# 28 nov


What Tarot Card Are You?



You are The High Priestess:

Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.

The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know. The High Priestess is also associated with the moon however and can also indicate change or fluxuation, particularily when it comes to your moods.

What Tarot Card are You?


# 05 sep


CirCe's Eye

























# 25 jul


CirCe's Clever MeMes

(Chocolate) I'd rather be a truffle than a praline.

(Continents) I'd rather be South America than Africa.

(Colours) I'd rather be white than red.

(Coats) I'd rather be mink (anti-fur be damned!) than faux.

(Characters) I'd rather be Aspen Matthews than Lara Croft.



# 08 feb


CirCe's First MeMes

4 jobs you've had in your life

. Waitress/Dishwasher
. Haagen Daz Ice-cream Scooper
. Conference Producer
. Media Planner

4 movies you could watch over and over

. Lord of the Rings trilogy (supercedes The English Patient)
. Tempting Hearts
. Shrek
. Chicken Little

4 TV shows you love(d) to watch

. Huan Zhu Ge Ge I & II
. Allo Allo
. The Simpsons
. Band of Brothers

4 places you've lived

. Woodlands
. Changi
. Serangoon Gardens
. Kent Ridge

4 places you've been on vacation to

. Sydney
. Bangkok
. Manado, Indonesia
. Kapalai/Sipadan, East Malaysia

4 places you would rather be

. Nowhere else
. On the StarFlyer
. On Kapalai
. Geared up, underwater, sunlight above, fish around and soulmate by my side (Sorry Xena!! Me copycat!!)

4 of your favourite foods

. FRUITS!
. Bak Kut Teh
. Sambal stingray
. Teddy bear BBQ chicken wings
But what about ... thin crust pizza? mincemeat noodles with lots of vinegar, popiah!, kambing soup, hokkien mee, white carrot cake, chinese mutton soup, double-boiled herbal soup, imperial herbal chicken, bubble tea!!, intense orange chocs by Lindt, Jack cheeses, cheddar, feta, pineapple tarts, bak gua, awfully chocolate ice cream, satsumaimo (baked, roastes, grilled, steamed), roasted chestnuts (boiled, pre-packed's good too!), penne arrabiatta, licorice gelato, meringues, fried mars bars, putu piring, kosong kueh tutu, mala hotpot, cheng tng from Bedok, crispy fried bacon, yogurt, KL hokkien mee, beef tendon, Eu Yan Sang tea leaf egg, Taiwanese crispy salthy chicken bits, Alexis' tiramisu cake, Top Hat's treacle ice-cream. The list goes on...

4 websites you visit daily

. intimate stranger
. google
. MSN
. ????

Name 5 of life’s simple pleasures that you like most, then pick five people to do the same. Try to be original and creative and not use things that someone else has already used.

. Waking up from a good dream to a sunny, breezy day and bird noises.
. The magic dance hours after midnight in a club - no more thought. Just rhythm and movement. And sweat.
. Conversations that fly: covering anything and everything, puncutuated by soul-deep laughs every so often.
. Ambling along a leafy lane, looking at people, dogs, cats, houses and life.



# 02 feb


LOVE

"Must I not love thee? When the heart would leap,
With all its thrilling pulses, unto thee,
Must it be staid? Is not the spirit free?
Can human bonds or bars its essence keep?
Or drugs and banes hold love in deathful sleep?
Love thee I must - yet I content will be,
Like the pale victim who, on bended knee,
Presents the chalice, which his blood must steep,
And prostrate on the altar falls to die.
So let me kneel, a guiltless votary sink,
Prayer on my lips, and love within my heart -
Thus from these willing eyes recede the sky -
Thus let these sighs my ebbing life-blood drink,
May I but love thee still, but feel how dear thou art?"

- Heloïse to Abélard



# 07 nov


Sunyi*

If I had to choose, to live with you or without you, I'd choose to live with you. Even if we disagree or can't see eye to eye on some issues, even with all the downs, I'd still want to be the one to comfort you when you're sad, look after you when you're unwell, cheer you on and cheer you up.

I can live without you but I would choose to need you. To make you indispensable to me. So that you're the one I turn to when I need comfort, protection, encouragement and security. So that without you my soul would feel alone and bereft.

*When well-wishers at Kak Endon's wake asked her husband how he was holding up, Abdullah Badawi replied, "Sunyi lah. Sunyi."



# 04 nov


Friday Afternoon Daydream

If I had a whole week, a car and an accomplice ...

I'd take off on a road trip across West Malaysia. The first leg of the trip would take us to Malacca where we would stay at the Hotel Puri for the night.

The next day we would head for KL. Spend a night, or two, at the freshly renovated Hotel Maya. Take a leap of faith; leave the car at the hotel. And take a bus to Taman Negara.

Check into the Mutiara Resort. Go for a night walk in the jungle, catch some fish, and shoot the rapids.

Head back to KL. Pick up the car and head for the hills.

Check into Ye Olde Smokehouse. Spend a night in their four poster beds. Bicycle around town. Have at least one picnic. Go whitewater rafting.

Make our way down the hill. And end up in Penang. To stay two nights: One in the Eastern & Oriental Hotel's premiere suite. And the other in Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion.

We would eat at Gurney Drive. Ride the funicular up Penang Hill. Drive down the long windy road to Tanjung Bunga. Have a sunset meal on the beach.

And finally, we pack up and head home. 8 hours on the highway. Break for lunch in between. Make it back to Singapore. Have a sunset dinner along the beach. Before I start my new job.



