My friend Paul once told me that he was sold under sin. “I know the law is spiritual,” he would say. “But I am of the flesh. Sold under sin.”
Isn’t this how we feel, too?
“I am full of myself.” I remember him saying as I carefully admire my metallic blue nails and scrutinize my reflection in a glass window thinking I need to lose a couple more pounds. I hear him and blush in embarrassment. But this feeling doesn’t linger.
You don’t understand. My friends are skinnier, prettier, and better-dressed. People look at me when I watch the latest blockbuster alone. I can’t even take a holiday Groupon without having to pay for two. The kid that sits beside me is paid more and she was just the intern last week. If I don’t come to work on my off days, I can’t keep up. And the next thing you know the New Year project will be given to the rookie.
“What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another,” Paul sips his English Breakfast Tea. “I do things I absolutely despise.” He pauses for thought before he looks intently at me. “If I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and do it, it’s obvious that His teachings are necessary.”
So I sign up for Pilates at $55 a session and go to the gym at least three times a week. I feel naked without a few layers of Bobbi Brown or Make Up For Ever and I buy at least one Tod’s a year. I didn’t visit that designer outlet mall when I was in Tuscany because I heard collections there are specially designed for outlet malls. Who would want to be seen with an outlet Balenciaga? I’ll hold out for the one on display at Rodeo Drive. I’m working 7 days this week. (Who isn’t?) I’ve missed church this month, but I’m so excited they gave me the Adam Lambert concert this June. My boyfriend’s 6’2’’ and perfectly chiselled like Michelangelo’s David. He’s smart, funny, and pays for everything.
“But I need something more!” Paul says, exhausted.
We are by the east river and we sit at a bench near the water. Kids on bicycles and old couples with 8 dogs on leashes are whizzing by. “I obviously need help!” He buries his face into his hands. His stature is statelier now, yet this posture is the weakest I have ever seen him in.
“I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.”
I am turning 30 today. My savings plan is a couple of hundred dollars shy of what it should be. I am the boss yet still work harder than everyone else. I have a mortgage but no husband (or cat). My guest room is usually empty and the other spare room is my walk-in closet. I am currently single, depending on whether you define that as unmarried or simply uncommitted. I do have a man. But it’s nothing serious. Who needs all that drama? I still take that trip with mom and sis every year, but I wish we could do more together. I remember dreaming a better life than this, but surely my life is better than most.
“It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is lurking nearby,” I listen to Paul as he puts aside the book he is reading. He is much older now and there is almost no strand of brown hair on his head.
“I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.”
“I am in love, Paul,” I finally say. “But he doesn’t love me. Or at least not enough.”
I know he is about to start his lessons again like he always does when I visit. But today, I wanted to talk about me for a change.
“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps,” Paul continues as though not hearing a word I just said. “I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?”
Overwhelmed with pity, I set aside my thoughts and touch his wrinkled hands.
“We are alone, Paul.”
“No, we are not,” he gently answers. “Listen. I have more stories to tell.”
I’ve joined Meetup. No it’s not a dating site. But yes, it’s one of those social networking sites that classify its members according to their interests and then suggests Meetup groups best suited to them. I have recently become a member and have joined one Meetup group.
A few months ago, a performer came up to me and threw the idea of Meetup while we were washing hands in the ladies room. The scene went something like this:
She: Hey, Kai! Have you heard of Meetup.com?
She: Oh my gosh! You should totally check it out. (And then she begins to explain the whole concept of the site)
Me: Oh… (a little lost why this had anything to do with me)
She: I’ve been to a vegetarian dinner and I’ve joined this running group too. I don’t know, I just thought about you the other day and how you are always on work mode every time I see you. I thought maybe you’re just like me who doesn’t really have much time to socialize or what-not.
Me: I see… (laughing with her at this point) Did you say Meetup.com?
