pa remarked just yesterday that it was strange that “one moment we’re in penang and one moment we’re in KL”. he sits outside on the balcony a lot, alone and quiet – a stark contrast to his constantly chatty self. i asked him if he thinks he’ll make friends here. he said no, and quickly followed up with “there’s no community here. also why want to make friends lah, kepoh only”. i briefly wondered about how life is like in my 60s. constantly tired and beaten down and weary. i didn’t want to see pa like that. but i didn’t know what else to do. so i grabbed a chair and sat with him for a while. quiet moments quickly became filled with cigarette smoke, and throughout the years i’d had associated that smell with worry. pa was thinking about something, but he wasn’t letting me know about it.
i remind myself that i am lucky and blessed that my parents are willing to uproot and relocate to kl for me. but i can’t shake the thought that they might be miserable here. i just, want them to be happy. but i don’t know if this is right for that.
now it’s midnight and i am sitting in my dark room alone. time and time again, i find it odd that i adapt so quickly for someone so sentimental. but at least, i am with family. i am within love’s reach.
i think the thing i remember most vividly about my first night in london was how deafeningly quiet the night was. my room was facing nowhere near the roads and there was no low hum of the air-conditioner nor the constant soft whirring of the fan. this place didn’t need it. a far cry from tropical malaysia, london was dry and cool and on the first night i spent there, i felt utterly alone.
i remember the first night i came back to malaysia for good. it was warm – too warm – and the air felt heavy, full of humidity from all the tears i’ve shed in mourning. all of a sudden, the ambient noise from crickets and cars whizzing past on the highway and the air-conditioner – always the air-conditioner – bothered me. everything was barely a murmur, a distant echo – yet felt deafeningly loud. like the noise was closing me in, i felt trapped and all the more alone.
on my last night in london, i barely got any sleep. i stared at the white ceiling as an unspoken terror grabbed hold of me and silenced my thoughts. it was utterly quiet – both in the room and in my mind. i had spent the last few days and night agonising over the fact that i was saying a very prolonged goodbye to this place i loved and will never see again, eyes red and tired from the constant tearfulness at the stupidest things like how the bread i bought would expire after i leave – “it has more time here than i do,” i thought. but on that last night, it was quiet. not in an eerie way, not even in a lonely way. it was peaceful.
when i first fell asleep beside H, and woke up in the middle of the night to his snoring, i felt safe. in this incredibly quiet room, i found safety in his forceful breaths. as soon as i gained enough consciousness to realise i was sleeping in the same bed as H, i quickly shut my eyes – oh no what have i done he must hate me i’m so sorry i’m always causing trouble – thinking that i’ve ruined our friendship forever. but i snuck a peek anyway – if this was a dream, i deserved to be lucid, and so i fearfully opened my eyes just a little. yet somehow after the initial anxiety, the sense of security never left. and suddenly my nights were filled with his life – warm body and sleepy face and always, the forceful breaths. eyes open and basking in the pleasure of each other’s presence. suddenly i had realised that there are many forms a quiet night can take, many forms of silence – some i liked more than others.
but these nights, i have woken up to phantoms of my memories. as if on my own deathbed at the funeral of my past. live burial.
my nights are strange. some days i come home, soul weary and body weathered – only to find myself energised by solitude. some days i come home, soul full of love and body nourished – only to find myself paralysed by fear. some days are just that – days which pass inconsequentially and meaninglessly.
i find myself being sentimental while packing up to leave this place i’ve called home for 20 years, occasionally shocked that in a not-too-distant future, i would no longer have a reason to drive on the same road that leads here anymore. as i’m sorting out which items to throw and which to keep, i find myself categorising these objects. if an object invokes some kind of memory, i’ll keep it. if it doesn’t, then i’ll thank it and give it away. but as in life, nothing quite comes so easy. some objects feel like memories long forgotten, that which i feel like i could recall if only i had more time. i find myself reluctant and taking pictures i’m never sure i’ll see again – just to hold on to something in the off-chance i recall the memory. something precious forgotten. i find myself wondering about what would happen if i died right this moment and people had to go through my physical and digital hoarding.
i suffer from this terrible affliction called Sentimentality. it’s like an old friend you’re visiting at his death bed. you had good times and you treasure him as a person but you know things aren’t the same anymore and you cannot force things to be like it was when it was good in the short time before you say goodbye. i remember once thinking that every single present moment immediately becomes the past and even the future will eventually pass and that made me incredibly sad. what is used often as a phrase to symbolise acceptance and peace brings me great conflict and pain: “this too will pass” – it will never come again. of course this means you should just treasure the moments but i find it incredibly hard to do.
i was telling ma about my retirement plans – “i’d live off passive income and experiment with cooking every day” and she smiled a terribly sad smile and said “that’s good but i probably won’t be around anymore” and i honestly didn’t feel like living anymore. because one day, this conversation will also become an echo of a memory. nothing precious lasts. and all i want is for them to last forever. but all i have is pain.
