Thursday, January 08, 2009

dont say stage freeze, just do it

But pretty soon he roused his resources together and began cooking a supper and singing at the stove like a millionaire, stomping around in his boots on the resounding wood floor, arranging bouquets of flowers in the clay pots, boiling water for tea, plucking on his guitar, trying to cheer me up as i lay there staring sadly at the burlap ceiling. It was our last night, we both felt it.

"I wonder which one of us'll die first," i mused out loud. "Whoever it is, come on back, ghost, and give 'em the key."

"Ha!" He brought me my supper and we sat crosslegged and chomped away as on so many nights before: just the wind furying in the ocean of trees and our teeth going chomp chomp over good simple mournful bhikku food. "Just think, Ray, what it was like here on this hill where our shack stands thirty thousand years ago in the time of the Neanderthal man. And do you realize that they say in the sutras there was a Buddha of that time, Dipankara?"

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Chicago Bum

I had a dollar left and Gary was waiting for me at the shack. The whole trip had been as swift and enlightening as a dream, and I was back.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


For the second day, this chickenboat grumbles through the waters towards Padang. Locals are immensely friendly to me and whenever they take me into their homes, I feel as though I've been adopted by Indonesia, as if this is was family.

A group of boys pick me up as I come back to town from my run to Muntei. These are boys no older than me, and we look almost identical to the Western eye. They are construction workers from Palembang, and they take me to their worksite, a bridge over a swampy stream. There we chat as they lift gravel up from boats, their legs muddied, to fill the concrete embankment. Every heave is a flex of muscle, sinewy Indonesian arms and smiling adolescent faces, the pride of labour beaming through their teeth. Later, they invite me back to their hostel, where even more boys come out to shoot the breeze with me and where I am promptly offered teh manis. Would I like a shower, they ask, because I prolly stink to high heavens. I decline and say I should I get back to the boat because it's leaving soon. As I leave, I see them hitting the showers, wet brown skin against white briefs and shower silliness. I take a second glance of course, and then walk away from this boys whom I could very well have been, or who could be my brothers.

But, no, away, because our lives are too different, I am a visitor here. As we approach Padang, someone spits out his seed rambutan seed in my direction, and I am reminded that I do not belong in this demo-crazy, where that was all right.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

On the Southern Road - Redux

The Southern Cross hung brightly in the sky while anothere constellation was being pointed out. tail body heart left claw right claw. Before this, there had to be NS, CD, ERS, Central, BOC, Jurong, OC41 and a credit card. The freebie that came with credit card - an air ticket, from Officer Commanding to NSF Rota Commander of Stn 41 and a plot hatched. An old book found in a store room that said Field Officer's Diary in bold black letters - it is a journal of another sort now. One year and eight months before the introduction of scorpio was a visit to Fariz's and notes kept about that visit. And then the hatched plot became an actual journey (that visit happened before the journey), a flight to Australia on a credit card's companion freebie. And in Australia too-many-things happened, including the Outback-Star-Gazing-Oh-God-Take-Me-I-Could-Die-Now and the It's-Raining-and-Pissing-Cold-and-Dark-But-Let's-Go-Eel-Fishing, but most important of all there was the Change-of-Heart. There was another change of heart in Singapore, where a poor decision was made and then made better by another correct one.
And this Change-of-Heart, after all the fire station and Australia business, is how the Southern Cross came to hang in the sky while scorpio was being pointed out. As I sat there I listened to Achil's astronomical explanations and the scary nearby-faraway waves. I held the line with which we anticipated fish for tomorrow's breakfast. It was easy to see how all these events lined up to bring me here, right here and now. This cannot be an accident, it must have already been mapped out by events which in themselves could-or-could-not-have-been accidents.
It wasn't hard to gain perspective then, with such a strong sense of history and purpose. How simple it was, to look back at the past year, before then, to realise what mattered and what didn't. Did it matter that I did not do Art at 'A' Levels just to keep the Humanities Scholarship? Did it matter that I could've gone to Law School for cheap knowing that a career waited for me? Did it matter that I was finally a Psi U brother (am I really - it still doesnt feel as real as everything else that has happened)? Did it? Did it really matter? No? Yes, no. What mattered was knowing, finally, that at the click of that button, the whole art-or-humans-scholarship-heart-or-head saga was resolved. That click that said no thank you, i will be going to wesleyan instead. You see, it doesn't matter that I don't already have a career. What matters is music - creating out of nothing - and adventure - that thump-thump in the heart - and discovery.
What matters now is learning - from things, on my own, from people. What matters now is the effort put into crew the past year (and can you do it again? i said yes to Jeremy Brown. Things have been mapped out). What matters now is Hannah and her spastic laughter and the way her pants hang on her hips, and Miles and how he drives me crazy but I still love him and can't wait to live with him next year, and Ryan, sexy beast Ryan who makes me feel so loved and whom I know loves me unconditionally, and Jeremy, that boy with his masterful dick-moves, with the girl problems, who was there for me through the Psi U ordeal, and I have a feeling he will always be there for me. And then Chip, the boy that I met too-late-at-the-right-time, Chip the boy I can't wait to see and touch again, knowing he's not judging me.
So that was what happened, how a boy ended up sitting on a beach in a deserted island between the Indian Ocean and Sumatra, listening to waves as the smell of Sampoerna filled the air. This was how I realised some of the things I already knew.

