Monday, 22 August 2011

Boston Homecoming

18th July - 5th August 2011 | Boston, Massachusetts, USA

The setting sun fell gently on the water's surface, as sail-boats glided serenely across the Charles River, with the familiar skyline forming the iconic Boston backdrop that I had grown so used to on my weekly weekend-walks. A cool evening breeze caressing my face gently grounded the reality of the situation - that I was back in Boston once again, and memories of all that I loved were a reality once again. Still one of my favourite cities in the world, and while some might argue that the city is not much for sight-seeing, no other place outside of Singapore feels as much like home - despite being away from her for a good three years.

In The Eagles words from their ballad "The Sad Cafe": Things in this life change very slowly, if they ever changed at all. And indeed, Boston was exactly the way I remembered it to be, where muscle memory instantly sank in within the first couple of days, and I was able to find my way around by foot to all the familiar haunts almost entirely based on some sort of intuition or a sense of subconsciousness. Regardless, there is / was still very much to love about the place...

The cool-summer climate set the tone and the backdrop for much that I loved to do in Boston - weekend walks across the river to the downtown area. Following the Freedom Trail from Downtown to Quincy market, to arrive at the all too familiar square and see identical performances by the same performers from 3 years ago. Hunting for the sweetest deals on pre-owned games, where often times the journey to the nearest Gamestop was as rewarding as the destination - as perhaps all I wanted was some sort of self-justification to validate a weekend walk when I could have been sleeping or gaming it away.

Ice-cream - lots of ice-cream - accentuated by a new Pinkberry yogurt fad in town provided the perfect partner for a mid-summer's night stroll back home; too cheesy cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory that has a level of sinfulness only found in American dining; and of course the seafood: where Clam Chowder and Lobster is the order of the day, and the freshness of the Lobsters and the creaminess of the Clam Chowder found in Boston still ranks at the top of my list for these choices, and warranted returning visits to the local seafood chains. 

But more than the physical or the gastronomical, Boston does something for me on an almost spiritual level as well. Thriving with creativity, Boston left me creatively inspired the last time after the 9-week duration, and this time around, it was hardly any different, but perhaps even more so invigorated. Perhaps the turbulent events after the last trip left me desolate and depressed enough that I hadn't been able to fully piece the pieces of that inspired-soul back together over the years; even though it has definitely been mended - but perhaps it was never complete (which might be a good or bad thing, since an incomplete soul probably has a better tendency towards introspection and reflection). Being back in Boston probably helped to put the finishing touches to that mending process, and the added insight and experience that I had gained over the years in between the visits probably allowed me to gain a bit of an even more deeply rooted wave of inspiration that fuels my soul and my mind with possibilties.

As nothing but the sound of my rhythmic footsteps rang through the evening air as I walked across the bridge, one step at a time, breathing in sync to the walking and eyes fixed towards the tall tower in a distance, I felt that I was taking one step onto familiarity, and another into the future, all at the same time. 

Photo Album:

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Road to Rome : The Joy of Nothingness

31st May 2011 | Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy

Waters of the fountain behind trickled slowly, from the sprout into the pool; as the sound of water on water provided the perfect background piece for the sunset-sky. A truly wondrous place, these plazas; with road-side artists peddling their wares and their works, alfresco cafes fringing the borders of the plazas, and an occasional horse-carriage going by - to give the plaza an icing-on-the-old-world-cake finish.

And yet, none of this mattered as much as the main ingredient: people - lots of people. While Europeans in general are probably quite fond of people-watching, Italians are noted to be at the top of the list, and judging from the number of people gathered around a 4pm weekday afternoon, I guess I had no choice but to agree.

Couples sharing intimate words staring deep into one another's eyes, as aged-pairs catch a breath and appreciate the years between them in the silent pants, as office-workers unwind over a cuppa at the bordering cafes after a days' worth of work, while wide-eyed tourists (like ourselves) try their best to fit in and pretend that we understood what the fuss was all about.

