Peer Review by yapyapxy (Singapore)

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How I Found Something To Love In December

By: Angelina Nguyen

December brings adventure, fun and games, great good and goodbyes, all wrapped in this bow that is only opened when the new year arrives.

There is this feeling we have when it is a certain time of year. There is this familiar buzz for the first day of school, the giddiness of falling in love, a dread, but also determination for exams and assessments. I keep making the effort to try to describe these atmospheres we create around ourselves during the year. It is there and it is what thrills us.

This month rings a hundred different bells for this Sydneysider. December is another White Christmas I have missed from living in Australia, crowded beaches with picnic blankets that are like a pastels palette disassembled and scrunched into not-so-quite-rectangles. December is a streak of ridiculous heat with a sudden downpour of rain on the least expected day. December is writing cards to all my teachers and thanking them for the year and sending boxed gifts with neatly wrapped corners to close friends. I have to say with certainty that last December was the greatest I have had and it was all because of someone named Alexander. 

I met my partner Alex last year but we never did more than wave to each other as we passed. He had inspired me to paint, as I have written about in many of my stories, and covered a once blank canvas with fingered slashes of blue and green, outlines of orange and purple. I needed him to see it, that he was the reason that I made something this wonderful but I was afraid of rejection. How can one handsome, tall, intelligent and headstrong being like him ever come to even notice someone like me? A four year age gap still could not stop me; when you know that something is right, it just beckons you to act upon it. I had hit him up with a 

"I suppose normal people say 'hi', so hi."

Amused by me, he fired a conversation and before we knew it we were talking for hours on end. I brought up the concert which was the day after his birthday and he decided to attend it spontaneously. I was shot with this rush of excitement; he was coming to see me perform and I could show him the artwork that I made because of his performance weeks ago. When he was there, in the hall, I remembered being far too happy that tears rolled out, as if they were trying to balance everything I was feeling. He scrutinised my painting before laughing at how much of a genius I was, when in reality, he was the one person who even got me to exploit myself. Time worked out for us in December last year. His birthday was on the 30th, the concert on the 1st of December, us seeing each other again on the 3rd so I could give his massive canvas to him to take home as a gift. All of this happening convinced me that we were meant to fall in love, that falling in love in the right time, with the right person, is really the most magical part of being alive. 

By the 5th of December, we had started our relationship and I had suddenly felt something new for the month overall. It was this anticipation that I have always had for Christmas and New Year amplified, turning my world into a Tumblr camera with this airy fairy filter everywhere I went. We immediately knew we had to see each other. Alex and I go to music schooling together but otherwise, we do not get to see each other. We started to schedule in coffee dates at my local Gloria Jean's. We sat in the corner on two wooden chairs with a circular coffee table between us. He often came in shorts and a soaked tee shirt, probably rushing from his life-guarding job to see me. He ordered a Cookies and Creme frappe but I stuck with my latte even though it was far too hot for one in an Australian summer like this. Awkward silences were unavoidable, especially when our general conversation came from texting each other prior to this. I liked that although we had moments where we would not say anything, I fell in love with the way he sipped his drink, his left leg rapidly shaking. When he scrunches his nose or when he covers his mouth with his hand to "think before he speaks" or when he raises his right eyebrow, I instantly take out my notepad and jot down how I would describe it. He makes me want to write and preserve the best parts of him in my words. Michael Buble, who we both adore, would be playing in the background and although there was no sweaters or snowflakes, it surely was as mystical as the music itself. 

Having conservative parents only made it more difficult for us to meet one another, but the beauty of Christmas was inching on me. I was not satisfied just with these coffee rendezvous. We sneaked a meeting at a shopping centre before I had to go off on a cruise in January, giggling at the sight of each other and the fact that we had the audacity to do this in the first place. New Years Eve, it was, and we exchanged late Christmas gifts since we had not met before. I opened up the purple star wrapping paper to find a large, square frame. Inside was a piece of sheet music decorated with sequins, forming a black treble clef. I gawked at the sight of it, which he suddenly frowned, thinking I did not like it. I remembered laughing and wrapping my arms around him unconsciously, telling him repeatedly how beautiful it was. We were giddy and holding hands, swinging our arms back and forth, passing boutiques that were far too pricey. By the end of it, we could hardly keep our hands off each other, but we knew that the next time we met would be almost a month later. I had a cruise ship to board and so did he two weeks after mine. While we sat and mocked the woman at the cash register earlier, he suddenly stopped and just smiled. Pulling me in close, he took off my glasses and told me to close my eyes. I remarked with 

"It's not like I can't already see what's coming next."

He rolled his eyes and kissed me. I would have to admit it is nothing like the movies but in that single moment, it was as if everything in my world made sense. I did not need an elaborate scene with pouring rain or a candle light dinner for this to be any better. I just needed him there. When we parted lips, he immediately asks me 

"Can we do it again?"

Smooth, is he not? I simply burst out in laughter and knew that the New Year was going to bring something amazing- my first year with my Alex. 


Peer Review

I liked the word choice that conveyed strong imagery, and how the entire piece was tightly connected with the subject matter.

It is special to the author because of the routine, but especially so this year because of a special other and the moments created.

The author transitioned quite smoothly between reflection and scenes, but I felt that some scenes could be further emphasised, such as the first meeting with Alexander - what was the setting like? Or perhaps share the ambience in which you shared your first kiss in - was it romantic? Was it dimly lit?

The ending is quite satisfactory in summing up the meaning of being with Alex although I would certainly welcome more thoughts on being in a relationship or love, since this is the universal mystery. ;)

You have interesting perspectives to share, which is something that makes your writing stand out. These aspects of your writing will be better emphasised if you pair them with interesting ways to describe the scene. You should definitely keep at it! <3

Reviewer Comments

Reading (and reviewing) this honest mix of narration and story-telling is a joy. It reminded me of a diary entry or a blog post, as though the writer was telling the story to a confidant. A suggestion could be to add more details, or character quirks (both the writer herself and Alex) as it can make the scenes more memorable and the relationship dynamics more interesting to the reader.

I look forward to more pieces of writing (with this Alex) from you! ;) At the same time, I would like to thank you so much for your kind and lovely reviews, every one of them means a lot to me and I hope this one does justice to your work!

Happy writing!

Sincerely, Xin Yi