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Monday, June 23, 2008


this brings me back to a time somewhere in 2004, only it's as if we're so much older now. it feels like... it must've been in the afternoon. i'd say four. i cannot remember because there were so many warm and sticky afternoons, companion to that familiar greasy feeling. rudy and i are a little tired, maybe a food coma, maybe just from all the sums done and left to be done. we walk out from the back gate of mt. sinai, that joke of a gate, to the green-carpeted oasis called the surau. many times i sat there alone waiting for him to come find me, but the law of attraction hadnt started working yet for me. but this day we went there together. there's a slight smell of urine, which rudy insists is algae. there are some scraps on the carpet but we ignore them as together, we press our foreheads to the ground. we worship apart, sometimes together, sometimes one behind the other. i know his back well, his cracking voice and the smooth curve of his bum sheathed in white. there was the desire and there was the distance.

and now we're in our twenties, slightly weathered. we're lying on our backs on the floor of my parents' room, and here is that same back (maybe more muscular now). here is nostalgia, memory, and hope. here is distance bridged, reconciled, and then spread once again. here i am once more, not knowing what i'm thinking about, a quivering seventeen year-old again.

addendum: after he's walked out of the gate, i run after him and offer to walk him to the train station. i want to tell him that i'm sorry we've drifted apart again and that i really do want to stick around to change that, again. instead i ask him if he remembers our afternoons at the surau, and he did.

twenty minutes pass, with aaahs from amina sinai, coming harder and faster by the minute, and weak tiring aaahs from vanita in the next room. the monster in the street has already begun to celebrate; the new myth courses through its veins, replacing its blood with corpuscles of saffron and green. and in delhi, a wiry serious man sits in the assembly hall and prepares to make a speech. at methwold's estate goldfish hang stilly in ponds while the residents go from house to house bearing pistachio sweetmeats, embracing and kissing one another - green pistachio is eaten, and saffron laddoo-balls. two children move down secret passages while in agra and aging doctor sits with his wife, who has two moles o her face like witchnipples, and in the midst of sleeping geese and moth-eaten memories they are somehow struck silent, and can find nothing to say. and in all the cities all the towns all the villages the little dia-lamps burn on window-sills porches verandahs, while trains burn in the punjab, with the green flames of blistering paint and the glaring saffron of fired fuel, like the biggest dias in the world.

Friday, June 20, 2008


rumours in the city: "the statue galloped last night!"... "and the stars are unfavourable!"... but despite these signs of ill-omen, the city was poised, with a new myth glinting in the corners of its eyes. august in bombay, a month of festivals, the month of krishna's birthday and coconut day; and this year - fourteen hours to go, thirteen, twelve - there was an extra festival on the calendar, a new myth to celebrate, because a nation that had never previously existed was about to win its freedom, catapulting us into a world which, although it had five thousand years of history, although it had invented the game of chess and traded with middle kingdom egypt, was nevertheless quite imaginary; into a mythical land, a country which would never exist except by the efforts of a phenomenal collective will - except in a dream we all agreed to dream; it was a mass fantasy shared in varying degrees by bengali and punjabi, madrasi and jat, and would periodically need the sanctification and renewal which can only be provided by rituals of blood. india, the new myth - a collective fiction in which anything was possible, a fable rivalled only by the other two mighty fantasies: money and god.

