Will we ever get to the other side?

We bandied confessions, tears, forgiveness, reassurances and hopes
in between sleepy good mornings and sleepier good nights.
We showed our feet
and our food
and uttered familiar names of people and places.
As usual I become your dictionary/thesaurus and I’m only happy to.
Your laugh, that hair, your hands, and mine.
It’s like you never left.
We cleared out the grey; everything is clear now except
For one.

Do we swim or do we sink?

Picture Guy has resurfaced, calling me “my dear”, and bearing apologies/problems/questions. Considering I last heard from him nine months ago, I’m surprised and thrilled, but mostly? I’m furious. I want to tell him to go fuck himself. I’ve got no time for him. I don’t care about him. I no longer want him in my life. But those would all be lies. I could never bring myself to say those words to him anyway. Besides, wouldn’t embracing him be easier? Wouldn’t falling back into our old routine be easier? I wouldn’t have to miss him anymore. But three days since his first hello and I’m still trying to decide if no longer missing him would be worth the heartache when the conversation eventually stops.

I miss my mother; I miss it when life was a party to be thrown but that was a million years ago

My mother. She died. I’ve known this for 12 years. But knowing is one thing. Suddenly realising is another. This realisation hit me suddenly, for the hundredth thousandth time yesterday, and for the hundredth thousandth time, it broke me.

I don’t know when, but dad transferred mum’s clothes from one section of the wardrobe to another, and now I can’t find her favourite light green nightgown with the frilly sleeves. I asked dad do you remember her light green nightgown with the frilly sleeves, how could you forget it, she wore it all the time. He said no. I said is there a possibility you might have thrown it away. He said yes. So last night instead of sleeping, I cried and cried and cried.

This morning, surly from the lack of sleep and from remembering why, I made small talk with my colleague who just returned from spending all of last week in Belgium visiting her parents for her mum’s birthday. She said she had a great holiday, her mum really enjoyed having her home, and when it came time for her to leave, complained that it was too soon – “You know how mums are.” Do I? My memory of “how mums are” is quite blurry, seeing as the last one was from 2004, but I said, “Yes, I sure do,” as one should, and then proceeded to cry upwards at my desk all day.

So…it’s been one of those days. My mum being gone will soon return to being background noise. But for now, I’ll let it take centre stage.

 

Twelve

And just like that, 12 years have gone by.

The mirrors haven’t reflected her face for 12 years now.

Her frilly light green nightgown hasn’t been worn for 12 years now.

Her hijabs haven’t touched her hair for 12 years now.

I haven’t touched her for 12 years now.

I had this thought recently. I’m five years slow in realising this – I don’t know how it could have taken me this long – but she hasn’t lived in this house longer than she ever did. We moved here in 1997; she passed away in 2004. That’s seven years of presence versus 12 years of absence. And yet she is still in every corner. There is nowhere I can look without seeing her in my mind’s eye.

I never wrote about this, but this time last year I was in Waterford, Ireland, and after writing a post about it being the 11th year, I was drifting to sleep and felt someone hugging me from behind – spooning me, really. I instantly knew it was my mother. After all, having her be the big spoon was one of our favourite activities – yes, even when I was as old as 19. I heard her voice say, “Don’t turn around. I’ll just hold you.” But I wanted to turn to look at her anyway. I pushed, and was met with resistance. She cautioned me again not to. But I didn’t listen. I pushed hard as she raised her voice: “I told you not to!” She dug her long fingernail into my back as punishment and of course, I was able to turn my neck fully around and…she wasn’t there.

I don’t know if I was awake and she really came to visit, or it was a combination of lucid dreaming and sleep paralysis, but my back did hurt a lot from where she had pressed her fingernail.

I’d like to think it was her though, coming all the way to Ireland to comfort her crying child.

Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

So in an unexpected turn of events, not one but two friends I haven’t talked to in a few months because they revealed themselves to be jerks have extended an olive branch to me in the last 24 hours. One to wish me Eid Mubarak (immediate internal reaction: “Thanks but…ok”) and the other, to ask me to check out the Israeli Film Festival together (immediate internal reaction: “FUCK YOU” and “Ooh, I didn’t know it was on”.)

In case it isn’t obvious, I’m not too thrilled by these olive branches. I actually don’t even like olives? I wanted to reject them both. I’m not angry anymore. I’m just not interested. Still, I decided to wait several hours so I wouldn’t say something I’d regret. I eventually decided on “Eid Mubarak to you too. Hope you had a good Eid” and “Thanks, but I won’t be in SG” respectively. (Not a lie. I’ll be in Vietnam next week. Story for another post.)

“Mine was just ok,” said one. “Oh, where are you going?” said the other. The first one may or may not have been bait for me to enquire further; the second clearly demands an answer/further interaction.

I haven’t responded to either. Maybe I don’t want to? But I also don’t want to be a dick? We were good friends when we were friends. But I’m also not ready to make nice. But if I wait to be ready I never will be. But…

I don’t know what my next move is so I’m sitting here being passive-aggressive and bellowing to the Dixie Chicks.

And if I rise, we’ll rise together

For a brief moment at my cousin’s wedding yesterday, I wondered where mum was.

And then I spent the next ten minutes crying upwards and the next few hours imagining what she would look like in 2016.

Her style of hijab would have changed, that’s for sure. Back in 2004 people were still wearing those big square ones you’d have to fold yourself, and tuck in with pins. Most people wear instant shawls these days. What would she look like in an instant shawl?

Would she have put on weight, or lost some?

Changed her glasses to bifocals?

Grown more grey hair?

Would she reprimand people for greeting me with “When are you getting married?” instead of “How are you and what drives you?” Would she be unlike everyone else and be proud of me for becoming an independent, self-reliant woman? For always being true to myself? For inheriting her spunk? For my world travels?

