Letter #12

Dear various people who have asked me, “What is the worst part about being a long-distance relationship?”

I always go on a long spiel about not being able to see the other person or miscommunication blah blah. But really, what I miss most is having to wait months apart for a hug. There’s something about hugs that strike me as more intimate than any other form of physical contact.

I like the way two bodies can press so closely that you can feel the heartbeat of the other person. I like the way the warmth emanating from the other person encompasses you, shrouding the bodies in a shared energy. I like the way the tell-tale sign of the relationship is in the arms. Backs are casual. Shoulders traverse the in-between. And waists, waists are sacred territory. I like the way a hug is good enough on its own, whereas there is the expectation of something more following a kiss.

I believe humans share a universal desire to be touched. Perhaps this desire is borne from a lingering memory from when we were infants, swaddled safely in the arms of our mothers. Hugs tell you everything is okay now. That you are safe. That you are loved.

So yes, that I have to accept verbal assurances as the best alternative to this physical connection is one of the worst parts of a long distance relationship. Which is why, the ‘run-towards-each-other and throw-yourself-into-their-arms-without care of judgement’ is also the most magical feeling in the world in my opinion.

Letter #11

Dear Love,

The living room is dark, except for the grey light streaking in through the windows. It is quiet, bare of the usual tv chatter, and almost still except for the pattering rain outside. The storm has lightened. You are asleep next to me, curled like a child.

It is oddly comforting to watch your chest rise and fall in a steady rhythm. I love the nothingness of this moment. It feels as if we have somehow stolen away from the madness that is happening in the world right now. Even more so, it feels as if I am finally able to catch a breather from the perpetual restlessness that my mind is in. I wish I could bottle this moment up.

Don’t get me wrong though. I love the rough sweaty moments when our kisses are interrupted only by the need for air. I also love the hours we spent cooking together, dancing through greasy fumes and tantalising aromas. But this moment speaks of a comfort with each other that needs neither effort nor thought.

I am tempted to kiss your cheeks right now, but I won’t because I don’t want to wake you.

My heart is happy. I hope yours is too.

Letter #7

Dear Mom,

My tattoo started a conversation.

Last night, you caught a glimpse of it as I was changing out of a dress that you were going to alter. I guess it was naive to think I could hide my body from you. We share too many intimate moments.

I had my defence ready – I was an adult; it is only a small, inconspicuous one; everyone has one nowadays. But what I really meant to say was getting a tattoo was not an act of rebellion. It was a way of reclaiming myself, a simultaneous act of strength and solace in the wake of the madness that is 2016.

I told you how your neediness was smothering me. It was callous, but I couldn’t lie anymore. For all my talk about inspirational women, girl power and what not, I wanted my mom to be someone I could emulate. I wanted you to show me that our worth is not valued by the perception of others, even if I already knew that in my heart.

It was an hour of verbal diarrhoea. I took my glasses off, partly because they were foggy from my tears, but mostly because I could not bear to see how my words cut you. I paced the room, back and forth, up and down, because if I kept still for one moment my thoughts would collapse as easily as a house of cards. I gasped for air between words.

You were mostly quiet through my tirade. After the whole episode, you told me you loved me no matter what. I was confused. How could that be your only response, when I had pretty much just said you were not enough? In that moment, I truly appreciated the depth of mama bear’s love for me.

There I was, being selfish. All I could think about, all I could say, was me me me. I felt this, I wanted that, I need you to be like this. Yet all you wanted was for me to know that I was loved, regardless my thoughts of you.

It was never your own need that you cared for. It was your way of protecting my fragile ego. In that moment, I realised that while I was resenting you for your lack of courage, you were the one who has all the grace.

Letter #3

Dear friends,

First of all, thank you for being the weirdest, most mismatched group of people there is. Look at us, no longer 18. No longer looking at the world as if we are invincible, as if our biggest problem is a bad grade on a chemistry test. We have seen each other through heart breaks and sleepless nights, and even as we brace ourselves for the next phase of life, I am glad to have the eight of you as my constants.

I have so many wonderful memories of us. Remember how we all used to buy chicken rice in school, and the auntie has a code name for all of our special orders? Remember the time we went to Sentosa and took a thousand and one photos? Remember the time we sat on the lawn outside Marina Square, and played the nastiest game of Shoot Shag Marry? Of course you do. We talk about all these things all the time. We are barely 23, yet we have already become old folks nostalgic for the past! But it is okay. I love these conversations, even the petty bickers and snide remarks that are almost inevitable in our interactions. See, I told you this was a mismatched group.

To Lorraine, thank you for trusting me to be your girl friend. Its scary how alike we are, regardless in our good (our independence), our bad (our insecurities), or our weird (stop creeping on our friends’ girlfriends!). I have to admit, sometimes I get irrationally envious of you because you seem to have everything going on for you (I know I know, that’s why I said irrational). But then I know for a fact that you deserve all the good things in your life, because you hustled hard for them. So go win at life, my fellow prata-lover. You can count on me to be your go-to girl always.

To Cliffton, I will always treasure our ability to make things awkward for everyone. That is one dynamic that not many friends can claim. But seriously, thank you for entrusting your ambitions to me. I fully understand the fear of stagnating, of going through the motion because that is what is expected of you. But trust me, you are never going to be one of the settlers. You are going places my friend, with that perfect mix of drive and gentleman manners (yes, I am admitting it). Have fun, dream big, and stop asking me if I am okay!

