想笑就笑,想哭就哭

梦醒般发觉人生也不过如此,这样也跌跌撞撞地过了四分之一。过往好多歉疚没能安心的处理所以好几次跟自己过意不去。最近又和要好的朋友闹翻后,以一句 ”我们把这件事忘了吧” 和好如初。经不起考验的友谊或爱情又何必留着当废墟品?虽然平淡有平淡的美,可是能让你整夜安不了心的事也有它的精彩。也许人生的无奈在于太安心所以生活无聊没意义。我也该谢谢周边让我无奈的一切。

记忆中自己好像坚强许多,没那么常自责而顾虑的少很多。好久以前,曾为琐碎事物伤心难过,而如今不再放在心里的人与事真的好多。遗憾是难免的- 后来选择离开才不会留下更多不美好的记忆。但如果尝试挽救,后果一百八十度转变也有可能。人非神仙,我也只能后知后觉。

曾以凡事都是生命的考题来对待生活,我学了很多也发现自己逐渐把本子关上,不依赖课本步行生命之陆。完美而正确的答案不重要,也根本不存在。

“人生短短几十年,不要给自己留下什么遗憾,想笑就笑,想哭就哭,该爱的时候就去爱,无谓压抑自己。”

你啊,不能永远败在寻找完美的答案。

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

An Uber Encounter, An Epiphany

The probability of ever getting a ride on the same cab with the same driver in Singapore, within a month, is approximately less than 5%, assuming 15 rides per month and official statistics as of August 2015: the current fleet of taxis in SG being 28,404, with 2 or 3 shift-based cabbies are tied to a vehicle (~70,000 drivers), and P(n,k)=1−(n!/n^k(nk)!).

Don’t quote me on that. Math was never my strong point. Plus the statistics of which is not important to the story I’m about to tell.

Couple of nights ago: 4:35am 

I start my workday at the wee hours of morning, at the end of a typical graveyard shift. As always, I book a cab from  Uber or GrabTaxi, with the former being my preferred app, right before stepping out from the door. The driver was already waiting for me  at the sheltered drop-off. When I get in, he says: “Hello. Remember me? I drove you. Last last week.”

He’s a bespectacled Malay man in his 50s. Although he does not smile or look me in the eye as he revs up the car, his verbal acknowledgement was already a nice gesture.

“Yea I remember!” But honestly I don’t.

“You know how I remember? I see same pickup address, you also going to Central, and I see your Dad – downstairs to see you off, just like last time. I think to myself – same one!”

I laugh. That’s right. Uber drivers between 2 – 5am in my residential area revolved around the same handful anyway. It’s no surprise he’s driven me twice.

“Why you go to work so early? F&B?”

And so goes the long explanation of why despite working in a corporate office, I’m part of a team of shift-work warriors.

The cabbie laughs at this point, says “You must be earning more than usual la. This kind of timing you work, so hard, how you sleep in the afternoon?”

And we go back and forth with ways we both try to stay awake. His shifts are from 4ish in the morning to 3pm. The conversation shifted to his daughter who works at the DNATA, Changi Airport, who’s shift only ends a little past midnight. By the time she reaches home, it’s usually 2am.

“You see, your father come downstairs send you to work. Very sweet of him. I also, want to send my daughter to work, but no chance la. We difference shift. Everyday only see her 1 or 2 hours, if I wake up early, otherwise, don’t even see her.”

“Do you send her home sometimes?”

“No la, airport provide transport. She la, follow my footsteps. I also work at airport DNATA for 20 over years before becoming a taxi driver. She always wanted to work at airport. Her choice la. Want to spend time with her, I wake up 3 hours earlier to eat with her. She supper I breakfast. Sometimes I wake up, she too tired, she just sleep. Cannot spend time together.”

And then it dawned on me: perhaps dad just wants to spend a little more time with me. When I was a stewardess and even now as an analyst working on shifts, Dad makes the effort to get out of bed at the most insane timings, whenever it’s dark and creepy outside, just so he could (a) help me with my hugeass luggage, (b) make sure I don’t get attacked by stray dogs in my hood, (c) prevent me getting kidnapped, even though I’m physically more able to drop-kick somebody in comparison to my Dad, and (d) take down the taxi car-plate, remember the taxi driver’s face and flash cabbies the ‘nobody-messes-with-my-daughter’ face, in case somehow I do end up missing. Perhaps it’s all of the above, and a very simple fact that he just wishes to spend a little time with me.

For 2 years, I was never chatty while waiting for my taxi. I was always anxious to report for flight. Usually I’d taken too long to pack/makeup/paint my nails/eat or just plain procrastinated till the last minute. Sometimes, being the headstrong independent person I tend to be, I got impatient and insisted on rolling the luggage by myself as I am very used to carrying my own luggage. But thinking back, there was never a time I was left alone to wait for taxis by my own, in the dead of the night. My almost 70-year-old Dad waits with me.

It’s crazy how lucky I am for this little sacrifices (of sleep and time) from my loved ones. I’d taken these acts for granted., thinking Dad would always be my ‘cab companion’, so instead of talking to him, I’m usually too tired and grouchy to speak, having been disrupted from a healthy night’s sleep. Maybe another time. Just like how the cabbie’s daughter falls asleep thinking that there’d always be another supper with her daddy, when her dad has already woken up prepared to spend time with her. But what I often forget, is that just like how the cabbie sacrifices his sleep to see his daughter, Dad wakes up in the middle of the night to see me off too.

Often we don’t get the luxury of the same chances, over and over again. And because I do, I’ve been really blessed.

Amazing how a simple chat with an Uber driver could bring such clarity.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

P.S. On a side note, I was in Bangkok for a short getaway last week, and instead of hailing cabs off the street, I used UberX for all of my solo transport needs. Guess what? Each trip (albeit only within central Bangkok) amounted to about 50-90THB, which was SGD$2 – 5. I literally grabbed UberXs every single time, even for short distances from Nana’s Place to Terminal 21, or even though I could have taken the metro. Spoilt for choice!

[DIARY] GOODBYE SINGAPORE AIRLINES

Ending my career as a stewardess was perhaps the best decision I’ve made this year. Letting go of this comfort zone I had (unfortunately) sunk into for the past 2 years involved lots of anxiety, doubt, and inevitable thoughts of missing the globetrotting lifestyle. Nevertheless I made my decision quickly and set my heart for the big change when the opportunity to work as a media analyst came. There were spurts of excitement and also joy at finally stepping into an industry I might actually have a genuine interest in.

“You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It wont happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.”
― Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential

Mixed feelings aside, one must always look ahead and move on in life. Thinking back, it was a whirlwind of fun & adventure being a cabin crew at one of the world’s ‘best airlines”. Work was hard, schedules could be crazy, rosters were sometimes bad, and there were months I went without meeting friends outside of the airlines industry… BUT I don’t and will never regret these two+ years with SIA. This insightful journey was exhilarating, at times excruciating, and came with many lessons to be learnt.

Things I already miss:

1. Job title: FLIGHT STEWARDESS.
Onboard, I’ve been called by many other names: Miss, Li, Darling, Sweetheart, Eh, Excuse Me, Hello, Auntie, Jiejie, and nonverbal gestures such passengers pulling my kebaya or waving their hands wildly in the air to get my attention.

singapore girl crew

2. The Singapore Girl hairdo.
Despite the strict grooming guide, there are as many variations as there are flight stewardesses in SIA. Seniority (on first impression) is based on the height of your hump (that height-enhancing bump on your head, derived from resemblances to camel humps). I actually miss this fuss-free chignon – when I mean fuss-free I refer to not having hair all over my face, not time taken to prepare.

