Sunday, July 24, 2016

It's that time of the year (again!)

With God's blessings, I've survived the intensity of 1st semester, but not unscathed. Everything seems to rub me off in the wrong way to the point where I'm losing patience. It'd be better if I date my books instead of inadvertently snapping and offending anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, if you ask me. That way, any angst that I harbor will be directed to the poor textbook instead of battery to humans, if you ask me. I don't want to be held liable under Division 7, S 20 of Criminal Law Consolidation Act. If I remember correctly, it can't be argued that the offender didn't intend to commit assault on the victim.

I've caught wind that there's going to be a birthday surprise for me - and in all honesty, I'm unsure whether to be enthusiastic or frightened by it. Those closest to me are aware that I'm easily startled by surprises, especially when it is unexpected. I don't know where and when it'll be held because from what my sister said, it's being planned in secret and she wants to bring along the good friend to pick my birthday present. It's not that I don't trust their tastes; it's just the secrecy is leaving me positively anxious.

Credits to Ellen Tube for the image.

Credits to Ellen Tube for the image.

In short, a friendly hangout at the nearby coffeehouse (or the chocolate house) with a birthday cake and a couple of close friends would do the trick. It's similar to what Shaney hatched for Kyle's birthday in CPU. We sought the help of his close friend a couple of days before the big day to divert the birthday boy's attention and keep him from running off while we brought the birthday cake in. Let's just say that from his reaction when we entered, he suspected that something was amiss from the atmosphere. The only picture that I had of him slicing the cake was so blurry that I eventually destroyed it when I graduated from college.

That's pretty much my reaction when my own birthday rolled around, too. The aura in the Student Lounge was unusually weird. My gang of friends won't disappear together into thin air - and my calls to two of them went to voicemail, which raised alarm bells. I sensed that there was something more to it than meets the eye when another acquaintance insisted that I follow her to her usual hangout to pack her lunch, but I chose to play dumb, lol. I was in heels because of the class presentation and was rather unwilling to walk more than necessary - because that pair hurts! The part that made me raise my eyebrows internally was when Abhi came over and said that Kyle was looking for me. (In actual fact, we've each other's number and knowing him, he usually doesn't ask for me unless he needs my help on something.)

It'd be tough for my sister to repeat this because she'll need the assistance of someone who's cunningly convincing to disprove my suspicions, but I'll give her the credit if she's able to execute it without my knowledge.

My apologies for heading off on a tangent, lol. It's just that those were the best times of my college studies - way before circumstances blew it apart.

One of the songs that I'm currently hooked to: "Wings" by Birdy.

Now that 2nd semester has rolled around, it only means one thing: it's time to swim in the contents of the pressure cooker. After having learnt my lessons from the unexpected adventures and unnecessary stress last semester, I've decided to stay true to the study plan. It'd be horrendous if history was to repeat itself. Not only do I've to face the possibility of running into that person, it'll be for the fourth time in 18 months, mind you! If you've been frequently reading, you'll probably have an idea on his identity and the course in question. It won't be him who'll gawk at me with horror in lectures. It'll be me going out of my way to avoid the awkward encounters with him instead.

(On a side note, I want to rationalize that it is a case of coincidences, but certain aspects of it hint at Fate's invisible stroke - because, technically, it was my sister who chose that Constitutional Law timeslot, not me. I personally would prefer if there was a seminar offered on Mondays because it was less hectic. As for him, I'm sure he would've picked a more suitable time instead if the ones offered didn't clash with the lectures.)

Not to mention, if I swap courses again, I don't want to break the news to my good friend that I forgo the opportunity of being in the same course as him because I wanted to fill my penultimate year with electives. I'll tell you why; the poor chap was a little worried when I passed him the movie ticket in an envelope (to avoid prying eyes - you never know how furious the campus grapevine can be) and warned him not to fear about its contents. He later explained that he thought it was a farewell letter, elaborating that I'm doing a credit transfer to another university interstate. Dude, trust me, I'd have done it if I could. *sighs*

(It still surprises me that he remembered what he told me about the courses last October, though. Can I count that as a promise with valuable consideration?)

So, no, I'll be the obedient student this time around. *winks*

While I was aware of the impact that the chosen courses would bring to the academic workload, I didn't stop to think twice about its effects on my academic timetable. It's definitely not as hectic as last semester - where I didn't have any rest day. I'm much more relieved this semester that I've more free time to focus on the independent study and some other matters (read: hiding in a cave to take the time out since I'm susceptible to exploding nowadays), although I've 5 hours of back-to-back lectures to tackle weekly. Since I've endured it before as a freshman in CPU daily with the help of caffeine and 100 Plus, I should be alright without relying on stimulants to keep me awake now - but you'll never know.

Another song that I'm hooked to: "If I Needed You" by Joey and Rory

I've scheduled some posts - especially the pieces of short stories - to be published during my moments of absence. If you don't see me around the blogosphere, I'm probably beating the assignments until either it has turned blue or my hands are exhausted. I'll still reply to comments and hop over to read blogs, but it won't be as frequent.