As I stared deep into space, my mind wandering, while the corner of my eye caught her in her bright yellow-dress wandering off towards the horse-carrige, I started to understand the lure of it all. More so than really watching people for comparison and inspiration, I think the whole thing fed a slightly more innate need for community, one that allows you to sit amongst the crowd, and yet not necessarily having to say a single word to anyone; an ironic sense of community-meeting-privacy - to just be amongst people for the very sake of it, and  yet keeping your own little private space in your own little world at wherever you chose to settle yourself into.

But more so than the sense of community, I was pleasantly surprised and probably enlightened on their perception of time. While sitting around watching people and watching the sunset on a normal weekday would probably be considered a waste of time in ever-so-efficient and fast-paced Singapore, where there is so much more to do,  places to go, and appointments to keep; where the days are packed with moving from activity to activity - I think we have probably lost sight of what it feels like to just sit and let time roll by, the feeling of owning time, rather than letting time own you - and perhaps, to enjoy the simpler things in life, the joy of nothingness and freedom, the little pockets of respite, the rest-stops along the day's journey.

I looked at my watch and signalled to her that we were moving on - to the Pantheon, to the Spanish Steps, to the Vatican, to the Coliseum, to the rest of Rome - and we were on a schedule. But I knew that as important as it was for us to make the time for these sights, it was equally important for a vacation to allow us to bake the time to savour the restful-perfection in between.

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Boston Chapters: Sunrise

The smell of the night still lingered in the air, slowly thinning as we made our way down the unusually deserted roads, as I was blindly following the crowd of three a little bit of a distance ahead of the rest of us. We didn't talk much, never did; and being travelling companions with a common goal did nothing much to bridge that disconnect, save for a silent acknowledge of one another's presence.

Fatigue probably played a large factor to the unwillingness to converse as well, as the mind-set of maximizing the time left on foreign shores - which had me making the decision to take the last bus out, only to arrive at 4 in the morning with nowhere to go but a nearby MacDonald's to wait the time out - probably left my body more dry than high; partially from the lack of sleep, but perhaps more so from the boredom of waiting.

And yet, there I was, searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; hoping to find a rare glimpse of beauty in the ordinary, to find the worth in the while for all the physical fatigue... 

The first step onto the bridge proper had me lifting up my head, seeing it stretch far into the distance, across the strait, with its suspension cords stretching towards the heavens, into the darkness above. Step by step, we walked down the bridge, going further and further into the thinning darkness.

A pinkish glow started to crawl along the sky - slowly but surely engulfing the darkness. The rattling of wheels and the distinct sound of bicycle bells rang behind us, as the bridge started to awaken with activity. Voices and shouts heard in the distance ahead, as step by step, we had come to the quarter-mark of the bridge. 

The ground beneath our feet shook more than slightly - a consequence of the high speed vehicles zooming by under our feet, with the sound of the roaring engines to accompany the sensation. More and more violently the earth beneath us shook, and the frequency of passing engine roars increased exponentially.

Just as we reached the halfway mark, I heard exclamations coming from the group ahead of us, as they started pointing towards the direction in which the water below us ran towards - eastwards. A thin ray of light shot vertically upwards from behind one of the buildings; and in almost an instant, spread out into a fan-like shape that stretched out in multiple directions. I stared intently, waiting for the visual climax.

A round golden silhouette peaked its head above a building, as I instinctively brought my hands to shield my eyes, unable to bear the intensity of the light. The great ball of light climbed confidently up the morning sky, assured of its dominance over the city, as its golden glory carassed  the faces of buildings near and far, having them respond with a golden glow off their reflective surfaces. The city had awoken to yet another sunrise.

I had found my pot of gold, in all its blinding glory - the glimpse of the sunrise in the Big Apple, probably a sight that millions wake up to every morning and see nothing out of the ordinary in - but yet, for one on foreign lands, it probably bore the significance of the start of the last chapter of the journey, as we headed towards our final weeks on this land.

The sunlight fell on my face, as I took in the air to smell the morning...

Monday, 25 April 2011

Facilitator 2.0

Deep breath, door slowly grasping the handle, a firm downward push, and a forward thrust.

A room full of eyes turned towards me, as I walked in confidently, making my way across the room, ignoring all of which, and brushing it aside with a casual "Good Morning".

A sureness in my stride, and a sense of command clenched within my fist along with the handles of my laptop bag, as I took my time to take my place, and proceeded to set up for class in my own time, as a presumably uneasy silence rang through the air; yet hardly rattling my disposition. 

