Sunday, November 29, 2015

The fear

There's been a bit of upheaval in my life, and I only just decided that I would start blogging again.  I don't know if anyone still reads here or even remembers it, but I thought it would be cathartic and besides, I'm starting to get back into taking photos regularly and this is as good as place as any to display them.

Six months ago, I went and met someone and lost my head.  Again.  

I didn't see it coming.  A year of painful, unsuccessful online dating (one guy emailed me about the female orgasm after the first date) was enough to make me swear off men forever.  And just as I was starting to appreciate the solitude, my whole life tilted violently on its axis.

Of my last relationship, the one that ended in a heartbreak I thought I would never recover from, I talked constantly.  After years of having my guard up, I was so determined to experience and live it fully that I waxed lyrical to anyone who would listen.

This time, I am frightened beyond words.  In six months, I don't think I've truly talked about any of this with more than a couple of friends.  I am dumbfounded by the thought of explaining things to my family in detail.  My standard answer whenever people ask me things is, "I can't answer that right now."  Because there are a lot of things that I don't dare to say but I will say this: against my will and better judgement, I'm in love.  And if you've ever been in love second, third, tenth time around, you know just how terrifying it is.  You understand what it's like to worry that it's going to sour or disappear any second, just like the fourth time, the fifth, the seventh.  You've felt the way your heart quickens in the late night darkness when doubt is your only bedfellow.  You know just what I mean.

The thought of having to get to know someone new and growing and learning together all over again can be anxiety-inducing.  This isn't my first go-round.  I know what happens at the end and how difficult things can be.

What can I say though?  It happened.  I'm in love, and he is wonderful.  He was single for a long time too, and things took some getting used to.  After all, we're both older, more wary and all too aware of how things could go.  But that also makes us more careful, more gentle, more willing to try.  In the last half year, we've managed to weather death, job issues, disappointment.  Every day, I'm working on being more practical too, teaching my head to balance out my heart.

Unlike the last time, when I naïvely trumpeted the idea that things would spin out into a dream future, I am now more circumspect, the caginess of a dog kicked one too many times.  But you know what they say: if it's worth having, it's worth fighting for.  And something tells me this is absolutely worth fighting for.

I know that he understands.  "I'm scared," he said suddenly to me one night.  He tucked his chin into my shoulder and I felt the kind of butterflies I had forgotten even existed.  I took his hand, large and warm in mine.

"It's okay.  I'm scared too.  We can be scared together."

Saturday, May 2, 2015


(... or, excuse the scuzzy aspect ratio of my phone camera.  I don't know what's up with this thing.)

That's the number of metres I've struggled, plodded, walked, you name it, since the beginning of this year, and believe you me, I felt every single one.  

The number looks set to diminish now that I've added swimming to my routine, but as long as I largely stick to the exercise-three-times-a-week New Year's resolution I set myself last December, I don't really mind.

Plodding was becoming pretty stale for awhile, though, and together with work, waking up so early in the morning and straggling along the roads at dawn was starting to exhaust me.  Moving changed all that.  Now I can pretty much run at any time that I like and Thomson is such a warren of little roads and interconnecting neighbourhoods that it'll be a long time before I get bored again.

Last week, I plodded a refreshing 5-point-something kilometres along newly rain-washed pavements scented by leaves and night air.  Today, I took one of my favourite detours in a 7.5 click route along Chancery Lane.  I don't mind running here, in part because I'm obsessed with houses.

I love looking at yards and gardens and façades old and new and planter boxes and swimming pools and swing sets as I plod.  I even love tall condominiums, glowing pillars in the gloaming.  I am especially fascinated by the double-storey plate glass of soaring light in the penthouses and the lives behind them.  So, running through estates means that it still feels tough, but I am rewarded by the sight of living and children playing and the sounds of distant dogs.

But the nostalgia these routes awaken is the biggest gift of all.  When I was just 16 years old and the whole family used to live in Thomson, I would take Chip out for long walks down Chancery Lane.  I remember being breathlessly, beautifully surprised by the empty stretches of field and old black-and-white houses with red doors.  Each lane we turned down was a fresh discovery and even now, just seeing those old road signs brings back the sound of Chip's claws clicking on the asphalt.

It's a wonderful feeling to see that so many of these houses are still there and look exactly the same and each detour makes me want to explore even more.