hon lyn would really like her camera now because the view is moving. the two of us sit on a jetty in sembawang and the twinkling lights from the shipyard, dickens's fairy lights, sing a rousing chorus with the quiet night, breaking waves and soft wind.

i cant quite decide if i like this place and i tell her that. at times like this, when we are quiet and the weather is not oppressive, there is a possibility of this being home. and then there is the unforgiving crush of humanity, Singaporean humanity, and the midday heat to contend with. here there are annoying 20 year-olds talking nonsense in my mother tongue.

there is a song in that language, its title transliterates to son of the island, and i feel like i could be that guy. but this island city is constantly taken away from me, it calls me an others; i am other-ed, robbed and excluded. when this home expels its sons like that, i cannot see its history and our ties, and that makes me sad. it says to me, you dont actually belong here, you are only fictional.

but i have talked too far, a little too far from hon lyn and the story she is telling me now. she's on a bus full of singaporeans, malaysians, indonesians, thais, and vietnamese. this bus - i can already imagine it - is travelling from thai malaysia to muslim thailand. luscious green trees speed by the windows, rubbish littering the roads. maybe the airconditioning isnt working and a hot sticky stream of air passes the windows bup-bup-bup-bup.

they communicate with a blend of malay and hokkien, maybe a little thai - no? we wish this could happen more, this mixed bag of southeast asian-ness, because we're quite sick of poms, aussies, and german gappers every time we travel. we say it's about time for southeast asia to represent.

but, ah, no, not going to happen. whereas i instantly identify singapore with southeast asia, more people feel related to japan, hong kong, taiwan or korea. after it exiled me, singapore extended its project to itself, and there are now five million mental exiles who do not feel at home in their backyard. the 550 million people around them are too strange, too... brown. their city and their other-ness in their neighbourhood are objects of their diligence and creation and now this place has become too unreal, a fiction of its own creation.

as i write this in my own anglepoise, i'm forced to ask myself if perhaps my state of exile is due to a lack of my own imagination. am i unlike my father, who, at the age of 57, wants to change his name, dreaming up a new identity and history more in line with his self-image? is that what i should learn from that old man, to fight fiction with fiction?


Monday, June 16, 2008


It seems like a day for big questions. I reply across the unreliable years to S.P. Butt, who got his throat slit in the Partition riots and lost interest in time: 'What's real and what's true aren't necessarily the same.' True, for me, was from my earliest days something hidden inside the stories Mary Pereira told me: Mary my ayah who was both more and less than a mother; Mary who knew everything about all of us. True was a thing concealed just over the horizon towards which the fisherman's finger pointed in the picture on my wall, while the young Raleigh listened to his tales. Now, writing this in my Anglepoised pool of light, I measure truth against those early things: Is this how Mary would have told it? I ask. Is this what that fisherman would have said?... And by those standards it is undeniably true that, one day in January 1947, my mother heard all about me six months before I turned up, while my father came up against a demon king.
Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You, Revisionist

your story stretches cross the room to me -
i see it come my way.
this place we sit is not quite so big,
yet you can't hear you scream.

you have known me from the day i was born
but you still dont know me.
you have written me my history and
my future you want to see.

is there a girl whom i have met that
i would like you to meet?
is this when we start to pretend
girls are my cup of tea?
(i have a boy for me,
you do know what i mean.)

has it been that long since i said,
"i want a bicycle
and a new lego set."
do you really think that i'd like
a quiet village girl,
an indonesian girl?

you change your tack and tell me about
your quiet village boy dreams,
but i never had a japanese mum and
i've never lived in france.

it's me you say who can change your past
by marrying a quiet girl.
hated your name and you had it changed -
i'm afraid i'm not your name

why, you, revisionist, you
project such power onto the past.
and i would like to help but i am afraid
my dreams are mine to fuck up.
(you had your chance but i'm
sorry i'll need mine too.)


