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too beautiful to photograph

Today is Chinese New Year. Motivated by a burst of self-improvement energy, and the generally feel-goodness of a long weekend (four days!), I went for a run to East Coast. I am a lucky girl, living reasonably close to the sea (despite constantly wishing I lived closer). The run took 17 min 54 s (including the time spent waiting for traffic lights) from the area after the first overhead bridge to the fitness area before the last overhead bridge.

[Fun fact: cute caucasian guy walking dog smiled at me (?) when I was panting quite pathetically while pacing and waiting for the traffic light. His smile unintentionally motivated me to run the last lap that bit faster. thanks dude.]

Arriving at East Coast, the bright green bushes were vividly alive. Happy families and friends bustled around. I was surprised at the significant lack of red/orange/pink/auspiciously-coloured clothes. Rather, there were lots of greens and blues and blacks. I soon discovered it was due to a lack of Chinese park-goers (I suppose recovering from last night’s reunion dinner, or bainian-ing) relative to the throngs of foreign workers and fellow Singaporeans from other races. It was a new –and pleasant– sight to behold: Singapore without the visible domination of the Chinese demographic majority.

Numerous groups of foreign workers lounged on varying coloured picnic mats. I had never seen the workers outside the context of loud dusty construction sites, whose flying sand particles obscured a quarter of their facial features. I had never seen them enjoying themselves and grinning non-tired smiles.

Throughout the walk I tried to look approachable and friendly. I was weirdly afraid my privileged position as a middle-class Singaporean belonging to the ethnic majority would be intrusive and unwelcome. Some members from my demographic were known to be particularly judgemental and pejorative. On this rare occasion where the typically marginalised foreign workers could feel at home among their friends without feeling judged or out of place or unnecessarily apologetic, I wanted to protect their happiness and not introduce any unease with my presence.

Without exchanging words, sufficing with smiles and the common exhilaration at the surrounding beauty, the workers and I connected in our appreciation of this small island we share, that is Singapore.

Some sights I would have loved to photograph but I had no camera on hand:

  1. The foreign workers swimming far off into the sea and bobbing up and down with one another. The aesthetic of the caressing waves and their soft warm expressions.
  2. The foreign workers climbing up and down this rock with a brilliantly green patch of algae; it looked as if he was descending a magical land into the sea. (Somehow I was imagining Laputa from Castle in the Sky).
  3. The swirls of blue-green-orange-golden-silver-white in the ocean.
  4. These short lengths of too-rapid waves adjoining the platform that rushed towards the shore at a speed faster than other waves (or were they just more visible from my angle?)
  5. The beautiful constellations of bubbles when the foamy waves crashed into one another and onto the shore.
  6. The entire railing hanging with colourful drenched clothes, which were unexpectedly arranged in a somewhat colour-coordinated rainbow order, if you look closely enough. There were denim shorts, graphic tees (one pastel pink shirt had a dog on it), a couple of flannel scarves/towels/cloths (?). (It somehow reminded me of the Chinese legend where seven celestial ladies came to earth to bathe in the springs and hung their clothes in a rainbow.)
  7. Single dried leaves that seemed magically glued to the railings without being stuck or having any mechanism attaching them to the railings, apart from felicitous wind; the leaves’ gorgeous somersaults in the air when the wind changes direction and tosses them into the air.
  8. The aesthetic rolling of leaves and their soft rustling against the navy grainy pavement.
  9. This marvellous giant tent that belonged to a Malay family which looked super comfy and sat self-assuredly amidst the salivating smell of barbecue.

It is interesting how the dynamic of East Coast changes and continues on Chinese New Year. On normal days, the 70% Chinese dominance is perceptible (and perhaps felt a tad too Chinese for my idea of Singapore). On Chinese New Year, that changes. I suppose the foreign workers could relax on Chinese New Year (but not other public holidays like Christmas) because their probabilistically Chinese supervisors/employers are necessarily obliged with Chinese New Year reunions and family visitations.

Nonetheless, the laid-back casual contentment that characterises East Coast remains; and it makes me happy that it is an enjoyment on which we can all join in.