SIA girl

3. Quintessentially, HEAVY DUTY MAKEUP.
For long flights we can wear them up to 18 hrs (14hr flight time + 2hr reporting time + 1 hr preparation at home + 1hr travelling from airport to hotel after touchdown). The worst thing is: falling asleep without removing them! This is why I grew so unaccustomed to my own bare face.

4. PARIS. LONDON. ZURICH. GREECE.
Oh the places you’ll go, without ever having to take any work home. Once we touchdown at the destination, HOLA FREEDOM until the wake-up call for your next flight sector. I’m happy to say I’ve touched all corners of the earth that SIA goes to, and have them all Instagram-Mapped.

EIFFEL TOWER PARIS TRAVEL BLOG sia

5. Hotels
Every flight was somewhat a vacay. Stepping into a freshly-laundered room with a hot bath and clean sheet (though sometimes tiny/musky-smelling less-than-4-star closet of a hotel room) after a tiring flight is the best feeling ever. Hence the perpetual reluctance to check out.

hongkong hotel

6. Hotel room selfies. Ha.

hotel room selfie

7. Living out of a suitcase – bursting or not, that bitch needs to be closed. It’s a woe for many stewardesses especially on long-haul.

bursting luggage

 

8. Coffee in the morning, coffee in the noon and coffee any time of day, because jet lag demands to be fed with caffeine. Truth is, I can drink 2 shots and still sleep for forever.

I need coffee

 

9. “Bragging Rights”
Friend, at dinner: “So what did you have for breakfast this morning?”
Me, casually: “Injeolmi Bingsoo from this place in Hongdae, Korea.”
Trust me, I am not bragging. Just stating the facts, you asked for it.
Breakfast in another time zone, lunch 35000 feet in the skies, and dinner in Singapore.

korea bingsoo bingsu

 

10. The skies. And the familiar wings we see from our crew seats when we look out from the windows. The one below was taken out flying out from Singapore Changi Airport. The following three were taken enroute Houston from Moscow, so you can see Greenland.

planes skies blue greenland skies greenland from the sky

 

11. Behind-the-scenes Crazy
Well, stewardesses have all the fun…when you’re sleeping and we’re trying to stay awake on a red-eye flight. Oh…and these girls!! Cutest and sweetest little darlings ever.
sia stewardess

12. Coming home.
The word ‘home’ takes on a whole new meaning, when it’s all you’re thinking of the moment you set foot on an aircraft bound for foreign territories.

A little over a month, people still ask if I miss flying. Well if you’ve been at it for 2 years, day in day out, you’re bound to feel a sense of loss. As it is for any kind of job and lifestyle. The only thing I actually really started to miss were the chirpy greetings I received from passengers when I greet them upon coming aboard, the genuine thank yous upon rendering assistance wherever I could, the adrenaline rush when we had a ton of duties we needed to complete and the eventual sweat-wiping relief when it’s all over. And the camaraderie over the years with a few colleagues. When we donned our kebaya, we were told to ‘smile at anything that moves’ – we would hold doors and lifts for people, greet people we don’t know, and talk to people we’ve never met – all without garnering weird looks. Try holding a door for someone in Singapore – you might get ‘thank you’ with an awkward look at best, or even ignored for your effort. Smile at a stranger, and be labelled a psycho. Greet someone in the lift, and end up taking the lift up alone. A well-mannered bunch we as stewards and stewardesses are – after all we are in the service industry. But we don’t always get the same respect and treatment in or out of the uniform.

Also, I was exposed to many kinds of teamwork & leadership (through observations, not actual leading), plus gained a kind of worldly experience that isn’t of the bragging sort. There’s never an end to how much of the world we can see. From big metropolitan cities with world-class airports to less-developed rural areas where drinking tap water gave me gastroenteritis for weeks, and where small girls on the streets wanted to take photos with a group of us just because our skin colour was different from theirs – they’ve never seen fair-skinned people in their lives.

I became a stewardess for the freedom, experience and a change of lifestyle. I never regretted, even as I was dying to leave the job. The job gave me loads of reasons to look back and smile. You’re meant to live your life in your 20s before youth slips away!

Once a Singapore Girl, Always a Singapore Girl. I still feel nostalgic at an SIA ad, or when I see an SIA aircraft landing or see ex-colleagues at the airport heading for flight or just coming back home.

singapore girl SIA kebaya

 

Well, this is goodbye! I’ve clipped my wings and started a new chapter in life.

xoxo,

Viktoria Jean

Crudeness of Art

“Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”
– George Bernard Shaw

On close inspection undepicted in the pictures, passers-by have scribbled crass comments below the masterpieces. Which I could not understand. Which drove me senseless. An approval of ribaldry? Or a subversion of the fact ordinary humans cannot accept the salacious or risqué unless relegated to the artistic, stripped of life and existence. Is crudeness of reality really unbearable? Or have we been using art as a means of informally embracing the uncouth, while self-righteously, audaciously hating on all that is deemed offensive and lewd, just so we could appear respectable.

If art is where we truly become ourselves, then is it not reality?

So with all due respect to George Bernard Shaw, the crudeness of art makes the world bearable.

Frankfurt Art 1

Frankfurt Art 3

Frankfurt Art 2

As seen in a beautiful park in Frankfurt Germany. A lovely place, otherwise graffiti-ed to no end. But still lovely.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take

A meeting, a perfume launch, and an after-work HappyHour at Words Worth — all these on my only day home this week!

Loving what I do because I could be spending the entire day in bed with my truckload of books, but if I’m not filling up my days and making sure I’m dead beat by the end of the night, I feel underworked and downright lazy.

Come to think of it, I’m turning 23.

Working has made me feel that age is nothing but numbers, cuz nobody ever takes that into consideration. Being too young or too old doesn’t give you any excuse not to be at optimum efficiency. It’s so strange for me to be the youngest most of the time, yet nobody treats me like a kid. And I appreciate not being treated like I can’t handle myself plus 250 people.

Today I had this strong epiphany while doing up my chignon – that is, my hair is not growing faster than usual. Rather, time is flying day after day without my conscious awareness that it has slipped me by. Didn’t I just transform my long hair into a bob a coupla months ago?

How many more days can I still tell my colleagues “I’m turning 23”?

I just know that when it’s time for me to say “I’m turning 25”, I want to be a hell lot of a better person than I am now. And as always, no regrets.

 

“My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing,
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.” 
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

Book Review: The State We’re In

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Publisher: Headline Review
Date Published: 4th July 2013
My Ratings: 7 / 10
Average Goodreads Ratings: 3.9 / 5

SYNOPSIS:
What are the odds that the stranger sitting next to you on a plane is destined to change your life? Especially when they appear to be your opposite in every way.

She’s a life-long optimist, looking for her soul mate in every man she meets; he’s a resolute cynic – cruel experience has taught him never to put his faith in anyone.

People can surprise you. In the time it takes to fly from London to Chicago, each finds something in the other that they didn’t even realise they needed.

Their pasts are such that they can never make one another happy and it’s when they get off the plane, that their true journey begins…

REVIEW:
At times, Joanna (Jo) Russell’s naivety gets on my nerves. She attempts to salvage a youthful mistake of ditching a fiance at the altar, by flying 300miles to wreck his upcoming wedding. That simply shows how much of a tragically hopeful romantic she is. I hated her less when she’s simply unhinged and having fun, while not harbouring thoughts of how romantic love is the one thing that should determine how you run your career and life.

