For Grandma—最后的会话跟婆婆谈一谈

Even to this day, I can’t believe you won’t be calling anymore. I still believe you’ll call us again and talk to us, and you’ll be sitting in your chair, actually having something to do other than watching TV or just looking at the walls. It’s only been a week since your last call―you were saying goodbye, and I didn’t even have the chance to see you go; now, I don’t even get the chance to see you off. Out of all of your fifteen grandchildren, only one will be there. I’m sorry we all couldn’t be there for you. But I think you must be happy now because all of your children have gone to see you. Remember? You’ve been wanting your eldest and youngest sons to call you. Now you’ll see them before your long journey.
I see your picture in the living room, and you’re smiling, but you don’t look happy at all. You must have been so lonely that year and a half after Grandpa passed away. You came over and lived with us, but you weren’t happy here either. You then stayed with your youngest son, and we visited every Saturday, but you still didn’t seem too happy there either. We didn’t know how to please you, and I wonder if you just missed your home or if you missed grandpa. You left a few months later, and two of your sons went with you, but I still think you wanted all of your children with you. We went back to Malaysia years later―that was three years ago―and, when we left, you said it would be the last time we’d see you in person. I can’t believe you were right. We were planning on going back this coming summer. We should’ve gone this year… I can’t believe you died in the hospital. I bet you were still waiting for you children and grandchildren to go back home. I hope you can see that your children did rush to get the plane tickets when they heard you were paralyzed and had a fever. They just weren’t fast enough.

I really regret that we all can’t be there to see you off this last time. I saw you in the coffin Grandpa bought you, and you looked so sad as if you had just been crying. Your nose was so big from all the oxygen tubes they stuck to you. I can only hope you are not suffering anymore.

In your lifetime, you had adored my youngest sister. Mama and I had wanted her to go to you, but she wouldn’t have been able to make the trip. I hope you know she cried so much when she heard you were gone. She cried so much. I hope you know she will never forget you, just like we’ll always have you in our hearts.

Po-po, you led a hard life. I hope you have a safe journey, and I hope you see Gong-gong soon, so you won’t be lonely anymore.

I love you, Po-po. I miss you so much. I’ll always remember you, and you’ll always be in my heart!

我还相信你会打电话跟我们说话。我真的想不到你走了。。。 我真的还以为你还会跟我们说会,还会等我们。我一直看到你的相片,你还在笑。可是你好像不开兴。 你那时候是不是想念公公吗?那时候我们回去马来西亚,我真的不知道那是我们最后的见面。 我还想看到你多一次,可是你真的走了。。。我还不相信。。。

婆婆,我爱你!我永远不会忘记你!

Written October 27th, 2011
For my grandmother, Yong Kimlan (who I called Po-po) when she passed away on October 25th, 2011
(Forgive the bad Chinese, I am not too fluent in Mandarin, most of my Chinese is Malaysian Chinese with Hakka mixed into it)

The Dream that Ended

The sky seemed so bloody at sunset today. Now, the sky has darkened so, and moonlight fills the view. The flowers that had bloomed the season before are all dead. Dried and wrinkled, brown and shriveled petals are left in their places. They contrast horribly with the dark green leaves that make up the treetops and lush bushes and shrubs. It’s been hard to ignore, but it’s been getting easier to do so.

There are no stars tonight, but I am still able to make out the storm clouds rolling in. Perhaps I will need an umbrella later on, but I don’t bother with such a trivial thing. I’ve always enjoyed the rain.

A chill blows in then, and I’m wondering if I should head home, but I see no difference in taking a lonely walk and returning home to nobody but an empty house. And so, I continue down the path. I was right when I decided not to bring a lantern. Though there are no streetlights, fireflies light my way. I come upon the meadow soon, the walk not having been so long. My oasis is just right outside of the community, right in the surrounding forest. It’s foolish of me to wander around by myself at this hour, but I don’t really care.

I sit upon the roots of the willow tree, its leafy veil so pale it almost glows in the dark. I see the whole clearing from here and bask in the moonshine. This place seems to be the only place that escapes summer’s blazing heat. The atmosphere feels so alive and vibrant, the stars show themselves, and I do not feel so very alone. My memories of you are still so vivid in this place, and you do not seem so far away. I feel as though you are here with me, as though you’ve never gone, as though we’re not so very far apart.

But I’m unable to keep myself in this illusion, and reality beckons to me once again when the sun begins to peek out beyond the mountains in the distance. I tuck away my tears, and I tell myself that I don’t miss you.

I don’t miss you.