They say that life comes full circle, and I was sorely reminded of this fact when two familiar faces stepped into the door with a sheepish grin, and a hardly-embarrassed and joyous "Hello." The irony of life – of having two students that I taught in my very first class in my very first semester stepping into my very first class for the new academic year.

It was great to have an anchor or two of familiar faces to latch on to in a totally alien class; but more than that, they served as two totems and one solid juxtaposition against my past - from a time that I had trouble digging up and virtually re-living - until the familiarity of sitting down in the same room with them jolted something probably now deeply swept into my subconscious.

I used to consider my words very carefully, and my actions even more so. The slightest hint of a tangential point that quickly and unexpectedly went south would cause an obvious flush, and have the class gushing at my shyness; my physical being unable to mask my mental thoughts - that was a different time. A time of self-consciousness and self-awareness; rooted by a deep sense of uncertainty - the uncertainty of the lack of the ability to anticipate, driven by a greater general lack of experience and knowledge of the approach towards the juggle between being an authority and being a friend. Awkward, perhaps; but cautious, even more so.

That was of a different time - one where interaction was a lot more of an effort, always conscious of what to say, how much I was saying, how much I was revealing; and yet always cautious of how much I shouldn't be saying, how far I was going, and what impression I was leaving...

"You've changed Jeremy", said one of the familiar faces, "I still remember the time when you..."  

I looked him in my eye and retorted calmly, "Two years is a long time."

And indeed it has been, with the clocking of one-year in full time, on top of the first year in part time, I believe that I have a much firmer grasp of the ropes in a classroom environment now - being able to see without looking, hearing words without focusing, and reading thoughts without asking; there is probably still much to learn, but at the same time, I have probably learnt much. Confident and in control, experience has taught me the basics of rapport, connection and communication. 

And yet, some things don't change at all. The persistent mantra of:  "9 to 4.30, I'm your Facilitator, after 4.30, we're friends," holds true to today even, and perhaps even more so, with the increased time spent with the students, and the greater involvement in their academic life. Talk becomes more casual, laughter flies all around, jokes dart in all directions, and the (ahem) occasional swear word comes to light, bringing to mind the second mantra of: "I'm simply here to impart my knowledge to you, not here to be your damn Role Model."

Re-visiting a question I had no simple answer for during my interview, I sordidly recall my stern interviewer's countenance when she asked, ""You look really young. Is respect important to you? How would you get your students to respect you?"

To be honest, I still haven't found the exact answer to this question, and I never might; but I probably never have to, as over the years, I think I've learnt to shift between the planes of a facilitator and a friend with ease, being able to transcend the planes in a split-second; and sometimes blending the two. Somehow, somewhat; I've learnt that respect doesn't necessarily come from knowledge or achievement, but sometimes, it is simply established with a tinge of connection.

A recent inside joke had me challenging my minions: "Wouldn't it be ironically funny if despite all the abuse and sarcasm I put you guys through, somehow I could still get an award this?"

Well... guess what happened?

- Welcome to Facilitator 2.0 -

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Malleability of Time

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

Shuffling noises could still be heard through my semi-conscious state - some of feet, and perhaps running water. The light streaming in had me move a little right-ward, hoping to avoid the sun for just that little longer, knowing that my time was almost up; the final moments I had to catch a few more winks before the dreadful vibration would be felt in my pocket, telling me that: "It's time."

That was then, and that was when I was subjected to the hours of an OPC (off-peak car), which translates to having your car stationary from 7am to 7pm on weekdays. Being the semi-snob that I am and refusing to take the hour-long bus-ride and potentially letting my would-be students make inane jokes about my drooling state, I opted to go through a routine that required me to wake up at 5.30am everyday so that I can get to the carpark before 7am, with enough time to catch a few winks before my class at 9. Conversely, I had to  tarry on after class till at least 7pm before I could start on my way home.

Case in point: The malleability of Time. In Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Time, Dali paints a surrealistic painting of melting clocks. While common interpretations have come to describe the meaning of the painting on the meaninglessness and relativity of Time, my first impression when I saw the painting was how "soft" and "flexible" time is to a person.