The story runs beautifully. We see a parallel story running side-by-side, an almost continuation of the affair that never was. On one hand Eddie Taylor at his bedside and the son that he had left 29 years ago, Dean, flies over to bid him hello and farewell, but leaves for his house in Chicago in a fit of anger when he discovers that it was not Eddie who had asked to see him, but the meddlesome nurse who felt sorry that no next-of-kin was holding the dying man’s hand. On the other hand, delusional Jo Russell leaves her parent’s house and flies to Chicago to stop her ex-fiance – Martin’s – wedding, determined that the letter of invitation was a cry for help, and that Martin was pleading with her to not hold her peace. Somehow, she was inclined to believe that she had to take him away from his current bride-to-be. That Martin was the One.

I mean, who in their right state of mind still believes in the One?

Fate, or whatever forces that be, dictated that Dean and Jo were to spend 10 hours in the pressured tube bound for Chicago in the Club Class. The moments of emotional upheaval that they shared were rather less physically intimate than usually required for Dean to feel for anybody, but in rare cases more fictional like this, Dean cared for the delusional 35-year-old.

The forces that be also created a tragic interweaving of their histories. The father that Dean came to abhor happened to have left Dean, his mother and sister, 29 years ago, for the woman that happened to be Jo Russell’s mother – Clara Russell. And in a dramatic irony, Jo finds out that her ideal picture of what family had been and should be, was destroyed by a single phone call revealing that after decades of marriage, her mom was leaving her dad for a dying man – Eddie Taylor.  And that her dad was actually gay.

What?

That much was revealed in the span of this novel which had moments of epiphany that tugged at my heartstrings, despite the loathing I felt for Jo Russell at certain points where she was behaving less than half her age. How thoughtless and selfish a woman past her 30s can be really got on my nerves.

Dean, however, made a huge impression with his touch of sensitivity. His genuine care and concern filled up the void left blank by absent members of his family. He was the true hero of the book, taking baby steps in placing trust upon people and learning to commit like nobody in his life had ever shown his before.

The part where he was beginning to fall in love with Jo got a bit unrealistic and unconvincing, though. It was clear that girls were throwing themselves at his feet – cleavage, cellphone numbers and all – yet Jo was all he had on his mind after a mere 10 hours in the air. And Jo was being such a selfish, self-obsessed and indulged woman. Perhaps the oxygen up there is insufficient indeed.

However towards the end I grew to love Jo Russell. There was a reason behind her first-hand account while everyone else’s stories were written by the third-person. Here’s where the spoiler comes: Dean and Jo doesn’t end up together. Jo marries somebody else, and the little epilogue is simultaneously the saddest and the most heart-warming bit in the entire novel. The moment we’ve all been holding our breaths for – Dean and Jo were each other’s love of their lives but for reasons only explained in the book (ask me personally cos I don’t wish to spoil the book for you) they don’t end up together, ever.

Amidst the interweaving tales of marriage, relationships and families – broken or not – lies the keen reminder that nobody is perfect. Perfection should not be expected of anybody. And that forgiveness, big or small, is the hardest yet most essential part of any human relationship.
This is one piece of thoughtful contemporary literature that I would recommend to lovers of Jodi Picoult or even Jill Mansell and Kristin Hannah.

If ‘The State We’re in’ were to be made a movie…
Joanna Russell: Isla Fisher (Bring back the Shopaholic, please!)
Opening Ceremony And 'The Great Gatsby' Premiere - The 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival

Dean Taylor: Hugh Dancy
HughDancy5-hugh-dancy-227919_1331_1056

Eddie Taylor: Sean Bean
sean

Clara Russell: Christie Brinkley
chrisbrink

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xoxo Viktoria Jean

Writing Prompt: Mint

Describe the taste of mint, without using the words blue, green, cool or fresh.
No, you can’t use “minty” either. — Sarah Selecky

You place it gently at the tip of your tongue, slowly wrapping it in a fold, delivering it into the moist cave between your lips as you clench your teeth shut. You close your eyes to savor the first burst of sharp flavor and here comes your first thought – it tastes like the sea on the cusp of summer’s noon.
Its circular body is flipped through and through, crashing against the banks of your teeth like a pebble in restless tides, chipping away each time it hits the shores. Alongside the summer heat, it glows with a force. It is a piece of invitation – come to the sea where it is cold, and I will melt the heat away.

At its peak, it throbs with torridity, fighting with a fervor to be scorchingly cold.

At the close of the day it is chipped to its core, releasing feeble spurt of tangy tremor as the setting sun retreats.
Its purpose dutifully served, it fades to nothingness.

xoxo viktoriajean

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Turn around, bright eyes

A year ago, I plucked up the courage to go for a job interview. Too much unhappiness and batshit craziness was going on, and I wanted fresh air, a change of life when I could no longer see myself carrying on in that way. I went without any expectations, knowing I wouldn’t be so hard-up even if they reject me at some point. Furthermore I was still months away from graduation and they might not accept me anyway.

Clearly I was unprepared – everyone else was all dressed up, sleek chignon or French twists – while I had my casual blazer, shorts, tights and sneakers. Plus I looked so out of place in blonde-yellow messy hair (what was I thinking?!?!)

Honestly I was exhilarated to go through round after round as people were being eliminated left right centre —  about 6 interview rounds in total for the first day, another 3 the following day and a subsequent medical check. Was able to meet new people with whom I’m still in contact and are currently flying as well.

Till now I’m still really glad I’d grabbed my certs, made the ballsy move to go alone, and left a part of myself that has kept me cocooned for a while.
Sometimes you have to make a change to realize, that the safety of comfort zone can be wearing you out.

Turnaround, every now and then
I get a little bit restless and I dream of something wild

prism of infinite spectrum

“You clench your teeth. You look up. You tell yourself that if they see you cry, it will hurt them, and you will be nothing but a Sadness in their lives, and you must not become a mere sadness, so you will not cry, and you say all of this to yourself while looking up at the ceiling, and then you swallow even though your throat does not want to close and you look at the person who loves you and smile.”
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

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End of the Weekend Musings

On the topic of job satisfaction, ask me again in 2 months’ time because then, I’d definitely enjoy my work a whole lot more. I love my job.

Along with it comes gradual mental-retardation from immersion in ‘stupidity’.

Stupidity is a leaden accusation not intended to launch any personal attacks , nor does it contain any background of grudges. Just general statements about what I’ve been experiencing, easily dismissible because its not entirely unpleasant. Stupidity, in fact, is not entirely a flaw in the intellect.

For anyone who has ever personally understood Sheldon Cooper without the PhDs and accreditation, I feel you. You may not be sprouting intelligence but yet at times you have to come up with a dumbed-down version.

Ever felt like curling up in bed with a thick book, and just not talk to anybody?

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we lived through a lifetime and the aftermath

For someone who’s a firm believer in New Year Resolutions,
I’m not entirely convinced of its life-changing capabilities.
Once in a while I look back upon my annual mandate,
written with fervent excitement over the promise of a brand new year…

large (1)

“2011….I will make more friends, smile too often, take too many bad polaroids, go selfishly individualistic and yet be open-minded and positive. I want to be able to wear ripped jeans, lace and leather, and printed leggings with calve-length boots, strutting down the streets with my fellow girlfriends, and be optimistic even when that’s not possible. Because what you think will affect who you are and the people around you.

