Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Public/Private Beings

- From Anti-Social Family, Michele Barrett and Mary McIntosh

Been thinking about this, after a conversation with D, who says he has to put on a different persona at work. Asshole in the office, puppydog at home. Why can't we all be puppydogs regardless of the space we inhabit? Why do we have to be cutthroat at work? Why must we expect to have our emotional needs met only in the privacy of our homes?

Monday, March 02, 2015

Peas in a Pod

Why did you call, you fucker? Despite the communications embargo? Disturbing my equilibrium. Rational? Logical? You're no more rational nor logical than me. We're exactly alike, you and I. Something urgent, you said. I thought it was some emergency. But you called just to say you now know what I meant last night and that you miss me. Fuck you, asshole. And I love you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Man to Follow

I had never really ever been with someone who I could look up to. All my serious relationships have been with men whom I inevitably led, who followed me. This may be because this was the dynamic in the earliest relationship I have ever witnessed - my parents'. Mom led, dad followed. I asked for you, that fine Saturday in IKEA. I summoned you from the ether, and you came, the day after, exactly as specified except for one single detail. I needed a man to follow, someone to devote myself to, to submit to. Someone I could respect. And then of course, there is the thing that complicates the scenario to ensure that you trigger the warrioress/saviour in me. It's the perfect recipe, really. So much so it could only have been engineered by the randomness of the cosmos.

The other day I found out your  wife passed because of a flu - no doubt her body, weakened from the transplant, could not cope. You spoke about it with me for the first time the other day. Is it not another very strange incident that I got sick with what I thought was the flu (but turned out to be a viral infection) on the very day that we had decided to meet in person? I was literally burning with fever the first time we laid eyes on each other. This might explain why you insisted on seeing me every day, that week. It was as if the heavens gave you another chance. This time, you saved the one with the flu.

You passed every test, thus far. And I don't know why I keep putting you through them. A knight has to have a damsel to save I suppose. But you're slaying my dragons, one by one. The strength in that heart of yours, that beating heart of yours. Everyday I am in awe.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Caring

In the toilet while brushing, D. hovers behind me...

Him: *Asking a whole bunch of questions about how my Sunday is going to go*
Me: You're being weird.
Him: How am I being weird?
Me: Why are you asking these questions?
Him: I'm showing interest in what you do. Not doing that is weird.
Me: *stoic face...brush brush...melting inside...love love love*

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A hint of something

I seem to be going retro. Its the only reason why I have conflicted feelings when you display these little hints of something. You clearly like to boss people and in your subtle and sometimes not so subtle way have them do what you want. You've tried this with me a few times, and each time of course you would get the typical response from a female whom no one bosses around. I think you realised you couldn't do this last Monday when you were hinting at wanting me in Vivo by 7, when I told you I could only arrive at 7.30 at the latest. You called at 6.48, checking whether I had already left. And of course you got an ear and an eyeful. It wasn't my fault I couldn't make it on time, after all. I would hate to call it power games because that sounds so inappropriately harsh, so let me call it the tug to and fro of two dominant personalities. You do or say something to ruffle my feathers, sometimes I think on purpose, because you clearly enjoy the fight. You have said as much, twice. You like these little tussles. And clearly like the make-up sex even more. What you are particularly good at, and something you probably enjoy, is metaphorically wrestling me down to a point where I stop my emotional somersaults. How funny is it then that you told me Thursday morning that I provide you stability?

Yesterday was another day where I see both your vulnerability and strength. You nearly cried in the cinema, watching a scene where a man sees his wife pass away on a hospital bed. And later after the movie, two unexpected things. First was when we were walking along this narrow strip of pavement, looking for a bus stop. I was wearing heels and I stumbled, nearly falling on the road. I had not expected you to notice because you were walking ahead, there was J and there was me taking the flank. You came back to me and asked if I was alright, and I said I was fine, then walked behind me for a bit before giving up on the bus stop search and deciding to hail a cab. I am not used to not being the one who does navigating like this. It is refreshing to not have to think and just follow your lead. It is even more refreshing to have someone acting all protective. Again, this is a novel feeling. I am a big girl and have never felt a need to be the recipient of any protecting.

