Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Case of Curious Coincidences (Part 8)

His breath caught in his throat when his peripheral vision spotted a familiar figure sitting on one of the concrete blocks that protected their graduation hall from oncoming traffic. Although she was surrounded by their cohorts, she stood out in the crowd like a shining diamond in her attire. Her lips stretched upwards when he saw her. His earlier searches on her Instagram account may have revealed pictures of her in formal attire, but seeing it with his own eyes was a different story. Her bushy hair was pushed back behind her ears and landed a tad bit lower than her shoulders. She ditched her glasses in favor of contact lenses that accentuated her round eyes. There was only a blush on her cheeks and a light pink lipstick.

“Mind if I join you, Crystal?”

He saw that Crystal jumped in shock at his question. It wasn’t until she turned in his direction that she gave him a side glance. “You scared the lights out of me, Ryan.”

“Aren’t you with your parents?”

“Oh, they’re abroad, but insisted that I graduate in person. I’m waiting for a friend to come.” She observed that his eyes flashed with disappointment. “What about you?”

“My old folks are on their way. What time is your friend going to arrive?”

“What’s up?”

“I was thinking … whether you’d like to take a couple of pictures with me and kill time. I mean, instead of drowning in your thoughts.”

“Sure, why not?” She slid down the boulder and wiped the imaginary dust off the robe. “Any place in mind?”

“Perhaps the courtyard?” He suggested. “Since we’re both from law?”

“Okay, that’s a quieter place with enough natural light for photography.”

*

He breathed a sigh of relief when one of the students waiting on the round concrete seats agreed to help them to take a picture. His heart sank deeper into the ocean when he felt Crystal’s body stiffened as he placed a hand on her waist for the photography session. It indicated that she was still uncomfortable with him or experienced something so terrible that he wished he could wipe clean from her memory. He couldn’t place the feeling that she experienced: a comfort that washed over him to have her close to him. Yet, she reciprocated with an arm over his shoulder like a sibling.

“Thanks a lot,” he mentioned as the person returned his phone.

“Not to worry,” came the reply. “I took a couple more shots for you to choose. Congratulations on your graduation!”

“Thanks a lot,” Ryan answered while Crystal nodded with a smile.

She waited for the person to be out of earshot before she approached Ryan. “So, how are the pictures?” she asked. “I’m trusting your eyes. So, it better look good!”

“It should be okay. I hope.”

Just ahead of them, Crystal spotted the caricature of her friend entering the campus and cleared her throat. “Look, I’ve to split. My friend’s here.”

“Oh, sure thing. If I don’t see you later, congrats on the graduation!”

“Thanks. And you too.” She shot a grin before she dashed off in another direction.

*

“Thanks for coming!” Crystal scooped her friend into an embrace outside the graduation hall. “You’ve no idea how much I appreciate it, Harry.”

Her lips stretched upwards when she mentally analyzed his fashion sense. He wore smart casual attire - light blue checkered shirt and black working pants - and a pair of expensive-looking R.M. Williams shoes. Had it been in another dimension, she could foresee herself falling for his charms and personality. She loved how his eyes crinkled whenever he laughed and how relaxed he was whenever they were together. He was a kind soul who loved to help people and craved for his close ones to be happy - even if it meant pushing his own feelings aside. In essence, he was willing to place others before him.

Harry laughed out loud. “I’ll obviously be in attendance. It’ll be the last time that we’ll be able to regularly hang out. I’d have accommodated your graduation time into my schedule, even if it meant missing my tute.”

Her eyes widened with horror. “No, no. Did you skip classes?”

“Nah, we’re in luck that my tutorial is after your ceremony. The downside is that i’ve rush off for it right after it ends. So, we can’t take pictures with you in the robe.”

“I’d have asked you to go for your classes after all. I only care about who the pictures are with, not the freaking attire.”

“Awesome. Can we do late lunch or early dinner after that?”

“Sure, why not? It’d be glad to end the day with food … and wine.”

*

As there was a couple of moments before the start of the convocation, Crystal caught herself admiring the handiwork and decoration of the majestic hall hosting their graduation. Ahead of her was the stage with three chairs in the middle. Towards the left and right were more chairs of the same kind, which she suspected was for the academic administrative employees and the rest of her lecturers. Or at least those who were able to squeeze some time out from their busy schedules. The place never failed to amaze her, no matter how many times she was given access through her role as a graduation volunteer or as an orientation host.

