Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Story of a little Girl and her Shadow

Hi all!

Long time no see! I've had this story with me since primary school but it was never developed. This full story took a little while in the making and perhaps is not as innocent as the first version, but nevertheless, Its now here for recordal purposes. So I hope you guys enjoyed it too.


This is the story of a little girl and her shadow. But well, it became the story of the girl and her shadow because of the little girl and her weight. You see, this girl is, to put a nice ring to it, plump. Mean boys in her school have called her fat. Meaner girls have called her ‘obese’, after learning this word during Health education.

But the minimum that anyone could say, when pressed to describe something about her, will say plump, or chubby.

She was sent to the Trim-And-Fit club in school, where they made her run and do squats every recess. And the teacher eyes the bowl of soup noodles which she bought, making certain there’s no meat but full of veggies.

Please half the portion of your noodles, honey.

Tapping her feet, the teacher spaces out from her standing view of the bunch of ‘fatties’ (her word) settling down to eat meatless soup noodles, wondering how she’s going to get her trim student numbers up by next month.

The world is not nice when you don’t look nice.

Our heroine, was of course, someone who knows that, but is, as most kids her age (9 yrs old), was unable to do anything about it. Therefore, a personality and habit of not caring much, of pretending to turn the deaf ear to the mean boys and meaner girls, of eating more during dinner to make up for the lackluster recess, grew like a mushroom in her. And like those mushroom that huddled beneath tree trunks, she was quiet and unobtrusive and reads a lot- a veritable bookworm.

Because when she reads, she disappears. Goodbye, she’d say to the world, to her mum (who was busy cooking usually, or burping her infant brother), then retreat into another place. She’d pop back when time came for dinner.

So actually, perhaps this is not just a story about a girl and her weight, which became the story of a girl and shadow, but actually the story of a girl and her disappearances.

So, don’t be impatient. I’ll now go straight to the point now we have deciphered her like a scalpel running through skin.

On the way to and from school was a route that takes her through a lonely roadside path littered with street lamps. It was a relatively peaceful place about 20 years ago, which was when the story happened. After a tough session in the TAF club (the teacher upped the number of squats) and her tummy growling, our heroine was uncharacteristically cranky.

As her feet prattles past the street lamps, she kept her head down, watching her shadow shift from behind her feet to the front and elongating as she walked further from one street lamp, then disappearing.

As she approached the next street lamp, her shadow, forever trapped at her feet, casted a long figure behind her, slowly becoming shorter and shorter until she is right beneath the lamp.

Now the shadow becomes a round ball. She was sure if she stood straight up, her shadow would be perfectly round. Disgusting! She thought in disgust. Urggh! Ugly ugly!

She peered past her skirt. Her shadow obliged by growing a small bump where her head was. Her shadow laughs, she’s now a snowman!

She stamped her feet angrily and only got her toes stubbed for her pains. Her shadow is not even bruised.

Our heroine burst into tears. I’m only 9, dammit (her elder brother taught her that)! I’m supposed to be having an adventure! I’m supposed to have 3 siblings and a dog! And my parents are supposed to be explorers lost in a plane crash and all 5 of us are stranded on an island trying to run away from bad guys tracking us down for our inheritance!
A breeze swept through the roadside, causing the trees to sigh in sympathy. She is all alone with the breeze and her shadow and the endless street lamps that curve round the bend.

Stupid girl, her shadow said. You aren’t that bad. Just walk forward. And without much further ado, her shadow propelled her away from beneath the lamp.

Immediately, her shadow lengthened. Every step the bumps softened and merged into a line. Her shadow narrowed and became taller, the roundness disappeared. Our heroine stopped at where she thought gave her shadow the best shape and adjusted her feet till it was just right.

Wow….she thought, I look just like XXX (who was the meanest girl in class, and also the slimmest, smartest……).

How about that, said her shadow. One day, you will look like this. Maybe not now, not tomorrow, but eventually, you will grow to be how I am now. I’m you, I am a part of you, so I know what I’m talking about. Trust me, trust yourself.

Our heroine considered.

And here is where she splits into two.


