Plum wine. I can still taste it in my memory, always a bashful reminder of trickling, seeping fondness in wet November. A draught, the cold of an earlier drizzle, is wrapped around us, agonising my hair, as I stand self-consciously, facing you, fingering the mouth of a clear plastic cup, which is dripping with condensation from too many ice cubes that have made the alcohol taste deceptively less threatening. My voice is shrill with mock-shock: You haven’t seen Pulp Fiction or Fight Club? Whiplash? Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? You’re deprived, kid. Add them all to your watch list. You have more important priorities than just films and TV shows, of course. I’m teasing. Stop smiling at me with that look so indecipherable. I ditch your gaze, multiple times, and shift my glance away, pretending to be distracted by the laughter from the bar a distance across, packed with expats and tourists. I look intently at the columns of windows above us, particularly at the ones glowing white, occupied, and wonder aloud, pointlessly, if they’re residential units. My face is turned away from yours, as if I’m taking in the air and ambiance and sky. I’m not. No — I’m telling myself, Steady breathing is good for level-headed thinking. I inhale deeply, in silent drawls: Please part this fog of feeling, so fluttery and foreign, so I might see a clearing. I turn back to you, already a little lost in my reservation. Dazed. We make eager remarks to do This and try That together. Timidly, I wonder, to myself this time, if these are just words that will never be realised. There’s this really amazing restaurant — you need to try it. Bring you there one day. Panic and resignation, sunken in, turn my tongue bitter to the taste. Are we fleeting? These plans… Will we even still be talking at all, one month down the road? I am notorious for provisional companionship. I haven’t made a new, lasting friend in months. Will we drift, and have only nights like this to look back upon when we remember each other, passingly? It pains me to even consider the possibility of either of us just being the other’s A Few Evenings—/—A Warm Lunch—/—My November’s Company—/—Oh, Yes, I Remember, Tenderly, Of Time Well-Spent Together… How Have You Been? What Have You Been Up To? Long Time No See! Talks of the near and distant future. Uncertainties and wants. Dreams bigger than, and beyond, the borders of our small city-state. I think of Roy and his speech we’d just heard less than an hour ago — All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die. I grapple, grasp, grip onto tonight. I cannot predict if you, too, will grab hold — so at least, for now, for me, I think privately, if we are to forget each other, I will not lose this moment, or the others in time, to time, please; I will want to remember you in perfect echo, framed by the moon and neon lights from the bar, on a rooftop overlooking trees that overlook roads that overlook the city from a near afar. You are showing me richness bigger than, and beyond, the borders of my known feeling. My cup is almost empty. My palms are moist. I turn to you — or you turn to me — one of us turns to the other: I don’t want to say goodbye yet. One of us, or both of us, are bending and stretching a moment, into the indefinite bearer of immortal rain. We can continue this inside, or downstairs, or on a sweaty 1.7-kilometer trek to City Hall MRT. Cheaper to book an Uber from there, yes? Yes. Okay. Let’s go. I finish the rest of your plum wine. Sweet as a kiss.
a fortnight ago [redacted] & i spoke of love and loneliness. we always do, and for good reason: we understand each other. she knows what it’s like to get so pointlessly, absurdly, intensely infatuated for months on end it becomes unhealthy and borders on obsession (or maybe the latter bit is just me… two times too many). she both panders to, and rejects, the gripe and thrust of that infatuation the way i have before, and presently, as a preventive measure, refuses its Entry Into Being the way i do and would now, lest either of us remotely entertain its jarring company and have it disrupt our current internal state of affairs — hallmarked by peace. she’s been through the turmoil and experienced firsthand the Clash of the Titans (Feeling and Rationality), and is, or will be, more cautious now, when entering the court.
can you love?
—intimacy scares me, i said.
There is a loneliness that cannot be replaced.
So many hallways and hierarchies I only traverse in my mind. So many characters I keep in constant company that only exist in my head. So many lost figments of time I will never cry through, rejoice through, rage through, live through.
