She sat, cross-legged, leaning against her bed, her mind clouded by a confusing tipsiness. She reached for the bed-side radio. Instead of her favorite songs, she was greeted by a symphony of shattered glass as her mug and a bottle of thrift-shop wine dived from the top of her cabinet. The wine bottle bled a burgundy liquid that quickly spread and stained her jeans a sanguineous crimson.
"Well, I guess that's it for today," she drawled unintelligibly. The dim amber light in her rented flat illuminated the trail of tear-stains that have crawled down cheeks. She wasn't sure how long she has been weeping. But she could feel the dry, crusty flakes of dead skin that gathered at the corners of her eyes. Smaller droplets of tears coalesced into larger globules that glistened with the words she couldn't bring herself to say. And the emotional burden carried within it fell from her coffee colored eyes. A stray lock of straight,...
Whenever I feel a tinge of stress
I look heaven-wards in search of relaxation
And surely, the sight erases all distress
And douses me with inspiration
I wonder how the dappled clouds
Could form perfect sinusoidal waves
Dotted with freedom and laced with grace
As if they owned the melody of those white-capped waves
They drift by in a careless whisper of the afternoon breeze
Impeccably light and joyful
I feel my weary thoughts dissolve in their embrace
As the clouds teach me how to be audaciously beautiful.
We don't know why a small, rectangular lightbox is more interesting than a hearty chat under the golden sun.
We don't know why we are spending hard-earned paper notes to buy things we do not need to show off to those we do not like.
We don't know if our children will enjoy an afternoon alone, with only a few hundred pages as company, as much as we did.
We certainly cannot agree on whether random paint splotches on canvas may be regarded as art.
One of Southeast Asia's favorite snacks, the lightly-burnt golden-ochre hints at the musky fragrance of cinnamon, nutmeg and caramel when the cake exits the oven. The cake is divided into thin pieces, revealing its perfect stratified layers of dark-brown and butter-yellow. In singlets and shorts, excited children race each other to get a piece of the much-beloved confectionary. Maybe the sprinkle of tinkling giggles is the secret step in making irresistable Kueh Lapis.
Autumn would dye the whole Forbidden City an auspicious red. Flaming crimson chrysanthemums flourished outside my windowsill at one of the many shadow palaces.
Autumn was my favorite season of the year. In the morning, the skies would be crystal-clear in a shade of light sapphire decorated with tendrils of white clouds, much like my porcelain tea-set. I would open my eyes to a splash of sunshine bouncing off the glossy linoleum of my Sandalwood dressing table. I would lay silently in the comfort of my bed, enjoying the bright glow in my room while eavesdropping the sparrows gossiping at the windowsill.
“Good morning Rong-er, rise and shine,” Soon, a swift shuffle would signal Auntie’s arrival. She would brighten up my room further with her honey-coated voice. Auntie has been taking care of me since I was born. Mother visited me occasionally since she was the Empress and lived in the faraway Jiao Fang Palace.
My auntie was...
After autumn spray-paints the campus bright red, after golden shawls sprawl across foamy clouds, after fresh-green buds peek out their dainty heads, we arrive in the Graduation Hall. The bittersweet experiences crystallize into the graceful toss of the mortarboard.
Before an NTUC Fairprice outlet was built near my home, I will head downstairs and get some sundries from the Mama Shop. Usually, there will be a few candy-apple red racks filled with traditional treats like Murukus and prawn crackers. Along the sides of the store are those lucky draw machines where a 20-cent coin can exchange for useless but awesome little toys like finger-lights or a scented-croissant keychain. The middle-aged, Indian shop-owner would be perched over the aged linoleum counter, reading a Tamil newspaper through rusty-rimmed spectacles that slid half-way down his Roman nose. His cosy store smells fondly of a musky concoction of Curry and Lemongrass. Every time I came along, he will lift his head and look at me through those worn lenses before pushing them up with a thick sausage finger.
"Girl ah, what you finding today?" He would ask in a benevolent voice in Singlish.
"Hi Uncle! No lah, I just looking for milk and...
She ripped her eyes off her friend's lime-and-vanilla ice-cream using every newton of force running through her veins. One more opponent tackled to the mat, and she will tie a black belt around her waist. She slipped on a pair of lovely jasmine-stenciled turquoise wedges for half-price. Perhaps a cheap chocolate-deluxe double cone won't kick her out of her weight category.