To Sean, thank you for being the unexpected sounding board when I was going through a strange period in my life. Conversations with you often feels like there should be an indie music soundtrack playing in the background – they are often so honest that it feels straight out of a movie scene, if it makes sense. I hope it does. But anyway, don’t worry if life is not going as planned. Take a deep breath and enjoy where you are now. As long as you are always moving forward, you will be more than just fine.

To Jem, I love how our friendship is defined by two memories: me hogging a sleeping bag, and you busting your sides laughing as my fishball rolled away. I love how we can switch from utter gibberish like side eyeing OLs, to mature discussions about growing up, all within the span of one conversation. It is a relief to have someone who understands that exuberance can coexist with stillness. Your twinkle friend would like to thank you for showing her that you can be loud and full of nonsense, and still appreciate the value of quiet moments alone.

To Kent, you are always so much fun to be around. You teach me never to take life too seriously. Heck, to not even take myself too seriously. Perhaps I will never be able to understand your other world of parties and bro-hood, but thank you for still making time for these un-cool bunch of kids. I look forward to the day when you tell me girl number whatever-it-is is also girl no-more-numbers-after her. And look, I may tease you for it, but you are always welcome to take a bite off my food.

To Koi, strangely enough, it is you of all people who get two of my biggest pains. The first is all the aches and bumps of a long-term long distance relationship. And second, the regret of not attending a college overseas. You understand the feeling of yes, these decisions were right in the long haul, but no, the pang of wondering what could have been otherwise never quite goes away. In any case, I hope the Canadian experience is every bit as wonderful as it seems. Can you feel my jealousy from the ten thousand miles away?

To Chun, first things first. Happy Birthday fellow October baby! I am glad to see you figuring out what kind of person you want to be. You have come a long way, although you will always be an oddball, that’s for sure. But even as people come and go from your life, I hope your faith and values will keep you steady. Stay brilliant, stay humble, and I am incredibly excited to see what that brain of yours will accomplish in the coming years.

To Ben, I love your approach to life – mellow yellow about most things, but you also have the capacity to get shit done. You are such a genuine person and that authenticity is something that I really respect. It has been wonderful seeing you around school, just because the anxieties of being in university still gets to me and it is such a relief to see a familiar face. Even though you always miss the group gatherings, know that you are always very much missed!

So friends, here is my birthday letter to you. In the same way that some people always get a little drunk on their birthdays, I always get a little emotional. But hey, you know you love me anyway.

Letter #2

04-loveDear love,

When I first had the idea to write letters for the people I love as a birthday project, it was almost intuitive that you topped the list. I know I always scorned the cheesy dialogues in movies, and tease the people who have no restraints on their outpouring of affections. But in this old-fashioned method of communication, it somehow feels apt, don’t you think?

Someone asked me recently if it is possible to love more than one person at the same time. I said yes. I believe love is not finite; it just takes a different form towards different people – family, friends, first love, for-the-rest-of-your-life love. But here is the thing, you are a little bit of all of that. The thought of this is overwhelmingly scary. Humans have a fight or flight response when faced with fear. Perhaps this is why I am always oscillating between holding back my affections in preparation for the crash and burn (flight), and asking crazy questions that feels as if I am trying to  antagonise you into admitting that you want out from this relationship (fight).

I know I love you. I know what I love about you – the way you are so incredibly kind, finding room even for strangers in your prayers; the way you give you all in work that you have committed to; the way you laugh and smile, and dance and sing to nonsensical made-up songs. As I turn 23 however, I am also more rational than a hormone-driven teenager. I know we are imperfect beings, together in an imperfect relationship.

In an ideal world, you would know THE one when you see him or her. I am not sure if I have ever read you one of my favourite short stories by Murakami: On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning. In it, the protaginist walks by the girl who should have been the perfect girl for him. Yet he does not stop. Because how was he to know? How was he to know for sure, that this nondescript looking, messy- haired, all-around average person of a girl was his 100%? As Dev so aptly sums it up, “No doubts, no fears, nothing? Come on”. How do I know if you are my 100%? But damn, am I going to let that uncertainty cloud the amazing moments we share. 

Sure, we don’t get to take vacations. We barely have 50 photos of us in all. We spend more time apart than together in a year, and even phone calls are a rarity for us. But what we have is afternoons spent on the couch, legs entangled, eyes not on each other but basking in the warmth from each other’s body nonetheless. We have moments in the kitchen, stealing bites of the food that we cook together (mostly me ahem), laughing at our lack of domesticity. We have long walks to nowhere, sweaty hands clasped tight, you laughing at my non-existent sense of direction even as I defend myself in futility. We have good morning and good night texts; ’are you okay’ and ‘how’s your day’ texts; interspersed with silly gifs and stickers that have me sniggering at my phone during the most inappropriate moments. We have kisses and hugs that neither of us wants to pull away from, even if that means we are perpetually late to our meetings. But most of all, we, or at least I, have the comfort of knowing that no matter what happens, I can thank my lucky stars for letting me meet someone so 100% worth any future heartaches.

So there you go, my honest feelings. I am terrified. I am so terrified that it keeps me up at night sometimes. But I am also incredibly excited that you are travelling through this madness of a world together with me. Thank you for being here for near a quarter of my life, my lover boy.