We'll see what this semester brings. If you hear me yelling with non-curse words, I'm cringing at the fact (of something).

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Short Story: A Blend of Independence with Weakness (Part 4)

“You have to come,” the voice on the other end of call urged.
    Jerry dropped everything that he had in that moment and rushed straight to the hospital, almost securing himself a date with the traffic police en-route. That night, when Shelby revealed her medical condition, was a game-changer in their friendship. If they were good friends back then, they were now closer. He became someone who resembled a brother figure in her life, taking charge whenever her parents couldn’t fly interstate to take care of her.
    “Thank you,” she said once on their way from Sunday Mass. “And I can’t possibly thank you enough, Jerry.”
    “What did I do?”
    “You’ve been there for me since the beginning. What’s honorable is that you’re willing to sacrifice your weekends and most of your free time into being … my caregiver.” It felt weird, even as she said it. “Plus, you could’ve used those time into finding a resident for your heart.”
    He couldn’t help but smile. Even in the state that she was in, she still found the enthusiasm to crack a joke and plant a grin on his face. “My dear, I’m on a break from relationships. I haven’t found the courage to invest in a brand new love where the return is of an unknown value. We both know that it’s exhausting and I don’t think I can balance a relationship with my career since the latter is flourishing.” He patted her lower thigh with his left hand. “I’ve made a promise that I’d be there for you as a good friend. It only make sense that I’m here at a time when you’re most vulnerable.”
    “I like your financial inference there.” Shelby laughed out loud. “But still, I really appreciate it.”
    “What do you expect? I’m in the financial line of things. I’m bound to associate finance with things in circumstances. It’s the same as the barrister in you throwing legal jokes that people out of the field can’t decipher.”
    She sighed with a mock defeat. “That’s true. You’ve a point there.”

“When can she be discharged, doctor?” Mrs. Winters - Shelby’s mother - couldn’t help but pose the question. She was in the general floor of the hospital ward with the attending physician, trying to understand the health complications that landed her daughter in the hospital when she was in remission all along.
    “Mrs. Winters,” the attending physician spoke. “I don’t intend to discharge Shelby until I’m confident that her condition is much better.” He flipped through the medical reports - including the one that Shelby gave to Jerry on that night - on hand. “As it is, I don’t want to risk Shelby suffering from another cardiac arrest. Her heart wouldn’t be able to take the trauma. I need to ensure that her red blood cells are at a stable level first.”
    He looked up at Mrs. Winters with a softened expression. “I’m afraid that you might have to make final preparations for Shelby in the event that she can’t win this battle. I’m sorry, Mrs. Winters.”
    “It’s alright.” She nodded. “Thanks, doctor.”
    As she watched the attending physician returning to his duty, she resisted the urge to break down in tears at the prospect of losing her daughter at such a young age. She could weep her eyes out, but she knew that Shelby couldn't have the perfect bill of health. Ever since Mrs. Winters delivered her daughter, there was always the undeniable fear that Fate would cruelly strike their family and snatch Shelby from them one day.
    She sighed, knowing that her worst fear was coming true. All parents would want their children to be healthy and happy in their chosen paths in life and didn't want to bury them - no matter the circumstances. Satisfied that she looked alright on her compact makeup mirror, she adjusted her attire and entered the hospital ward.

Mrs. Winters’ words knocked Jerry with such force that he had to sit on the row of chairs to regain his breath. He couldn’t believe what he heard. Although he was thankful that she shared Shelby’s innermost thoughts and fears about him, he remembered thinking that Shelby was insane when she wanted time to dictate her course of life instead. He understood that she was tired of undergoing painful treatments without a guaranteed recovery, but she should’ve discussed it with him before arriving at such a decision if he was such an important person to her. It would affect their lives - including hers - in the long run and he didn’t know how to cope without her presence in his life. She was approaching the Door of Death yet placed his well-being ahead of hers.
    Seeing that there was nothing he could do now to change her mind, he forced himself to enter the word and spend quiet moments with her. He gingerly turned the chair to face Shelby and sat on it, admiring her in her natural state. Although she was skinnier due to the loss of appetite, she still looked drop-dead gorgeous.
    “I know why you did what you did now, but it still hurts, you know?” He took Shelby’s hand in his own, brought it to his cheek. “Knowing that we could have it all, but you didn’t want to take the plunge.”
    A stray tear flowed down from his eye. “Don’t you know that it’ll only make me more miserable? If you had given us a chance, it’d have been the happiest moment of my life. Yes, it may’ve been a short lived one, but at least it’s still something. The sweetest memories will peacefully send you on your eternal journey and be a source of inspiration for me to continue living with you.”
    “You should’ve exhausted all avenues of treatment options before throwing in the towel. I know you don’t want me to see you at your weakest, but friends are supposed to be there for each other in all circumstances - good or bad.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The brightest morning is still to come

The title is from the song lyrics of "We Are All Running" by The Once (video attached below).

