in my dreams we are together. moonlight rippling along with the waves. it is a full moon, shiny and bright like a frisbee disc. egg yolk in the sky. and we are sitting next to each other, at the place where the sea meets the shore.

“isn't it just sad that real life will never live up to stories?” you ask. it is quiet. the occasional hooting and the slightest sounds of crickets in the thicket behind us ruffle the cold blanket of darkness that spreads out over all of existence. in the far distance, harbourfront's lights glitter like tiny gemstones embedded in the canvas of the night. i can feel the sand between my toes and smell the salty tang of fresh sea air. the lamplights are on, little pockets of trapped illuminscence hanging around the periphery of my vision, but my view is filled with you.

“it's only sad if you let it make you feel sad,” i roll over and stare into yours. you give me a slight smile. this is nice.

“did you know that the way you write ronin is 浪人, with the character for wave and the character for person, which is pretty much how I feel, like a little wave person, floating around on the stormy sea of life.”

“and where'd you get that one from?” you murmur, leaning against my shoulders. the waves wash against our bare feet, taking our weariness away with it as it recedes back into blackness.

the gears are clicking into place. a glitch in the matrix, perhaps, but i can hear them. your quiet sigh and reassuring warmth lulls me half asleep. and maybe it is the bottle of jack daniels that we had after dinner. maybe it is the way the waves lick at the hem of our picnic mat. maybe it is your eyes, how bright they seemed to glimmer even after all this time. but i know right here and now that i am still in love with you. i lean in, and so do you.

it was a withering kiss, and as our lips touched, i heard the gears grind to a stop for just the slightest of a second. one singular, perfect moment. and then it was gone.

after a long while, you finally open your eyes. you wistfully caress my face as we savoured the last of the lingering night.

“how wonderful it would have been if you had chosen us, don't you think?”


it washes over me, salty tang palpable on my lips. an appropriate metaphor, perhaps, because it leaves me sticky all over, like clingwrap against my skin. wasn't water supposed to cleanse? this one does the opposite, seawater that dirties the pores of my skin. yet it is cooling for a moment, a refreshing wave of clarity. for just a singular moment, at the height of the tiny wave that crashes against me, i feel alive. happy, warm.

and then it pulls away, and the gripping darkness and wicked grip of the night wind feels ever more painful against my pockmarked skin.

get out of my head

your greenhouse smelled fresh and earthy. well, calling it a greenhouse is generous. the small shed that we built in your backyard long ago one spring has been filled to the brim with all sorts of flowers and plants. the neatly arranged pots with their green bodies seemed to be silently judging me. i couldn't even tell what types of flowers they were; even if you told me their names one by one, i would have forgotten them by the 5th one.

you push past me, flustered and smiling. sorry its so messy in here. your wispy voice, usually soft, sounds unnaturally loud in the crowded space. the last time we were here, the space was echoey, brimming with nothingness. now that it has been filled, i suddenly felt out of place. a stranger in the woods.

its been a while, hasnt it? you murmured sheepishly, sweeping the soil under the metal racks in an effort to tidy up the place. the silence between us widened, an amorphous mass that was sucking the breath out of my lungs. i find the edges of my mouth curling up in spite of myself. in a room overflowing with the vitality of life, the two of us could find nothing to say to one another. funny how we never notice the rifts forming until its too late.

the words dont come as easy as they used to anymore. // the ocean washed over your grave. the moonlight was dim over the beach's horizon. high tide was coming soon. and the stick that i planted right where your body once stood was slowly getting knocked over by the waves. dying had always been your one fear. funny. you've died a million times over by now. i wondered how scary your final one would be?

watching you materialise out of thin air would always be jarring, no matter how many times i saw it happen. some things, you never get used to. like how i would never be able to touch your face again. or us laughing in the car with paramore blasting on the aux. yet tonight was different. your grave festered silently in sappho's silky glow.

what happens when you lose your muse? well, that question is easy to answer. the romantic would answer blithely that you never really lose someone you loved before; they'll always live on inside you, your memories. your headspace. and, well, can you really tell them otherwise? what even separates memory from reality anyway?

what happens when you find out that your muse never even existed in the first place, then? what if they were always a figment of your imagination. your brain had to find a way to stave off the loneliness, and perhaps the psych would say that such a reaction was unnatural. a freak of nature. but you knew it was real. everything i had with you was real. even if it wasn't.

on the drive here to the beach, you were eerily quiet. not your usual self. well. i should never have taken them in the first place. i remembered putting on hozier, and the edges of your lips perked up ever so slightly. by then you were already fading. it took a lot of willpower on my end to keep you real.

but now it doesn't even matter anymore. you were gone by the time they wore off.

as i stared off at the horizon, the moon's soft glow grew cold against my face.

without you here, was i even real then?

as if on cue, the waves crashed over me, and i dropped under.