And who cares about what insults others might throw at me. This year, I’ve had many. After the initial anger, hurt, and mulling over the words that were chanted, it doesn’t matter anymore. Who are you to make me care about your opinions? Won’t think of trading myself to avoid that split second of hurt or anger. So here goes. I DON’T CARE. If they have so much time to gossip about me, your life must suck balls. I have no time to process your silly gossips and it doesn’t interest me.

True friends will tell me when I suck, or that I have horrible hair, my shirt stinks etc, but I’ll listen and love them anyway.

Am also staying away from some people.The movie I watched today, Tron, is something about blind idealism when an isolated colony is led to think and behave in a certain, irrational way, by their leader, whether as enforced rules, simply an established social construct, or the people are slowly brainwashed to think alike. Oh well, no point. People in the Grid can’t see beyond their Grid World. Wanting to go over to earth is just a wishful thinking on their leader’s part. Quite a thought. Thus they should be left alone to manifest.

Well 2012 might spell the end (omg just saw this book in Times today about the apocalypse. very intriguing but also SCARY) of all of us. So quick do what we can! Live the moment and don’t die with regrets. We’re young and very much alive.”

xoxo
A younger version of me (2011)

Psychoanalysis of Strangers

We all derive false impressions upon first sight.

I see an old lady with a jewellery pushcart
and think how pitiable to be working at her age.
She must be terribly in need of money, or perhaps her children have left her.
My mind goes wild thinking of possibilities to define her situation.

Don’t we all have that disgusting habit of filling in the gaps
for our knowledge of somebody else’s life?

You can’t have imagined
this could have been all she dreamt of in her younger years.
A simple side-walk business, working in her most comfortable knitted dress.
Occasionally in her Sunday best,
selling beautiful handcrafted creations to a much younger version of herself –
a stressed-out young office lady in town on a precious weekend.
The old lady could love these welcome deviations
from high-powered business-suits,
high-rise offices and even higher heels
she had been so painfully accustomed to.
She’s finally able to live her dream at 85 years old.

Whoever stops to think about an old lady on a pushcart?
She’s nobody to you
except the intriguing know-it-all smile that comes with age.
As if there’s a certain familiarity,
a sense of knowing who I am and what I’m thinking as I look at her.
She’s somebody who’s seen a great deal of things,
enough to recognize a blank notebook waiting to be filled.

My idea of a great afternoon –
sitting in a cafe
with good coffee, too much chocolates
and a pile of books.

When I need excitement, I get it in extreme doses,
which is why I love roller coasters
too loud music,
and laughing insanely over the smallest things.

Will I be the same
Ten years
Twenty years
Fifty years down the road
Would I still recognize myself when I see my own reflection in the window glass?
I’d have outlived the old lady,
But will I have outlived myself,
dried out, wasted and still empty?
Or will I be filled with age and years,
smiling to girls who saunter pass on lazy Sunday afternoons,
having lived the life I dreamt,
while still thankful for sunrise
in handing out the opportunity to seize every minute by the ticking hand
till we pause to catch our breaths and enjoy the beauty of sunset.

The old lady doesn’t care about curious stares.
She goes on with her life.

lovee
It’s a scientifically proven fact for passing automatic judgements…
our own little psychoanalysis of strangers.
Ultimately perceptions can only take us so close to,
but never right into,
the heart of what’s real.

Dancing to the backdrop of a slow descending grey

girlballet

Found this picture which reminds me of how I was when I was young (but obviously this kid is so much cuter, thinner, and prettier than I was), in leotards + black tights and pink  ballet shoes, (ribbons/bows in my hair because mummy loves them on my hair), stretching in chinese dance class.

I miss being 4 years old, stumbling my way through basics, with all the other kids. I miss the days my mom/dad used to take me to classes on Sundays and seeing their faces the moment I emerge from the cherrywood classroom, tired and sometimes upset at not being as good as the best, attributed to being less flexible. My parents would say it’s okay, try harder, practice more.

I miss the insomniac days when I would stay up till 3+ in the morning because I was too nervous about performing to the crowd, and my mum would sit me down, ask if I even want to perform (I remember her scoldings, that I shouldn’t even want to perform if I get so high-strung).

I miss my dance performances in Victoria and Kallang theatre, (once, we danced to super high pitched music, and we all played the role of ducklings that turned to swans in the pond…oldest and best dance memory). Mummy did my makeup, hair and everything, saying I had to look perfect for the stage. I’d tear and squirm away as she tried to draw my eyeliner. (Then I reflect on how she always says I have too much makeup on these days…who made me this way??)

Most of all, I miss being a kid and being extremely excited about sharing my dancing experience with my parents. They don’t seem to understand; they tried their best to make it to shows in the past, but I know that they would rather I stayed in chinese dance or something more traditional and down to earth, less in-your-face.

I really appreciate my parents for everything, even if I don’t say it.
Sometimes I wish that the best and lingering image they have of me isn’t the horrid teenager I was or the daughter who treats her home like just another hotel room, but the pure and innocent 4 year old struggling through dance class.

Once in a while I think about the planet

The person I am in 2013 pretty much agrees with the person I was in 2011,
albeit less naive, less afraid to speak the hell up.

‘Tis been an eventful week, too much to express in a short post >< And not worth remembering. Impressions of person(s) utterly destroyed hence the reluctance to see it typed out in black and white. Writing/typing is a form of mental rehearsal in which one’s emotional memory consolidates…(Psychology PL3249 module). It’s so tiring to bear grudges. Except deep down, I’m sure things can never be the same no matter how the person tries to make up. Wonder if it’s a Scorpio thing to forgive but not forget.

Enjoying a very cathartic read of my past, which feels like a thousand centuries ago…
certain posts make my toes curl and brings back totally uncalled-for reminiscences.

This is why I love writing.
Even as you’re looking at yourself in words, you’re never the same person.

A slice of Copenhagen

Officially am the mad Asian girl snapping away with her iPhone,
at architecture that citizens of Denmark would have seen all their lives.

Here’s a slice of Copenhagen:
the streets of Vester Farimagsgade 9
as seen through my eyes.

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Taking shelter underneath my umbrella in the drizzle proves to be a disadvantage,
for my hands were really unstable,
and I had zero sense of angle/perspectives.

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Mad love for vintage architecture!!
Classical to be exact, but I’ve not exactly learnt how to differentiate the two.  photo IMG_9760.jpg

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Walked quite a distance considering I have 3 hours to kill between waking up and lunch with the crew. photo IMG_9749.jpg

My favorite hangout in the neighbourhood!
If I could wake up to this everyday, it would be such a blessing.
Felt so at peace with the world just by standing on the jogging path
overlooking this river.
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Beauty in the mundane —
was the first thought that came to mind when I saw these postboxes. photo IMG_9812.jpg

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The hotdog seller was giving me a strange look,
as if he found it incredulous that I was snapping a photo of his hotdog stand. photo IMG_9827.jpg

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All these within the hour and I’m still in time for lunch.
Well-worth the 12hours we took to arrive at Copenhagen!

xoxo
Jean

P.S Biggest bonus of my job: catching sunrise 35000 feet above the ground
This is such a bad shot but you can see the sliver of red that indicates the rising sun…
Upclose, it’s absolutely breathtaking.
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oo3 ✦ Dangerous Mind ✦

In so many ways we live to follow the sun
In so many ways we exalt and fail as one
In so many ways we want so bad to be done

“Now be a good boy, Max, hold on to this white bag. Wait at that junction for a man in a black trenchcoat. You must see a scar on his chin before you pass this to him, are you clear?”

