I poke at mother’s steaming dumplings (laid on one of those fancy china plates)
with a pair of chopsticks. She then scolds me for my improper use of the chopsticks;
my cloddish grip,
the way my dumpling-prodding is unsightly. Apparently, I am
never to use chopsticks like this again.
Mother iterates this like the chiding I have earnt is parable;
Unwittingly, I cut into her hemming and hawing,
brutishly, unanchored – like how I held the chopsticks.
Then why don’t I just eat the dumplings with a fork?
Her response is short and punchy, like what poetry websites want
in contributors’ submissions’;
How dare you
say that? Then don’t eat dumplings, don’t eat dinner – eat air with a fork!
My face crumples,
but I go on to tell my children How dare you when I realize that my
my cloddish grip
has been passed onto them. Sigh.
I am fourteen years old, easing into the Asian-way of things – fumbling throubh various steamboats and lo heis on Chinese New Year.
This clumsiness is an annual affair.
It was the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last time that I fell in love with freedom.
I like freedom. I like the taste of freedom as it sits in a cold ball, frozen and perched on an ice-cream cone. It teeters off the edge of the wafer, but I manage to get in five surreptitious licks before mom catches me for buying ice-cream in the first place, and worst off, dripping it all over the floor.
Sometimes I feel freedom whip through my hair like sea-salt. It musses up strands with nimble fingers and teases out tangles after. My hair is usually flat, but when freedom cards through it, my hair expands, puffing up to its true volume. I wish it could stay like that forever, even though it’s not very neat and I don’t look presentable after freedom leaves its mark on my head, in the form of a tornado-ing, flapping curtain of hair streaming behind me.
Freedom is a creature that slips as stealthily as a shadow in the night; it cannot be seen against black satin sky and creeps into my bedroom when it wants to, without my knowledge. The next morning, freedom is always there, tickling my shoulders with mocking laughter and informing me of the latest secrets I’d spilt while sleep-talking – I meant to tell freedom to fuck off, but what came out was a Freudian slip: I said fuck me, all the while staring at freedom’s happy face and grinning eyes and loving the way it slid into my room in the deepest corners of the night, watching over me as I slept.
I love freedom. I love freedom as it sings me to me Siren songs of mermaids at sea, of little black boys swinging lunch-pails to school, of girls like me who are blessed, blessed with money and boobs that fill a bra and blonde hair that freedom likes to play with.
I love freedom and that is why my hair isn’t the only thing I let freedom play with; I let freedom play with myself. My being. Every fiber of my body. Me. I become freedom’s plaything, and as I run to the park – without screams of ‘watch out, don’t come back too late’ like the other kids’ moms warn – and hoist myself up on the swings and shriek a happy tune like freedom taught me and bare myself to the world, like freedom taught me, with my skirt hiked up and blouse undone and hair untied, I feel like the happiest girl in the world.
Don’t they say to live life with the person who makes you happiest? This is my attempt at personifying an exhilarating, wondrous thing called freedom.
I wrote this on a whim (definitely, as seen from the quality of this…), and it’s unedited (who am I kidding, most of the content on this blog is raw as hell), but I’m not going to be self-conscious about it. 🙂
Another day, another battle.
She sits on the couch, one leg spread out, the other bent at an angle comfortable enough—balanced atop her knee is a bowl, and in the bowl lie six cubes of papaya, orange and vibrant. The fruit must not fall off! She rotates her ankle slightly, adjusting position so the bowl is resting firmly on her knee.
The sight of papaya, its shimmering sheen making it look like an exorbitant jewel in the light of the sun’s rays, elicits a strange heat from her belly. It starts from the pit of her abdomen and blooms up; the heat consumes her front and before long, arches over the straps of her bra and criss-crosses, like a decorative lattice, into the curve of her spine.
I want to eat it. There is music playing on the T.V in front of her. The television is on, like it was when she first sprawled on the couch a month ago, ready to eat her weight in fruit and drink her sorrows away with some form of tasteful drink. Never water, never green tea, never anything that would be deemed ‘nutritious’ on a health broadcast.
I eat healthily, she thinks, shoving slice after slice of pineapple into her mouth. I eat healthily, she sighs, as watermelon juice, red and sometimes sticky, trails down her arms, down her chin, straight into the hollow of her neck, and across her thighs (eating fruit without pants was a great decision, one of the greatest decisions she’d ever made) in the reddest organic glory. I eat healthily, she murmurs softly to herself, eyes downcast and away from the screen of her T.V—her gaze is fixated on the paleness of her banana, freshly-peeled and curving gently into a smile, one that could rival that of the Nepalese.
It is a rainy afternoon. She decides that it is an afternoon for bananas, and separates one of the fruit from its yellow bunch. As the waxy skin comes apart in her hands, she thinks of how it had felt when she was with a group of people, thick as thieves…tight as a bunch of bananas.
How it had felt when someone tore her away from the familiar greenishyellowgreenishyellowgreenyellow colour that she had grown up with. Her nail pierces through the skin of the banana/
How it had felt when someone unravelled her with their own hands. Her finger slides from the top of the banana, now pale and looking extremely…vulnerable (she thinks that vulnerable sits wrong, yet right, when being used to describe a fruit without its skin) in her palms. Her finger traces the tip and then dips into the curve, and smoothens back up against the moist texture of the banana.
How it had felt when she lay there, smooth and unblemished, slipping out of her mother’s womb gently, a smile on her face as nurses wiped away gel and other messy fluids.