# 02 nov


The Dormant Lover

http://sternstadt.blogspot.com/2005/10/for-ladies.html

Do you agree? She seems to be, as one of the respondents commented, young enough to give her career paramount importance in her life.

When I was in my twenties I felt that way too. But I think that moment has passed for me -- my sense of self and self-image are no longer dependent on my career. It's simply a way to pay the bills.

At this point in my life at least, I feel that relationships, with friends and loved ones, are what life and living is all about.

I certainly don't hate my job. In fact, I enjoy it somewhat and if THE man were to enter scene right about now, it would only complete the picture.

This is not about feeling incomplete without a man in my life. It's more about me being a complete person who isn't exercising all the different aspects of herself: the friend, cousin, niece, colleague, daughter and sister are all active, while the partner and lover lies dormant.

So she could be right; you need to be happy with yourself and your life to be happy in a relationship and that includes making peace with the way you earn your daily bread, chocolate, ice-cream, cake or steak.



# 24 oct


What did I do today?

Got out of bed with good intentions this morning; I was going to file the twin towers on my desk, check on my designers' work and file my work emails into their rightful folders, so that I'd be able to go through my inbox without hitting the scroll button.

Like most good intentions, it all came to nought somewhere between the time I got out of bed and sat down at my desk.

So what have I done so far:

Drank 1l of water.
Yahooed 1 friend.
Emailed 1 friend (3 times).
Had lunch.
Had dessert.
Had fruit.
Caught up with approximately 3 months of one blog.
Now I'm going to buy some stuff online.
And watch the clock.
I have a facial due at 6.
Think I am already in the ROD mood.
Oh well, there's always tomorrow.


Conversations

BRRrrrriiing ......

ME: Good morning Hippo, how can I help you?

HE: Eh... can I speak to *Xiao Jie?

ME: Xiao Jie is in a meeting right now. Would you like to leave a message?

HE: Eh... is the meeting indoors or outdoors?

ME: ...... ? (Inner struggle to resist telling him that ALL our meetings are indoors - we do print design, NOT road works.) The meeting is indoors.

HE: Is Ah Mei in?

ME: No.

HE: is Xiao Ai in?

ME: No.

HE: Is Xiao Ming in?

ME: Yes, please hold. (Transfers call to Xiao Ming.)

XM: ...... mm.phf.mmpph.mm.umm. ......(Nods.)

XM: (Gets up from desk and walks around the office looking for Xiao Jie. Finds her and informs her that her husband is on the phone and wants to speak to her.)

ME: ...... ?!



# 26 jul


The Calling

7.35am!? Already!? And she's still stuck at the bus stop, waiting for the downpour to lighten up. It had to rain today didn't it? First tutorial and she's late. Guaranteed to make an impression. Not good.

Five minutes late. The faculty still a good, rain-soaked 800m away. Oh heck.

Dashing through the rain and skipping over puddles, she makes it into the hallway and strides breathlessly through the door.

The gaze of five bespectacled faces greet her. Behind the steel frames, his eyes twinkled with unspoken laughter as he said, "Xena, I presume?"


# 24 jun


Say it again Sam

Had an unexpected night out yesterday. Being an industry do, it came with free drinks, free food AND the requisite lucky draw (to make sure you stay till the end of the event).

On the dot of nine the emcee announced that two bottles of "lovely chee a lien wine" were about to be drawn for the third prize. We were having a good laugh about the extra terrestrial tipple when she called my name.

Although I'm not into wine, I'm incredibly happy because this makes up for the 33-prize lucky draw where I was one of 3 people who didn't get drawn at all.

The rest of the evening was spent surreptitiously avoiding spittle sprayed by eager gentlemen attempting to make sparkling conversation. They succeeded, I suppose, in a way.


# 21 jun


"Ni Pa Hei Ma?"

Got home at quarter past 11 last night and was accosted by the resident janitor of my block: a middle-aged Bangladeshi.

He was ostensibly sweeping the floor around the lift lobby. Ostensibly because all he seemed to be doing was walking around with a dustpan in one hand and a broom in the other. Neither made contact with one another or the floor.

He smiled in greeting and I replied with a short "hi" and proceeded to the mailboxes to pick up my mail.

When I got back to the lift lobby, he was still there. Okay. When the lift arrived, he followed me inside and stood opposite me smiling beatifically.

As standard lift etiquette dictated, I looked at the LCD display with rapt attention until he asked, "What time do you go to work everyday? What time do you come home? Only Monday to Friday?"

!?

I stammered, "Oh, it depends. Different days different times."

He continued to smile at me beatifically while I waited for the lift to arrive at my floor, the top one. He didn't get out but stayed in the lift which went down after that.

!?!?

Okaaaay. This is freaking me out. This guy has, on other occasions, asked me how much I make a month and if I have a husband.

!?!?!?!!!

Am now contemplating taking the lift in the adjoining block and sneaking across the carpark to take the lift from the 5th floor of my block to avoid such encounters in the future.


# 01 jun


Just so

This entry was written just so that I could have an entry dated 1 June 2005.

It's a quiet day in the office. Although I have a few things on my list, I'm procrastinating. Just so that I'd have a busier day tomorrow.

Called Mayer's service centre - need to get the washer fixed, just so I have clothes to wear. Kidding.

Will end my day at TTSH, just so I can see if it's true that oxygen therapy improves the complexion perceptibly. Haha. Will report on that later.


