lidia

I was 2 months into a new job I convinced myself I liked, and to celebrate, I had visited my tailor to get a crisp white shirt and a pair of trousers.

There is something gratifying about having an elderly man fussing over you with a measuring tape. First, he measures your neck, and he might do this several times if he knows what he is doing. He spreads your arms and measures your chest twice, after which he pats your pockets and makes sure that they are empty before measuring your hips. To measure the rise of your trousers, he spreads your legs and gingerly places the tape from your belly button around your crotch to the small of your back. I still hold my breath while he is at work, afraid that the slightest tremor might destroy the lines of my shirt, although his practiced hands can surely tell the difference. Only when he returns to the book on his table to record his measurements do I breathe a little. I will assume that a man naturally places his physical condition on a level with his intellectual one and that he watches what he eats and knows what he is supposed to do with a barbell, so when a woman compliments you through one of her many means, you must also remember to acknowledge the fine work of your tailor and pay him the compliment of visiting him again.

When I finally decided on a colour from the swatch book, he looked approvingly and pronounced it a handsome shade of midnight blue. I agreed with my tailor in this particular, although when my female colleague had brought to my attention that she had coloured some cells in a spreadsheet “tiffany blue”, I never failed to tease her about it every chance I got.

On my way to work one morning, I discovered that I had forgotten to bring the keys to the office. In order to make the best of a situation, I got out at City Hall and got myself a coffee. It was 7 in the morning and a jogger rich enough to be exercising around grade A office space was already running about. I took out my laptop and began to make some plans on a mind map.

I thought perhaps I would have something classy, a restaurant where the waiter would tuck my girl into her chair, drop by at discreet intervals to see if we were comfortable and pour our wine by resting the bottle on his outstretched arm. The pricier retaurants I found had websites where someone who knew his html and css had agonized over the typeface and in the about page the owner chef was already beginning to sound like a self help book.

It was with this heady mix of possibility that I felt compelled to take Lidia to dinner, perhaps a Milonga, and after drinks, which my friends had advised me not to pay for because then it would look like I had a motive, work could take care of itself tomorrow. I hint coyly at work, but what I really wanted to do was to follow her back to her hotel room and sleep with her.

What happened instead was this – she peered at the menu at the restaurant and shook her head. I scrambled to find something else and fortunately remembered that there was a Swedish retaurant nearby. Her tastes being more prosaic and vegetarian, this too was dismissed. We ended up having pizza at a nondescript cafe. Feeling bemused that my plans had come to nothing, I consoled myself with the thought that my attraction to vegetarians was a cosmic middle finger to the vegan cause considering the amount of chicken breasts and hard-boiled eggs I consumed every day.

“I thought you might have gotten fat,” I said, “It’s been what 7 months since I saw you?”

Good conversations begin with insults and this one started with promise. She told me she had gone to Japan and gotten drunk on lemony drinks from a vending machine.

It was still early when we went to the Milonga at Queen street, but for a weekday night, there would not be any more than the 4 or 5 couples dancing on the floor. The men and the elderly women, Philippine escorts in tight shirts and baggy trousers, tai tais dressed up on a Thursday night, all cut elegant figures.

One hundred years ago, newspapers were saying of Tango – “I would condemn the tango if I were a married man, as a bachelor, I approve it.” “The tango is delicious and good for the salons, since it interests and attracts young people, thus stimulating marriage.”

Today, I did not care to debate the social merits of the dance, I merely knew that I felt an animal content as we danced wordlessly and slowly about the room, her body pressed against mine, a close embrace we would periodically negotiate to fit the contours of our bodies, she adjusting her head and leaving lipstick marks on my t-shirt, myself pressing my chin lightly against her hair and catching the smell of her shampoo. Her littleness made me feel as if I was capable of destructive violence, that if I punched her, she would surely crumple. This was so absurd I stifled a laugh.