“This is a surprise,” she heard a voice and turned in that direction. Her jaw slammed to the floor. It was Ryan standing in front of her with the pamphlet in his head. “Yeah, I know. I wasn’t expecting to be sitting next to you for the ceremony either.”

“How did this happen?!”

He shrugged as he sat next to her. “I don’t know. Maybe our scores are similar to each other. Maybe we have similar last names."

"Oh, please. I'm not as intelligent as you are."

"My dear friend, the possibilities are endless.”

This is not good, she thought. She stole a glance at Ryan, whose concentration was glued on the pamphlet with the list of the graduates, and closed her eyes. Although this was something that Trace and she discussed as a probability, never once in her wildest dream did she expect to occur. Back then, she figured that there would be someone else sitting in between them. Back then, she wanted that person to block her view of Ryan to afford her some sense of peace. But in the end, her worst nightmare became a reality.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

9/28/2017

I dreamt that I attended an event that was held in a large area. Whether it was a ballroom or a convention centre, I couldn’t tell. The person - let’s call him an emcee - stood at the centre of the stage and introduced something to the attendees.

As I heard someone introducing herself, my ears perked up when she said the magic name. I had been looking for that person for a while. During the break time, I walked over to the table where she was seated and asked her about this. She refused to meet my eyes and told me to meet her at the back in 15 minutes to have a private conversation on this. She apparently was with other people and didn’t want them to know the nature of our conversation topic.

Interpretation: A quick check with the dream website indicated that there is a hidden aspect of myself that I have never seen before. In the dream, there were lots of people, but none of whom I knew in reality. My best guess is that the worries I have now, I’ve never experienced them before. Not even in Taylor’s. Oddly enough, even though I struggled with History, I knew that I’d be able to pass the course - just not at the grade that I wanted.

At the corner of my eye, I saw that the police had arrived to arrest someone. Who, I wasn’t sure, but the shiny silver handcuffs stood out in the dimly lit area. I made my way to the toilet on the pretext of seeing who it was, but the emcee told me to use the toilet at the back instead. I didn’t pick up on his reasoning.

Interpretation: I’ll split this piece into three parts:

a) The place that we were in was a dimly lit room. You could even say that it was a dark room with lights from the back, the projectors, and people’s laptop screens. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why I’d even have such a dream, but I digress. A quick check with the aforementioned website gave me a couple of ideas to work with. The first one is the possibility of something dangerous about to occur in my life. Let’s see - if you consider my hesitance on my capabilities of completing this semester without breaking down, then it might be the precarious thing that the subconscious is warning me about. The second one is where I’m stuck in a situation and having to make do with what I have. This one seems to be more realistic, seeing that I’m about to pull my hairs out.

b) The police arresting someone. Now, this could be a signal that feelings of change are being placed on me. It is either that or my presence brings a sense of security or calmness to a situation. Hah, I wish. I don’t think I’m that capable to defuse a low-level conflict before it explodes into a dispute.

c) Someone being handcuffed. Mind you, there are times when I feel like i’m reaching the limits of my mental and emotions. I’m forced to adopt the role of someone else, where I can’t express myself for the fear of aggravating or complicating a tender situation. I won’t be surprised if the situation that I’ve landed myself into that is the cause. You could say that my environment has forced me to adapt. I get glares/stares directed at me whenever I choose to express myself in Mandarin due to the stereotype and misassumptions. I’m not as fluent in Bahasa Malaysia as I am in English, so I only speak Malay when I’m within the four walls or back home in the good ole KL.

Instead of being myself, why not observe more than I speak?

I walked into the toilet cubicles and instantly felt fearful. The air was colder than I expected, and it left me thinking that I have company. It wasn’t until I met a four-legged fellow that my fear was soothed. I saw its name written on a tag that was hammered next to the main door. I whispered the dog’s name. The furkid waited outside the cubicle and its presence somehow managed to give me the peace and safety that I needed.

Interpretation: I’ll split this piece into three parts:

a) Walking into the toilet. Let's just say that I need the opportunity to rid myself of a negative situation, two of which I'm currently facing. I won't say much about the first one, but I can elaborate more about the second one. The fact that I haven't been able to study to the best of my abilities has tested my patience since the beginning of penultimate year. I feel like I'm being overwhelmed and am more than ready to drop everything, if it means having a breather.

