard of killing a person and jumpstarting him alive again? The doctors hoped that somehow, Bass’ brain would remember how to move the rest of him. The reboot, they claimed, would allow him to walk out of here.
Bass personally just thought his doctors had secret sociopathic tendencies they were so desperate to actualise. Consent, of course, was somehow coerced out of Father.
“Anything. Just fix him,” he had said.
But Father didn’t understand—the doctors were incapable of fixing him the way Father wanted. And this entire demonstration of death was downright irresponsible of him.
Any minute now, he thought as the sensors recorded his rising heartbeat.
“Paddles ready,” the grey headed doctor instructed. Bass wished he had asked if Bass was ready, but he knew he’d have felt like a fish being slaughtered for sushi or something.
“Paddles ready,” the blonde doctor said, holding the paddles like foreign laundry irons he’d never used before. God, he must be one of those over eager doctors, or something. Give the paddles to the other doctor, Bass thought. The one with glasses!!
It was no use now. The paddles were with the blonde one. Perhaps Bass was wrong and this one was the competent physician. He certainly hoped so. Fifteen years was hardly the proper age to go. He hadn’t even gone through a quarter-life crisis yet.
Of course, Bass would hope he was wrong… But perhaps he’d be quite all right with being right. After all, the treatment was certainly not going to work, so perhaps death was a more agreeable outcome.
“Injecting into the IV,” the one with glasses said stoically. As if Bass’ life didn’t depend on it.
Where in the bloody blue blazes was Father?!
Bass felt himself slipping from consciousness even as the doctor said, “heart rate dropping.”
This was it, then.
The moment before death.
When I was in Japan earlier this year, I had the pleasure of watching the cherry blossom trees bloom. It was the tail end of the wonderful season, but I witnessed it nonetheless.
This short story is about seasons and the inevitability of change, but also about how the inevitability of change isn't as inevitable as we perceive it to be.
When the sakura trees are teased by the Spring wind, they tend to cry buckets of tears despite the pleasant season they find themselves in. At this time of year, the weather is caught between the sweltering summer and the frigid winter: a glimpse of nature’s youth, ushering the pink-sea-week in.
As per tradition, Kaoru emerged from his hovel to gaze at the park’s pink riverbank littered with couples and foreigners posing before plastic cameras. His dark hair fluttered in the Spring breeze the way over grown grass would. He ran his long fingers through his hair. It was getting too long, but he didn’t have the time to chop it off. Instead, he pulled a rubber band from his pocket and bundled his hair into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. This will have to do for now, he thought. His watch, as usual, told time five minutes too soon. He was, therefore, fulfilling tradition five minutes too soon—as he had done for the past five years or so.
But things had not changed—Kiri’s watch was still ten minutes too late, and had thus kept him waiting for fifteen minutes, as was tradition.
Kaoru didn’t mind. He turned his angular face to the sky, and allowed the pink petal snow to catch on his long lashes. It was only once a year, after all. After today, it would all be over again. Whether or not he was pleased with this idea was still up for discussion. He couldn’t seem to decide.
Instead, he allowed the memory of last year to push through the flurry of other thoughts in his mind. His hair was short again, cropped close to his scalp, and Kiri was her usual cheery self. A light drizzle had dispersed the crowd ever so slightly, but just enough for Kaoru to exhibit a rare act of spontaneity as he ran past the riverbank and into the park’s grassy field covered with cherry blossom petals. There he collapsed upon it, eagle spread as if it were his own bed. Kimi laughed, and Kaoru hid his smirk behind his hand. Her melodic laughter cleared his mind of all relevant thoughts. It was enough to stop his heart, perhaps, but it had not happened just yet.
“Are you going to keep chasing sakura petals every year, Kaoru?” Kiri teased, pushing her long hair behind her as she gathered her white cotton skirt up to run behind Kaoru.
Kaoru bit his lip, glancing at her tentatively. “Would that be a bad thing?”
“Not particularly,” Kiri shrugged. “Why do you do it anyway? Chase petals with me every year?”
Kaoru gazed at the clear blue sky obscured by the cherry blossom trees. If he himself could only admit the answer… But now was not the time. “It’s tradition,” he said instead—not very convincingly either.
“Sure,” Kiri scoffed. “As if an eighteen year old nerd would be so sentimental about some petal chasing ritual we came up with ten years ago.”
Kaoru tried not to fidget under Kiri’s intense gaze, and somehow found his eyes tracing the soft curve of her chin and the slight pinches around her eyes.
When she frowned at him with her coral tinted lips, Kaoru shut his eyes firmly, and said, “it’s tradition,” through his tight wind pipe.
But this year, Kaoru knew, would be different. Though Kiri’s lips were still tinted coral like last year, and she still dressed in cotton skirts, and though she still refused to tie up her long hair—though everything was absolutely picturesque, everything had so obviously changed. Perhaps because it was the sort of year that was meant to change everything.
“There’s no space to run,” Kiri said, frowning, but Kaoru had no intention of running.
He shrugged. “Let’s walk by the riverbank instead, then.”
“Finally tired of chasing petals, then?” Kiri smirked.
Kaoru gave her a tight smile, looking her straight in the eye. “Would that be a bad thing?”
She sighed, shaking her head gently. “Giving up on your yearly tradition just because you’re going to Tokyo for university. It’s not like you, Kaoru.”
Kaoru simply shrugged, and stared at his feet. “Chasing petals is not like me. It’s time I grew out of it.”
Kiri frowned, not understanding.
But Kaoru knew what this implied.
“You’ll be staying here for university, then, Kiri?” he asked nonchalantly.
Kiri beamed, though the conversation’s direction confused her. “Of course.”
Kaoru merely nodded. “Ganbatte.”
The sakura petals fell heavily around them, as if the sky were mourning the end of an era. In fact, the trees were shedding the tears Kaoru never could. He tried to memorise the moment, implant it behind his eyelids. He tried to memorise Kiri’s cotton skirt peppered with pink, tried to memorise the river caked with pink frosting, tried to memorise the faint rustle of the blooming flowers above him, tried to memorise how his heart beat heavily next to Kiri’s before time passed by too quickly.
Tokyo was a long way off.
His revelation came five minutes too early, and Kiri would realise it ten minutes too late, when chasing petals would no longer be an option, when the one word that would have saved it all could no longer be uttered—“stay.”