In the case of waking up early to make it to school before 7am is simply a matter of adjusting my body clock (and maybe a bit of the lifestyle) in exchange for saving a couple of hundred bucks a month, which on a more abstract level, comes down to re-shuffling the time schedules, allocating time meant for sleep to travelling instead, and then time meant for travelling to sleep.

A minute and common point in basic altering of one's lifestyle or rescheduling one's time perhaps, but the bigger point is how malleable can be. Ironically, time is so fixed - to the number of hours we each get a day - and yet so malleable, in which we can entirely decide how we want to spend it - use it to put in the hours in an office for a paycheck, dedicate it to honing a skill in music or sports (or games), letting it tick by in the comfort of a loved one, or simply just kill it by staring into space and letting it disappear in the void.

It is quite ironic really, when I see the youth of my students who are so desparate to find ways to kill their time, lamenting about their life and just finding ways to fast-forward it to grow up faster; and yet, as I grow older, I've grown a lot more cautious about how my time is spent, becoming increasingly particular about efficiency, and wishing I had more time in my hands, especially from that which I wasted in my youth.

In the end, Time is perhaps the only resource a person can be said to possess entirely, and one has the total freedom of how he or she would want to spend it - but the bigger dilemma is making the time count. Often, people forget just how malleable time is, allocating a "proper time" to certain things, like when it is to sleep, or to eat, or work, and are too willing to let their time and their life run on rails.

Especially true in the natural order when running too long in the rat race, where most are content to sink into a Work-Eat-Relax-Sleep routine for 5 out of 7 days of their lives, and often put everything else that can be done to a simple rhetorical question of "where to find the time?" And in the blink of an eye, days, months or even years pass by, with you wondering where all the time went and how your life passed by without you really knowing - probably lost in the the sea of consumerism and meaningless indulgence.

For me personally, I need the occasional all-nighter or meaningful vacation to remind myself just exactly how long a night is, or just how much can be done in the span of a day - to realign my perspective of Time. But more than that, I think it is important to find Meaning - first in Life, and then naturally in Time.

I always tell people that I will probably only live till 40 due to my vampiric lifestyle and bad habits. Part of it is in jest perhaps, and maybe part of it has a ring of truth; but the larger part of it is often to remind myself to make my days and years count. Perhaps with the constant scarcity looming overhead, I will be more cautious of how I want to spend my time, how to get the most out of it, drive me towards thinking a bit harder about realising what I want in life, and I want to achieve by the end of it - especially if it could be just 10 years or so away.

So, if you could only live till 40, how would you spend your Time?


Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Myth of Sisyphus

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king punished for cheating the gods and escaping death. When he was eventually caught, he was being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, bearing its full weight; and when it got to the top of the hill, the Sisyphus had to watch the rock roll back down the hill, and start the process all over - and this was to go on for all eternity. 

The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for Sisyphus due to his belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus. As a result when Sisyphus was condemned to his punishment, Zeus displayed his own cleverness by binding Sisyphus to an eternity of frustration with the boulder rolling away from Sisyphus when he neared the top of the hill.

Metaphorically, the Myth of Sisyphus has been used to talk about many things - the ceaseless and endless toil of the Sisyphus as a parallel to the things that we do or work on on a daily basis - nothing more than rather meaningless and menial tasks that amount to nothing much at the end of our lives, leading to the greater points of the absurdity of life in general - the full knowledge of this meaninglessness, and yet the continual push to pursue it.

More than this though, the main question that occured to me in this tale are the thoughts and motivations that run through Sisyphus' mind each time he sees the boulder roll down the slope, as he pursues it, only to start the process again, knowing the full extent of where it is heading and how it is going to turn out...


As the news came to me that I would be required to fill the nominal role and go outfield for this round's annual reservist, after a (too) good 10-year span, my mind ran amok as something in me just snapped, or perhaps, kick-started; a feeling of helpless and hopeless desperation, as my mind ran wild with every possible possibility I could conjure to escape this fate; constantly generating, analysing and dissecting each idea that popped into my head - a feeling that I hadn't felt for the longest time, perhaps as long as when I finally left the gloom of the army behind, and went on to lead a much happier life.

