ten things i learned this past week

1. in venting, i’m looking from strength not sympathy. i heard this from a woman standing in line behind me for the bus, and it resonated with me. and i find that i always feel guilty complaining about my life or disclosing something that has upset me, and for the longest time, i always felt like i had to follow up with a “i’m sorry for venting” disclaimer to my friends, when really, that small phrase puts everythign into perspective.  that woman looked uncannily like Jayme Dee and she seemed so wise, and I wish I had spoken to her more.

2. Travelling has made me more appreciative of my city and of my life. it’s not perfect… my life is not perfect. not at all and this fact has been a great source of my frustration. but i… I somehow learned to love what I have through my visit elsewhere.  That I am here, I have stability, I have a life I can carve here to make my own.  I don’t know if I want to stay here forever, but I know that right now, I need to live in the moment and appreciate it for what it is

3. Life has been a whirlwind and i’m finding it hard to fully understand it. and i have headstrong and maybe it’s a weakness but it’s also a strength. and i will plough through this adversity. maybe i won’t come out of this whole, but i’ll come out of it. and i will become resilient, i will repair myself, i will become stronger.

4. I don’t know how i ended up here in my life but i’m determined to get out of this hole and get to the top.  I am not complacent and not being happy with where you are in life is not necessarily some character flaw like all these hedonist viral articles on Facebook always hark.  I expect more from myself, I know I can do better.  And I won’t stand here enjoying this view when I know it could be more beautiful.  I will not settle.

5. I still haven’t figured him out. I still think about him despite the months that have passed.  And I’m not sure why I still care.  I have tried to find this… these answers… but to no avail. I miss him.  I am afraid of the person that I am when I think about him.  Is that odd? Is that scary?

6. Growing up and aging has been taking a toll.  It’s hard.  You can’t control it but you want to slow the hands of time, even reverse it sometimes.  Oh the things I could have told myself.  Oh the things I would have done differently.  I don’t regret anything you see, but there are so many things that I would have done differently.

7. This world does not accommodate American Dreams.  There is privilege unspoken and it permeates everything.

8. I want to write more. I love poetry. I wish I knew more formal teachings of poetry.

9. I want to travel yet I need to save money. And it’s funny how I haven’t seemed to navigate the lines of whether I value material things over experiences or the other way around.