In one, our heroine decides to trust her shadow and therefore herself, dried her tears and went home for dinner. For the first time, she did not ask for second helpings and helped her mum mop the kitchen after. This continued for the rest of her growing years.

She became more open while the taunts became less until it was clear if anyone ever tease her about her weight, it was due to mere jealousy and does not hold much….. weight. Her mum naturally became delighted that her daughter seemed a lot more pro-active than before. One who begun taking an interest in looking after her little brother and fought back with the older brother. She even dumped her library activities and joined a sports club. A definite improvement, although she remained a bookworm and read prolifically, she maintained her ‘goodbyes’ too before retreating to her room.

The only peculiar thing she noticed was that her daughter now had a habit of staring at the ground whenever she went and checking the floor behind her, especially where there is light. And sometimes, just sometimes, she appeared a little… thin…, not thin as in her figure, although she was never as plump as she was before, but thin like a bad TV image…More like, her mum decided…flat…

One day, as she walked pass her daughter’s room, she decided to take a peek. Like all mothers, she gave the perfunctory knock, but immediately opened the door, hoping to catch the last known action of the roomer before they discovered they were being watched.

Nothing out of the ordinary. Her daughter’s last known action was reading on the bed. A bad habit that her mum knew never left her. Then her daughter sprang up from the bed and gave a reproachful look, while she gave an inane reason and apologized profusely while nagging her to read properly at her desk. She closed the door and giggled. Her calm daughter caught unawares is something she has not seen in a while. Then she frowned, she was prepared to discount precisely what she thought she saw, but she did thought she saw a definite flicker, like static, running through her daughter just when she opened the door.

The mother, who was once also a prolific reader and full of imaginations before reality caught up in a spin of babies and daily trips to the market and cooking, gave a shrug. Her daughter gave a ready smile as much as any normal child and if she appeared a little more calm than the next, a logical mum was also prepared to discount this little bit of musing for a lot of peace and quiet.

There was a crash and a loud wail. She hurried back to the living room, the past image erased.

And the first half-story ends with our heroine growing up as normal as can be, if a little spacey from time to time and taken to smiling at her shadow. Her shadow and her are in agreement although they were not whole, a regrettable outcome because of the split.


In the other half story, our heroine considered her perfectly shaped shadow and decided the opposite.

‘I wish I would look like you now.’ She said to her shadow.

You don’t trust me? Her shadow was hurt.

‘I’m 9. I’m supposed to be impatient. Won’t you help me? It would solve all my problems.’ Our heroine pleads. She is aware that something big is going on in the background, but like a fountain that never stops, it was not possible to hear it clearly or even know it exist until it does and the silence reigns.

You don’t know what you are wishing for.

‘But I do! I want the teasing to stop. I want to graduate from the TAF club. I don’t want to be the ‘plump one’ in my family anymore. In fact, why am I talking to myself? And why are you replying?’

Our heroine’s eyes glowed. ‘Is this some sort of alternative universe I’m always reading about? Is there a secret doorway in the lamp post or is it really a wardrobe in disguise and a tiny fairy is going to open it and peep out?’

Our heroine (who is getting less heroic by the minute) waited a moment for the shadow to answer, but the shadow remained silent.

‘But what I want to know is,’ she spoke slowly, ‘Can you really help me? You say I don’t know what I am wishing for, but does that mean I can really make one and it will come true?’ and waited again.

The trees sighed, swaying a little. Faraway, the squaw of a crow cut through the little bubble of silence, but she did not hear it. She understood that she was locked in a Moment, as far as a 9 year old can understand.

Her shadow finally sighed like the trees and explained.

Look, everyone knows alternate universes exist, like the border between life and death, the split in time between choices. Their entrance is both far away and yet gossamer thin.

Our heroine nods, she has read about it too.

An alternate universe did indeed form, her shadow continues, but this one is inside you, your emotions, your musings, your hope and your despairs, whenever you escape somewhere inside yourself.

The little girl frowns. This is a little beyond her.