I looked at her as she walked to the washroom. Her hair was long and golden and she let it loose like a “Viking princess”. Her habit of unselfconsciously looking straight at me and fidgeting with her top at the same time was both disarming and delightful. Did her charm compose of these physical dimensions? She looked silently at me as she came back – I thought it was a look of intent.

After the Milonga, we found a spot to sit at by the bay. I pointed out what little stars our sky has to offer and the Singapore skyline to her. We go over tired threads of conversation, including the Marina Bay Sands, the Merlion, and psf prices at Reflections by the Bay.

“What do you like about Singapore?”

“Well, the trains are fast, and its really clean as well.”

Other questions we leave unspoken before I tell her it is already getting late and I have to go home.

She did not have a handphone, a quirk perhaps of a woman with a point of view, but this meant I had to email her to wait outside the train station exit facing the shops. I worried If I had described the meeting point well enough and that we might circle about the station and never meet, doomed to email each other later to laugh ruefully about our mishap. But she turned up eventually. She had put on makeup, her face looked fresh and she had sparkly eyeshadow and blusher on her cheeks. I thought it strange that this bundle of gritty hair, glossy lip balm and bra straps on creamy shoulders should arouse such expectation and uneasiness within me. I needed to know where to place her in my life.

I told her about a girl I knew once who was beautiful and loved handbags.

“Are you high maintenance?”, I asked

“Well I’m not, I’m pretty simple”

“Really?”

“Do you want me to say that I’m cheap?”

I was talking distractedly to Lidia in the bus, but at night, it was hard to make out where we were headed.

“Uncle, Botanic Gardens 还有多少站呢?”

“已经过了,要走回去两站,也要过马路.”

So we walked along the roads, trying to find our way back. We were still lost when we found ourselves at the British Embassy and she suggested that we could perhaps take a shortcut across its grounds.

“You’re the one with the passport, but I wouldn’t be able to get in there would I?” I said.

“Well, that’s your problem.”

We found the entrance to the Botanic Gardens and followed the music to the bandstand. An acoustic set was playing in a pavilion festooned with glowing lights, and the trees about the place were also garlanded with lights. I put down the brownie, mango bread and 2 tiger beers we had bought and we sat down on the grass beside a couple trying to enjoy a moment as their children ran about them. “That’s very romantic”, I said. ‘It’s a reminder to everyone else where they’re headed if they keep this up.”

As we sat on the grass, I told her that the ring finger is for Aphrodite and there is supposed to be a vein that is connected to your heart from your ring finger, and I traced this imaginary vein along her forearm. Then, looking at the side of her palm, I told her that these were her fertility lines, and it’s supposed to show how many children she would have.

“I don’t really see anything though.”

“You’re being mean!”

“Maybe it’s the lighting, hmm.”

The band played their last song, something about dancing and looking into a girl’s eyes, and Lidia said, “Well done, that was nice.”

“I think I deserve a kiss for organizing this.”

She leaned in to kiss me on the cheek and I liked it so much, I told her I wanted another one for the camera. I still have the picture, her eyes are closed and I’m grinning because I thought this was a wonderful way to end the week. Walking out, we sat on a merry go round and smiled stupidly at each other as we spun around.

We went off to Boat Quay to look for somewhere along the river to have a beer. Beside the Singapore River, a reverse bungee ride was whizzing about over our heads.

“Do you reckon you could do that?”

“Oh no, I was taking an escalator in Japan and I nearly cried. You will see my sad face if you take me to a fairground and expect me to get involved. I like gardens and looking at sea creatures. Sniffing tea is also acceptable. Nothing like this. You can take it if you want.”

I did not have her fear of heights, it was the distance between us instead that I had to bridge when I reached my hand out and put it around her waist. She leant against my shoulder in reply. Later, I was getting impatient as she was taking one too many pictures, and as she was taking a picture of a mermaid on a pub storefront, I grabbed her wrist to pull her along and it slipped into her fingers so naturally it excited me. We adjusted our fingers because should it be her fingers first or mine?