Why can’t I forget you?

Written June 6th, 2011

2. Scheme

Choenyi stares at the young girl whose head is bowed in respect towards her. The Grand Queen Dowager—yes, that is what Choenyi is now that General Srisai had officially been crowned yesterday right after the Azmi King’s beheading and the Azmi Crown Princess’s demotion to a Lesser Princess—sees so much of her younger self in Saeron. Intelligence. Innocence. Beauty. Ambition. That last thing scares Choenyi. Ambition is something good to have, yes, but for Choenyi, that ambition may very well spell doom especially coming from a girl whose whole clan had been annihilated under the orders of Choenyi’s grandfather.

“Leave us,” she commands the girl who had been raised with her. And once Saeron is escorted outside her chambers, Choenyi faces the Chieftain of the Five Nara Clans, her hidden contempt revealed on her face. “A-kong,”—she addresses her grandfather in Nara dialect—“how can you do this to me? You act as if I have nothing to worry about! How can you invite another enemy into the palace?”

Odegei shuts his eyes as his granddaughter shrill complaints hurt his ears, only opening them when she waits for his explanation. “Anak,” he calls her child even though she is not one anymore, “all brides of the Royal Family come from the Nara clans. I could not just refuse the new Queen when she requested one for her son.”

Choenyi turns away from him, hiding the way her nostrils flares at the mention of Severin’s bride. She cannot admit that the sudden announcement of Severin’s marriage had not surprised her. She just hadn’t expected it to be so soon. “That’s right… I forgot you were so chummy with the Evakians.” Her snide remark does not help the pain in her heart. She feels guilty speaking to her grandfather like this, but she tells herself that he more than deserves her ire. “Do you plan to help drive your own granddaughter to her death?”

Anak, do not speak like this,” her grandfather implores her, reaching for her hand, but she moves it away. He sighs and begins to fan himself with his peacock feather fan. “I did not send any of our troops because the Evakians outnumber the Azmi six to one. I could not cast our lot with the losing side. I arranged for you to be returned to me after the Evakians had won.” He slides his fan closed, and rage shows itself on his face. “Obviously, Vikan Srisai did not keep his promise.”

Choenyi, having lived her whole life in political struggle, understands her grandfather’s reasoning, but she stubbornly holds onto her anger, directing it at him. Her late husband’s brother, the younger brother she promised to protect, is dead, and had her grandfather waited before using her as a political pawn at the age of eight, it would be her who’d be marrying Severin, not Saeron. As a child, Choenyi had given Saeron everything to appease the bereaved child and to pacify her hatred towards the other Nara clans, but Choenyi cannot tolerate Saeron taking the only man she has ever loved. Just the thought of Saeron being the center of Severin’s attention drives Choenyi insane. “And selecting the daughter of the tribe you annihilated as the future Crown Princess Consort helps me how?” She raises an eyebrow at Odegei, challenging him to give her an answer that would calm her fury. “Anyone can see her resentment towards the Nara clans for how her family was slaughtered! As soon as she spreads her legs for Severin and secures her place by bearing an heir, she’ll turn around and exact her revenge on the Five Clans!”

“And that is precisely where you come in.” Odegei’s crafty smirk silences his granddaughter. His fan is opened again, and he is once again fanning himself. “Anak, do you really believe that your grandfather would just leave you to a pack of wolves? I’ve done my research. The Crown Prince, I hear, is quite taken with you. Am I right to assume that you may return his feelings since you are more riled up about his marriage than with my conduct during the revolution?” He continues when Choenyi refuses to answer his suspicions, her cheeks beginning to turn a faint shade of pink. “Anak, you are my beloved granddaughter, and I will not do anything to put you at a disadvantage. I am giving Saeron to appease the Queen and to show our support for the new regime, but I have my hopes on an heir being born of Yehenara blood and not of that wretched Gudanara mud. It will be like shooting two hawks with one arrow.” He strokes his long white beard and chuckles.

“An heir of Yehenara blood?” Choenyi laughs at his plan. “The Grand Queen Dowager seducing the Crown Prince?” She laughs at the irony, at the fact that she so much wants to go through with it but is unable to. Her laugh sounds like a sob. “And just how do you expect me to do that? I have never been bedded before. Need I remind you that my husband died when I was ten and that Azmi law forbids any queen from remarrying or having any relations with a man? If I go through with this then King Vikan will have all the reason he needs to be rid of me!”

Azmi law forbids it but not Evakian law.” Odegei reaches for Choenyi’s hands once more, and this time, she does not recoil. He pats her hands and sighs. “Anak, your grandfather’s dearest wish is to see you happy. I am hoping that this change will provide the catalyst for your future happiness.”

