The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: fear

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]

Sanctuaries

stonewall

Yesterday, I was feeling very affected by the attack on LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, but I wasn’t quite sure why. I did not directly know any of the victims, was not there, nor was I Latino — the majority of the victims — and my only connection to the incident was that I was a QPOC. But it wasn’t that connection that stirred something inside me. It was the idea that our sanctuary has been so easily trashed that struck me.

In 2009, I was bound for New York for college, and it would have been my first foray into the United States. In preparation for the journey, I researched as much as I could about the city, and learned that it was a haven for the LGBT community and the Stonewall Inn was where the LGBT rights movement first started. At the time, I had never experienced or dabbled in anything of that nature — I was too concerned with school and extracurriculars to be even bothered. Never been inside a gay club, never kissed, never held a hand.

But I learned about the concept that there are spaces where one could go and be amongst like people. Places where for while, one could let one’s hair down and not worry — nay not think — about disapproving stares, much less the fear of rebuke and reproach. Sanctuaries.

One of the very first few things when I had landed in New York and had generally unpacked was to pump up my unicycle (my preferred mode of transportation) and go for a ride in the city. I was curious about this Greenwich Village and Chelsea, spoken of in Wikipedia (Hell’s Kitchen had yet to be linked into the Gay Village Wikipedia article at the time, or I wasn’t looking very closely) and unicycled down the legendary Christopher Street I had heard so much of.

I wasn’t too disappointed. Back then in 2009, the West Village was on its way to being gentrified but still clung on to the vestiges of its gay subculture. I still saw, in broad daylight, men in leather suits and heels and caps, LGBT people openly holding hands and kissing, bears, daddies, twinks, dykes and all shades of the rainbow and I smiled.

“This isn’t too bad. I think this place could work,” I thought.

I hit the end of Christopher St, past the leather and daddy bars, past McNulty’s (love that tea/coffee merchant) but did not go to the piers, as I didn’t know about it then. I then made a U-turn and then back up 8th Avenue, all the way into Chelsea.

There, I saw a different gay people of a different ilk. Men with buzzcuts in their 30s and 40s bulked up with muscles exploding out of their inexplicably tight tank tops (I dubbed them the Chelsea gym bunnies), skinny gay men yakking all the time and the smattering of sex shops selling underwear, poppers and porn. I didn’t dare go into any of them then, but yet I still felt safe standing in the streets even as I was among some of the people physically quite unlike me — in skin colour, size, and much more. Yet I felt like I belonged.

I was merely standing in the streets of these gay-bourhoods and already I felt for the first time I was surrounded by a community of people like me, a refreshing change from the dour looks back home. I wasn’t even in a gay club (that’s another story) but even though I was in a strange land, I felt safe, despite having been traipsing New York City roads and traffic on one wheel on one of my first few days here.

“Welcome to sanctuary” the city seemed to be saying to me.

And over the years, I have made many friends, created many communities, have been accepted by many communities, and created my own family here in New York.

The Pulse club was one such sanctuary for many gay men and women to enjoy a night out without the fear of “faggot” being yelled their way. A place where LGBT people who were not yet ready or able to openly hold hands in public without being attacked to hold each other. A space where the only judging going on were eyes sizing you up whether to say “hi” and bring you home for the night, and not whether you were abominable sin.

But that night, all around the country, LGBT people were reminded that they were still from being safe to walk upright. That despite being surrounded by “allies” and the recent developments in gay rights, all it takes is one mentally ill person, one hateful person, any straight person welcomed into a gay space but ultimately striking fear into the gay people around him because he was told to quiet down, to make us question how safe are we, even in our sanctuaries.

And that was why I was perturbed.

Post-Orlando

It has been a couple days since the shooting happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The conversation has been continuing in the days since the shooting, and we are still feeling the emotional outflow of anger, pain, and shock that something like this has happened again. We’ve seen coverage of self-serving political candidates capitalising on this as a self-promotion opportunity, speculation about the sexuality of the shooter, the nation’s inability to act to prevent further shootings because it is crippled by lobbyists, intense coverage of the final moments as victims died, outrage at Muslims, people defending Muslims, Muslims being outraged, so on and so on and so on.

But amid the whirlwind of content outpouring, I find myself thinking about hate. I find myself thinking about what it must feel like to be living with so much hatred. What it must feel like to hate someone’s very existence without even having known them, hating them because they are labelled as something that goes against one’s “values”.