I just need to let go and find my old self while trusting the process.

b) The fear that I felt in the toilet. The online dream interpretation suggested that a situation in real life is giving me the creeps. Sure, I am anxious about the little side project that I've just completed as I don't know whether the time spent on it would be a waste or success. I am also anxious about obtaining a credit for all of my courses this semester.

I just don't know whether I've done enough... which is ironic.

Where has all my confidence gone to?

c) Seeing the dog tag. Seriously, this is a description that is more suited for my good friend, not me. I've observed him - and his method of confronting a negative situation is different from mine. He doesn't speak of it and relies on himself to get things done. Me? I've to give myself some pep-talk to keep the rising fear and anger at bay.

Maybe the sudden loss of confidence is related to this. I've chosen to wear a happy mask in front of everyone to protect myself from the harsh effects of words or actions. I try not to rely on others for help - even though I'm drowning - and prefer to do it myself. Could that be an indication that I am emotionally protective of my work?

Some people had left my table when I returned from the toilet. We were seated near the projection screen on a long table. I was also tempted to do the same thing since it was getting late. I asked a fellow friend to walk me to my car after the event. He replied that it would’ve been something that he’d do even if I hadn’t asked him. He reasoned that he wanted to make sure that he saw me off safely.

Interpretation: a) Me talking to the girl and my friend. Oh, how in the world did my fears and insecurities slip into the dream? I don't like to air my grievances, because, let's face it, it could be used as a revenge or a way to get back to me if someone wants to see me suffer.

Hell, I even feel the traces of jealousy in some people.

Ugh, humans. 


b) The friend agreeing to walk me to my car. Seeing that none of the attendees are people whom I know in real life, this might be the subconscious way of having a friend who is there for me. Sure, I know some of my friends would be there for me, but I'm not going to splash their inbox with paragraphs after paragraphs of rants and vents when I don't feel confident that it'll be kept as a secret. Maybe the dream is creating a mirror image of myself but with better qualities and tools to keep me going. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

9/26/2017

Only God knows how exhausted I feel.

It looks like I have the bad habit of suppressing everything and not raising a hand when I need help. No matter how swamped or tired I am, you’ll see me waddling through the mountainous load of academic and non-academic things. That’s how I roll since college, but I have noticed something different in the recent weeks.

I always have flashbacks of past memories whenever I am in the midst of doing something. Even at the time of penning this post, I am reminded of a particular moment in time when we were visiting a docked cruise ship - Star Cruises, if I’ve correctly remembered the name - in Port Klang before we had dinner at the local seafood restaurant on our way back. Our travel companion chose Coconut Tree Seafood Restaurant. I can even be finishing my assessment when I suddenly catch myself thinking about my time in Fremantle, where I almost lost my way in the University of Notre Dame campus.

I’m excited that my penultimate year is a done and dealt thing after that Corporate Law exam. I want - no, scratch that, I need - to put a challenging year, personally and academically, behind me and focus on the end goal. The sigh of relief at having another year to complete. The prospect of graduating with the elusive degree which has made me lost ⅓ of my body size and continuously left me on the edge of the cliff. Lost ⅓ of the my body size? Yes, you read that right. Some of my college friends were unable to recognize me when I caught up with them last year. For reasons that only God knows, the aura has been different. I don’t even know what it is that I want out of life. I feel like I’m losing base with my academic knowledge and skill. With my mind having taken a leave of its own absence, I can’t fully concentrate and have the desire of retreating into my shell. Not just the shell; it’s the deep dark abyss of it, where I’m comforted by the soothing effects of the silence and darkness.

Maybe, who knows, I’ll be able to find that mojo again after the summer break.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

9/23/2017

I dreamt that my sister and the good friend joked with each other at the far corner of the cafe. Although I was resigned to the fact that I wasn’t invited, I wasn’t annoyed because I wanted them to spend some time together. I was also sure that he told her some of the news that I already knew: one of which was him volunteering as a peer tutor for one of the law courses that he excelled in. With a sigh, I pretended that I didn’t see them and went my own way. It wouldn’t be fair for me to interrupt their private conversation.

When I saw them - or at least two people who looked like them - a couple of days later in another place, it irked me because you don’t consciously forget to invite another person twice in a row. I suspected that there was an intention to alienate me, so I asked my college friend to look after my backpack while I took my phone and went to them to say hello.

Interpretation: A quick look at the online website suggested that I might not have prioritised myself over everything else hence the feeling of being ignored in the dream. Now that I think back, it does make a tad bit of sense. My focus these couple of weeks have been divided between my personal undertakings and the assignments, leaving me with little to no time for some alone time.