It is a tense moment as Choenyi mulls over this. She has always known the Chieftain of the Five Nara Clans to be a political mastermind, and this only confirms her belief. Choenyi places her hand over the bosom of her dress where the necklace Severin gave her hides under. She has nothing more to lose. Love to a woman, after all, is a battlefield, a war where she must stake everything to win.

A-kong, I need you to do something for me.”

Life’s a Bitch

When children are born into this world, the first thing they ever do is cry. I wouldn’t be surprised if my cry had been the loudest yet. I was born alone—I have not a friend in the whole world. I kept telling myself the situation would get better, but it never did. I found myself in a dark abyss, but I never told myself to get used to it because that would have been the same as losing hope.

Sure, I was scared. Sure, I was lonely. But knowing that I’d find salvation one day fueled the flame of hope in my heart. I didn’t want to give into the darkness, so I told myself not to cry and put on a smile. Even in the toughest of times, I would laugh and shrug everything off, but somewhere hidden deep in my mind, I knew it might have been hopeless—that love and justice were just tedious lies.

And yet, I woke up every morning ready to face a new day, and I went to sleep every night, knowing that tomorrow would bring a new day. I found it strange that I could live on like this, even though I had grown tired of life. Perhaps it was because of my stubbornness that I escaped from the clutches of death for far more times than the average man. I refused to give in, and I don’t regret it.

I don’t regret it because I found confidence in myself that I never thought I had, because I could believe in myself, because I could be proud of who I was, because I refused to give up, and because my wretched life led me to you…

Written April 7th, 2011

The Treasure I’ve Given My All To.

I haven’t spoken yet throughout our walk in the park today. And I know that, though I haven’t looked back at you, on your face is a look of worry—the same one you always wear when you know you’re in trouble. But today I don’t have any intention to yell at you or scold you. In fact, today, I just only want to spend time with you if only in silence.

We come upon the same bench we’d always stop by, and I sit on it like always and enjoy the scenery. The sun always reflects beautifully on the lake from this view, and it leaves me content. I hear a small sigh and look towards you, thinking you were the culprit. I didn’t realize the heavy sigh came from me. However, I still stay quiet, only giving you an apologetic smile before returning to gaze at the water.

I see you crying in Mother’s arms. When you finally stopped, your eyes were puffy, and I laughed at how ridiculous you had seemed. I see you smiling this time at age five, picking wild lilies while dancing to a soft song you hummed. I still plant those same flowers in front of the house. The scene changes, and you’re ten, rolling around on the floor, playing with your closest friends. I had approved of them, and now I see that they truly were some of the best choices you made. Seasons came and went, and you’re crying insufferably, your head buried in my lap. I could only stroke your hair as your heart continued to break. That time, I had cried with you, but in a deeply hidden part of my mind, I was happy because what I had feared did not happen yet. It was too soon when you left for college. You came home any time you could, instead of feeling burdened, I was happy. During those days, it felt as though you never really left, and the fear in my soul was again for naught. That fear only came back when you returned, your arms looped around his and your fingers entwined with his. I never imposed on you, never expected any answers, but I still did not approve of him even to this day. I thought you deserved better. I made sure you knew that, but still you insisted on him. I only gave up when I saw the ring that sat on your finger. I was angry, yes, but I didn’t let it show so as to not upset you. My greatest fear returned…Before your wedding day, he came and spoke to me. I felt guilty that I couldn’t see the good you saw in him, but the promise he made me calmed my nerves. I still cried when you were given away at your ceremony the next day. I probably cried more than Mother, but I didn’t feel foolish. My fear still lurked around in the back of my mind.

I sigh again. This time, I am fully aware of who the sound came from. There is a yawn, and I turn to glance at you, you who caresses your stomach. I motion you to come sit with me, just as we had done as children. You obey just like always. I hum that lullaby I had made just for you, the one you simply adore, and you rest your head against my shoulder. I don’t blame you. Pregnant women tire easily, after all. And as you sleep, my watery gaze never leaves your fragile form. This is probably the last time we’d spend together in years maybe, if I’m lucky.

But I won’t burden you with the knowledge of knowing my darkest fear, the fear of you being taken far away from me… I never wanted that to happen because you are my pride and joy. I’m sadder than you can ever imagine, but tomorrow at the airport, I’ll smile just for you.

There shouldn’t be a need for you to know your older sister’s heart and regrets…

Written March 31st, 2011