equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
30 Jul 08

Randomness and Disconnection

So much to say in my head, but when I sit down, it all dis­ap­pears. It’s as if being in front of a blank page, with the all the pos­si­bil­i­ties before me, is cathar­sis enough.

Many things to do has left me with lit­tle time to write. A trip to Toronto for the long week­end means I have to make sure all my bat­ter­ies are charged (one for the dig­i­tal cam­era, two for the HD cam­corder, three sets for the flashes), and my mem­ory cards (two for the dig­i­tal cam­era, two for the HD cam­corder) are cleared.

Thunder has inter­rupted this post. I opened up the blinds to see the rain­fall, and the light from the street lamps has come spilling into the room. This makes me real­ize that the hot choco­late can­dle Shirley gave me for Christmas, along with the glare of my Macbook Pro screen, weren’t doing a great job of illu­mi­nat­ing my writ­ing nook. I had Thrice play­ing, but have turned it down so I can hear the sheets of water pour­ing through the street.

Got a bunch of stuff done tonight. While pick­ing up some gro­ceries, I was served by a book­ish girl with braces. She had a dis­tinct lisp, but car­ried on ebul­liently as if she had the most beau­ti­ful voice in the world. Later on, as I walked through the mall, I caught this Katherine-with-a-K slouched back in a seat in the food court, eat­ing din­ner with one arm in her lap. It reminded me of an entry I wrote about a girl doing the same thing six years ago. How I wish for that kind of peace and seren­ity. How long ago that was (uni­ver­sity!). How dif­fer­ent I was back then.

Been feel­ing very aloof lately. Not sure if it’s me, or some­thing my mind is doing to pro­tect itself. Maybe it’s a way of dis­con­nect­ing myself from the world. I must need it right now. This after­noon I was read­ing from a book of Tai Chi clas­sics Louise bought me, and found one part par­tic­u­larly fit­ting1: “Do not be con­cerned with form. Do not be con­cerned with the ways in which form man­i­fests. It is best to for­get your own exis­tence”.

  1. Listed as the first of the Eight Truths of Tai Chi. []
27 Jul 08

She Is The Water, I Am The Waves

Her waves

She is the light, I am the prism.

She is the words, I am the voice.

She is the viola string, I am the vibration.

She is the bud, I am the bloom.

She is the life, I am the living.

She is the heart, I am the pulse.

She is the medium, I am the message.

She is the water, I am the waves.

25 Jul 08

Tired of the Comfortable Stagnancy

I’m going through another phase where I’m tired of the com­fort­able stag­nancy I’ve cre­ated for myself. I need to throw my life into a bit of dis­or­der so I can fix it again.

So amongst the projects that have been occu­py­ing most of my time lately, I’ve started mak­ing plans to see friends I haven’t seen in a while. It’s about time for another long drive out to Toronto, a trip to John’s cot­tage, or play­ing host for dinner-and-a-movie-night.

There’s a dif­fer­ent sort of com­fort to be found in other peo­ple. It’s a dif­fer­ent voice, instead of the one in my head. A way of gain­ing some objec­tiv­ity. The key is find­ing right peo­ple. Fortunately, my friends all fit this category.

Maybe I’m try­ing to occupy myself, as a way to stop think­ing so much. Maybe I’m just crav­ing a change, because I think it’ll fill a lit­tle part of me that’s empty inside.

24 Jul 08

Restless Writer

I have 106 unpub­lished drafts in my database.

Things I don’t feel like say­ing. Parts of myself I’m not ready to reveal.

The writ­ten word has always been my medium of choice. Photography is only an exten­sion of that, when I need to express myself bet­ter than words can let me, and video goes one step further.

I used to be a ter­ri­ble writer. During a parent-teacher inter­view in grade 10, my his­tory teacher asked my par­ents when we came to Canada. They were quite embar­rassed to tell him that I was born here.