I remembered he was waiting for me along 9th avenue, a cigarette on his lips, dressed in baggy pants and a yellow long-sleeved flannel. He had a pencil tucked behind his ear, like one of those teachers in old-school movies, along with retro owl-eye glasses. When he spotted me, his eyes widened for a fraction of a second before breaking into a grin that showed his teeth, yellow with age and tobacco. I remembered wincing when I first set my eyes on him. It had been too long, and my only memories of him were like flashes in a pan, gone before I could properly inspect them and tease any remainder of his being from them. Not that I wanted to in the first place. I did not want anything to do with him. 

You look just like your mother, I remembered him smiling, holding his cigarette stick between his long, bony fingers. I could only force a smile back, unable to keep myself from staring at his emaciated frame. He looked worn beyond his years, older than he truly was, and seemed so very, very tired. I must have stood there for a long time, staring at this stranger. There were flickers of recognition, of course, but most of it had dissolved in the recesses of time. Before I knew it, he had gently ushered me into the brownstone cafe, its interior smoky and warm with the smell of tobacco and coffee.

I remembered we sat there in the corner. Behind him was this large, wood-edged mirror, so that I was staring at the imperfect me right in the eyes. It was one of those tacky, old-school cafes that tried very hard to mimic the homeliness of the traditional, classy cafeterias that one sees in movies all the time. Unfortunately, the mimicry was poor and the wood around the mirror was chipped, the surface of it unpolished and darkened with dirt and oil. This meal was on him, and he clearly could not afford anything better. Contempt was in my eyes the entire time as I stared at him from across the table. Our first and possibly last reunion, and all he could offer me was what barely counts as a meal in a dingy cafe in the middle of nowhere? Still, I looked on mutedly as he tried in vain to make slight conversation. I’m only here because she asked me to, no more, no less. He was no idiot. Surely he could figure that much out. And still he tried.

The waitress came over, eyeing his raggedy frame with the slightest tinge of worry. He must be in worse shape than I could tell if even strangers were concerned by his figure. A rush of sick satisfaction ran through my veins, and I pursed my lips. Good. Let him suffer. He kept it simple and ordered a large americano. Whether that was due to his financial situation or if he just had the worst eating habits known to mankind, I did not know. Neither did I care. Or so I thought. I, having skipped breakfast, went for a large serving of mac and cheese along with a ginger lemonade. The air inside was rife with excitement and conversation, but our tiny little corner seemed to be a bubble of inconsolable indifference and tepid silence, mostly on my end. By then, he had realised that I had no desire to talk to him about pretty much anything, so he finally fell back into a begrudgingly resigned kind of silence, one punctuated by the occasional clearing of his throat and his annoyingly incessant tapping of fingers against the table. He kept fidgeting with his crusty gold ring on his left finger and staring off into space, occasionally stealing a glance at me and opening his lips by the merest fraction of a gap before shutting it once again. And I sat there wondering if this was a huge mistake on my end, whether listening to my mother’s advice really was worth it after all. This was her idea, yes, but perhaps a tiny part of me wanted to see him too. To see if the person who I imagined he was truly existed, or if I was just being overly pessimistic about this entire affair. After all, he had left me with some good memories, tainted only by my mother’s words after he had left us for another family, left us to die with nothing but the clothes on our back and a diamond ring that was more trouble than it was worth, after all the shit that he had put my mother through. Over the years, the hate within me had hardened into a nugget of carbon, one that has weathered me through many storms in life. By giving up on what could have been, I found the strength to fight for what the future could become. His absence had given me the grit and determination to strive toward building something better than anything he could ever have left me with, had he been there for me. This hate would not go away that easily. Not from a single meeting, not from any number of meetings. 

