Wednesday, December 30, 2009

You Can't Go Home Anymore


I stepped outside of the house, feeling somewhat bored by the warmth inside. Now there's an idea: being bored of the warmth. What an ideal it is to have right now, as the snow is falling, the temperatures are decreasing, and the bitter cold sets in. Near the end of semester, everyone wants the editing room with the heaters; people huddle around the single heater that is available in the department room.

I pulled the chair, sat down, and started lighting. The smoke billowed against the wind, disappearing altogether into the nothingness of the cold December air. December, still, is it? Sometimes I lose track of times. The Mondays quickly shifted into the Tuesdays, mornings into nights, this year into the next. Soon enough.

I looked at my watch, bearing in mind the number of hours left for them to sleep. Three of them, trawling around the streets of Seoul, now on the verge of returning home. I've decided to sacrifice myself for the greater good, staying awake until the break of dawn. That's so they won't miss the bus, so they won't miss the trip back home.

Home. Lucky bastards, the lot of them.

They get to go back to warm weather, to brilliant, varied and delicious food, to the comforts of their friends and families, to their boyfriends and girlfriends and partners and dogs and cats and...home. A lovely concept, romanticised by its locale being where the heart is. I suppose all this while, their heart is where their home really is.

A dog barked, in the distance. Somewhat menacing, it sounded, the kind that would make the hairs in the back of your neck stand. The kind you'd hear out of nowhere, as you're walking down a dark and quiet street, with only the sounds of your own footsteps as your friend, keeping you company and telling you that, yes, you're not alone. Not yet. Lonely, perhaps, but not alone. And then a dog barks from beyond the steel gate right next to you, and you jump slightly, breath out of rhythm, out of focus, out of touch, cut short by the steam arising from your own mouth. A breath, usually invisible to the naked eye, now a sight seen, shaken by the fear that suddenly instilled itself in the situation.

That kind of bark. It is the bark to scare, to intimidate, with menace. It's done it's job of protecting that home.

Home. I suppose now even that dog has more of a home than I. Its heart and mind's in the right place, but where does that leave me? After the fear subsided, after the moment has passed...where does that leave me? Back where I started, back where I was a moment ago, in a place that is not quite...home.

No, it's is beautiful. Korea is beautiful. London is beautiful. They've all played significant roles in shaping me, in changing me, in forcing me to look at myself in a way that I wouldn't want to look at. Funny, that; outside of the majority I become even more of the majority than I expected myself to be. I became more Muslim, yearn for more Malaysian news, read more about Islam, thought more about how and what I can do to bring about the changes I want.

Of what I can do for my home. But where is it? What is it? The arms of a fractured family? The house of lost memories? The circles of friends and relationships that brings with it the limits, the boundaries, the sense of expectations that no longer applies? A house, building, country, chair, bed it is not. What it is...is the one place that we can all go back to and feel the familiar air. The air smells familiar, the water doesn't taste weird, the sofas doesn't have a funny smell to them. You flinch not at the floor when stepped on with your bare feet, you know what the switches do, and you don't actually want to kill (metaphorically or otherwise) the person next to you.

It's a place where you know everything, where the holes are and where dogs, sleeping or otherwise, lie. Every single nook and cranny.

You can't go home anymore.

That was the title of a Battlestar Galactica episode. It tells of the story of a ragtag fleet, the last remnants of mankind, on their journey to find Earth. A place to call home.

The bitterness of the cold set in once again; it felt as if the temperature dropped a few degrees in just a few minutes. My chest contracted, my body shook involuntarily. Move, move, back into the warmth, the devil tempted me. Come into my embrace, and save yourself, the angel tried. I resisted, letting the claws of winter sink in, clamping me tight within its grip, refusing to let me go. I shut my eyes, letting it make its way all over me, slowly traversing its way up my feet, my arms, all the way to the center of my soul, of my heart. Come in, I said, come in, for this is my heart, this is my mind, my body, my soul, my everything.

This is my home.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Forgotten


“You're tempting fate.”

She put down the shot glass, giggling as she did so. Lee looked at her with amusement, but one could say disdain was hiding itself somewhere within that. The smile, unconscious, was a given; Kara was well and truly drunk.

At least it would appear to be so. Her eyes weren't particularly red. Cold, perhaps. Blue, certainly. But red? The tell tale signs of a person, a woman, who had lost control, lost charge of her own will? No.

For if there is one thing that Kara could never be accused of, it is of losing control of her own will. Even in the short time that Lee has known her, the hours that they have spent previously eating and drinking, that much was obvious.

“Hmm...” came the slow reply, drawn out in a guttural manner. “If I have a fate, then it is set. I ain't thinking about it, and I ain't gonna make it happen any sooner.” Pause, then another giggle, before she reached for the bottle once again. It nearly slipped from her grasp, but Lee, ever the gentleman, helped her on her way.