Listening to this song again after his demise is leaving a sour note in my throat, not because it’s a sad song. It’s because the relaxing mood of the song always reminds me of his optimism and willpower. Although circumstances were never kind to him, he never allowed it to be an obstacle to his enjoyment of life and worked harder than the rest of us. When we whinged that we're exhausted and needed a break, he pushed through and fought on.


On the bright side, I’m relieved that his road of suffering has finally ended and he has sought the long-deserving peace.

My friend,
Be the angel that you longed to be.
With the wings that you now have,
Fly away from the pain.
Embrace the freedom that you've fought hard for.

My friend,
There's so much that I wanted to say.
The lump in my throat,
It's preventing me from speaking.
We were never close,
Yet your departure still affects me.

Friday, July 15, 2016

History Raps

Note: if you're sensitive to expletives/colorful languages, please, please don't watch the videos.

Psst, heard of Prussia? =P

Come to think of it, I'm not sure whether my History score would've been much better if I had stumbled across Epic Rap Battles of History's videos in college. We learned about the characters depicted in both videos and how they contributed to mostly Russian history.

The battle between Romney and Obama is my favorite so far - and it definitely assisted me to understand some elements from Public Law.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Short Story: A Blend of Independence with Weakness (Part 2)

The first thing that Shelby realized as she regained consciousness was the action of someone wiping a towel over her face, possibly to clean away the remnants of her dried, sticky tears. She could hear the towel being dipped into a bowl of water before being squeezed dry and the sound of footsteps walking away from her. Her eyes were strewn shut that it was taking an effort to force it open.
    "Rested well?" Jerry smiled as he entered the living room with a glass of orange juice. "You might need this to regain your energy. How are you feeling?"
    "Thanks." Shelby took the glass from his hands into hers, sipped. "Emotionally better, but physically terrible. My eyes are swollen and tender, and I feel like all of my energy has been sucked from me."
    "You'll be fine after catching a shower."
    "I hope so."
    "Any plans for tonight, Shelby?"
    "Um, no. Why?"
    "Assuming that you're bushed to prepare dinner, I'd like to bring you somewhere to catch a meal. Not our usual hangout, though. Or, we could stay inside and I'll cook something from your pantry. Anything to give you the evening off."
    "Thanks for the offer, Jerry, but I don't want to impose. I don't have enough in the pantry to whip up a meal for two, as you may've already noticed."
    "It's alright, Shelby. You're not imposing on me whatsoever, plus you deserve a treat too."
    "You're not giving me a chance to say no, are you?"
    "Guilty as charged. I'll pick you up at seven? That should give you enough time to freshen yourself."
    Shelby rolled her eyes. "Yes, Dad."
    "Don't bother sending me out. Promise me you won't do anything silly and I'll see the happy Shelby that I know from university."
    "I can't guarantee, but I'll try."

Jerry leaned against his Ford Focus with folded arms to shield himself from the wintry evening when he saw Shelby exiting the house. She wore a grey fleece turtleneck and blue jeans with a pair of beige suede boots. Folded over her left forearm was a coat of the same color as her shoes. He noticed from her demeanor that her confidence was slowly coating her face with color, a stark difference for what she was a mere couple of hours ago.
    "Hey." Jerry called out. "Did you bake your face in makeup? Don't you think you should wear your coat now?"
    "Idiot. It's the work of eyeshadow." A now-bespectacled Shelby playfully punched his shoulder. "I don't want people at the cafe to think that you bullied me into tears. Otherwise, why in the world am I in spectacles when I could've easily worn contacts? It's only seven p.m. The coat's for later, assuming that there is something else on your sleeve."
    "I'm just joking." He raised both hands in mock defeat. "Like, going out for drinks at the pub on a Saturday night?"
    Shelby nodded, sliding into the coat.
    "Damn. You got me. Let's get going then."
    He opened the car door for her to enter before making his way to the driver's seat."
    "But instead of the pub, can you accompany me to somewhere after dinner? Seeing that you're my good friend, there's something I feel you should know."
    He swallowed his throat. "Okay."

Jerry saw the change in Shelby’s behavior when they exited the newly-opened French restaurant three hours later. He knew that it wasn’t the cuisine that bothered her because if it was, she’d have raised fury on it by now. She wouldn’t have remained reticent as they walked together to his car that was not too far away.
    “Are you alright, Shelby?” He couldn’t help but ask. “Is something bothering you?”
    “I’m alright.” Shelby lied through her teeth. “I’m just thinking on work.”
    While it was partially true that she was deep in thought, it wasn’t about her career that she was pondering on. It was something else that she wanted to wait until the right time to shed light on.
    The remaining distance was filled with silence.
Although she insisted that there was nothing wrong, he knew, from all their years of friendship, that she was hiding something from him. Being the gentleman that he was, he opened the door and ensured that Shelby was comfortable in the passenger seat before making his way to the driver’s seat.
    “So, where’s the place that you mentioned?”
    Shelby wore her seat belt. “I’ll guide you there.”
    Jerry brought the car engine to life and sped off.