Aside from pick­ing up a use­ful word here and there, I’ve never made a con­scious effort to improve my writ­ing. The things I say are taken from my mem­o­ries, expe­ri­ences, and thoughts. How I say it is inspired by snip­pets of Nabokov (when I’m feel­ing lyri­cal or ver­bose), Cohen (when I’m feel­ing sad or roman­tic), Herbert (when I’m feel­ing dry), or Irving (when I’m feel­ing quirky or hon­est). The only way I’ve been able to gain any sem­blance of a writer is by mim­ic­k­ing to the best of my abil­ity the lyri­cal styles I enjoy the most.

Sometimes I won­der if I’ll ever stop. Writing is often a need, not a want. I do it when I’m feel­ing rest­less, when I have some­thing to say, when things are unset­tled, when I have things to fig­ure out. And the case most often is that life is filled with these moments. Perhaps if I ever find some sort of per­ma­nent seren­ity, I’ll be able to stop.

But I prob­a­bly wouldn’t want to.

22 Jul 08

Blood Work

Vial of blood

This lit­tle vial, along with a few drops of anti-coagulant, is filled with blood. My blood. I needed some for a pho­tog­ra­phy project I’m work­ing on, so I got a friend of mine in the med­ical indus­try to take it from me.

Now I’ve both fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally bled for my work.

20 Jul 08

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (In The Car)

When I was young, the only affec­tion my par­ents ever showed for each other was occa­sion­ally (maybe five times ever) hold­ing hands in the car. They never kissed, never hugged, never said “I love you”. Aside from sit­ting down to eat din­ner, their lives were com­pletely sep­a­rate. They wouldn’t even sleep in the same room.

Now that I have a car, hold­ing hands while dri­ving has come to define a rela­tion­ship for me. I leave my right hand on the shifter, tap­ping it to the beat of my music, but I always have this urge to hold someone’s hand, as if it’s some strange ideal I’ve never been able to experience.

17 Jul 08

Questioning Happiness

Last class, Mike asked how I was doing, and as a some­what phatic response, I told him I was doing well.

He told me, with a chuckle, that if he didn’t know me any bet­ter and went only by my writ­ings, he would imag­ine me to be like Joe Btfsplk, with a per­pet­ual rain cloud above my head.

So I went home and read through the last cou­ple pages of my entries, and found that they painted a some­what lugubri­ous picture.

I’ve always con­tended that hap­pi­ness is too hard to write. When I feel like express­ing myself, it’s often because of a prob­lem of some sort, inter­nal or exter­nal, that I need to fig­ure out. Writing has always been a way for me to get my thoughts in line, and off my chest. Not much of a peace­ful, detached, care-free Taoist, am I?

Perhaps I’ll always lead a Cohen-esque life, where love, sex, phi­los­o­phy, and depres­sion are the dom­i­nant themes.

The funny thing is that my life has improved tremen­dously after ther­apy. I used to be a very dark per­son. After gain­ing the sta­bil­ity of a house and a career, along with sep­a­ra­tion from my mother, not much else has changed. I’ve come to real­ize that it’s not so much the things in my life that’s improved in the last few years (aside from the strug­gle with anx­i­ety), as my atti­tude. To be hon­est, I have noth­ing to com­plain about.

That doesn’t change the fact that my entries have been some­what depressing.

Perhaps I’m still not truly happy yet.

Or per­haps I’m still not look­ing at things the right way.

16 Jul 08

Canada Day '08

Sarah looks up

Thumbnail: Cashew cookies
Thumbnail: Dog
Thumbnail: Peeling potatoes
Thumbnail: Orange juice in the grass
Thumbnail: Orange juice in the grass

For Canada’s 141st, Aaron had the reg­u­lar char­ac­ters over, along with some new faces, for the annual bar­be­cue. We stayed out­side this time, lawn chairs in a semi-circle while the burg­ers and dogs were being cooked, and took it easy while the sun bathed us.

It was a beau­ti­ful day; sunny, with a refresh­ing breeze blow­ing through the air.

I don’t get to do this often enough.

15 Jul 08

Every Sadness is Unique

Which is why we can never truly pre­pare our­selves. We may see it com­ing, we may under­stand why, but that never makes it any easier.

Every tear is an entity. An expres­sion that swells to escape our bodies.

Every day is a chance to heal.

14 Jul 08

Hello Neighbour

Nighttime condo

The blinds are open so I can see outside.

