Do Rabbits Dream?

Despite not being pet lovers, my family has had it’s fair share when it comes to the variety of creatures that have had the fate of crossing our paths. When the lohan fish with its big forehead and promises of prosperity rose to popularity years back, my eldest brother brought home one. An odd creature it was. Not particularly engaging, and not a crowd pleaser considering how it was neither cuddly nor furry.

When the fish grew tired (or when we grew tired of the fish), someone did something to get rid of it. I cannot remember if we gifted him to a particularly superstitious relative who believed it would bring good look, or if we let him go in a condominium fish pond. Either way, the fish left—it was meant to—one way or another.

The second animal that entered our family doors came in on two feet. It was infinite times furrier than its predecessor and received endless showers of love while it was a baby. Well, babies. We had four chicks. Two female and two male. But as they grew from tumbling yellow balls huddling under a book lamp for warmth into fully developed roosters and hen that cocked and laid eggs everyday, fate had it that they would, too leave us. It wasn’t just the complains from neighbours (who by the way, took our eggs) when the chickens roamed freely in our backyards during the day. Neither was it because one time, a female fell sick and the helper had to feed it human medication (diluted paracetamol). It was just that someone did something to get rid of them—I cannot remember who and I cannot remember how. I only know that one morning, the roosting stopped and so did the eggs.

In between, I had a heart-attack hamster and a tumour hamster, both of which did not last very long. Until one year, my brother came home with a cage so huge it was fit for a dog, but with no dog inside. Instead, a grey ball of fur huddled in the corner, scared out of his wits.

My parents were never supportive of pets. We were never responsible nor attentive enough to deserve one. Most of the animals that were fortunate enough to make their way into our homes entered with lies. A “birthday present” or a “forced gift”. But true to his character, my second brother dropped the cage squarely within our porch and proceeded to announce that he had adopted this bunny, because his owner (an acquaintance) was leaving the country.

Despite her vehement protests and continual efforts in trying to get rid of him, the bunny slowly crawled his way into my mother’s heart. So today, while he stood on the vet’s table shivering from fear, I wondered what life would be like if it didn’t have him in it anymore. During the four years we’ve had him, he’s only been to the vet twice. Today was the third and suddenly he seemed much older than I know.

Do bunnies have dreams? Does he ever wonder what it’s like to run unobstructed, through miles of green fields and have hundreds of females by his side? Was he trying to head somewhere when he left home the day we forgot to shut the gates tight? Did he return because he agrees that there’s no place like home? Sometimes I wonder what goes through his tiny bunny brain when he sits in the car enduring one hump after another. It must feel like a giant earthquake for his tiny bunny body right?

We always thought love would grow and blossom after time. We’re not pet people by nature, but we’re not heartless too. I have to admit, your lack of affection and inability to withstand cuddles and pick ups didn’t help build the rapport we needed, but in the end, we still learned how to live together. There’s no great love, but there’s familiarity. There’s no inseparable pet-owner relationship, but there’s comfort in knowing that every day, after the endless work hours and the tiresome commute, we’ll come home to your big orange cage and the sound of scuffling feet when you come begging for treats.

I think what I want to say is that as children, we’re doe-eyed and hopeful. We naively believe that love will magically grow when fluffy animals are brought into the game. But when we become adults, we understand that love is not something that can be forced. Time cannot build love if it is not meant to be. The good thing is, we also have the capacity to understand responsibility and take comfort in knowing that some things are not as great as love, but they’re pretty damn great in their own way too. The amount of familiarity, routine, and heartwarming constants a tiny bunny can provide, is in it’s own way, a different kind of love that at the end of the day, make the vet trips, the surgeries and the endless poop cleaning worth it.

1933

Photo 22-2-14 11 22 14 pmI’m not a stranger to the greying streets of Shanghai. Over the past ten years, I’ve learnt to familiarise myself with it’s hastily bricked roads and massive traffic junctions, serving as a mobile and very vocal baggage to my father’s already large entourage. So today when I found some place new to discover in this city I felt I already knew, it was pretty magical.