Friday, June 06, 2008

Are You A Chinese?

it's been a week since i got into singapore and already i've been asked for my race too many times. no, i am not a chinese, neither am i a malay and i am definitely not an others. so, yes, you say, i must be an indian

the straits

the straits of singapore come into view and i prep myself for that usual feeling. it's a blend of anticipation, which comes with seeing the green city crisscrossed with lines, and of dread just thinking of the wall of heat that will hit the moment i exit the airport.

this place is really far away. the arctic looks back when i peer out the window flying here, and a few hours later there is the gobi desert right at the same spot. that is a lot of ice and sand between me and the boy i like. that, and an eternity of a week, is what separates me from chip and our sleepovers, tadd pretending to be a robot, ryan singing the chili peppers, miles being intransigent and hannah talking about her girl problems.


it hasnt even been that long since i was last here and i'm already getting excited for full circle moments. back in the fire station, it feels like second nature to lick my fingers at lunch, dash downstairs, gear up, and hop onto the pumper. things are a little different, almost imperceptible, but i'm just glad to be cruising down the city streets at full speed. rudy calls me up tonight and his cracking voice over the telephone is a throwback to younger days and a reminder of why he is always that guy. here and there are little reminders of what i've left - wandering around the city in the sultry heat, sitting by the river with teh love club, and even listening again to dan's diaphanous singing all the way from yorkshire.


in a few days i hit the summer road. my work here in singapore will have been done for now, nieces greeted, parents placated, and old relationships renewed. going across an entire archipelago - the world's largest - i will ask myself, what do you miss? where do you want to be? who do you want beside you? the answer i think i know ("it really doesnt matter") but i would like to believe it and stop feeling so nauseatingly nostalgic. because it's all a big cycle, a kind of tandava and chances are, my one life will blend into the next, nothing to miss, nowhere else to be.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Returning to Breaks

At some point in NYC, I find myself in the 9/11 visitors' centre and somehow, I believe there were tears in my eyes. It was convenient to blame it on the sour nose, but really, I should thank the city for the fast times with such dear friends and for epic memories. I might or might not be motivated enough to tell you about Spring Break in Florida as well. For now, let's just say it involved a lot of rowing.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

the violent jolt of the city

it has been an entire month in nyc, a month that vacillated between boredom and thrill, routine and discovery. even though cracking the mystery of nyc in such a short time might seem improbable, it finally comes to me on the last sunday. it is a hopeful afternoon and i am sitting in the front row, far left of the nederlander theatre, listening to jonathan larson speak to me.
new york city. the hustle-bustle, unforgiving crush of commuters an tourists, the ebb and flow of human flesh, the squalor of west 41st just one block down from the goddess that is 42nd street. this is where the upper east side borders harlem, where queens residents hop on the immigrant express into town, where hippies and yuppies wear brooklyn pride on their sleeve, and where visitors like me never step into the bronx. it is times square, is rotting subway stations, is leaking roofs, is quiet and pulsing nights, is the wail and yelp of the fire department, is defiant, is amazingly recuperative.
it is defiant. it resists categorization. typically it would be called a melting pot, but that isnt true because nothing really mixes. there is a mélange of peoples - families, yuppies, tourists, couchsurfers, students, artists, immigrants, mothers and brothers all fighting and stuggling to survive. they fight and struggle to survive, and beyond that, to live. we all do it in our own selfish but necessary way. where life offers itself, spread out in front of you as opportunity does in this city, you do all you can to eke out the best living, the best life for yourself and your loved ones.
this is how we live and survive, and it must get better - that is the hope that lights the city, which rushes to fill any void or heal any wound, no matter how gaping. i look at this as an outsider but i have been swept away by this struggle for life and love in the city. after all, this job, the now-dead cat, craig, rooftop bonanzing, and late night storms, these are just my own petty ways of demanding my life, satisfaction, fulfilment and exhilaration from this city and its masses. the city, brimming life and love, the lack thereof, the fight for more.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

the city, feral and fey

the flock of birds circle above our heads as we suspended ourselves in mid-air, our bodies supported by this concrete skeleton hundreds of metres up in the sky. yet we knew clearly, from the gleaming city, from the vague pendular moon peeping through the clouds, that there was so much more space and matter beneath and above us.
the lights of manhattan beckon from across the east river; the unrelenting and inexorable tide of motors repulsing us. we were most comfortable yet, bathed in a soft red glow, apart from the city. still, we understood that the modern city was what we knew, what we are. these bright lights are us. within a city, every light feeds an existence, represents a purpose or mispurpose, and it is all reciprocal - i am just a light to the man across the river. how do we understand this? how do we help others understand it as well?
it is all pretty despairing. but with miles and hannah there, together with timur, i remained pretty grounded. in them is a feeling of home and now i realize home is to be found anywhere. it is meeting a fellow traveller escaping nyc by hiding in saks fifth ave, of all places; it is being 21 and reliving past years with charlie, brown, and his sister ruth; it is dinner parties and cooking in my own kitchen; it is bringing your teammate to a gay bar.
cities rise, buildings are destroyed, people change and things happen. yet tonight, standing with my feet sinking under me, the wind buffeting my face, standing astride, offering myself to the luminous night sky and the tyrannical city, i am alive with my friends, the people i have elected my family, home wherever i want it to be.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

