Spirals

I was trying to memorise one surah from the Quran, listening to it over and over again on YouTube. It would be easier if I had a word-by-word Quran, and should’ve gotten it when I could. Meh there is a phone app anyway. I was told we have them in the store, but too lazy to dig. I should add that I have a random rough breakout on my forehead and pimples on my chin, that immediately developed upon my return from Indonesia. Days about my face and feeling stressed and ugly over them are long gone (thank goodness). I still don’t like it and do my best to get rid of them, but I’m not feeling stressed or crushed. Pimples don’t define you, Fifi.

Oh, oops. Got sidetracked. So I was replaying and replaying certain surahs to memorise them (two of them simultaneously, lolz) when my father walked in.

“I have something to tell you.”

And he sat down on my bed for forty-five minutes basically telling me: I was born already perfect, I didn’t need to try to be someone else, I just need to be Salamahafifi, I need to learn how to do nothing and achieve inner peace, I didn’t need to think of a husband, I didn’t need to read so many books (my room is flooded with books), because all answers are within me. And that I just need to be reminded of my perfection, because humans have been conditioned to think that they’re not good enough. But what we humans forget is that none was created the same, and I am me and you are you. Perfection.

It’s not that he’s not encouraging development. I believe he doesn’t want me to want to achieve these while feeling stressed out. He wants me to learn to take life one step at a time. And that’s what I’m trying to do.

Dear Fifi,

You were doing fine, peace, joyful, but now you find yourself doing things in hopes of an acknowledgement. You were never this way, Fifi. Please, return to the previous version of you, one who is secure and confident with her thoughts and beliefs, that nobody else who comes her way could shake her. He does seem perfect, too bloody perfect, but do not let him carve you into a different Fifi. Keep observing people and writing about your beliefs because that is how you share your ideas. Fifi, please retrace your steps because you are now going in circles. Fifi, you are lost. Get out of this spiral thoughts RIGHT NOW. You can do it.

Love,
Fifi Who Is Lost

insecurity

since everything I feel
is a reflection of
where I stand

why am I allowing myself
to stand at the edge
of the cliff
when I can easily
take a step back
and still
enjoy the view
without compromising my
safety

Impostor Backpacker

I am trying to be as open and as emotionally vulnerable as possible so I am forcing myself to sit down to list out the things that happened to me the past week. Emotional vulnerability is not about emotional insecurity, but in my definition it is about learning how to accept things as it is without being guarded. I’ve decided to write about this trip because it’s a bit different from my usual business/leisure trips. I think stories like these are BORING AS HECK, but it has to be told, I guess….

I am call myself an Impostor Backpacker because …I have a mental illness where I don’t want to be caught wearing the exact same thing twice. In my backpack there are blouses and even platform shoes. Who brings these on a trip up the mountains???


Two weeks before the 1st of August my father came into my room to tell me that a particular place in Bogor would be conducting a memorizing Al-Quran workshop, and asked if I would be interested to join. I had plans on pursuing my Quranic studies since I am just in love with the genius in poetry the Quran is. So I said okay, why not. The plan was that I’ll be going on my own, and then visit my baby siblings in Tangerang. I made no other plans. At this point of time I was also writing, and thinking too ahead of the future, that I found myself living in it. It’s suffocating, and unhealthy for my soul. So I decided not to make any concrete plans.

I know a medical student who was doing his practical in Bogor. I contacted him to ask about directions. He wasn’t much of a help; busy guy plus he wasn’t local. I kept thinking, “I have so many friends in Indonesia yet I don’t know anybody in Bogor?” I turned to ask the school for directions; they gave me lots of options, which was good, but I’m glad that after that something in my head kept telling me that I KNOW someone in Bogor.

It wasn’t until a week after this incident I realised that this someone was my friend named Karin. She didn’t reply me until days later. The last I met her was December 2014. We agreed that we’ll meet at her university in Depok (she’s a lecturer and she’s my age!). She offered her place to stay for one night. I was to take the bus from the airport to Depok, and then take a cab to her university.

So the day came and my flight was scheduled to fly at noon. Living in Johor and frequently flying to Jakarta, I would always be rushing for time trying to catch planes. I hate it. I hate rushing. I like to be early. Told my father that we’ll leave the house at 4 AM, so that I could chill and stroll to the airport. We prayed Subuh at Masjid Temenggong (opposite Vivocity), since my father had something to do in Harbourfront. I prayed that if something is good for me, bring it closer to me and if it is not, bring it away from me.