At the same time though, it seemed to have revive a certain kind of drive in me, one fuelled by aggression and determination, that runs on the mantra of "no matter the cost", in getting things done or getting my way in things.  A sharp contrast to 10-years of relative comfort, and perhaps in retrospect, complacency - one that only comes from safety and comfort from a good life, one you don't fully realise how good it is until it is starkly juxtaposed against having to endure the grime, the dirt, the discomfort, the sweat, the heat, the hunger, the fatigue, or perhaps above all - as with Sisyphus, the meaninglessness of the entire task.

10 years is a long time, but not long enough to even come close to remotely forgetting how dreadful an outfield experience is, and how disruptive it is to life as I've come to know it. 10 years is a long time when it comes to trying to muster the mental and physical fortitude that one was able to conjure at will when one was required to flex it and just bite the bullet - perhaps too many teeth have dropped over the decade to make for a pretty weak bite these days. And yet, 10 years is a long time for someone to grow mentally and emotionally.

What was knee-jerk reaction to think like the Escapist that I was from many years back, slowly faded into a more calm spirit of Acceptance; one that only comes with a certain degree of maturity, I believe. It is not one that is made out of back-pressed-against-the-wall circumstances - as there were still some desperate measures that lingered at the back of my mind throughout the whole mental thought process that I contemplated till days before - but rather, one that was consciously made from weighing all the options and considering all the circumstances carefully; one that I can proudly say was not a selfish one, as perhaps, unlike those that were made when I was much younger; when the repercussions didn't matter, and the ends self-convincingly justified the means.

Someone once said that "God does not give you a burden more than you are able to bear", and in that light, I think that I've been shown mercy in this respect. The entire experience was eased in quite progressively, as the time spent outfield was approximately 24-hours on the first week, and doubling to 48-hours on the final mission - with an additional blessing of the exemption from some of the worst that I have mentally psyched myself up for, through some sort of mysterious benevolence and unique circumstances.

Upon reflection, though I still hate the outfield experience with every fibre in my being, I think suddenly being displaced and disrupted from life as one knows it does something to one's way of seeing things. An attained and validated sense of maturity comes to mind, but perhaps more importantly, is the revival of a certain drive and aggression that has been lost from me for the longest time, one perhaps I have a better channel for at this stage of life than I did in my youth. However, the underlying lesson from all of this is one of mind rather than matter.

As the French philosopher, Albert Camus argues, in the case of Sisyphus, acknowledging the truth will conquer it; Sisyphus, just like the absurd man, keeps pushing. Camus claims that when Sisyphus acknowledges the futility of his task and the certainty of his fate, he is freed to realize the absurdity of his situation and to reach a state of contented acceptance. Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well.

The bottomline: It is all a matter of Perspective. The very (absurd) act of contemplating and thereby fully acknowledging the meaningless or dreadful tasks presented to one, is probably the first step one must take towards eventually overcoming it, if not physically or circumstantially, then at least, mentally. With that, a state of Acceptance should naturally follow, and eventually, "all will be well".

Some parts of this post were taken from and

Friday, 7 January 2011

Lights Brought the Future - Pieces of Japan Finale

1st January 2010
Disneysea, Tokyo, Japan

Staring across the mass of water that lay before, into the array of lights at the other end, imagining the footsteps of the shuffling exiting crowd, my breathing slowed; a stark contrast to the extended exhilaration of the day.

From the thrills of freefall in the Tower of Terror, to the constant ringing of "Compass of my Heart", to the screaming descent of Journey to the Centre of the Earth, to the tinge of Curry Popcorn still ringing atop my tongue - we had probably covered the quintessential rides in Disneysea with maximum efficiency and had gotten the  most bang for our Starlight-pass-buck, putting us in a more than apt position to cap off the amazing journey.

Disney is probably as close as to perfection that artificial beauty gets - the golden lights in the distance sparking amidst the dark winter sky, highlighting more than the silhouette of its Venice-inspired architecture; the Magical Kingdom's reach is far, sometimes even reaching into the inner chambers of one's soul, invoking a sense of almost subconscious reflection with its beauty.

I stood in place, in time, staring at the lights, thinking about the events of the day, and much beyond.

