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"Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,

"Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever did you spy;

The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,

And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there."

"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "to ask me is in vain,

For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."

~ Mary Witt

Take Me Out

If I was bold enough

I would follow you forever

But darling please, rescue me

Take me out

Some may say

It’s my fate

Am I just in time or

Or am I late

If you can understand

Then take me out

I don’t start, I don’t end

I don’t change on my own

Take me out

I don’t lose, I don’t win

I don’t do well alone

Love is what we make it

Take my heart and break it

Take me out

I don’t wanna stay home

You make me dread

You make me sweat

But can you make love mean something instead

Something real, to make me feel

I don’t wanna stay here

I don’t wanna live half my life and disappear

So if you wanna take chances

Take a chance on me

And take me out


He said to me, listen to these lyrics by Atomic Tom- it’s a fantastic song. A surprise parcel containing a mix CD, two rattan stars in a Banana Republic perfume box (a private theory between us) and a love note (these songs help me find the words to tell you how I feel about you, how truly amazing I think you are). And so I responded accordingly: Follow me forever. I will rescue you. I will take you out. Yes, it’s your fate. You are just in time, Boo, not too late. I can understand. I won’t let you change on your own. I won’t let you be alone. If Love is what we make it, then I’ll take your heart but I won’t break it. I’ll take you out, don’t stay home. You make me dread and sweat too. Yes, I can make love mean something instead, something real, to make you feel. I’ll take chances, and yes, I’ll take a chance on you.

But in the end… it wasn’t me that took him out. It was him that did so. Take me out. Like Afghanistan, I was demolished, shattered and left alone, war-torn, famished, hungry, losing hope in this crazy world that I had come to love.


The Unbearable Lightness of Being

For hours, I battled with the demons inside me, trying to rationalize every single thing that was happening with me and B. Having met in a bookstore, and then having lunch, our initial awkward friendship continued over Whatsapp, text messages and phone calls, and blossomed into something I can only describe as beautiful magic. I am a person with no heart. I do not believe myself capable of falling in love again. I do not want to fall in love again. I have endured the heartache of a failed romance and marriage, and so much more- and I told myself years ago, no more. For Love is the destruction of the frail human heart. Years ago, I surrendered my Heart back to God. I have no desire, no intention, to fall in love. To be acquainted with that evil concept that destroyed me to the core so many years ago. I dated, but never more than 2 dates with the same man. I enjoyed the company of men, but I never saw beyond the date, never connected (nor wanted to) with anyone on an atomic and molecular level. I didn’t want all that anymore, because Love only brought me pain, suffering and heartache. My steely guards came up, and I protected myself, the empty shell of a heart I still had, with great care, determination and rationality. I don’t do love and relationships, I would say to people, or to the men who continued to pursue me. I’m sorry, I just don’t do love and relationships. I was happy the way I was, a single mother with a young child, content to spend the rest of my life in single-dom, resigned myself to the fact that I would never ever trust Love again (nor a man and the deceit in his heart).

Then, I met B. And the assault of emotions that came, together with him, his bright and unwavering personality, his quiet wisdom, his sense of spirituality, rationality and ethics. This man that I came to know as good, kind, spiritual, sensitive. I asked him where he had been my entire life. This is crazy, I told myself countless times. This is insane, I told him a million times. But still… the assault continued. I didn’t imagine this. I looked back at the countless hours we spent talking to each other every single day, 24 hours a day, for more than a month, every waking hour we had, his declaration of his feelings for me, all proof-positive that something like this was, once again, possible for a person like me. In a month and more, our relationship felt to me to have transcended the boundaries of time, for there was no time with B. With B, there was only an intensity that plunged straight into the core of my cold beaten heart. We battled through years of getting-to-know-you and the revelation of deepest, darkest secrets in just weeks. And I thought, how is this possible? I fought alongside every idea that this was ridiculous, fought alongside my sense of logic and rationality that things like these did not happen in real life. And still, as strong as I was, I had been defeated. For he made me happy, he made me glow. I smiled all day into the phone, smiled when I heard his voice. He made me smile again, as I have never smiled before. Happy as I had never remembered. And when we spoke about the possibilities of the future, I saw it all in my head. That it could somehow be.

And tonight, I am confronted with my greatest fear, and what only appears to me to be the truth. That I have fallen in love with B. That unbearable lightness of being. That unbearable beauty of opening myself up to Love again. That unbearable sickening thought that I may someday hurt again, break what’s left of my heart.