Secretly, I hope a face from one of the win­dows will appear and look out­side, some­one who’s think­ing the same thing, so that I may not be so alone. A way of com­fort­ing myself, when I’m by myself in this veneer of a house.

I’m not sure if it’s working.

12 Jul 08

Protected: The Wedding Loser

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11 Jul 08


If you beat a dog, don’t be sur­prised if he runs away.

—let­ter to my uncle, March 2008

When I was a child my mom would always ask me if I’d let her live in a nurs­ing home. She would do this as a form of reas­sur­ance, a way of address­ing her inse­cu­rity about dying alone. To Chinese peo­ple, this is a fate worse than death. I under­stand that there may be med­ical con­di­tions or other cir­cum­stances that make it imprac­ti­cal for a fam­ily mem­ber to live in your house, but that doesn’t change the fact that being put in a nurs­ing home is like wait­ing to die.

At the time, I was too young to under­stand the grav­ity of such a ques­tion, so I would always reas­sure her, no. Maybe I even loved her at that point, and meant it. But I’ve since cut off all ties with her, and after the divorce, she has no one left. Her rel­a­tives lead their own lives, and she’s never had enough of a per­son­al­ity to make any friends. I’ve lived with her long enough to under­stand what a hol­low, empty exis­tence she has.

Now I’m old enough to know that she’ll die alone.

And that it’ll be exactly what she deserves.

09 Jul 08

Be Still, My Heart

Muse side face

In the dark, our bod­ies fit like puz­zle pieces — face in neck, crest in val­ley, curve in curve. I’m com­pletely vul­ner­a­ble when she lets me love her like this. She brings my guard down.

It’s the way she makes me happy with­out try­ing. The way I’m filled with ten­der­ness every time I feel the warmth of her skin against mine. The way her exis­tence gives me hope for the rest of the world.

If I chose to fall back on old habits and kept my dis­tance to pro­tect myself, I wouldn’t know this inef­fa­ble feel­ing. I may get hurt, but it’s worth every moment I can be next to her.

Maybe she’s right, and I’ll feel dif­fer­ently by the time it’s nec­es­sary. Until then, there’s no use in fight­ing it.

Not that I let myself fall for her.

My heart never gave me a choice.

07 Jul 08

The Importance of Importance

I should really be in bed, but whatever.

Tonight I dug up a let­ter John sent me a few months ago after he hurt me like never before:

I’ve been read­ing your blog and call­ing you all weekend…I know you need atten­tion and I’m sorry I’ve been so neglect­ful of you that it’s reminded you of the way your par­ents treated you. Please stop con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide as a real­is­tic course of action in order to rem­edy the prob­lem. I love you and would really miss you and at the end of the day in a self­ish way I’m scared that I’d hate you if you left me here by myself feel­ing as guilty as I’d feel if you did it. I think you have fun­da­men­tally mis­or­dered the pri­or­i­ties we all come hard­wired with. To rank the absence of sad­ness or the pres­ence of hap­pi­ness or what­ever sui­cide would gain you as goals higher than sur­vival is the first error and then to seek those first goals using the method­ol­ogy of sui­cide is the sec­ond. You’re a lit­tle Chinese man who drinks fruit shakes and is def­i­nitely intended to live longer than the genet­i­cally pre­dis­posed to die in his early 50’s Caucasoid over here. Lets keep it that way shall we, I haven’t got your eulogy pol­ished to nearly the degree you’d want it to be.

At the time, I couldn’t get past the first few sen­tences because the pain was too fresh. And his words too poignant. Whereas I’m very vocal with my feel­ings, John is the oppo­site, and for him to say these things made me feel like my heart would burst. I read it tonight because I wanted to be reminded that I’m impor­tant to some­one, the way I need to be.

It made me real­ize that a lit­tle part of me still defines myself through oth­ers. But I don’t care any­more. I have some­one who loves and needs me the way I love and need him. That’s what mat­ters. That’s what makes me feel impor­tant, like my life means something.

Knowing this brings me a great deal of comfort.

And that will be enough to get me through.

(I won­der what he’ll say at my eulogy.)

06 Jul 08

Just a Spoke in the Wheel

Sometimes, life moves too fast for words.