“OK, fair enough,” he said as he did so, “but flying...when you're thinking about dying...it's a bad way of doing business. You're gonna get scared and you're gonna start second guessing yourself!”

“I'm not scared.”

It knocked the wind from him; this time the bottle nearly slipped from his grasp. Fortunately, by then it was already safely in Kara's grasp. Not that she didn't notice; she giggled loudly, pulled it cleanly, if groggily, from Lee's hold, and waved her forefinger in the way a mother might admonish her child.

“You said that you think about dying every time you get into a cockpit,” Lee said, pushing on and gamely ignoring her finger. He couldn't, however, miss her nodding her head, and neither did the change in her eyes go unnoticed either. “Hmm...” was the only vocal reply. How else, then, to point out the obvious to any sane person of the incredulity of the statement? “Well,” he started, gesturing his arms widely as if that would bump some sense into Kara, and pumped as much exaggeration as he could into the situation, “hello!”

“Yeah, but...it doesn't scare me,” she started. Her eyes almost closed, her eyelids flickered momentarily, “like...that's what you don't get.”

Lee cocked his head sideways, quizzically. There's something here, something missing, that...no, it's not quite missing, it's there, right in front of him. The answer is right there, and yet...

“What, so...it's, uhm...Kara Thrace, fearless warrior,” he allowed himself a smile at the thought of Kara half-dressed as Wonder Woman. “Right?”

This she smiled at, probably at the same thought, as the alcohol kicked in. Even a short giggle, a quick burst of femininity that reminded Lee that beneath the tough veneer of fighter pilot, Kara is still a girl, a woman, a human being. A complex one, like everyone else passing by on the street, like you and me.

“No, no...I know fear, and I get scared. It's just...it's not of dying.”

A brief moment of connectivity does not make for a fair understanding, but what they have here is not a brief moment. It is not but a second, an infinity that plays back and forth, in the past, the present, and the now.

Kara is human, and now, the shields are cracking. Lee gave it some thought, considered rubbing his jaw almost as if to make a point of doing so, but decided against that. Not that it meant his next words weren't carefully chosen or delivered.

“So, then...what does scare you?”

Her fingers trailed the rim of the shot glass. The bottle, grabbed earlier, were not poured of its contents, their earlier intentions all gone long ago the minute they became deeper with each other, the minute that Kara decided to say that, for once, it's OK. It's OK to open up and let go of the worries and the troubles, to all that she have held on to.

It's OK.

She looked up, into his eyes, and let go.

“Being forgotten.”

*A reimagined scene from 'Battlestar Galactica'.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Babi Club


Lovely little place, this is.

I took a sip of my tea, handling with care the beautifully adorned cup. Its gold motif was striking, yet subtle. I especially liked the thin little line running across the rim. It gave off a whiff of elegance, style, class. Much like the Armani suit the adorned my hard body, much like the haircut that screamed 'NEP golden boy', or the glasses that shouts sophistication, of weekends spent in Apgujeong rather than Sangwolgok. Me no more from that part of town. Me have climbed up.

I looked at my watch, the golden Rolex ticking along noiselessly. What kind of Rolex is it, I wondered, as I raised it closer to my face, making the act of checking for the time an elaborate one. Showing to the whole wide world, for what it's worth. Who cares what it's worth? Look, everyone, it's a fucking Rolex.

I leaned back, sufficiently convinced that no, she had not stood me up. Not this time, not again anyway. Not after the begging and the grovelling of the last time. She can't leave me, not again.

Please. She can't afford to. Who else is going to give her what she wants? Who else is just as capable?

All that ran through my mind as the cute little assistant shashays her way over to me. Is that the right way to spell it? I thought as my eyes are fixed on the outlines of her slim figure coming closer and closer. Who cares. I considered the various little things I would do on top of the sweet talk we had earlier. Who knows, perhaps by the time the clock strikes twelve, I be tapping that...

"I'm sorry, sir, you have to leave."

If I was still holding the cup of tea, I would have dropped it on myself. As it stood, I reacted as if I were, as if the hot Jasmine had spread all over my crotch.

I stood up with rage, erect with volcanic and furious anger.

"OK," I said calmly. I grabbed my coat and went out the door, swinging it over myself with style as I did so.

As I stepped out into the streets, I turned to take one last look at the club. Inside, the revellers droned on with their worthless lives, living the life filled with symbols saying, "Look at me, I'm rich, bitch!" The day will somehow come when they will realise the disparate difference between what they think, and what is the truth. Between image and reality, desires and capability, between ladder rungs and glass ceilings. They think they're important, they think they matter? They have no idea.

At least I wasn't dreaming anymore. I unclipped the Rolex from my wrist, flicked it into the drain, and started walking down the street, down the direction whence I came from.

It was fake anyway.

Light


"Sufficient time is rarely taken to study light. It is as important as the lines the actors speak or the direction given to them. Light is a treasure chest: once properly understood, it can bring another dimension to the medium."

Sven Nykvist, cinematographer.