The cabbie was curt and increasingly rude as we made our way back to your apartment building. I would hazard a guess it has to do with racism. I was stroking your thigh and teasing you about Maxwell Food Centre when the cabbie missed a turn when you and J had already said for him to make it. The cabbie raised his voice and said something I cannot now recall. You responded in equal measure, in a tone of voice I had never heard you speak before. Your usual calm, even-keeled and civil manner gave way to some serious hackle raising, daring the other to take you on. And the way you said it too, and what you said, was just enough to make the cabbie tuck his tail between his legs without crossing the boundary of losing your cool, or saying anything crass. It scared me a bit, so much so I realised later that I took my hand off your thigh. When it was clear the cabbie would not say anything further, I reached over again and lightly stroked you, calming you down.

Afterwards on the couch as we snuggled and talked, waiting for J's meal, I told you you scared me a bit. You said why, I would never do that to you. J also heard and said you were a bit much. Like I said, I must be going retro because the brief display of pronounced masculinity may have momentarily scared me but also gave me an illicit thrill. I would imagine it is how one would feel if one had a near-miss encounter with a lightning bolt - equal parts fear and exhilaration. One moment you were hurt and nearly in tears, then you were protective, then you pushed back against someone whom you thought was treating you unfairly, to finally resting in your default mode with me - little boy eager, loving and horny.

Making live

You were visually and audibly upset. It's as if someone had punched you in the gut. We watched death unfold in front of us in the cinema, a husband's anguish as his wife passes away before his eyes. I sat there, impotent. All I could do was stroke your arm, your chest. I did the best I could to comfort you after, sitting on your couch, touching each other as we sat waiting for J to finish cooking his latest masterpiece. I stroked your face, your nape, your hair. I kissed your arm. You reached for me over and over, stealing kisses when we thought J wasn't looking, or when he went into the toilet. Much later, watching your hands roam over my breasts, I remembered I had forgotten to buy protection. I toyed with the idea, not for the first time, of having you come inside me. Death creates this instinct, I suppose, an instinct to make life. But first, I have to make you live.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The L Word

You said it glibly, spontaneously, a "spur of the moment thing." I don't know why you said it. Maybe you were genuinely happy. I felt strange about it. I told you not to say these things unless you meant them. You said yes, "but I really like you." Did I force your hand that you felt a need to say it? Was it because you were afraid I would hie up and leave?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Inevitably

So many things you said last night. This word is the one I will remember. You said you didn't mean it, or you didn't use the correct word. It was when I asked you what I could possibly do to hurt you. You asked me the same. I said if you betrayed me, if you proved me right all along, that you were not an exception. What I could do to hurt you, you said was if we broke up. That was inevitable, you said. And of course there I was, heart on my sleeve, aghast. Did that mean you meant for this to be temporary from day one? If our break-up is 'inevitable.' I have been telling you all this time, we went through this the wrong way. That it was very emotional from day one. That I went all out. Maybe even you - what you are capable of giving, at this juncture in your recovery, you also gave - without question. But then as I sat crying, you took it back. And again you said you didn't use that word. Repeatedly you denied. And then when I said I didn't hear wrong, you said you didn't mean it, if you had said it.

On the one hand you said something else the other day, in your rush to reassure me because of another unintended hurt, because I am so over-sensitive these days, you said 'I adore you' and then quickly corrected yourself and said 'I adore how you look.' Is it your unconscious, I wonder. On the one hand you say - one day at a time. On the other maybe you expect an end? Or, you are afraid to hope to see beyond what we have now because, as you said, you don't know what kind of person you will be a year or two from now?

You said your core beliefs are forever shaken, that you always thought you could care for your late wife, but in the end you could not. Who are you, after all these past eight years, but her husband? And now that she is gone - what is left of you? You said you were broken. It is the first I had ever heard you say. You're rebuilding yourself, and your life.