The View of Manhattan

The East River flows quietly between Long Island and Manhattan, while a steel drum band plays on a platform at Grand Central. The water is murky, the dirt and grime of the city reflected in the currents. Chewing gum marks on cement; city streets and buildings always messy, untidy, harsh and sticky. the brutal city is scary, rough, and it doesnt give chances. People fall through the cracks, they are down and out, fighting for a life. in singapore, where there is no fight, everything is purposeful and demarcated, there is no room for life's essential messiness. the necessary question then, is what kind of sadness you would trade for another. Would I spurn the sadness of risk and uncertainty to embrace the sadness of unfulfilment and ennui? Tonight I go to midtown again, and when a piss-soaked woman pushes me off my scooter, i will do a little dance and give her a hi-5.


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Sunday, December 16, 2007

We Are Picking Flowers, You And I

In my dream, I want to bring you flowers, but you are suddenly there, and we pick winter flowers off a tree together. When I wake up, Hannah is beside me and I've a splitting headache. I'm not thinking, so I wake her up and tell her about my dream. A man should not want for more. I'm waking up beside a gorgeous girl, I get to share my dreams with her, we ski for the entire day, Miles and Ryan cook dinner for us, and I am warm after a long day with Jeremy sharing Quaker tales. "Couldnt this be family?" I ask, because for once I feel at home. Perhaps. That moment will last forever, a miraculous coincidence of people, time and place.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Naive Melody

It is Wednesday night and cold outside. It's one in the morning and Jeremy's cleaning his room. Me, I'm lying on his bed and screaming along to Built to Spill. I want specifics on the general idea.

It is Thursday night, Wine and Cheese is over and it seems like Jeremy has got lost in the woods. Ryan is floating above the sky and I'm the sober and responsible one. We decide to sleep outside Jeremy's door in the hallway - yes, because I am sober and responsible and this will bring him back. As we drift off to sleep beside each other, Ryan rambles on on life and love and I listen and we suck in deep breaths. Tonight he is soft and feminine, his eyes are bloodshot, his skin perfect and white. I want to think, this is college, 21, a miraculous coincidence of people and time and place, but I leave it at that, unwilling to bring it beyond what it is. We sleep, hard.

It is Friday night, and Peter and I meet. We hit his friends' first before we come back to WestCo where I show him how Ryan, Jeremy and I play. As the two of us leave for the male revue at Psi U, he asks me a serious question, and I say yes. We walk fast, giggling under our breath, its condensation leading our way. I tackle him hard, he wants to grind down one of the railings when it starts snowing. Later, we lie down beside the street, waiting for the rest of the guys, and he tells me something serious as well (I didnt think I was prepared to know, I didnt think I wanted to know). Another while later, we're sitting on Jacob's bed, and it's just the two of us. I think, this could be the night, but I know I dont want to know, I dont want to think about it. Ain't it strange that I can dream, when there's nothing I have ever seen.

It is Saturday night, and I'm taking off my clothes. But first, to get shitty enough. (On hindsight, I realise though I was wayy off my legs.) When I'm done, I go upstairs to collect my money and the birthday boy is there. Right there, on the landing, was a semester's worth of holding out, right after two nights of Not Thinking. So right there, on the landing, I was shitfaced, and I thought, hell, I thought.. I couldnt think. I couldnt Not Think. Blurry and fast-forward, I am sick over the toilet and I have no idea where my money is. I dont know where is the money I came here for. Wait, I feel sick.

It's Sunday night, and we've baked green penis cookies and a blue cake for Ryan's birthday. We've hit the sugar ceiling so we go to Miles's room to, uh, chat. I'm in Miles's recliner with Ryan. I want to be there for a long time, I tell him about last night, I tell them about last night, I want to sleep. When I wake up, I leave with Ryan. It's icy outside, and I dont think I can get back all right, all I want to do is tell him about the frickin' weekend. I want to tell him that turning 20 doesnt change much. I turned 21 and still make classic mistakes. But I think he knows, he knows what hopeless basketcases we are, he knows how we're still way too juvenile. So it's Wednesday night, I still dont have the money, and kicking myself in the head. Jeremy is eating mac and cheese and I'm screaming along to Built to Spill. Yea you've become, yea, you have become a fraction of the sum, the middle and the front - a song for the naive and the big joke we are - and now it's coming back, hasn't it come too far? I was trying to help but I guess I pushed too hard, and now we can't even touch it, afraid it will fall apart.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