Only one end-goal persisted in 6-year-old Max’s mind: Father promised to take him to the amusement park if he obeyed and played by the rules. As if his life depended on it, he hugged the heavy package as tightly as he could.

“This is an important task. Daddy is counting on you. Don’t let me down, you hear?”

“Yes, Daddy.” Max grinned.

“Atta boy. “ Father ruffled his hair.

Evening descended, and after they had made their seventh round on the outskirts of the public garden, an image of the junction had been etched in his mind.

“Now. Get out there, Max.”

Father’s assistant unlocked the door, and Max was nudged from his seat. He forced his jittery body to obey, even as his little palms started to sweat.

“Go. Do what you’ve been told. Man in black trenchcoat. Chin scar. Remember.”

Still holding on to the bag, Max walked to an inconspicuous spot at the junction, hidden by towering trees and unkempt bushes, and waited.

An hour passed. The heavy bag kept slipping through his tired arms but Max held on.

Another hour passed. His arms shivered from the strain, and he was both hot and cold all over from nerves and the summer heat. Father’s car was no longer in sight as the sky was dark by now, but occasionally, he knew that Father’s assistant would flash the headlights to signal that they were there. Street lamps were of little help. He narrowed his eyes in scrutiny of every single passing person. Finally, when he could no longer feel his arms, he bent down and let the package slip out of his hands.

Just then, the supposed man in the long black trenchcoat appeared. He was crossing the junction when he saw Max, then proceeded to walk in Max’s direction. Max squatted over the package, watched as the man hesitated, then opened up his strides towards Max.

When he was close enough, Max caught a flash of his face. Indeed, a prominent white scar covered a large part of his chin.

Convinced that this was the man Father had instructed him to pass the package to, Max stood up and pointed to the white package. He looked at Max, then to the package, and nodded. Picking up the package, he turned to leave.

 

Satisfied, Max ran back to the black sedan and climbed back onto the comfortable leather seats.

Immediately after he closed the doors of the car, Max was knocked over by a force so large and brutal that he was slammed headfirst against the car door and out of his seat, finally settling into a heap onto the carpeted floors of the vehicle.

“Why did you put the damn thing down?” Father’s voice boomed.

Max let out a strangled cry as pain shot through his whole body. His mouth was beginning to fill with blood from the impact of the slap. His cheeks were stinging with acute pain. He thought his arm might be twisted.

“ANSWER ME!”

“I…I…I am sorry father. It was so heavy…”

“I did not ask you to put that damn thing down. What if someone else had taken it away from you? How are you going to answer to me?”

“I am sorry, it was really heavy…”

“I don’t give a damn whether it is heavy or not!” Father grabbed Max by his collar and pulled him back up onto the seat. “We’re going home now. And you, young man, are going to spend the night in the closet room.”

“I’m sorry! Please, not there!” Fear overwhelmed the young boy. He almost choked on his own tears which now ran freely down his swollen cheeks.

“Yes the dark and damp closet room. And no dinner. For heaven’s sake stop crying! Start the car, Jung.”

“Master, should we get some medicine for Young Master? He is bleeding badly.”

“JUST START THE DAMN CAR, JUNG!”

The engine roared to life, and navigated its way through the alley, and onto the winding roads of Seoul.

Wet from blood and tears, Max continued sobbing uncontrollably, his dreams of a happy outing with Father and Mother dashed, replaced by the nightmarish thoughts of sleeping in the dark closet that night.

Back home, Father grabbed Max, pulled him out of the car and dragged him down to the servant’s quarters. The servants’ quarters were rooms that housed the maids, chaffeurs and housekeepers. Dark, filthy, small rooms with a musky smell mixed with the stench of human blood and sweat.

 

A closet sat on the far end of the corridor. With a heave, he was thrown into the closet. By then, Max was too tired to struggle anymore. He listened as the door closed and the lock fastened, meaning that he would have to spend the night alone in this dark closet room with only a thin stream of light entering through a gap in the latch of the door. Curling up his small battered body, Max hugged his knees to himself, sobbing. His only companion was the dark that surrounded him. His stomach growled with hunger, and he shook with fatigue, but was unable to fall asleep. He could hear the bustle of activity outside the closet, where the servant’s families were getting ready for bed.

Just then, through a gap in the latch, something fell into his lap. It was a torch light, and a note attached.

‘Don’t be afraid. I am here for you. Let my light shine in the darkest corners.’

Something else fell in. It was a tiny cupcake which Max immediately devoured hungrily. To express his gratitude, Max knocked on the door twice. In return, he got two knocks back.

Another littl cupcake was passed through the gap.

Suddenly, there was total darkness as the servants turned off the lights for bedtime. Max screamed and began to cry once again.

“Hush! Do not cry. Turn on the torchlight I passed to you!” A little boy’s voice instructed him from outside of the closet.

Light instantly filled up the closet.

“Do not be afraid, I will stay with you tonight.” Max heard a soft click, and he knew that the other boy on the other side of the door had his own torchlight too.

“Are you afraid of the dark too?” Max asked.

“Not really. The dark is my best friend. Do you have any friends?”

“From elementary school. Yes. I like my friends. Do you have friends other than the dark?”

“No. I don’t go to school.”

“What do you do then?”

“I help out here. I stay in the basement. I do things like peeling potatoes and weeding the garden. Hauling the woodstock to keep the fireplace lit You live upstairs don’t you? The family that is taken care of by the families that live in the basement.”

“How do you know?”

“I saw you getting thrown in by your father, our employer. It wasn’t a pretty sight.”

“I know. I am Max, what is your name?”

“You can call me ‘hyung’ since I am older than you.”

“What is your real name? Can you tell me? Because you are a very marvellous friend.”

“I don’t have a name.”

“My name was given to me by my parents. Where are your parents, hyung?”

“I live with my mother. I don’t have a father. Do you want more cupcakes?”

“Yes please! Where is your father? Everyone should have a father by default.”

“I guess he is dead. My mother does not like me to speak of him.” The little boy handed another piece of his cupcakes to Max through the gap.

“Thank you. What time is it, hyung?”

“It is 11 in the night. I can hear your father brewing his decaf in the kitchen above us. He usually does this before he sleeps, while reading the papers.”

“You sure do know my father better than I do!”

“My mother always tells me about Master. Sometimes, she would bring me to the window where we can see Master’s bedroom.” The boy fell silent for a long time. Panic rose up like bile in Max’s throat.

 

“Please keep talking! It’s too quiet in here.”

 

“It’s always too quiet here,” the boy replied, but complied, “because the parties, dinners and summer galas are always held upstairs isn’t it? Mother tells me everything about the world upstairs – the silk shirt that Master wore for Charity Ball and Portugese egg tarts that he ate for brunch yesterday. She knows the room so well, I guess it’s because it’s her responsibility to tidy up. Our Master would be undressing while pulling the curtains shut, and Mother would gaze until the curtains are fully drawn. And sometimes, when Master’s main servant girl is sick, Mother always volunteers to clear up Master’s room and she would take me along. She touches everything on Master’s drawers and sheets. I wonder why.”

 

Max nodded, though he couldn’t understand why this was being told to him. He took it lightly, like a bedtime story, so he curled up even tighter into a ball.

“Is your mother beautiful?” He asked.

“She’s gorgeous. Like a blossoming flower on a winter night.”

“Wow, that’s a beautiful way of describing her.”

“Is your mother beautiful as well?”

“Her beauty is indescribable. Except it is masked behind a constant fear of my father.” A fear that Max knew like the back of his hand.

