Monday, September 10, 2007

Friends Are:

People who won't find it strange that, at all of 26, you would just step into a store and buy $100 worth of Transformers toys, and spend hundreds more on them online.
[China Square Central, 9 Sep 07, 3pm]

People who don't mind that you take karaoke seriously enough to want to sing parts of songs solo, even if they requested those songs in the first place.
[Cash Studio Family Karaoke, Ming Arcade, 8 Sep 07, 11.15pm]

Most of all, people who understand when you don't want to show up for something not because you have anything else on, but simply because you genuinely aren't up to it.
[Home Club, 7 Sep 07, 11.34pm]

Thanks, disparate folks, for making my weekend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Great Mash-Up of Love

Tonight I walk into the hotel where my brother held his wedding dinner five years ago to attend the wedding of a woman who, had I been more courageous, would've been my first girlfriend nine years ago. I'm running late and when I arrive, everyone's in the ballroom and there's only one other guest at the registration counter—a girl whom I had a massive, crippling, consuming four-year-long crush on 13 years ago, and haven't seen in ages. If she recognizes me, she doesn't show it. We slip into the ballroom at the same time as the bride and groom, watching them march in to the song that started my friendship and eventually relationship with my ex-girlfriend, whom I broke up with last year.

All this happens in the space of one minute.

The next ninety are excruciating in the way that dinners with polite strangers are. There are summarized life histories, repeated job descriptions, qualifiers and disclaimers, opinions of the food, and small talk on utterly inoffensive, unfascinating topics. And then there is the video, the how-we-grew-up-and-met-each-other-video slideshow, which unfolds with cheesy aplomb. In its faded photographs I recognize the face that awoke many of my dreams nine years ago. I see the same smiling face in a photograph that I, in the days before digital cameras, enlarged in a photocopier and kept in a file close to my heart, in all its ink-scented, grainy glory. And I see everything else I saw behind that smile.

I suddenly remember, with agonizing force, why I loved her then.

Outside the ballroom, moving down the customary thank-you line, I meet the groom face-to-face for the first time. He knows my name. I'm surprised, and wonder if we knew each other through some other circumstances.

"I don't think so…I think I recognize you from photos. You were playing a guitar?"

Oh yes, that one. I should know.

She took that photo.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bad Disco

Some club nights are like bad sex: you go through the motions, trying to convince yourself you're enjoying it, worrying that you'll just get up and walk out before anything happens, wasting the effort. Nevertheless, if you persist long enough, sheer friction overtakes everything else and there is some climax. But it is an empty one, with no real sense of release.

So it was last night at Home Club. There to check out the post-renovation decor with two friends, I found myself standing in the middle of the dance floor most of the time, allowing the music to pass through me like vapour. All around me youngsters were screaming with excitement as each song began, while I wondered what song could possibly evoke the same response in me, having heard them so many times in this way already. Eventually one came on, and I danced myself into a sincere frenzy for three minutes.

A while later, as we sat outside the club, I thought about how quickly I tire of these things. In 2005, I was going mad for the whole experience. Barely two months ago, I re-embraced it with great enthusiasm. Now, this. Then I had a strange thought: if I fell in love with a girl who recently discovered indie disco, would she renew the experience for me, or would it be a case of right person, wrong time? When we fuck, would I relish her, or just gaze emptily at her young breasts, wishing this had happened two years ago?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mind Games

We sat on the bench to cool down, you clearly more spent than I.

I don't remember anything you said until the words: "she's flying there again in May."

Sensing an opportunity, I said: "I wonder how people like them keep it going. It must be hard."

"She must trust him a lot."

"And he must trust her a lot too," I added, trying to push the point.

"You never met him, did you."

I shook my head slowly, heavy as it was with unspoken things.

The conversation stopped there as you bent down to tighten your shoelaces, but continued unfolding with menacing speed in my mind, gathering force, a boulder rolling off my tongue, catching your sleeve and dragging us down an exciting, terrifying slope together.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Yes, You Could Say We Know Each Other

I can picture this: him pausing for a moment, thumb resting on the call button, wondering why he has to collect himself. I can sense the swing in his emotions as she tells him she's already having dinner with someone, but he could join in anyway. I don't know what his car looks like, but I imagine it swerving restlessly past rows of occupied lots as he agonises over his thwarted chances tonight.

I feel the lump in his throat as our eyes meet.

For the rest of the dinner, I can only wonder about the extent of his inner struggle: trying to inch his way further into her favour while delicately maintaining a professional distance with me. It's a clumsy performance. But I help him--and perhaps myself--by hijacking the conversation. What both of us separately hoped would be a night with her then becomes a night between us, cordially discussing the intersections in our lives; plumbing the depths of our useless but endless troves of general knowledge; wandering into philosophical territory without really disagreeing (but of course; I wouldn't dream of disagreeing with him). And through it all, she sits on the sidelines, listening in.

It should've made me angry. Instead, it was thoroughly refreshing, not only because of the privilege of seeing him with his defences lowered, but also because being able to engage him in conversation made me feel smarter than I've felt in years (he is a really intelligent person after all; just look at where it's gotten him in life). I parted ways with them feeling strangely invigorated and pleased with myself.

This feeling stayed with me until many hours later, when I imagined her closing the door of his car at the foot of her flat.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Down and Hold It There

When the lean, sprightly Physical Training Instructor bellowed for us to go into push-up position, I felt the indignity of failure creep up my arms.

It emerged from somewhere deep in the ground, cutting into my palms and winding up my trembling veins. An exercise normally used as a punishment for trainees in the armed forces, I had not assumed the position in years. I wondered if my sense of helplessness was because I shouldn't have been made to do it, or because I couldn't.

As I hung my head waiting for the first count, I saw between my awkward legs rows upon rows of sloppily dressed men, no longer soldiers but the fathers of children and the managers of employees. In their low-hung heads and raised asses, I playfully imagined a tacit, unspoken shame: the shame of being deemed too unfit to defend the nation in times of war, despite everything else they had achieved in life.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Good Ol' Fashioned White Supremacy

There's nothing a little beer can't fix. So even if no-one else felt the strangeness of being the only Chinese male in a room of four Chinese girls and their Caucasian boyfriends; even if no-one else was a little overwhelmed by their Caucasian-ness and annoyed by their repeated flouting of the non-smoking rule; even if no-one realised my karaoke songs were being queued forever because everyone was inserting songs ahead of those I'd chosen; I was soon one with them in inebriation, hamming it up with air guitar and bad rock star impersonations.

And who am I to talk, really, when the only music I like, the only music I've ever listened to, and the only music I can be arsed to sing is made by people with surnames like Anderson and Butler?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Stranger on the Train

There are girls who are cute. There are girls who are pretty. There are girls who, with some self-convincing, can appear cute or pretty. These girls inspire protective, macho shit tendencies in guys.

But every once in a while, there is a girl so goddamn beautiful that all she makes you feel is weakness. I saw one such girl on the train to work today. I kept stealing glances at her, every faculty in me quivering; trying desperately to memorise her face, her aura and her manner in the minutes I had. I did this because I knew I would forget them--and maybe even the fact that I saw her--by the end of the day.

Hours later, some of it remains. I could easily mention what it is, but in many ways, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think, therefore, that it is sufficient to record that I experienced it like an arrow, rather than defile it by reducing it to misunderstandable, incomplete words.