Thursday, June 14, 2012


“Why?” the boy asked, his voice betraying the tears he was stifling “Isn’t this good?”

“It is. Or it was,” I answered. “But I know how these things go. You’ll get attached. I’ll get stressed out.”

“Why would you get stressed out?”

“Because I know I’ll never be able to fully reciprocate.” I looked at the boy in front of me. I considered his jet black hair, his dark brown eyes, the way they often said more than his mouth. I wondered how far he’d go for me, or if he had still come if he’d known I was just going to break up with him.

“It’s not reciprocation I’m after,” he says, his frustration bittersweet to the taste. “Can’t you just let me love you? I know deep down in that frigid heart, you understand you need to be loved. Let me do that for you.” He placed his hand firmly on mine. “Please.”

“You say that now but wait till a few months, maybe even a few weeks. These things… they get messy and I just can’t afford to mess around at this point in my life.” I dragged deep into my cigarette and slowly sighed out pregnant clouds of smoke.

“You’ll understand when you’re older,” I continued, pulling my hand from beneath his. He looked up from where he sat, his eyes welling up, seeking mine. I looked at him with a cold expression, the one you use when you stare into traffic in the middle of rush hour. The cars blur away as another boy is ushered out of my life.

“You don’t know that. You don’t know this.” He takes my hand again and brings it closer to his chest. “Don’t you feel this? Doesn’t your heart beat the same way?”

“Maybe it used to,” I said as I swigged the last of my beer. “But it sure doesn’t beat that way anymore.”


We went back to his place. One last fuck, he proposed. For old time’s sake? I indulged him. You see a house burning down and you figure you might as well light your cigarette. As we lay in bed, sweat and smoke imposing in the room, I thought of the boy that I held in my arms. Our legs were tangled like vines. His head was resting calmly on my arm. His hands played through my forest, his fingers intertwining with the strands of my hair. If I closed my eyes, I could say it felt like I was home.

And I started to miss him even though he was still there. He was a good kid, big heart, and a decent fuck at that. I knew he could find someone better than me at the snap of a finger. And yet there he was in bed with me wishing he could stay in my life. Why couldn’t I let him in? Why was I pushing him away? Maybe you can only get hurt so many times before you start believing none of it’s worth it. Maybe you can only get your heart broken so many times before it stops beating like it should.

“Why does it hurt so bad?” he asked, warm tears flowing onto my naked chest. I held him closer until I felt his bones crushing under my weight. Until it felt like I could breathe in all that he was.

“If I had a heart, it would be hurting too.” I felt a sort of bluntness in the middle of my chest. Maybe this is what they call a phantom limb.


I woke up in the middle of the night and got dressed. I watched the boy as he lay in bed sleeping. He looked so peaceful, so pure and devoid of darkness. I don’t remember if I was ever just like that. He asked if my heart could still beat the same way. Maybe it used to, I answered. Maybe once when I could still feel. As I walked through the city, the buildings cloaked by night, I closed my eyes so I could hear the cars rushing past me. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, they wailed. Another day, another love, whooshing down the drain. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. This is my lullaby. The cars, the city, they keep me from thinking. They swallow the words I cannot spit out.

Maybe it used to, I said to him when what I really wanted to say was Save me.

Postcript. Seven years later, the boy still thinks of him often. The scent of Gudang Garam reminds him of the man he thought he could love forever. But forever is such a long time, he’d soon learn. It’s a promise he’d make to a string of boys who were just as hopeful as he was that summer.

♫: Leona Lewis | Run (2008)
Photo: night

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Imagine for a second that your life is a map and everything, every single moment that led you here were just stops on a route. Every decision you’ve made was a turn at a fork in the road. Look around you as you sit in your office cubicle reading this blog post or on the couch at your apartment swiping on your smartphone. Are you happy with who you are? Are you at peace with where your feet have taken you? Do you regret nothing? Has each turn been wise or have you somehow lost your way?

Imagine for a second that your life is a map. When one loses his way, common sense urges that he (1) calm the fuck down, (2) locate his position, and (3) pinpoint his destination. From there, he traces an outline of streets and corners, mapping the quickest route to where he wants to go. Right now, at this very moment, can you honestly say that you know where you need to go? Do you find that the decisions you made in the name of compromise have thrown you off your path?

Imagine for a second that your life is a map and those who wander from their paths need only to pause and recollect to find their way. Close your eyes and think of where you want to be. Picture yourself happy with sunny skies and green grass. Dig deep into the corners of your heart where dreams are not the least bit shameful. Do you see yourself walking the busy streets of Singapore? Are you lounging on the pristine sands of the Maldives? Are you alone or are your hands clasped with a lover’s? What do you do for a living? Are you a writer, an actor or a supermodel? Do you release multi-platinum recordings or do you dabble in politics? Close your eyes and dream as big as you can. Do not let anything cloud your vision in any way.

Imagine for a second that your life is a map. You know where you are. That part was easy. Now you have a dream in your heart. What if I told you that you were destined to become that person? What’s keeping you? Why aren’t you a famous writer in London? Why aren’t you a pastry chef on a luxury cruise? If you’re stuck in your own life reading this aimless rant then who’s manning that quirky shop you dreamed of in Tokyo? Who’s signing autographs at a crowded New York street corner?

Some say it’s age that stops them. Others will reason out that they have families and obligations they need to attend to. I call bullshit. You can be whoever you want to be. There are a million realities that exist for you right at this minute. Think of your reason, of what was keeping you from your happiness. That’s not a reason. That, my friend, is an excuse.

Imagine for a second that your life is a map. You are destined for greatness. You only need to know where you are, where you ought to be and the quickest way from Point A to B. I have reasons. I have excuses. Mostly, it’s fear that stops me in my tracks. If I never get over them, I will never become who I’m meant to be. Who knows? One day, I may find myself immortalized in books and magazines. Maybe one day, somebody will come up to me and quote a line from a story I wrote. At the same time, I may also find myself still in the same office doing the same boring things day in and day out. I may grab my destiny by the balls or I may just fall flat on my face. It all depends on the decisions I make, the turns I take and the stops I plan on the map that is my life.

It’s easy to dream. It’s easy to throw all caution to the wind and say I will be exactly who I want to be. It’s the hours and miles in between who I am and who I ought to be that jar me. I am so far from who I want to be. I have dreams as big as skyscrapers and at times, I feel I may not live long enough to see them coming true. They say the Aborigines believed that dreams could be mapped out in song. When you sing these in sequence, you could navigate through vast distances. I plug my earphones in, see my dream in my mind’s eye, and hope that a songline brings me there.

Lord, here comes the flood.
We will say goodbye to flesh and blood.
If again, the seas are silent
In any still alive,
It’ll be those who gave their island to survive.
Drink up, dreamers. You’re running dry.

Imagine for a second that your life is a map. May you never lose sight of your dreams.

♫: Peter Gabriel | Here Comes the Flood (1977)