The crave for a warm slurp of noodles in a steaming bowl of savoury broth attracts my class like the Pied Piper's flute. Every Thursday, the 26 of us will ride our air-chariots, whipping our horses with all our might to be that lucky child to get Neverland in a lime-green bowl. The peony of happiness will uncurl its pink fronds in the Noodle stall auntie's heart, dyeing her cheeks a light rouge, blessing her with a smile. She takes our order and color-codes our bowls with a cornucopia of polyethene pegs, alerting the chef faerie to add a dash of chilli fireballs to some and an extra golden sun for others. She first cooks the noodles in a pot of enchanted liquid. The thermophilic mermaids carry secrets of deliciousness in their little brown satchels and they tinker the internal structure of the noodles to make it match the structure hand-painted on the torn-and-tattered instruction sheet. Once done, the anchovies...
Book nerds evolved into rock stars, early-morning timed chess and laughing at Nury Vittachi's anecdotes until our sides hurt.
I live in an irony bound by the two words of my Chinese name.
First, my surname, Liang, hints at a knowledgable and genial gentleman. One who is well-versed in the ancient classics, someone who can quote Confucian sayings easily with no sweat. It paints a portrait of a scholar with grace in each step of his silk-sandals as his long, milky robes flow in the wind like the thin, adroit branches of the willow tree. In his spare time, he debates on internal governance and poetry. Sometimes, he would sit cross-legged, contemplating which move to make as he battles himself to a game of chess.
Fast forward to 2016, turns out I, as a "gentle-lady", have developed a distinct taste for Electronic Dance Music and punk rock. I can lip-sync Green Day with ease, but probably not Confucius. But the legendary balletic aura is no where to be found in my lime-and-turquoise trackshoe-bound steps as I sprint across the...
The sun trekked wearily up the hill, spilling his golden radiance as he walked. A tom leapt soundlessly over the fence in a precisely-calculated catenary before he walked paw after paw in a perfect line, equal parts grace and stealth. Then, he reached out a paw and nudged a calico soundly napping, and she opened her heavy eyelids, revealing a set of emerald eyes. She looked up and gave a slight purr at his presence as he sat right in front of her woven basket, his jet-black tail wrapped neatly around his white rotund paws. She could feel the warmth radiating from his petit but muscular frame, and had a waft of his grassy, dusty and sweaty scent, a smell she had grown to love.
"Good morning beautiful," he said in a smooth and alluring baritone with a magnetic lilt to it. But, their tete-a-tete needs no words. They were the masters of body language. What he merely did was...
Here are some quick questions before you continue to help fill the big tub in the bath house. I hope Yubaba isn't giving such a hard time nowadays.
We all have had days when the tulmultuous, gray nimbus clouds engulfed our sunshine, making daylight become a simulacrum of the night. The torrents and sonourous thunder would come crashing down shortly after, drenching every cell in one's body, sending us quivering from fear and chill. And that was when we would desire for a warm embrace from the sun, something we might have taken for granted. Sometimes, we need a few rainy days to keep the good days in sight. This is a cherished lesson I have learnt from making oil-fruits with my grandmother during Chinese New Year in 2013, when I thought my whole year was going to be flooded with rainy days.
Then, I had just entered Secondary 3 (Grade 9). I had been sorted into another class as my best friend, Ashley, and was surrounded by thirty daunting and unfamiliar faces, with cliques already beginning to form. Imagine the embarrassment and pain when, at Week 2 in...
We have all had days when the tulmultuous, gray nimbus clouds gathered overhead and engulfed our sunshine, making our daylight become a simulacrum of the night. The torrents and sonourous thunder would come crashing down shortly after, drenching every cell in one's body, sending us quivering from fear and chill. And that was when we would desire for a warm embrace from the sun, something we might have taken for granted. Sometimes, we need a few gloomy,rainy days to keep the sun-kissed, good days in sight. This is a cherished lesson I have learnt from making oil-fruits with my grandmother during Chinese New Year two years back.
Then, I had just entered Secondary 3 (Grade 9). I had been sorted into another class as my best friend, Ashley, and was surrounded by thirty daunting and unfamiliar faces, with cliques already beginning to form. Imagine the embarrassment and pain when, at Week 2 in school, a cup of milo was my only...
Even if darkness avalanched and engulfed the sky
I'd set free a glowing lighter to illuminate the night.
Sensory experiences leave lasting impressions on a country's culture, especially olfactory stimuli. Though many believe that a potpurri of exotic tastes dancing on one's palate is the ultimate adventure, I believe that simple sweetness can also weave marvelous tales. My sweet tooth has led me to many pleasant surprises, including the most epic of all, the Oil Fruit, which has a heart-warming meaning behind this smooth, chewy confectionary.