10. The world loses some of its lustre as you get older.

2017 Book List

  1. The Sell-Out – probably the best book I will read in 2017 and it’s only March.  This book was hilarious and so poetic; I was laughing so hard reading it on my commute to work.  It also hit on some serious themes masked in its satire, which I really didn’t catch when I read it.  Like it was top of mind, but I wouldn’t make the connections until I went online and dug a bit further into what I was reading.  I would highly recommend it.  I think it has a powerful message about racism in America, how racism isn’t dead, how we don’t live in a post-racial society and will never do that if we dismiss race relations as a characteristic that has plagued American politics, history, geography, the development of cities, and identity.
  2. The Boy is Back – I think I’ve outgrown Meg Cabot at this point. I absolutely loved All-American Girl as a child, and still occasionally think about certain parts of the book nowadays.  But this book… I think I’m drawn to books like Dedication… this book wasn’t dedication. I found the love quite contrived; it could have been better if Cabot had described their young love more, made you understand why she loved him before. Because… 10 years and you’re still in love with your high school sweetheart? A bit of a stretch.  But I wonder if I’m drawn to this type of story because I’ve always wanted it to happen to me… like this feeling of redemption, of loss and separation that finally merges again through a chance encounter, and turns everything upside down.  I suppose I liked the ending in that I didn’t expect the reveal of who was the culprit behind the parents’ financial demise.
  3. We Could be Beautiful – I’m also drawn to Upper East Side books, although I really should stop frankly, only because the underlying message in all of them is that life is fancy but it isn’t that fun.  There is always this lingering loneliness that the protagonist has.  In this case, I think I learned more about how people can come into big fortunes… like $80,000 monthly deposits from someone’s will?  This is old money at its best.  I actually read the ending before I finished the book because I hate mysteries and want the conclusion, so I had a different perspective of the book as I read it.  I think there were certainly hints of William’s shadiness throughout and just how much he lied through his teeth. It made me wonder if I could discern people like this… basically a sociopath… if I encountered one.  I think I have good intuition especially when it comes to dangerous or uncomfortable situations.  And then I kept wondering if I was a high-functioning sociopath but it didn’t fully make sense, because I do occasionally have empathy and can express/feel anger quite acutely. Didn’t understand why they had to give him the money in the end just so he would “leave them alone”. Like she couldn’t call of the wedding and she could give him the baby? It was useless at that point.
  4. I’ll Give You the Sun – I really liked this. It made me cry. It made me think about young love, it made me think about we grow up and change, and how good people make bad decisions. I loved Noah’s imagination and the vivid colours he could see… his imagination was at times like mine, and I appreciated that.  I loved how a boy can make you rethink everything about yourself, make you overanalyze, make you fall in love… and I needed to hear that.  That when this had happened to me, I wasn’t the only one.  And I loved Jude. And Brian. And their Dad. And their Mom. It made me appreciate my family more. It made me realize that people change, that life is unfair, and it’s okay.  And you can’t hold it all in your palm… it will spill over like sand… but it happens. And it’s okay. It’s okay. I promise.
  5. Never Sometimes Always – Another Alsaid Adi book… I always like the idea of the book, and then when I actually read it, I realize why I dislike his books, which is exactly how I would describe his chronic case of manic pixie dream girl fixation.  Two girls fight over Dave, the oblivious boy-next-door type, and all he ever describes the girls are how untouchable and dreamy they are even though they’re imperfect.  The idea of the story… that two friends do everything that they’d forbidden themselves to do all of high school is so promising, but the execution is so gross that I cringe thinking back to it.  Some girl forgives Dave because he hooked up with another girl in front of her, and then when that girl realizes that Dave doesn’t truly love her, she says “he’s yours” and they’re both okay with it.  In what fucking world.
  6. The Conspiracy of Us – just give me the twist already!!  It’s promising but the way that the characters fall in love so quickly is not believable. I like the premise of this story.  Will continue to borrow this from the library.
  7. American War – About a black-Latina girl named Sarat whose status as a social outcast makes her susceptible for radical doctrine, and fuels her struggle to discern good from evil and absolute truth. She considers herself to be great through people who manipulate her along the way, and sees herself as the sole powerful saviour in the second American Civil War. I liked it… I liked that all the characters had depth and that you really sympathised with the complexity of family love, sacrifice, pride, hope, and hopelessness.
  8. The Unexpected Everything – About a girl with a single dad who is a well-known politician in DC, whose campaign is rocked by scandal and subsequently walks dogs for a summer job because she has an internship rescinded.  I ended up speed reading the end of it, because it was getting pretty boring. Wish they had discussed people’s outfits more, because I always find that to be a source of inspiration.  Interesting premise… a bit juvenile, but i like the overarching message that life doesn’t need to be planned out, and if you do that, you might miss out on the unexpected. Also I think the theme that things are always changing is good.  That change is hard, but you have to learn to embrace it.  But you can’t just move on too soon, that it takes time to adjust.
  9. The Way She Wears It (Dallas Shaw) – Apart from the thought that “does every white fashion illustrator write books or something?!”, I really liked this. I want to experiment with more colour, prints, and textures in my wardrobe. I want to start wearing more accessories like jewellery.
