Rambles

I write & shoot (photographs) occasionally

Month: April, 2015

places

In a daze in school, thinking about the places studying has brought me. Surprisingly deserted benches in school, staring at greenery and cars and people and reflections. Coffee beans, writing in my unchangeable forceful manner as the poor rickety table quakes in tandem with my words, stepping on its legs so I can write more naturally. Starbucks by waters, as day falls away outside into artificial lights tremulating with the waves. Public library spaces in incredibly high demand, queueing at doors before opening hours and quite literally running to third and fourth floors to get seats, awkward encounters with familiar strangers. Woody school libraries, hidden by shelves of books, enclosed desks meant to shut out the world around you.

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7th uncle

I can’t quite understand what drives me suddenly to write about an uncle I’ve known for the whole of my 17 years of life, but really know nothing about. And maybe I’ll ask myself: why him, out of the many uncles I have? But the sad thing is that our minds are limited: there are only that many people we can wonder about and that many people we put pen to paper (or keyboard to screen) for. Maybe you want to for them, or maybe the rest are just not worth it. And maybe I’m just a being incredibly propelled by feelings and I feel like writing about him: so I will.

My mother comes from a huge family even though I barely see some of them. It comes to a situation where I have so many uncles and I call all of them by the universal title of ‘uncle’ that it becomes confusing for them who I am greeting when they are congregated in the same area. (Sometimes I end  up calling ‘uncle’, ‘uncle’, ‘uncle’ which I always find amusing.)

My 7th uncle lives with my grandmother, so I see him every time we visit her. When I try to retrieve past memories of him I realise I can’t remember him ever looking different: always shirtless at home like so many uncles in our sunny island, sometimes with a bulky pouch strapped around his waist, hairline receding slightly. He is quiet, in his reclining chair by the computer, eyes scanning the TV screen. He is most comfortable speaking in Hokkien but he speaks to me and my sister in Chinese because we don’t understand much of dialect. My mother’s side of the family has this uncanny ability of defying age and he looks much younger than a man of over 50.

The thing is, when someone resides in the corners of your life, a presence not quite rooted but never absent as well, your mind always remembers them in the same way. I forget that age catches up to all of us. Over lunch today as he worked the chopsticks in his usual expert manner, lifting the rice bowl close to his face, I noticed silver bristles in his moustache standing out amid the black. It isn’t any massive discovery, but I never noticed it until today.

It’s clear to them that I’m growing up: in five years I’ve probably shot up a head or two. But in adulthood the effects of age become the faint shadow of a cloud, creeping inconspicuously upon features and changing them with the excruciatingly patient hand of an artist: a deepened wrinkle, another white hair or two, so invisible in the mad rush of our young lives that I forget they are still growing too.

I’ll always remember him for his kindness: filled red packets during chinese new year regardless of business success, unexpected christmas gifts handed to us without words, in his characteristic manner of not making a fuss out of generosity, downplaying his actions, a reassuring quietness and gentleness that you know expects nothing back.

easter vigil

The fire dances in a way that is unparalleled: fearless, free, sporadic, frenetic; limbs unchained to any article of shame or self-consciousness, lashing out at the air, embers flying free. It is a wondrous light beneath this moon, primitive creature drawing the eyes of people- tens, hundreds- huddled together clutching unlit candles, silent chatter. It is quite beautiful how our ears have eased themselves into the peaks and valleys of these prayers, that their inflections uttered beneath bowed heads might sweep across the crowd like a tender, familiar wave. The flames spread, sparks of hope lining up, painting pillars and arches a warm dusky orange as we proceed, light and shadows flickering as rich voices sing. Time is lost, the church is alight with the flame he has ignited in each believer.

museums and marina bay in black and white from ages ago

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the irony of feeling tremendous emotions from little matters and minute feelings from large ones