So why then did I accept his invitation? There had to be another reason, lurking within my subconscious. Did I really hate him, this man who was once my father? The man who IS my father? Is this my own sick method of finding closure for the lack of a father figure that caused me much pain and confusion in my formative years? As I stared at him sipping his americano, the wrinkles on his face deepening with the faint sunlight, I groped around within myself for a definite answer, but could find none. There always had been a voice inside my head, guiding me forward, my subconscious always knowing which was the right path to take, and why. My gut feeling had always been strong and decisive, for I was the type to go with my feelings rather than think things through. Thinking things through would take too much brainpower, and I usually had neither the patience nor the desire to do so. But now that voice stayed resolutely silent. No answers were being offered up, and neither were any courses of actions I could take to defuse this awkward situation. Father and daughter, sitting across from each other at a dining table, unable to hold even the simplest of conversations. 

I remembered that after a while, he finally gathered enough courage to open his mouth and he asked me how I had been doing. All this time, for 10 years, he had been absent from my life. And then he dares to enter it now and throw me a curveball of a question like this. the anger inside of me bubbled like molten lava, threatening to erupt. but I forced it down and smiled amicably. I could not answer even if I wanted to. How HAVE I been doing? School was a mess, I could barely keep afloat with all the internships and work that life was throwing at me at that instant. The question came back to me, haunting my mind. So why did I spare the time to meet up with him in the first place, if my schedule was already this packed? Somewhere deep down inside, I knew the answer to this question. I could feel it in my bones. My silence seemed to affect him greatly, and he looked down, eyes shaded against the afternoon light.

Finally, I remembered how looking at his pathetic frame slowly but surely pissed me off. The silence between us lengthened and grew as the afternoon stretched out and grew older. we were surrounded by laughter, yet our silence drowned out their sounds of happiness. His hand brushed against mine. Something in me snapped, and I pushed it away roughly. It was too much. All of the emotions were too much for me to bear.

Exuent. Don't look back in anger.


Mornings are always so, so gloomy. There are the creeping tendrils of light, photons forcing themselves through the translucent sheets of her curtains. There is the rough-edged, chilly wind tracing the smooth surface of her window, lightly rattling its metal frame. Ghosts clamouring to get in before the roaring ball of fire consumes their ethereal forms.

And so she sits at the threshold of dawn, specks of yellow colouring her face, like orange freckles against the darkness, her features stoic and devoid of light. She sits, hands cradling a lukewarm cup of instant coffee, three fingers through its curved handle. Like an oversized ring, encircling her slender and long fingers, entrapping them in tempered, painted glass. Her glasses lay by an unopened, untouched paperback, pages still smelling fresh, recently plucked from a bookstore. There are smudges on its lenses, unnatural patches of translucence on its otherwise shiny surface.

It is noisy. Not literally. At least, not in the real world. The observable universe around her is quiet, serene, the world waiting with bated breath for the sun to rise and infuse everything with life and warmth again. The kind of quiet that can only exist in the hours before daybreak, a special kind of silence that is just slightly different from the silence that hung in the air the day before, and the day before that, and the countless of days and silences before them too. The noises in her head buzzed, hummed, quivered within the confines of her consciousness. She could not sleep, despite everything she had tried. A vain attempt to lull the voices within into a dazed, reluctant slumber. And so she sits in her empty kitchen, surrounded by an empty silence and encircled by an empty house. The morning stretches on languidly, filtered sunrays changing the scene from black to yellow. Slowly but surely.

And so with only coffee to keep the fringes of her mind awake and not-so-screamy, she sets off into her room to get changed for school.

isnt it lonely here?

his voice pierces through the murkiness. i blink, and find myself standing. the room is empty, save for a bed and a nightstand. the spring sun's rays are light, like a caress. pleasant warmth against my skin. comforting, almost like someone pressing themselves against me, lending me their strength.

he stands in front of the door. figure softly shaded, eyes staring through me. it is not an accusatory glare, but neither is it a gentle gaze. it is rigidly neutral, and strangely understanding.

a sudden gust of wind makes the balcony windows rattle. startled, i jump, and he laughs. crinkly, warm overtones, with a hint of amusement. a friend, then. i smile and nod.