Here is a tired awkward selfie of me, of someone who slept at 11 PM to wake up at 3.30 AM to catch a noon flight:

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Back to my prayers: That is why when my flight was delayed for SEVEN HOURS I was all right. SEVEN HOURS. Never happened in my life. But I can’t complain. Allah had made me avoid something, or bring myself closer to something, I tell myself.

I talked to some people during that seven hours: a man who says Ahok is a good governor (thank goodness, because in Indonesia the word AHOK is mentioned many many times), a holistic massage therapist, a baker with a baking academy, a human rights (?) lawyer, an abused maid safe and flying home, a maid on a break, a Halal competency specialist and another maid on a holiday. Oh, I’ve also given myself a mission to talk so as many people as possible on this trip. You know, to strengthen human bonds and learn something new.

The only seeming problem was that my 12 noon flight which would have allowed me to explore a new city in broad daylight now gave me no choice but to arrive in Jakarta when the Sun rays have exited the city and darkness have blanketed the skies.

All right, what an adventure. So much for wanting to live in the moment! I found the bus terminal at the airport and this was my first time stepping foot on it. I find it quite embarrassing, that if in a year I fly to Jakarta many times, the only mode of transport I knew was the taxi. Not cool.

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It was very kind and hospitable of Karin, a young, unmarried woman, to go out of her house at 11 PM to pick me up. We are good Asians. We don’t do things like these! But I’m glad she did. Karin is a friend of mine from 2008 😉 If you’d known me from that period, you’ll know how she is my friend, then.

If I hadn’t listened to my instincts to contact Karin, I wouldn’t know where to go since my flight was delayed for seven hours. True, the school had given me directions, but they were only safe to be followed in the day haha. Very different travelling in the day and night, and night time travel was not in my head at all. I guess planning is important after all. But my point is my plans were NOT CONCRETE, and that I wasn’t too stressed out over the delay.

My limit to ~adventuring~ is before 12 midnight because you know, at home I am Cinderella.

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I love Karin and her house. Indonesians as always are very hospitable people, and I could learn a thing or two from them. She’s also a damn good haggler. When we met in 2014 she could bring down the price of something from 40 to 25. She’s a statistics lecturer, of course. I guess she’ll know the stats of …how much they earn or something O.O I have no idea. In other words, she’s amazing, and I wish I was as smart as she is. Weather was cool in Bogor, she owns NO fans/air-cond.

The next day she sent me off via cab while she took the train to work. My Grabcar driver was a man who used to work in Singapore. He graduated from Pertamina University and was earning USD2300 per month. The price of oil dropped so he was sent home.

I don’t want to write much about what I did at the workshop, but here are some pictures. Yes, it is somewhere in the mountains. I don’t want to talk much about this, because I don’t think it’s important.

I bathed at 3 AM in freezing mountainous water, though. That, is important 😉 *pats self on the back*.

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At the workshop I was the youngest participant, and the other young girl is a pre-school teacher aged 25. Most of the participants there already have tahfizs built, or are planning to build one. Tahfiz is a school for Quran memorisation. Interesting connections made, in case it is my calling to build a school one day (:

After my workshop ended I finally got the chance to visit Karin’s university!!! So exciting to finally take a train, lol. I want to take all public transports, if possible! I think it’s a good chance to live the life of the everyday people there.

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Indonesian trains are considerably smaller than Singapore ones, but what I appreciate is the women cabin AND the staff making sure no man stayed on the cabin. KL has a similar system, but I had never seen a staff inspect the cabin. It’s not an issue of gender discrimination. Some of us are not comfortable squeezing with males.

The next day I took the train from Bogor to a particular station, to my sibling’s school. The total time taken was 2.5 hours. 😉 Not bad, I think. I love it. Appreciate train rides when I am not rushing anywhere.

Last Ramadan I met a Malaysian dentist student named Suraya and for this trip we planned to meet up, but alas she had something to do in Surabaya (the names rhyme, I love it). I didn’t plan to meet the following people, but in the middle of Quranic memorisation their faces flashed before me. That’s just how it works; that your heart tells you who you should meet for absolutely no reason. And then you just go with the flow.