The Real Big Apple By Bike

Destination: Valley Stream, Long Island. It's time to return the phone, the 21st birthday present I never wanted. That means 10 miles each way, all the way to to WalMart. If anyone can do it, I can. I realize though, it's not the cycling. It's about going through 8 different neighbourhoods, each one further removed from NYC physcially and figuratively. It gets quiet and busy, random and peaceful, white and then black. This is the hinterland, how most people actually live. Forget Manhattan nights, it's long commutes and Sunday shopping at the crazy fucking giant mall. So WalMart gave me my money back, and I got there by bicycle. Zero emissions, money back guarantee. Small guys taking down giantszzz.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007


I left the library on Wednesday to sit at Bryant Park. It is chilly and dark, but the floodlights watch the tourists as they skate and their giggles warm the air in return. This evening, none of us has anything to do so we wander around the brutal and imposing city, so far removed from nature but terribly beautiful still. The rows and rows of walls wear fire escape ladders like a messy girl who cant keep her hair out of her eyes. We sit in a park and drink, like winos. The trees have barely changed colour, the fountain is turned off, strange people around, and a gay couple full-on making out. This is the problem of the 18 year-olds in America: there is quite honestly nowhere to go.

It is time for Thanksgiving dinner. The food is, as expected, fucking ridiculous and there is obviously more than all of us could painlessly eat. Except for the fact that everything is in plastic. I ask if I should set the table, because that is how I help best. They bring out plastic table lining, plastic crockery and cutlery, and we sip wine from plastic (ugh) goblets, while taking salad dressing straight from squeeze bottles. And this is supposed to be The Great American Meal.

Tonight, I meet Marie at her old workplace, an Irish pub on 57th. To get there, I walk 20 blocks. For all that effort, this Irish pub is not half-decent. I'm beginning to think that everything American is truncated, sanitised, folded in two and then rolled out flat. Not that I dont envy Marie's previous lifestyle, I think I could get used to just working and surviving in a nothingandeverything city. We leave together, me to meet Bethany and friends. Joel is there and he's cute like a button. So I tease and taunt him. I lie on his lap and we chat. Everyone goes to Zack's show a little before us, so it's just us two as we leave Laura's place. I'm in the doorway and we're saying we should go. He puts a hand on my chest, my heart is pounding (I'm already off the wall by now) and I almost make my move. But I know, I dont really want to, because. So I dont, and it's Friday night, I'm in New York City, USA, I'm not impressed at all and all I can think of is I want to tell Ryan about my week and why the fuck hasnt Rudy written to me in so long.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

East River Crossing

Our car stopped last night at 209th. I say goodbye to Ryan, it is our second time saying goodbye on the road and I cannot wait to see him again. What happens if he goes to Vassar? How many more service stations will we stop at together? That's another story for another day.

Bethany's two greyhounds greet me, and there's some time for my grand settling-in routine before we leave for Brooklyn with Laura and Annie. Manhattan is a gem across the East River and I try not to look, what I am afraid of I do not know. Laura's town house is every bit the typical NYC home, urban-minded but American-sized. We end up crashing there and walk around the neighbourhood the next morning before heading to Manhattan. Zack waits for me to go to the Jack Kerouac show.

This is Manhattan. The heights of urbanization condensed in the size of a pill. It's been too long since I left Singapore and now I can barely keep pace with New Yorkers. Taking the subway to 42nd, there are people of every category, the smell of frankfurters, and then giant neon billboards in Times Square. Sirens and yelps fight for attention amid the sound of heels, pigeons, and a busker. These are the sounds of the city. Yellow taxis drive by in an uninterrupted procession, and so do pedestrians. There is life pulsing through the streets, it is another one of those cities. I can breathe again.

You could say it is hard to keep up here, though I'm not entirely convinced about the importance of keeping up with yourself. Wouldnt it be better to get lost in the city and let it shake you around? It is not so easy to lose yourself in Wesleyan where everything is quiet and slow; it is hard to get excited. The sea of faces are a stronger comfort than the sea of individuals - there is no need to be special. Walk, pay, breathe, repeat. (I thought I already knew how to let go. I'm sure I do, the question is, how much of my other parts should I keep?)