See, I guess I hate running, but I like getting somewhere.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cool as

"...You send a poem, and observe wisely that poems are worth all the cucumber-sandwiches in the world.  So they are indeed - and yours most particularly - but you may imagine the perversity of the poetic imagination and its desire to feed on imagined cucumber-sandwiches, which, since they are positively not to be had, it pictures to itself as a form of English manna - oh the perfect green circles - oh the delicate hint of salt - oh the fresh pale butter - oh, above all, the soft white crumbs and golden crust of the new bread - and thus, as in all aspects of life, the indefatigable fancy idealises what could be snapped up and swallowed in a moment's restrained greed, in sober fact."

-- Possession, A. S. Byatt

It must be confessed that few things are as delightful as finding some such recipe in the book one is reading, developing a raging craving for it, and sneaking home with a grocery bag full of things to quell said craving that very night.  

And the luxury of adding cream cheese, purple potato Jagabee and a hot mug of tea!  

Life cannot get much better.

Monday, April 13, 2015

East of Patagonia

This is a silly, childish story, and I'm not even really sure it's one I should tell, but I'm sitting alone at home and I need to unload before I hunker down for the night.  So here it is anyway.

Ten years ago, when I was overseas, I met many people who were also living away from home.  One of them was a French boy I'll call Pierre, and as my interest in the language was already blooming then, I hung around him a lot and we became fast friends.

We talked incessantly, shared stories and meals and went off exploring places together and because we had so much in common, we got along surprisingly well.  

And of course, all that's neither here nor there, but the truth is, even though we were seeing other people, we secretly fell in love; in love in the way that people who will never be together are.  We never said it, we didn't have to.  We never kissed, or even so much as held hands because back then, it was important to us that we honoured our relationships, and each other.  

There are simpler ways to love.  Once, for example, he found a way to buy me a ticket to a sold-out concert of an artist we both loved.  He presented it to me on my balcony and for moment I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  We had to sit on opposite ends of the stadium at the gig, but he wore a flashing button on his chest so I could see him blinking at me across a sea of heads all night.  Another time, we visited a famous cemetery together and drew what we wanted our graves to be like in his notebook.

Things like that made our time together that much more special, because it was easy, limited and innocent and somewhere between all the dreams and secrets and laughter that we shared, Pierre stole a piece of my heart.  

French made it into all our conversations of course.  I learnt silly phrases and my first set of conjugations from him.  I remember lying on my stomach on the floor as he patiently explained, "Je suis, tu es, il est..." and wrote carefully in his curly, boyish hand.  "Fais de beaux rêves," we would type to each other in conversation at the end of every night.  And on my birthday, he bought me two sets of the same books in English and in French so that I could teach myself through translation.

When we finally had to say goodbye, I was heartbroken.  We casually air-kissed before he was ferried off to the airport and I laughed cheerfully and waved as the taxi pulled away and then hid myself in my room and cried.  Pierre called me from the airport and left a voicemail message saying that he had something to tell me.  "I..." he began, and then couldn't continue.  We both knew anyway. 


Of course, nothing happened afterwards.  Our separate relationships took centrestage once more.  We continued to be close friends for a few years, and then not so close friends and now that he's living a completely different life, perhaps not really friends anymore.  I met him once, a couple of years ago in Paris, and he shyly pulled me aside into his bedroom and showed me some old letters we'd written each other.  He still had the drawings of the graves in his old notebook, but that was all.  

I was sad that we drifted apart, but not surprised.  After all, as we'd agreed, all we would expect was to enjoy our time together.  What more could we want?  

I never did use those books to teach myself; it was too hard.  But I thought of him, and of French, often and with fondness, and when I finally had the time, money and courage to go for classes, I found myself falling quite easily and breathlessly back into it as if my spirit had been waiting for me to return to the language all along.  

And then, one week ago in the move, I found the French version of Dangerous Liaisons that he'd bought for me.  I remembered, even before I opened the book, that he'd written a message within, probably friendly enough to be innocuous.  I remembered thinking, when I first saw it, that I would probably never learn enough to understand.

But last Saturday, ten years late, I found the page and those words came to me, easy as speaking.  You see, he took a tiny piece of my heart, but I suppose he gave me something in return as well.

Only, I don't know if I can tell him this anymore, and so I'm telling you.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Home sweet home

After doing a full top-to-bottom house clean on Friday morning (I'm becoming my mother and googling how best to clean floors) I thought I would take a few quick photos to test the windows-as-lightboxes here.  