And then you did the unexpected. You said that I would never know what it means to you that I am part of your healing process, that I am important. You said you were not asking for pity or empathy. This was why you could never treat our relationship as a frivolity, that it is mere distraction. You were earnest then, glassy-eyed. I thought you would cry. I had never seen you like so - open and vulnerable. When we made our way to the MRT I was loathe to part and suggested you take me home with you. For the nth time we broke our so-called attempts at abstinence. It was perfect though, even the debate with J about murdering people in Pakistan. In your bathroom, you wrapped your arms around me as I brushed my teeth with your worn-out toothbrush. I was struck by how pale I looked, next to you. But we looked right together, I thought. We looked in love. The sex was not it has ever been before. For the first time, it was tender.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

An impasse

You lay on the bed, last night, patiently waiting for me to settle down. I told you numerous times to leave me, to leave. You stayed. Your courage is highly commended, despite you being scared, as you said. It was an evening of tumult. From when I picked up on your frustrated Friday afternoon mood to you arriving over an hour later than expected. I was discontent. The discontent was not just from the brief meeting as such, it was from a need that as yet cannot be fulfilled. I don't know why I cried like so. I cried for the tears you cannot shed. I cried for me. And then I told you I was in love with you, you idiot. The look on your face was priceless - a mix of dread and confusion, like it took you some time to fully comprehend what was said, but you knew that whatever it was was trouble. And then you stood, your tall and lanky frame framed by the light from the bathroom. You came to me, standing against the wall. You said give me a hug. You put your arms around me, kissed my temple. Then you framed my face between your hands, kissed me softly, rubbed your nose against mine. Instantly the tumult is gone and I felt calm.

Hommage

A conversation with a friend the other day has got me thinking - there are so many things that you learn implicitly in training to be an academic. Nobody tells you what you need to learn - I wish they did so everything is spelled out clearly. You are being disciplined without you even understanding the logic behind it. One that nobody really tells you about is how 'academia' means your peers. (Now the fact that you think of yourself as a peer to people you have only read is a separate lesson, but that is to be thought about for another day). Anyway, nobody tells you that academia is a network - a network of other scholars all around the globe - at least not when you're someone coming in from the fringe like me. I suppose this is taken for granted by people in my faculty because nearly all of them are trained in the 'core' - meaning the US and Europe. They saw, touched, spoke with these people whereas I have only ever had to read them. And nobody lets you forget this geographic distribution of knowledge producers. I remember this from day 1 when someone from Princeton so proudly said he was from Princeton - the implication being that I am doing my PhD in the very ambitious semi-periphery that is NUS. Oh gosh - not to forget my roots in the periphery. (Nevermind that AusAid paid for my education in Australia. Had I known that brand matters, I would have paid the $55AUD application fee to get 'branded' by ANU). Now why is it that people are so conscious of this geographic distribution? And why is it they will consistently remind you of it? I am not the only person who is asking this question of course, as is evident here. It's nice that they are having this conversation. I don't know why I am not compelled to participate in it. Probably because despite disavowals of elitism and responding to democratic impulses, privilege by definition is at best taken for granted and is, at worst, not something anyone willingly gives up.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Professionalism

Everyone talks about how every graduate student has to behave 'professionaly.' Unfortunately professionalism is the last thing you will observe in some scholars sometimes. I try to imagine some of these behaviours in a corporate setting and undoubtedly they would have been seen as not only unprofessional but downright rude and callous. If you want a harmonious environment where people are able to work with as little stress as possible you will want to ensure that people have a modicum of social skills. Let's say social skills are the last thing you will learn in academia. My discipline, especially, is notorious for this. It's a bit like a fraternity where you're hazed into belonging and making oaths of loyalty. Your work itself is secondary.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Wishy washy

I'm not used to him being indecisive, so when he is my reaction can be whatever is the opposite of generous. Last night he had casually brought up the idea of me joining him and his friend at CQ. I suppose I reacted sanely to the spontaneous idea - it was late and I was exhausted due to a long day, lack of sleep and a run on the treadmill. In the end I went, after we had a heated discussion (as they always turn out to be). I had capitulated after complaining that he wasn't giving me clear directions, to which he replied if I wasn't sure about directions I should follow my heart. How could I have refused him then? I was at CQ at half past midnight when I supposedly, accidentally bumped into him and his friend. There was less of a story-telling than I expected because his friend seems like a nice, simple guy who has not the cunning to see beyond the surface and the music was too loud to have a normal conversation.