At 3 in the morning, we sipped 막걸리 and watched the winter olympics on a big screen TV with a passing interest. She said that she was tired, and that sounded ominous and urgent to me, like a cue to me to act or let the entire day and all of the rest – the Milonga, the picnic, the bungee ride, the tentative emails she had sent before we had even met suggesting that we could always return to her place for wine if I was too busy – come to nothing. I had to struggle to say it: “Let’s go back to your place and have a drink.” I don’t know if she actually acknowledged, because I had already begun nervously talking about something else.

We went to 7-11 to look for more beer, but all the coolers had been chained and padlocked. “No drinks,” the cashier said gruffly.

She said, “I have coffee over at my place, if you want.”

Walking into the hotel, it seemed that we were lovers returning to her room for a secret assignation, the receptionist seated at the entrance, some overseer of virtue. Lidia had told me she had tried to look for a cheap hotel in a good area and had avoided anything with a seedy reputation. She pointed to a notice beside the elevator – no vice activity here. Her room was small and stuffy and the bed occupied just about the entire room.

“Would you like some coffee?” She showed me the instant coffeemix that the hotel had stocked in a cabinet beside the bed. We sat for half an hour watching Just for Laughs. It would have been absurdly funny to me if this was happening to someone else, but I now I thought that this was tragic and perhaps I should have kissed her instead of turning on the television. She yawned and said she wanted to sleep. I sneaked a look at her and turned away when she looked back, then looked at her again.

“What?”

I inched towards her and she moved closer towards me, her eyes half closed. I kissed her lips and placed my hand on her breast. When I reached under her dress and tried to pull down her panties, (it was black and gauzy, only to turn teasingly opaque at its apex), she mumbled something and put her hand on mine to stop me. As we continued to kiss, I reached around her back and felt the rows and rows of seams on her bra. The clasp refused to give and perplexed, I tried to pull it down instead. This must have exasperated her because she stopped kissing me and sighed. First, she took off her belt, some metallic, loopy thing the workings of which I did not have the slightest idea of, then she pulled her dress over her head. Now dressed only in her underwear, I ruefully noted that it was with a practiced motion that she unclasped her bra and smiled at me.

She squirmed and shuddered when I ran my hands over her tummy which felt particularly hot, as if she had a fever, even though the air conditioning was already turned up. From centimetres away, her nose looked bigger and I found that her eyes were a grayish green. Our teeth clicked as we kissed and we laughed. She said, “Your eyes are brown!”

I felt her getting wetter as I played with her, and it only excited me and encouraged me. “Like this,” she whispered and she guided my hand. She softly exclaimed oh and then I was crushing her in my arms and feeling her gasp again. I grabbed her neck with my hand and pressed my ear against her chest.

“What are you doing?”

Her heart was racing.

“Listening to your heartbeat.” I said.

I ran my legs against hers and felt thin pinpricks where she had shaved, my lips discovered light down on her upper lip and I tasted the lip balm she had reapplied at intervals when we had been drinking. As she lay beneath me, I pulled the bedsheet over us and she laughed, and I sat on her and marvelled at her breasts and green eyes. I felt her tampon in her, and this intimate knowledge only made me want to fuck her more for all the lonely nights I had spent before thinking about her. In my mounting lust, I tried to pull her panties down again, but she gasped and grabbed at me as if I had done a forbidden thing. She took me in her hand but I wanted even more for her to let me inside her, bloody sex didn’t seem to be a problem to me.

The next morning as I lay in bed, the morning sunlight was coming in through a slit in the curtains and it shone on her back as she lay sleeping wearing only a big T shirt. I could not sleep and I turned away only to feel her weight shifting, I guessed that she was looking at me. I nudged myself towards her and both our shoulders touched. We lay there looking at the ceiling and she looked for my hand and held it. I placed my hand on her tummy and lay it there.

“I’m sure I can find a six pack in there somewhere.”

“No, no, i’m a girl, I’m supposed to be soft.”

I was watching television when she came out of the bathroom topless. She wiggled her bum and said, “Do you like my shower dance?”

I giggled.