I tried to imagine hating the shooter Omar Mateen that took the lives of 49 sons and daughters that night in the club and I couldn’t do it. I could feel anger as I imagined what might have happened that night, but I feared that if I found myself capable of hating Mateen, I would be no better than anyone else hating someone else without knowing what they’re about. I thought about how I would have done had I been in that club, how I would have felt had any of the victims had been direct friends of mine. I was very cognizant of how removed I was from this incident, yet how connected I was to this issue at large. I was once again reminded that there were people who hated my for no particular reason, and wondered if I had been guilty of similar hatred.

People claim that this incident shouldn’t be about any individual — the problem is a systemic failure of the society at large. But larger problems are expressed at local levels, and if we don’t deal with problems from the ground up, how much less so can we attempt to solve problems at a larger level? I want to learn more about myself as I ingest this incident and I want to grow from it. From there, I hope to become a stronger person equipped to handle such complex issues and will be better equipped to talk to other people around it, and ultimately effect change that matters.

Finding a reason to write again

Every day, I think of updating, and then the thought hits me, “Why bother?” Why indeed? I created this blog in an attempt to increase my online profile, that I may become more hireable. It has been nearly six months since I’ve graduated, and I’ve yet to find permanent employment.

I am in despair, honestly. I am losing the will to write.

That spiralling fall, first a slow tumble that leads into a plummet. The lurching feeling constantly gnaws away at your stomach, a most unpleasant feeling of unease. That freefall, that pitfall — never a moment of respite and without the solace of knowing if it will end or not; so much worse than  a clean, quick splat.

But after a while, the numbness sets in, and no, you don’t stop feeling the attrition, but you get so used to it being there, you learn to ignore its presence, even as it eats away at you.

The hardest part is not feeling the rage, whenever you look at friends around you being on whatever path they’re on. Maybe they hate their jobs, maybe their lives are listless, but to your lenses fogged up by pain and sorrow, everything else seems cheerier than your own situation, wilfully so.

I am stuck: will writing help unwind me?

I am definitely at a low point in my life, and as I age, each low is a sink much lower than the previous. I have overcome the previous; will I succumb this time? Or emerge victorious, and look back upon this period with un-fond laughter?

I have so many things I wish to write, I have so many tabs on my browser opened with things I want to fill this blog with. Let this post be the key to let them all come in, once again.

Empty tanks

2013-07-22-amd_corpse_run_13_07_22[1]Comic taken from Corpse Run Comics

It has come to the point where I am adrift, and am asking myself what am I doing. I feel like I’m at an impasse — neither going forward, nor does returning look favourable.

I am afraid:

…of the future — I can’t even see what lies ahead any more, where previously I had mapped out a life for myself. Having no success starting in that path, that vision eludes me more every day.

…of the present — How much longer can I keep this up? Waking up today, knowing that nothing has changed for the better, makes me afraid to wake up tomorrow, that tomorrow will be just as it is today.

..of the past — I look back, and see people I’ll have to face should I fail to succeed. How can I even send an email to my mother when I still have yet to accomplish anything I had set out to do?

I had a purpose, and it is still there. Is it keeping me strong, or am I merely hunkering down, to be whittled away slowly? This purpose of mine fuels me with so much fear and uncertainty that on certain days, I feel as if my heart is going to just give in.

100 words

Making every word count is hard when you are on a deadline. No time for adjectives, no time for descriptions. Each word will be so vital, that deleting one causes everything to destabilize. When you have 100 words to live, what will you say?

Perhaps you would speak of your fears, having to live in fear of running out of words to say. Perhaps you would bemoan having to cut the excesses in your life; writing meagerly.

I, however, will celebrate the opportunity of being given the chance to say 100 words, and when I run out, I exit happy.

[100 words, 100th post]

All’s well that ends well

It is 5.45am.

Waking up was a non-traumatic affair; I slid out of bed easily, groggily perhaps, but without a fuss. Stumbling a little, I made my way to the kitchen and flooded the room with light. A pot on the stove, a hiss, three clicks and the roar of gas ignited as it rushes past the pilot flame and through the burner. Breakfast is being made.