# 31 may


Sunshine after the rain

Finished a book about nurses who served in the armed forces during WWII. What they experienced in those years is unimaginable in this time and place: privations, danger, uncertainty, personal loss, fear and the horrific injuries they had to tend to. Amazingly, many of them came through all of that saying, "I was proud to have been there."

Picked up 3 Daphne du Maurier books - have yet to start on them.

Received this from a near and dear friend, "I know the sun will appear again in your life... and shining so bright.. probably sooner than you think."

I hope the sun shines soon for you too, my friend....

Did the regular badminton thing. Got thrashed by a 51-year-old, capitulated with nary a whimper. Whimper.

Am grateful and appreciative of all the TLC I received from various people and in varied ways this weekend.


# 26 may


Plodding

The day started out, well, alright. Called in sick, pleading a migraine (which I DID have, thank you). Drank a gallon of water, stayed in bed and finished up Daphne du Maurier's The King's General.

Good read. Might consider tackling Rebecca after this. Was previously put off by its appearance, that is, it looks like The Yellow Pages - so thick!

Migraine cleared up by the time I was done with the book. Come to to think of it, the migraine started while I was starting on the book the night before. Hmm....

Felt kind of down the rest of the afternoon: "No more tears. Because it's not worth it." But, est queadam fiere voluptas.

As I heard somewhere that laughter is the best medicine, Tann and I headed for Comedy Night at Zouk. Got a few good laughs out of that and a pint hat. Cringed quite a bit when the (fe)male comedienne took the mickey out of the other female comedienne several times while she was off stage. Seemed somewhat ungracious.

Long day. Mundane. But liveable.


# 24 may


Yeow!

Badminton game on Monday went unexpectedly well. However, I think I am paying for it now: right shoulder blade hurting and I can't tilt my head forward. OW.

Visited the osteopath for relief, which he provided but it was completely undone by last night's class. Fortunately, ko-yoke did its magic and I was able to brush my teeth with my right hand this morning (went to bed wondering what I'd do if things were worse when I woke up).


# 23 may


A (bad) break

It was a trip that I decided upon in haste and spent 3 days repenting of.

As bus trips went, it was a good ride: only 5 of us on the bus. Haha. Seats were comfy and I managed to hook up with the rest of the group in Kuala Terengganu before sunrise.

While gearing up for the check-out dive, my fin strap snapped. Fortunately, the dive centre was able to lend me a pair of full-foot fins (size 42!).

By the first dive of Day 2, I'd lost my poker. This time there was no one looking out for me and to pick it up for me.

The diving itself didn't go that well either:

Check out dive - I was unable to descend beyond 10m without experiencing crushing pains in my head. UGH. Fortunately, this, I dunno, problem, resolved itself after lunch.

Second dive - Uneventful. In every way - no headache, no problems, no fish, next to no vis. Oh ok. I exaggerate. Artistic licence you understand. We did see 7 nurse sharks huddling under a rock. Quite cute really.

The second and third day of diving - got seriously bad headaches when I surfaced inspite of of 8 to 10 min safety stops. The headaches cleared within 20 to 30 minutes of surfacing but were bad enough for me to sit out the rest of the dives.

On the last day, went snorkelling instead and was rewarded with a bunch of rashes in some place you don't want to know about. Sheesh.

Note to self: Get a dive com! Don't want to drive myself crazy thinking that I have overdone it and got the bends.

But that purchase will have to wait because I won't be diving for quite awhile. OUCH. The PAIN! The PAIN!

The bus trip back, the surly "concierge" and sad scheduling deserve no further mention.

But it was a beautiful place.


# 22 may


Maybe I should've sent this to you...

4 May 2005

Last night you asked me why I was so smiley. I wanted to say "Because I'm so happy to see you." Instead I said, "Oh because you're looking all spiffy."

I miss the days when you were in love with me. When you made the observation that I was happy to see you happy to see me.

These days, I'm still happy to see you, I always am.

I just wish I could still make the end of a long day a little brighter for you and bring a smile to your eyes.

After that break, things changed, somehow. I can't put my finger on it but then again, maybe it's because I just don't want to face the reality that we can never be as we were before. So for now, I just keep hoping that something would happen, that we would be magical again.


# 17 may


Hnnnnngh...

ACK! Washing machine quit on me after load 0.5. Had no time to figure out what the problem is. Pilot light doesn't light up. Sigh.

Chomped my way through every single Sister Fidelma mystery. Do I miss her? Nah. But they were good reads. Time to look for a new series. Sigh.

Star Wars Episode III!!!!! Sigh...


# 15 may


Lucky numbers

Friday night's dinner consisted, mostly, of someone's detested and discarded bean sprouts. How many? Lost count.

Am 75% through the last Celtic whodunnit. Score? 2.5 books in 5 days. Now you know what I do with my time.

Managed to do 1.5 loads of laundry over the weekend - the other 0.5 to be completed tonight.

Spent 6 hours at company BBQ. Knocked back an equal number of shots. Jägermeister, right out of the freezer, is apparently a digestive. The lamb kebabs, pork ribs, chicken satay, steak and sausages are all the reason I need.

And amazingly no hangover! I think I might get a bottle of that. Soon.

Badminton on Sunday: only four of us turned up so we played three sets of doubles, switching partners for each set. Surprise - won two out of three games and me thinks my game is actually improving. One day.... a long time away from now... I might get my own racquet.

