End of 2015/start of 2016 seems to be about fathers. I found out a friend lost her father to a car accident on Facebook, early in 2015, and that she has been shattered by this. And I feel so sad for her, I wished I sensed it early enough to bake her some Lamingtons, unasked for. Which I still will. But better if it came before an intimate baring on something as callous as Facebook. Which is why I can't still seem to unplug. How much of my friends' lives will I lose? Even as I invest less and less in this space, others are investing more. Putting aside more and more scraps of our lives, big and small, into this space of curated self, or a thoughtless one. More of the former I suspect. Will any other way of knowing, relating weigh as heavily as this? Is the age of letter writing truly over, or the age of knowing only as much as you make the effort to have an actual sustained contact, over? That would be a huge loss for humanity. But then again, we have never been able to keep as much known as now. Even the peripheries of our friendships, and time travelling to times past to keep in the present. Or as much as we would allow into our timelines, or of some sense of self with the webs we extend, visibly, at least to ourselves.
But I'm wandering, I was talking about fathers. Another person I met recently, an acquaintance, work friend, whom I enjoy talking to, was talking about his father. Who had dementia. And we were wondering about the 'miracle' of modern medicine. That it can be so incredible to find out within the filigree of our nerves and veins exactly which one is blocked, and to then actually intervene at that spot. But sometimes, what is it extending? A life? Or the flesh and blood shell that holds what was once a life? His father was an intelligent man, his intellectual hero, and they had such profound conversations. And now, he is grasping with everyday sense. And he had just passed away. And no matter which direction this conversation takes, a loss is always something so unexpectedly cavernous.
When I lost my father, in 2009, I couldn't reconcile how I felt about him. His absences, the pieces of his presence all throughout my life, my absences in his, and the small stories where our paths met in some way. And how he looked, in that coffin. How I flew back from halfway across the world, having just landed, and being unable to summon the tears for grief. And how I kept stumbling into sadness everytime I saw a person that looked like him, that had a body shaped like him, that had a smile or a mischievous gaze like his. I suppose death is so final. And there is no more space to figure things out. To have the hopeful cloudiness of potential, of something different. I am glad I drove every weekend to see him, but my heart broke over his body trapped in the hospital, even as he could look out of the wooden lourved windows into the sky. He wanted to go home. But home was always something ephemeral for him. When I die, I hope I will have a home. A space where I have rooted. And that at least one person will go through my things to give away or sell, with the sweet, aching sense of loving, missing, and letting go. My aunt took care of all my papa's stuff, but it was more pragmatic, about duty, than anything else. My grandmother loved him above everyone else. Or at least, that is the family lore. She, I miss with every warm pulse. And her love, I remember so clearly. Even as I realise that I am turning 40 this year, and my memories have become those washed out photographs that I used to look at and think about how old things were. My life is aging, and my memories have become the old things. Old laminated green table with worn down white spots where I spent most of my life growing up. Peeling shallots, clearing the tables, telling stories, having make believe fancy dinner dates like a grown up, breakfast of Mastin Ghani mee rebus or Maggi mee assam laksa at the weekends, or when I came home. That house is my home. And even as it no longer exists now, it's in my bones. And when I die, they disappear with me. They don't exist, lifeless, on a timeline, with perfunctory likes and awkward comments that fail to hold the thought, even with countless emoticons. The casualness of relating.
And if life is too brief for stitching relationships that come from actual intention made and time spent, then maybe life is simply too brief to be lived fully. And maybe there is a reason that when we age, we begin to feel that we need to somehow make decisions about which relationship too keep, to nurture, and which to let go off, even with sadness. But I hope that doesn't mean I stop uncovering new friendships, new people, new lives to make a commitment of time to.
I strayed from fathers. I seem to know many people who love and adore their fathers. I accidentally typed my uncle's name under "father" in an application for visa. Maybe that is who my father is, and I do love him, and adore him. So at least one resolution for the year, is to call him more often.
It's been awhile. So why not restart. There are things lingering in the mind, and there is a need to get them out before I forget. And forgetfulness is becoming friendly.
I just watched the new Star Wars yesterday. And the trailers were of yet another recycled story of super hero men in metallic suits, off on a mission to save the world, with slivers of humanity and vulnerable masculinities as personal hurdles to overcome. For a split second, I wondered if Robert Downey Jr and the guy who plays Captain America ever get a little embarassed to do this again. That their craft and life's work has been reduced to this. Then I remembered that they live in another universe, where their social capital is precisely around the lore of the comics, even though it's becoming a little frayed around the edges.