Of course I was hesitant. They’re strangers, and they seem to be very busy. These guys I met last Ramadan too, but because I was into talking to Suraya, I didn’t talk to them much. My friend Atikah did.

There’s Muhammad and Shazwan, Malaysian medical students in Jakarta. The only characteristics I could draw/assume about them is from their social media. One gave me the #totallychillguy kind of vibe with his posts while the other I felt a bit heartbroken reading his posts about being tired. It’s not that I wished everyone remained happy forever, but you know, I feel words easily.

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And yep my assumption about them was correct, or at least, according to my shallow visual perception. One was a #toochill dude, while the other was tired and you know, um, #toocool. They’re smart people, absolutely very nice and friendly, and I could learn how to be as chill and as cool as they are.

I slept at Miss Indri’s house that night! Aaaaah, another person I am so impressed by her hospitality. She’s my ex-colleague who teaches English. Someday when I have guests, Karin and Indri are my inspirations. I swear, I will try to be as hospitable as they are in treating guests.

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That evening I met the people I facilitated an English Camp with: Selvi, Inay, and Anday. Another impromptu meeting. At 1 PM we agreed to meet at 4 PM. We talked about how to find our husbands (after the boss left). We don’t know how, because none of us has ever had a boyfriend. It’s quite pathetic, at the same time laughable.

(same shirt, different tudung; #mentalillness)

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The next morning while Indri was doing her laundry I told her I’ll go out to look for my other friends (husband and wife). Something in my head told me to. I had NO IDEA where they lived. She only told me it was in front of a tamarind tree. I had NO IDEA what a tamarind tree looked like and when I looked it up, all trees looked the same. I didn’t inform my friend I was coming because I didn’t want her to break her routine or prepare anything for me, also I planned to only stay for a while.

But after a while of walking around the kampung, and after calling her to ask for directions, I found the place. Her husband was my colleague, was a Physics teacher and now a Physics lecturer. His wife was also in Physics, but after marriage and children she stopped. They are Fajar and Fanny. How cute is it that you marry someone whose names start with the same letter as you? I learnt how to be good parents through them. Their daughter bumped her head on the wall and they didn’t panic. So she didn’t cry. She just got up as if nothing happened. My cat could bump his head on the railing and I would already be crying for him. Smh.

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One of the pleasantly surprising things was I met Miss Alfi 🙂 Alfi, too, married a man whose name starts with the letter A. (is that how jodoh works? My parents are both Y-Y too) She helped me drive to places a couple of times. An ex-colleague who taught Arabic. I attended her wedding in Indramayu, and after her wedding she immediately got bad morning sicknesses she quit her job. I thought I was not going to see her anytime soon, since she is now a mother. But hey, it turned out she just moved NEXT to my friend the day before. If I had chosen to visit my friend earlier, I wouldn’t have met Miss Alfi.

Trust in life.

That afternoon I had to say bye to my baby siblings… #sad

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But true to the prayer I made at 5 AM at a masjid, that I prayed meet the people that I need to meet, and that these people were my prayers answered. I don’t know what goodness it will bring, but surely there is a lesson I can learn from everything. That’s why this post is more people-centric.

Smooth flight to Singapore, but upon my arrival home a sense of loneliness swept me.

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Because I realised I was alone. Surrounded by people, but I am alone. Prefer to be alone, but I see now how lonely it can be. What loneliness really is. I’ve gone through my other solo trips not feeling this way at all. It’s a new feeling; emotional vulnerability. I am allowing myself to feel this way. It is okay. I am only human.

Perhaps was it because unlike my previous trips, I didn’t share them on social media? But this time I did? Or was it because everybody, now even strangers, kept telling me about how I shouldn’t be alone or I might end up being alone forever?

I don’t know. I’m still exploring the whole *other* emotions thingy. Experienced a lot, seen a lot.

Yet I know nothing.

I Was Angry

warning: didnt bother editing this post sorry not sorry

On my Facebook I write my enlightening posts. On SalWalks I write dark posts. On Instagram I post spur-of-the moments (no snaps, please). On Twitter I just go to see my old friends.

I’ve written about forcing myself to feel angry, or sad, when I’m not, because I’ve felt it’s odd that I don’t feel anything when something happens to me. How do I write about anger if I don’t get angry? So I’ll try to fake it. And exaggerate it. It’s true. I don’t get angry.