Music for the weekend:
Perk-me-up tune: Freebird (SMAP)
Bedtime lullaby: Slowing Down the World (Chris Botti)
White-noise: Savage Garden


# 12 may


The Precious

Long, long day. And amazingly I was perky all the way to one. Got sleepy just in time for bed. Work was, well, easy going: managed to finish up Nigella's food bible at my desk after lunch. Haha!

I have to say that jazz makes a decent background to bright, fun and senseless chatter.

An old friend resurfaced with some sad news. Am so sorry I couldn't be there.

When you lose something you cherish and then regain it later, that object becomes all the more precious because you thought it was gone for good.

Philosophical musings aside, I really like my pink purse.


# 10 may


Beddy Bye

Put an annual report to bed at last. For while it seemed like the project was suffering from chronic insomnia.

Another client returned from Lala Land and called to say that his boss might change her mind about the approved design. Got the snarlies then.

I should've given this stock reply "Of course we can... I'll send you the cost estimate."

Once more with feeling, AE's mantra: Detach. Detach. Detach. Smile. Smile. Smile. Charge. Charge. Charge.

I read somewhere that Call Centre staff keep mirrors at their desks to remind themselves to stay pleasant. *pause* I'm getting a mirror for my table.

Went to 7-11 and discovered that the Hello Kitty promotion has been extended till 22 May. Phew!


# 09 may


Almost D-Day

Kitty magnet collection stands at 15. Last day! 10 May! Gah! OK, all I need is '75, '79, '83, '85 through to '88, '91 through to '95, '97 through to '98,'00, '01, '03 and '05.

I have extras of the following: '80(1), '81(2), '84(2), '89(1), '92(1),'02(1) and '04(1).

Anyone...?

OK day at work. Phew! Spent evening at the library, bought a white crochet bikini - retail therapy! Now all I need is a tan.

Hurt it does but walk on I must.

For what else is there to do.

I've been told by the knowing that muscle aches are the worst on the third day and that they miraculously vanish on the fourth.

If only that is also true for heartaches.


# 08 may


Mother's Day

Badminton with family today. Borrowed Dalmation Aunt's racquet which was fine except that the peeling grip left my right palm blackened. Had to remind self not to touch my face with that hand lest I start looking sooty.

Then had dinner with family at A & B's new place in Balestier. They frolicked in the pool after dinner. I watched from my perch - been raining all day and I think the water's really cold. Brr.

By the way, if you ever wanted a light sabre (how do you spell that? saber?), just see ST's Life! Supplement today - now you can build your own!


# 07 december


Air to breathe and space to move

I need that. More than anything else, I need these things to live and to be my complete self. And I need to be me.

In the years before the split, I found that space by being away from him. That was bearable because we didn't share a habitat - he went home to his parents and I had my own neck of the woods to be my strange self; away from value judgements and constant criticism on my conduct and even opinions.

When we moved in together, that changed. What was previously bearable became onerous and, worst of all, UN-bearable. There was no respite, no space to be me, and not feel that I had upset someone important to me in some way just by being myself. We lasted all of eight months under one roof.

To be honest, it was six months at my end - whatever vestiges of loyalty and duty that I hung onto for the sake of the five years we'd been together dried up along with any regard that I had for him and how he felt about me.

There were of course other factors that contributed to the rupture. But one of the things I remember best in the days after he left town was joy. The joy of being free to be me.

I don't think I can ever go back into that cage again, shackled to the constant apprehension that by being myself, I am somehow making someone else's day a little grayer. And having to constantly check, re-check and cross-examine my opinions, actions and reactions in response to third parties that do not impinge upon the significant other.

Having my values and conduct under constant and rigorous scrutiny was not really the problem. The real problem was a mismatch of value systems and, to make matters worse, he couldn't agree to disagree.

To wit, if the scrutiniser and scrutinised have congruent value systems, further scrutiny and examination would only serve to reaffirm the initial attraction. Conversely, if there's a mismatch in the value systems of the scrutiniser and the scrutinised, further scrutiny will only turn up more perceived shortcomings and flaws resulting in growing disappointment. At the start, this seems insignificant, but these little disappointments add up.

In the long run, this is fatal unless both parties make up their minds that it's okay to have different ways of dealing with things and the world outside. At the very least, if you can't offer one another unconditional acceptance, you can agree to disagree.

I tried to explain this in a rudimentary way, because it was something I only half understood at that time. He, on the other hand, felt that he had a right to be unhappy with me and to express his unhappiness with my behaviour / actions / opinions / values towards others. He didn't make me DO or change anything - I could still do what I wanted, so I was myself as much as I could be. But that took its toll.

Now, thinking about the six years we had spent together, I can't remember feeling love or even fondness for him, although he must have mattered to me because I do remember feeling sad and distressed when he was unhappy with me. Eventually, after years of this, the only feelings I associate with him are exasperation, anger and frustration.

I do not regret that relationship because I learned a lot about myself, relationships and what I need in a relationship. The most valuable lesson is that each person contributes different things to a relationship and has different needs from a relationship. The tough part is meeting a significant other whose needs you fulfill, and who fulfills your needs.

I also learned that the most significant thing I can offer is freedom: the freedom to be your entire self and to be loved for it. In return, I need to be free to be me and loved for who I am right now.

To me, life together should be a wonderful adventure - with air to breathe, space to move and room to grow.


# 02 december


Wings

A little white baby died and went to Heaven.