“Why this place, Shelby?”
    “Don’t you remember? This was the place that we first met, Jerry.”
    “I obviously do, but I mean, why did you choose to bring me here?”
    Standing in the middle of the brightly-lit park, it was the place where they first met at their university’s orientation activity almost seven years ago. It was a barbecue session for the students - from undergraduate and postgraduate to international and domestic - to acquaint themselves with each other, and hopefully form lasting friendships. Although Shelby registered her participation for it, she was hesitant on going for it because her college friend unexpectedly bailed out at the eleventh hour. Yet, she figured that there was no harm done if she showed up.
    As it was getting crowded with the thousands of students, finding a free spot to herself was becoming harder. She knew that she’d have to squeeze and share a space with someone if she wanted to eat in comfort. She thought that she saw an empty space near Jerry and took a deep breath before asking if she could join him and his group of friends, to which they agreed.
    By the time they left for their separate ways at the end of the activity, they had each other’s cell numbers stored on their phones.
    Bringing herself back to the present moment, Shelby breathed the fresh air and turned to face Jerry. “I wanted the night to end on a memorable note. There’s something I have to give you.” She dug deep into her purse and handed him an envelope. “This would explain the reason why we’re here.”
    “What is this?” Jerry took it from her.
    “You’ll know when you open it.”
    He tore it open and was greeted by the sight of two printed documents: her latest medical report and a legal document with his name on it. His eyes bulged with horror as he scanned the contents of the report. The level of her white blood cells was higher than average while her red blood cells were dangerously low to the point of anemia. He was not a doctor, but he immediately knew that this was indicative of a blood cell disorder.
    Crap, he silently cursed, as he remembered asking Shelby about her sudden and unexplained weight loss. She had instead attributed it to academic and work stress. Why didn’t she tell me that she was experiencing a grave health issue?
    Breathing harder, he switched his attention to the legal document. It was a will and a fixed trust, to be exact. It was written with such clarity that the final destination of her properties and the beneficiaries were clearly identified. She was bequeathing one of her prized possessions - her collection of keychains from her travels interstate and abroad - to him.
    He looked up at Shelby, speechless.
    “This has brought me down for the last couple of days. My time is running out, and I’ve to make sure that I’ve settled everything before my departure.”
    “Do your parents know?”
    “They knew it not too long after I was born, but only told me in my teenage years when I was first hospitalized. My illness has been in a stable condition until now.”
    “You could’ve kept me in on the loop, Shelby.”
    “I wanted to live a normal life where I can experience the full blooms of life. I wanted to experience the four seasons. Spring leaves its magical blossom on the flowers while summer, with its radiant glare, brings the best out of us. Autumn gently sweeping the remnants of the precedent season. Winter replaced happiness with intense sadness that you can burst into tears watching the rain. I know I could’ve told you, but I didn’t want you to worry for me.”
    Gazing into Shelby’s glistened eyes, his own pair shone with tears at the prospect of losing his good friend to the Angel of Death. It was traumatic enough having to deal with the breakdown of his relationship, but that was Kate’s choice to walk out, although she could’ve chosen a better method of resolving it. Shelby’s case was different because she wasn’t given a choice to decide on what she wanted in life.
    He felt like he had received thousands of stab wounds and it silently suffocated him to the point where he wanted to break down in tears at the Fate’s cruel stroke. He clutched the documents as if it was his life on the line here.
    “We could seek for a second opinion. You could consult your doctor to see if there are other better treatment options. Or, we could find you a world-renowned specialist in the field to help you out.”
    Shelby shook her head with a sad smile.
    “What’s wrong?”
    “I just want out, Jerry. I’m tired of exploring the numerous options to regain a perfect bill of health. It’s exhausting, knowing that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. The truth is I’ll be gone at anytime, and me continuously forcing myself to undergo treatment is just a way of denying it.”
    Her words were the final stab to his heart. The tears uncontrollably swam down his cheeks, rendering him at a loss for words.
    “Oh, God.” Shelby wiped the tears off his cheeks. “It’s only going to get worse, Jerry, and I really want you to have a better memory of our friendship. I don’t want you to remember me at my weakest in the hospital. Please don’t cry.”
    “But I’ve promised that I’ll be there for you as a friend, through the good and bad times. Let me honor my promise.”
    “My Mom’s flying in to take care of me.”
    “That’s good of your Mom.” Jerry sighed. “I really wished that I knew about this earlier, Shelby.”
    “You see, I’m considered lucky that God has allowed me to experience adulthood, although it has come at a price. I’ll never be able to experience marriage and motherhood, but it’s alright. I’ve heard wonderful stories about it to form my opinion on it. Meeting you as a good friend was actually one of the best things to happen in my life, Jerry.”
    “And it’s my pleasure to have met you at the barbecue activity too, Shelby.” Jerry laid an arm over Shelby’s shoulder. “Let’s get you home. After what you’ve just told me, you need to exercise more care into maintaining your health.”