The next scene involved me dreaming that one side of the intersection ahead of us was blocked for a cycling event. As my college friend and I waited to cross the road at the traffic lights, we were surrounded by four grumpy old men. Let’s just say that they were so pissed off that they hurled their displeasure at the inconvenience as they overtook us. My college friend and I stopped at the sidewalk and had a couple of last words before we went our separate ways.

I had booked a night in an exquisite hotel and made my way there. It was busier than I expected and after waiting for quite a while, I asked the hotel receptionist what had happened. She answered that the hotel was playing host to an entourage from abroad for an upcoming festival. It would be jam-packed with people for the next couple of days and if I was lucky enough, I might run into a handful of celebrities who stayed there. As I took the lift to the allocated hotel room, it involved me changing lifts at a certain floor.

Interpretation: A visit to the dream website gave an interpretation to this scene. It highlights my subconscious scream for help. I won’t know whether it is accurate because college has taught me to be independent. With that being said, I do feel like I’m at the stage where I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. My heart wants to abandon everything momentarily and run somewhere for a respite, away from the hustle and bustle of academia. Maybe this is what a burnout feels like.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Case of Curious Coincidences (Part 7)

Crystal’s lips stretched thinly as she emerged at the arrival hall of Adelaide Airport with her luggage. She resembled a zombie with her pale complexion and swollen eyes. She gulped with sadness when she saw a crowd of people waiting with exuberance to embrace their loved ones and immediately turned away. She took a deep breath to stabilize her emotions. The scene reminded her of her last night in Edmonton and how she turned down her roommate’s request to send her to the airport. If she didn’t exercise self-control, this could spiral into a full blown crying episode and it was in her best interest to avoid it. Her body was already in urgent need of sleep, especially after she endured cross-country flights that included brief stops in Vancouver and Sydney, two time zones, and a severe jet lag waiting to pounce on her.

“I am out of my mind,” she muttered under her breath.

The last four months or so that she spent in University of Alberta opened her eyes to a new horizon, but an important question lingered. How was she to resume her studies in Adelaide after this? She had panicked the moment she received the momentous news as it meant that there was no turning back. But her common sense had prevailed. A semester without Ryan’s presence would allow her to think and live a portion of her dream, which was to further her education in Canada. Make that two semesters - since he would be in good ole Auckland this time.

She stole a peek at her watch at this thought, which read that it was already hitting noon, and patiently indulged in her book while she waited for her mother to collect her. Thank God classes start in a fortnight, she rationalized. Or I’ll be a dead woman walking.

*

Her head ached with the fury of someone deprived of sleep the moment she neared the tutorial room for her core course. If she thought that she was able to mentally snap back into shape in a fortnight, she was proven wrong. The obstreperous volume of multiple conversations between the students flowed into the hallway. An indication that most of the students were present and waited for the tutor to show his or her face. The sight of a table and desktop computer welcomed her as she made her way in. It was a smaller room with little space for movements without trampling over each other. She instantly recognized a couple of faces in the crowd and fixed a smile with her focus on Trace, who was seated at the far end of the room and doodling on her notepad. It didn’t matter if she was a familiar face to them either. To her, they were all students churning their own grades.

“Trace,” Crystal greeted.

“Hey,” Trace replied and transferred her bag to the floor. “Thank God you arrived on time. I was worried that you’d be late… especially after such a long flight.”

“Oh, I was already back since a fortnight ago. It gave me enough time to recuperate from the jet lag. How’s things?”

“Quite okay. How was Edmonton?”

“Yeah, it was manageable. Experienced my first and only snow. An eye-opener of all sorts.”

“You know, Fate threw me in the same tutorial as him for Administrative Law.” Trace shook her head with a sigh. “The poor chap looked like someone extinguished the fire in his candle. Couldn’t help but think that you were the reason.”

“Oh, please. As if.”

“You never know…”

*

Her hands shook with trepidation the moment she entered the law building for her final semester. A few more months, and she’d be done with the entirety of her degree. But there was something else waiting for her at the finish line: the prospect of running into Ryan at the graduation ceremony. She hadn’t given him much thought during her sophomore year, but Fate served her with ideas of its own. Her smile was wiped off her face when she caught sight of Ryan entering the room with his mate. She hunched over and discreetly hid her face behind her Mac, pretending that her concentration was on her computer screen. History part two, she thought. Fate is definitely screwing with me again. Tracy will have fun with this. For sure.