And then it happened. It finally happened. I felt real anger burning.

I was walking outside looking for Carpet. I heard a man say in Mandarin, “Is Carpet the name of a cat?” He probably thought I didn’t understand because he didn’t know I gave an introductory speech when I was in China many years ago (l m a o). I couldn’t hear a reply as I continued looking for Carpet.

Then I walked past his house and he spoke to me in his very Singaporean accent, “Are the cats yours? They shit on my grass and the cats are angry!” Yes, the cats are mine. Five of them followed me back and forth in my search for Carpet.

I’m in my ugliest clothes ever. If he was judgemental he would think I only spoke Malay. You know, I looked very kampong. He probably could’ve spoken to me in Malay too, but to have an upper hand, always speak English.

Hm, I thought. Is it possible that they go to his house to do their business? And…wait a minute. Did he say…angry?

“Did you say my cats are angry?”
“They shit!”
“Big cats or small cats?” (important for me to know)
“I don’t know, lah!”
“I’m looking for my cat right now.”
“I don’t care, lah!”
“Okay.”

And I walked away. I think he meant that there were cat fights. There’s a nasty neighbourhood Siamese Tom who initiates the attacks with other cats, I wanted to tell him. But he didn’t care. Guess I shouldn’t too.

Years ago in our other house my neighbour complained of our cats doing business in her garden. I reached out to her by purchasing a pricey cat repellent and lots of those cat rubber spikes thing. She refused them. I don’t get it. Why would you refuse my help but you tell me about what’s happening? I’m here to take responsibility over my cats.

And then a new neighbour told my mother that he’d hit the cats if he sees them coming. Another neighbour claimed that my cats waited for him at the door in the morning, which I think  is a fabrication formed out of his hatred for cats. My cats are extremely skittish. They don’t like people they don’t know. He then said he would poison the cats, and tells us that we are sinners for depriving them of “all of life’s goodness” (ie mating) for spaying them. I’m helping to lower down the cat overpopulation!!! And I try to take responsibility over it but if the parties are just being rude and mean about it, how can we ever deal with respect and mutual understanding? I don’t want to hear any shouting. We can work things out if both parties agree to communicate. Nobody else makes sense but you when you shout.

And this recent event I’m trying to look for my cat to bring him inside, and he tells me, like a child, that he “doesn’t care.” Don’t say sorry, Fifi. I hear my dark thoughts whisper to me. I didn’t.

I was, however, cool in my facade, replying simply “okay,” but I am guilty of harbouring much dislike for him after that. If he wished my cats were dead, I was going to tell him “Your child will too.” I could feel my heart palpitate as I become very conscious of its pounding like a hammer on the anvil. I was not in my usual relaxed spirit. It’s as if my heart had beat extras. The drumming of a wedding kompang reflected the state of my heart. Uneasy. Loud. But Rhythmic. This is it. This is what anger feels like. The unusual lub dub lub dub lub dub in your chest. It’s tiring to feel that way too. Your heart works extra hard as you try to keep a calm demeanor. I find myself forcing cheerfulness and cherry merry stuff. Forced. Very bad business.

I should’ve written it down as soon as I was feeling those things, but after that I realised how childish I sound. How childish I am to be offended over this. He’s right, anyway. It may or may not be my cats. Why would I get angry over something like this?

These were my real feelings. Now I’m back to feeling as cool as a cucumber. I hope we learn to be calm when dealing with upsetting situations.


The other day I had my post plagiarised. I saw it being posted as hers, and the next thing I knew I was blocked. The last time someone copied the things I wrote as his own, he didn’t block me. So I don’t really mind. I would like credit, but if that person thinks I don’t deserve credit for my own writing, so be it.

I was, however, left not with anger, but sadness over this situation. She had thousands of followers, an influential person with hundreds of likes over a silly post about her encounter with a cockroach. I can’t even hardly get ten likes over a writing I spent time on. I believe she received hundreds of likes for that post of mine too. I felt sad because people don’t know that’s my post, and will continue supporting her over her ~genius original~ posts. My respect for her didn’t dwindle, I still saw her as human as I am, but I just wish we would look out more for sincerity. She used the hashtags #positive #goodvibes (I don’t use them) that followed that post of mine. It means nothing if the whole post actually belonged to me. So please, people, learn to look at sincerity and not credibility. She has a good job and education to back her up, but that post was not hers.