  10. The God of Small Things – So beautifully written and the most vivid imagery, like how dampness climbs into someone’s pants and makes a home.  Just so beautiful… and what a beautiful story. I like the way it’s told, and I was thinking of the symbolism, like the river and act of swimming across and against the current, and how this represents societal and cultural norms, which are corrected once Velutha dies and their family is split apart), and how Chacko’s broken planes are never the fault of the maker.  And I learned so much about Indian storytelling, myths, politics..
  11. Hotels of North America – I had to put this book down so many times, because I found it so intense and poignant, or more so due to the discomfort of reading about frustrations and thoughts that I’ve had myself… Even though this book chronicles the unraveling of an investment banker turned trader turned motivational speaker as he goes through a mid-life crisis and carefully reveals the undoings and yearnings of his life through hotel reviews, I found so many commonalities with my own trials and tribulations.  The book is about falling from grace, and how slow, painful, uneventful, yet so tiring this is, and how we lead lives that we find mundane and how we would want so much more, but we make compromises for other people, we desperately try to save our relationships.  How lonely we are sometimes.  How we are full of regrets that don’t dawn on you until it’s too late.  And it made me want to travel, made me want to stay in some dilapidated inn or hotel (not a motel, thank you), and bask in the hardships, in the cruel realities of American life, in forcing me to stare at myself in the mirror and wonder who I have become, where I am going, and what being in transit, staying at a hotel, means to me.  I think this book was more profound than what I could glean from it as a first pass.  It is so beautifully written and I am so glad I found this book.
  12. Always and Forever, Lara Jean – Lara Jean doesn’t get into UVA, her first choice school, and she is also having relationship problems with her boyfriend Peter.  I started to hate Lara Jean by the middle of the book because she is such a goody two-shoes and she’s not always right, but I guess that makes her human. She decides to head to UNC Chapel Hill in the end.  I liked the idea that not all advice is good advice; that maybe for other people, leaving for college with a boyfriend is a good thing, but for others, they could be the exception.
  13. Between the World and Me – I thought this was okay, but I think that my friend’s telling me that she stopped reading this because she found Ta-Nehisi Coates problematic did certainly colored my reading of this.  But I think it should still be read, regardless of how you feel about him, because people could (and do) change and I think as long as you have that lens on where you are cognizant of certain short-sightedness, then you can be an effective critic of this book.  The book is constructed as a letter to his young son, and recounts Coates’s life, his education, the people who have influenced him, and the murder of a friend/acquaintance that had propelled into his work in racial politics, police brutality, and identity.  You know, I think reading this book and then hearing about the KKK rally was great timing, because even though I don’t support the KKK in any way, I think they should have been allowed to protest in Charlottesville.
  14. Map of Fates (A Conspiracy of Us novel) – quick novel to read, and I like that it isn’t too easy of a read when it comes to vocabulary. I find Maggie Hall the author to be quite an intriguing person because she had done business school and then became a writer, and I really like the idea of switching careers, that nothing is stable, that everything can be in flux if you really want to toss it to the wind.  I think love triangles are overdone, so I wasn’t a big fan of Avery suddenly liking Stellan.  And it’s interesting to see where the book goes now that they know that their blood union releases a virus into the world.  And will also be cool to uncover the secret identity of Avery’s mom, who is actually part of the Circle.
  15. The Curated Closet – I skimmed this because the text was so boring. I liked skimming this because it helped me affirm that I am happy with the way I buy clothes though I should be more cognisant about buying things on sale.  And that I don’t want to do a capsule wardrobe because my wardrobe is not built like that haha.
  16. The Evening Road – I really liked this book! I found it on the Financial Time Summer Books recommendations, and this was just fantastic.  There was great writing (not as great as Hotels of North America) and the character development is exquisite.  I read this review of this book that pointed out that Laird employs a clever literary device to make the reader feel complicit with Ottie Lee, and I thought it was so brilliantly done.  You start to admire Ottie Lee because she is strong and assertive against the three alpha males that join her in their trek to the Marvel lynching, and so complex where you know she has so many regrets and how complicated her marriage is (that she married the boy that her rival liked just to spite her, and she genuinely loves him, but they have fallen out of love, and you wondder if Ottie ever truly loved him even if she sees them as a team in how they make ends meet), how people are not perfect and we shouldn’t give them a free pass when they do something terrible even if we think we love them (like Leander, like Bud, like Pops).  And the book doesn’t talk much about the actual lynching, and I think that is such a good stylistic device.  That the book is more about the life, revelations, and chaos that happens all around the town through these women’s stories.  And isn’t Calla Destry like Ottie Lee in so many ways?  She too is strong, won’t take any shit from the boys, and is seeking her own version of redemption.
  17. The Fall Guy – Really good suspense, but idk there was something about this book that i did not like but i can’t seem to put my finger on it. Premise is that this guy named Matthew is struggling financially, so his cousin Charlie who is a wealthy banker offers to host him for the summer. Matthew is in love with his wife Chloe although he’d never act on it, but he soon realizes that Chloe is having an affair and goes out of his way to confirm his suspicions.  In the end, he ends up killing the guy in a freak accident. I guess I didn’t really like the character of Chloe, and although the writing is decent, it moved so slow at certain parts.  And there were some parts that didn’t feel believable.