She knew that she needed a change of plans when her tutor entered the room with a large folder. An indication that class was about to start. She decided to give Ryan the cold shoulder and feigned that he was a stranger to her. It was a tactic that he once used on her and she accidentally snapped in his face with the same method. She focused on her own things … until he approached her during the tutorial break.

“Hello, Crystal. It’s a surprise to see you here.”

Crystal forced a laugh. “Yeah, I wasn’t expecting to share a class with you again either. How’s Auckland?”

“You remembered. It was better than I imagined. There is something comforting and welcoming about the aura that makes you want to return again.”

“I know that feeling. It’s a smaller country, but you won’t feel constricted.”

His eyes widened with shock. “How’d you know?”

“Come.” She gingerly closed her laptop and rose to her full height. “We’ve another eight minutes. Let’s continue this conversation outside.”

It was moment later when they were out of earshot that she answered Ryan - although he noticed that she folded her arms and crossed her legs as she leaned against the wall for stability. “I’ve lived there for a while.”

She was uncomfortable, but over what, he was unsure. “Too bad you couldn’t be there then,” he muttered. “You’d have been the perfect tour guide then.”

She raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?”

“It’s nothing,” he backtracked. “I was just thinking that if I knew that you visited Auckland before, I would’ve asked you for recommendations and tips.”

“Oh.”

“Since it’s just us, can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“Can we start over as friends? My time in Auckland has made me realized that we weren’t exactly fair to each other. For all of the grief that I may’ve caused you as a burro estupido, I am sincerely sorry.”

It meant stupid donkey in Spanish. Why he, as a French speaker, would refer to Spanish words in his apology was something she didn’t understood, but one thing was clear in her mind. Now that he made the first move of admitting his sins, she was more than willing to bury the hatchet and start over.

“Apology accepted. And I’m sorry for what I’ve done too.” She offered a handshake. “A truce?”

He took her proffered hand - smoother than tofu - in a heartbeat. “Yes.”

“Let’s return inside then. I don’t want our peers to frown at our late return.”

“Sure.” He pulled the door open and held it for her. “After you.”

“Thanks.”

Monday, August 21, 2017

To do or not to do, that's the question

It’s only Week 5 of the semester … and I honestly feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with the placement of tutorials. Or maybe I’ve arrived at the stage where I’m forced out of my comfort zone. You know it spells disaster for a perfectionist when she feels inept and incapable of doing anything right. Nope, I’m not whining - just stating an obvious fact about me. I’d rather divert the complaints into the hauntingly emotional songs that I love. It’s not just that; I’m easily agitated and annoyed to the point where I’m not keen in spending more time on campus (unless it’s necessary, such as group projects/meetings or extra classes to catch up on the course content).


The recent holiday exposed a lot of uncertainties in my future plans that I’ll need to resolve asap. I’m having second thoughts about staying back for a postgraduate in creative writing. Someone will be happier than the shining lights if I do. More chances of spending time together. But my heart wants to leave. It wants to let the brain recover from the continuous pressures that I’ve subjected it to. At the rate I’m going, I don’t even know if I want to continue with the creative writing degree. No matter how much I love creative arts, stress will impede the creative flow. Looking at my current state of mind, I don’t think being a barrister could be a viable option either. I mean, the advocacy that I did as part of the course last semester left me wailing under the weather. Imagine if it has to be done on a professional basis. Barristers have to persuade the judge with their arguments that are referenced to statutes and case law. Something that I’m not a 100% confident in. You see, the last I debated with an acquaintance - in English class - in Taylor’s, emotions were thrown into the mix. I understand that it’ll be good to continue with the chambering, but the lights are dimming on it. It’s not helping my case that I’ve a couple more months before final year rolls around. And scaring me with the prospects of entering the workforce in a foreign place.

Should I be relieved? Yes and no. I can’t wait to be done, that’s for sure. My studies have definitely caused some personality changes. But in the event that things don’t go as planned, what am I to do? Rot under the sun and curse my luck? I’m a firm believer in that action will lead to changes. Not complaints. Just not sure if it’s true anymore.

Should I be apprehensive? A resounding yes. A lot is at stakes now. Miss one step - and it won’t just be me landing on my face in tears. (Okay, that could be an overstatement, but it is a possibility.) It’ll be my GPA who’ll accompany me this time. I must’ve buried my intelligence and common sense somewhere in the Malaysian soil before my university studies. Otherwise, I wouldn’t feel like I’m a stupid child running head first into an obstacle. A sign that I’m not in the right environment?