Monday, July 11, 2016

Growing Up and The Important Checklists of 20s and 30s

Now that we’re adults, I’m sure we all once craved for that moment in time when innocence was our friend. Growing up means that there are responsibilities (especially financial ones) that we need to account for. Adding into the mix is the important checklists that we have to tick off as we embark on each stage of life.

Attached herewith is my recommended checklist items (based on my personal experience).

Pursue knowledge and skills

Alright, I know this goes without saying, but there are still some millennials who actually delay their pursuit of knowledge due to circumstances. Knowledge doesn’t have to be synonymous with your current field of studies or employment. It can be anything that will help broaden your life experiences and knowledge.

Fancy painting but never had the penchant for art? Sign up for the classes. Want to dance but never had the opportunity to do so? Go for it.

Age is never a barrier to knowledge. No matter how old we are, we are still capable of learning things. In fact, we are still students processing every lesson that life has thrown our way.

Pursue your dreams

Never ever let anyone stop you from pursuing your dreams! As Winston Churchill once said, 'never, never, never quit'.

This is not easy to fulfil because of parental and societal expectation from us, but success comes from pursuing our dreams. I know that it may be a tough path, but the rewards to be reaped are great.

Save money

In our current society, it is not uncommon to see graduates who are financially in debt almost as soon as they start working (or at least in my home country, where most of the fresh graduates already own a couple of credit cards).

This is where Personal Capital comes into play. It is a corporation where their aim is to assist people in reaching their financial goals. Additionally, it helps you to manage your finances using their net worth calculator. It gives you an insight into your expenditure, where you’ve been spending it and how to save your money to make your goals (such as purchasing a car or somewhere you can call your little pad) a living dream.


YOLO. That’s something that the youngsters of this generation are familiar with. If you aren’t, it means ‘you only live once’. Don’t place all of your focus on fulfilling your duties and responsibilities as one of Earth’s citizens. You should take time off work or studies to broaden the horizon. Visit places you haven’t visited and immerse in their rich, historical culture. It wouldn’t hurt to enrich your life with the travel experiences garnered.

I can relate to this well because the opportunities I’ve been given to travel interstate and abroad has shaped me into the person that I am today.

Personal Capital's net worth calculator can also help you to allocate the funds for your travel too!


And yes, be who you are. I can’t stress this enough. I know that there’s a high possibility of us losing our identity while we are growing up, but it is our unique character that defines us. Don’t let anything or anyone change that.

If only there was someone kind enough to have informed me on that when I was a little teenager.

Make memories

You never known what you have until you’ve lost it. Go out there, mingle with your peers at work or campus (even if it pains you to make the first move of having to approach them). You can even plan to go to the local restaurant for Sunday brunch or even squeeze in an impromptu meal at the university café.

Balancing the stressful work or academic environment with socializing has its benefits too. It prevents the friendships from falling into pieces due to the distance and taking the beautiful, nostalgic memories with it.

Another memory you can make is being in a relationship with someone. I’ll qualify myself here; this doesn’t mean that you should force yourself to love someone when you’re not emotionally ready.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Exam Dream

I dreamt that I was searching for the room for my Data Management exam paper and was eventually guided to my allocated seat. Much to my surprise, two of my Writer’s Craft classmates were there too and seated directly in front of me. One of them turned over his shoulder to look at me before the exam when he heard someone taking the seat behind him, but I can’t decipher if it was his resting bitch face or if it was a glare that greeted me.

In real life, he’s given me both facial expressions before, sigh.

I knew that it involved mathematics and statistics because I saw graphs and numbers on the paper itself. While I was confident with answering all of the problem questions, I panicked as there were two unattempted ones and time wasn’t working with me.

A quick check with the online dream dictionary resulted in two interpretations:
"To dream of running out of time while taking a test may reflect a heightened sense of pressure or having an inadequate amount of time to prove yourself in a waking life situation." - from Dream Bible

What mess have I landed into? *sighs*

In another scene, I also dreamt that I was taking one of my papers at Showgrounds, but I can’t remember if it was Equity or Criminal Law. My best bet is the latter because I saw the words ‘assault’ and ‘causing bodily harm’ on the facts (problem question for non-law students). Plus, it was in the answer that I wrote in the exam booklet.