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Fiction

Roommate

I have a roommate. You usually can only see her back. She is not all that interested in letting you see her face. When you come in, she’ll be sitting alone on her bed of white polka-dotted bedsheets, looking out the window. That’s about the most you will know about her. I’ll lead you out the room and down the five flights of stairs, where we could have a more comfortable conversation at the local park bench. Looking up, you would see her silhouette against the orange-lit backdrop. She might be looking at us, and I tell you she means no harm. She is just connecting with us vicariously.

Over the months, you have gotten used to this, even if she is still an unnerving presence to you. How do I feel about her, you’d ask me. I’d shrug and smile wryly. You think you understand, and I let you think that.

This is what you don’t know. She is not my roommate. She does not exist. You are seeing things.

Just like I don’t exist. You’re seeing things.

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Fiction

the girl who went home

The soft folds in the white lilac dress were picked up with small, determined hands; the dress breathed the wind’s life. Cool wet grass caressed two bare feet toddling enthusiastically forward.

Where was she going? I watched from the levitated window pane, whitewashed and imperceptible in the background.

Her pigtails bounced – pigtails she had loved but would gradually alienate. She smelt of lily and nutmeg and rose. Her crinkling voice awoke the world like everyday sun. She paused, in front of an anthill. A frisson shook her spine, but not her form. Behind her closed eyes, she saw ants creep up her arm. Her hands turned cold. Her toes dug into the soft soil. With slow but sure steps, she backtracked, and ran home.

I tore my eyes from her retreating body and examined her now obscured footprints.

Where had she been going?

Maybe she had been going to the giant rain tree in front, whose rough bark would have comforted her like a pair of warm worn hands. Maybe she was heading towards the mountain range beyond, peeping just from behind the willowy clouds and papery mist. Or maybe, there was nowhere, she was just covering distance. Whichever the case, she had retracted, and she was disappointing.

She beseeched me to tell you this – remember her for the first paragraph!

Standing on the typewriter, I wondered if we would hear from her again?

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poetry

We don’t know how to spend our time

[Note: scroll below to read the same thing but in a more readable form]

When I look outside my closed, shut windows, I see windows from the opposite side. Rows of four and columns of three, tinted shadows fall on me. Seaweed green, mauve-grey cloudy, a faded pumpkin orange – these lights are shining, the rest are dark abysses, inside with small humans prowling. Colourful lights, a tease of magic –what are the possibilities that of fourteen windows – four I cannot see – four wear distinct tints? Little humans, whom I cannot see, I imagine the lives you lead. The working mother, a grocery shop cashier, trying to make ends meet. She returns home daily to a roomful of cartons, boxes preserved in place of shelves. Or the taxi driver uncle, he wears a faded white polo, whose threads are sparse, lopsided from the weight of cigars. Of all the lives I am not living, how many will they live? Of all the lives we could be living, how many will the average man lead? For most of us, I am afraid, the answer is not many.

the same thing in perhaps a more readable form:

When I look outside my closed, shut windows,
I see windows from the opposite side.
Rows of four and columns of three, tinted shadows fall on me.

Seaweed green, mauve-grey cloudy,
a faded pumpkin orange –
these lights are shining,
the rest are dark abysses, inside
with small humans prowling.

Colourful lights, a tease of magic –
what are the possibilities
that of fourteen windows –
four I cannot see –
four wear distinct tints?

Little humans, whom I cannot see,
I imagine the lives you lead.

The working mother, a
grocery shop cashier,
trying to make ends meet.
She returns home daily
to a roomful of cartons, boxes
preserved in place of shelves.

Or the taxi driver uncle, he
wears a faded white polo,
whose threads are sparse, lopsided
from the weight of cigars.

Of all the lives I am not living,
how many will they live?
Of all the lives we could be living,
how many will the average one lead?
For most of us, I am afraid,
the answer is not many.

lol, so it did end up being a poem, even though I set out to write prose. haha. also it’s quite funny how without any larger rigid plan I appear to be mostly on a mostly weekly basis.

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I step on the petals of yesterday,
admiring overhead,
wondering about the flowers tomorrow.

poetry

~cherry blossoms. ~

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