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1933 老场坊 is an old slaughter house set awkwardly on the edge of Shanghai’s city centre. Despite the European design, it’s painted an artless shade of cream and grey that’s  ready to merge into the monotonous city background. But colour aside, the slaughterhouse does have a pretty intriguing architectural setup that’ll mount scenes of cattle trotting up ramps and to their imminent deaths firmly into the forefront of your brains.

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Funny enough, the building now occupies itself with the likes of fancy cafés, pretentious theatres and event agencies that draws in a crowd full of high spirits and an obvious lack of superstition. Weddings and birthday celebrations are common and despite the wintry air and eerie chill, they seem hopeful, perhaps even joyous, enveloped by a positive aura that I cannot seem to radiate.

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Most of the building feels empty even though a dozen shops are holed into it’s walls, making one feel as though the attempts at trying to mask the old stench of the slaughterhouse only serves to excavate its history and elucidate.

Surrender

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There are days where you feel invincible, days where you feel as if the mere tipping of your toes will hoist you high enough to pick a star out from the night sky. These days, everything you do is adequate. Even the mere act of breathing makes you revel in the fact that there’s so much you can do, will do and have already done that you will one day compile into a heaping list that’ll give meaning to your existence. Days like this, you wish will never end.

Then there are days where you feel like a sail boat on windless sea. Days where hours spent relentlessly working amount to nothing, like scribbling with white ink on white sheets, like dusting cupboards during dry storms. Days where you try so hard but get no where. Days where light blinds and darkness suffocates.

Sadly, today is one of those.

I don’t have pearls of wisdom or words of comfort because most of us have these days that nothing can turn around. Reassurance stings like swabs on wounds and advice falls like bitterness at the back of tongues. Bad days remain bad despite all the good in the world.

But it’s alright, because like everything else, days too shall pass. Good ones, bad ones, they’ll all fall into the valley where we’ll forget to pull them out for scrutiny so even when we look back, we look pass them, through them, away from them as if they never even happened.

So just hold on tight and keep your knees a little too close to your chest for comfort. Let this bad day reign over you, will it away and celebrate its passing. Oh, and admit defeat. The earlier you surrender, the less it hurts.

Image credits: Daniel

I Will Be Great

giraffe The other day we were at Starbucks, you picked up a magazine and leafed through it absentmindedly, periodically stopping to take a sip out of the Hojicha Latte set upon the table, equidistance from you and me. When the swishing of pages paused for a little too long, I barely noticed, until I felt the uneasiness of your eyes boring holes through the book I was holding.

“Is this your article? Oh my god, it’s your name! In a legit magazine. In Starbucks!”

“Yeap, that’s me.” I quipped before snatching it over to snap a photo for my mother who’s still hung up over my drop out from Law School. “What is that.” She cooly replied.

I want to be big in the industry. Big, as in you’ll be saying my name in hushed whispers big. Big, as in you’ll be envious of my life spent living aflutter and be jealous enough to leave spiteful comments on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Big, as in big enough to pick up a random magazine on the news stands and either find my name in the mast head or as reference in a feature.

The sad news is? I’m still frightened. Frightened of the gargantuan figures in the industry, of the interviews I have to attend and the small talk I have to make. I am inferior of the way I talk, the way I laugh and the way I hold my wine goblet when a toast is proposed. I hide behind my laptop, behind the false sense of security it provides me, pushing out words I carefully compose and artfully string into a melody.

The sad news is? I’m not there yet. Not near, nowhere close. But it’s okay, because sometimes it’s fear that sets the heart ablaze and lights up the long winding road ahead. And I’m alright with that.

Some day, I will be great.

I’m Looking For You

“Don’t worry, you’ll blend in really soon just like in high school.”

“Ya, that took me six years.”

I feel like a kid waiting for midnight so the magic can begin—knowing very well that eventually, the clock will strike 12, but still remain tortured by its final countdown. School’s been great, it’s just easier to feel lonely amongst people who’ve already found their place you know? And despite being lost around campus, having to battle long train rides and experiencing loads of laughter, there are still pockets of emptiness that’s patiently waiting to be filled. By what I’m not sure, but so far, loneliness seems to have been calling it home.