But I surrender. I surrender.

We Met At Borders

A beautiful Saturday morning, that’s what it was. The date was 21st July 2012. Who would’ve thought that it would be even more beautiful at 11.46am when he first stepped into my life.

I am mad about all things Gaiman. And this morning, after dropping E off at her art class (knowing I didn’t have to worry about her later as her father, my ex-husband, would be picking her up), I decided that I must have his Coraline graphic novel. Borders, I thought to myself- they’d be sure to have it. So I hurried along the corridors of the mall, the welcoming sight of Borders in the distance. I trawled through to the fantasy/science fiction section, mouthing to myself, “Gaiman, Gaiman, Gaiman… G…where are you?”, my body bent at a weird angle to the right, scanning the books that lined the neat shelves. So engrossed was I that I didn’t notice him at first, who was standing next to me, and then a voice said, “Nice tatts.” Instinctively, I straightened up, looked at the tattoos that covered my arms, followed the sound of the voice, saw him standing there, the Prince of Stories in his hands. About half a foot taller than I was, with kind eyes, a rakish smile and a cap over his head, my eyes scanned him quickly, (cute, I thought) and the tattoos on his arms. (Ah, a fellow tattoo lover). And I smiled. “Thanks,” I replied, then pointing to the book he was holding, “That’s good. You should get it.” He looked surprised, then, “Oh yeah? Thanks, I will then.” That smile. An then an uncomfortable silence. “Any idea where the Gaiman graphic novels are?” I asked at last. “I’m looking for Coraline.” He pointed to his right, “Further up there. You’re in the wrong section. You need to check out the comics and graphic novels section.” A chuckle. Thanking him, I smiled again, and flitted off to the comics section, taking one last quick look at him before I did. He looked at me, too, and I quickly averted my eyes, walking ahead quickly.

So he was right. I plucked Coraline out, beaming with joy that I had found it. I flipped through the pages quickly, and then that voice again, “So we meet again.” Him. That rakish smile. “I’m looking for the Sandman series, Vol. 6,” he explained. “Found your Coraline?” I nodded, showing him the book. I continued looking at my book in silence, while he scanned the shelves. “Nah, don’t have it here,” he said. “Oh, too bad,” I voiced sympathetically. We stared at each other, this time more comfortably. He made some conversation about my tattoos, easily, and we talked tattoos for a bit. And then he blurted out, “What are you doing after this? Do you wanna have lunch?” I grinned, a warm fuzzy feeling in my toes. “With you?” “Sure,” he replied confidently, smiling again, his eyes crinkling in a cute way. “You’re asking me out to lunch? We’re in a bookstore,” I said incredulously. “Yeah,” he said again, “I’m buying you lunch.”

So I thought, what the heck. “I’ve never met a free lunch I didn’t like,” I quipped. He laughed. A week later, he would tell me that this quirky statement was what he liked, that sealed the deal for asking out a random rock-chick wearing a Guns & Roses t-shirt, with tattoos of phoenixes and dragons on her arms, yes, in a bookstore. “OK, let’s do it,” I said.

And we walked off together, smiling, a boy and a girl, about to have lunch together.

Do You Believe In Unicorns?

First time published author, Marianne Lau Pin Lean certainly does, and she isn’t afraid to admit it. She claims to have seen elves dancing in a nostalgia shop in the cobblestone streets of Montmartre in Paris. She considers herself a bohemian at heart, and believes that she is a child trapped in a woman’s body. She believes that raindrops temper the mind, and sunshine feeds her soul. Above all, though, she is completely in love with one thing in the world: her daughter.

Yes, this seemingly-batty, eccentric person is a mother of a young daughter, and her first newly-published book, “So I had a baby…” is a startlingly sharp contrast to her vibrantly outlandish personality and fondness for expletives, a biographical parenting book unlike any other you’d find out there. What the heck, it is the anti-thesis of Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”! Written as a refreshingly honest and poignant series of letters from 2005 until present day, Marianne speaks, through her love for writing, to her young daughter, Emilie: of unicorns, love, Desperate Housewives, fairies and elves, advertising campaigns, Manolo Blahniks, sleepless nights, anal suppositories, hair combs, men and sex, Neil Gaiman and blueberry girls, Brazilian waxing, tattoos, and a whole plethora of the unexpected. Be prepared. Be shocked. Be very amused.

