equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
24 Nov 06

The Diary Under The Bed

On the 25th of September, at 11:04 am, my mom Googled my e-mail address, and found this blog.

She vis­its every day like clock­work; around 8:30 am when she gets into work, and some­times dur­ing lunch around 12:30 pm. Even though I told her never to con­tact me again, she con­tin­ues to check on me.

It’s some­thing I’ve known for a while now.

The exis­tence of this web­site was a secret I kept from my par­ents for as long as I could. I felt like I owed it to them to over­look my child­hood mem­o­ries because they stayed together for my sake, so I never wanted them to know this seem­ingly unrec­on­ciled side of me. When they told me they were get­ting divorced, I wrote an entry (that’s never been pub­lished) about how I stopped car­ing. It was their turn to start car­ing about me.

Of course, this was only true in theory.

To be hon­est, I was dev­as­tated. Bronwen likened it to her mom find­ing her diary under her bed, and I tend to agree with the analogy.

Chinese kids don’t talk to their par­ents about much. Even after being out of touch for a long time, par­ents will only ask whether they have enough money, whether they’re eat­ing enough, and how their marks are in school, if applicable.

The dis­cov­ery must have opened a can of worms. This is where I share my prob­lems. My inse­cu­ri­ties. My sex­ual expe­ri­ences. My past drug use. The bit­ter mem­o­ries of child­hood. On here, I’m no longer the dis­tant son they’ve known for 25 years. I’m open. Naked. Exposed.

Some were sur­prised that my mom would con­tinue read­ing my blog, believ­ing the things I say would be too painful for her to read. It makes sense though. This is the only way she can stay close to me.

So I have to ignore the entries in my server logs that con­stantly remind me of her pres­ence. I can’t let it affect the only place where I can write unre­stricted. I just have to let go, and con­tinue writ­ing. Damn the con­se­quence, as some­one once said. There’s noth­ing else I can do. After all, this is a pub­lic jour­nal. I have no right to com­plain about who comes here.

When you let go, you can write about anything.

20 Nov 06

Letter To An Ex-Girlfriend: Ashley

The lovin is a mess, what hap­pened to all of the feel­ing?
I thought it was for real; babies, rings and fools kneel­ing
And words of pledg­ing trust and life­times stretch­ing for­ever
So what went wrong? It was a lie, it crum­bled apart
Ghost fig­ures of past, present, future haunt­ing the heart

—Belle & Sebastian, Another Sunny Day

Our rela­tion­ship has always rep­re­sented the inno­cence of my youth.

The Friday nights, play­ing with can­dle wax in the dark, learn­ing how our bod­ies worked. Or the rush of worry and excite­ment about par­ents walk­ing in the door. Olfactory sense has come to mean a great deal in my rela­tion­ships. From those nights we made love with Beth’s voice com­ing through your tinny speak­ers, I get turned on when I lis­ten to Portishead.

I kept the bot­tle of Gap Earth you used, some­thing dear to me since it was dis­con­tin­ued. Every time I smell the noz­zle, it brings me back to the time we were together.

Out of all my other girl­friends, I thought you would be the one to end up in a D/s rela­tion­ship. I never real­ized it until my own intro­duc­tion to the lifestyle, but the things you did were the most nat­u­rally sub­mis­sive. The way you wanted to be tied up with our belts, the enjoy­ment you got from pain, your desire for me to be in con­trol, the way you would take my hands is yours so you could kiss my knuck­les. To this day, I won­der if you still like these things.

I’ve always tried to fig­ure out why I’m never sat­is­fied in my rela­tion­ships. It’s usu­ally not the fault of the peo­ple I date. Sometimes I blame my par­ents for their failed mar­riage, and how this has made me feel that’s it’s nec­es­sary to find the per­fect per­son so I don’t end up like them. Sometimes I think it’s because you were the first, and you came to define what was “right” or not.

Why then, did I break up with you?

I wish I could explain. I thought things would last, because you never hurt me in any way. In fact, you did noth­ing wrong. Maybe we were just too young. They say you shouldn’t marry the per­son you can live with, you should marry the per­son you can’t live without.

And I knew that I could live with­out you.

