A sketch of one of Ain Lim’s self-portrait.
Pencil on paper, edited with Fantasia Painter on Nokia Lumia 920.
My iPad is broken, if you didn’t know. This is why I haven’t posted any illustrations on here for about a month now. Anyway, I thought I decided to go back to sketching on paper, which I was never very good at.
The sketch is based on a wonderful photo by Ain Lim.
It is night. The darkness takes over the landscape, stars hiding behind the blanket of night. Not a single twinkling wonder is out tonight. Only the lonely moon sees over this quiet darkness, shimmering unwillingly to light the way for the nocturnal beings of the city to carry on with their sleepless lives.
Amidst the sleeplessness one soul wanders along an unnamed street, its existence insignificant and irrelevant to the city. The street is littered with rubbish. This is his lightless way home.
In his hand, he has a piece of yellow paper, neatly folded into a simple parallelogram. Quite why it has to be a parallelogram, he has no idea himself. It just is. He has stopped questioning why. It’s one of those things he knows that the reason it is what it is, is just because it simply is. It is just simply a parallelogram. That is its reason for existing.
He knows this path he has chosen is no ordinary path. There is a reason why it is neglected, why it is unnamed. Every night he takes this route, and every night he is reminded why it is not ordinary. So far as he knows, no one else goes through here, and he is not surprised. Things lurk in the shadows. Horrible things. Memories and nightmares of the past lurk like serpents preying on helpless little mice, ready to consume whole any that go astray. Tonight will be no different, and he will be ready for anything that tries to lead him away from his way home.
Now it starts.
“You lazy piece of shit! You’ll never amount to anything, you fucking piece of fuck!”
His cheek still hurts from the slap the Dad had just given him. The Mom sits on the dining table, counting eggs. Her smile is scathing, filled with disgust. For each count of three, she throws an egg towards him. So far none has managed to hit him. He does not budge from his chair. The Dad is giving the Speech, and he knows that any kind of movement from him will be considered disrespectful. He knows better than to disrespect the Speech. The Dad made sure he knows that very well with the countless bruises the Dad has given him in the past for interrupting the Speech.
“Why can’t you be like your dear old Dad? You know what your dear old Dad has achieved? A lot. That’s something you will never know for yourself. You and your useless junkie friends.”
Distorted memories haunt him. Though he knows the path has severely distorted his memories, the feeling is still the same. The unimaginable feeling of loneliness. The painful rejection. The physical humiliation. Though the details are inaccurate, the truth is the overall feeling is what matters. He knows this feeling, one of years gone by, pains forgotten, miserable loneliness in spiteful dejection.
Yet those memories were days of yesteryear. He just has to focus on the parallelogram in his hand, and he’ll get through this. It’s simple, it’s plain. It’s nothing more than a parallelogram. Yet it isn’t just simply a parallelogram.
It’s not long till he gets home. He’ll get through this. He has to.
“What did you say?”
“Really? I could’ve sworn you said something just now.”
And with that the silence kicked in. I didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t know what else to say either. We were silent for what must’ve been a full ten minutes, just standing there on the sidewalk, not doing anything in particular. Both of us were content with silence, and only after what felt like hours was it interrupted by an instance of meaningless chatter. Something about the weather, I recall it was.
I couldn’t remember what we used to talk about anymore as two youths in love. How did we fill those long walks on the city streets? How did we manage to fall for each other in the first place? Certainly not with silence. At least not this piercing kind. I wished I could remember. Then maybe I could fall in love with her again, for the second time.
A man walked past us. He was in his forties, and he carried with him immense sadness. His shoulders were bunched up into his chest, his steps uneven and meandering. “He’s had a few drinks,” I thought. The strong smell of alcohol – and the bottle of cheap vodka in his hand - made it all too obvious. He was mumbling words like he was trying to recite something he couldn’t quite remember. A compendium of seemingly-unrelated, mostly unintelligible words with angry interjections of misogynist pejoratives. ‘Cunt’ and ‘bitch’ were two of his favourites. Then as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared into the alleys.
“Yeah, he is.”
“Wouldn’t want to be him.”
Again neither of us attempted to keep the conversation going. Neither of us tried to slip in a sad story or a funny anecdote. The strange ambience of silence was dominating this so-called exchange, and the flickering streetlights sprinkled the air with a hint of warmth that I craved desperately in the cruel winter cold.
But silences like this were meant to be broken. This time it was two people shouting at each other. Both of them were in their thirties. The words were loud, but they were unclear. The sheer volume of their argument and the frightening silence of everything else around them made it as if all the sounds in the world were concentrated in that one epicentre, and for that one moment everything was listening to them. Even the winds were silent, hesitant of getting involved in the conflict.
Whatever they were fighting about, somehow I could tell that it was about petty things. The biggest of arguments usually come from the smallest of disagreements, and I knew this from experience. Little things accumulated over the years, broken pieces like shards of glass from a smashed vase, used as weapons to hurt each other. Certainly that was how my parents ended up separating. In fact they had split up long before they had even realised it.
I always thought that I had something to do with it. Somehow my being brought into existence complicated their lives, pulled them back from whatever it was they set out to do as idealistic young teenagers before I was born. The day I was handed into my mother’s arms by the doctor, the cracks in their marriage had started to appear.
That was long ago. I’ve maintained contact with the both of them, and though they had a turbulent marriage, their divorce was surprisingly amicable.
My thoughts wandered back to that present time. The angry couple had already quieted down. Or maybe they had simply taken the fight inside. Who knows. All I knew was that the streets were silent again. And so was she.
Today’s post (and song I created) is dedicated to the wonderful Cristina Nance Yong, whose birthday is today on April’s Fool’s Day.