How would she feel about being 60 years old?

Would I have pictures with her on my phone? I have zero pictures of my mum on my phone.

I found this song today at work and cried four tissues’ worth of tears at my desk. At home I watched the video again, and I found myself crying; pleading, “Don’t die. Don’t die.” Just like I did the night when we thought she was dying, and I sat at the foot of her bed, bawling into my aunt’s lap. I could plead all I wanted. She died two nights later.

Exactly one month until the 12th year. It does get easier. Sometimes it’s almost okay. But other times it really isn’t.

And you’re just gonna have to cry yourself to sleep like I will tonight.

Barcelona, I still long to hold her once more – Part 1

First stop upon arriving in Barcelona: Parc Guell. My brother from another, AX, worked there. He very kindly offered to let me stay at this dad’s apartment (his dad lives full-time in Argentina) so I needed to get the keys from him. It had been four years since we last saw each other so when I spotted him I couldn’t help but let out an excited squeal. He was taller than I remembered; his hair longer and curlier, and his face…a little weary. I guess 21-year-olds get older, too. His break was coming up and we agreed to meet at the playground. Half an hour later we were laughing on the bench, teasing each other about how much the other has aged. He passed me the keys and went back to work. I hailed a taxi to take me to the apartment, and the entire journey I was absolutely bursting with happiness that I was back in Barcelona and seeing AX again.

For a reason I could not comprehend, after paying the driver, instead of placing my travel wallet back into my messenger bag like I usually do, I decided to hold on to it. I remember thinking, I’ll put it back into my bag later. I grabbed my change, grabbed my bags, and got out. I stood on the pavement for at least three minutes as I snapped a few photos of the street.

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Finally I was ready to cross the street to the apartment and realised that I was not holding something I should have been holding: my travel wallet. I rummaged through my bags over and over to no avail. I had to concede defeat. I had, indeed, left my travel wallet in the taxi. My travel wallet that contained 500 euros, my credit card, my company credit card, my passport (!!!), and the apartment keys. I think my heart stopped.

There was a gym underneath the apartment and I ran in to ask for help. The ladies there spoke minimal English, and that was when the Spanish SIM card I had bought at the airport came in handy. Google Translate is a lifesaver! They both screamed when they read the translation of “I left my wallet in the cab” which made me feel even worse. They asked if I had gotten a receipt. No. Did I know which taxi company I used? It was yellow… But all taxis in Barcelona are yellow! FML. They called the lost-and-found number of the city of Barcelona (there’s such a thing) and related the matter to the person on the phone. They were advised that since I had no details of the taxi, unless the driver or the next passenger returned it, there were few chances of getting my stuff back. Great!

My only concern at this point was my passport. I could deal with losing everything else. Sure, losing money and credit cards would suck, but it would not have been the end of the world. Money is….whatever. Money. Replaceable. And credit cards I could cancel. But without my passport, would London allow me back in? What if they wouldn’t and I had to miss my company anniversary party? The party was the only reason I was back in Europe two months since my last trip. (My lovely boss granted my request of a couple days off before the party for a mini-vacay, hence Barcelona.) I had bought a new dress and a floral headpiece especially for the party, and now I was facing the possibility of not even being able to attend it. It was a Saturday and the Singapore consulate was closed so it wasn’t like they could help!

After a whole hour of alternating between standing at the end of the street looking out for the taxi, and standing at the reception of the gym watching the ladies make various phone calls, I decided to sit on the kerb and wait. Early on in my street-watch, I approached a guy who was adjusting his shoe and explained my problem to him. I don’t know why I did that. The gym ladies were already trying to help. I guess I needed another person to vent to. He spoke English, which made the venting more satisfying. He too made several phone calls and then he really had to go, but not before passing me 20 euros and his number – “You need to tell me what happens!” I scolded myself for being stupid and hoped and prayed. What else was there to do?

At ten minutes in, I saw a taxi pull up at the top of the street. The driver got out and I thought he looked familiar. I bolted upright and walked towards him. And then I started running. It was him. It was the driver of the taxi I had been waiting for. “It’s you!” I shouted. “It’s me!” he replied. He said some French passengers he had picked up after me found my wallet. (“You’re lucky it wasn’t Spanish people who found it!” Haha.) He had to open my wallet to try and identify me but assured me that he took nothing. It took him a while to recall where he had dropped me off. He had driven all the way from the centre of town to drive back to me so he asked me to pay him for the journey. I gladly did just that plus some extra. He was kind of a dick during my taxi ride, and he was still a dick when he was asking me to pay him, but I was too grateful to care. He began to soften and cautioned me to be more careful, and he even gave me his number in case I needed help during my stay.

I hurried back into the gym with the good news and the lady at the reception kept exclaiming, “Gracias a Dios!” Gracias a Dios, indeed. The other lady had finished her shift and left, so this lady called her with the update. She was so happy for me. I couldn’t believe how invested these people were! It was amazing. I got into the apartment and had to sit down without moving for a while. Too much excitement already and I had only been in Barcelona for four hours!

I waited too long to move again and my 14 + 2 hours of flying + 1 hour and some of stress caught up with me. I had zero energy left. AX was working late, and shoe guy had gone out of town. Going out? Too much effort. I decided to order takeaway (you gotta love those Deliveroo types) and ate my dinner on the balcony. Yes, I stayed in on my first night in Barcelona. Just kill me, please. Sometime later I fell asleep at 9pm while the sun was still out. When I woke up again it was 11pm and dark outside. I switched off the lights and continued sleeping until the morning.

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My first day in Barcelona was a bust.