And that was that. Regretfully, I can’t tell you my social life overturned that day. I returned to my work mode self and had completely forgotten about that conversation until my friend Herne reminded me about it. If you know Herne, she is the kind that prods, nudges, demands, and even drives you there (if you’re really that stubborn). And so with grave hesitation, I visited the website, signed up, and joined a Meetup called The Singapore Writers Group. My first visit was exhilarating. Writers from different cultures, races, and nationalities sat in a cozy living room—some read their work, the rest listened and shared their thoughts of each piece. It is utterly terrifying to me to share my work with over 20 strangers, much less reading it aloud in front of them. But I do see a great advantage in doing it (one that may possibly outweigh my fears). The keyword is: feedback. As petrified as I am to hear random people dissect my writing right in front of me, I feel it will greatly benefit my work. I chose a piece that I recently wrote; a piece that is fresh from the oven (and may open spectators to see through me). But never mind that. Tonight is the night. And it is time to face my fears.
photo by ~T-JO
When you decide she’s perfect, think again. Here’s 10 reasons why girls will be girls.
1. She’s never been the kind that checks up on you when you’re out. You’ll never catch her snooping around your phone on your way back from the loo. She trusts you 101%. She doesn’t ask when you cancel because of gym night. She even says you look hotter the next day.
TRUTH: He’s out tonight. He’s out tonight. Darn that passcode! Why does he lock his phone anyway?! Doesn’t he go only twice a week? Why does it feel like he goes to the gym every single day now! …Be cool. Let him think you care nothing for trivialities. You know you’ve got friends watching.
2. It’s past midnight and you’re not home. She doesn’t text or call. What an angel.
TRUTH: What the %#*&@?!?!?!! Who does he think he is?! …Calm down. Remember: you’re his girlfriend, not his mother. Only start yelling after he’s said “I do”. Who wants to marry a madwoman?
3. First date jitters. She worked all day so you don’t mind that she was a tad bit late. Awkward smiles. A faint brush of arm and hand. Interesting conversation. You can’t wait to get to know her more.
TRUTH: He’s recently single, plays basketball (so talk about that), he has a dog (you have one too!), he’s not much of a drinker (one latte, please), and photos on his Facebook show his sisters in neat flower dresses (darn, where’s that thing from Aunt Judy..oh I’m gonna be late).
4. There’s that guy that always hangs around her office. Good-looking. Touchy. Maybe you’re keeping an eye on him. Maybe.
TRUTH: Hey handsome, how’s the boyfriend? Stick around, my man’s ’round the corner. There’s nothing like keeping him on his toes.
5. They’ve broken up. She’s been silent all week. Is it really over for her?
TRUTH: Make him regret what he did. Pfffff. How you like waiting around now punk?! You’ll come crawling back in no time.
6. It’s the first time you’re meeting her family. She’s quiet, polite, and dares not show any affection. Totally unlike when you two are alone. She’s probably nervous and wants to make a good first impression.
TRUTH: He’s real conservative, mother. See how he’s just sitting there? I even let him wear that ugly shirt. Come on. This one’s really hot. He makes me look like Angelina Jolie when Brad left Jen.
7. You cheat on your girlfriend with her. She’s nothing like your lady and she gives you all the attention you need. Eyes swollen from last night, you finally decide to leave the already-dying relationship and perhaps ready to start a new one with her (only to find out she’s already fallen for someone else). Once you had two, now you have none.
TRUTH: Oh my gawd, when oh when will he ever leave her for me? It’s been months and I hate this feeling of being second place. Along comes Steve. And he’s already leaving his wife! Oh I’m in love. (I know, I can’t bear this kind, too)
8. The bill comes and she offers to split it. Really? No, I got it. Please, I insist, she says, it’s not like this is a date. Ouch! You feel that steak in the heart. It isn’t? And you’re left thinking all night if you’ll ever clear the friend zone.
TRUTH: That idiot really made me pay. Well at least that made him think I’m not interested. He’ll be in love by next week.