Think about it, the shadow continues. Did you not feel the lack of the passing of time when you are deeply reading? When a painter paints, he is lost in his alternate world until earthly desires like hunger takes him back. When a student takes his exam, his alternate universe includes both time and whatever knowledge he packs in there and protects him, if he is prepared, from fear and visions of failure.

I have always been an external part of you, intangible, but a part of you nevertheless. Possibly it is the moon, which is full tonight, or the tides, or the alignment of the galaxies and the planets, but whatever it is, this universe has now projected beyond you and now includes me. Beats me why I can converse with you now.

The shadow turns it eyeless face towards her. Or why, if you wish, so you can have what you want just for tonight.

Our heroine’s heart leapt. ‘Really?’ she gasped. ‘Then, shadow, grant me my wish! Let me look like you!’ she spread her hands out, noting that her shadow did the same, except that her shadow’s arms are slimmer and longer and more elegant. Piano fingers.

Please don’t.

‘Grant me.’ She focused. She felt she could see the boundary where her universe was. A thin silver line that formed a dome, encapsulating her and her shadow. The shadow writhed as if pain, but like pain that does not transcend from her stubbed toe to the shadow, the experience was unable to connect to her body. At once, she felt herself slowly stretching and laughed.

It worked! She gazed at her stubby fingers in wonder as they became piano fingers. She felt her body started to stretch and she grew taller. Her tummy narrowed and lengthened. All the while, the buzzing white noise at the edge of her consciousness became louder, more urgent.

She stopped laughing. Something is wrong. Her piano fingers kept elongating and thinning. The stretching seemed endless. Her belly button is starting to hurt now that it’s a long long oval. She saw that as she grew, her shadow got bigger too underneath the lamp light.

With horror, she realized that her wish won’t let her stop growing. Her body and her shadow fed off each other like 2 mirrors facing one another.

See? Her shadow gasped. Make it stop! It hurts!

In fear, she turned and ran towards the light, her long skinny feet covering the distance easily, until her shadow became slightly squat. She felt the blood starting to pool around her bones as the fingers start to shorten. Her feet began to ache less and her head didn’t feel so heavy, but within a few seconds, she is back to the vicious cycle. Her shadow mimicking her short body and her wish mimicking her shadow.

‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’ the little girl sobbed as she became shorter and shorter. There is no way to end the wish. If she ran forward, she’s grow impossibly tall and never stop, if she ran towards the light, she will be a squat flat round thing the circumference of her tummy. She had made the grievous mistake which her shadow had been trying to tell her.

I am a part of you, an extension of you. To become me is to be incomplete, where will the real you be?

While the shadow beseeched her, the little girl pelted back and forth the light until she was wearied. She felt as if the whole process had been a long time, but time is not a factor here. She forced her heartbeat to stop its ferocious thudding and calm down.

Slowly, deliberately, the little girl took control of her panic and pressed herself to take small measured steps. She shifted back and forth so that her body, while continuing to make its adjustments, nevertheless stabilizes to a constant slow pace. Her body had become grotesque as it struggled to mesh itself to the shadow shape during the panic. One arm is distinctly longer than the other while her left foot is a stub.

When she finally had her mind in order, she took a review of the situation. ‘This can’t go on. I’m a wreck.’ The little girl looked at herself. For once, she had liked to have her old body back, fat or not. But a wish cannot be un-wished, everyone knows that.

Be yourself. Go back.

The little girl understood. Swaying back and forth, she concentrated. The white noise in the background she now realized it for what it was. What had happened to her was never real, had never happened. Time is not a factor. She was separate from reality like that cat in the box paradox. If the cat disappears the minute you open the box, does the cat exist? To the cat, it knows it exists, but to the person, it does not.

I am now in a paradox. She thought. This street is my box, no one sees me and I see no one. I exist, but I do not exist fully. Somewhere outside of this, a little girl is currently absent-mindedly fixated on her shadow along the roadside while people walked pass her.

She concentrated. The silver lining glowed and expanded until it was so tall, it included the street lamp casting her shadow. Then frowning fiercely (all the while shifting back and forth), she stare at the lamp, now in her immediate alternate universe.