Upcoming:

The Hate U Give

And We’re Off

That’s the problem with history, we like to think it’s a book—that we can turn the page and move the fuck on. But history isn’t the paper it’s printed on. It’s memory, and memory is time, emotions, and song. History is the things that stay with you.

Paul Beatty, The Sellout

I have wanted to write this post forever but I didn’t know how to write it. Didn’t know what words were worth saying, didn’t know if I’m important enough to say them. I think about you a lot. Less than before, but still a lot.  I think about myself a lot, more than before as the unknown urgency grows sharper and my body grows more stressed, tightened in anticipation for some ride or fall from six feet above all the way down to six feet under. Who knows? You know, you never know.

I’ll break that shit down for you. You see, the sheep/calf/whatever animal it was represents black people: its castration leads to docility. We can do it in so many ways: it can be a violent affirmation of power, or you might not even notice the eugenics seeping because you’re distracted or it’s such a long, repeating process that you become desensitised to it.   And the pungent pollution that comes over the city seemingly disappears as the city becomes more segregated, because the smell is the denial of race politics and the truth that race is an uncomfortable topic to talk about.  That’s why Bonbon’s tree doesn’t smell; he is the only one willing to deal with the issue head-on.  He is the only one who isn’t headstrong enough to believe that we live in a post-racial society, flanked by the idea that black people’s future is in their own hands and that they can do whatever they want if they would just get their heads out of their asses. The quiet disappearance of Dickens is an ode to the idea that race relations are done, that we can act as “one people”, that we are “all of the human race”.

I see you all the time in some ways. Walk past a white man and think he’s you standing tall. Walk past a school and think of sitting across from you with glass Erlenmeyer flasks.  Think of the conversations that happened months ago, through keyboards and whispers.  Think of where I was at and where I am now.  It’s funny how you can stand in the same place without once moving but somehow you’ve outgrown your own footprint.

I am lonely.  I feel alone. I feel stuck even though there has been every lure, carrot on stick style, teasing me with the thought of escaping.  The signs were all there: it was drawn with yellow highlighter on a sheet with numbered weeks, it was delivered with the analogy of a dog, it smacks me left right and center as I bask in envy of everyone’s example of up and forward as I sit here, dormant.  I never wanted to escape you even when I knew I had to.  I guess I liked the game, I liked living in the moment even if it were an enclosed looping slide that only goes downhill from here.  I liked you.  I hated myself. Like I said before, with you I was sure. And with myself, I was a wild card that more often than not lost the whole damn hand.

you want a post? i’ll write you a post

won’t be a love song, won’t be a book, won’t even be a poem this time, because i am so exhausted running this pony show in a circle.  how am i still here? how am i still fucking here? is it me?  is it just me? or is there some fate that is telling me to wait? because i have no fucking clue what i’m doing anymore.  you’re still on my mind. one moment i’ve forgotten about you, and the next it’s like i haven’t repented enough.  that the sins of my rebellious youth haven’t had their dues paid to the gods and i’m still here, sitting here, writing here, haven’t moved on, haven’t moved forward, but yet i so so so want to. why is this happening? seriously? everyone says i deserve better but maybe i don’t think i do… i don’t know.  and given the current state of political unrest, in this era of fear, of hopelessness, of autocratic towers, broken bridges, and luxury bunkers for sale, please don’t let it end like this.