"To dream of taking an exam represents a very challenging situation in your life that may require your complete focus or dedication. A challenge that may foster powerful uncertainties, require a lot of preparation, or put a lot at stake. An exam dream may stand as a barometer of pressure you're feeling." - from Dream Bible

I breathed a sigh of relief when the invigilator announced that it was time’s up and collected our exam booklets, relieved to be done with the paper. I lugged my knapsack over my shoulder and rushed out of the hall. One of my acquaintances - or rather, the Criminal Law coursemate - approached me outside and asked, ‘what does it mean with you and [name not publicly identified] heading to the cinemas recently?’

I paled because there’s no way this chap could’ve found out. I mean, I was aware in the dreamt that he’s not on Facebook daily and we’re not following each other on Instagram either. Unless someone told him or he accidentally came across it, I’ve no idea how he knew exactly who I went to the movies with. I was careful not to drop any names in the photo caption either.

But before I could answer, the camera panned to another location. It was me, the Criminal Law coursemate and my History mate among other people in a common area of somewhere. I was behind the Criminal Law coursemate when we entered the place. My History mate waved a greeting to me, which I reciprocated with a smiling nod. Again, I was also surprised to see this particular person in the dream. (We’re not in regular contact because of the distance and he doesn’t use much social media.)

If you ask me, deciphering the second dream is spinning my head. 😑 The first one is easier because the Writer's Craft classmates and I aren't contacting each other as much as we used to in CPU.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Catching up on life

I'm assuming that this is Norwood Town Hall?

It’s not very often that I’m at the movies, but seeing that the tickets were given in exchange for the volunteer duty, why not use it instead of letting it go to waste? Not to mention, I needed something to momentarily distract myself from the exam results and let the brain breathe after an intense exam schedule.

I was more than comfortable to watch "Me Before You" alone (if I had to) because I could steal some time before or after the movie to shop for souvenirs/birthday gifts. You’d be surprised to hear this, but I toyed with the idea of asking my good friend to come along - seeing that it was a stressful semester for him as well.

To my surprise, he was keen on it.

The first thing that I realized when I landed in Norwood was that it radiated the same atmosphere as Fremantle, Western Australia. For those who haven't visited Fremantle, it doesn't have a centralised shopping mall - where the shops, eateries and cinema are housed in one building - either. They were all scattered around the place within walking distance from each other.

Although it's been almost a decade since I entered a cinema (which was in TGV One Utama to watch "Dark Shadows" with my childhood bestie), I'll have to admit that the structure and layout are different. In Hoyts, the seats were clean and comfortable with ample leg room for us (unlike TGV, where I almost stepped over my bestie to reach to my seat due to the squashed space).

Truth be told, exiting the hall was easier than I thought. It was in the same direction that we entered. I didn't tell my good friend this, but I was half-drained emotionally from watching the movie. One of the moviegoers who waited at the traffic lights to cross the road was telling her companion that "Me Before You" totally broke her heart.

A small bowl of popcorn from Hoyts - yet the portion was too large for me, lol.

Speaking of the movie, there were a lot of scenes that made the fellow audience members, especially the older generations, laughed out loud. There were a handful of college or high school students as well. I can’t describe much without giving the juicy parts away, but just enough for you to gauge the flow of the storyline.

I liked the part where the movie started with the scene of William Traynor (Will) leaving his then-girlfriend Alicia’s apartment and rushing off while being on the phone. The scene faded out as soon as the motorbike approached Will, much to Will’s horror. This actually laid the foundation for a climax towards the end of the movie.

It was good for those (like myself and my good friend) who haven’t read the book or watched the trailer.

What left a memorable impact on me was when Will made faces at Louisa Clark (Lou) and his sarcastic reply to his mother’s (Mrs. Traynor) words: “[y]ou don’t have to talk across me, Mother. My brain isn’t paralyzed - yet.” I loved it when she stood up to Will’s sarcastic interaction with her (it sure as hell reminded me of my interaction with one of my college friends). For my good friend, it was the scene where Lou arrives at Will's castle to meet with Mrs. Traynor. Her attire for the interview reminded him of something from David Jones. (It's true - I saw a similar coat in their ladies' department last week.)

When they played Canon in D for Alicia’s wedding to Will’s best friend, Rupert, I had to pinch my nose bridge to stop the tears from running down my cheeks. It’s not that the scene was emotional; it’s just the memories associated with the classical tune. Plus, it sure didn't help that the actor who played Will (Sam Claflin) was a doppelgänger of someone acquainted from certain angles. It was additionally heartwarming to see Will smiling in Lou’s presence and the shaky relationship between them becoming much more stable with warmth.

I’ll leave the pen here because the scenes after this really stabbed me with the emotions and it’d be a dead giveaway to the ending. I could feel my eyes swimming with tears and had to bite my tongue to keep myself in check. I’m not too sure what I saw from my peripheral vision, but chances are that my good friend was swiping at his eyes during certain scenes too.

Thank God the theatre was dimly lit as the credits were rolling. I didn’t want him to see my shiny eyes. To be honest, I was slightly worried that the atmosphere would be awkward for me when we decided between "Me Before You" and "Finding Dory". I can be quite emotional when it comes to sad moments in the movie, but I'm relieved that he enjoyed it.