“I was telling David that I got a room with a bigger bed, and he said, oh? Just in case. I didn’t know if you had something else on on Valentine’s Day.”

I said, “You mentioned hanging out at your hotel, I thought hmm?”

“Ah, you saw through my scheme. I wanted drinks to fill you with alcohol, and then I could touch you inappropriately.”

“You know when you asked me about the best thing in Singapore? I lied, you’re the best thing in Singapore.”

“You’re mine!” she cooed, “Mine!”

There was once I was meeting her in City Hall and when I spotted her, she strode up to me and before I could say hello, she kissed me. I thought this was the sweetest thing, and without looking back, I would reach my hand out and know that she would slip her small hand into mine. If we were going up an escalator, I would let her get on first and then I would hug her and kiss her forehead. She looked at me once and said, “Are you getting horny?” I noticed that I had left a mark on her neck where I had bitten her. She had left her name in journal entries she would never know about.

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eye contact

October 4, 2010

In the morning, I see Jiang Ling standing up at her cubicle. Move away. I take the circuitous route and ranging back to my cubicle I see I have gone too far. I’m at CJ’s desk. Backtrack to my cubicle and say a sideways hello to Andre.

Lunch. I came back to the office and headed straight for Shwa Juan. Would anyone say hello? There was comfort in the familiarity of the office, the one I have been in for one and a half years. But I was determined never to see it again. Straight towards her, I fished out my name card holder, took out $2 and left it on the table. She looked up, and I started fishing for coins from my coin purse.

“Kelvin,” I said, by way of explanation. “What’s this about?”
“Oh, milk tea.”
“How much was it,” I concentrated on my coin pouch.
“Ah, 40 cents.”
“Thanks!”
“Yups.”

I strode furiously away. Liz at her desk, new grey blouse. Mmm.
She looked over. “Aren’t you supposed to be at green?”
“Yups, I’m here for a lunch special.” Studiously looking at Guna’s monitor.

Pacey, Guna, Tony came over with questions. I felt important again, but I wanted to leave this place for ever. I unplugged the hard disk, and walked away. This time, I mustered some cheerfulness. I looked at her and waved goodbye with a smile. She smiled and waved back.

Back to Green.

Meeting with Jimmy. The batchjob has a letter at the end to indicate the frequency. D is for daily…. I was so bored I started drumming my fingers according to the description in Flow, of how Leibniz would occupy his time. O is for … Outstanding? I volunteered. The room broke out with some encouraging giggles. Jiang Ling turned around to look. I studiously made a pained face. I scribble on my paper.

Andre: “How do you feel? … It’s not Praveen… Yeah, what’s wrong?”
“It’s systemic.”
“You didn’t exercise yesterday did you?”
“No, it’s not that…. I did actually.”
“What’s wrong with the system?”
“No there’s nothing wrong with the system. It’s systemic.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s everything. Here see.” I googled the world.
“Maybe because it’s monday eh.”

-14 C

Today I manage to wake while it is still dark outside. My goshiwon is on the 5th floor, and I have to walk past a noraebang, a cafe, a restaurant, recycling rooms, and password locked toilets on my way to the ground floor. Sinchon is a dense warren of inscrutable shop signs and pictures, the pavements undulate, clash, and break into dark glowing alleyways without the forethought of URA concept plans. Like my goshiwon, U Plex is an improbable shopping complex that is a shoebox stacked 12 floors high. Starbucks goes up 4 floors and has an elevator of its own.

I am peeling away the anonymity that lies behind every sign. Ramsey points out a shop across the street that sells dog soup. We try the baseball batting cage for a 1,000 won, and after that, we check out a multibang. This sounds fun but is really a video game / karaoke room. A kissbang is less disingenuous and is exactly what it says.

Macdonald’s is neither illicit nor unfamiliar. However, my extra value meal is now a set. I no longer upsize, instead Youngju pauses to check her phone and tells me that i should upgrade my meal. She says that usually we do not upgrade, my friend says that it is too much!