The sky was dotted with pretty stars and cottoncandy clouds carely covered them like a thin veil. Soon, both young boys fell asleep in the dark, each with a smile on his face.


***

When Max awoke the nest morning to the sound of the lock unfastening, he scrambled to his feet. The torchlight was still clenched in his hands, as he burst through the door, looking left and right for his lovely friend.

But he could not be found. The caretaker picked Max up.

“Where is the boy sleeping outside last night?”

“What boy?”

“The boy? Cupcakes? Something about his mom…” a nagging thought at the back of Max’s head told him that it was best not to mention the conversation that had gone on late into the night.

Servants do not and must not make friends with their masters.

changmin

✦ Dangerous Mind ✦
The blackholes in the deep recesses of your mind, secrets you never wished to hide.
The lovers you never want to remember and the history you can never leave behind.
You can’t run further if you’ve only been escaping your own mind.

oo2 ✦ Dangerous Mind ✦

Don’t you think you’ve had enough
Do their claws make sores
Take my hand and come away

“We have with us a fresh face from Seoul, where many of you were from. Make him feel welcome. Please come in, Max.”

Stoicly, Max stepped in. He scanned the classroom, his gaze never faltering when his eyes met several unwelcoming faces. There were hurried whispers amongst females of the cohort who wore admiring gazes.

Mr Joo cleared his throat to be heard. “Max is a year younger than most as he is a transfer student. But he’s deemed suitable for our level. In other words, he’s brilliant. Let’s welcome him with a round of applause shall we?”

Several girls erupted.

“Oh my god. That’s him! He’s in our class!”

“He is even more good-looking up close!”

“Sit next to me, Max!”

“No, me!” A plump arm waved excitedly.

Who the hell are these girls? He had overheard outside the gates of school and now seated right up front in the first row. A few stood up, flung their backpacks onto the floor, thus freeing the next seat.

“He can sit next to me.”

Max sighed at having to put up with more girly nonsense.

Behind this row of adoring girl, students in thick black glasses rolled their eyes, clicked their pens against note-filled binders. Class was due to start so could The Girls just shut up and sit down? Max felt more at ease looking into their indifferent faces.

Two distinct groups occupied the last rows of seats, as if a physical gulf separated them. In the left, punks in leather jackets had ditched the mandatory school blazer. A handful left bike helmets lying around while others simply had their feet on the table, or were sleeping in plain sight. Not a single book nor pen was spotted.

More tough looking guys occupied the other side of the divided classroom. Girls too, as Max observed further, though one of them had their hair cropped and shaven. Another had all her hair tucked into a cap. Amongst them, Max found familiar looking faces belonging to his roommates Sora and Thierry. Both grinned at him.

“Max, would you like to say something to everyone?” Mr. Joo asked.

Max raised his chin, hooked both thumbs into his pants, then shook his head coolly.

“Alright how about you introduce yourself to everyone?”

He shook his head again.

“Anything to say at all?”

Max turned to Mr Joo, and scowled.

“Oh alright then, welcome to 6A. I am your form teacher and you can call me Mr. Joo. We are a very … hardworking class. Now let’s get you a seat…”

Before he could even look around for empty seats, a commotion in the back caught everyone’s attention.

Suddenly, a girl stood up, her chair mercilessly scraping the floor with a sharp screech. With her left hand, she shoved someone next to her off his seat. His chair tumbled as well.

“Here, Max. Sit over here.” She gestured towards the now empty chair. A smile tugged at one corner of her mouth.

Mr Joo jumped at the sudden gesture, then patted his own chest as if in relief. Everyone glared in shock. The Ice Princess Devynn hardly ever welcomed any new students.

Wary of every breathing soul, she only trusted a handful. Something tells me he will be one of us, Devynn thought.

She treated her friends well, demonstrating her tough love at times by pushing them off their seats (she would tell Thierry that his butt will sting painfully for a couple of weeks but this only makes him stronger). Their friendships were hardened by adversities shared in junior high. Devynn was someone who never bailed on her friends.

Somehow, she just wanted to know Max.

She sat back down and looked around her friends. “Get a grip, guys. I like his face, alright?” Devynn’s gang hooted with laughter, and a couple of guys stood to arrange the fallen chair and table. Though puzzled and surprised, they trusted Devynn’s judgement enough, and were fiercely loyal.

“Well, that is very…nice of you Devynn. Thierry, get up and find another chair,” Mr. Joo patted Max’s back and nudged him towards the seat, “Go ahead. Take a seat and we’ll begin with calculus.”

There was a general groan of protest. Thierry stood up, rubbing his ass and moaned with displeasure. Sora disappeared to the next classroom and dragged a chair for Thierry.

Max hesitated, gazing at Devynn.

What a gorgeous girl, all fair white skin and black silky hair. But why, if her friends looked ready to stab a fork in my face, did she do this for me? 

Devynn kept her gaze fixed on Max.

He is hesitant.

All eyes were on Max as he walked towards his new seat. As he sat down, Devynn lifted a side of her lips, breaking her image of aloofness.

What made Devynn instantly warm up towards the younger boy?

Class went on, and halfway, Max felt a sharp glare bore into his face like a dagger. He found the source, and was instantly eye to eye with a pair of dark, piercing eyes.

They held their stares, each unwilling to look away in defeat. Max was confused by the obvious hatred in his eyes. Could it be possible that he knew that guy?

Finally, Max looked away, convinced it was impossible that they knew each other.

He felt a breath of warm air beside his ear. “That’s Justin Jung, bad boy number one in the streets. He has back up, all of them in that corner and even more out there. Don’t mess.” Devynn whispered in his ear, before she sat back to pay attention to class.

Max turned to inspect Justin, who now had a deck of playing cards in front of him. They were gambling right out in the open.

It was none of his business anyway. Max settled back down in his seat and was grateful for a few minutes of uninterrupted peace.

***

Lunchtime soon came. The class broke into their various cliques. The Girls whipped out bentos wrapped in colourful cloths and presented them to the guys and girls they admired. Many bento boxes were thrust in Devynn’s direction. She accepted them all out of courtesy. A few were given to Max.

They headed out into the courtyard to enjoy their meals. The rowdy boys pushed and shoved at one another, competing for attention from the neighbouring all-girls’ college.

Thierry jostled Max. “One day, I’m bringing you into Koizumi. It’s the college dormitory next to our campus. You’re gonna get an eye-feast.”

Sora overheard the conversation, whipped her head around and linked arms with a blonde boy with big eyes.

“Bomi gave bentos to Max today, and not me!” Sora complained.

“Figured.” The blonde, known as Sungmin, chuckled, and shrugged. They arrived at an open courtyard that Kikokushijo shared with nearby colleges, and they sat down on concrete steps leading up to the dean’s offices.

“Dig in.” Devynn said as she passed round the gifted bentos. As she picked up a set of cutlery, she removed her trucker cap, revealing a rough tumble of jet-black locks that fell in pretty waves around her shoulders. The cap had masculinized her, giving her a boyish look accentuated by an oversized school blazer and boy trousers instead of the school skirt. Her entire look softened. There was a gentler aura of femininity around her, accompanied by the scent of jasmine that caught the breeze as it weaved into her hair.

The rest of the boys ate in silence for a while, sneaking looks at the untouchable goddess. Thierry and Sora was inhaling the array of food that the girls had prepared, digging in most happily.

“I think we should all introduce ourselves to Max now that he is one of us,” one of them said. “I am Jjong. And as you already know, she is Devynn.”