I create too many narratives in my head when I’m alone. They run wild. They take me to countries I’ve never been. They turn me into a person who doesn’t dominate, but who still exists in, who I presently and physically and concretely am.
Dylan: pining, indulgent, brooding. I’ve killed myself four times and wake up after every one of these deaths in sweat and tears. I am hip-hop without the heritage. I am in neighbourhoods I shouldn’t be in. Fucking faceless, nameless, replaceable bodies. I am indifferent to their faces.
Sophie: beautiful, fascinating, charismatic, self-absorbed, terrifying. I am the soul to my art, the soul in my art, the soul of my art. I am Billy Joel on the piano, Basquiat on canvas, Black Sabbath and Sum 41 in my bedroom, Courtney Love on the streets. A hypocrite.
Freya: distant, libido-driven, good-hearted, guilty. I am the throng of thoughts that fill your heads in the aftermath. Heaped with onerous responsibility and expectation. I am the terrible anxiety people should be so lucky to never get, and yet here I am, hard-pressed for penitence and pertinence and potential, fighting against the vacuous strobe of a violin, playing from my heart, without fully being happy.
teething jaguar: bent double, under the bronzed sky, the sun a peach of white, the harvest flaying with pumpkin scorch and tiger striped whiskers of ash. sighted: a single musky wheelbarrow; in it, yellow boots and a child’s raincoat. no baby breaths or bedded moans, but a clean cut of proportion, silence sliced into neat halves by a mellowing of blaze. not even a peep from the old critter who sits out back and barrels through a pack a day, watching the earth split and the continental drift, parting the ground with a rod, reeling the soaked, shivering, sunken moon in with a net.
soft starlight snaking silent streets; lofty lampposts lining lanes… i look up during the walk home, with snippets of the sky through shocks of leafy canopies and between cheap yellow overhead lights — before the welcomed disruption of an open canvas: a slate of sky, sometimes clouded over by wisps of resurrected fallen air, others clear and blank, and on rare occasion, morphed into a palette by brushstroke gradients. often the sky looks like it’s pressed up against a sheet, and i imagine the globe fitted inside a glass dome. i try to picture Earth being flung aside by an enormous Hand and falling down space, only to remember that space has no direction, and then to remember direction is relative to my imaginary position, and by this time the Earth is likely to be a small point engulfed in blackness, and then my mind hits a dead-end because how can i continue to picture something moving further away from me when i can’t picture seeing it, because picturing the microscopic in an infinite space would require a zooming in, which wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway?
when i’m not looking up i keep my head low. i don’t like walking too slow and by habit i switch sides of the street more than once. i listen to too many different things to ascertain what’s typical, but tonight the sky is milky, the lights glazed over by an unidentifiable haze, and uncannily enough Bliss n Eso comes on shuffle. it sounds wistful yet hopeful, and, emotionally, totally accessible. in other words, exactly what i need on this uncharacterisically soppy and giddily sentimental night. it’s a feeling i haven’t had in weeks, maybe months; i have missed the sureness, the familiarity, the warmth, the hint of something less lucid, playfully indulgent.
11pm: dewy and delicate. i know what’s going to come and i am ready for it, whatever the stop signs, however depreciating. just like old times. i am with the clouds, my heart caught in my throat, the rawness potent, almost piquant — if only for tonight.
the water shifts — a soft sliver through a lasso of time, baked in the glint of sun & frothed with a milky sugar glaze. this passage, passing, downstream, in trickles, then in bouts, then in torrents, pressed up against rocky slabs in a victorious deluge, like triumph over what has been conquered, and persistence in what is left to be conquered still. but more so, a gentle waning of river rush; tender sloshes against sand, lapses over moss. pondering, as i do, these travels of mind & breath.
slit-rain against skin;
between fingers, pattering
calm, like lullabies.