9. You’re starting to like her and she’s fun to be around. You hang out a lot but you’re not intending for things to be serious. You’ve gone out for coffee, seen a few flicks, even had dinner once. She’s cool.
TRUTH: He’s so awesome. I think I love him (*insert dreamy eyes here). But what does he mean by let’s just chill?! Are we together or are we not? I’m thinking two kids–a boy and a girl. But we must have our honeymoon years first.
10. I don’t want anything for my birthday. Really! You’re scared about this line. You’re thinking you won’t fall for it like “split-the-bill-Joe”. This is obviously a trick. So you surprise her with flowers and chocolates, take her out on a fancy dinner, and reserve exclusive movie tickets to those theaters with La-Z-Boys and bell service. You spend at least $500.
TRUTH: You almost disappointed me there. But well done, my man. Well done.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
cover photo by
At 1:57 in the morning, I had this inexplicable jolt at the pit of my stomach and at that middle section of one’s chest where you usually feel pain when you’ve skipped a meal. I immediately brushed off the feeling thinking I am about to have one of those stomach cramps I often get when I have a tall caramel macchiato with an empty stomach. Yet a little while later, I realized no that’s not it. I had been reading a number of blogs before this pain kicked in (as I usually do before going to bed), and I stopped at a travel blog (by a Filipino) that was celebrating its 7th year. Wow, I thought to myself. Seven years. You see, I had always known I’d be a writer ever since I was 10. No matter what profession or industry I’d end up breadwinning at, I was always sure I would write. I remember writing short stories when I was in 5th grade and boldly handing pages over to my English teacher. I’d watch her read and giggle to parts where the boy meets the girl or the girl falls in love. I remember writing about AJ McLean and Nick Carter fighting over a girl (obviously, that was me), and how stapled chapters would randomly bounce around desks in my Grade 6 classroom. As I grew older though, my writing became all too personal. Things happen in young women’s lives and I dealt with mine through writing. This time, perhaps only a few trusted friends in class got to pass it around. In the latter years of high school, I evolved into an income-generating writer. I’d get paid to write book reports, paid to read books and offer my opinion, collect a fee for storytelling an entire Harry Potter book (bystanders were advised to pay or clear the hall)… you know, that sort of thing. It wasn’t until college or a little after that that my writing really became private. I still wrote for the purpose of sharing to friends and colleagues; however, there were stuff I’d write just for me (and archived). Over the years, writing became my cure. When I wrote, things mattered little (or more), hurts began healing (or maybe deepened), reality was uncovered (or perhaps hidden instead). Whatever writing did, I was sure it did more for me than for anyone else. And so here we are: now at 2:37 in the morning and still deciding whether the annoying pain in my stomach is gastronomically related or is it a wake-up call to finally write—and write to be read. In truth, I have opened and closed 4 to 6 blogs in the past 2 to 3 years. Half of them were real dot-coms!—as in buying a real domain and paying for web hosting services. The irony of it all was: no one knew I had them. I mean, technically there were maybe 5 or more people that knew these blogs existed, and apart from an article here and an entry there, I was never bold enough to share any of these highly paid websites/blogs. Nothing was tied to my Facebook or Twitter (or any other social networking platforms out there). I lived in peace knowing I wrote and no one knew who I was. Some random bloggers have commented here and there, but I was sold to the idea that there was no better friend than Anonymity. Now at 2:48AM… Should I? Or should I not? Maybe it was merely a temporal surge of envy when I read that blog’s 7th year anniversary. Maybe it was approving that one comment I got today from one of 5 friends that know my current blog. Maybe it’s knowing I am publishing into an air bubble that is read by no one and accomplishing nothing but my selfish need for verbal release. I don’t know. What I do know is that it is 2:56AM and my gut tells me it’s time to unmask. You have no idea how fearful I am at this moment that in this process of unmasking… that my writing will be criticized, subject to the opinion of others, to be ravaged in the lion’s den and spat upon by better minds.
No matter. Here’s my two cents anyway. Live. And readable.