thankful for my health, my family, my family’s health, that nothing has made me shatter yet even though i have broken. i want to be happy. is this happiness? is happiness fleeting like this? is it like some promise you make but never kept? is it like how he came into my life and seven months later he had left without all the fixings, all the goodbyes. just left and hugged me and wished me the best. can’t fend for myself. god, i hate how things ended. hated how i handled it. i don’t think i could have handled it better without hindsight.

didn’t have to untangle you like a web to get out like the last boy, but man this is painful. this recovery is painful. this mending, this healing is painful. because i can’t even resent you. just hate myself this time. wandering around this city in heels with missing pieces to match my heart. listening to the same poems about heartbreak to croon my own in my head. reading journals, reading books, reading reading reading.  listening to the noise, to the music, reliving my heart getting pulled out of my body every time. everytime i hear that song i grimace. because the song is so sad and it reminds me of you and that makes me sad. and the fact that it’s been so long and i’m still not okay is so sad. and i just wish you were around again. thought i wanted closure but it’s not the ending i wanted. so now i’m naive, i’m difficult, i’m bound to fail.  just want to feel myself in your arms. why is that so much to ask in a world with much bigger injustices?

He says that he’ll drive me back to my hotel.  He says that I shouldn’t stay.  He never says that this is wrong. It’s the eighth time this year and I should have stopped counting long ago but I can’t.

I don’t say anything.  I’m ensconced in the white duvet twisted around by body, stomach down, with my left hand wound tightly on the sheets.  I’m expressionless, I don’t move.  I don’t look back at him as he gets up to dress himself.  Instead, I’m watching the skyscraper lights quietly twinkle in this beautiful Chicago backdrop, with my left elbow propped up, my mop of chestnut brown curls carelessly draped over my pillow.

His remark doesn’t deserve a response.  I am so tired.  I am so tired of hearing this.  I close my eyes in the faint glow of the city lights that reach the thirty-seventh floor of this condo, and quietly exhale.  I want to say everything that has been on my mind, and yet there are not enough words to capture all those thoughts.  I don’t contest, but I don’t move.  I stay there waiting for him to say my name, to make me get out of his bed.

It takes another two minutes.

“Kayl.”

I slowly turn to acknowledge him and look at him, my voice soft.

“How come you never fought for me to go to Northwestern?”

His face slackens as he fixes his shirt.  He doesn’t know what to say because we have spoken about everything but this.  We have fought over everything but this.  We have turned over carpets and tables searching for ants, blaming each other for one another’s carelessness, just so we could avoid that elephant in the room.  Why had you let them in? And I had just loosened the elephant from the trench it had dug due to inertia and time, and now it was trampling on everything holy that we had taken for granted until this moment: the quiet, the peace, all the words that had gone unsaid.

“Why are you bringing this up now?”

“Because I want to. It’s been bothering me for a while.” I reply.

“You wanted to play lacrosse, and Yale was good.  Most of your friends were going there anyway so it seemed like the logical decision.”  He retorts, shrugging and grabbing his keys casually.

“You never told me that.”

“I thought it was a given.”

“You didn’t try to convince me otherwise.” I shift my position in his bed. “You didn’t say ‘I wish you were coming to Chicago instead’ or something easy like that.  And then you could have relented… but you didn’t even try.”

There’s a silence that fills every uncomfortable corner of this room.

“You just want me to say it.” He deadpans menacingly.

I get up onto both knees. I dare him. I dare him to do it. I dare him to say what has been hanging over our heads like desiccated and dying mistletoe that someone insists is still legitimate, still symbolic.

“Yes.” I breathe. I close my eyes, I take a breath.

It’s dead silent. And then he says it.

“Maybe I didn’t want you to come to Chicago.”