The Letter To An Ex-Girlfriend series

  1. Introduction
  2. Ashley
  3. Michele
  4. Christie
  5. Jackie
  6. Louise
  7. Bronwen
17 Nov 06

The House In The Day

A few pic­tures of my house, some­thing that’s become a sym­bol of my tran­si­tion into adult­hood. My next house project is get­ting enlarged prints of my pho­tos to hang around the house.

My brightly-lit breakfast nook

The first thing you see when walk­ing in the front door is the break­fast nook. It’s one of the best fea­tures of the house, espe­cially in the morn­ing. Even though it’s on the south side, it’s extremely bright and sunny. The win­dows face a major road, so I usu­ally have the blinds closed for a lit­tle pri­vacy, or open them when I’m feel­ing social.

Kitchen: stove view

Plenty of cupboards

There are two path­ways that lead into the kitchen: the break­fast nook on one side and the hall­way on the other. It’s a rather nar­row place, but there’s enough elbow room to do some aggres­sive cook­ing. Tons of cup­boards and plenty of table space keep every­thing tidy.

My dining area

I recently bought this din­ing set from EQ3. Most things from there are custom-made: I was allowed to chose the mate­r­ial and colour of the seats, as well as the metal fin­ish and diam­e­ter of the glass. The first thing I did when I bought the house, before I had things moved in, was to have a dim­mer switch installed here, and in the two bed­rooms. I had the entire area pro­fes­sion­ally painted a neu­tral beige for a café feel.

Living room: TV view

Living room: couch view

Trolley took most of the liv­ing room with him when he moved out, so I’m still look­ing for pieces. It’s the one part of the house I’m not sat­is­fied with yet. I’d like to pur­chase one more couch, and a book­case to clean up that shelf. In the future I’ll be blow­ing up a few of my pic­tures for the walls. The TV is hooked up to the dig­i­tal cable box, an HD DVD player, an HD Gamecube con­nec­tion, and a lap­top (which unfor­tu­nately doesn’t out­put DVI). The couch was also from EQ3, and the cof­fee table, prob­a­bly my favourite piece in the house, is from Zone.

Basement stairs

Main bathroom

One of the odd­i­ties of the house is the fact that the bed­rooms are in the base­ment. It really turns some home buy­ers off, but I didn’t mind. It’s nice to have some stairs; they act as a gen­eral par­ti­tion between the work and rest areas, and have come to define non-student liv­ing for me.

Guest room

Trolley used to be in this room. I haven’t decided what to do with it yet. I may turn it into a guest room, a photo stu­dio (which is doubt­ful, because of the red paint and how small it is), or a tai chi stu­dio. Most likely the for­mer, since it’s the only open-space large enough in the house for me to practice.

My room, bed view

My room, desk view

My room, mirror view

The bed­room is where I spend most of my time. It’s become a safety zone. The good thing about Ikea is that it’s so easy to match things in a set or series. I had the mir­rors installed soon after I bought the house, and they hide an entire wall closet.

These are some of the most tech­ni­cally dif­fi­cult pic­tures I’ve taken. A 1.6x field-of-view-crop-factor meant that I lost a lot of the wide end of my lens, and mixed light­ing con­di­tions made things espe­cially dif­fi­cult. I didn’t take pic­tures of the sec­ond bath­room or the laun­dry room. In the next series, I’ll get shots of the house at night.

The house changes it’s per­son­al­ity when it’s dark and moody.

13 Nov 06

Letter To An Ex-Girlfriend: Introduction

An ex e-mailed me out of the blue the other day. She blamed it on the fall weather, caus­ing her to rem­i­nisce and Google my name. We hadn’t seen or spo­ken to each other in over five years.

After feel­ing each other out for the first part of the exchange, we caught up on each oth­ers lives. She’s been mar­ried for three years. Moved out to Kingston after liv­ing through the pol­lu­tion and over-stimulation of down­town Toronto. She has a full-time job while work­ing toward her Master of Education part-time. Her husband’s an artist at heart, she says, try­ing to make a liv­ing off cre­ative writ­ing. No kids yet, but instead, two cats, Emily Wednesday and Shadow.

Me? I moved to Ottawa for uni­ver­sity, bought a house, recently got out of a rela­tion­ship, been work­ing as the mar­ket­ing and IT man­ager at a den­tal lab­o­ra­tory. Oh, and I have one cat, but I’m think­ing of a second.