I wondered then as I wonder now why it was that he asked me to join them. This was not the first time he brought up the idea. Before he had wanted me to come over to his place to watch Sunday's cricket match. Originally the idea was that I was supposed to be a friend from work who wants to learn about cricket and we were not to act like we were lovers. But last night we very much acted the part - to the point where I went home with him and his friend. He denies it, or is probably acting subconsciously - but he wanted to test the waters, to see how at least one person in his life would react to him being with another woman. I don't know this guy, but anyone with an ounce of observational powers would know that D and I are not casual acquaintances who just somehow hooked up by accident. It was the way he back against me when we were outside 711, inviting me to kiss his neck. It was how he laid his head on my lap when we finally got back to his place and sat chatting with his friend in the living room before turning in. I would imagine that this is something familiar lovers do, not casual acquaintances - hook-up or not.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Little girl wants her lolly

*Phone rings. He doesn't usually call so early*

Me: Hello?
Him: Hey, what are you doing?
Me: Nothing
Him: Where are you?
Me: Home, working
Him: Ok, good
Me: Why are you calling?
Him: Nothing, I don't want you throwing another tantrum, accusing me of ignoring you
Me: *laughs* So you're punching in your time card huh? Reporting...
Him: Yeah
Me: Well I appreciate the effort
Him: Right. I will hear the same thing from you in two days.


(Context: I threw a mini tantrum last night about not having seen him for five days and accusing him of ignoring me - when he plainly has not...)

Friday, February 06, 2015

Passion, Reason

A common complaint from all the men I have loved assumes that passion cannot coexist with reason. Or where one manifests itself the other cannot. Where an issue, an argument, a point of discussion between lovers concerns affairs of the heart, I hear 'But you are so smart!' or 'Can't you be logical about this?' or 'Why are you being like this? You're doing a goddamn PhD'. As if doing a goddamn PhD automatically exempts me from exhibiting sorrow or pain, to use emotions to understand a situation, or to trust my intuition when making a decision. This irritates me to no end because these complaints I have heard create a false dichotomy, perpetuate rather ridiculous gendered stereotypes and privilege a 'thin' (rather than complex) way of being in the world.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Someone New

I've started seeing someone new. Someone who matters. I made a wish and *poof* there he came the day after. The universe will give you what you want when you need it I suppose. When it is something promising you can't help but oscillate between hope and fear. It has been nearly three weeks thus far. This oscillation has not gone away.

I watched him bathe this morning. For ten or so minutes I stood by the bathroom door and looked at him as he scrubbed and soaped himself. A tall, fine, brown specimen of a man with a fine pair of butt cheeks. Ha. He has done everything right, thus far. He has passed all my tests with flying colours. A patient man. A driven man. A man in every sense of the word. Perhaps too driven. Still in grief, I suppose. It is too soon since his wife passed away. He will see a therapist today, as ordered by his corporate overlords. He is in the clinic now as I write. I asked him last night if he would tell the doctor about me. I told him he should. He seemed ambivalent. He was distracted this morning. I asked him if he was anxious about going. He said no. I doubt it. This man who probably thinks of himself as invulnerable - a leader, a master, a knight in shining armour - will not want to reflect too deeply where he aches and pains.

He adored his wife. Eight years. Ten including when they were not yet married. That is a lifetime. His better half, torn from him so suddenly. I cannot imagine. Incredibly I do not feel jealousy. She is gone after all. And I know of course I can never replace the void she left. The overwhelming feeling I have right now is being grateful. I am grateful I met such a person. Perhaps he can restore my faith in men. Perhaps.