i’ve lived here 20 years. sure, i haven’t spent all my days here. i first left in 2013 to a dark room devoid of life and sunlight, only to find that it can be pretty bright with the right company. i left again in 2015 to a small room 10,000km away, next to my housemates’ constant parties in the kitchen and endless vomitting in the bathroom right across my room only to be silently crying in loneliness as the sun sets at 2pm on cold winter days. but i found treasures beyond compare and peace in my own solitude and love and friends i’d cherish for the rest of my life. i came back in august 2018, only to leave again in september 2018 – barely a month. this place, the all-powerful constant.
somewhere within what feels like an endless sea of sorrows, lies a ball of fear. i can’t seem to be quite sure of what i’m scared of. maybe i’m afraid of a new environment, maybe i’m afraid that this constant change will not cease, maybe i’m afraid that i will always continue to lose the things i love one by one to time. maybe i’m afraid that i lose myself in the change, that the layout of these walls and all that they contain slowly fades from my memory. i’m afraid, deeply afraid, of an unknown which i cannot name.
my parents are 64 and 63 respectively. my dad’s friend died just last year from a heart attack. he was 64. my dad’s father died when i was just 2 years old. he was in his 50s. my dad’s mother died in 2017. all the mahjong friends my dad made has died. my mom just found out that her friend’s eldest brother had died. my mom’s parents both died when i was 11. and while my parents’ lives are filled with death, mine is filled with anticipation of birth. i hear murmurs of people going steady and moving across seas to be with their significant others and of weddings i have not been invited to. it is a strange situation to be in, and it adds to my fears however unnamed.
part of me fears that this is a mistake. that moving out of what i consider my childhood place will kill that part of me which i consider my younger self, unburdened with the shit that comes along with adulthood. when i look out the balcony and see the fireworks being displayed, i feel as though i can see my younger self beside me, wide-eyed and excited. i can see her running to my dad and telling him about the fireworks and him telling me we can go play some later too. i can see my mom bring a mug of hot milo to each of us and telling us we have to eat first. when i walk to the lifts and head down to the common area, i can see my younger self running ahead with glee and my parents following closely behind. sparkles and small fireworks and pop pops and smiles and laughter. sometimes when i turn my head behind, i can see red colourful cartoon character tanglungs from the autumn moon festival. i can hear my mom asking her if she’d want to play too, and her saying it’s okay i don’t want to in a guise of wanting to grow up.
this place feels like a bridge between my past and my present. a pitstop before i storm into the future. and i grieve losing its role in my life. maybe i’m afraid that my life from now on is more goodbyes, and less hellos.
i don’t know how to deal with that yet, i don’t want to deal with that.
For many things in life – or at least in mine, fear ought to be replaced with trust. Trust that I will not be forgotten and left behind, trust that I am loved, trust that I am going to be okay. It has been one endless worry after another, and while these are burdens I am willing to bear – perhaps the time has come to truly let go and be at peace with whatever may come.
In construction law, there are an inordinate amount of delays. Most times, things don’t go as planned. Variation order after variation order stack up, and you can never be sure that at the end of the day, you’ll get what you’ve worked so hard for. And all these complications go unnoticed, except for the few who work on your case. But even they struggle to understand you. Every project is different. There are really minute points to be made, technical jargons to understand, contradictory truths, unpleasant transactional human relationships, forced compromises. But high stakes, high gains.
= = = = =
Life in KL, so far, feels a lot like a construction project reluctantly terminated early for lack of resources. I’ve traded a life where I was actually happy, for a life where everything is just a little bit shitty. I spent three years building something that I knew wouldn’t last. And now, I’ve got to start over. All alone. Without any help – no loans, no workers, no suppliers. Devoid of life, I find myself picking up dirt and trying to build a foundation from sand and tears. All the while, my life over the past three years stands tall, nearly completed, but abandoned. A mere mockery of who I’ve been, I find myself empty.
There really isn’t much that is optimistic about my life these days. This isn’t a happy post. Today I decided to try to be happier, and shit happened. I am reminded of the time a shitty teacher threatened to staple my mouth shut when I was 8. I find myself vividly recalling the last few moments I was actually happy and being unable to say for certain that I will be that happy again. A constant contest of experiencing the most depressing moment in my life, with no winners. On my drive back, I can’t help to long for another ice kacang day – full of laughter and whimsy and time spent together.
Every time I find myself rejoicing at the slight possibility of a stable foundation, it comes crushing down the next moment. Every ounce of happiness fleeting, and every respite brief. Exhausted beyond measure, and one snooze away from eternal sleep.
Yet I find myself trudging on. Tearful, almost glittering, eyes refusing to take its vision off the future. Eyebags stretching further than the path ahead of me and some undying part of me is unwilling to close its eyes and give up. My soul is weary, but I still have work to do. So I drag my ass off my bed every morning, no matter how reluctantly, and keep trying to build myself a new future.