Another trailer was a contemporary retelling of essentially, Famous Five stories. Instead of parallel of colonisation, where there are lost, wild worlds to be tamed as their entire playground, fighting pirates through friendship and a loyal dog, it's now a dystopian future, where they are fighting monsters with a loyal droid, or magical assistance. The same tale of the chosen one, aided through friendship, loyalty, gumption. And so white. Beautiful, young, white imagination of what youthful hardship could look like, in a fantasy world of meaning and consequence. And then my mind wanders to the young people who join Daesh, and thinking about their motivations. Remembering how I was when I was younger, full of energy and idealism, of believing in my own power and vision to create a much better world than the one that is currently fucked up. And how Daesh provides that - a divine call of solidarity, meaning, purpose - a different kind of social and spiritual capital.
Putting these various pictures against each other. One is playing, make belief, glamourised. At the heart of it, a thought experiment, and not even a very good one, in case it offends sensibility or turn the infinitely more profitable pop culture into the constraints of high art. Another is the vision carved out of the space of a small town, constrained by having very little in money, books or mirror stories. And another is the grip of a time that is so real, it seems like a moment in history. And having the ability to be part of this. The harsher the call, the more real it seems.
Maybe it's not such a leap to imagine how easy it could be to take it on. Feeling so isolated and alone, misunderstood, unseen, and seeing so much. That being given a chance to hold a weapon, being told how it fits into an entire picture, and your critical place in this network of imminent change. I heard from a researcher recently, that many young women become radicalised through peer network. That friends convince each other that this makes sense, which makes sense, because friends often help to make sense of things. It reminded me of a conversation in another chapter, of young lesbians choosing to transition because of their peer network. That friends convince each other that this makes sense. And that in both instances, they are also people who feel rejected by the current social system of value and meaning. And having that other space, where who you are matters a whole lot, not just to you, but to the actual real and material world - and every world is infinitely personal - what fullness that brings.
And this is so familiar. We have all stood at that trajectory, of not being seen, of being excluded, of sensing the texture of our own impotence at a large and unjust world. And then we make choices. And the choices we have are also already within the topography of how we are named, and the history that we carry with us from before we were born. Like the number of blades in a folded fan. And as we take one step to another, these continue to open up. Hopefully, we don't walk ourselves into a knot or a dead end.
I chose to be an activist, quite late in life. Not realising that this was actually possible until another bookmark. And now I am constrained by this choice, because what radical change can happen from within a node that exists in the system in which it tries to reconstruct? But then are there even pockets outside of this increasingly hungry machine that we have finessed like a super AI who understands layers of conscience, learning and choice?
Not sure where I am going with this. But I am just struck, but how much of one is the shallow sheen of plastic at play, and how much of another is the crusty sound of bone and flesh. Two opposite ends of the same quilt. Powered by guns and ideology and adults who are also just consuming and consuming. It can be a little depressing.
Star wars though, was very satisfying. Even as it fit neatly into its own mould.
Read, cycled, listened, tarot, spoke, ate, read, painted. Good weekend.
Cat pee-ed everywhere. Malaysia suffers another loss. Sad weekend.
Tomorrow: must finish writing. must finish writing. must finish writing.
Strings of words have come into my head
that are almost like psalms about you.
If you knew, you'd probably laugh.
It's funny isn't it?
If the people who made decrees were wise,
you would be canonised -
In my dyslexia, i wrote Satin Toni -
maybe you would have preferred that more.
I keep bumping into moments when I wished you were around
There are so many questions still;
So many moments when I am shaky, and lazy,
and I knew that if only I could have 5 minutes
with your voice on the telephone
pressed close to my ears,
or a quick chat next to the photocopy machine,
or the time that it takes for rings from sweaty glass mugs
to stain the table
as you weave your stories into parables;
Everything will make sense again,
the fire will have new light, my small feet
ready for fight, for flight,
It might even be called hope.
There are so many things that you
would have been proud of;
So many changes that maybe,
you wouldn't be surprised at,
since you always knew the might of seeds.
I keep bumping into moments when I wished you were around.
Today there is a meeting that you would have gone for,
where I would go, with two-thirds of the reason
being just to catch up with you, have a huge hug with you.
But I will still be there. And so will you.
In so many ways.
Every single person you have spent time with,
have you in them.
Like magic. Or witchcraft.
Or common sense.
It's been a year, and I still keep bumping into you.
It makes me smile.
And it makes me sad.
It makes me write weird psalms about you in my head.
It makes me breakdance with hope and ache.
Miss you Toni. Miss you a lot.
There are a lot of things that puzzle me that I simply have no time to unravel. The automatic choice of the word "unravel" puzzles me. As though puzzles were a series of interlocking question marks that have been kicked about, gnawed and crocheted by a barrel of unhappy cats.