At the school cafe, when I order a double espresso, they try to give me two singles instead. The proper way to do it is to say, “espresso double-shot-teh-ro (으로)”. After telling Ramsey, he says, “ah, Espresso by way of 2 shots”, which is literally true but bothers me.

My Iphone regrets that it is -14 C. Now I have to walk about with a perpetual shrug and my hands in my peacoat, just like James Dean walking down a New York street smoking a cigarette. But it isn’t raining like New York, it’s snowing like South Korea and the snow has turned into either dirty slush or slippery ice, which legitimizes weather for conversation since it is now a mortal risk – here a girl squeals and grabs onto a boyfriend, there another girl falls off the bus onto the pavement. The news plays grainy clips of commuters walking drearily along, like america’s funniest videos, then falling. This will not do – the road sweeper grabs salt from blue boxes along the streets and scatters them about.

The anonymous morning crowd waddles past me like a stream of popsicly penguins, punctuated by exhalations of smoke. I take out my iphone to double check the temperature. I had to sleep with a singlet, a t-shirt, a long sleeved t-shirt, a cardigan, a sweater, and a peacoat. Then I had a blanket and a heat pack stuck onto my shirt that I forgot about. While playing racquetball, it got warm so that I took off my sweater. Ramsey looked at me and laughed.

This is what my travel insurance report will say:

cause of death – hypothermia.

circumstances of death – the subject was found, according to Officer Bo Kyung, in his room in a state of undress. Hypothermia typically induces paradoxical undressing.

clothing – the body is received clad accompanied by: See Property Inventory List. Sanitary pad found adhered to t-shirt.

sinchon bus stop

“How much money are you bringing?,” Grandma asked in Chinese.
“Mom has given me a few purses to put my money in, I’ll put them in my …” What is the Chinese word for coat? I give up and use English instead. This does not bode well for my future Korean lessons.
“Coat and in my bag.” I slip my hand into my imaginary coat pocket to show her what I mean. I am sure I will do a lot of gesturing in future.
“That’s fine, but …” Grandma pauses, then lapses into Hokkien when it becomes too difficult for her to express herself.
“Put some money in your jeans, but most of your money, put it in your underwear.”

As I walk down the aisle of the AirAsia Airbus, I doubt that I’ll get to enjoy the luxury of an empty seat beside me. The airplane is filled with people. I try to spot Korean faces but I cannot tell the difference. Only when the mother behind me talks to her son can I place them as Singaporeans headed for a holiday. Whether stealing into basketball courts on sunday evenings to play soccer with friends – ah bengs with broken homes, some working as bookies, some with long dyed hair; or at the voice clinic where the ex radio DJ told us to practice an international accent for greater clarity, the accent was a part of my identity. On a flight away from Singapore, I was reminded of what I was leaving behind.

I settle into my seat besides a young woman wearing a hijab. She’ll stick out in Seoul I bet, what will she eat and where is she going?

I picture talking to her for the rest of the flight –
You’re going where?
Oh that’s funny, I was thinking the same thing too!

But first, logistics. Who is the man sitting beside her? I figure out that they don’t know each other so after more procrastination and half-attempts I ask her, “Where are you going in Seoul?”
“We’re checking out Gangnam and Namdaemun”
“Oh god, Gangnam Style”, I cringe and we both laugh.
“Namdaemun, isn’t that the one that burnt down, you know, some smoker left a cigarette and the whole thing went down”
“Don’t know …”
“How are you going to find Halal food in Korea?”
“That’s why I brought a lot of Maggi Mee.”

I begin to talk garrulously and when there is nothing to say, I take out my macbook air and show her my goshiwon, the cramped apartment I will be in before the day is over. As she leans in on my shoulder to look, I secretly thrill at her touch, but it feels childish and stupid compared to the easy charm of Elody and Dusan’s farewell – the french call it la bise.

For instance, as we were walking down the steps at Dongdaemun subway, and Elton John strained in the background, Dusan began to sing, “and can you feel the love tonight …” Francois and Elody joined in “… between lovers and vagabonds …”
I smiled as Dusan said, “You must think we are crazy”
“No, just french.”, I said.
“It’s being human.”