God said to the little white baby: "Here's a pair of wings for you...." And a pair of pristine white wings sprouted on the baby's back. God pronounced him a little angel, and he fluttered off into the skies.

Shortly after, a little black baby passed on and came to Heaven. When he met God, he asked: "Can ah have a pair of wings too?"

God smiled at the little black baby: "Of course, little one." And a pair of black wings appeared on the baby's back.

The little black baby was elated and asked: "Is I an angel now?"

To which God replied: "No. You're a BAT."


# 01 december


Introductions

27 November 2004, 1800 hours. Somewhere along the east coast of Johor.

Statistics:
2 bottles of wine
2 pints of ice cream
5 hours drive time
1 hair cut
2 close shaves
3 hours polite conversation
7 introductions
4 key questions

It finally happened; the mini road trip, the introduction, the requisite dinner and accompanying hyper-bright first-time-I'm-meeting-you conversations. 18 hours and 4 crucial questions (How old is he? What does he do? Where does he live? Have you met his parents?) later.....

"You may bring HIM to Changi next Saturday." I guess that means he's deemed kosher. Well, things went according to plan, objective met.

What was surprising about the entire exercise, on hindsight, was that the nervousness and eagerness to impress, or please, came from quite an unexpected quarter. Who would've thought that Dad would have been so willing to be pleased by what he saw, and actually made the effort to be extra nice - by his standards.

Guess that cab driver had a point.


# 26 november


Counting down...

20-something hours to go before zero hour. Zero-hour being the moment I make the Introduction. What then? Ugh, I mean, how will the weekend unfold after "Hi Dad, this is M...."?

Too late to pull back now babe. Dad's been tipped off so we are committed. Just have to hold on tight, jump in feet first and let it rip.


# 05 november


Someone

I saw someone like you today and as I watched him walk down the street and away from me, I thought: "I fear my dear, that I may have sent us both on a trip to separate hells from which we might not emerge unscathed."

I am a spaghetti of mixed feelings at the moment, all entangled. Could you wait just a bit while I sit quietly and sort myself out?


# 04 november


So... what's the next line?

Enter stage right.

Weighed down by an over-sized folio, laptop and a prissy purse, she jumped out of the cab and made for the shade of the building at double time to escape from the glaring morning sun.

He was walking in the opposite direction. He looked up and their eyes met. She noted a flash of something in his eyes and watched bemused as he quickened his pace and altered his course.

"Uh, hi, I don't know how to say this..." he stammered. "But I really just wanted to say hi to you." Caught wrong-footed, she stopped in mid-stride with eyebrows raised as he stuck out his hand and continued: "Hi, I'm Keith and this is my card. Do you have yours? Can we have lunch?"

Er...Now what? Give him the "I-got-no-time-for-this-nonsense-twerp" brush-off?

The words "Why DO you have to be SO fierce?" reverberated in her head. An admonishment that came in response to her no-nonsense approach to a similar situation last year.

This time, sigh, she'll play nice. Let 'em down easy girl.

She put down the folio and laptop, shook the proffered hand and accepted the card. Fishing out her business card, she handed it to him with a half smile and said: "Sorry, I gotta go. Have a meeting to attend right now."

Exit stage left.

On hindsight, she thought it might have been a lot more fun if she had said: "That's sweet but my boyfriend won't like it and he's twice your size."

Dang.


# 25 october


21 Oct 04

7.43am
"Hey! My water bag had rupture n had sign of show. gng to hospital nw. moment of excitement is coming..."

3.21pm
"Happy Birthday YunXi and Congratulations Muisan!"


# 03 august


"On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning"
By Murakami Haruki and translated by Jay Rubin

One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo's fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl. Tell you the truth, she's not that good-looking. She doesn't stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn't young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a "girl", properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She's the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there's a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert. Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of girl - one with slim ankles, say, or big eyes, or graceful fingers, or you're drawn for no good reason to girls who take their time with every meal. I have my own preferences, of course. Sometimes in a restaurant I'll catch myself staring at the girl at the next table to mine because I like the shape of her nose. But no one can insist that his 100% perfect girl correspond to some preconceived type. Much as I like noses, I can't recall the shape of hers - or even if she had one. All I can remember for sure is that she was no great beauty. It's weird.

"Yesterday on the street I passed the 100% girl," I tell someone.

"Yeah?" he says. "Good-looking?"

"Not really."

"Your favorite type, then?"

"I don't know. I can't seem to remember anything about her - the shape of her eyes or the size of her breasts."

"Strange."

"Yeah. Strange."

"So anyhow," he says, already bored, "What did you do? Talk to her? Follow her?"

"Nah. Just passed her on the street."

She's walking east to west, and I west to east. It's a really nice April morning. Wish I could talk to her. Half an hour would be plenty: just ask her about herself, tell her about myself, and - what I'd really like to do - explain to her the complexities of fate that have led to our passing each other on a side street in Harajuku on a beautiful April morning in 1981. This was something sure to be crammed full of warm secrets, like an antique clock build when peace filled the world. After talking, we'd have lunch somewhere, maybe see a Woody Allen movie, stop by a hotel bar for thingytails. With any kind of luck, we might end up in bed.

Potentiality knocks on the door of my heart.

Now the distance between us has narrowed to fifteen yards. How can I approach her? What should I say?

"Good morning, miss. Do you think you could spare half an hour for a little conversation?"

Ridiculous. I'd sound like an insurance salesman.

"Pardon me, but would you happen to know if there is an all-night cleaners in the neighborhood?"