Here is a mother who isn’t afraid to allow her child to dream big and live in a fairytale world of make-believe, who tells her daughter, “unicorns exist, you know”. Here is a mother who isn’t perfect, who sometimes oversleeps and allows her daughter to play truant from school, who smokes Marlboro Lights and teaches her daughter how to stand up to a school bully, teaching her things like “bitch fight that little twat” and “kick her ass, baby”. Here is a mother who wants her daughter to know her as she truly is. Marianne is the unconventional single working mother doing double-parent duty, and talks about how often she is berated by her own mother for being “irresponsible, dreamy and don’t carish.” Struggling with her own inner turmoil and personal conflicts, her means of escapism are writing these letters to her daughter, intending that her words weave a cherished legacy, a vision of the past in the future, lessons to be learnt and remembered, mistakes made and cried over, and above all, her love for her only child, the love that kept her sane through the darkest of days.

“So I had a baby”will have you laughing and chuckling until you need to take a break, gasp and put it away for 2 minutes just so you can catch your breath, but it will also make you cry as you read Marianne’s words through a film of tears. The depth of the emotions it stirs within you will prick your heart. From her irrational fear of reptiles and amphibians, and subsequently, prognosis of a condition known as chelonaphobia, to herRM80,000 credit card debt and psychologist-diagnosed “compulsive shopping disorder”, to the death of her father whom she idolized, waltzing into the breakdown of her marriage and the custody negotiations for Emilie- Marianne writes with a tenderness, honesty and simplicity that is both unabashedly personal and luminously thought?provoking, spinning a different outlook from the usual parenting themes, leaving you breathless and wanting more.

Dreamers and believers must pick up a copy of this wonderful read; so too must the non-believers and the sullen, if only to be allowed a glimpse into the wonderful world of Possibilities, of one woman’s unconventional motherhood.

The Unicorn rides again, far beneath the fingers of the Moon


These Boots Are Made for Walking

I stood for a long time tonight, looking at you contemplatively. You arrived in December, just in time for the holidays, wrapped in white tissue paper, nestled quietly in that big brown box. I tore it open eagerly, like a child on Christmas morning, my heart thumping in anticipation, because I wanted you. I wanted you so very much. 35 years old, in my ragged old pink nightie, but I was still a child.

And yet- when I finally held you in my hands…you looked…(dare I say the word?) ordinary. And the onlooking world gasped in shock, hand to the heart, mouths forming ‘O’s. For isn’t there anything more unkind in the world than proclaiming one’s ordinary-ness?

I caressed you gently, remembering your every curve. That sleek black skin, as black as a midnight sky- so black and dark it filled my eyes with nothingness. I tested your strength and thudded the marble floor in my living room. You reverberated a dull thunking sound, and I nodded with satisfaction. But yet- despite your virtues, and the remembrance of how you were my best friend when I was 18, you still seemed…..ordinary.

And so, I decided- I entered you with my feet, winced a little, and did you up. You bit me in the back of my ankles. Bloody hell. The you of 17 years ago did the same. I clomped into my bedroom, and you groaned beneath my weight. At 35, I am no longer as lithe and svelte as I was at 18, but I expected you to know that. Maybe it is a little unwarranted, and unfair of me to expect that. I stood in front of my full-length mirror, seeing you wrapped around my feet. And I remember the days of yore, when you were my daily staple, when grunge killed folk-alternative bands, when it was acceptable to wear you with a dress, when I kicked a chair while wearing you, and bruised my toes, when I slipped down the stairs and bruised my derriere. You were there. You were there all that time.

I’m 35 now, and no longer as cool as I used to be. Stranger and slightly eccentric and crazed, perhaps. But certainly not as cool as the goth chick who used to be, she who smoked Camel unfiltered cigarettes, played underground gigs with Kevin’s Fender, sang like Veruca Salt and hated Northanger Abbey: by far, undoubtedly, Austen’s most despicable work.

Still, you’d do,  I suppose. If anything, I shall wear you to weather the rain, sleet and snow.

Unicorns & The Red Sea

I lie with her in bed one night, stroking her silken hair, humming Out of Darkness under my breath. She is still awake, her eyelashes casting shadows onto her cheeks. She quietly grasps her velveteen terry-cloth blanket and watches me with her big, round eyes. I am most content and happiest for moments like these. These quiet nights, with the gentle hum of the air-conditioning in the background, my table lamp casting dancing patterns on the fuchsia walls. I stroke her smooth cheek, kiss her and take in the smells of Johnson’s baby powder from her person.