We decided to catch a late lunch after the movie, but eventually settled for Nordburger as we were unfamiliar with other eateries in Norwood. I actually love the internal structure of the cafe - it’s devoid of paintings yet it has the warm atmosphere attached to it. Like they always say, a place is always livelier when you’re in the right company of friends. *winks*

Junior Burger with a can of A&W Root Beer

I know it's an unhealthy dish, but it has done a good job of evoking the childhood memories of being brought to their branch opposite AmCorp Mall for waffles and Tuesday's Coney Dogs. And now it’s time to spend the next couple of days worrying the life out of me about the grades. Oh, please, Lord, let me pass all of my courses in one piece.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Spin me around, spin me around

As weird as it is, I'm actually more horrified at the context of the dream than I am surprised.

I'm assuming that my psyche must be craving for a time out - otherwise I wouldn't have such a dream two days in a row.

I dreamt that I was seated in a shopping mall's cafeteria and minding my own business when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was someone whom I knew and we caught up with each other. There was an intention to catch up over a movie and a meal after that. We exchanged hugs as we bid each other adieu, but I only turned halfway because I was sitting. Chills settled at the base of my spine because it felt like I was being nuzzled in the manner that Big Fat (he's my Shih Tzu dog, btw) does as a morning greeting.

I was additionally in a coffeehouse (it looked very much like Coffee Bean in The Curve) and ordering takeaway green tea latte. I've managed to decipher this part of the dream online, and let's just say that the interpretation isn't a positive one.

Yes, if you're wondering, this was stealthily taken during last year's flight from KL to Adelaide (when half of the passengers were asleep).

In another scene, I dreamt that the four of us arranged to meet up on campus to discuss on what, I can't remember. Since I arrived early on campus, I got myself a long table (the one that resembles the bench tables in the University of Adelaide Business School, Nexus 10) and waited for a female friend - let's call her Y - and another good friend - let's call him X - to arrive.

Not too long later, Y and I were walking not too far behind X and his friend. Y could see that I was not myself and that exhaustion leaked onto my face. She was surprised that X couldn't feel the vibe, considering that we all are good friends and all. I replied that it's alright - it doesn't matter, I'll be fine.

X was seated next to me and Y was opposite us. When the two of them were off doing their own thing and left me alone at the long table, I decided to take a quick break from the laptop and stretch my muscles. My peripheral vision caught sight of two familiar acquaintances - one from Property Law and the other from Equity lectures - and I waved a greeting at them. I began to feel queasy and folded my arms on the table - where the left palm connected with the right elbow and vice versa, forming a little space for me to sleep in. The only thing you could see was my dark black hair. I felt someone's arms sliding across my shoulders, asking if I was alright. It took me a full 3 minutes before I registered the question and the person's voice. It was X asking me before he returned to his seat and inserting some written notes into my wallet. As if that wasn't shocking enough, he left with my debit card a short time later, not explaining what he was doing with it but instead assuring me not to worry.

In the same dream, I was outside a Church, searching around the empty, darkened cars for someone whom I knew. We promised to attend Mass together, but the person was nowhere to be seen. In the dream, I knew that I was in familiar place because that's my hometown. It was in SS15 and the block of flats that was opposite the gas station (Shell) was turned into the makeshift Church for the time being. I remember this well because of the bend in the curve and it was the former area where the famous rojak operated at.

What struck me as horrific was the clarity and familiarity of the dream. Most of the dreams that I've had rarely involve people or places of acquaintance in real life.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Short Story: A Blend of Independence with Weakness (Part 1)

Brushing her hand over her hair, Shelby knew that she arrived at the stage where she didn't care about anything or anyone around her. It was torturing her to paint a facade of happiness and caring on a daily basis when the truth was opposite. It wasn't as if she lost the ability to emphatize, but she was too independent and strong for a long time that she felt no one around her recognized her cries for help. The people whom she thought she could count on for support in good and bad times turned out to be shadowy characters of their own, which immediately aggravated matters. She couldn't find a valid reason to look for them after multiple heartbreaks and disappointments.
    Things were changing, she was painfully aware of that. Here she was: alone, thousands of miles away from her trustworthy and loyal support group and highly suspicious of the acquainted folks. What was once the cheery and confident person was now becoming an emotional wreck who wanted out of life, and Shelby knew what the consequences were if she followed her heart. Tears and anger would trail her selfish decision and, no matter how she desired to rid herself of the silent pain, she didn't want to subject her family to unnecessary grief. The shadowy characters wouldn't be in mourning for her; they'd be elated at her absence. No, she would follow her brain instead and carve a happier life, although it would take a long time, away from those shadowy characters. For once, she would not let them have a say. For once, she would decide the direction of the game and cards to be played.
    She took the risk of gambling her stable life with the prospect of greener pastures with the hopes that it'll pay off. She never foresaw the possibility of her self-esteem taking a blow and not being given fair treatment by her surroundings. Had she known that she'd be more miserable, she'd have given up this opportunity of a better career in exchange for the stability on home soil. She shook her head at the cruel twist of Fate: she was always there for her friends - to the point of flying cross country to physically support them during their emotional times - yet the ones who promised her the stars and moon couldn't do the same. Her former love was the worst of them all. He made her stupidly believe that he was investing in the relationship for the long haul when he repeatedly exploited her intelligence and position for his sole benefit. Because of that experience, the fear of love sowed its seeds in her heart.

