Archive for the ‘Ponderous Ponderings’ Category


The Quiet World

March 18, 2010

By Jeffrey McDaniel

In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.


Protected: Phases

January 25, 2010

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July 2, 2009

It surprises me how much it hurts to see you sad and upset.

I’d do anything if I could make you feel better.

But I can’t.

The day your heart broke into a million pieces…


Why didn’t you call me?

July 1, 2007

Candle for you 

I only just heard. It is really a coincidence that this is one of the first news I stumbled upon the moment I got connected after so many days without the Internet. WX had dropped me a comment entirely unrelated to this. I didn’t know she had set up a new blog either. Then I read her latest post, and was gripped by a sudden fear. Somehow I knew, and Googled his name.  

And I know this is the most cliche thing to say, that there were always the signs, that I have been meaning to catch up, that if only… Hindsight is always 50/50, I know, but regret is real. A month ago, I wrote a list of people to call and meet up with for no reason other than that everyone is caught up in their own lives. I had even thought out of the words to the SMS, the place to go (Siglap Gelare for half-priced waffles was always our excuse), but just could never find the right time and date (i.e. when I wasn’t too tired out from work, or when wasn’t feeling too lazy and that all I wanted to do was to lounge around with a DVD).

You may not believe me now, I swear it was the thought of him suddenly one evening on the way home from work that inspired me to write that list. I knew he always needed to know people cared, and I worried a little that six-months was a bit too long to be out of touch. I swear this is true, that I had wanted to check on him see if he was fine. I swear I even had the morbid premonition that it may already be too late.

But it wasn’t apparently.


That page in my journal with his name etched on it is proof of how inept a friend I have been. I know I probably shouldn’t give myself too much credit. Could I have even made a difference? Maybe… probably not. Maybe it wouldn’t have meant anything.

But I cannot absolve myself of this horrible gut-wreching guilt.

Everyone keeps saying how unbelievable this is, that no one could have seen it coming. But is it unbelievable? Not really. And that’s what makes it so terrible.

I wish you had called me. I am sorry.

And though it breaks my heart to say this, I hope that you have finally found your peace, my dear friend.


Death, she wrote.

May 9, 2007

Funerals are seriously depressing shit.

It is the inevitable. I know, and everybody knows. Logically, we know that that’s actually the best thing to happen for her. Uncle said when we cry it’s not actually for her, it’s for ourselves, it’s selfish. It’s true, Mom said, she had actually had asked for an injection to end it all. And I cried even more.

Yet, when I think about her, I don’t think of her in bed, the white of her eyes dirty yellow, pupils unseeing, jaundiced skin hanging loosely around fragile bones, breathing laboured. I don’t think about how her cells were eating away herself, how she had only two teaspoons of milk for ten days, how her mouth was jet black, how when we dabbed some water on her parched lips she started drowning in it. Or how, when I asked, why is she not on the drip, she has no nutrients! They said there was no point as her body functions had already stopped functioning.

I think about her last month, bedridden and sometimes comatose, but stringing her longest sentence in days when she sipped her favourite beverage proclaiming “kopi-o siang hor jia” (black coffee is the best). I think about her at New Year’s already a quarter her size, yet insisting to play mahjong and cards with us. I think about her after her diagnosis when she could still come by my house, sleep in the guest room and ask about how my “friend” was doing in Australia. And sometimes even farther back, when she taught me how to make ba zhang (my grandma’s ba zhangs were the best until she stopped making them about ten years ago when she became too old) or when we hung around the void deck of the first Bishan flat with all the toys she had gotten for me on our shopping expedition. Most of all, I thought of her smiling, and how I greet her Mama oi, hor mo.

Mama siang chin chye.

At her coffin when everyone said their goodbyes, I said, Hello Mama.

And I cried and cried and cried.

But that is what I want to remember of her, the her in her obituary photo which I actually thought was a very flattering shot. Not the Buddhist chants and the undertaker barking commands at us for one ritual, one procession after another for a good five hours. Not the sterile viewing gallery, the robotic legs leeched to the coffin, the torturous creeping to the chamber and how the room vibrated so we knew that behind the door she had burst into flames.

And though this is probably the most cliche thing to say, it has thrown at my face once again the mortality of man. No, this is not the first person I know who has died. Yes, I know, as one of my colleagues so unfeelingly put it, at the wake no less, it’s not so tragic as it’s not as if she was in the prime of her life. (That pissed me off, really. Shen lao bing si, we know that full well. I know because of that, it logically should not be as “sad” as some other deaths around. But really, should we be comparing which deaths are worse than others?)

In any case, it has somehow left me in an oddly contemplative state.

Like, I am the oldest grandchild and she never got to see her first great grandchild (although I never had, and am not having, the desire to have children). Like, I am scared of cancer. Like, I should stop drinking pasteurized milk (because it apparently causes cancer). Like, I should really start treating my mom, and the people around me, better. Like, maybe I should brush up on my Teochew before it is lost to the younger generation forever.

Weird. That’s why I put it down here, so hopefully it will quit running about in my head.


I am.

April 5, 2007

I haven’t been very verbose, nor triggerhappy, these days.

Maybe it’s disillusionment and plain cynicism that comes with growing older, and with work.

Looking at Lydia and her new Sony beaut (snagged from the IT fair), I remember the thrill of just pointing and snapping. Just about everything then seemed worthwhile that I would want to capture for eternity.

I would blog endlessly about nothing in particular, as if the world were the least bit interested in my daily drips and drabs.

These days, I say things like “when I was younger”, and “these days”…

Maybe I ought to start documenting before even this phase is gone forever.


Papercut: The perils of being an administrator

January 28, 2007

I’m no longer a struggling artist suffering for my art. I’ve sold my soul to the corporate world and working in, of all the exciting industries, manufacturing! And the worst thing is, I am still working 14-hour days, and sacrificing my weekend to prepare for a training on Monday.

I’m even contemplating buying a *gasp* PC now. Don’t be mistaken, I still think Mackies are gorgeous, and I am lusting at the new iMac dual-core with 30-inch monitor and the Macbooks. But as fate would have it, my brand new $700 HP iPac is not supported on my darling Mac, and neither is the way cool Motorola/ Phillips Skype cordless phone I’ve been eyeing for when the boyfriend goes back to Aussie.

So many years of holding out, but once again, practicality is winning over passion.

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