The French sing in the subway, the Australian teaches the beer game, the Singaporean wants the cheesecake, while the Japanese is allergic to alcohol but sips politely as soju and cider is mixed amid good cheer. The Korean, what little contact I have had, has come in the form of supermarket transactions – Please sign here, (and also, what I imagine is the cashier asking if I want a plastic bag or not) or when I am lost and looking for directions – Is there a movie theatre here? I am at a deserted shopping mall with spooky naked mannequins tastefully covered up in cloth (on TV, the koreans are remarkably touchy. Once a character places a cigarette in his mouth and takes a drag, the offending cigarette is immediately blurred. Once taken out from the mouth, the cigarette is uncensored. This jars the senses, one of many things which mutely show that things work differently around here, I am in a strange land.)

The farewell is much more prosaic. The aisle fills with people grabbing their luggage from overhead. I inch past her to get my things and after debating whether to get her name, and looking alternately at her and away, the words end on my lips as she stops me with a nod and a smile. I nod goodbye and walk off quickly.

As I walk out the arrival gate of Seoul International Airport, I already see the buses lining outside in a row. They hide a secret terror – how do I get on those things, do I pay the driver, or what? I look at my laptop for the third time. Bus 6002 goes to Sinchon, wait at either bus stop 5B or 12A. I don’t need to look, I already have this by heart. I brace myself for the cold and the unknown and walk outside, my strategy is – look like I know what I’m doing and follow everyone else. Some people are sitting outside just waiting for the bus to arrive. This is decidedly unhelpful. Yes, I am at the correct bus stop. Yes, the map says the fifth stop is Sinchon. Now what? Thankfully, my charade ends when I spot the bus ticket counter.

I walk uncertainly towards the booth and the woman behind the glass. I circle it slowly while studiously avoiding the woman’s gaze. A queue forms and they presumably speak in quotidian korean:

Ticket to ___ please.
That will be ___.
Thank you very much.
Have a nice day.

Except the words do not make sense. Everyday words are now ineffable, terrible, mysterious, they anticipate furrowed brows, apprehension and tentative gestures.

“Sinchon?” I enunciate expectantly. I hope a ticket will appear but a quizzical look is equally possible.
“Sin-chon? Sin-cheon?”, she makes it clear that there are 2 different places with similar names in Korea, but all I want is to go to S-I-N-C-H-O-N. That’s how it is clearly and uselessly spelled in English.
“uhm, Sogang University?”, she nods her head, and prints another ticket for me. The first one is no good and she scratches at it with her pen.

Everyone else deposits their bags in the luggage hold at the bottom, so I do the same. The driver asks me something, looks at me, then says again, “Ticket?”.

As the bus moves off, I am running late. I haven’t slept or eaten in 24 hours. I need to meet Hyunju at 10 at Sinchon, which is the 5th stop. This I expect I will have to count off one by one. What if the bus skips a stop and I miss it?  I begin to rehearse my line, Sinchon? Sogang University? (I might have to mime University. Perhaps scribbling on an imaginary piece of paper can pass off for study and by extension, University.) Thankfully, a recorded voice in Korean, Chinese and English announces which stop is next. 2 out of 3 languages is good enough for me. When I come back the other way, I’m gunning for a perfect score. But the agglutinative details of the korean language must wait. I need to get off at Sinchon.

Terminal 3

I cannot get any work done in my room, so I decide to go to the airport, which plays to my fantasy as the pained writer who only finds his muse gazing at the bottoms of SIA stewardesses at the Departure Hall.

