The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Month: July, 2016

Nobody ever tells you this but the worst thing about administering CPR, especially to a loved one, is that your thoughts are chopped into bite-sized urgency with each compression.

“Come. On. Wake. Up. Wake. Up. Already. Please.”

*checks breath and heartbeat*

“Why. Aren’t. You. Waking. Up. Choke. Or. Something.”

*checks breath and heartbeat*

“Am. I. Not. Pressing. Hard. Enough. Or. What.”

*checks breath and heartbeat*

“Why. Won’t. You. Show. Sign. Of. Life.”

And then, when you stop the CPR, when you had been in a mode where your thoughts were forcibly disjointed, they all come crashing back in one long incoherent jointed sentence hitting you like a brick wall from all that contained pressure like how bedrock fissures when all that regolith is removed.

[2 weeks]



On the first day after Josh died, I had a lot of trouble doing the dishes. Japanese Shibuya-kei and blues singer Mayumi Kojima (小島麻由美) was playing in the background and her song “Itoshi no Kids” came on, I had to take a time out — it was too much. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the lyrics were hurting.

さよなら、愛しい人 もう一度だけ笑って
Goodbye, beloved one. (If only) you could laugh again
その横顔 ずっと 焼き付ける 瞳のフィルム
That profile will always be burned into the film of my eyes

あなたとのドライブ 黙っている二人は
Driving with you, silently, with just the two of us
ゆるやかに響くメロディに 耳傾けるだけ
Tilting my head just to listen to that gently, reverberating melody

いつか、あなたのことも 赤の他人のように
Someday, you will also be like a stranger
痛みも涙もなく 想う日くるのかしら
Perhaps one day I will be able to think about you without pain or tears

さよなら、優しい人 向こう岸に行きましょう
Goodbye, kind one. Let us go to the shore on the other side
ゆるやかに 響くメロディに 耳傾けるだけ
Tilting my head just to listen to that gently, reverberating melody

いつか、あなたのことも 赤の他人のように
Someday, you will also be like a stranger
痛みも涙もなく 想う日くるのかしら
Perhaps one day I will be able to think about you without pain or tears

さよなら、かわいい人 もう一度だけ笑って
Goodbye, adorable one. (If only) you could laugh again
ゆるやかに響くメロディに 耳傾けるだけ
Tilting my head just to listen to that gently, reverberating melody

The Interment

He would like to have left us with the words of one of his favourite author and thinker Bertrand Russell, for us to remember him by.

Prologue: What I Have Lived For
Bertrand Russell

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy — ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness — that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what — at last — I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

The Poem

Funeral Blues
W H Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

The Funeral

(This is post is backdated, written on 25th July, 2016)

The Service

Knowing Josh was always a learning experience and over time, one learns something about themselves or about the world around them. Josh taught me that it was ok to let my guard down, that it was ok to enjoy myself, because he was so full of life. Many of you will remember him for his goofy smile and his silliness, or his infectious charm. And because Josh cherished life so much, I would like to take this opportunity to achieve something he had desired very much when he was alive. He had always wanted to be forthcoming to his friends and perhaps even acquaintances about his struggles with depression and PTSD.

Josh was dealt a tough hand in life and he had to endure terrible losses. He felt like he was very much alone with his experience in life and could scarcely find someone who could understand his experience. As a result, he could never communicate those feelings of loneliness. But over the course of the past year, Josh made friends with people whom he realised shared similar traumatic pasts as he did. He would probably like everyone to know that extending a patient hand to those undergoing depression and hard times, as he did, even amidst his struggles, makes a whole world of difference. Very often, it feels like they have forgotten what it was like to be happy or how to be happy again. It may be hard to understand what they’re going through, but nothing matters more than patience and a kind word. I very much wish I had given him more of my patience and many more kind words.

We had learned so much from each other. He admired my knack for brevity, I envied his ability with profusion. He called me a robot, but I had to be to hold him strong as he poured strong, emotional feelings about everything. I was his zen, his rock, his pillar of strength, but he never realised he was my muse, my vase from which inspiration grew. I knew not how to grieve around other people, but he was not other people. He taught me how to weep. We had codenames for each other: we were NPYs. We were zed-fus. We did not make sense to other people outside a world of ours. And now, this world of we has been reduced to one of me.

How do I tell you that I had pushed you away to protect myself, even as I still cared for you?

The Seventh Day


(This is post is backdated, written on 23rd July, 2016)

It’s been seven days since you left us. You were always asking about Chinese customs, and we believe that on the seventh day, the spirit returns to the home for a visit and a meal.

I went and got you fresh flowers because you like them, even though you don’t put much effort in watering them. I had to replace the water for the bouquet I got for you for Valentine’s Day all the time. Those flowers were yellow, as are these. I know you know I don’t care for fresh flowers, as I think they represent imminent death. Fresh flowers wilt and die, and then we replace them — why should we perpetuate death any more than they should occur naturally? You know I would get them for you anyway simply because you like them. Hopefully these flowers will stay alive until I can bring them to you in Kentucky.