There were some things I’d been mean­ing to ask her for a while. Going through a series of rela­tion­ships since ours has changed my per­spec­tive, and I’ve always won­dered whether she’s grown in this way as well. I put a few ques­tions to her, but she told me, in an ami­able way, that she wasn’t com­pletely com­fort­able indulging my curiosities.

What she had no prob­lem talk­ing about before was now taboo and off lim­its. Was she afraid of upset­ting her hus­band by dis­cussing such per­sonal things with an ex-boyfriend, or did she sim­ply change so much?

There are a lot of things I’d like to say to my ex-girlfriends, but the nature of a break-up can be that of ran­cor. Communication breaks down. People lose per­spec­tive. I’ve always had a tremen­dous need to express myself, per­haps to the detri­ment of my rela­tion­ships, but dig­ging up what’s past and buried for the sake clo­sure seems a bit self­ish. After hav­ing this ex tell me that she was uncom­fort­able, I real­ized that it may have been rather inap­pro­pri­ate of me.

It’s only here that I can say what I want.

The Letter To An Ex-Girlfriend series

  1. Introduction
  2. Ashley
  3. Michele
  4. Christie
  5. Jackie
  6. Louise
  7. Bronwen
10 Nov 06

Winter Transition

Thumbnail: U-Haul warning
Thumbnail: Shrimp appetizer
Thumbnail: I heart sluts sticker
Thumbnail: Make-up case
Thumbnail: Open shed
Thumbnail: Boxter logo
Thumbnail: Fallen roots
Thumbnail: Storage lockers

I had a dif­fer­ent entry planned out, but I have to write this instead. To get this feel­ing down before I lose it.

It’s hard to tell what the feel­ing is exactly. Happiness? Worry? Maybe a mix of both. I only know that I’m ner­vous, like I’m out on a limb, wait­ing for it to snap. Things have never gone this well for long.

Life has finally set­tled. I have the house to myself. I’m sin­gle. I don’t have to worry about what my par­ents do or think. I’m on a reg­u­lar sched­ule, with only Tai Chi lessons on Saturday morn­ings. Other than that, I fill my time how I please, which cur­rently involves a lot of Pikmin 2 and phone-calls with John or Bronwen.

With this new-found sta­bil­ity, I ven­ture into the out­side world to social­ize. A while ago I watched Fearless with Aaron. Pat and Jen treated me to din­ner and Borat last week. Sunday, I cooked Bronwen and her par­ents a Chinese lunch. Next Tuesday I’m going to the 2006 Legends Classic tour to catch up with Jeff, my old floor­mate from first year. Soon it’ll be Trolley’s house­warm­ing party, along with all the other hol­i­day events.

I’m ini­ti­at­ing every­thing. In the past, I would never be the one mak­ing plans.

Four years ago I wrote that guilty plea­sures aren’t so guilty any­more. I’m back to this feel­ing again. What a strange cycle. I’m start­ing to feel like I deserve to be happy.

So I play the songs that I usu­ally save for when I really need them. I lis­ten to my music louder. I sing at the top of my lungs. I dance in my room while iron­ing. I order things that are nor­mally too expen­sive for me when I eat out. I laugh a lit­tle more.

I can feel myself get­ting giddy again, but I have to ques­tion if it’s all a lit­tle fake. If it’s a mask for my ner­vous­ness. I prob­a­bly won’t be able to tell for a while, so I’m just try­ing to enjoy it.

Another tran­si­tionary phase.

06 Nov 06

Rebel Son

Rana pulled me aside the other day and told me, I under­stand your cul­ture now. I under­stand your deci­sion.

She elab­o­rated on a woman at work who had sent her daugh­ter to live in China. It was soon after the baby was born, and the grand­mother assumed respon­si­bil­ity of par­ent. The mother never went to visit, only send­ing money for her upbringing.

That day, the grand­mother and grand­daugh­ter came to work, hav­ing flown into Canada to visit. No one at work had seen the child, two years old now. The whole time, she was ner­vous and shy, clutch­ing the leg of her grand­mother. When the mother tried to hold her, she wouldn’t budge, only cry­ing the rau­cous, uncon­trolled, unin­hib­ited tears of a child.