I breathe out.  I close my eyes harder. I forget about the city lights shining on my back.  It’s like getting punched in the stomach after so many close calls, after marathons of avoidance.  It was a gesture of stating nothing has broken because it was only all breaking.

“But did you really?  Or was there some part of you that wished I had come?”

He wasn’t expecting that reply.  I can feel it in the air with my eyes closed.

“You think you would have lived with me, we would finally have told everyone about us, and everything would just be fine?  Stop kidding yourself Kayl.”

“Which part?” I immediately reply.

He looks at me bewildered.

Don’t even fucking go there.

But I could bite bullets blindfolded at this point.

“Which part is a pipe dream, Jon?  The part where you would let me live with you or the fact that you would have told everyone about us?”

He’s silent so I continue.

“Because your mother knows that there’s something sketchy going on between us, and this has been going on for seven months now. What the fuck are we doing?  We weren’t going to tell anyone initially because Keslow would have been mad, but it’s gotten past the point where we can’t tell him, and honestly, I think he would come around.  Because this… this is just some bullshit at this point.  If this is something, it’s going to be something.  We’re not half-assing this into oblivion.”

He looks right at me and sighs.  He reaches for his keys in his pocket and puts them back on the table.  His jaw tightens, his mouth is a line. He looks like a million things are running through his mind, and not one of them will escape out of his mouth.

But he speaks.

“I think we both know that this isn’t going to end well.”

I look right at him. My eyes are glassy.  I say nothing.

It is five weeks before The Incident.  It is five weeks before I never speak to him again.  It is five weeks before he ever makes me cry. And when I cry, I pour.

teach me how

Teach me how to forgive myself
because I always seem to come up short.
Know that my bitterness turned everything sour,
drove you away,
let you down.
And I beat myself over it over and over again.

Teach me how to be the bigger person
because the grief still swallows me whole.
I remember the littlest things,
scold myself over the most minute details.
Always mourn in 140 characters.
I haven’t moved on.

Teach me how to write a better poem,
one with seemingly more epiphanies
than the rehashing of my regrets.
Line by line
word for word
week by week.

Teach me how to find closure
as I repeatedly lay my heart out for all to see.
I want to be happy,
want to become the potential you saw in me.
I want to swallow my pride hard enough
that I don’t have to write another poem about you.

i’ve given up

i had wandered into the woods

looking to find myself

hoping to find closure for this wound that’s bigger than my body

ethereal in its teachings but i now i stand here and wander

no longer looking for a way out

no longer looking to be the bigger person.

 

like i’m taking the loss,

like it makes no sense

that i should learn to move on,

learn to let go,

learn to be calm,

suppress the anger.

 

but the world already makes no sense

choosing for a bleak future instead of the right one

where hate perverts everything holy, everything kind

and i’m ready to join them.

 

because i am helpless,

i am overwhelmed

i am just so fucking tired of this shit.

 

i am so tired of constantly being the bigger person,

i’m tired of making excuses for you.

i’m so tired of trying to be optimistic

when the writing is on the wall that this won’t end well.

because i can’t end well

i can’t sleep well,

you come back in my dreams and God do I miss you more than I will ever, ever admit

 

I am so tired of cleaning up after your mess

I am so tired of taking some of the blame so you don’t feel so alone

I’m tired of carrying this burden simply because you glanced at me as you tried to take it off your shoulder.

 

I’m just so tired of trying to please everyone,

tired of acting eager to resolve my flaws when they are apart of me.

I’m so tired of this convoluted reality where I’m the star

no fans who dote on me

just spectators waiting for me to slip up.

 

so now i just want to sit under this canopy

all shade, sparse light

listening to the wind brush the leaves

the air weave through the twigs

basking in my tired, my sad, my exhausted, all of my emotions

catching the quiet in my palm

breathing out only what i choose to

lying on the ground

letting the leaves sweep me under

growing roots wander curiously around my limbo

 

slowly, slowly i’ll let go.

moving on ain’t easy

just messy.