This morning I wrote about al-Waqiah, a surah in the Quran. I received a message thanking me for that post. I thought about how I get no “likes” from her on that post, but hey, it shouldn’t matter. Sometimes people would message me to discuss about the things I wrote, and most of the time they’d tell me they like it without even leaving a like. So yes, thank you for telling me you like my posts. Because sometimes I feel not good enough, and I have been gauging my good-enoughs with the number of likes I’m getting. That shouldn’t be the case. Let me write because I want to write, not for recognition or glory.

And then in the afternoon I was at Tesco, writing. My mom went grocery shopping. I had my notebook and writing energy flowed through me effortlessly. Suddenly received a text message.

“Are you alone?”

I looked around. It was from a girl I had met at an event a few months prior. We exchanged numbers, but we didn’t keep in touch. She didn’t have a profile picture so I couldn’t remember her face at all (I am HORRIBLE at faces).

“Where are you?”
“I’m at Tesco too.”

I waited for a wave or something as I scanned the hall. None. I continued writing.

A petite lady then came up to me after I wrote a whole page and said hey. We talked. She told me about how she was my “stalker” and had looked me up online, and enjoys reading the things I post.

“Why didn’t you add me?”
“I was shy.”

Nonetheless, I was very grateful that she told me she liked reading my posts. I had a new tumbler that says “Reach For The Stars” (it was at 50% discount, couldn’t resist, no matter how cheesy and Un-Fifi it is). My notebook was brand new. I was wearing my writer clothes: terrible mix of striped cardigan, old grey Girl Guides shirt and batik pants. It’s the same pants a magazine editor pointed out and said it screams “Writer”. Overall, I was feeling optimistic about being a writer, but I was also wondering if anybody would even like anything I wrote.

So this lady coming up to me to tell me she likes my posts was a blessing. A godsent, much-needed compliment and validation. That hey, if I can’t get thousands of likes for my posts, at least one person acknowledges it.

And that’s enough, I guess.

the trumpet

an audience of all eternity
standing naked
stripped off everything
who am I
I don’t know
am I safe
I don’t know

when my lips are sealed
and my hands and feet
start to talk
my eye replays into the projector
my ear plugs itself to the speaker
will I be content with what I watch?

the scale appears
gunny sacks await on each side
which is more?

I stand at the end of the bridge
people in the river watched me
ahead of me such beauty
below me, a purgatory
an abyss of blaze

fingers down there point at me
no! they charge
she is one of us!
a majestic but unnerving winged creature
pushes me off the hair-thin bridge

I join them
and now I look for someone else to blame.

Eid Update?

I feel like I haven’t written anything personal these days. Don’t you worry about my ‘heartbroken’ poetry and other funny stories – they are but a fantasy, at the same time real-life occurrences manifested by the thirst of romanticism and poetic tendencies. They are real, but I am turning them into my own version of fairy-dark tales because I am inclined towards darkness. I want to feel my heart break so that I can write about it. But a friend told me that good writers are the ones who know how to not get too carried away with what they’re experiencing. A good writer is one who knows how to write a story about them not be about them. And that’s what I’ve been doing, I hope.

On the bus, staring outside, I tried to find more sad words and metaphors to describe a heart break I wasn’t feeling. Nothing came out. I couldn’t. Maybe it’s because I need to feel at least a bit of heart break to break the ice. But I am not heartbroken. I am at peace, but I do not want to write about me being at peace on this blog. Because I am writing a whole book about it. Please pray that I may find the wisdom and strength to continue writing about my Peace.

My mother had a radical hysterectomy after I returned from Jakarta (oh, I was in Jakarta and I didn’t write about it). Should I write about Jakarta first? I don’t know. I’m not someone who likes to tell people about the things I’m doing (other than my writing, which I am trying to get comfortable with telling others about), show my passport and itinerary, take picture with landmarks, or the plane. They mean nothing to me, for I am a traveler of life.

I was in Jakarta for two weeks. That’s all.

So my mother’s not strong enough to be walking about for Hari Raya. We didn’t go anywhere on the first day of Eid. My family will always be done with our Hari Raya visitings on the first day itself, and it’s usually only three houses. Fast for thirty days for a day of celebration, that’s my immediate family’s tradition. I realised everyone in my family is an introvert, that’s why we prefer to stay home. Visiting other people and establishing a long-lost relationship is good, but I feel it’s only good if the connection is maintained. Not only once a year.