“Do unicorns exist?” she suddenly asks me.

I think for a moment. “Of course they do”.

“So why don’t we ever see them?”

“Because they’re shy creatures. And you must have a heart pure as crystal before you have the privilege of even catching a glimpse of its shimmery horn”.

“My friends say there is no such things as unicorns. They are not real. They’re made up for stories and by people.”

“Who are your friends?” I sound almost indignant now. “That’s because they’ve never seen one. How do you think stories about unicorns came to life? There must have been some unicorns in the world in the beginning, so that people could write about them. Am I right?” I am treading on thin ice here, and I have strange beliefs- but in a time like this, I am conflicted if I should share these beliefs with her… or if I should take the path of the righteous and lead her to believe what “normal” people would.

How do I explain to her- and to people, in general, that I believe in the mystical and life beyond? How do I say, “I believe in fairies” without sounding like a complete nut-job to the general population? How can I explain that there is so much more to our lives in the Universe, and that in a mystical realm parallel to our world, we are but minute creatures of existence? How do I tell her that I have seen beyond the stars, and felt the magic of a force beyond our world? How can I go on to pretend that I am “normal” when I know that I am not, that I am capable of feeling the touch of a sad and deprived soul?; the smoothest, lightest touch that lingers for a moment longer on my skin, making the tiny hairs on my arms and neck stand up. How can I say “Unicorns were once creatures of the Devil, but they flew to the Red Sea one day and burnt him with the sacred water from there” without sounding ominous, mad and eccentric? What happens then? Would I be committed to a mental institution, declared unfit to be a mother to my child? I am the only parent she has in this entire world, and like me, I want her to grow up with big dreams, believing in the infinitely impossible, and having the courage to converge dreams and reality.

“Yes”, she says, but a little more furtively. “But there is no Santa Claus. So how can there be unicorns?”

I lean in to her and hold her in my arms, and touch her cheek. “Do you like unicorns, my sweet?” I ask her.

“Yes”! she exclaims. “I wish I could have one as a pet”.

“And so you will,” I whisper. “But you must believe with all your might and all your heart, and maybe one day, you will see a unicorn. But you can never make it yours. Remember that they are special creatures and they belong to everyone. You cannot make them yours. Do you understand?”

Nodding. Vigorously. “So how can I see a unicorn one day?”

“By doing good. By caring for others and loving with honesty. By having a crystal-pure heart. And….going to school everyday and finishing up your school homework.” I couldn’t resist adding in that last bit.

“OK!” she snuggles deeper into her pillow, breathes heavily. “Good night, Mommy. I love you.”

“I love you, too, baby”, I tell her, kissing her head.

So strike me down with your rod, o’mighty Gods, if I have lied to my child and led her to believe in the same twisted things I do.

Never let me go

I still hear his heart beating. It stills me into quietude. It beats like Morse Code. Against my own heart. Against my listening ear. And I continue to dream, with the stars in my eyes, the beginning of love growing and digging its vines into my toes, working its way up, past my calves, my groin, my stomach, slithers through my heart, where it tangles with my heart-strings, and a tiny ripple breaks like waves of surf crashing on a shore, delves straight into my head.

And I think of how we constantly wish to have other lives. How we struggle daily with the definition of our own existence. That sad, sad denial of our present, only to mingle with the puffed visions of hedonistic pleasures in our head. The devotion to routine and detail, all for the merriment to deign pleasure from Baudelaire. The asthmatic that wants to run a marathon, to fill her lungs with air that comes from the universe.

The  human heart is fraught with frailty, but built with strength, an enduring passion, intuition and tenacity. And as he slips away, like slivers of gun-smoke through my fingers, I whisper, never let me go.

A Parisian Romance

Joyeux Noel in the beautiful city of Paris, where I enjoyed a 6-day sojourn on my own. It was the general advice given to me that I could see Paris in 3 days. C’est impossible! I spent an entire afternoon at the Galleries Lafayette and the surrounding areas, exploring tiny shops, boutiques and cafes in cobblestone streets. I partook 8 glorious hours at the Musee du Louvre and Musee d’Orsay and still, I yearned for more. The Musee Picasso. Musee National d’Art Moderne. Espace Montmartre Salvador Dali. These museums alone would have taken me 3 days- and more. And so I was humbled. Moved. And the butterfly that was my heart fluttered when I beheld the most magnificent collection of art in the world.

