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

On Freedom of Will

I guess we all know the game Episode. That game is like a mobile storytelling network, featuring many interactive stories. The game where your choices decide the path of your story. If you don’t know what Episode is, here is how it looks like.

The credit goes to the game Episode

As a former player, I don’t like this game. Sure it is intriguing to some extent. But the excitement soon wears off, and the only things left are some carelessly written stories and a money-sucking system. Believe me or not, this is not an Episode slander. But to all those who played or are playing this game, have you ever felt a sense of frustration as a result of a lack of choices that we can actually choose? We have to make do with the stupid, absurd choices that do nothing but give us the second-hand embarrassment, while the more decent ones cost a ton of money.

But what if our lives are the same as Episode? By that I didn’t mean that we live in the same world as vampires or werewolves or a world where a random mafia boss will fall in love with us out of nowhere. What I mean is what if we are also confined to the very limited number of choices. I know that this may sound absurd to some of you, because we human beings have every rights to act on our convictions as long as those actions comply with the moral and ethical standards of society. We have the freedom of will and the freedom of action. You can choose between suffering in silence, getting revenge, or whatever you want when you, for example, find out your lover has cheated on you without having to resort to stupid choices like licking their feet. In this real life, you make your own choice and you are the only one who have to bear the responsibility of those very choices, not some stupid fictional characters. And their will be no mafia boss to lend you their hands to guide you through your darkest time. But what if we are just like those characters? What if our mind and our choices are not solely determined by us? What if there is something else playing the game of our life?

The other day I was writing an essay to apply for a scholarship in the UK under the topic of “free will” while cramming for my upcoming SAT exam. I know, multitasking in this case will do me no good since I will only end up not finishing anything and having to do it for the second time. But that’s just how I do things. Messing up and then doing the same thing all over again. Anyway, up to that point I had always believed that free will is real. Unfortunately, it is not. Just like the characters in Episode, our lives are determined. But what determine our lives? A religious god, or maybe the wheel of fate? In my case, that fate turns out to be determined as well. And that’s how I come across with the term Determinism. In brief, our actions determined by the combination of belief, desire and temperament. The previously existing causes, that is.

If you are still reading at this point and think that this may be a philosophical essay because of the title, drop this. Drop this now and do something else better. Rest assured that I am far from being a philosophy expert. And also, this is not Philosophy 101. But if you choose to continue reading to prove that free will is indeed real and what I have written is just totally absurd, then congratulations. That choice of yours is also determined. And if at this point you finally choose to stop reading this. Good news: still determined. If you still don’t believe me that none of your choices are free, then ask yourself “So what made you think that thought?”. Boom, determined. And then here I am, writing this post with an unfinished essay and an unfinished SAT mock test. Sure enough, my procrastination is determined too.

At the end of the day, free will or not free will, predetermined or not predetermined, at least we don’t have to lick our ex’s feet. And that’s all that matters.

Hanoi, 5/20/21.