inside the drawers of memory

Every time something pops up in my head while I’m not in the mood for opening my computer, I type everything down in the “Notes” inside my phone. Things like what’s the weather today. How the sun rises up and then disappears behind the cloud. How the night sky touches my soul. Who I miss and who misses me… Everything. I write, and put all those little things inside the drawers of memory.

And today, when I suddenly had the urge to take everything out, to savor the nostalgic taste of the past, they were nowhere to be found. Disappear. Completely. Like they were never there in the first place. Every drawer is empty. No sparkle of the past.

Absolutely nothing.

Spirit Hold, by Holly Warburton.

parallel planets

I didn’t mean to fall in love. I kept saying this to myself, over and over again. That I shouldn’t fall in love. Not this soon, not after I was eventually able to move on from a long-lasting unrequited love. This should be the time I spend taking care of myself, and cherishing myself after years of throwing away my values while chasing for something that was so obscure and ambiguous. And yet I fall in love again. One-sided, unrequited.

I didn’t know it was love at first. I thought that it was just a temporary crush, and that after a good night’s sleep, you will completely disappear from my head. But you stayed. You stayed there all night long, minutes after minutes, days after days. 

Suddenly I was curious about you. I wanted to know your feelings. I wanted to know your favourite songs, what kind of music do you sing. I wanted to know the meaning behind your drawings. I wanted to know the sound of your heartbeat. I wanted to know your favourite books, your favourite time of the year, favourite dishes, favourite place, favourite people. I wanted to know about your scars, and the real face behind your masks. And that was when I fell in love.

I love how your face shines under the sun. I love every single mark on your wrist, and every bruise on your legs. I love the way your nose scrunches up when you smile, or how you smirk when you try to be sarcastic. I love the way your hair blows in the cool summer breeze, or when I get butterflies in my stomach every time I see you. I love each and every scar that rests on your body. I love all the big things, but especially the little things. 

If someone told me to describe this feeling, I probably couldn’t mutter a single word. But I know what this felt like. Like a thousand fireworks bursting inside my head, like a swarm of butterflies filling my stomach, like waves crashing against the shore on a starry night. You felt like a dream. A vivid, surreal, yet peaceful dream. 

We may not share the same feelings. I may be the only person who waits, who risks my heart being hurted, who chases something that I don’t think I will ever have. Our love may not bloom. We may be two parallel planets, orbitting on the same plane but never touch. And yet for the first time in a while, I feel happy.

Or was it supposed to be this way all the time?

this is dedicated to my friend, her youth, and her feelings.

our time

We live on the future: “tomorrow”, “later on”, “when you have made your way”, “you will understand when you are old enough.”, stuff like that. There are times when something that was once future turn into present, and then past in an instant. But sure there are times when we feel we have every time in the world in the palms of our hands. And yet, the fact that our time is running out, remains.

Strangely enough (or perhaps not), people age in the blink of an eye. Each and every moment, our bodies are on a one-way journey to collapse and deterioration, unable to turn back the clock. And that’s why I’m afraid of time, the same way as I’m afraid of the future. I’m afraid of this present I’m experiencing turning into past in just a matter of seconds. I’m afraid of the uncertainties that future holds for me. And I’m afraid time will leave me behind in this forgotten realm of the past, without ever being able to move on. “Time makes us sentimental. Perhaps, in the end, it is because of time that we suffer.”.

But much as I tried to hold onto the past and avoid the future, I had to realize one thing. Maybe the most beautiful moments in our lives are not yesterday’s, nor tomorrow’s, but today’s. Today, this moment, this instant, not some nostalgia in the past or some unknown time in the future. Our time may be running out, but we can enjoy it while it lasts.

our masks

All of us, more or less, wear masks. Not just the face masks that we’re obliged to wear during a global pandemic, but rather the masks of our being. Because without these masks we can’t survive in this violent world. That is one thing that I can say with certainty in this uncertain world.

What lies behind others’ masks, have you ever wondered? A new persona, a new identity and personality, a whole new being? We may not see the many faces of humanity, the masks and the real faces. Beneath an evil mask lies the graceful face of an angel, and vice versa. It’s impossible to have just one or the other. That’s who we are, and you can do nothing about it.

For some people, the mask might become so tightly stuck that they can’t remove it. To the point when it becomes a part of themselves, a fraction of their being. People will judge them based on those masks, will decide whether they are good or evil without ever bothering to find the real faces. But even if a mask gets stuck and can’t be removed, the real face remains. Forever. Though no one can ever see it.

forever.

love is
the fuel that allows us to go on loving,
a graceful lover,
the starry sky on the darkness nights,
the fresh breeze caressing your skin,
the warm sun ray on a summer morning.

when we were in love,
we projected our dreams on the waves,
promised to the breeze.
and my heart ached here,
on this tiny, solitary island in the ocean current.

even if love fades away,
even if it’s unrequited,
you still have the memories,
the feelings,
the wildflowers of emotions,
and the trees of hope.