Atop the fort stood a man, peering out into the same direction, dressed in a surprisingly thin jacket for the cold winter night, the man stood still, admiring the sight that lay before him; even though it was mostly man-made lights, but queerly, amidst all that, the ill-equipped man failed to do the touristic act of whipping out a camera to capture the sight before him in eternity, while almost ironically, the shutter next to me was sounding non-stop. He stood there motionless, as if waiting for something, for someone - someone to meet up or catch up with him, just admiring the beauty.

Piqued with curiosity by his motionless gaze, I slowly crept up behind and beside him, hoping to gain his vantage point of the sights before. As I stood beside him, I subconsciously noticed that we were of rather similar height. After standing there for a few seconds, with nothing but silence between us, I couldn't help but do the instinctive but taboo act of turning to look at him.

In almost the same time, he turned and stared straight back at me, as our gazes met - when I noticed that his eyes looked exactly like mine, as my focus drew away from his eyes, I noticed that he looked just like me.

Shocked into silence, I stood there speechless and not knowing how to react.

"I know, I know," he said, with a voice that sounded exactly like mine, "I knew you would react this way. Your next question would be, 'who am I?' and knowing you, or me, the 'why' would naturally follow."

"In short," he continued, "my answer for you is.... Second Chances. And what better time for Second Chances than the turn of the New Year right?"

"Don't ask, just use your eyes to follow the lights of the buildings at the opposite end, c'mon!".

Still in semi-shock, my eyes followed the lights along the ups and downs of the rows of buildings, tracing their angular shapes further and further into the illuminated-horizon, as lights my eyes started to lose focus, blanking out into a blinding screen of white for a moment, before the warm-yellow tinge started to restore itself in my vision, as I tried hard to centre my vision of the row of lights that stood before me.
Second Chance
Oddly, the lights yellow lights within my vision had mysteriously realigned themselves, and didn't take those angular shapes any longer, instead being neatly arranged into two neat rows.
I turned and looked around, and to my shock, I saw myself standing in the middle of an isolated street, dead quiet in the night save for the sound of some vehicles from a distance, surrounded by rustic traditional Japanese houses, as the gentle sound of flowing water trickled from a canal by my side.

Guessing from the architecture around me, I garnered that I was somehow still in Japan, but as my mind was about to make a logical guess on the exact location, I found that my index finger was used as a make-shift bookmark among the pages of a "Lonely Planet Japan" in my hand. Opening the book, I read the words:

Shirakawa Dori. Some claim it to be the most beautiful street in Asia, particularly during the Sakura Season. Looking around, I was entirely absorbed by the peace and tranquillity that surrounded me. My body hardly fatigued from the long hours of travelling via flight and bullet train, and all my initial apprehension of the initial thought of pack-and-jet subsided as I stood under the barren branches of approaching Spring.

It was February, and I was back in Japan again, except this time alone. And yet, while slightly disappointed by the lack of the company I had grown so fond and accustomed to, there was a different kind of emotion to the loneliness - one that left a lot of room for reflection, and soul-searching, especially amidst some of the most beautiful sights that the island had to offer.

Feet firmly planted on the ground, and giving it a good shuffle against the concrete pavement, the reality of the situation sank in, as the association with a Lone Wolf came into my mind - seeking, reflective and majestic.

Book in hand; I walked down the beautiful street, as the blinds got more blindingly bright the further I walked down, till I could no longer see what was in front of me...


"Amazing, right?" a familiar voice rang through my head. "I know, this island does mysterious things to you, haha. Awe-inspiring sights, a little bit of pilgrimage, and a little bit of history; are just the perfect ingredients for a second chance, don't you think?"

"You feeling warm?" he asked me.

Still unable to answer, I shook my head at the obvious answer, my hand naturally clasping my jacket tighter to my body as I sensed the approach of a chilly wind. Puzzled at his question, I looked at him with bewilderment.

"Then why are you perspiring?" he asked me.

A sudden realisation of droplets rolling down my forehead dawned upon me, as I raised my hand to try to dab the beads of sweat off, but somehow, despite the cold winter's night, I just would not stop perspiring.

A bead of sweat rolled down my forehead and into my blind, causing a temporary irritation, as I tried my best to blink it off, only to have the situation aggravated by the dry, cold wind that was blowing across my face.