Rana told me this with sur­prise and con­fu­sion in her face. It was hard for her to believe that any­one could do this to their baby. I wish I could say that I was surprised.

This child was too young to know bias or bit­ter­ness. She only knew what she felt, a being of pure emo­tion. The woman who was sup­posed to be her mother was no closer than a stranger, and for the first time, Rana was exposed to this.

I’ve always con­fided in Rana about my own rela­tion­ship with my par­ents. She’s one of the few who really care, ask­ing me if there’s been any news on a reg­u­lar basis, espe­cially since I cut all ties. We never argue, but she’s never fully agreed with me. She always tried to give me a mater­nal per­spec­tive, being a mother of three her­self. I’ve admit­ted that I don’t under­stand what it means to be a par­ent, but that day, she real­ized that she never under­stood what it means to be a child of the Chinese culture.

It’s cold. It’s mate­r­ial. Most Chinese par­ents can only express their love with money.

In this way, my par­ents showed me that they loved me. They prob­a­bly think they did the best they could, but as a child of the North American cul­ture, I felt noth­ing. I never knew what it was to be loved.

And Rana said, You were the one who rebelled against this.

03 Nov 06

Senators vs. Leafs '06

They call it the bat­tle for Ontario. The Ottawa Senators against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

One of the pub­lish­ers I deal with at work schmoozed me, along with Joel and Louise. We’ve given them a fair amount of busi­ness over the last lit­tle while, each of us involved in a dif­fer­ent part of the process, so he treated us to a Sens game. Even though my team (the Leafs) got pounced 7–2, it was still an excit­ing game; lots of end-to-end action, close penalty kills, and Heatly scored a hat-trick. The Leafs were sim­ply out-finessed. Great seats too. Coincidentally, we ran into Rockstar Jeff at the game.

Thumbnail: Me and Joel
Thumbnail: Hockey rink
Thumbnail: Rockstar Jeff
Full stadium

Eva Avila, this year’s win­ner of Canadian Idol, lead the national anthem. To my sur­prise, I was able to fol­low with the French, but it was all pho­netic. Something I learned in grade school, but never actu­ally understood.

It was a lit­tle dis­heart­en­ing to see how every­thing is so com­mer­cial­ized. Scotiabank place, VIA Rail goals (com­plete with train horn when some­one scores), Jubilee Timex time. Even Pizza Pizza spon­sors a free slice if the Sens win and score six goals or more.

There were prob­a­bly an even num­ber of Sens fans and than Leafs fans, but the lat­ter were def­i­nitely more vocal. Any Sens chants were drowned out. It’s easy to tell how gal­va­nized fans get in such a rivalry from com­ments I received on a pre­vi­ous post.

The best part was before the game even started. Master Corporal Paul Franklin from Edmonton, who lost both his legs in a sui­cide attack in Afghanistan, came to drop the cer­e­mo­nial first puck. They rolled out the red car­pet to cen­tre ice, and he hob­bled along with metal legs. Both sides of the rivalry cheered and clapped as one, louder than any other point in the night, proud of their sur­viv­ing soldier.

It was quite a poignant, misty-eyed moment.

30 Oct 06

Transparent Actions

We were watch­ing Boogie Nights, and in the movie, Scotty’s wasted at the New Year’s party. He tries to kiss Dirk, but Dirk throws him off. I asked her if she knew Scotty was gay. Until that point, I thought he never gave off any such sign.

Of course”, she said.

How could you tell?”. I had to ask, because I couldn’t tell. I’ve watched Boogie Nights with dozens of peo­ple before, and they’ve all asked if Scotty was gay before it even got to this scene. It must have been the 20th time I’ve seen this movie, but I still didn’t see what so many oth­ers did. My gay­dar can’t be that bad, I thought to myself.

Just from the way Scotty looks at Dirk all dreamy”.

Dreamy? So Scotty wasn’t being par­tic­u­larly flam­boy­ant, he was sim­ply attracted to Dirk. It was obvi­ous to every­one but me.

Then I recalled Pat telling me a few years ago that a cer­tain girl liked me. He didn’t have some kind of inside knowl­edge, he said he could tell just from the way she looked at me. I never believed him, of course, because I had no inkling of such an mes­sage. I never believed him until she gave me a writ­ten confession.