Her eyes burnt with sadness as she glanced at the framed photograph of her beloved Fox Terrier snuggling into her. She longed for the moment when she could welcome the dog into her embrace again, but she knew that it would never occur in her lifetime. She made a conscious decision to allow someone else to treat the Fox Terrier in a better manner and she had to live with it although it pained her with regret. The dog was happier with her new family somewhere, and Shelby could only hope that she was a distant memory in the dog's mind.
    "Gosh," she whispered with a cracked voice into the air. "You've no idea how much I miss you, Honey, and the times we had together."
    She reached out to her cell phone resting on the coffee table and dialed the number of a familiar person on instinct. Her friend from her university faculty and one of the few whom she could still trust.
    "Hello," the voice answered on the fourth ring.
    "Am I disturbing you, Jerry?"
    "Oh, no, you're not, Shelby. What's up?"
    Shelby sniffled.
    "Shelby, are you okay? Where are you?" Jerry's voice panicked. "What's going on? Why are you crying?"
    "I'm at home. I'm not sure if I'm emotionally alright, but can I meet you at our usual hangout in two hours' time? I know it's a short notice and you're busy man -"
    "I'm coming now. Stay where you are and don't move."
    "Jerry -"
    "Shelby, I won't feel good unless I've made sure that you're actually okay." She heard the rustling of keys. "Even if it means me coming over as we speak. Don't move, and I'll see you in ten."
    Jerry ended the call before Shelby could speak any further.

His eyes widened with pure horror when his door knocks were acknowledged by Shelby. Her eyes were teary and swollen red, as if she bawled her heart out for hours. He could tell instantly that she hid something from him as she avoided his eyes when she invited him in. Her lips were curled downwards and she was unusually reticent. When they took their seats on the couch, Jerry willed for Shelby to address him in the eye.
    "Talk to me. Tell me what's bothering you."
    Shelby looked down at her hands, buying time. "I'm tired, Jerry," she broke the silence. "I feel like I'm being suffocated alive and losing trust in those around me. I can no longer see the good in them. Work's going alright, thank God. It's more of my personal life that's in tatters. I want to bury myself with work, but it'll be the death of me. I've a first hand experience of it and let's just say that it's scary and traumatizing..." She sighed, looked at Jerry's eyes. "And this is why I refuse to dabble in maritime and shipping. It is challenging in a positive way, but, no, thanks."
    "I really wish that you've told me earlier, Shelby. We could've done something about it."
    "Like what? Apply for a transfer to yet another unfamiliar territory? Surrender everything here and return home to a place where I have to start from scratch with my career?"
    "Definitely not that, Shelby. What I meant was that you wouldn't have to keep your emotions bottled up."
    Shelby's eyes swam with tears. "There's a reason why I didn't tell you, Jerry. I know you're facing with your own issues and I really didn't want to be an extra burden by having you look out for me. I'm a big girl now, and I need to learn to weave around the windy paths of life. The thing is that a part of me wants to throw in the towel." She grabbed the couch pillow tightly to herself for security. "I still have nightmares over what George did. I keep thinking of knives, Jerry. I've stared into the shiny edges of it, wondering how it would feel if it touches my wrist."
    Without saying anything, Jerry joined her and embraced her in a hug. His comforting gesture was the key to her locked cage of emotions. Her shoulders heaved up and down as she emotionally broke down in his care.
    "It's alright, Shelby. Let it all out," he repeatedly cooed.
    Her ear-splitting cries permeated through the entire house and Jerry's heart immediately felt for her. He was aware, even from their university days, that Shelby was a strong person who cared a lot for her loved ones, even to the point of placing herself last. Hidden beneath her lively brown eyes was a girl who endured and persisted through the trials in her life and she only deserved the best. It was high time that she was treated with appreciation by those around her.

It was an hour later that silence returned to the house. Shelby went limp in Jerry's embrace, spent and exhausted from the continuous outburst. Jerry made a space on the couch and gingerly laid Shelby to rest, careful not to awaken her. It was only during her moments of rest that he saw her angelic personality that was buried under the piles of protection. He pushed her stray hair away from her sticky face, tucking it behind her right ear before removing his jacket and placing it on her to keep her warm. With a sigh, he rose to his full height and headed in the direction of the toilet.
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