Unable to stand it any longer, I moved my hands to my eyes and tried to rub them through my gloves. A sense of relief came over me as the edges of my knuckles met the corner of my eye, but that's when I realised that my gloves were off...


In fact, so was all my winter wear, and my entire top.

I was now in an all-too-familiar space, surrounded by the four walls that have literally held me in since childhood, but yet, something was amiss, the usual furniture was missing, and all that was left was my bed and my wardrobe, both covered with a glossy, wet, black sheen of paint, with me looking down at them.

I found myself atop a ladder, with a paintbrush in hand, with its tip dipped in a dark-grey shade of paint. I tried to raise my arms to move the paintbrush, but the soreness and aches of the muscles gave a biting realization of reality.

Not having slept for almost a continuous period of 18 hours, the clock struck 7.30am as my arms continued to move up and down along the wall, while my mind yearned for something a lot less torturous and monotonous.

"Almost there, almost there. I just got to finish this for once and for all," the voices in my head willing my body to go on. Putting the final touches to the wall, I laid the instruments down and headed for a much-needed shower, one that signified the end of 3 weeks of hard, manual labour; I task I had yearned to do for over 10 years, and hope not to do for another 20 if possible.

But as I re-entered the refreshingly monochrome space after my much needed bathe, I stood at the doorstep, looking in and nodding to myself, seeing that it was good,; and more importantly, a space I was proud to call my own.

I laid down on my bed, with my hair still wet, my body automatically shutting down as I fell into a deep sleep, feeling my senses shutting down one at a time, when the last thing that I felt was a drop of water, slowly rolling down my forehead and onto my eyelids, my hand subconsciously raised to wipe it away...


When my eyes open, blinding golden light was shining through all again. I was starting to get the idea of what this was all about, as I couldn't help by give a sly smile, upon knowing.

He knew that I had reached my realisation, and gave me a cheekier smile back - one that reminded me of when times and life was a tad simpler.

From the Fort, I looked down, and saw her, probably still oblivious to the fact that I was missing, finger still trigger-happy on the shutter, as the little Minnie Mouse ears atop her head dangled with each clumsy movement she made to get a better angle.

I looked at him, and slowly broke out into my sly smile...

"Oh, you want to know about that..." he said, hesitating briefly. "Yeah sure, why not?" he said, after 2 seconds of thought. "I can tell you though, the word is: Patience."

"Popcorn?" he said, stretching out a long box of popcorn at me.

With the tempting taste of Curry-flavoured Popcorn still etched in my mind, I reached into the box, but couldn't feel anything. Puzzled, I dug my hand a bit deeper in but still to no avail, when I lowered my head to peer into the darkness of the box, seeing something at the corner of the box, as I reached my fingers in to grab it....


Feeling something solid between my fingertips, I inched it out of the box, only to find that a familiar golden brown French fry was in my grasp instead.

Chatter from all angles filled my auditory senses, as I picked up the familiar words of "Module, grades, and lectures". I looked around, to see myself surrounded by young faces, none of which looked familiar, while some of them stared back at me with a slight sense of wonder, as I stood out like a sore thumb amongst them in my chic office attire.

I was back at my Alma Mater, with my laptop on in front of me - fries in one hand and my other on the mouse in front of me, as trees on screen moved towards me against a black background. Dragging and Dropping, bugging and debugging, while my other hand continued to circulate the fries to my mouth.

My phone rang as I answered it, hearing her familiar voice on the other end. "I'm done, Vampy!" she said semi-excited.

"Ok," I responded, as I finished up and packed my stuff, heart full of anticipation as I walked down the stairs, ready to see her countenance again after nearly a week. Dance had come into her life in full swing, adding to an honours year of oddly-timed modules; our weekend schedule had been dramatically affected and compromised over the months.

As I walked towards her at the bus stop, I was all-smiles, having learnt to fully accommodate to the changes and learn to make the best of the time together, as I knew that we had probably entered a different phase of the relationship, one that was less wilful, and more assured; one that could was durable enough and yet malleable enough to withstand changes to lifestyle, and eventually life.

"Where do you want to go darling?" I asked her, as I reached out for her hand.