“i will love you forever”,
you said.
but little do you know
forever, needless to say, is a very long time.

Love Your Writer’s Block

The writer’s block is like unpredictable weather, or extreme mood swings. Sometimes the vocabulary and feelings needed filled the system that was me, like a barn full of livestock. When I seek to put my thoughts and feelings into words, those animals begin to mill about, and the system crashes. At times I would stare blankly at the computer’s screen; no words would appear. Writing and then deleting everything – this cycle repeats itself like a broken robot. Sometimes I despise my own words. Everything I write sound stupid. Everything felt like forced labour I didn’t sign up for. 

Yet the urge to write exists in me, mixed with a combination of love and hatred. As I wandered fruitlessly through this maze of emotions, I felt my mind losing its way. But being lost doesn’t mean being hopeless. We can always find the way through that benighted darkness. And then the world will be filled once more with brilliant sunlight. Writing is difficult. Yes, it is. But there’s nothing worth getting in this world that you can get easily. The real question here is not “How can I beat writer’s block?” but rather “Will you keep writing despite that stupid block”. Would you wake up everyday, face the blank screen of your computer, feel like you are the most useless person ever existed on Earth, and (probably) end up not being able to produce any words. I said yes.

This commitment to writing stucks within me. Sometimes it seems like school and social life drain me of all my energy, like everything around me will disappear in the blink of an eye. But my voice, my stories, my words are here to stay. These phrases, though meaningless and absurd, are like lovely memories, their names hidden, slipping into my dreams. What I can say is that it was words and writing that reached to the deep recesses of my soul, all the way down to the very core. Like the presence of a sweet lover you never want to disappear, leaving gentle traces in the deepest place of your heart. 

Writing isn’t all fun and games, but I have no intention of leaving it. Because writing, though difficult, makes me feel things. The way love used to.

beautiful darkness.

there are days

when things hit hard,

when all the pain pour out,

and the flickering stars in my galaxy

disappear.

beautiful darkness.

there are days

when the waves in my quite sea rise

to sink the ship of my light,

my hope,

my euphoria.

when everything

disappears

the moment i wake up.

beautiful darkness.

there are days

when i realize

“you may be broken and unhinged

like a flickering star in a dying universe,

gasping to live

but so are shooting stars and comets.”

live.

because starlight shines brighter on the darkest nights.

beautiful darkness.

A Summer at Home

It’s weird now that I realize there’s an awful lot of songs referred to being 17. It seems like all the songwriters out there are obsessed with seventeen-year-old, or the idea of being 17. I cannot understand the beauty that lies in being a seventeen-year-old or the underlying reasons to romanticize it. Live your life. Enjoy your youth. Love someone. Explore the world. The kids my age on the media are all portrayed to live a life like this. And then here I am, lying in my bed, listening to some music and having a weekly existential crisis.

To me, being 17 is weird. It’s weird now that in less than a year I will have to say farewell with my childhood and enter the boring world of adults. It’s weird that the world of cartoons, of unattainable dreams and naive hopes will soon disappear. And then I will eventually find myself alone in the world of pressure, of deadline, of jealousy and hypocrisy.

Few weeks ago, i was having a weekly check-up at my dentist when a nurse ask me “What university would you like to apply to”. “What kind of major?”. She told me to speak up because I was too quite behind the mask. I almost yelled “I DON’T KNOW” and risk humiliating myself in a room filled with curious eyes. These types of question still startle me. But what is the point of knowing about the goals and plans of a stranger in the first place?

I assert my youth. But simultaneously I situate myself in relation to time. Time is my companion and, at the same time, my worst enemy. Yet I long for tomorrow, whereas everything in me ought to reject it. What frightens me is time, and everything that comes along with it. And yet time is inevitable. Tomorrow will come. It will be the same as today, and yesterday, and the day before yesterday… Same small corner, same state of soul, same daily gestures. I can feel it. I can feel a part of youth shattering into pieces, falling into fathomless darkness. I can hear the lamenting sound of a quivering youth, being buried inside four concrete walls.

“Live your life. Enjoy your youth. Love someone. Explore the world.”. These sentences repeat like some cliche mantras. And yes it is indeed summer. The season of sunshine, of the beaches, of ice cream, of summer dress, of midnight memories, and outdoors. But then what can I do? Venturing outdoors in the middle of a pandemic, pursuing a paradox only to realize that it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers? I don’t need the adventure, the holiday, the beaches, the luxurious resorts to know that it is indeed summer. These scents of grass and stars at night and the summer breeze in certain evenings when the heart relaxes teach me much more.