You had been born smiling, her mother says. Your dimples showed before your eyes could crinkle, full of tears.
A thought comes to her mind. No, the smiles of Nepalese people are brighter than that of bananas. She takes a fork and slices the banana. A coin-sized shape of the fruit lays nestled in her palm, the paleness of the banana slice contrasting her dark skin.
She pops it into her mouth, and repeats the same process for the rest of the sliced fruit. Hold slice, look at slice, admire the contrast…eat slice.
When the banana is fully eaten, she cleans up her couch-space. The banana peel is deposited into the trash bin, and her table is cleaned of seeds from various fruits. She washes the bowls stacked up in her sink; the translucent juices of fruits: red yellow green orange red yellow green brown remind her of how healthy she’d been eating this past month.
The T.V is still on when she arrives back to where she started—the couch—and she turns it off. The silence is unsettling, almost disapproving, like the static air around her is settling into a frown.
So, she smiles.
Taste-tester 1: Overflowing sinks
These days there is nothing I want to actually do, except for
mope around like the saddest animal alive, ravaged,
hair bloodied and sticking to my back like cold prickle. The heat is
definitely overwhelming, creating red haze and decorating my
nose and forehead and gaps between my fingers with beads of sweat..
…Every time I pick up the scoop with its silver
surface and its mint handle, I watch the chocolate dribble down its edges and feel the
freeze of ice cream trickle down my wrist before I actually
spoon it into my mouth. The brown colour leaves streaks into the whiteness of my clothes
and I am reminded of how my actions dirtied others who probably
who get stained way too easily, anyway…
I tell myself to wake up from my stupid songs and silly daydreams but the hurt of reality slices into me far too deep; and
... I find myself hesitating,
halting, tears slipping warmly down my cheeks like the open faucet of a sink;
I will not try, today, although I want to, because it doesn’t matter if I get
strong when all the doctors hear is a weak heart-beat inside of me. Instead, I leave
speak to anyone who will listen; telling them that I’m not strong enough to turn the tap
off so I’ll just leave it running, and wait for the sink to overflow.
My sincerest apologies.
I wrote a little paragraph of poetry to keep myself going – I must live out the blissful holiday-days slowly but sweetly, savouring each bit like ice cream melting beneath my teeth, on top of my tongue.
P.S please leave your truthful feedback in the comments, or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk more!
Maybe I’m not in the position to say that, but whatever: I’m tired as hell and my eye-bags carry only slightly less what my hiking-day pack usually consists of; I’m proud to a certain extent of my eye-bags, but other than that wish I would look less like the dead.
There are usually some days where the sky is overcast, cloud and mist collide together to blanket the city in gloomy grayness, and the real thunderstorm surges on within my being. It’s funny how my body can feel so alive, like it’s buzzing with tiredness, numb from the pain of pulling all-nighters, vibrating with the thought of staying up another night with cans of cold coffee to keep me company.
I truly feel like the dead when guzzling down coffee–the silky liquid, cold, does wonders to my throat and wakes up my mind just enough to last for, what, another one and a half to two hours? I truly feel like the dead when part of my vision is blocked by the crusty dirt lining my eyes like some kind of top-brand, highest-grade eyeliner–what natural decor, honestly! I truly feel like the dead when it’s already one hour to noon, 11 a.m and all I want to do is crash into my bed like an airplane wreck and not in the smooth, touch-down kind of way, either.
I truly feel like the dead when my mom’s special pepper pan-fried eggs fail to inject any energy into my veins. Yikes. That’s when I know that I’m finished.
What are holidays, anyway? They’re kind of painful once you get into the thick of it, perhaps two-weeks into the four-week holiday, you feel like you’re completely and absolutely screwed: How many days did you spend lounging around? How many outings did you go out on, how many planned-places-to-go-to did you actually go out of the house for? How many library books did you borrow, how many did you actually read, glossy cover to back-page? How many weekends did you save for the gym, only to watch Korean ramas while binge-eating Korean BBQ chicken from a microwavable package? How many words did you write; you pledged to write half a novel this Summer holidays, didn’t you?
YIKES, you did it again–how many days did you while away? Did your rest more than you deserved to or slept far too little?
I need more discipline. It’ll make me feel more dead, but at least my brain will be occupied and not jump to thinking of even more idiotic, self-destructive questions.
I think I’ll yank the covers over my nose for now, let the laptop burn an unhealthy stain into my comforter, and slip beneath the shore-line of sleep.
there are many things you can do to make your life better.
You just have to take the first step, like I did. And as someone who took the first step to salvage a life littered with broken dreams and bloodied question marks, I will tell you that it is hard. It was hard to take the first step, because it will feel like stepping on glass fragments, wearing thin-soled shoes. The bottom of your feet will spring apart in curling skin and red streaks; the First Step will leave harsh scars on the pads of your feet and remind you that it was painful to keep walking.
But that’s the thing–you did. You continued to walk. You had taken the first step, and there was no where else to go: Not backwards, not to the left, not veering off to the right–the only path traced out in the dirt was forward.
So you picked up the pace, and started trekking.
[LISTEN,] A new series that will be cross-posted on Paperguts, a new online journal that aims to cultivate appreciation for the arts (in all of its forms) within the youth community–and hopefully instill passion, inspire hopes and enable dreams.
If you’d like to contribute to Paperguts, please email your submission (photograph, music, art-work, poetry, prose, flash-fiction, letter) to