coffee? he walks assuredly into the kitchen. the cupboard doors creak open and shut, with the fresh, acidic smell of coffee beans swirling in its air. he glances back and gives me a smile. he knows its a pointless question.

he lays two cups on the kitchen table. i know you don't like them instant, so i bought them just for you. he murmurs, busying himself with teaspoons of sugar and servings of fresh milk. i move forward to help him, but he merely pauses for a second to point at the bed, before resuming his coffee-making. and so i sit there blinking, sour notes of arabica dancing on my nose, musing myself with... with what? no thoughts, head empty. i realise for the first time that i can't think properly here. wherever here is.

his face... his face looks familiar, but is strangely blurry. like a smear of wet paint across the periphery of my vision whenever i try to look in his direction. and when i try locking eyes with him, my vision falters. no, falter is the wrong word. his face just blips in and out of reality. thats all i know how to describe it. but not in a horror movie kind of way. i know i know him. from somewhere, forever ago. a familiar kind of warmth envelops me whenever we meet each other's gaze.

hasnt it been lonely?

there it is. that question again. he's stirring the cups now, his fingers agitating the surface in swift, rhythmic flicks. his eyes look inquisitively into mine. he already knows the answer. of course it has been. it always has been.

he breathes a sigh and walks over, quiet footfalls echoing lightly in this empty white space. i squint harder in an attempt to force his face into focus, but to no avail. there's something amiss about this place, and i can't even seem to remember how i came to be here at all, but it feels homely and safe. it reminds me of my very first room when i was just a child, with traces of happy innocence and blissful ignorance suffusing the space like stray, bioluminescent fireflies in the night.

the coffee cup is hot to the touch, and i wince as i take a sip. it tastes... familiar. not in the oh, i've drank this brew before kind of familiar, but something deeper, like i have lived through this entire scene of sipping this cuppa in a room so glaringly white and radiant that my eyes took more than a while to adjust to its glare kind of familiar. just like a reel of film ripped out of my repository of memories, almost as if i were existing in a permanent state of deja vu.

the light switch stays off

the darkness is murky, indistinct, thick. it wraps itself around your body like a heavy, invisible serpent, threatening to squeeze you dry of any last remaining drop of goodness and happiness that you have left within your emaciated veins. and you stare off into the distance, into the other room that is just as dark as the one you are huddling in, glassy-eyed. staring at something far off, unfocused and indistinct. there are shapes lurking around you, around this empty and silent house that stands atop a hill of all of your accumulated regret. the shapes seem to sneer, their faces a pale grey of fuzzy features that seem to crackle and shift along to the faint ticking coming from a clock that hides within the blackness. like grey television static that is always changing, yet seemingly staying the same. trapped in this room, in the exact same fetal position, frozen in space and time, encased within black ice that eats away at your mind bite by bite every passing, waking moment. the serpent winds it way through into your mouth, its cold scales slithering across your heart. you cannot even bring yourself to shudder. all you can do is wait. wait for someone to barge through the door, to claw through the choking ocean of obsidian and yank you out of this emptiness.

but you dont think you can hold out for much longer. //

i had a dream. that all of us went on one last big trip together. us 4 best friends on the holiday of our life. —– was the designated driver, and we drove through a thick forest of pines and over sheets of snow that piled up and stretched on and on as far as the eye could see. we were in a winter wonderland, that christmas eve. and at the end, we reached the small mountain town at its base. we had one big log cabin all to ourselves, and the rest of the day was spent making a christmas feast fit for for a king. and after our big meal, we busted out the alcohol and talked through the night. the fireplace was generously lit with firewood that crackled and gave off a homey, comforting scent of crushed pine. the night deepened, and a light snow began to fall. faint yellow luminescence gave our slowly darkening cabin a mellow glow. it was warm and cozy and so full of love. we laughed and sang and talked all about ourselves and each other, of our memories together, of how much love there was in our lives. 4 best friends sharing one last trip together. and at the end of it all, as the clock struck midnight, we ushered in a white christmas. wrapped up in cozy blankets, surrounded by the ones who were there for each other, through it all. surrounded by warmth and love. and then i woke up. and it hurts because i know itll never happen. itll never be this perfect, this life. the loneliness hurts. happiness sometimes never even does.

god, i wish i didnt.