My seventeenth summer is filled with hope, ambition, and uncertainty. But maybe one day when I look back, I’ll realize how much I’ve grown. I will realize that instead of the adventures, the midnight memories doing reckless things, it is indeed this uncertainty that made my memories. The uncertainties – the stones of my colorless desert, the color of my seventeenth year.

In less than a year I’ll officially become a grumpy, boring adult. But at least I’ll be an adult with memories.

is my happiness a burden to you?

mother, is my happiness a burden to you?

all those dreams, all the hopes.

if I muster up the courage to tell you “I will go”, will you wish I didn’t say these three words to you?

“I’ll go to another country, to another city other than this one” I said.

how can I let my heart moulder in this place?

same old streets, same neighborhoods, same faces.

will you yell? frown at me? or turn your eyes away?

will your love sink into despair?

wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look

you are there,

turning gray with time.

this place stays within you.

even if there is no ship for me, there is no road

my hope stays.

to be far away, to leave behind my darkness;

mother, is my happiness a burden to you?

credit: pinterest and mr. harry edward styles

To Sit Down and Write

The School of Athens painted by Raphael

On a normal Monday, so normal to the point it became mediocre, I was listening to my usual playlist on Spotify. “April in Paris”, sang by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong was playing. The sound of music blasted through my windows, blended with the summer breeze and the silence of the streets in the middle of a pandemic. I was doing nothing. Maybe enjoying my music, feeling the warmth of the summer sun dancing on my skin, and doing absolutely nothing.

In that instant, for no reason, and based on no grounds whatsoever, it suddenly struck me: I think I can write. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to write. Or at least I knew how to write some essays at school, some course reports and maybe some assignments. But when it comes to writing a diary or a short story, I’m hopeless. It’s not just because English is not my first language (though I can write more confidently using my native one), but there are some things missing. I cannot put my ideas and feelings into words. I am a perfectionist, or at least I considered myself as a perfectionist. That is, I can’t stand careless writings, filled with ambiguity and a bunch of grammatical mistakes.

But then here I am, at this present moment, writing my first post on my first blog, about a topic that no one seems to care. A post that is probably filled with ambiguity and a bunch of grammatical mistakes. Maybe I need to mention that this is not my first time trying writing (besides the school work of course), but this is the first time I have the courage to finish writing and actually post it on social media. We are living in an oversharing world, where you can come across countless posts related to one’s emotions, feelings and even traumas on Instagram. I don’t judge those people; they have their reasons. I think that we all need someone or something to express our emotions and feelings, or else we will explode. Explode. But at the same time, I will never be on the same wavelength as them. As I said, I am not confident with putting my thoughts into words. Additionally, to me, social media seems like a fathomless well filled with hypocrisy and uncertainty. And then I created my own blog, and I accept the fact that I will have to face that very hypocrisy and uncertainty when people read my posts – that is if there is actually someone reading my blog.

Now back to the main point of this writing: how I sat down and wrote on a normal Monday afternoon. As I mentioned, I have written something before. Unfinished writings, unfinished thoughts that never have the chance to be expressed, unfinished words that were thrown into the forgotten void as a result of my perfectionism. I tried to write something that’s as perfect as possible. Certainly, I’m not talented enough to produce a perfect writing, so I became a copycat. I browsed through the Internet to find a way to express my own feelings. And I copy them. Copy and Paste. I repeated this same meaningless cycle until I almost finished writing. When I read through the result, though, I was far from impressed. The piece of garbage that I once called a writing was somewhat boring and, as a whole, left me cold. It was filled with complicated, out-of-context words that make me seem smart. Filled with random writings I came across on the Internet, with many styles and personalities that are not mine.

However, things seem to be different on this Monday afternoon. I realize that there is no need for a lot of difficult words. I don’t have to try to impress people with beautiful turns of phrase. I write this for myself, for my present, and for the future where I look back and proudly say that I once overcame an annoying obstacle. Just like Haruki Murakami wrote in his first novel “Hear the wind sing”: “There’s no such thing as perfect piece of writing. Just as there’s no such thing as perfect despair.” Simple as it may sound, this came to me like an epiphany. There’s no such thing as perfect writing. For all this time, I have pursued something that was unreal and absurd. There is no absurdity on this Monday afternoon, just me, and my thoughts. I let my thoughts freely express themselves on my computer screen. Words now are just weapons, my thoughts are the real soldiers.

Be free, be open with your feelings. Embrace it. And then is utmost freedom.

Hanoi, 5/17/21