The lamp bulb burst in a sprinkling of glass and light. In the flickering before all light ceased, the shadow thanked the little girl and the two of them plunged into darkness. Naturally, the wish, looking at the absence of light, which cast no shadow, mimic nothing.

The girl in her alternate universe, created by her hopes and dreams and her escapades before dinner, whom sought to become her shadow and was incomplete, vanished. The white noise rushed in to fill the void as the current universe crashed in.


Our heroine blinked. Outside everyday noises once again flowed through her ears. The loud squaw catches her attention. She looked up to see a crow picking lice off itself on the street lamp, which was back on.

She patted herself. She was as plump as before. No changes there. Her shadow was like any other, a devoid of light caused by shining on an opaque object. But to be on the safe side, she said loudly to no one in particular.

‘I trust you and I’m sorry.’ Then she smiled and walked home.


**The cat in the box paradox in this story is a simplified version of Schroedinger’s Cat paradox on quantum physics and the Falling Tree paradox. Unless we see and hear something, does it in actual fact exists or is it in a state of supposition? The current paradox can also be reversed. If a cat only appears everytime you open the box, does the cat exist when the box is closed?



Friday, August 21, 2009

Listening with a smile....

Hi all!

I’m currently typing away in my darling lappy (4 years and still surviving! Take that, Mac!!!) with the stereo blasting away my current favourite album. I had just spend the last hour mopping the whole house and A is out swimming.

The whole house is mine and mine alone….


OK lah, I admit I like the couple life. Every decision I can’t make, someone can make for me. Every hug I give, I get one in return. Every meal I make, I make extra.

But sometimes... sometimes... even 2 people in 1 house can be too crowded, especially when you don’t lock the doors. You know you aren’t alone and that enough can stop you from doing exactly what you wanted, like blasting music...

In fact, being considerate can be tiring.

So today for that 1 hour break of me-time….I am drumming out this post.

Today’s entry is a bit irrelevant and redundant. It’s about music, specifically music coming from my sound system. It’s Chinese R&B. It’s soft and sweet and dreamy. It’s upbeat and sad and hopeful. It’s heartache and promises.

I’m listening to it and thinking of the person who gave it to me. He is much like this album….

I bet you are asking me, Woah! What does that mean? What does AKK mean?

Well frankly, you don’t have to suspect anything actually; it means exactly what I am saying.

I'm saying that I like the album very much and I like the person who gave it to me very much too.

Perhaps a little too much.


I wanted this blog to be honest, an outlet that blows the silent part of me wide open like a fresh gust of wind through fresh laundry. I want this place to be the place I can say anything without censure because I want to be the one to admit that I am not perfect. That I’ve got my base desires, that I’ve got this dark side of me, that I’ve got my roving eyes and my fantasies.

Anonymously anyway.

And yet, every time I try to write something honest, I think about the people who know me, my friends, Chwee Kueh…the everyday people who read my blog and I hesitate, not only because I am a coward and don’t dare to show myself to be less morally upright than I should, but also because I don’t want to disappoint the multitudes of people who believes in fairy tales, the Oddball and the Prince Charming coming together in the burst of romance.

How can the Oddball now possibly think of anyone else other than the irascible Prince Charming? Audacious, you say. But mostly, you meant Ungateful.

But as the tracks spin themselves and the stereo wraps me like a soft cocoon, all I can think about is why?

Why can’t I stop these lips from quirking? I hastily slapped my face with both hands.

There’s a lot of things that can run through the mind everyday, but nailing them into words gives them a permanent address and a definite personality….

So perhaps I shall just end this here….

Perhaps there will be a second parter that announces to that this post was a mistake….

Perhaps like the PPQ volume, I wish to put myself under my own scrutiny and run it out like a drama, willing myself to go and face my own Life, question its worth, questions its morals, question its beliefs.

Whatever. For now, the music hums throughout the whole house and I am doing my little bobbing akin to the Muppets in Sesame Street. For now, my thoughts are only mine. For now, there’s only me.

Que Sera Sera…



Monday, July 06, 2009

Quitting....long overdue

“Quitting while you are ahead….

Is not the same as quitting…”

So says the Vietnam Drug Lord to Denzel Washington in the show American Gangster.