My father and my baby brother went to Singapore on the first day as representatives of the family in order not to offend my grandparents. Myself, my sister, and the other brother went on the second day to their houses, also in order not to offend. It’s a tradition. I visit them on other days, so I don’t really see the point in visiting them on specific days, but older people make a big deal out of it so I’ll just respect their wishes.

This is a candid shot taken by my brother which I like. My sister looks smitten:

Salamahafifi

At night, after prayers, I heard my father ask my baby brother “Why do you kiss everyone’s hands? Even those only slightly older than you?” I laughed. My father is not into the idea of my brother kissing everyone’s hands. It’s only cultural, anyway. When I was in Jakarta, my friend’s mother insisted on ‘respect’ for everyone older than you by referring to them by titles. I was not taught that kind of ‘respect’, though. My parents are fine with me calling other people by their names, as long as I am not being rude or offensive. But then again, dropping titles is offensive to some people. That’s what living in Asia, rooted by Asian values is like. It’s something I appreciate. Don’t get me wrong.

As I was leaving my grandfather’s house, my step-grandmother started making a prayer for me to find a husband soon. “May you find a good man,” she started in her prayers. For the first time in my life I find myself saying Amin. All these while I resist them, because all these while I didn’t want to get married. But that thought has changed. Heck, I’m turning twenty-four. My biological clock is ticking. My uncle, perhaps confused by my sudden Amin, asked, “Oh, you already have a boyfriend? You should bring him here!”

And my reply was: “I don’t. I’m not even looking.”

I pondered over my answer on the way home. I’m not even looking? Wait, am I supposed to be looking in the first place? Am I not the sugar ants swarm, and the flower bees visit? Am I not the honey sought by the bear and am I not the wrapped candy preferred by many? And then I thought again: why am I objectifying myself?

I don’t know if I want to be a part of a love story for human love or if I want to be a part of a love story for my poetic appeal. I still lean on the latter, but at the same time I don’t want to hurt anybody.

So I shall break my own heart, to break my own tomb, so I may rise from the dead, be dead before I die, in order to live again.

Rebirth.


I listened to a classic that had these written:

“Siapa tahu, betapa berat cinta yang di tanggung sehingga dia sanggup untuk lakukan biar apa saja demi mendapatkan restu sultan cahaya hatinya.”

Which translates into (my rough translation): What do you know about how heavy the burden of love is, that she would do anything to receive the blessings of the man of her heart.

I’m guessing that the song is about Sufism and the love between man-and-God, but I took it in the literal term between man-and-woman. That it is about me. Is the burden of love really heavy? I found it mindblowing. It’s true I guess, people seem to be able to do anything for love. It’s just something I don’t understand. Very interesting.

You should listen to it too, it’s like a song high on weed, even if you don’t understand it:


I want to write something real and boring and unimportant things!!! Like what?

Learnt how to anyam ketupat, to weave a ketupat. This is a ketupat:

I don’t know. It’s not a dark theme. Ketupats are symbols of happiness and achievement. I want to write about heart breaks. Like the effort you put in weaving this ketupat, and then the beautiful green turns brown because you put it to boil. The rice inside absorbs the leaf extract. The leaf loses its youth to what’s inside. The leaf doesn’t mind. It’s for the heart it protects.

And then you take it. You cut the ketupat into half. And you eat the rice that the ketupat had endured four hours of boiling coconut milk in and you enjoyed it. You forgot about the leaf and its extracts. All you want is the goodness of the rich-flavoured rice. You forgot the hardship it went through. You don’t think of the one who weaved the ketupat. All you want is the rice.

That’s what I feel humans are like when they want to find a partner. They don’t want the ones in-process. They want the ones done so that they can enjoy immediately when served.

So mean.