Most people have never heard of oil fruit, including me a few years ago. It was near Chinese New Year in 2013, and I just entered Secondary 3. I had been sorted into another class as my best friend. The remaining thirty faces were unfamiliar and daunting. All of them seemed to know each other so well, cliques were already starting to form. Week two into school and yet, I was still friendless. It pains me a lot to sit at the canteen table with a cup full of milo as my...
December is a special month to the Chinese, especially to the kids with a sweet-tooth. When winter comes, it brings along with it this delectable and peculiar candy: the sugar-coated haw. It's literally a kebab with about 10 round, succulent and bright-red haw fruits coated in a glistening layer of rock sugar. One bite into this zesty and sweet mixture and all the other candies in the world would fail to impress.
As a child, December was The Monthof the year for me. Every time when my mom brought me out to the streets, the first thing I do was to scan the streets for the rickshaws that carried these exotic satays. It was like the Chinese version of a child looking out for the ice-cream truck, except the rickshaws did not have those tinklikng silver bells. It was not hard to spot too. These rusty but speedy little vehicles usually carried an inflorescence on a wooden stem. The...
5 years back, you would be dressed in your translucent,mint-green dress with that satin lotus-leaf collar every time I went to your house in the suburbs. You would braid your hair in those neat French braids, fastening them with 20 rounds of crimson yarn. That made them embrace your hair so snugly, it was impossible for any strand to escape.
Your bright, twinkling eyes were 2 pieces of black agate encrusted into your exquisitely-chiseled ivory skull. Your hand, as soft as rose petals in spring, would gently grab my arm and lead me up the rusty metal ladder onto the sun-kissed rooftop. Each step was an anticipation. And when we finally reach the pinnacle, you open my eyes to a pool of luminous, radiating gold. Row after row of dried summer corn sunbathing side by side with those succulent, mildly wrinkled grain. As the midsummer breeze lifted your braids to tickle your ear, you give me your signature smile overflowing...
The taste of a writer's block: even when your tongue is sore, stiff and dyed a cornucopia of colors, it still unfolds endlessly, never getting a clear sweet or sour.
He flourished on a signature capability, a unique power to control Orchids. On the surface, he is an average young Singaporean. He has a jet-black crewcut with a face marked with pimple scars. He wears black-rimmed spectacles with rectangle lenses, owns a white-collar job and of course, complains about the warm and humid weather. But, back in his retreat in the Botanic Garden's Orchid Experimental Labs, he is the god who helms the holy chariot.
In the lightless chamber where they keep the seedlings, he perches on a tall stool, hunching over to observe an Orchid embryo in a splash of white, blinding light comparable to that of a supernova. Under the high magnification of the Olympus lens in the microscope, he peeks with one eye and gingerly uses his micropipette-like equipment to insert a fragment of mutant DNA into the embryo of the Phalaenopsis Aphrodite. Even though what he saw was a mere insertion of a hair-breadth black line...
"Look at all the things she has done! She never does duty properly, she is so full of herself, she thinks she is the queen of the Solar System. The world does not revolve around this little brat!" The devil twired her crimson, pointed tail and complained irately.
"No, but Harriet was very helpful. Remember the times where you couldn't go for meetings and she stood in for you?" The angel in a silky, white robe pushed aside the beelzebub.
"But look at what she has sent Lina! Do you think it is acceptable?" With that, the devil furrowed her eyebrows and pointed her triton to the message on Lina's white Samsung S3. She simultaneously burst into a conflagration threatening to devour anything that comes into her path. The angel could hear the air overflowing with wrath when the devil breathes through clenched teeth. She could see her bulging carotid artery and those thick veins on her temple pulseating with...
"And there we go"
She heaved a sigh of content as she pulled a pair of sparkling silver tweezers from the transparent glass of dilute vinegar. Its thin, spiry legs held on dearly to a round, glistening silver coin featuring 2 morning glories on its surface. The intricate craftsmanship of the mint had managed to carve the flowers so deceptively real. It was as if they were uncurling their fronds lazily like a person stretching in the morning. She gingerly turned the coin around, her fingertips turning white with all the strength she exerts on them. At the back, the country's name, Singapore, was engraved in her 4 national languages. A lion and a tiger proudly holds the state emblem. Beneath it inscribed in Times New Roman size 4 was the year the coin was born. She held it closer to her eye as the morning's golden beams bounced off its lustrious surface with glee.
"2013! Oh gosh, I got...