It’s with ang-ku-kueh typicality that I should be so inspired, not by the Dalai Lama, not by Gandhi, not even by Obama, but rather a Hollywood film featuring 1 bad guy sprouting words of wisdom to another bad guy, who soon will end up in jail for ‘murdering the young of America’ during the 80s.

But it’s true, I’m throwing in the towel. I’m giving up. It’s been 7 months since I shifted to the new workplace and now I’ll be moving on again. I think its kind of pathetic, to admit that hey, you really can’t take this kind of work/working environment/boss/office politics etc etc,. Its like that 10-km Nike Human Race that I joined. I ran and ran and ran and I thought, I should have ran about halfway already…and then seeing the huge banner flapping happily at me, ‘you hit 2km! 8 more to go!’ That sinking feeling from the heart to the tummy is simply relentless!

Or the time I studied a whole week and all night just for a simple math test in JC. Getting so stressed my butt-cheeks clenched and I couldn’t sit down. Going to the 24-h clinic at 12 midnight while the doc spend 5 min poking my butt and shaking his head. Then turning down his offer to give me 2 days’ MC so I can skip the test. And finally doing my test in the sickroom perched right at the edge of the chair.

And yet not only failing the test, but failing it so miserably. It just makes you cry, man.

Which was basically which I did when I got another job. I cried like a miserable sod becos I was so strung up and out by my workplace. It drowned me, tumbled me, then wrung me out and hung me in the sun to dessicate.

I thought Public sector was bureaucratic, but wow, I tell you from the bottom of my heart, this place is much worse. I knew something was wrong when my dad ended up in ICU and my boss refused to let me leave because a work emergency cropped up. That was at 7.30pm in the evening. It’s not late, but by the time I could leave my work, my mum told me to go home cos visiting hrs are over.

I stopped eating for a period because eating make me sleepy and I couldn’t afford to relax. It was a steady stream of concentration from start to finish. I even stopped drinking fluids because every second counts. I was fasting from 9am to 10pm and yet at the end of the day, I had cleared only a tenth of the shit the predecessor had left.

My skin condition started failing. I was getting rashes and breakouts along my neck. I started having panic attacks again. I think about my deadlines all the time. Everyone tells me to relax and let go of my work. But I couldn’t! Every deadline is money, every missed deadline is $400 a pop, no negotiations, no mercy. How I wish I could just scream a colourful string of expletives and just do what I can during office hours, and let go at the end of the day. But I cannot, probably because I take things too seriously, much like that Math test. So I was working minimum 10 hour days and constantly high-strung.

Now I know why some ppl can get heart attack at work.

So one day I finally admitted defeat and say, ‘I think I’ve had enough.’ I had been crying during work because of work, hiding in my cubicle and saying I’ve got a cold, something which I never thought I will be doing. Pride had been roundly beaten up and tortured enough that it is now shakily waving a white flag. Arrogance had been backed into a corner by Fear and now whimpers sorry sorry sorry….

How hard it was to admit defeat.

The hard work has paid off though. The portfolio is almost finally cleansed and the dirt from the 3 predecessors (staying power: 1 year; 3 months ; 2 weeks) is dwindling, what was once a massive gigantic nuclear bomb the size to hit Hiroshima is now a mere embassy-hostage situation. My boss now discovers my full potential as the mighty oxen, the employee who never says no, who never complains, who never misses a deadline even when her dad was carted into NUH.

How hard it is to admit that even as I turned the portfolio around and made it well again, I don’t want to stay and I don’t want to continue in this line of work.

How hard it is to admit that, yes, given just another month, I can wrestle my work to become more manageable, everything will turn out better, but I refuse to stay because I hate those deadlines.

It’s that kind of heart-sinking feeling that the miles that you ran, on and on and on……it seemed like a hundred years, but it was barely 6 months- a blimp in the life of a person.

So yah…. taking the quote of Mr Vietnam Drug Lord

“Quit while you are ahead…”

It ain’t the same, man, as quitting, but boy did it sure feel like it.

So now the new place…..well…definitely there’s no where to go but up.

Busy busy! You guys take care!