It made me won­der, am I that obliv­i­ous? More impor­tantly, do I ever give myself away, do I ever make myself so vul­ner­a­ble, with such a look?

It took me almost a year to be com­fort­able enough to pho­to­graph Jenn (let alone get­ting over being so tongue-tied around her), because I was afraid of being too trans­par­ent. I always thought that by ask­ing to take her pic­ture, every­one could see how attracted I was to her. I would go around Aaron’s par­ties and pho­to­graph any­one but her. Now I real­ize that in doing so, I prob­a­bly gave myself away.

It’s scary to think that peo­ple may read me so eas­ily from sub­con­scious body lan­guage. A girl­friend once said that her mom asked how she would feel if I asked her out, about a month before I did. To this day I won­der how her mom knew I would. All we did was have din­ner together on Sunday’s. Did I steal glances from across the table? Did I look away when she looked at me? Did I lose myself in her face and stare?

Am I that transparent?

I’d like to think that I can hide such things, but how can I when I don’t even rec­og­nize what it is I’m doing.

How can I hide my heart, when I don’t even know that I wear it on my sleeve?

27 Oct 06

My Cat Can Beg

Before giv­ing her food, I use to ask Dolly to shake or beg or give paw, and she’d lift one paw up (always her right one) for me. Now she’s asso­ci­ated the paw-lifting action with being fed, so she skips the step of me say­ing any­thing and auto­mat­i­cally does it.

She’ll do any­thing for food really.

23 Oct 06

An Intimate Morality


A voice calls me into the back from the wait­ing room.

As I get up, I notice that her eyes are dark against her fair skin, almost black. They’re pierc­ing, but gen­tle, never intim­i­dat­ing. Her face is kind and wel­com­ing, full of youth, like the younger sis­ter of your girlfriend.

I fol­low. Her hair is pulled back in a neat, braided pony­tail. Wrapped around the curves of her body is her den­tal gown, and she looks like a small, ster­ile pack­age of energy. She asks the usual ques­tions, speak­ing with unri­valed con­fi­dence. It’d be intim­i­dat­ing as well, if it wasn’t for the con­trol in her voice.

Even after I’m seated in the chair and the ultra­sonic scaler starts to whirr, I’m sur­pris­ingly calm. The unique buzzing, spin­ning, squirt­ing, suck­ing sounds begin their symphony.

She rests her fore­arm on my chest for lever­age as she works on the posteriors.

With her breasts pressed tightly against my head, she stays like this, com­fort­able in this posi­tion, as she cleans.

I start to won­der how appro­pri­ate it is, if any­one has ever spo­ken out. Or have they not had the heart, like me?

I feel objectified.

As she works, she makes one-sided small-talk, say­ing every word with con­vic­tion. With her tools in my mouth, I answer only in mum­bled pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives. She goes along the arch sys­tem­at­i­cally, molar to molar, lin­gual to buccal.

I want to see her eyes again, to take a closer look at what struck me first. To avoid mak­ing an obvi­ous, dart­ing glance, I pre­emp­tively look where her eyes will be soon as she fol­lows her pre­dictable path, and wait.

Her eyes arrive, and I look away. It’s too uncom­fort­able. I’m peer­ing into the world of another who’s dis­tracted, not return­ing my gaze.

Her phys­i­cal inti­macy was inno­cent, I assume.

Mine may have been less so.

20 Oct 06

The Gerry Project

Thumbnail: Gerry 1

Thumbnail: Gerry 2

This is Gerald, or Gerry as he prefers, an alum­nus of my high-school, Upper Canada College.

Gerry was born in Germany, but being a German-Jew, he soon moved to Holland in the years lead­ing up to the Second World War. “My father was rather pre­scient”, he put it. Eventually, he came to Canada. For four years, he attended UCC, grad­u­at­ing in 1940. I was in the class of ’99. After a year at uni­ver­sity, he vol­un­teered for mil­i­tary ser­vice at 19.

19?”, I asked in dis­be­lief. With a smile on his face, he told me, “You grow up fast”.