As you can see, I was also stuffing my face with cookies that my friend, Jenna, got me as a housewarming present.  Naturally.  

I've been saving up for a couple of years to buy a computer with a bigger screen and I can't tell you how nice it is to be able to see all the photos that I'm editing because they are now bigger than postcards.  

Another useful (?) present from Eddie and Shirin - sex dice.  Thanks, guys!

I also finally, finally managed to finagle a reading corner in my room.  The furniture is all Ikea (even the stuff we moved over from my parents' house) so it's fairly cheap, light and pretty easy to take care of.  Shlomo Finkelstein came along with me.

And the new hipster lights I bought from Balestier, the sultan of all neighbourhoods when it comes to lighting.  They were on a 40 per cent discount and I thought they would go nicely with that one cucumber green wall in the corner.

One last bit of nonsense: I am growing very fond of my furniture.  Every day, I say good morning and goodnight to it and before I leave for work, I give it a pep talk.  ["Come on guys!  Be brave!  And make yourselves unappealing to cockroaches!"]

The person that I knew would understand this was Amanda.  Even though she's miles away in Perth, chasing her dreams, she immediately agreed that it was important to whip the furniture into shape and told me that hers, being veteran fixtures, were already well-primed to resist intruders.

"Don't worry, Bff," she texted, "Just keep talking to yours and they'll become experienced very quickly."

So far, it seems to be working.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The nest

So I've been kind of busy.  I've moved!  By which I mean, I'm not living with my family anymore.  I love my family and I miss them something fierce but this was one New Year's resolution I just had to fulfil.  I've wanted to live by myself for a long time, to just learn how to be more independent and see where it takes me.  

My parents wanted to be involved in the process, and after we sort-of put the flat together, it was finally time to say goodbye.  I'm no stranger to living alone, having done it in three different countries, but this was somewhat more permanent and I found myself mourning and celebrating in equal measure.

I'm really close to my family.  We've grown up in each other's pockets our whole lives and for eight years, my mother and father single-handedly raised the three of us - a 24/7 job.  We never wanted for anything and we always felt safe and loved.  So on my last night at a home that is now not exactly home, I hid away in my bedroom and packed with tears running down my cheeks.  

I was furious at myself for still feeling melancholic when my parents finally left; I was so lucky, I knew I still had their full love and support and besides, wasn't this something I'd wished and hoped for?  At my age, it felt foolish to be so morose.  I'd been worrying about dealing with pests on my own as well, and that first night, the Universe sent a finger-length cockroach my way, just to remind me that I was truly alone.  I'll be honest here and say that I've been toting a can of orange-scented Baygon from room to room at night.

Since then, I've felt mostly happy to be on my own, but occasionally panicked about the prospect of frightening things to come.  The place is beautiful and much nicer than I deserve, but my time has been mostly occupied with sorting, cleaning and full-time work and even though the thought of living alone is exhilarating, I've been a little too tired to fully appreciate the feeling.  

This evening though, I came home late after work to a pile of things I'd gotten from Ikea.  After conducting my preliminary nighttime cockroach checks, I settled down on the floor with a cup of tea, put on some music and got to assembling my (auspiciously named) Skanka cookware set.  My father urged me to buy this cute, self-contained toolbox and I was enjoying discovering each individual screwdriver head and what it did.  The pots were coming together beautifully; none of that creaky kerfluffle you sometimes get from reading Ikea directions upside down.  And quite suddenly, in the midst of singing along loudly to the King and I soundtrack (am I right?) I realised that I was finally feeling relaxed and having fun.

I think the transition will take a little while to get used to yet, but sitting here, looking around at a place that I helped to put together and that is slowly starting to feel like a safe haven, I'm feeling pretty damn optimistic about it.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Five senses

The pale light of the house on the end of the street against a sky melting to black.  The taste and smell of smoke, the last of the Chinese New Year barbecues.  My dog's claws clicking on asphalt as we blunder through the dark.  The pinpoint of a rising planet.  Tepid wind drawing itself along the street, up my legs, over my nape.  Here, still warm macadam.  Here, a fleeting touch from earlier today, the accident of a warm hand on mine. 

There, voices calling out wishes.  The dying embers of February, the lamplight like a swollen star.
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