Ang Ku Kueh

Friday, April 10, 2009

Atypical Message of Love

Hi all!

I'm Back! It's been a torrential pass 6-8 months for me and man, did I need that much time to clean up my Life and my messes. But everything's OK now! And I am now trying to get back to being as happy as I was in 2007, somewhere round there I think.

But anyways, thanks to technology, I wrote an email to my beloved parents. I'm proud to have a mum who has an internet email address, although she never remembers it and asks Dad for it, since dad was the one who set it up for her.

I think she has come a long way from being a housewife whose horizons are the 5 by 5m of the HDB flat we all stayed in to being a kindergarten teacher whose horizons has widen beyond the schoolroom, albeit at a lowered angle of vision.

I wish for her now to expand beyond that, pass the schoolroom, pass the teacher's office, pass the local papers (which is written in a pro-govt language). I wish for her to see between the lines accurately and I wish for her to lose her sense of self-pity. In fact, I wish for her the ability to dissociate, because not everything that happens in the family is because of her. Siblings quarrel and fight. Perhaps when we are younger, we use nails, teeth and knuckles. But of cos, as we grow older, the ammunition become less physical, more mental.

Of cos, the weapons you cant see are always the ones that hurt the most, because the hurt continues even after they are withdrawn. In fact, even after the apologies.

But hey, that's Life and that's siblings. There is a reason why we are related by blood. Because water leaves no stains and no responsibility.

But as usual, i digress. i wish to publish an email to wrote to my parents just today. I don't know why i feel I should do this or even why my first post after such a long absence should be this particular email.

I think maybe, I just want to say, although i miss my blog, I miss my family more.

I wish for all of you that you can communicate with your parents like the way i am doing now. i am lucky this way.

here goes (almost verbatim):

Hi Pa and Ma,

I confirmed that I gave 1k to Ma in Dec hor (no wonder I no savings in Dec and Jan). From now on, all those ITR codes in the bank books are from me. ITR means Internet Transfer, only i do it, i think.

Actually I feel like splitting the house money to pass to you both leh, because I think Ma never check, always assume I never give (quite a few times liao), can be very upsetting and I feel quite unappreciated. Sometimes I don't give that month because I'm cash-strapped, but I always give more later to pay off the debt. I think not only should Ma not forget it but know that I am trying very hard.

So the 'fan xing' she tell me to do...I think she should do it herself. She should think long and hard. I'm not staying with you guys anymore and I have my own loans and living expenses. I don't have free board and food and I don't earn a lot, but I try my best to not only give money to you but I also try to show my appreciation in other ways because I know you two seldom try anything new. Just don't forget that I love you both very much, so although certain things can say, never say I don't care or compare with the other siblings concerning money. On the issue of caring, I think I'm equal. I also got more heart.

Sorry to put this in lah, but after talking with Mum just now, Im really quite sad because I think she loves to make split judgments without thinking. I don't think i should be more accommodating or tolerant because she is old and cannot change, if I do that, I'll never talk to her about important things, hahah.

I don't think she wants that and if she doesnt, she really should try and change because I've already changed alot. I don't scream at her just because I cannot get her to understand anymore, a blessing certainly. But it doesnt mean she has changed to understand me better. She is still the same, talking without thinking.

Ok lah, enough. Don't worry about this email lah, I just need to get this off my chest. If Pa is going to translate this message to Ma, then Pa, you must do it carefully, don't make this situation like the car thing with Bro, ok? Thanks ah. And Ma, if you are reading this, then you also be very careful to digest the whole message that I am telling you, not just the 1-2 points you can remember and then start thinking all the wrong thoughts. I write here because I am quite sure if I try to tell you on the phone, you will immediately find the first excuse to say sorry and forget about the whole thing and not actually learn from the whole situation.

Sorry is a very easy word to say but not very easy to act on.

And you two ah, I love you both very much, ok? Please see with your eyes big big hor! I may not be home or you may not see me very often, but I am working long hours, so if I don't call or anything, it does not mean I don't care.

Cheers ah and enjoy your weekend!

Ah Kueh

Will post every now and then for our guys. Miss you all.