 

Finding Fifi

after most of eternity
finally a man visited me
I am the waters rarely charted
my storm are tales recorded
three nights he stayed
three nights I prayed
but everyday he said,
“Plenty of fishes in the sea!”
I looked in the sea and I found
you bound to my ground.
I realised: my prayers for him
led me to you.
you kept him rooted as he
looted my life
but it’s okay.
I know about you now.
You are The Anchor
I am The Sea
Welcome Inside Of Me

These Spiritual Window-shoppers

These spiritual window-shoppers,
who idly ask, ‘How much is that?’ Oh, I’m just looking.
They handle a hundred items and put them down,
shadows with no capital.
What is spent is love and two eyes wet with weeping.
But these walk into a shop,
and their whole lives pass suddenly in that moment,
in that shop.
Where did you go? “Nowhere.”
What did you have to eat? “Nothing much.”
Even if you don’t know what you want,
buy something, to be part of the exchanging flow.
Start a huge, foolish project,
like Noah.
It makes absolutely no difference
what people think of you.
– Rumi

Oh.

Last weekend I was just talking to people about how I was writing a book and to me it’s a big step to start telling people about in the first place. I’m consumed by self-doubt and sometimes dislike for self that when I put it out to people that “I am writing a book” I am surrendering myself to all forces of nature. Breathe out judgement, breathe out fear, breathe out not-good-enoughs, I tell myself. I mean, I get panic attacks thinking about my work. I really can’t and won’t do with another critique until I’m comfortable with my own critiques. So far thankfully I’ve been doing okay, being more and more comfortable for people to review my work and critique them while not affecting me personally.

So I met a man who does editorial and stuff for magazines and had worked for publishing companies who told me that “Writers are of another kind. I could tell you’re a writer from the way you’re dressed. Do you wake up in the morning and just say ‘Today I am going to write!'”

And my mind said yes, hidden away in my physique, nodding away vigorously. Finally! I identify as a writer! I wake up in the morning with nothing but my words on my mind and how I long to pen them down. I drive while observing the skies and trees on my window shield making sense of what they’re trying to say. I notice all body language of a person; I might need them later. It gave me so much relief knowing that I do what I do because I do what I do. I’m dressed this way, in a sense it fulfills some kind of empty bottle in me, because it reflects me for who I am! When I’m not even thinking I construct sentences in my head to describe me not thinking about thinking. It comes naturally: I must be a writer!

Believing in this lifts away all the impostor-syndrome I had felt. I need validation. I need to be told I can do this. Again and again and again when you mean it. All human beings have weaknesses, right? And this time I’m finally in a good place where I am ready to admit my shortcomings: I need validation that I am good enough.

And that’s not what I had gotten from someone whose support was the source of vitality for my writing. I am in fact ordering my brain not to authorise my tear ducts to do its job right now.

“Are you sure you’re a writer?”

A stone was thrown on my glass. I crack.

“I might have the soul…wait what do you mean?”

My inner guards have been called out to duty. All of them – squires, senior and junior knights, withdraw their shields to protect my heart from the incoming blaze.

“I don’t know. I don’t think you’re a writer.”

The fire, too powerful for my inner guards, blasted them away. All that was left was my heart, vulnerable, unprotected, all alone.

“Oh.”

Three Things

The following piece was written at 6.30 am on my front porch this morning of 27 April 2016.


FORGETFULNESS

It was a series of extraordinary events for me. My memory strength, the one which had been my pride for years, has finally shown signs of weather. I’m only turning twenty-four, dammit. How could I forget so many things within a day? One was already surprising for me. But imagine three separate forgetfulness events within one day. I was trying to deliver a package and arrived at the doorstep only to realise the package wasn’t with me. I had already passed the MRT gantry when I realised my phone wasn’t with me. I bought less fishes for cats when we actually have more cats in the house right now. My mind used to branch out into many many things that one thing leads to the other you know like a woman’s internet highway mind. These days my mind has been like a guy’s: one box at a time. I don’t seem to remember who I am.


SHORT TRIP

One day I just thought, “Oh fuck this shit.” Well, that’s a lie, because I don’t say things like that. I have a profanity filter but I admit I do sometimes wish I could just point the middle finger at the driver who zoomed past me without warning. I feel that that mildly obscene sentence is a good one to describe how I felt last week: fuck this shit, a millennial’s way of expressing discontentment and just in the first word the solution about what to do with it.

I imagined myself walking around the streets of Kuala Lumpur and I decided to make it happen the next day. I only had three hundred ringgit, but I was kind of desperate; I need to leave this place. There’s just something about routine, staying on the same spot, writing, that blunts the imagination and creative process. I long to meet new people (without establishing a relationship), and listen to their stories as opposed to the same old, same old.

