Sentimentality Hour: Thoughts on leaving Edinburgh

These days, everyone I meet is a ticking bomb.
And to everyone I meet, I’m a ticking bomb.

There is an expiration date to be revealed with every new interaction that wishes to renew itself, and once the cat is out of the bag and running underneath the bed to hide from the constraints of reality, they always say:

“I thought we had more time together.”

 

We mutually agree on this regrettable truth. We both begin to bitch about the system of foreign affairs and visas and “why can’t we just live in a place with no passports and discrimination.” We toy around with the idea of a green-card marriage like so many tv shows are doing as of late, before dismissing it unconsciously when we promise each other “to visit”. For a single second I feel like a risky investment before I remember that friendship should be more intrinsic than that.

 

There are few people I could stay for.

To stay would be synonymous with falling in love, a “once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity”, or having a reason to justify why I should aimlessly float here rather than somewhere else. Sure, there are my friends…so many friends and lovers whose lives I want to watch flourish. Whose moods I want to help lift when they are drooping into the dark depths of circumstance when routines are crushed by spontaneity and anxiety. But love is not enough to convince the customs officer why I should be able to exceed the limits of my Tiers-4 that took months worth of queuing in awkward waiting rooms in nameless buildings and forgotten downtown districts. I think of those who ponder “wanderlust”, and all I can reply is that “Sometimes, the desire to travel has less to do with curiosity for the world and more to do with aimlessness, fear of commitment, and missing out. A fundamental lack of a sense of belonging and fervent need to fit somewhere.”

 

I’ve found a place. It’s here. I’ve found a person to sing harmonies with who makes me feel like the world is only a beautiful place, as long as the guitar strings keep ringing in the tunnel with great acoustics. I’ve come across groups of likeminded individuals who want to make shared ideas into reality. I’ve started to understand that definitions of soulmates and the nuances of attraction. How to look passively at another person who shares no blood but has the same passion that runs in very different kinds of veins, and letting that be the main fuel of unconditional affection. I’ve come alive in the span of these past 4 years time. I’m ready to let my roots dig themselves deeper into this Scottish soil that seems to grow nothing but Brussel Sprouts and potatoes, to play around with snow drops and burnt patches left by barbecue kits. I could buy a dog, or a plant, or a membership to the theatre, because these are milestones that signify: “I shall be here for a while.”

 

But now, the decision at this point is “to fight” or “embrace”. Do I tackle each day like it’s the last one of its kind I’ll be able to experience for a while, or live in denial until the last week I get to feel “not bothered” about walking 15 minutes and go out of my way to see a friend? Do I break unsaid promises forged by familial obligation? They have given me everything but an identity and a voice…They gave me the prompt and the resources but I have crafted my own story. It started here, and this very important chapter is coming to its climax, and that scares the hell out of me.

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Sentimentality Hour: A girl walks into Forest Cafe…

Every now and then she enters, often only exposing a bashful nose and quiet eyes through the crevices of her winter gear. Slipping in deliberately unnoticed, she takes a seat in the corner that detaches herself from the communal nature of the cafe.

She looked so familiar to me, like a face I had seen somewhere else in another life. But then again, there are so many people like this, content to stay planted on the walls in a space where they prefer to observe rather than participate. Those same faces whose features only sharpen in familiarity and philosophical conversation, translating how their hearts and thoughts work in tandem to face the perils of living an average life…whose generic beauty is sculpted uniquely through the context in which you meet.

Still, she comes in and talks to no one, always ordering the same meal, as she summons into her hands a small paperback novel. Her eyes determinedly stay focused on the page, even though the pace of this place is spellbinding in its ability to distract. I am one of these victims, feeling rather rude most of the time when I sit inside, never being able to maintain eye contact with someone for too long despite the intimacy of the conversation. Most of the chairs point outwards and the walls are composed mostly of large panels of glass that make the outside world look more like an obscure reality show. If your back is facing these giant screens of mimicry, you will find yourself turning your head every now and then to see why the person you’re talking to seems to be unable to pay absolute attention to what you’re discussing.

On one such occasion, on a busy evening, she had to sit in the middle area that attracted the most friendly conversation between strangers. I was eager to quell a curiosity and went up to her.

“Have we met before?”

“I don’t think so.”

She had nothing more to say to me, but I wasn’t satisfied with such a curt reply.

“I’m sorry, I just thought I had seen you before.”

“Ah you know, this is Edinburgh. I’m sure you have seen me before somewhere.”

I knew better than to intrude on a private moment, even if it was in solitude.

What piqued my interest the most was the fact that she would enter such a loud and social environment to entertain this introverted nature. Perhaps it was her version of social interaction, watching all these lonely creatures congregate in this crazy melting pot of artists, alcoholics, lost souls and hungry people.

How ironic it was that we mostly stared outwards when we were here.

Glimpses of Life: My Dog, Mika

My mother calls my dog a “ragged piece of cloth.” There he lies, sprawled across the sofa, feet stretched rigid in linear lines of fuzz on his side- a resting canvas of coffee coloured fur that has faded over the years. He is exhaling at the rate I can only assume is normal for sleeping dogs. From a distance, he looks frighteningly still. Sometimes I like to yell at him just to check if he’s still alive.

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The moisture on his nose is gone now; his nose almost touches the surface of the leather couch, looking like an aged black olive that someone dropped on the floor and forgot. His age is an indicator of when I moved to Taiwan, and how long it’s been since I left. He doesn’t look a day over 2, but he is really already 9 whole years old. That’s the time it takes to produce a somewhat comprehensible human being! I am aghast and refuse to think of the future this way.

“Ahem, what an attractive dog I have,” I would always think to myself when I watched him like this, only to swoop in and interrupt the serene sight by impulsively kissing the dryness of his nose, the curls on his forehead, thoroughly enjoying his drowsy confusion as he would probably think:

“Oh god not this again. Why is there a giant creature trying to berate me with physical contortions and infantile gestures??? I have absolutely no time for this. It is cutting into my slumber schedule.”

For some reason I imagine Mika’s head voice as a post English gentleman’s. And no one can tell me otherwise.