The giant slide at Terminal 3 breaks out a huge grin in me. I want to hop on at the highest floor and slide all the way down. The giant slide is a three story tall riff on playfulness that will define me as carefree and fun if I take it. I will no longer wonder that the innocent 3 day delay before you replied to my email caused me so much pain, all the more absurd because you did not and will not suspect it; or that my John Mayer fender stratocaster, like most guitars lying in bedrooms, is far prettier to look at than to listen to when I actually play it; I will forget that I have not written or read anything substantive in months, nor will I suspect that I work long nights because I work to forget.  This colourful 3 storey tall slide will be a celebration of escapism.. I approach the slide with a big grin and study the sign at the entrance. If it is only for children, then I will look like a fool, so I look cautiously to the people close by for any sign on how I should properly behave. Their faces do not betray much, so I give up and approach the attendant, who tells me I need to spend $10 in a single receipt. I imagine taking a girl out to the airport and casually discovering, oh happy accident, that the $20 we spent on espresso and scones gets us 2 free rides on the slide. But no, I am by myself and looking about for somewhere to play the part of pained writer. It is a comforting fantasy, because being a writer I indulge the lie that I am silent because I choose to suffer silently when in fact, I am silent because I have been struck dumb by a hollow sadness. I pretend to study the foibles of the people in my life, so I can pretend to be enlightened, but then even that refuge is denied me, my notebook is empty, I reek of cowardice.

So I walk about to find relief from the royal mind job I am giving myself. I feel better because the airport is a place of promise and people are leaving for adventure and they are bidding tearful farewells and hugging each other so long, they are still hugging when I look back after walking the length of the terminal. There are also the fabulous and well made up who are ready to tackle the public transport system in another country with their luggage.

Especially lending itself to fantasy is the arrival or departure board. The electronic one will do just as well as the traditional board that flips about in a synchronized wave of clickity clacking. Bangkok promises go-go girls sticking bottles in their girly parts. Qing Dao of course has its namesake beer, and I imagine politely asking where to find the bus that will take me to the city centre, I will be speaking apologetically in English and explaining that my chinese is no good. Amsterdam I can find a friend in and that failing, there is still Cannabis and whores protected by Hell’s Angels who will throw you out if she mashes the panic button. Tokyo is no longer chic, with all the pictures in the papers of farmers pouring away their radiated milk. Beside this, a sign that says Sky Train to Terminal 2. In the sky train, a Malay SIA girl, fabled, form fitting, with a boyfriend.

Terminal 2 is clean and quiet, not too chilly. I walk past plaques that declare this was opened by Goh Chok Tong in 1991, Raymond Lim oversaw the upgrading works a few years later. A third plaque for a third construction project I cannot remember.  I can’t help but remember the Lee Kuan Yew remark about the airport being a visitor’s first impression, and I am proud that we have a nice airport.

Each toilet has a guardian in a blue uniform, like some Tolkien-esque quest, I walk past warily, will he tell me I cannot use his toilet because the toilets in the Terminal must be presentable to visitors? I walk past with mustered dignity and shit as quietly as I can in the cubicle, a Frodo facing his Mount Dhoom, but with my digits intact. As I walk out, a touch screen asks me to rate the toilet cleaner, and because the toilet is clean, there is no question that he is “excellent”.

Eventually I settle down beside the T3 arrival hall to think, to collect myself, to write about something and hopefully write away my hunger pangs because I do not want to eat today. I fantasize about not eating for a few days and becoming a thin devastatingly sexy vampiric waif. So I try to remember what life was like when I was more exciting, but then I can only remember bits and pieces, like a thin wrist with yellow crystal beads peeking from a black cuff, wondering if those are Buddhist and perhaps they have something to do with meditation, which is calming and tranquil and is exactly what I need. You do not notice me because we were talking pleasantly about something trivial. I was actually dismembering your hand and putting it away inside me.

My button fell out

The third button on my shirt has fallen out. I want to take the taxi in the morning because the morning commute is overwhelming. I fantasize about cutting off all my hair. I cry at my desk. The cup of instant noodles from last night lie on my desk in the morning. Books, clothes, biscuit crumbs, weight plates lie scattered on the floor. This is how I excuse myself from dealing with the world. People say they notice a change.

I am watching Peter Schrader’s Mishima. I watch the stutterer reach out, his hand quivering over a naked breast. She represents beauty that will forever remind him of his ugliness. I can only take the film in painful doses.