No, this is just as ridiculous. I'm not carrying any laundry, for one thing. Who's going to buy a line like that?

Maybe the simple truth would do.

"Good morning. You are the 100% perfect girl for me."

No, she wouldn't believe it. Or even if she did, she might not want to talk to me. Sorry, she could say, I might be the 100% perfect girl for you, but you're not the 100% boy for me. It could happen. And if I found myself in that situation, I'd probably go to pieces. I'd never recover from the shock. I'm thirty-two, and that's what growing older is all about.

We pass in front of a flower shop. A small, warm air mass touches my skin. The asphalt is damp, and I catch the scent of roses. I can't bring myself to speak to her. She wears a white sweater, and in her right hand she holds a crisp white envelope lacking only a stamp. So: She's written somebody a letter, maybe spent the whole night writing, to judge from the sleepy look in her eyes. The envelope could contain every secret she's ever had. I take a few more strides and turn: She's lost in the crowd.

Now, of course, I know exactly what I should have said to her. It would have been a long speech, though, far too long for me to have delivered it properly. The ideas I come up with are never very practical. Oh, well. It would have started "Once upon a time" and ended "A sad story, don't you think?"

Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl. The boy was eighteen and the girl sixteen. He was not unusually handsome, and she was not especially beautiful. They were just an ordinary lonely boy and an ordinary lonely girl, like all the others. But they believed with their whole hearts that somewhere in the world there lived the 100% perfect boy and the 100% perfect girl for them. Yes, they believed in a miracle. And that miracle actually happened.

One day the two came upon each other on the corner of a street.

"This is amazing," he said. "I've been looking for you all my life. You may not believe this, but you're the 100% perfect girl for me."

"And you," she said to him, "are the 100% perfect boy for me, exactly as I'd pictured you in every detail. It's like a dream."

They sat on a park bench, held hands, and told each other their stories hour after hour. They were not lonely anymore. They had found and been found by their 100% perfect other. What a wonderful thing it is to find and be found by your 100% perfect other. It's a miracle, a cosmic miracle. As they sat and talked, however, a tiny, tiny sliver of doubt took root in their hearts: Was it really all right for one's dreams to come true so easily?

And so, when there came a momentary lull in their conversation, the boy said to the girl, "Let's test ourselves - just once. If we really are each other's 100% perfect lovers, then sometime, somewhere, we will meet again without fail. And when that happens, and we know that we are the 100% perfect ones, we'll marry then and there. What do you think?"

"Yes," she said, "that is exactly what we should do."

And so they parted, she to the east, and he to the west. The test they had agreed upon, however, was utterly unnecessary. They should never have undertaken it, because they really and truly were each other's 100% perfect lovers, and it was a miracle that they had ever met. But it was impossible for them to know this, young as they were. The cold, indifferent waves of fate proceeded to toss them unmercifully.

One winter, both the boy and the girl came down with the season's terrible inluenza, and after drifting for weeks between life and death they lost all memory of their earlier years. When they awoke, their heads were as empty as the young D. H. Lawrence's piggy bank. They were two bright, determined young people, however, and through their unremitting efforts they were able to acquire once again the knowledge and feeling that qualified them to return as full-fledged members of society. Heaven be praised, they became truly upstanding citizens who knew how to transfer from one subway line to another, who were fully capable of sending a special-delivery letter at the post office. Indeed, they even experienced love again, sometimes as much as 75% or even 85% love. Time passed with shocking swiftness, and soon the boy was thirty-two, the girl thirty.

One beautiful April morning, in search of a cup of coffee to start the day, the boy was walking from west to east, while the girl, intending to send a special-delivery letter, was walking from east to west, but along the same narrow street in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo. They passed each other in the very center of the street. The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each felt a rumbling in their chest. And they knew: She is the 100% perfect girl for me. He is the 100% perfect boy for me. But the glow of their memories was far too weak, and their thoughts no longer had the clarity of fouteen years earlier. Without a word, they passed each other, disappearing into the crowd. Forever.

A sad story, don't you think?

Yes, that's it, that is what I should have said to her.


# 02 august


Name calling

I don't call people names. I mean I almost never say, "So-and-so, how are you?" I tend to say, "Hi. How are you?"

My Dad has, apparently, some quarrel with the informality of my greetings: The short form "Hi!" as opposed to "Hi So-and-so." He sat me down on Sunday morning to a sermon on how one should address one's seniors (older folks like your Dad and his friends) with the proper decorum that is their due.

He asked, at some point, "Why don't you? You were brought up properly. Your sister still does it. Why don't you?" I tried to explain to him that I felt that the eye contact I make with the greetee would suffice to inform the greetee that I am greeting him or her, making the name calling redundant.

Still, he was unconvinced. Or rather, he wasn't open to any other outcome than my agreeing to greet folks by their names. A part of me seethed and mentally snarled, "If it's good enough for me. They'll just have to live with it. This is the way I AM."

And yet, when he ended the lecture by offering a plate of fruit to his cold and steely-eyed daughter with a smile, I wondered if he did have a point there.

Have I really forgotten how to toe the lines of convention when it came to etiquette? Hadn't I once prided myself on my good manners? What happened? Do I engage too little in social situations? Maybe. So reluctantly, I'm considering taking his advice. VERY GRUDGINGLY.

