19th October 1990

It had to happen. Fingertips tracing the edges of my visage, I couldn’t help but sneer at the sight before me. The uneven curves that cemented themselves onto my bare skin, displayed on the cerulean bathroom mirror for all to see. It was not long ago when these fine lines started to form. Strands of gray now criss-crossed amongst the remaining caramel locks on my head. At the ripe age of thirty-five, it was to be expected. Despite the numerous beauty treatments over the years, no amount of money offered could allow me to escape the hands of aging. 


It was just yesterday when I was wrinkle-free and prancing around my neighborhood park. The one at the end of the street with the worn-out asphalt. The feeling of grappling onto the hard-to-reach monkey bars, reaching for the stars on the semi-rusted swings and going down the vibrant rainbow slide that seemed to never end. The constant bickering between my brother and me on who gets to use the only spring rider in the entire park. My little feet carried themselves all over the vicinity, to every nook and cranny. The lectures I’d received at the end of the day from my mother, troubled as to where her children had disappeared off to. Come to think of it, my brother and I must have been a handful for her. Nonetheless, it was a childhood full of vigor and vitality, a sense of freedom almost. 


I’ve always defined freedom as an escape from the chains of parental expectations, a life of independence and self-discovery. But all good things come with their own tribulations.

When was the last time I had a day all to myself? One where my mind is empty of the to-dos and the responsibilities awaiting my doorstep. A meal shared in silence, uninterrupted by the buzzing of the phone. It’s a fantasy, really. The reality begs to differ. Tasks holding me in a constant chokehold in the fear of the consequences of tomorrow, that I no longer know when my next breath of relief will take place. 

The craters below my pupils form deeper pits than ever before, the mirror before me mocking my appearance every time I glance at it. The mirror sees it all, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Just like how I first saw it all, her thinning hair and the skin on her hands latching off from its knuckles. The years of life experiences imprinting themselves onto her physical body, signs of youth struggling to remain.

If she was here, she would have told me…

15th February 2002

Tonight the full moon takes over, casting a light glow over the abyss above our heads. A lighthearted chatter fills the air on this auspicious lunar day. Gold-laced lanterns decorate the bare high-rise ceilings of the house. The aroma of the duck roasted by my relatives infiltrates my nostrils, a sense of togetherness is felt by all. Well, almost all.

“Let’s watch the fireworks together, Ann!”

My cousin’s attempt at beckoning me to join the others was left to no avail. My legs glued themselves against the hefty, chestnut dining room chair. I wanted to. I really did want to. But the togetherness of it all reminded me of the complete opposite. Loneliness. Emptiness. Impossible one might say. Yet the feeling of being in a room where you aren’t physically alone and still feeling lonely is another story. 

Even the roasted duck on my plate started to lose its succulent taste. 

If she was here, she would have told me…

I trudge myself to the back of the kitchen.

My fingers lace themselves on the neck of the bottle, pouring my fifth drink for the night. A sweet taste tingles from my lips all the way down to my throat. At least this bottle’s here to keep me company.

“Ca-be-rnet Sau-vig-non,” I read its label aloud. It’s a shame. When tonight’s fun ends and the bottle is empty, it would probably end up being tossed out. All alone, with nothing to look forward to in its future.

I don’t see much now either. My vision blurs out the marble-top kitchen island in front of me, decorated with bottles of alcohol for guests to indulge in. It used to be clear, though. With just enough space to prepare my favorite dishes. Well, when I used to prepare them. It had been a while since I touched the island. 

A voice pops up in my head. “Anna, you’re cutting the vegetables wrong!”

A small chuckle escapes my lips. I recall the time when I was first introduced to the kitchen and its appliances. My only source of knowledge about cooking was limited to the recipes I’ve read in cookbooks. Other than that, I had never stepped foot into the kitchen. From the age of seven, her hand guided mine, slowly chopping each carrot to be added to the fried rice for dinner. I remember the first burn mark left on my skin, even after she instructed me to be cautious. And the countless overly sweet desserts we conjured up together. Good times. 

Good times. Good-

Before I knew it, an hour or two of fireworks had passed. My eyelids flutter and I am met with the embraces from my relatives, concluding the rest of the evening. It’s funny how every year we celebrate new beginnings, when each new beginning also signifies a step closer to the end. 

As I bid my final goodbyes to the guests, I gravitate towards my living room window. It’s like the moon is watching me, its gentle aura providing a sense of comfort in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the celebration.

Happy New Year. I guess.

I take a sip of the Cabernet Sauvignon, enjoying every last sip I have left with the bottle.

1st March 2005

No matter how hard I try, it doesn’t seem to work. Particularly tonight. When I close my eyes, all I see is darkness. And with this darkness comes a looming sense of dread. Intangible as it is, its presence is enough to keep me awake at night. It whispers scenarios into my ear, the same bedtime story I hear at night. 

About the things I said yesterday. About the tasks left over from today. About the endless possibilities of tomorrow. About the time my loved ones and I have left on this Earth. A barrage of unwarranted information flooded my mind to its brim. 

What will tomorrow bring? Had I done enough to be able to close my eyes for the last time? Will this be our final goodbye, till our next lifetime? 

I don’t know, no one knows. And that’s the daunting part of it all. The unknown. What if there is no next time, only at the nothingness at the end of it? Will I be left alone in the arms of darkness or will my consciousness be void? Perhaps there will be a rebirth or a rendezvous in the afterlife? Regardless, it will all change.

I long for a second of silence. But how can one silence something that isn’t even there? What is there to silence? 

The only option is for my eyes to remain open. Only then the darkness can’t get to me.

There was a time when the noise was quieter. The brush of her hand against my forehead and the gentle hum of lullabies whisked my mind away into another land, one filled with security and reassurance.

I bury my face into my pillow, staining its silky cover. 

If she was here, she would have told me…

23rd October 2010

Feeling a bit down at the moment, but my brother has stopped by the house for dinner. Something to look forward to for the week, I guess. As the front door opens, my brother envelops me in a warm embrace. It has been a few months since he’s visited, for work has been taking up a huge portion of our lives for a while. 

I offered my brother a drink as he made his way to my velvet couch, switching on the television to browse for movies. Awkwardness filled the air at first since so much time had passed since we had last seen each other. Yet this lapse in time allowed for more stories, embarrassing moments and milestones to be exchanged between us. But of course, the bickering from childhood was left behind. It felt familiar, yet different. A change.

His eyes dart over to an old family photo, of relatives posed together in front of our house during Chinese New Year.

“You look just like mom when she was younger, Ann.”

I take a glance at the photo, for the first time in 30 years. 

My mother. There she was, her smile always seemed to light up the room, with her familiar silver moon-shaped pendant shining around her neck. Not a moment goes by where I don’t think about her presence; it continues to linger in my mind.

I don’t know what it was about my brother’s words that made me feel a bit lighter. Perhaps it felt like a part of my mother was still a part of me.

If she was here, she would have told me…

To take a break.

To let go of things that weren’t serving me.

To cherish those around me, while they’re here.

To enjoy the present, while it lasts.

That’s what she would’ve told me.

I sink deeper into the couch, as the movie begins to play in front of us. My eyelids gently drape over my pupils, without much thought this time.

Written by: Merissa

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