I started Christmas Day with a tour, which promised “historical sights of Paris.” I should’ve known better- after all, I used to be a lawyer. “Sights” was really just it, so when it ended at the Eiffel Tower, I was determined after that to go see those “sights” again on my own, on foot! Not knowing which way to go after the Eiffel Tower, I made the decision to randomly follow a couple pushing a baby in a stroller. Bad choice. Ended up walking for miles, lost in a ghetto-like neighborhood, where Algerians with slick- backed hair yowled and wolf-whistled at me, and African boys stood on street corners smoking cigarettes, watching me behind their shaded eyes. I found a random Metro station, chose a direction and rode through the end of the line where I found myself at the Arc de Triomphe! So- guessing does have its advantage! I walked the length of the Champs-Élysées, spent hours at the Christmas Market, watched the traffic at the Place de La Concorde and continued walking until my feet hurt, my hands froze and I cursed myself for undermining the weather (it was 6 degrees, and I only had on a thin shirt and a tank top underneath- with only a denim jacket to protect me from the wind and cold). The Louvre was a welcome sight, and I shivered in the Carousel de Louvre, watched the pyramid again and continued walking. 4 hours must have passed from the time I left the Eiffel Tower, until I saw the welcoming sight of the Pyramides Metro station- and the way home. And where was my map, you ask? In my bag, crumpled and crushed, because I had gotten so lost that it had become irrelevant (it never showed the names of the little streets I wandered through!) But what a cool adventure anyway. And so I sank into bed that night, blisters on my feet, my cheeks cold and flushed from the outside and the happiness in my heart accompanying my loud snores of satisfaction.

On Boxing Day, a dramatic turn of events took place at the Basilisque du Sacré Cœur (Church of the Sacred Heart) in the quaint village of Montmartre, where I got “stuck” in the narrow spiral stairway of the way up to the dome tower of the church, where one is reputed to have the most beautiful view of all of Paris from that height. I never got to see the view, having suffered from a claustrophobic attack in the stairway (which I never knew I had!) and forced myself to climb up a landing and sit there alone for the next hour. I thought of wide open spaces, of mind over matter, but when I tried to take the few steps down the tower (to try to gain exit through the entrance) I froze and felt the walls closing in on me. And there I sat in the cold stairway as people passed me. Only one girl stopped to ask if she could help. My tears became ice on the cold floor and my fingers were so numb I could no longer feel them. Then came the American in Paris, as I now call him as I never knew his name. He who was going up the tower but came back down to sit with me upon hearing my occasional cries of “Fuck it, you can make it down!” and mumblings of “wide open spaces”. He who took my frozen hands and warmed them in his own and guided me down the 100-odd steps descending. He who was handsome and patient with quiet grey eyes, who left me only to converse with the French ticket attendant to be ready for me. He who spoke to me gently, encouragingly, in honeyed sonorous tones, who brushed away the tears from my eyes and caught me when I took the last 2 steps and collapsed in relief, crying in his warm, strong arms. If I hadn’t been so traumatised I might have laughed about the Hollywood quality of the incident. As it happened, I couldn’t laugh and he took me out into the cold sunshine, bought me a cup of hot spiced wine and walked with me for a while. And when I was feeling better, he gave me a kiss on the cheek, smiled, told me to take care and disappeared into the growing crowd of people. I never knew his name.

In the evening, I met D who arrived from his Christmas celebration with his family in Orleans. D and I have been friends for a while- but i think Paris changed us this night. He picked me up from my hotel, and we wandered the streets, ending up on a Metro and in the artsy neighourhood of St. Germain des Près, where he bought me dinner in a quaint little French restaurant and where we had a bottle of rose. We walked along the Seine, his hands warming my cold ones. We stopped at the Notre Dame which I didn’t get to stop to see on my tour, and he rested his head on my shoulder as I took pictures. We walked miles, laughing and talking, playing silly games, as I practiced my rusty high-school French with him, exploring beautiful Paris by night, running across empty squares, climbing onto a merry-go-round, got lost along the different Metro lines. We ran like jaywalkers on busy streets, spied into people’s apartment windows, shared an ice cream in the cold. It was my last night in Paris, and he wanted to make it a night to remember. And when he left me at my doorstep at 3 am and kissed me gently on both cheeks, I wondered if I would ever see him again.