The cynic in me just ascribes his lecture to him not wanting to lose face in front of his friends. The daughter in me doesn't want to hurt his feelings by rejecting his advice - especially when he actually said, "Why do you just say 'Hi' to me? Why can't you say 'Hi Dad.' I AM your father you know. Like it or not." The pragmatist in me advises that it is sensible to err on the side of caution when it comes to etiquette: Better too formal than too fresh.

Two against one. Sigh. I guess I'll be greeting his friends with, "Hi Uncle ___" and "Hi Aunty ___" from now on. Hope that I get their names right.


# 31 july


Cab ride

"Do you drive?"

The cab driver asked, while peering at her in the rear view mirror. Comfortably ensconced in the back seat, she was bemused but answered quite readily: "Yes."

"So do you drive your father's car or your husband's car?"

She frowned. That's an odd one. Wait a minute, he's fishing. What does he really want to know? Hmmph. Not one to allow the underhand to get their way underhandedly, she thwarted him by vaguely murmuring: "Oh, I haven't driven for years..."

Now he abandoned any pretence at conversation: "You single or married?" Perversely, she didn't object to the intrusive question but replied that she's single.

Then the questions started coming in rapid succession: Do you have a boyfriend? Are you dating anyone? How old are you? What do you do for a living? Where do you work? Do you work long hours?

Amused, she filled out this verbal questionnaire while he steered the conversation on to a general discussion on the paucity of good men in Singapore. This led to the observation that good guys are not just scarce. They are shy as well. Heh. Good guys almost seem like the Dugong - shy and on the brink of extinction. Err... was he about to advertise himself as one of the dying species? Yawn.

Then: "I've got two handsome sons. Both very good men. The elder one just got married last month, his wife was my passenger and I hooked them up."

So that's it. Flush with the successful matchmaking of his elder son, he's now trying to repeat the same success for his younger son. The list of virtues of the said young man followed quickly on the heels of that announcement. He is an NUS grad, really shy (but will reply if smsed - OK, good to know), and apart from a job at SingNet (NOT SingTel) he spends his time surfing the Net (for what? porn?) and reading. He does housework (trained!), is all of 27 years old (!?!?).

"My daughter-in-law is two years older than my elder son. My wife and I don't mind," he reassured her.

Well, err, was she to imply that if two years is OK, four's fine? Having listed the USPs of the boy, he turned his attention to her.

"You look like a very healthy and happy girl. Make a good wife."

ARRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!??!?!! The old guy was actually ASKING her if she would like to sms his son!? She was half tempted to say yes just to find out what sort of guy relies on his father to get dates. Nah. Just leave the Daddy's boy alone. She politely brushed off the cabbie's offer, endured another five minutes of awkward silence until the journey ended and paid up. Only to be hit by his parting shot: "Your parents would be very happy if you bring a boyfriend home."

Low blow man. She walks away wondering if this is the first of many reminders that going barefooted in the land of the shod is deemed unseemly.


# 22 july


Contact

It was a pretty brief encounter; lasting no longer than a short ride in the cramped back seat of a Bangkok cab and a desultory cola at a local after-hours hangout in the early hours of last Sunday.

But somehow, for some reason, he's become stuck somewhere in her psyche. Is it random? The almost-strangers we remember and those that slip away into oblivion once they're out of sight?

Unbidden, details about him float upwards into her consciousness: The barely-there crinkle at the corners of his eyes when he smiled, the broad watch strap on a thick wrist, the way his arm felt going around her back, the fairness of his skin.

Oddly enough, she cannot recall what he looks like. Not as a whole identifiable person. Even so, something about him got to her. Either that or she's been alone for way too long.


# 21 july


The return...

A friend of mine wrote that blogging is about recording snippets of thoughts as and when they occur. Totally agree.

Sometimes some ideas just float through your head and they are almost like epiphanies. Chances are you were preoccupied with something else at that moment and you thought: "I'll put this to pen and paper later."

But when you try to recapture that inspired moment later on to write about it, you realise that you've lost the essence of it. That thought was like a leaf that just drifted out of your grasp on the river of time. Ok, this analogy is a little cheesy, but I think it does serve the purpose.

Consequently, I think I'll try to do no more with my mini-blog than capture random thoughts as they float by rather than crystallising whole theories. Aspiring to express only crystallised thought is beyond me at this point: I usually end up smothering my intellectual offspring in the cradle because I find them too awkward for public consumption.


# 19 may


Keeping up.

Getting to know someone when there's mutual attraction can be a little stressful: While you're enjoying getting to know more about the person, you're painfully aware that the other person is also finding out more about you.

Then you start to wonder if you still match up to that positive first impression. The severity of this self-doubt varies in direct proportion to your increasing attraction to the other party as you get to know him or her better.

If this sounds familiar to you, you may want to consider that maybe, just maybe, the other party may feel the same way.

An analogy:

Two people cycling along a road chance upon one another. Both like the look of the other and a conversation starts once their bikes are abreast of one another. Consequently, they mutually agree to continue that conversation while cycling in tandem.

However, each assesses the opposite number and thinks "wow, that's a really good bike. I'm going to have to push myself if I'm going to keep up on my bike." Or, "that other cyclist's really fit, I'll have to work harder to keep up."

Almost simultaneously, they both begin pedaling harder and faster. After a while, it becomes almost impossible to have that normal comfortable dialogue they enjoyed because they are both breathless with all the effort put into keeping the accelerating bikes in tandem.

At some point, one of them may stop pedaling frantically and notices, as the other guy sails past him at high speed, that he wasn't the only one working extra hard to keep up.