Believe it or not, the fact that I’ve crammed my Tuesdays with tutorials has upped my stress levels. It’s on the verge of testing my patience. I’m okay with the chosen courses, but it’s the timing that I’ve an issue with now. If someone warned me right after Administrative Law that things will slide at a rapid level and test my patience to the maximum, I’d have heeded the advice and approach penultimate year with caution. Can’t cry over spilt milk, can I? The only way around it to take the bull by its horns and ride with it.

From the way I look at it, this arrangement has led me to jump head-first into a sinkhole and a divine arrangement in more ways than one. Us breathing the same air again is not a mere coincidence - when it’s happened before and repeatedly. Truth be told, I think we’re exhausted from seeing each other’s faces all the time. It’ll be a matter of time before we snap each other’s necks in irritation. No wonder they said to be careful with what you wish for - because the opposite can happen instead.

And it did, sigh.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Case of Curious Coincidences (Part 6)

The topics of ethical issues in a fair trial was the choice that they wanted for the class presentation.. Because it was a complicated topic that required countless research, the other groups dropped this in favor of other ones. This allowed Crystal and Ryan to work as a team with another two students on this.

Once their presentation was done and dealt with, she breathed a sigh of relief and returned to her seat. She felt the nerves strangling her throat and shaking her alive towards the end of her piece, as if she could’ve engaged with her materials in a confident manner. It was after the tutor announced that the seminar was done for the weeks that she slid to the front and gathered the handouts that her peers left behind. It would’ve gone to waste if she didn't bring it home with her as rough papers.

Her breath caught in her throat when she spied Ryan loitering outside the smaller lecture theatre. He was waiting for someone. It’s just that she didn't know who. She rearranged the folder that she carried like a baby and tried to pass him unnoticed. Dealing with him on academic matters was alright, but she ensured that she was out of his way whenever they were out of class. She rationalised that it was probably a friend he waited for and lowered her head, not wanting him to notice her. It was their final week of classes and he was probably relieved that he’d see the back of her for the semester.

“Crystal!”

She stopped in her tracks when she heard her name. With a deep breath, she turned to face him with a smile. “Hey, Ryan.”

“Thank you so much for making the presentation a success. You were the last presenter and the execution rested solely on your shoulders.”

“Thanks. You weren’t too shabby either. In fact, you did better than myself.”

“You think so?”

She nodded. She finally saw him for who he was in that instant. Behind all the facade and seriousness was someone friendly and warm. The air of tension that wrapped him melted into one of easiness, as if they were friends since young. The notion that he called her name was indicative of it. It dawned on her that he allowed her to see another side of him - one that only his close friends know - without the presence of their friends. He wore a grin that not even a scouring pad could wipe off. His eyes were softer and friendlier although it was in the direction of the staircase behind her. “Let’s make a move.”

“Sure.” As they walked down together, he continued speaking. “There’s something I am curious on.”

“Okay?”

“What made you bolt out of the lecture all of a sudden? You looked as if someone dipped you in hot sauce.”

She sighed. Although he didn’t explicitly refer to a certain week of lectures, she knew which one he referred to. It was the only time that they sat in close distance, almost side by side. She moved a couple of seats away from her original one when it was occupied by a straggler. He sat towards the back row and in the middle seat. She never expected him to have noticed her quick departure. By this time, they arrived at the ground floor foyer, where he continued to wait for her response.

He sensed her hesitance and in a crowded area like this, she would never spill. “It’s okay,” he whispered, “if you don’t want to talk about it.”

She saw the concern etched in his eyes, but she never spoke of it. Not even to Trace. “It reminded me of a touchy situation,” she simply replied. “I’ve a brunch date to catch, Good luck for the exams and I’ll see you around.”

“Thanks. You too.”

She nodded again and took her leave.

As Ryan watched her rushing out of the building faster than lightning, he couldn’t help but shake his head. The more he thought that he finally understood her, the more she never failed to amaze him with another side of her. Although her Instagram and Twitter accounts illustrated nothing negative in her life, she flinched when he innocently scraped the surface of a scab. It must’ve been something bad or she wouldn’t have signed and paled.

He had to give her the credit. He never could decipher her true thoughts in their limited time working together. It was as if he was looking at his reflection in the mirror, which only fuelled his desire to know the Crystal off-campus. He craved to know her core courses next semester because he wanted to be in the same presentation group as her. There was no motive there; in fact, it served as mutual benefit due to their familiarity with each other’s work ethics.