I am preparing to go to work — today is the first day of my internship, and I am fairly excited. Fairly excited at having to wake up so early in the morning every day and perform the Rituals of the Working Man. Fairly excited at having found my way back to Path of Routine and Normalcy, as you did in the past with school and your previous internships.

After all, this internship validates my ability to stay in this country.

But I know that this isn’t normalcy, only the verisimilitude of it. This false routine does not change the fact that I am still without a job, and that I have not achieved what I came to this country for. Right now, I am merely pretending.

The inky blackness of night yields to a farmer’s blue of dawn.

What comes next? Oh yes, coffee, shower, change of clothes, go to work. The normal progression of things. Oh, and don’t get deported on the way out.

Steel me to strength, steal my fears away.

Chasing the sun, away from the rain

Will you stay, or will you go?
When your fear turns to determination
to beat the hourglass from running out,
to send out missives,
so as to stay the night.
But how many nights do we have left?
— I dare not count the days
I’d rather keep chasing the sun,
burning legs be damned
fainting hearts be damned,
chasing the sun pursued by rain clouds;
and I really hate the rain.

But this time, I don’t know if I’d merely become
grumpy
or something more
dire.
That’s why I keep pedalling
away from the rain
into the sun.

淋雨 To be caught in the rain

emoroad

所谓:望子成龙,望女成凤。但当长了翅膀,想起发的龙望的路往往会辜负对他戴希望的人,那如何呢?

在窝里受得一辈子的气,火气十足,是别离的时候了。

“我得向外飞。” 子儿说。

“为何?” 长辈问着,“危在外多,个个角落藏着不安,不定,不满,不幸。不如不走如何。”

“不行。我不能。”

“那你能去哪里?”

“去西取经:经验、精宴。哪里都比这好。”

“取经?取惊还差不多吧。崇洋媚外,你迟早会回来。”

而非听劝告,放下了一生的友情,放下了一生的便利,他身无长处地往外走。子儿默默地说,“你瞧着。无论你有多么的不信,是胜是亡,由我双腿创我自己的路,是我的选择。” 连伞都不带的他就那样踏出了门,相信他身上燃烧的火将会带他出路途的黑暗。

未成龙的子儿无法独立地飞,只好搭乘飞机,造个西游记。但他没想象路途遥远行程当中淋的雨会是那么的湿。

起初滴的雨,偶尔几滴,算得了什么?心胸已抛了铅,放步如筋斗云,毛毛雨的湿,心怀戴的三昧真火让他暖着,干着。

但不久毛雨变大雨,之前从天上飘落的水花成一刺一刺的箭,泼了下来。走了一半,望不清头,看不见尾。是否迷了路?本是盔甲的衣,被雨淋湿,沾到了皮。让雨刺了皮,刺了心。渐渐,尖尖的箭尖把自信化成灰,掘出了他的虚荣和骄傲。

“这值得吗?” 子儿开始想,长辈播下的疑问的种被雨淋了,开始萌芽。“我还能继续吗?”

路途所见,妖,精,魔,怪不在外,都在内。心里的战场上,已经拼杀过的心魔散落满地。

自疑精他挥着剑,“最初的乐观都是蠢!”

自责王加入了战场, “如果你当初没那么任性,也不会落到现在这下场。”

绝望怪轻轻的唱着,唱着,“从空想造成的意愿始终是空。”

战斗还进行中,在外的我不停地淋雨。

(note: This is another one of those “If you can’t read Chinese, you won’t be able to fully appreciate the nuances of the language” pieces. There are footnotes at the end to help with some of that.)

-Translation-

As they say: May the sons become dragons, may the daughters become phoenixes. But when they are ready to spread their wings to take flight, and that their journeys will inevitably disappoint those who heaped hopes on them, what then?

After a lifetime of antagonism, with a heart full of burning anger/passion, it is time to leave.

“I have to leave this place,” the son says.

“Why?” asked the elder, “Danger lies outside, and in every corner lurks vulnerability, instability, discontent, and misfortune. How about you don’t go?”1

“That’s impossible. And I can’t.”2

“Then where can you go?”

“To the West for sutras: experience, feasts.3 Any place is better than this.”

“Sutras? More like shock.4 Fawner of all things foreign, you will return eventually.”