He began as a com­mis­sioned offi­cer for an artillery unit. Responsibility of the lives of many men under his com­mand was some­thing he didn’t want, but his knowl­edge of German, Dutch, and English moved him to a more prefer­able posi­tion as an inter­ro­ga­tion offi­cer. His supe­ri­ors would send him co-ordinates of intel­li­gence to gather, some­times behind German lines, some­times in a downed tank, and a pri­vate would drive him in a jeep to obtain the information.

He sur­vived.

From left to right, his medals are:

His proud­est accom­plish­ment is the Maltese cross he wears on his chest — The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, pre­sented by the Governor General her­self. Even though he’s a com­man­der of the order, sec­ond only to knights or dames, he’s extremely mod­est about it. The framed award pre­sented to him lies in a pile of assorted things in his bedroom.

I first met Gerry a few days ago, after find­ing out about him from the bi-annual newslet­ter pub­lished by UCC. The newslet­ter, called Old Times, is a way for alumni, called Old Boys, to keep track of the goings’ on at the College. There was an arti­cle about the school’s prized Victoria Cross medal col­lec­tion being pre­sented to the new Canadian War Museum here in Ottawa. These were the same medals I walked by in the front hall dis­play case every day at school, too young to appre­ci­ate their his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. Gerry was one of the vet­er­ans invited to attend the pre­sen­ta­tion ceremony.

However, my inter­est in Gerry stemmed from a dif­fer­ent sec­tion in the same issue of the newslet­ter, announc­ing a photo con­test open to all past and present stu­dents. The con­test seemed like a great project, not only as a way to prac­tice my pho­to­graphic skills, but to test myself as well. I would have to find a sub­ject related to the school in some way. Gerry, being an Ottawa-area Old Boy, was my clos­est con­nec­tion. Taking pic­tures of some­one, let alone some­one I had never met before, was a daunt­ing idea, and I would have to step out of my com­fort zone to do it.

After look­ing up his name in the phone­book and gath­er­ing up the courage, I called Gerry. He was happy to meet.

I’ll be sub­mit­ting the sec­ond photo.

Update: Here are the results of the project.

16 Oct 06

Mom Threw Out My Weed

The woman likes to clean.

I mean, I clean my house when I have guests, but every time she would visit, she could go over what I did and get things cleaner. Everything. Like hand-scrubbing the bath­tub. Or wash­ing the glass light-fixtures. Or maybe even to going through my freezer to throw out old frost-burned food and odd-looking, pungent-smelling dried herbs with red hairs in them, kept in an air-tight alu­minum jar.

Herbs you could roll in cig­a­rette fash­ion and smoke to alter your mood and change your per­spec­tive. About $70–$80 worth, kept in three dif­fer­ent Ziploc bags, each with a dif­fer­ent strain that I could choose when I felt that my tol­er­ance to one was build­ing up.

There was hydro from BC I bought off Matt. Some that John got for me, with a funny story behind how he acquired it. Some I don’t even remem­ber who gave me.

I won­der what the expres­sion was on her face if she smelled it, or how she would react if she ever found out that I did such things. I doubt she even knew what it was.

It was prob­a­bly for the best. Even though I quit, I never threw it out.

I don’t think I could bring myself to do it.

13 Oct 06

Dusting Myself Off Like I Just Stole Third

Thumbnail: Green tea ice cream
Thumbnail: Bronwen with Dolly
Thumbnail: Pumpkins for sale
Thumbnail: Bandit
Thumbnail: Quebec view
Thumbnail: Speciality sushi
Thumbnail: Autumn leaf
Thumbnail: Crab claws
Thumbnail: Sarah
Thumbnail: War memorial
Thumbnail: Spicy pork soup
Thumbnail: Olaf

More than a crazy week, I man­aged to sur­vive a crazy fort­night. Something went wrong almost every day, from get­ting my hair high­lighted, to almost get­ting killed in a near-miss car acci­dent, to find­ing out that my com­pany was bought out. On top of this, I kept los­ing sleep, which only expo­nen­ti­ated the stress. Now is the process of pick­ing myself up and dust­ing myself off.

I still feel over-stimulated, so I’ve been her­mi­tiz­ing. Staying away from peo­ple for a while. I’m lim­it­ing myself to one social inter­ac­tion or extra-curricular activ­ity per week. It would actu­ally be noth­ing if I had the option, but I keep get­ting pulled into things because of their annual exclu­siv­ity, such as Thanksgiving din­ner at Louise’s.