Black, Perak and Ghandi. To be frank.. I am tired of it all. I'm pretty sure I'm meant to be excited. To feel some kind of fire bubbling over inside me. The compelling force of outrage and quest for justice in the shape of democracy. It is exciting. Everyday, twitter is like a cliff-hanger, waiting to see what happens next. Who's going to bring who to which imagined higher body over which clause and sentence under which law. It is extremely exciting to wait and see when the queer theory idea of the ludicrous will bring the house down. It's almost funny. Hysterical. But I guess it can only be funny when you are a spectator and not one of the actors. By force or choice or by simple accident.
I lost my train of thought. And started thinking about mirrors. About two sides of a dirty 10 sen coin. Palmed from person to person. It can get so black that only McDonald's chilli sauce is able to stain it clean.
Ran out of words again for today.
It's been awhile since I wrote. It's been awhile since I heard the sound of my own voice. I'm sure it has been speaking. I'm sure it has been commenting on the insensibility and ludicrousness of the world. I'm sure it has been writing epic poetry to match the dirty yellow thunderstorms that meet the daily aching sun of late.
But I have been struggling to hear its words. They are inarticulate, like middle of the night speech bubbles. The only shapes they have are of emotive intonations. Sometimes a stream of question marks, sometimes abrupt strings of full stops, sometimes rising into exclamation marks, sometimes merely commas unending...
I've been listening to Cohen a lot recently. It makes me think of old comic books, like The Preacher and Sandman. Struggles with the mythology and morals of an angry, suffering, beautifully arrogant and mysterious God.
I recently said my only religion is feminism. It doesn't make sense actually. I used to believe in God. I used to believe in mercy and kindness and retribution. Sin and light. I used to pray so much I would fall asleep curved, with my forehead touching my knees. I don't think I muttered my sleep then. My nights were quiet conversations worthy of chapters in a holy book. Flaming swords, exorcism, words that shine with the fire of its own soul. I don't have those kinds of dreams anymore.
It's raining right now. The whole world has a grey, rusty watery skin, and the uneven tarred roads are pocked with millions of angry silver craters. Their footsteps are almost drowning out the sentences that are swarming all around me. I saw a spike of lightning on my way here, white and ultraviolet, slicing the indeterminate sky with its sudden clarity. For a moment, I wondered if it touched anything. A singular tree in an open field invades my mind. I live in a world of cinematic cliches.
And so quickly, the storm is losing its fervour. The thunder is beginning to sound like grumbles rather than apocalyptic statements. The wind has changed direction and my laptop is getting wet. Time to go.
i can't remember the first time i met you. it seems as though you have always been present, with a huge breathtaking hug and a smile that just knocks all doubts away. how can the world begin to spell the loss of you? i just saw a video in tribute to you. and you are there, speaking, your voice sounding just like how it always is, strong, questioning, challenging, always with a hint of a laugh underneath. i cannot remember the sound of your laughter, and that really hurts me.
do you know just how much you are loved? do you know how beautiful you are, in your presence, in your life, in everything that you do and touch and see? you are like the heart of a ripple, imperceptible and humble in your constant agitation of complacency. and we have not yet seen the end of those ripples you have caused. change upon change. awakening upon awakening. you inspire.
everytime i have the chance of having a conversation with you, i leave a fuller person. did you know you do that to people? you make me feel with earth under my feet, you make me think with the tireless spinning of webs inside my head, forming question marks that are sparked by fire, pushing me to act, however small my hands and feet, they can move and make and break and create. after each conversation, you make me believe that.
when i was drowning myself in a sea full of guilt and inadequacy, for not doing more, for not giving more, you were always so light and honest in your appreciation, all scales fall away and dissolve into resolve. it doesn't matter. what matters is everything that is, and everything that could possibly be. humility. you teach me humility.
and you have opened me to a kind of love i did not realise is possible. without lines, without trade, without spaces. you are so wise. you are so sharp. you dance in the waves of cheeky laughter. you are truly, someone the world was not prepared to deserve. and is not prepared to lose.
there is an absence that a century of grieving could not shadow the form of exactly how deep, how much we have lost. all i know is i miss you so much. an insensible craving that cannot begin to grasp the fact that you are gone. with love toni. you are a magical blessing.
tahlil for toni kasim tonight (wed) at 7pm, at mosque near subang old airport. mosque has no name but apparently you jjst do a 3 o'clock at the roundabout and you'll see it. should last from maghrib to isya'. it's not exactly a multi-faith ceremony but friends of all faiths are welcome to be in the mosque compound to remember her in everyone's unique way. do pass the message on.