I put up a bible quote above my monitor to encourage myself. “Be strong and courageous” How long before I pull that down? No, it is time (yet again) to pick myself up. I sit tentatively on my rower and put up a 20 min 2:30 row. By no means challenging, but it is a start. The soreness in my thighs surprises me. At night, I run at the reservoir with war of ages screaming in my ear. “Is there hope for me. For I am broken” It washes gloriously over me as I lumber through the cloying humidity.

Little victories provide glimpses of my former self. I drank some water, then decided that I needed to refill my water bottle. I wondered if I really needed to call. Finally, I took a deep breath and picked up the phone.

I am distant, I am unconnected. It is irritating to see the same in her. She mumbles. I ask and she does something on the computer before replying. It is a power display. I ask her for help, but she tells me to do it myself. Instead of reaching out, I get angry.

I have a public and a private reason. The public reason to show off unhesitatingly to the world. The private reason to keep close to my heart.

self medicate

Even now I laugh out suddenly. Laughter is disconcerting when it’s the self medicating kind.

I think you need some soul searching. Go to Japan. Why do you think? It’s your face I can tell. You’re depressed.

I paused over the enter key. It was an innocuous request to do some trifling thing, but I could have sent it to anyone, why her in particular? What would she read into that? When you’re depressed, every small thing becomes insurmountable. The backspace that doesn’t work on the keyboard does not censor like it should. The fuzziness on the bottom of the laptop display seems to be growing like it shouldn’t. The universe is breaking down.

Have you heard the news. Yeah it’s all over fb. So they were from him? Smooth. I laughed and stared at the monitor. What was I doing? Ah, I resumed typing wordlessly. I tried to look at the laptop as she moved pointedly away. When did he ask? Saturday? I thought it was a joke actually. Why are we tiptoeing, whispering, circling around each other, like there’s a corpse in the middle of the room or it just might be sleeping, but no one wants to see if the thing’s dead.

According to Deida, the masculine seeks freedom. The essential masculine ecstasy is in the moment of release from constraint. This can take many forms, the sexual release of orgasm, facing death and living through it, succeeding in your life purpose, or competition in sports. Deida even characterizes philosophy as a masculine pursuit because the moment of insight is a release from the tension of the struggle to understand.

The feminine does not seek freedom, but love. Hence, L’s blog: Dr yang和Dr Burke,即使不是因为演员和剧组解约,他们会在一起么?他们最终会幸福么?我不知道,这个问题其实困扰我已经很久了.

I’ve been attracted to the self help genre recently because each book offers a solution to what living the good life means. The masculine and feminine ideal tosses another factor into the equation, that our gender predisposes us to seek different things in life.

An excerpt from an article I was reading about David Foster Wallace:

Furthermore, I thought David, at 46, was at a safe age, when things are most likely to be okay or okay enough: the mad search for sex and success that consumes one’s twenties, and then leaves a hangover into your thirties, is done with; the sense of failure, the feeling that it’s all been a waste, that hits after 50 hasn’t come yet. Middle age, which might be a crisis, can also be a calm.

With S in the car: I was teaching a 50 year old man. He told me it must be tough to be in your twenties. You have your career, you’re busy all the time, on top of that you’re looking for a partner. I grimaced at the thought.You have it easy I suppose, you’re doing what you like. But you know, there’s job security, because I’m an Asian, and there’s a lot of Caucasians at work.

I want to rise above it all and pronounce in a sweeping statement. This is who I am: … I do not have that wisdom. I just want to retreat into my room and sleep it off.

My sister walks by. Oh you aren’t working today. Nope, don’t feel like working anymore I answer.

This is self protection at work. It excuses me from trying to change because I am such and such a person (substitute the many labels I have for myself). It attracts pity, something which I instinctively try to push away, but which makes it worse. Intellectually, I can understand self-destructive behavior, but emotionally, it is harder to ignore.

I was trying to sleep it off, but S messaged to ask how I was. That’s the universe telling me to snap out of it.