Unheeding of advice, leaving behind a lifetime of friends, a lifetime of convenience, with the barest of necessities he departed. Silently, he said, “Hark, no matter your lack of confidence, even if I were to triumph or die, with my feet I carve this journey of my own choice.” And like that, without even taking an umbrella, he stepped out, believing that the fire that burns inside him will light him through the darkness of his journey.

The son who is yet to be a dragon is unable to fly on his own, thus he takes an aeroplane on his journey to the West. But what he did not envision was how wet the rain on his journey would be.

At first, the rain was imperceptible — the occasional raindrops, what does it matter? With a heart free of lead and each step on a Somersault Cloud, the wetness of the fine drizzle was stayed by the True Samadhi Fire5 carried within, keeping him warm and dry.

Before long, the drizzle turned into a downpour. The water flowers that drifted down from the heavens earlier turned into piercing arrows, pouring down in torrents. Halfway into the journey, the sight of the beginning is lost, the sight of the goal is lost; is the way lost? The clothing sticks to the skin, becoming armour no longer, and has let the rain pierce the skin, the heart. Slowly, pieces of sharp arrowheads erode the confidence to ash6, leaving behind conceit and pride.

“Is this all worth it?” the son begins to wonder, and the seeds of doubt planted by the elder, watered by the rain, begin to germinate. “Can I still carry on?”

The imps, spirits, demons and monsters encountered along the journey are from within, not without. The battle is in the mind, and the slain demons are scattered everywhere.

The Spirit of Self Doubt hefted its blade, “The optimism you held in the beginning was folly.”

The Demon King of Self-Blame joins the fray. “Were you not so obstinate, you would not have landed yourself in this quarry.”

The Monster of Despair sang softly, softly, “All ambition borne of fantasy is but emptiness.”

And as the battle rages on, I stand on the outside, being drenched in the rain.

-Footnotes-

1: “危在外多,个个角落藏着不安,不定,不满,不幸。不如不走如何。” “Danger lies outside, and in every corner lurks vulnerability, instability, discontent, and misfortune. How about you don’t go?” — There is stylistic repetition using the ‘not’ character in the Chinese text, 不, which is lost in translation. A stylistic translation would go: “Danger lies outside, and in every corner lurks not-safety, not-stability, not-contentment, not-fortune. Not-about not-go?” 不如不走 in the last part also uses the ‘not’ character, but translates as “How about you don’t go?”

2: “不行。我不能。” “That’s impossible. And I can’t.” — Similarly, it continues the usage of the ‘not’ character in response. A stylistic translation would go: “Not-possible. I am not-able.”

3: “去西取经:经验,精宴。” “To the West for sutras: experience, feasts.” — This is a play on and repetition of sounds. The romanisation would be “Qù xī qǔ jīng: jīng yàn, jīng yàn.” The sound for sutra shares the same sound as the first character of experience, and the first character of the compound word, exquisite (jīng). The purpose for highlighting this repetition become apparent in the next point.

4: “取经?取惊还差不多吧。” “Sutras? More like shock.” — A pun on the sound for sutra 经 (jīng), which is the same sound as shock 惊 (jīng).

5: Somersault Cloud and True Samadhi Fire is an artefact and a weapon in the Chinese classic, Journey to the West.

6: 渐渐,尖尖的箭尖把自信化成灰 Slowly, sharp arrowheads turn confidence to ash — This phrase is a brutal repetition of the sound “jian,” varying only its tones. The romanisation goes: “jiàn jiàn jiān jiān de jiàn jiān bǎ zì xìn huà chéng huī.” This utilises the sharp sounds of “j” to evoke the imagery of piercing.

Seeing beasts

I play Russian Roulette with my mirror. I never know if I’m going to like what I see each time.

“Oh, you look alright today,” would be the sentiment on fair days. The day passes by uneventfully, mostly never remembered.

“Ugh, what is wrong with your face?” would be the judgement at other times. “Look at yourself, you look utterly and absolutely disgusting.” And then you would remember that your father used to say things like that to your acned 14-year-old self.

“Look at your face,” I’d remind myself, and remind myself I would for the rest of the day.

I grew up with a fear of having pictures of face taken, and also with the disappointment of my friends who wanted to take pictures with me.

“Let’s take a photo together,” they’d suggest, as we hang out for tea, at the park, or at a party.

“I’d rather not, sorry.”

“Oh. Okay then.”

Soon, they’d learn to stop asking altogether.