Jjong had milky chocolate dark skin, as if he had spent all of his free time working up a sweat at an outdoor gym, or a pool, or basically any form of sports, for he had the built of an athlete.

Max nodded, glancing over at Devynn who was watching all of them, while eating in silence.

“I am Sora! Remember me? Your roomie! So is Thierry, whose chair you took. But he isn’t unhappy, aren’t you Thierry?”

Thierry mocked a sulk, then laughed. “Of course not. Anything for Devynn. She welcomed you and so we welcome you as well.”

One by one they introduced themselves. Devynn, Sora, Thierry, Jjong, Sungmin.

“Max. From now on we are friends alright? You can be comfortable around us and no matter what we will always stand by you. That’s what buddies are for.” The one called Jjong with the amiable smile said, clapping a hand on Max’s biceps. The latter merely smiled, nodded and ate a forkful of mooshu pork.

“Yup, come on Max! You’ve been so quiet all day since you’ve stepped into our class. We are your friends now. Tell us about yourself!” Sungmin probed.

“If you are not comfortable then it’s alright…” Jjong said.

“Of course he is comfortable, right Max? Come on tell us about yourself! Why are you here in Japan? Where are your family members? Why do you live in the hostel like Sora and Thierry?” Sungmin probed further.

Sensing Max’s discomfort, Devynn looked up at Sungmin. “Shut your trap. Why do you always have so much to say?”

“I’ll help.” Sora pushed a huge roll of sushi into Sungmin’s open mouth and laughed at his surprised expression. Half the length still dangled out from his lips. A tiny drip of sauce trickled past his chin, and Sora dabbed at it with a napkin.

The rest laughed, except for Thierry, who was a little sullen at the attention Sora was paying to Sungmin.

Max looked to Devynn with gratitude.

In that instant, she felt protective of him.

Poor kid acts so tough but he has that wall around him, even he himself can no longer get past. But this isn’t an insurmountable wall.

They resumed lunch, dwelling into light-hearted topics like class, girls, booze and after-school hangouts.

***

A bell signaled the end of the school day. Max turned down their invitation for karaoke at a nearby lounge.

“You sure you don’t want to come, Max?” Sora asked, putting a hand on Max’s arm.

“He doesn’t. Now come on Sora, catch up with the rest.” Thierry grabbed Sora’s hands and led her away. “See you later, Max! Call us if you have any problems, remember.”

“Goodbye!” Sora shouted over her shoulders as she was being led away.

Devynn glanced in his direction before she too turned to leave with the rest.

Max held up a hand to signal goodbye. He watched his new friends leave before turning to walk in the other direction. And then there he was, Justin Jung, alone and leaning against a pillar ahead. With folded arms, he was watching the younger boy. Undeterred, Max proceeded in Justin’s direction.

Before Max could past, Justin shot out an arm, blocking his path.

“You’ve got guts.”

Max was forced to stop in his tracks.

“You’ve got guts.” Justin repeated. “Do you have any idea who I am?”

Sensing trouble, several students picked up their pace as they walked past, and made no attempt to acknowledge that the pair were now standing eye to eye, fists clenched, locked in battle stances.

“Nobody warned you about me?”

“It was so insignificant a conversation, I must have forgotten.” Those were the first words Max had spoken all day.

“And I thought you were mute. Nice force, but don’t force me to take it away. Listen up, I have my eyes on you. I don’t know what you’re up to coming into this school and befriending Devynn.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Justin laughed. “Jeju Island in Korea is a lovely place isn’t it? Beautiful, beautiful Jeju. We both have lovely hometowns don’t we?”

Max’s eyes widened, and Justin followed with maniacal laughter.

“Just watch out, Max Shim”

With that, Justin lowered his arm and walked away. Max stood rooted to the ground, confused by Justin’s words.

There’s something I did not notice in his words, something I should have noticed but did not. What is it? What does he mean by ‘I have my eyes on you’?

It struck him then, that unless Justin had known him before, there was no way he could have known Max’s family name.

“Just watch out, Max Shim.”
***

“Devynn, what do you want to sing today?” Sungmin asked, thrusting a microphone in her direction.

“I am not in the mood.”

“Aww come on! You have the best voice!” Sungmin whined. “Of course Sora has a great voice too. But yours is that of an angel!”

“You guys go ahead, I’ll head home.” Devynn got up from her chair. Sungmin stood up, surprised, and was about to stop Devynn when Thierry pulled him back.

“Alright, take care. Call us if you need us.” Thierry said.

Devynn trudged out silently.

“What’s the matter with her today? She is especially icy.” Sungmin complained.

“She was alright when Max was around.” Thierry lifted an eyebrow conspiratorially.

“She must have her own reasons. She is entitled to privacy alright? Let’s not let that interrupt our session. Take it away, Sungmin!” The mike was given to the next singer.

Sungmin happily accepted and proceeded to choose the song he wanted to sing. Everyone cheered when the tunes of “No Pain No Gain” filled the room.
***

Devynn wanted to be alone so that she could organise her thoughts.

It was on impulse and instinct that made her want to know Max, but no doubt there was something more.

The image of Max as he first entered the room occupied her thoughts. Instinctively, Devynn identified with the kid with an exceptionally tough exterior. Devynn desired to understand all of him, under his wall of aloofness. Despite being spoken to all day, with much attention showered upon him, Max had done nothing but planted sharper spikes on his invisible armour, and withheld his speech. All Devynn wanted to do was hug and ease away the pain that was killing him inside.

Without realising so, Devynn had walked into the student hostel where Max now lived. Recalling that he was Sora and Thierry’s roommate, she swiftly climbed the stairs to their room. Seeing that their room was unlocked, she walked in.

Max was on his bed with a stack of photographs scattered before him.

“Hi.”

Startled, he slammed a pillow on his photos and hopped off the bed.

“Devynn.”

Devynn smiled. “You have a lovely voice. I’m sorry for not knocking, I didn’t know anyone would be here. When I visit Sora and Thierry, I don’t knock either. I hope you didn’t mind.”

“It’s okay.”

Devynn sat on Sora’s bed and looked across the room at Max.

“No one’s giving you trouble, I hope?”

Max looked into her eyes, and almost wanted to ask about Justin but stopped himself before he could speak.

Devynn frowned. “Is that a yes?”

Max shook his head.

“No, really, just tell me anything. I am your friend Max.”

“Were you always so nice to people?”

“Do you always reject kindness out of suspicion?”

“Why are you so good to me? You don’t know me at all yet you’re like an old friend. It’s a feeling I get though we’ve only just met. You gave me rights to a tight knit group of friends who clearly will take a longer while to warm up to me. Why?” Max asked.

Devynn was silent for a moment.

“Everyone looked at you when you walked in, and thought ‘he’s freaking sexy’. But when I looked at you, I saw despair. Deep inside you are so, so afraid and I wanted to know why. How can I help?”

Max was speechless. Someone was offering him security and friendship with no strings attached. Someone trusted him, not knowing who he was. Someone found his heart lying cold in the winter night, and draped a warm blanket over it.

He felt hot suddenly. Heat was coursing through his veins.

Perhaps for the first time, he was genuinely touched.

Max smiled, a glint of tears showed in his eyes.

Devynn felt a pang in her heart.

“Don’t cry.” She moved to gather the younger boy in her arms. Max’s hands were cold. Devynn had her arms around Max in a strong embrace, as if protecting him from all the elements of harm and danger.