*

His lips curled into a smile when he saw her sitting on the table near the locked doors of the exhibition hall six weeks later. Papers were strewn around her with a folder in front of her. She frowned with annoyance and stress at the prospect of a difficult paper. Although she looked like she wanted to be left alone, he gambled with the risk and headed in her direction.

“Excuse me, Crystal. Can I have a word with you?”

Crystal looked up at the voice in front of her. “Yeah, I guess. Let me push the papers -”

“It’s fine, i’ll be quick. Are you taking any core courses next semester?”

“Wow. You really can’t wait.” A half-smile emerged on her face. “Sorry to disappoint you, but no. I’m doing my electives abroad.”

A flash of sadness swept through his face. “Oh, okay. Where, if I may ask?”

“Edmonton, Canada.”

“That’s half a world away! You should have considered Auckland.”

That was my first choice, she thought. You made a decision for me without me even having a chance to say anything. “Well,” she answered. “I did, but …. I figured since it was only for a semester, it’s alright to live a little on the dangerous side. Hence the choice of Edmonton. Why, are you going to Auckland?”

Her answer threw him off-guard. “I -”

“It’s okay, Ryan. I overheard your conversation with your friend. You’re going there next year.”

“I didn't expect our conversation to be that loud."

She forced a laugh. "It's hard not to ignore when it's so close to your ears."

He sighed. "In that case, I think I better let you return to your revision. Keep in touch via Facebook, yeah?”

“Will do.”

“Good luck for the paper!”

“Thanks.” She smiled. “All the best!”

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Welcome back!

Hello guys, I’m back!

Never will I consider an early morning flight again. I understand that it might be much cheaper (the difference is minimal; what’s more important is the timing that you purchase it), but I'm just not an avid lover of it. It took me longer than expected - my entire weekend!!! - to recuperate from the sleep deprivation and time difference. Imagine that I almost missed my first tutorial because of this!

I personally don’t have any issues with the hours spent on the flight (well, only the narrowed space) because I know how to entertain myself. My peeve lies with selfish passengers who either forgot their manners or treat the seat like they own it. Paying for it doesn’t mean buying it. The passenger seated in front of me decided to invade my space by reclining his seat to the maximum. This conduct almost knocked me on the head because I was using the tray for my notepad, grr. Like dude, I understand that you want to catch your beauty sleep, but … limits! You wouldn’t like it if I confront you on this, so please spare a thought for neighbor behind you on your next flight.

If there’s something that I’ve learnt from my frequent travels, it’s never to drink beer or wine without food. The alcohol percentage went straight to my brain and knocked me out cold… to the point where I sprained my neck while I slept. I didn’t even know it happened until the cabin lights shone at me. (It didn’t help; the effects were worsened the minute I left the airport. To cut a long story short, I slept. And slept until mid-afternoon.)

The short time spent abroad was alright. Three weeks is not enough for a relaxing holiday. I don’t do well when I’m cooped up in boredom. I won’t say that it melted all of the stress in my cells. In fact, I dreaded the return flight for reasons I can’t divulge. You could probably say that I want to run from my responsibilities. There’s too much on my plate this semester (no thanks to workload and familiar faces) and I don’t know if I’ve the patience to deal with everything. I intentionally skipped the first week of lectures due to this… and I wasn’t even bothered by it. It was enough to minimize the scope of the stress levels, I guess. I’ve to think thrice about following my heart when it comes to traveling. It’s not fun at all…

So, here’s to hoping that the semester treats me well and I don’t land on my face!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Layered Dream

Okay, this was a dream that occurred a couple of weeks, but I forgot to write about this because my head caved in from the stress of exam results. A lot rode on my performance on the paper… and it led me to alternate between fear and relief. Fear of failing. Relief at being done with another semester.

I dreamt that the three of us were in a room, attending either a lecture or a tutorial. There were no specific indicators on the location. The person who spoke wore glasses… and resembled a lecturer. My sister and I were seated together in the middle row. As he rambled on the weekly course contents and nature of the topics with the speed of a bullet train, I struggled to transcribe each word that was thrown at us. My heart froze when I spied the caricature of someone familiar behind us.