Moral of the story? Once you stop working so hard at impressing, you might notice that the other chap's been trying his darnest to impress you. When that realisation dawns, just sit back and be an appreciative audience. Things will slow down again and you can resume that easy conversation that started it all.


# 04 may


Farewell, My Mau Mau.

Hey Mau Mau,

I miss you. You, with your lithe body, eloquent eyes and expressive voice. Cat sounds are stereotypically expressed as meows (or merreow or miao) but you had a whole arsenal of other sounds: chirrups, yodels, yowls, howls even and THAT purr. In our four years together, I learned that you have a vocabulary all your own to communicate the myriad nuances of your moods and emotional state.

Maybe the time we had together since the new year has been borrowed time. Maybe it was time that we went our separate ways. But why did it have to end like that for you? The scary fall down fourteen floors. What were you thinking and feeling during that drop?

When I found your body, you tail was all bushy: It must have been very scary, falling all that way. I can only pray that you died on impact because my heart clutches at the thought of you lying there, fatally injured, unable to move, bewildered, frightened, in pain and worst of all, alone.

I don't want to think about how you may have been still conscious after the fall, able to stagger a few steps away and falling down, unable to move because your body's all shattered inside. You, who has always been supremely agile and in total command of your body, finally unable to bid it to do the simplest thing.

You know, if I'd had known the end would be like this, I would rather that you didn't come running in response to my calls back in January. That you didn't call back to me to say: "Don't go away yet. Wait for me! I'm coming!" Then, maybe you'd be wandering out there somewhere, free from the four prison walls that the flat had become. At least, you'd still be alive.

I'm sorry that I didn't or couldn't give you more attention during our time together. For long periods during the last four years I was struggling with my own unhappiness, confusion, frustration or sadness. I guess I took for granted that you'd always be there, at least for another decade or so.

In spite of and despite my oft neglect due to work, family, social commitments or simply because I had nothing to give and just needed to be alone, I was your world. That was why you came back.

During those last months together, you no longer gave me the characteristic cold shoulder or sulked in displeasure. Instead, you stayed close to me at every opportunity, wanting to be petted, cuddled and talked to. I wondered at your clinginess and put it down to insecurity.

It was in loving you that I learned to love unconditionally. For what else could you have done for me besides love me? You were completely dependent on me. Sometimes, the burden felt like too much.

Well-wishers say that I still have Tux. All I can say is: "It's just not the same." Tux and I don't have that special something that you and I had. Our relationship was like the little prince and the rose. Neither was perfect nor outstanding but to each, the other was special, unique and irreplaceable.

Remember when we first met? Outside Shaw Plaza along Balestier Road? Su Yin and I thought you looked so cute, so we called to you and amazingly, you came up to us and said hi. For some reason I just wanted to bring to you home with me. Love at first sight I guess :)

Three days later at the vet, the clinic assistant was amazed at how affectionate you were and asked if I've had you since you were a kitten. I guess that was what was really special about us - it felt like we had been together a long time even though we had just met.

In our time together, I watched you grow up - from a light hearted "teenager" to a grave adult. In the presence of strangers, you were shy and silent, shunning all physical contact. When we were alone together, you were again that chatty affectionate young cat I first met. Back then, I missed the days when you still played; hunting imaginary prey. Now I just miss the way you look at me because that never changed from the day we met.

Is there life after death for animals? I want to think that there is because it is impossible that a sentient being like you should be completely erased from existence. I want to believe that you are happy, whole and free again somewhere else. Bye Mau Mau, hope to see you again later.

Love,
Mummy


# 26 april


About shoes.

Of the many shoes you've worn, you may have had some experiences where the shoes were just that little bit too snug, too capacious or simply a bad fit for goodness knows what reason.

I hope you got rid of those shoes soon enough. It took me a long, long time to acquire the common sense that life is too short to endure the discomfort of ill fitting shoes.

The discomfort of an ill-fitting pair of shoes is mostly a private experience, at least at the start. Worn for a short while, we are still able to maintain the appearance of normality: As long as we can take an occasional break from those shoes; as long as we can take them off once in a while when no one's looking, and wriggle our toes, flex our feet, rub those sore spots and slap a band aid or two on those blasted blisters.

Sometimes we persist in wearing a pair of ill-fitted shoes. Though every step is painful or constricted we continue tramping down the road in those shoes. Why? Oh, for many reasons.

Maybe it's an enviable pair of shoes that looks like a savvy choice. Others look upon your well-shod feet and exclaim: "You're so lucky, such nice/ good-looking/ comfortable looking shoes!" or "Wah! Branded shoes, you know how to choose!" or even "This pair of shoes really suits your lifestyle/ background/ aspirations." Or maybe those shoes cost a pretty penny or you went through a lot to acquire them and they should not be discarded until sufficient utility has been extracted from them. Or sometimes you'd rather have shoes that pinch than walk that stretch of road on your bare feet. Maybe the road is paved with hard jagged rocks or ooey gooey mud. Or simply to keep up appearances: In a society of shod people, the unshod attract unwonted and unwanted attention and, worse, questions.

"Why are you still walking around bare footed? Why aren't you wearing shoes? You picky is it? What was wrong with that pair of shoes you were wearing before?"

You may ask": "What's the big deal with the shoes?" Well, what if shoes are a metaphor? What would that metaphor be?

Do we choose our shoes based on what's immediately available? Or do we walk barefooted till we chance upon the right pair? How do we choose our shoes in the first place? Think about it.


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