As fate would have it, and by the strangest stroke of luck, my flight back home was postponed by a day, and so i was given one more day in Paris- and with him, who rejoiced and came to see me as soon as we both awoke from our slumber. My favorite artist in the world is Salvador Dali- no, not Raphael who painted the glorious Resurrection of Christ, or Da Vinci with his Monna Lisa, nor Van Gogh’s Starry, Starry Night or Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus- it was Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory that captured my heart and plunged it into a state as permanent as his signature melted watch. At some point of time, I may have mentioned this to D, several months ago, and he now took it upon himself to make sure that I would witness the world’s rarest, permanent collection of Dali’s lesser-known works and his sculptures formed using the lost wax process. I could’ve kissed him, I was overjoyed to see the words “Espace Montmartre Salvador Dali” loom before me- after an agonizing uphill walk and several tens of steep staircases up Montmartre hill. Worth all that sweat and exhaustion. And so, the magic continued my last night in Paris- From Dali to an evening stroll in the quaint artistic village of Montmartre, watching artists paint and sell their wares, my frozen hands again lovingly warmed by his in his pockets, our breath forming smoke rings in the night air. Rush hour in the Metro and he held me close to him, the scent of his cologne a faint whiff in my nose, my hair a tangled, blown-by-wind mess in his face and still we stood like creatures of the night. We downed pints of Guinness at the Tavern of St George, met his friend J, and exchanged hot kisses under a street lamp, the cold night air stinging our noses. We walked arm in arm, my body sheltered from the wind in his strong arms, his cold cheek pressed against my face. And we lay together in the night until the morn arrived and I left Paris- and part of my heart, with him.

I Fell In Love

I travelled far from home this summer. For one of the very few times in my life, I would be completely alone. In a foreign land, with nothing to my name and no accountability to anyone save to myself. Some called me “brave”, others thought me “adventurous”. A woman travelling on her own in Europe. Some thought the idea of travelling alone was a challenging one, because of the loneliness. You have naught but your own company. Who would you talk to?- they asked me. And I shrugged. Anyone, I replied. Anyone who’d want to listen to what I have to say. Isn’t that dangerous? Maybe. I don’t really care. I’m a grown woman, and I can take care of myself. Oh- my dear- but you don’t know bad people and what they can do to you! Oh, I’m sure I do. I’m just not so sure I really care. Anyway, what’s meant to be is meant to be, I say.

I repeat my little mantra to myself, “I am a strong woman. I am a smart woman. I believe in me.” There were times, before this trip, that I doubted my self-worth, the person I was. Could I really be strong enough to face the sorrows of the days that would only come at me with renewed vigour? Coming out of the darkness of a divorce, raising a young child single-handedly, and leaving the only man that I truly loved to the ends of the earth, the only man who had ever romantically owned my heart- all this following quickly on the heels of my father’s death- threatened to destroy the very core that made me, me. And I don’t believe in that “Eat, Pray, Love” stuff- Elizabeth Gilbert is funny and witty, and I’m glad she discovered herself- but I am not Elizabeth Gilbert. And I don’t have the luxury of running away from my troubles, my past, the ugliness that made life so unbearably painful. I don’t have the kind of money that would allow me to live in Italy for months. I am a million kilos of excess baggage that included (gasp!) a life I would be responsible for- my daughter. And it was to be that my daughter was the only living thing that would keep me sane.

So- away from home, away from my beloved daughter. My friend, Ann, told me, “I hope you find Love.” At that time, I didn’t really understand what she meant. She hoped I would find Love. She said, “a summer romance”. I took her words at literal value, not certain if I could allow myself to fall in love again with another man, to release my emotions and allow my heart to be ruined all over again. But I nodded, and we laughed. Yeah baby. So what’s wrong with a little casual sex while on holiday?

I embraced Oxford. Walking the local market, milkshake in one hand, cookies in the other. And all the while, I greedily drank in culture, sights, sounds, history. I blended in and shopped at M&S and Primark. I walked everywhere for miles, until my ragged feet cried for mercy and my calves contracted when I went to bed the first night. I bought a bologna sandwich and sat under a tree in a park, bottle of beer within reach, pen and notebook hard at work. I wrote nonsensical prose. Made up stories about the people who walked around me. Human traffic oblivious to this person under the tree. They had no idea I was writing about them. I wrote angst-ridden, angry poetry, shouting out words like “cunt face” and “dick head” to nobody in particular. I bought goth jewelry on sale at Accessorize and inked my eyes like Evanescence’s Amy Lee. I dug into English Ale and fabulously-grilled steaks and mash. A dashing Englishman made love to me in Summertown. Bought a Toy Watch. Took a tour of the beautiful Bodleian library and imagined myself on the set of Harry Potter.