***

He knew he could have made a wrong choice trusting Devynn and baring his weakness.

But it did not matter anymore.

For Devynn, he was willing.

max2

✦ Dangerous Mind ✦
The blackholes in the deep recesses of your mind, secrets you never wished to hide.
The lovers you never want to remember and the history you can never leave behind.
You can’t run further if you’ve only been escaping your own mind.

oo1 ✦ Dangerous Mind ✦

The night is long – shadows grow on my wall
I’m calling out but no one’s home;
Cause paranoia is the only friend I know

Street lamps dimmed promptly at midnight, signalling the witching hours. A rented motorbike cruised along the Kan-Etsu expressway at a speed enough to give the common man a heart attack. Constant roars of the engine were probably the only sounds in this prefecture of rampant crimes and felonies. The Harley-Davidson travelled another mile before skidding to a stop at the gates of a hostel. The rider swung a lean leg to hop out, ran a hand through his hair – damp from ravages of the evening wind.

With a loaded haversack slung across his back, he walked, fists clenched, towards a relatively modern-looking building situated at the far end of the parking lot. He approached the porch entrance. Kikokushijo Student Hostel – the sign formally printed in katakana. He was in the midst of brushing up on his Japanese, though admittedly he was a better composer when his works were Korean.

A chair was propped up against the entrance gate.

“Max?”

A petite elderly lady gently beckoned. She must be Kawa-san, the caretaker whom everyone dubbed the ‘Halmeoni’. A Korean immigrant herself, she adored her hometown lodgers and never failed to welcome them with open arms.

Max shuffled his weight from one feet to another, hesitant.

Kawa-san cupped her thin, callused palms lightly over Max’s, extending her warmth to the tips of his icy cold fingers.

“Please call me Halmeoni, like everyone else. It’s great to finally meet you,  Max. Come over where there’s light.”

Such benevolence in a smile could only beget genuine humanity. Max nodded and attempted a smile which didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Come,” she repeated, undeterred by his silence, “I’ll show you to your room. Let’s get you comfortable. School begins tomorrow. A good night’s rest will do you some good.” Kawa-san then led the way to the co-ed dormitory that Max was to share with two other fellow students. Max was thankful that she comprehended how he did not wish to speak.

The room was dark. Closing the door behind him softly, Max approached the only empty bed by the window, which faced the dimly-lit streets. He could sense the gentle rise and fall of his room-mate’s chests as they slept on soundly, but quietly so he would not wake them, Max unzipped his jacket and draped it across neatly-folded sheets.

For a long while after, he was lost in thoughts as he stared out of the window. His mind had a life of its own, swirling with memories long buried and better off forgotten.

Here at last, Max was finally physically safe enough to revisit his past. Though blurred and fuzzy at the edges from prolonged suppression, recollections were raw all the same. He fingered the red star that hung from a thin silver chain, warm from the heat of his chest, as he was laid in bed thinking.

That night, Max was sleepless.
***

“Hey handsome! G’morning.”

A chirpy girl greeted Max with a wide smile.

Max didn’t mean to stare. She was dressed in a beach-ready bikini, and as she stood up, he was hit with the fact that his room-mate was drop-dead gorgeous. Max stopped himself from scanning her from top to toe, and focused on her mega-watt smile.

Noticing Max’s creeping blush, she let out a loud laugh.

“Hah! Forgot my manners. Forgive me. I’ve been here for 3 years and this is nothing new. You are Max right? Halmeoni told us you would be staying with us. I’m Sora. Kim Sora from Seoul, Korea, like you!”

She sure talks a lot. Max thought as he shifted his gaze onto the body on the adjacent bed.

“Oh that one is Thierry. He is so lazy even though we need to wake up at this time every morning, and now the time is….OH NO. OH MY GOODNESS. THIERRY! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!”

Sora was born a multitasker. Max watched her tug the blankets off of Thierry, and slapped him in so many areas that could wake the dead, and all the while, managed to powder her nose and put on mascara. Her lungs were a separate entity – they screamed at a hundred decibels for Thierry to get the hell out of bed.

Thierry, however, was dead to the world.

Sora launched her last resort.

“Max. Give me a hand will ya? Press Thierry down.”

Curious, Max did as told.

Sora stood a few feet away, poised to charge at the bed. Max stood rooted as Sora flung her entire bodyweight, and more, at her sleeping victim.

“YARRGHHH!” Sora roared as she slammed onto Thierry. Her fingers latched onto him and began aggressive tickling.

“What in the WORLD!!” Thierry sprang up. He tried to lift his body but Max was holding on. Max was not just ordinarily strong – he was chocked full of biceps.

Thierry growled and howled like a tortured maniac. “SORA…STOP!”

“Get up lazy ass. Get dressed!”

Sora then grabbed Thierry by the cheeks, and kneaded his face like it was a lump of mould. Thierry’s cheeks – already scarlet from laughter and pain from Sora’s abuse – turned pinker.

“KIM SORA I’M GONNA GET YA FOR THIS!”

Easing his weight off Thierry, Max took a step back and watched as Thierry sprang up to a sitting position. Grabbing Sora’s waist, he flipped her over effortlessly. The two rolled off the bed onto the Gabbeh carpets, with Sora on top. Laughing, both pursued unrelentingly with their brutal tickle assaults. Both looked so engrossed in their own little world, forming such a sweet picture of bliss.

Not wanting to intrude further, Max turned away. Quietly, he picked up his duffel and closed the door to the dormitory behind him.
***

Kikokushijo Academy was almost a mile away from the student hostel. Seeing as it was early, Max arrived at school on foot, taking in the fabulous scenery surrounding the campus. Cherry blossoms lined both sides of the walkway, and pretty auburn leaves were snow flakes in the wind. The branches crackled when the winds struck.

Around Max, high schoolers moved in big crowds, lively with chatter and gossips. They must have been friends for a really long time as Kikokushijo was an affiliate of their namesake elementary and middle schools.

“Look. He is the new guy I overheard Sensei talking about!”

“I heard he is from Seoul! Lives in that Kikokushijo hostel.”

“Does he share a dorm with anybody? We have an empty bed in ours!”

“He is tall!”

“What’s his name?”

“He looks hot.”

Max straightened his back and trudged on, his duffel slung high across his back. He was wary of this fresh environment although he was certain nobody knew, that he came from a place where his story was fodder for gossip, people were willing to pay to know his whereabouts.

He refused to slouch away or hide his lanky frame, which had become subject of all conversations. Max ran his fingers through his tousled dark brown hair and picked up his pace.

“Look! He is shy isn’t he?”

“He was flirting!”

“No look! He is blushing!”

“Are all Korean guys as hot?”

Girly chatters could be heard all over as they gushed. They were now discussing his muscular frame and that he must be a really good fighter.

Teeth grit, Max thought: You could do much worst in Korea, in that house. Accept this life. Japan is your safe haven now.

Friends were a luxury. Anybody could betray him. He had to stay low, and all these attention was not doing him any good.

He bowed his head as he crossed the gates into Kikokushijo.

~*~*~

✦ Dangerous Mind ✦
The blackholes in the deep recesses of your mind, secrets you never wished to hide.
The lovers you never want to remember and the history you can never leave behind.
You can’t run further if you’ve only been escaping your own mind.

———

A/N: Reposting a novella written 6 years ago by the old me. Here it is, fresh again after some edits.

To be honest, the protagonist, Max was inspired by a favourite Korean boyband then.
Hence pardon the amateurity, immaturity and bouts of girlish-ness.

max1

To be updated…