And I did. In which the matter I did not pursue. I saw a man I found interesting yet I did nothing about him. I bitterly regret not approaching that eccentric character I walked past two times on the street near Central Market. He had curly white hair, wearing all white, holding a handwritten sign that says “unique self-educative book”. I am drawn to that. I want to know more. But alas I gave in to what people said about talking to strangers though at home I spoke to strangers too, except that there was nothing peculiar about the strangers I have been speaking to. This guy, however, was seemingly dull; a wallflower. But something that is dull has its colour worn out, or concealed by dust. A bit of polishing would reveal the colour it once held. I fell in love with this character. He tried to hide the sign from me when I wanted to stop by to read him. I understood body language thus I let our opportunity slip past us. I held hopes that more interesting characters would come by me soon, but no one as interesting as this man came. He was the story I needed to hear, I know it.

What I experienced instead was a man flashing his money into my face. I walked past thinking about it. What were his intentions? What was possibly running through his mind when he sees a girl walking alone with her sister in the dusk air that manifests a sinister plan for anybody who knows?

I haven’t comprehended the male species well enough. They’re as human as I am, but somehow, from my tunnel-vision (I don’t meet many men), they are actually more emotional than I am. Perhaps their emotions and minds are stronger as compared to my apathy. Hold on. It’s not that I do not care. I do, but I do not allow myself to invest in feelings or mind chatters. and if I did, it’s mostly because I want to feel the feel to write about it. How do I feel real feelings? I don’t know how to. I want to feel what everybody else feels. What are real feelings?


DRESS

Overheard a conversation between my mother and brother about my choices in clothes. I heard that I “try to look good” but there will “always” be something “off” about my whole outfit. I’m not exactly sad, but it’s the emotion that I try to develop hearing this about me. I know my clothing choices are off because I make them that way, there’s no need to feel sad about that; however that makes me incredibly boring and I think I need to fake my emotion for writing.

I’m kind of sad that my choices are seen as a mistake instead of an artistic expression of rebellion; something I can’t do being sheltered and carrying the pure image of my religion. My religion has been slandered enough that it does not need the likes of me to be prancing throwing confetti to further agitate people. It’s also some sort of a writer’s psyche – can’t explain it. I feel like I would be betraying myself by dressing up 100% well. “On point” doesn’t apply to me. Matching socks are boring. Appropriate shoes leave me with a sort of a heavy dissatisfaction. I’m never at ease when I think I’m all dressed up. That’s when I decide I will put the strap of my bag on my head and not on my shoulders. I don’t know how to make people understand that there’s just a part of me that fidgets and gags when I feel I’m dressed properly. I am not here to have people think I’m pretty contrary to what my family thinks. My brother, especially, thinks I dress this way to fish for compliments. Nobody wears purple and green socks with open-toed sandals to be admired. Most of the time they do it because it fulfills their individuality. It’s easier to assume and accept that I do things for the attention than to know that I sit down and string each caption for it to be the way it is. If there seems to be an error (not grammartically. I’m not a police or a teacher), it is most probably deliberate. I would take a selfie and upload it. For you it may be a “Hey look at me I’m pretty” thing but to me I’d look back at them and my digital iris are like memory time stamps that take me back to that point in my life; what I was feeling and how I was feeling it.

Sometimes I really do want to be pretty and be told that I am, though. I live with cats and they’ve taught me a lot. That is, if I want attention, I should scream it and I’ll get it. I’m not sure if it entirely works for humans too, but cats are humans in fur right? Do I require whiskers and pointy ears to get what I want? Let’s try.

I’m putting this again on my public blog to declare that I want to hear people tell me I’m pretty. Not hot. Not sexy. Those are the words I had gotten instead. Pretty has such a simple yet dignified meaning to it unlike hot and sexy. I want to be told I’m pretty. Not smart, not ‘like my mother’, not matured, not beautiful. Pretty. Tell me I’m pretty. That’s the most simple word in the whole wide world with no ambiguity to it and I wish it to be associated with me.

Maybe this is a side of a writer’s psyche I do not comprehend either. Why I need this sort of validation, I do not know. Maybe I want to feel real feelings. I read about the fuzzies people get when told they’re pretty, how they get butterflies and maybe baby caterpillars but it’s just something I don’t understand. It’s like I’m Defense Level 99 or something. I want to feel it.

Tell me I’m pretty when you mean it.