She responded with an answer and a shrug, reminding me of her rule of not showing ANY affection within campus.

Stupid perhaps, but I took little heart to it, as she walked on in front of me, her image getting blurrier and blurrier and she continued to step forward while I had seemingly become more stationary....


"Yup, all's gonna go well in that aspect, man. Don't worry about it," he said, as I looked down at her still scurrying about, but suddenly turning around, and looking a bit lost.

"I probably need to go soon," I said to him, "but just one more thing that I really need to know."

"You mean about THAT thought?" he asked.

"Yeah," I replied.

"That's gonna be huge, you know.... but yeah, why not right?" he said, almost nonchalantly.

"Close your eyes, and reach out your hand," he told me.

Not questioning anymore, I did as I was told...


A cold metal surface touched my palm, as I grasped it within, feeling the familiar shape and texture of a metal door handle, and a white door that stood before me.

Somewhat forcefully, I pressed down on the door handle and stepped through the door, into an empty room and stood in the silence. But gradually, that silence was broken, as I heard a familiar voice uttering the words "Good Morning" and other familiar voices faintly in the background. The voices grew louder and louder, and more audible, but just before they were audible enough to decipher who they belonged to, they disappeared and silence filled the room again, where a mysterious white door just like the one before had appeared at the other end of the room.

Stepping towards it, I did the same thing again, and stepped through the next door, into the next room, and stood in the silence. Again, I heard the same words, and I heard the increase in volume, only this time the increase in volume seemed to be amplified. But still, before I could make out the identity of the people speaking, it stopped, and another door appear.

I did the same, and went to another room, where the same events occurred again. After going through the same thing for about 20 times or so, one room at a time, over and over again; I was finally able to make out the owner of those mysterious voices - they were the voices of some of the students.

The moment I had this figured out, another door appeared, but this time a golden one. As I opened the door that led to another room, a pot of gold and a mirror awaited me at the other end of the room. I first approached the pot of gold, which was hardly full, and went on to pick up a few gold coins from the pot. Realizing the authenticity of the gold, I grew excited and wanted pour all the gold out to count the number of coins.

Pouring them out onto the floor, I started counting them, and when I had tallied the final amount, I reached for the pot of gold to put the coins back in, when I realised that the pot was filled with gold coins again, roughly the same weight as before. I poured out the coins to start counting them again, and I realised that the coins were exactly as before. But while this never-ending pot of gold was strange, the even stranger thing was that I couldn't put any gold coins back.

Believing the mirror to be equally enchanted, I approached it cautiously, my mind wondering about the possible enchantments within. But as I stood in front of it, it seemed to be nothing more than an ordinary mirror. Making gestures in front of it just to make sure, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. But as I stopped to look at it for a while, I realised that the reflection within had taken on its own will, its own soul; doing as it pleases. But when I rose to perform an action again, it followed suit. A strange object indeed.

A little label was attached to the handle of the mirror, in which read the words: "Choose."

I placed the two objects on the floor, knowing fully well what each of them meant to the decision that I had to make soon, and after much contemplation, I reached out my hand to pick up the pot of gold. Stepping through the door that I came in from, and the 20 before that...

"So, that's going to be your choice?" he said to me as I found myself back at the top of the Fort.

"I think so," I said, "I think it's time for a change; for a little bit more stability in my life you know, after the last couple of years."

Through a smile that hid a tinge of sadness, he said to me, "I guess you're ready for that. It's never going to be like it used to anymore you know? You're going to have to.... grow up... I guess..."

I paused for a moment, before I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "I know", assuringly.

"Then I guess you're all set for the New Year then?" he said, rhetorically.

"Yup, I guess this is where we have to part ways," I told him.

"Yeah, it's been one helluva ride," he said, with a forced chuckle. "One last question though."

"What?" I asked.

"Can I use your camera?" he asked. "You know I've always been dying to grab a photo with THAT camera for the longest time now, right?"

"Haha, I know." I said, as I tossed him the camera.

I slipped back down the Fort and behind her, only to find that she was not playing with her camera anymore, but instead, just staring out into the lights across the mass of water that lay before us. And I could only what the lights led her to see in her year ahead....