I rekindled a friendship in Dublin. Indulged in architecture, home-cooked Malaysian food and museums. Drank and relished Guinness every day. Made new friends. Dined and wined at Temple Bar and kissed an Italian man named Marco. Captivated by the Long Room in the Old Trinity College Library. Ate Irish Stew in Galway. Got lost on Forster Street and Eyre Square.  Bought a Claddagh ring. Watched little men dressed as leprechauns dancing on the streets of the Latin Quarter. Threw coins into a guitar box and listened to street musicians play traditional Irish music. Met a Dubliner named Greg, who called me an Asian goddess with eyes like the moon. Partook in an Irish jig in an old pub with said Greg. Got semi-seasick on the ferry from Rossaveal to Inishmore. Cycled for hours on Inishmore. Explored the ruins of the magnificent Dun Aengus. Got sunburnt. Made friends with the islanders on Inishmore. Rode in Joe McHealy’s beat-up van up and down Kilronan Village and listened to him rant on about fixing me up with an Irish lad. Had black coffee and cigarettes with Brenda Faherty’s handsome 24-year old son, Michael Joe, on the verandah of our B&B, overlooking the Galway Coast, talking about the law. Took long walks on the island, mostly alone, sometimes getting a lift from Joe McHealy or Diane Dan. Got drunk one night and walked half an hour uphill in the dark back to the B&B. Almost died from exhaustion.

Got into a tube for the first time in London. South Kensington to Covent Garden, Friday evening 6.00pm rush hour. Pressed between 2 men, one eating chips and dropping crumbs onto my shoulder, the other in a suit facing me, his hot breath on my ear. Had drinks and dinner with Hannah & Malcolm in Leicester Square. Walked the breadth and depth of Chinatown and SoHo. Bought The Rabbit from Ann Summers. Spent hours in the Common Room in Beit Hall Residence, watching TV and surfing the net. Went to the Museum of Natural History. Spread myself out like the Vitruvian Man in Hyde Park. Shopped in Knightsbridge and battled a pimple in Boots Chemist.

And when I came home, from this wonderful adventure…. there was happiness. And then there was sadness. And then there was realization that my friend, Ann, had made complete sense when she spoke to me. If I could but write better words. If I could but capture all my memories in a nutshell and keep them there forever. If I could but whisk away to another land, with my daughter, and start anew. And I realized that I did indeed find Love. And I did fall in Love.

I fell in Love with Me. I fell in Love with all that I could Be.

Why Ireland, they ask me

This year, I had the privilege of going to Oxford for work-related meetings. Now- why would it be a privilege if one had to work? You must know that the kind of “work” I do back home and “work” in Oxford isn’t quite exactly the same. Why, am I allowed to lounge like a degenerate in torn jeans, flip-flops and a rock t-shirt at the office? No. But I get to do that at Oxford. Enough said.

Tum ti tum dum and my meetings are over- and lo and behold, for fuck’s sake, I might as well travel the land a little. No? I chose Ireland and the general folk ask me “Why?!” There lies before me the hot sultry paradise of Positano. The romantic chic corners of Paris. The tanned wonders of Barcelona. But no, I chose a country famed for Guinness, grey skies and rain in the summer and leaping leprechauns. It sounds silly to admit it now that I’m here- but I will.

And what could that possibly mean to me? There isn’t a part of me remotely Irish, I have no connection to the land and up until last year, I couldn’t bear the taste of Guinness. I grew up well-read, learning not only about mine, but also Greek and Celtic culture and music through books and the Internet- but why that? I’m not entirely sure. I’m not the least bit interested in my Chinese heritage and feel no compulsion to go to China to “discover” my roots. It puzzles me that I had this longing to visit a land that would never be mine.

But at Dun Aengus- I knew. Standing above the towering cliffs with the waves crashing beneath, the sea changing its colours, the pale blue at the shore deepening gradually out in the open water, set off by the occasional flash of white of a sea gull- I knew.

I had no business here but I knew the force that drew me out to embrace the wind.