The feeling of familiarity has been so misunderstood—perhaps we only see its value when everything seems alien and strange. I don’t like change, and my patience and hopefulness in welcoming familiarity is running out. I know the feeling I’m looking for will come soon enough, but this time, the wait seems unnaturally long.

Back to Basics

A few months ago, my life spiralled out of control. And as quickly as I rose to what some people may consider the pinnacle of academic success, it took me just as fast to tumble back down. But I am glad to announce that I’m back in school. 🙂

These few months have really been a journey for me. Law School drop out (LSD) turned amateur writer, I had to pick myself up and brush off the dust from my mighty fall, apply for various jobs and finally walk out of the nights I would spend burning mindlessly through readings I did not understand and days in which I would end drowning in my own tears. Its not easy walking out of your comfort zone (when has it ever been?), definitely not easy having to pursue your passion when your skills don’t back you up, and worst of all (applies to me only lah), having to experience a change of environment over and over again.

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Its my second day at school, and although I’m not quite close to being happy again, I think I will be soon. I can feel opportunities bashfully hiding in corners of my lecture halls, and seedlings of comfort eagerly awaiting blossom. I cannot say I feel right here, but I think I will feel that way soon. At least I hope I will—and that’s a great start.

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P.S: I’m the new food writer for Poached Magazine, so show me some love when you spot my reviews!

To New Beginnings

There will come one day where you will forget the sound of keys chattering beneath your fingers, the feeling of fullness when words fill you up, the satisfaction of seeing black ink on blank canvas. There will come one day where you cannot remember how, what or why. There will come one day where you hit rock bottom and have to start all over again. And what will come as a surprise is that you’ll actually feel okay.

Letting go of everything that keeps you anchored is scary. It is more than scary. It is frightening, petrifying. It is the first time someone took away your safety blanket. But letting go of everything that validates you also makes you hungry. It is a kind of hunger that reeks of desperation, and desperation is a good thing. It makes you want to learn, it makes you want to lap up knowledge like a starving stray cat. It lets you put yourself out there with zero remuneration, it humbles you, liberates you and reminds you that as much as you are something, you are also nothing.

It is okay to start over. It is okay to leave things unfinished and start brand new even if it means you spend week after week wallowing in tears, hopelessness and unworthiness. Because when they begin fade away, you are fearless, famished and so much better than you ever were.

Fighting Battles

It feels a little lonely tonight. Just a little. Maybe the air is two and a half degrees too cold and the night sky four shades too dark. Maybe its six and a quarter decibels too quiet and three minutes too fast. Maybe there are no reasons to why I happen to feel alone tonight, just like how there are no reasons to why I shouldn’t.

I have somehow or rather accepted the fact that I won’t be getting any sleep tonight, and I still don’t get why I’m still trying so hard. I am desperate to leave this mess , and this desperation seems to escalate with every case I am forced to dissect and every word I am forced to burn into memory. I am lesser of who I am, and more of who they want me to be. I don’t try anymore, I don’t fight.  I have possibly given up on most of the things that I thought were extremely important to me, but now seem to be of no value to anyone, or anything here. I am desperate to leave and to reclaim the things I have lost. I am desperate to leave, but afraid that this mess extends further than what seems to be.

Sometimes people will make you feel worthless. They will make you feel like you’ve been relegated to the bottom of the food chain. And for 6 weeks now, I’ve been swimming around like krill, my sole purpose of existence to fill the bottomless, souless bellies of these whales that surround me every single day. And for 6 weeks now, I have failed to retaliate. But soon you will realize that, when cornered, desperate people can achieve even the most unbelievable feats. And right now, this is me.

I am messed up, I admit that. I have no solid plans for what lies ahead, neither do I have any plans for now. I am about to throw away what seems to be a blindingly bright future and walk the unknown path in the search for happiness. I am not sure if it even exists, or if its too elusive to belong to someone like me, but unhappiness is something you should never get accustomed to. Happiness may not exist, but you should never stop searching for it. And if in this course of forage brings broken noses and scraped knees, count me in. There is never a losing battle, because every time you put up a fight, you’ve already won.