It wasn’t until the break time that I gained the courage to turn my back and sustained a loss of speech. It was him. The person I never expected to meet again. Even my sister repeated that it was impossible. He leaned against the swivel chair and adopted a relaxed aura as his focus was on something else. He looked exceptionally carefree. This revelation made me uneasy as I didn’t want to be in such close proximity as him. Whatever crap I did on the screen, he’d be able to notice.

In the next scene, I loitered in a shaded area as other people minded their business with grocery shopping. A wave of awkwardness washed over me when my phone pierced the simultaneous conversations with its cries. I had left it with the cashier to borrow her phone charger while I killed time. I muttered my excuse and apologies for the interruption. My eyes furrowed when it was a notification, informing me that a friend shared ‘something from the past’. What past, I didn't know. I didn’t have the privacy or time to take a peek at it.

Although the person’s identity was revealed in the dream, I’ll not name him on the public sphere to accord some protection to him. As I later found out, it was indeed a premonition of what was to come. The stranger is in the same stream of core course as me and we’re bound to cross paths again. I had my suspicions late last year… but I guess it is what it is now. Plus, he’ll only know about it on the day itself.

For the second scene, I’d like to think that it's a case of randomness. Knowing how notifications work, you’re only informed if you’ve been tagged or if it concerns you. ‘Something from the past’ could be anything from the sun to the moon… unless it’s years in the future when we’re reflecting on our past and friendship. If that’s the case, then maybe it’s the group hangouts that he might be missing. Again, it’s vaguer than a tinted window for me to interpret.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Case of Curious Coincidences (Part 5)

The new year may’ve been celebrated with the beautiful display of fireworks and resolutions, but it brought more challenges for Crystal to conquer. Not only was she emotionally drained from the intensity of working and studying, her academic timetable was in tatters. Accommodating her job, classes, and social time required her to devote more time than she desired on campus.

Her heart sank three feet further into her stomach and she buried her face in her hands at the revelation that Fate threw her and Ryan into the same tutorial yet again. It wasn’t the respite she hoped for because it strained and wore her patience out to have dealt with him for the entire year. Sure, she went to extreme lengths to convince herself that Ryan didn’t harbor any grudges against her. His erratic approach towards her was the result of his temperament and the continuous stress of excellence instead. But what was she fearful of? Her application for a study tour was approved and she’d be setting sail to the far east - to the snowy grounds of Edmonton next semester.

“Screw the bugger for choosing Auckland,” she had whinged once to Tracy. “He’s making me jealous with all of those pictures of Queen Street and Mount Victoria in Devonport.”

“You could still continue with your plan of studying a semester in AUT, though.” Tracy raised an eyebrow. “It’s not as if you’re doing in at the same time or campus as Ryan.”

“Come to think of it, I think I’ll be adventurous and head off to Canada instead while experiencing my first and only white Christmas.”

With a cheery smile that lit up the sombre aura of the room, Crystal made herself comfortable as she waited for the rest of the students and tutor to float into the area. Breathing the same air as Ryan for the umpteenth time made her nervous because there was a chance history would repeat itself. She sighed, recollecting that this was the same location for their morning class last year and how his guts almost spilled on the carpeted floor when he saw her neutral expression as he entered.

Snap out of it, a little voice reminded her. Just be yourself.

Little did Crystal expect the cards that Ryan would throw in the fire.

What made the class experience worse for Ryan was the fact that all of the students were required to present a topic of their choice from the course content. He was alright with class presentations, but his friend, who promised to join him in this course, withdrew at the eleventh hour for another subject. His friend’s decision left him in a dilemma because he didn’t have an alternative subject to enroll in and he didn’t know anyone - or so he thought. He breathed a sigh of relief when he spied Crystal minding her own business in the class. She must’ve been fixated on something because she hadn’t heard his entrance. He secretly observed her conduct for the first half of the class time and satisfied that she, like him, was a stranger to their peers, he swallowed his pride and went against his wishes. He gingerly approached her and asked whether she’d be willing to collaborate with him for the presentation as they were already familiar with each other’s work ethics.

His request must’ve shocked her into silence because he saw her eyes dilated with a mixture of shock and surprise.

“I guess it’s alright.” Crystal found her voice. “It’d make our lives easier if we work together again and there wouldn’t be any glitches.”

“Awesome! What topic would you like to do? I’ll leave the choice to you.”

“I’m alright with anything. Do you have something on mind?”

He rattled a couple of options. “Then again, it’s dependent on what the other groups have chosen.”

“We’ll see how it plays out. Who knows if we’d be lucky to nail the first option?”
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