Jack- what did you say? I see your manuscript and it is you, high, typing. You are lost in cities, wandering on the road, lost on life. You have left your family. Now, whats it like to be you in your unending, driving madness? If this is all atomic chaos, how do we know, what do we do, how do I start? How did you start?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007


it's thursday night, 11.55pm, and i'm on ryan's balcony in Nic 6. he knows exactly how i feel, and he's spilling the beans. i'm too old, i'm dying, too far gone, done trying, downhill, down, down, down. i tell myself this all the time and now he's telling me too. "five minutes to go, ivan," he says. it's the eve of my 21st birthday.

we start off by beating quinnipiac 20-16 at the postponed old meth' under the stars. this is a bunch of hardcore ruggers who enjoy poetry, music and beautiful imagery, not very unlike jun ren and some of the rj ruggers. tonight's drink-up is at washington and vine, and tonight we celebrate our victory and my birthday. old meth' then sends me off on "the ride" nicely buzzing and looking forward to the rest of the night.

terrence and laird bring me to town on friday for a trip to the bottleshop. of course i pick up some frangelico, back from the melbourne days with marty. on the way back from horseriding, we stop at dunkin' for even more birthday treats. to be fair, this is only the first time since i've been here that i've eaten at a chain. back at home, the skies are pouring and blair and i run off to play. we scream from the centre of the grey deluge that is emptying itself over our heads. the rain is cold and so are the puddles. pieces of foss hill stick to our skin and what remains of the clothes we were wearing. today i am 21, and playing in the rain reminds me of slightly better times when i was young. this odyssey is inexorable, the rain is unforgiving. "rain is a common metaphor for rebirth," i tell blair. rain is a common metaphor for rebirth.

back indoors, blair and i share a steaming hot shower before the cocktail reception. it is 8pm and the guests are fashionably late. before long, the girls have arrived in their dresses and heels, the boys come in blazers and their thrift store vintage tees. we sit in my room, mixing drinks and eating birthday cake with the cool breeze drifting in from the open window. i ask them if i should shut the window, but they are distracted with handing out party hats. the posse brings the reception out to the hallway and down into the westco tunnels. there a pinata awaits, it is a fire truck. i widen my stance in the future, and swing the squash racquet of time and age against the past.


the 19th of october is also the night of the coming out day party at eclectic. i'm pretty fucked up by now so i greet every friend i see like we're best mates. but dom is there, looking really cute. so we dance, dance, dance the night away. his hair brushes against my face as we lean together so i can whisper into his ear. "i like you," i say in my imagination. instead, i take a gulp of water from his bottle. p-safe comes to break up the party at 2am as usual, so we go chill out, and in my stupor i fall into more mad love. we walk back together to westco in the chilly 4am dimness. he's sleeping 50 metres away from me tonight.

the aftermath. is hunting at the state park. three boys, one man, a shotgun and a slingshot. no rules, one orange vest and a runaway squirrel. no catch. we return in the walk of shame and decide instead to go for a yard sale and satisfy our sick consumer instinct by spending money on a 12' swimming pool. the school's long lane farm is hosting pumpkin fest tonight, where for the first time, i see people post-eclectic party. it is too embarassing.

to salvage what's left of our camping pride, we head off on our bikes to wadsworth falls. four boys, one man, a girl and a pot. everyone's freaking out about the setting sun but i use a little of my gravitas to calm their adolescence down. we start building a shelter and a fire, collect water, and start cooking stew. dinner time is in front of the glorious fire, feeding our tummies, the fire feeding our eyes, and good company for the soul. we dont know the time, and we have a colossal chat that gets us high on ideas. this is life, this is college life, in a secret spot in the forest. like minds, like young minds, planning to change our lives and the world...

there's five seconds to go and ryan and i are screaming. i want to cry; my party hat is falling off. i am 21. my time is time accentuated with peace, agitation, experience, wisdom and courage. my mother gave me life 21 years ago, and took me under her care. now she's sent me off to college in america. for my 21st birthday, she's given me the ultimate present - the gift of rebirth. this is my new life, this is mine and i am under my care. after the party at nics we run to indian hill cemetery but matt and i leave early. i hit on him. he goes off to sleep. 21. i wake up the next morning at 9am on ryan's floor. i had work at 7. 21. i am under my care.