Death Shall Not Part Us

“You know I’ll always love you right my unicorn? I have to go now, but I will always love you.” Your warmth was leaving me, as was your scent. I clawed at you desperately, my fists making little balled clenches around the fabric of your shirt. “But I don’t want you to go. I want you to stay here with me. Please?” I felt hope, joy and happiness slowly crawl their way out of my life. You were leaving me, and they were bent on guiding your course. Despair seeped out from the corners of my eyes, stained my cheeks and soothed my burning skin, as though mocking my naivety for trying to bridge the distance between life and death. “Baby please. Baby please don’t go. I won’t make it without you. Baby please please please stay here with me. Please.” What was a well formed argument aimed at trying to keep you here had become nothing but a string of hopeless pleas. My thighs were next to yours, my hands on your shoulders around your neck and I, the entirety of I was placed upon you. The weight of me, placed upon the firmness of yours. Just like we had been this morning.

You looked so calm, so serene. On your face was the same smile I loved so much, on your cheeks the dimples in which I lost myself. Nothing had changed. You were here with me. Everything that happened was nothing but a bad dream. You were here with me. So was your touch, your breath, your scent and your heartbeat. “I have to go now baby. But I will always be here for you. Always and forever remember?” You reached across the little distance between us and placed a warm palm firmly against my chest. “I have to return you this for the time being. I ‘ll see you soon alright? Keep it safe for me? I’m sorry I couldn’t let you keep mine for longer. But I promise to let you steal it back when I see you again. For now, take this.” Then, I realized my heart was beating again. “But I don’t want my heart, I want yours! Don’t go please. Stay with me.” This was a battle I couldn’t lose. When it came to you, I never settled for less. I never gave in. “I have to go now dear, but I’ll see you soon. I will always love you. Always and forever right?”

Dealing with loss is never easy. Your lingering scent on my pillowcase, your clothes in that little compartment I gave you in my closet. Trying to remove you from my life was like trying to remove a sticky price label from a clear surface. No matter how hard you tried, some of it remained. You had grown and manifested yourself in my life like a parasitic organism. You left yourself in my milk cartons, in my candy jars and breakfast toasts. You left yourself in my thoughts, my words, my memories and my love. You were always with me-in the air I learnt to grasp thinking it was your hands, in the corners of pillows where I would leave kisses, thinking it were your cheeks, in the clothes I learnt to wear, thinking it were your hands around my waist. Every day, I miss you. So much more than I can bear. But I have also been enlightened to the fact that every day, you are there with me, that you will always love me, even if death separates us. Always and forever.

Inspired by a dream I can now only vaguely remember, in which words uttered hit me like a particularly harsh November rain-painful but oddly comforting. I hope you never die, but everyone does. I hope you never die, and live on infinitely.

Blurb: Conditionally Unconditonal

On the first day of Kindergarten, my dad had to physically wrestle me away from my mother. In the first few months of my Kindergarten days, I cried every single morning and ended up crying throughout the entire day till I got to see her again. She gave up her career for me, stayed home to baby me and never let me out of her sight longer than necessary. She was my first friend, and the first person I miss when I’m away from home. She loves me, more than I could ever love myself. She loves me unconditionally.

Parental love is unconditional. They’ll love you even if you had one eye, both, or with four. They’ll love you stark naked and fully clothed. They’ll love you even if it kills them, or you. They’ll love you through anything. But don’t be mistaken. Don’t take this undying, absolute love as a one way ticket. They love you, but it doesn’t mean they’ll always be proud of you. It doesn’t mean they’ll always be pleased with you. Sure, they love you, but it doesn’t mean that your actions don’t repulse them, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be embarrassed when you let out a belch at the dinner table. They’ll love you through the snot and the tears, the blood and the vomit, but don’t ever think for one second, that just because they love you, they aren’t the ones that caused them in the first place.