in silence

for the first time in a long time, having written something that i feel proud of and am excited to share, regardless of how it is received. because for the first time in a long time it feels like writing that i did not just to come up with a piece but because there was something i wanted to say; language that i used because it feels like a truthful expression as opposed to language meant to fit within a particular form. there are small things to be grateful for.

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feeling the loss but also its inevitability

seven feet tall candy canes, newly wrapped, propped up against the lamp posts. there is the faintest of lights within them visible from this distance. come night time they will be identical radiant little stands along the courtyard. each moment there are people packing up and leaving this compound. as i returned last night i saw a girl with her large duffel; this morning i wake up to the sound of packing tape along card board boxes.

“i’m still staying on campus one more night, just not in here! so i’ll definitely come by and say bye properly!”

“yes definitely! i have a paper to finish so i might not be in my room tonight… but i’ll text you for sure.”

the thought of plans for the night after all this will be over. the re-reading of an essay about being a woman and navigating consent, navigating desire. thinking about how good an essay that was, wondering how people have it in them to conjure such realities (will i? could i?)

deep breaths. being kind to myself. reminding myself that i must let myself settle into the rhythm. that frustration will always be unproductive. just the last stretch!! there’s no reason why i can’t complete this well. i will.

“Cat Person” – Kristen Roupenian; The New Yorker Magazine

So well written. Don’t read the following block quotes if you’re going to read the piece, read the quotes if you’re trying to decide whether or not to read the piece but… let’s be honest – everyone should read the piece.

Maybe, she thought, her texting “lol r u serious” had hurt him, had intimidated him and made him feel uncomfortable around her. The thought of this possible vulnerability touched her, and she felt kinder toward him than she had all night.

(…)

The effect of this on him was palpable and immediate, and she felt as if she were petting a large, skittish animal, like a horse or a bear, skillfully coaxing it to eat from her hand.

(…)

Looking at him like that, so awkwardly bent, his belly thick and soft and covered with hair, Margot recoiled. But the thought of what it would take to stop what she had set in motion was overwhelming; it would require an amount of tact and gentleness that she felt was impossible to summon. It wasn’t that she was scared he would try to force her to do something against her will but that insisting that they stop now, after everything she’d done to push this forward, would make her seem spoiled and capricious, as if she’d ordered something at a restaurant and then, once the food arrived, had changed her mind and sent it back.

(…)

Yeah, right, she thought, and then he was on top of her again, kissing her and weighing her down, and she knew that her last chance of enjoying this encounter had disappeared, but that she would carry through with it until it was over.

(…)

After a short while, Robert got up and hurried to the bathroom in a bow-legged waddle, clutching the condom to keep it from falling off.

(…)

When the next message from him did arrive, just after dinner, it was a harmless joke about Red Vines, but she deleted it immediately, overwhelmed with a skin-crawling loathing that felt vastly disproportionate to anything he had actually done. She told herself that she owed him at least some kind of breakup message, that to ghost on him would be inappropriate, childish, and cruel.

(…)

It was all so over-the-top that she wondered if she was acting like a mean girl, but, at the same time, she truly did feel sick and scared.

been feeling a lot more centred, a lot more in control of my emotions, and a lot more in control of sources of stress recently. so many things could have led to this so I don’t want to put it down to any one reason. i’m just glad that things are this way and i’m glad that it feels a little like growth. am tired but am pushing through, am trying, am reminding myself to do what’s fair and necessary even if it feels like the more difficult thing.

thought: for someone who’s not religious, and who wouldn’t be, i very frequently attribute things to the patterns of the universe or a belief in some broader logic of the universe that i might not understand but can somehow place my trust in in a way that’s very reminiscent of religious language.

it is small ceramic tiles on the wall. melanin bowls with their dark fuschia and green patterns. the plastic chairs; red, white, sometimes with burnt traces of cigarette buds. “戒烟了啊?”“还没有啦。” staring at these images on the screen, wanting it, so badly, to be that one store beneath 爷爷’s house, Whampoa West. beneath the flat where we used to visit to drink magic soup each saturday. magic soup turned to xi yang cai tang – sai yang chai tang? – 西洋菜汤。a light bitterness, the pork ribs underneath. but at the place with the ceramic tiles and the plastic chairs that i sometimes sat uncomfortably in, afraid to get my clothes dirty, afraid my legs would touch a part of the table and gain a mark. at the place with the ceramic tiles, it was the taste of bak kut teh that came back to me. endless, refillable, soup. a whole fish – such a luxury, chopsticks cross over each other, and over again, pieces of white meat landing on my plate: eat, eat. the clip rolls on and it is not the place with the bak kut teh. or at least if it is that never enters the frame. but still, the staircase next to the shop that leads up to the flats, still, the old men in singlets or loose button-up shirts sitting for hours with tea and fish. i cannot remember the name of the fish anymore but i know it is a particular one.

 

spent more time than i expected on this set of readings but filled with a sense that these are things that i care about; that though i am so far away from any sense of answer, there is some value in contemplating the questions. thinking about my conversation from last night, “i think the reason why i feel an aversion to a world increasingly governed by technology is because of how the desire to further technology seems to be connected to a desire for more and more efficiency; i just don’t think that that’s really what we need or what we should be valuing”

the luxury of having the time to sit and ponder. fickle thoughts; so much back and forth. moving surely through.

for the first time in a long time i find myself pining for home. familiar arrangements of fish and leek and tofu across a long table, the recollections of family dinner: “啊淇,这个煮给你的。” black pepper prawns that i haven’t had in so long, sambal kangkong; at a table of cousins who didn’t eat their greens, the whole dish was mine. but i could be home now and those dinners would still be a fiction. time moves unstoppably forward and all that lies in the past. when gong gong was alive, when ah ma was still at her place. i still remember bus rides with my mother back from gong gong’s house, her crying at how unexpected everything had been.

more bad dreams the past few days, dreams of mould and rot, almost imperceptible and then blinding.

but also so many moments to be grateful for. the belting of high school musical songs past midnight in a kitchen in london. friends who know all the trills and deviations, friends with whom shame is a thing you have long outgrown. laughter, so much laughter.

to be a soft thing, to be a fragile thing.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

what does refusing to harden your heart against the world mean? is it in vanity that i do so? what does it bring to the world?? how do i rid myself of this vanity in recognizing that perhaps it’s just the only way i can live.

bad dreams

of an old man, skin hanging off his body, an oversized coat. a sense that his crotch was constantly being thrusted in my face, the desire to run, the desire to run, the desire to run. the desire to scream, uncertain if i was really screaming or if it was anywhere near loud enough for anyone to hear me at all. the sense that i was being held down even though he was a little bit of a distance away. i don’t remember the feeling of his skin or his fingers on my wrists. the knowledge that someone else had ran to get help yet the sense that it was just too far away. the small awareness that this was a dream – “this must be how it feels, this must be how it feels,” the terror anyway. i hate it, i hate it, i hate it.

the entrance of a woman who is supposed to come in and make everything okay but his collapse when it happens, the sudden weakening of his arms and suddenly you are the woman who has shoved a hapless old man. the look on her face as she walks in and the sense that she’s never going to believe you. “we’re supposed to be on the same team damn it.” feeling like you could never communicate the fear your body felt and that trying will be a thankless task, that all there is left to do is to walk away.

waking up a few hours later to another dream, a more familiar body, but the constant sense that i’m not being heard. waking up mumbling and then embarrassed when i realise i am awake. asking myself if the problem is just me if i’m always the one feeling unheard and not listened to.

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