I took the 5 train back home and when I got to our building, I realised I had forgotten my keys and left them at work. I chose to walk towards the Q train because 1) I don’t like retracing my steps and 2) the Q is probably faster to get to my workplace at this time. As I walked towards the Q, I walked past Popeyes. The Popeyes you had always gotten chicken tenders from because they didn’t have any bones and you were picky and ate like a kid. The Popeyes that, back then, when I decided to buy a five-piece-for-$5 chicken (with bones) deal, you were so lazy you always asked my to buy your chicken tenders on your behalf. Maybe it was coincidence, maybe it was divine inspiration, maybe it was subconscious guidance. Maybe your ghost wanted chicken tenders and you made me walk past the Popeyes to buy you chicken tenders for your seventh day ghostly visit meal. I bought chicken tenders when I came back with my keys.

We never got a cat but hopefully Conrad the bear and Peanut the bear suffice to greet you when you return.

I was half hoping I’d open the door and see you with hands on hips, saying “Hiii! What’s up?” as you make that goofy smile. I wouldn’t even have been that spooked, I think. Traditionally, in our culture, we would lay out a tray filled with talcum powder to capture the footprints if the deceased visited on the seventh day. Knowing you, you’d probably have kicked it over and made a big mess. I don’t want to have to clean that up. So no talcum powder.

I set down the chicken tenders, set up the flowers, set Peanut and Conrad around and took a picture. This is the 21st century, I can’t communicate with you via a medium, but I can do so via another medium — I posted on your Facebook.

For some reason, as I ate the chicken tenders, I couldn’t finish them all in one sitting, as you never did. You always ate the tenders and had leftovers and put them in the fridge, as I did that night. It sucks not being able to finish my food, and I blame your ghost for possessing my stomach.

I don’t know why it takes seven days for spirits to return to their home visit — neither more days nor less. But you’ve always had a terrible sense of direction so maybe it would take you that long because you were probably lost trying to find your way back. You got lost whenever we had moved to a new apartment, be it the one in Chinatown or in Brooklyn. I won’t be taking seven days to see you. Just three more days. I heard your body had arrived in the funeral home in Kentucky already.

I’ll see you soon in Kentucky. Until then.


<– DAY 6

<– DAY 5

<– DAY 4

<– DAY 3

<– DAY 2

<– DAY 1

<– DAY 0

The Drafts

(This is post is backdated, written on 23rd July, 2016)

Draft 1:

Let’s prepare for what is to come. In a couple of days, you’ll have to go to Kentucky for the funeral. What will you do there, what will you say?

Can you bear the thought of Josh being lowered into the ground? Can you bear the thought of dirt permanently covering his face?

You cannot.

Draft 2:

You’re on the train, you’re on the way to work, wipe your tears. Wind it back a couple moments before the interment. The eulogy; what will you say?

“My father was an exceptional man…” that is not right. That is a line from the movie “Death at a Funeral.”

“Stop all the clocks, turn off the telephone…” W H Auden. Very “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” but very apt.

“I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.”

Draft 3:

Oh man the last thing people want on this commute on a Monday morning is a weeping man.

Draft 4:

I will speak his words and his desires in the best way that I can.

I will speak his truth and his ethos.

I will deliver his message, even though he is gone.

I will be his rock, immovable against the slowly battering waves.


<– DAY 5

DAY 7 –>

The Determination

(This is post is backdated, written on 23rd July, 2016)

I was on a boat, taking a video of my friend and his sister being dragged behind whilst tubing. It was as my friend’s birthday, and he had invited me to join him to celebrate his birthday. I figured I should get out of the house and see if I was capable of being celebratory. They wiped out, after a while.

“It’ll be your turn next,” they said. “OK,” I replied.

I put on a life vest and got on the tube. I signalled for more speed. “Alright, lean back a little, we’re starting!” the friend driving the boat said.

The tube jerked as the boat picked up speed. I tightened my grip.

“More speed!” I signalled.

Soon, I was bumping along, skimming water, battered by the waves. The boat turned and I skewed at an angle. I needed to do something quickly lest I pancaked and flipped. Readjusting my weight, I shot another thumbs up. “More speed!” my thumb communicated to my friend.

It was not long before every turn threatened to roll me over, every straight dash threatened to leave me behind. I held on, but had to constantly readjust my weight. My fists were clenched and my knuckles white — that hurt but I was holding on and staying on top. I had reached a point where I realised it wouldn’t have been wise to call for more speed but I couldn’t have anyway — I didn’t know that at the time but the boat was more or less at its top speed. I was determined to stay on top; I had to. I came out here today to celebrate my friend’s birthday and I will not let myself fail to enjoy myself and impinge on his birthday fun with my disappointment in myself had I let myself go and fallen in the water and so I must hold on, I am determined to and I will achieve what I had set out to do today.

“Dude, you did great! I don’t think people usually tube at that speed!” my friend’s friend said, as I climbed back on to the boat.

“Thanks. I tried to stay on top,” I replied.

“Maybe you gotta let go, sometimes. Sometimes it’s fun just to let go and wipe out,” he said.

“Maybe, but not today,” I said.


<– DAY 4

DAY 6 –>

The Detectives

(This is post is backdated, written on 23rd July, 2016)

(Going through his belongings)

Who is this person? Who is that person? From whom is this card from? What shall we keep? What does this say? What does it mean? Where can we put this? Would you want to keep this? Why did he save this? Why did he save this? Why did he save that?

Why did he do that?

Why did we not know that? Why did we not do anything about that. Why did he not let us know?

What could we have done? What could we have done?

What shall we do? What should we do? What have we decided?

I think we are done.


<– DAY 3

DAY 5 –>