I’ve cut off the woman who gave birth to me. There’s a tremen­dous feel­ing of relief, after hav­ing done it. I’m grate­ful for all the sup­port that peo­ple are show­ing me, as well as the fact that none of them have given me advice as if they know more about the sit­u­a­tion or have more wis­dom than I do.

I hold Pat’s opin­ion in high­est regard because he’s the only one who under­stands from both a cul­tural and first-hand point-of-view. He was also the only one who told me, “Good for you”. This, from one of the most for­giv­ing, car­ing peo­ple that I know, con­firmed to me that I made the right decision.

John offered a unique per­spec­tive too, since los­ing his mother at a ten­der age. “You only get one”, he said, although he never chided or judged me about it, per­haps because of the num­ber of times I’ve called him up in tears because of her.

Of the last five times I’ve tried to play table ten­nis, things didn’t work out once. It cer­tainly made the last two weeks a lot more dif­fi­cult to handle.

Table ten­nis is the only thing that helps me sleep well, not to men­tion the fact exer­cise releases endor­phines that fight the exact depres­sion I was going through. I’m tak­ing it as a sign that I’m not meant to play at the moment, so I’m giv­ing it up until next year.

In the mean­time, I’ve taken up Tai Chi. Through the last while, I went back to the Tao Te Ching look­ing for answers, and it renewed my inter­est in Tai Chi, which I see as a phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of the the­ory. I was also able to clar­ify a few of the con­cepts with my uncles while they were here, so I’m read­ing things over with a fresh perspective.

10 Oct 06

Letter To My Mother

You didn’t know it, but for years I’ve come close to burn­ing the bridge with you. It was a heavy step to take, because in doing so, I knew that I would never be able to go back on such a dras­tic decision.

I appre­ci­ate all the finan­cial sup­port you’ve pro­vided. It’s been more than I can ask for. Unfortunately, what I wanted and needed the most was emo­tional support.

I’ve always played the role of the sub­mis­sive son. Your boy who’s always done what you wanted and agreed with what you said. When we exchanged tears on the phone in August, I let you know how poorly I was treated grow­ing up. I’ve always put up with it, but the way you acted last week was the straw that broke the camels back. I keep giv­ing you a chance, over and over. Seeing you over those few days was the last one. Even if you say now that you can change, the risk isn’t worth it. The poten­tial mis­ery, frus­tra­tion, and anguish you may cause me aren’t worth it.

Normally, I would be sen­si­tive about the tim­ing — the fresh divorce, the tran­si­tion — but I don’t care any­more. I’ve put my feel­ings aside my whole life. You pushed me too far, and now I have to con­sider myself.

Don’t con­tact me again. Not even if some­one dies. Any calls, mes­sages, e-mails will be ignored. This is not an easy or a brash deci­sion for me, a deci­sion I’ve made after cool­ing off and calm­ing down, but from my point of view it’s for the best.

You give me noth­ing but pain and money, and the money doesn’t mean a thing.

From now on, I don’t have a mother.

And you don’t have a son.

06 Oct 06

A Place To Stay

Thumbnail: Scratch sand 1

Thumbnail: Scratch sand 2

Gua sha, or sand scratch­ing, he calls it.

I’m already sob­bing. The cul­mi­na­tion of another week of stress and lack of sleep. One dis­ap­point­ment after another.

With the bowl of a porce­lain Chinese soup spoon, he scrapes the mus­cles along the back of my neck.

This causes rup­ture of the small sub-dermal cap­il­lar­ies (petechia) and may result in sub-cutaneous bruis­ing (ecchymosis).

According to Chinese med­ical prac­ti­tion­ers, the inter­nal tox­ins in the blood are released and cir­cu­la­tion is improved.

Before con­tin­u­ing down my shoul­ders, he rubs on some Vic’s VapoRub. It lubri­cates the process, cools the skin to ease the burn­ing dis­com­fort, a mix of east­ern and west­ern tech­niques. The patch he rubs turns a muddy mix of red and gar­net, and from this he tells me that I’m work­ing too hard. I have to look after myself bet­ter. Relax every day. Take an hour to exer­cise or walk. The first step to a healthy mind is a healthy body. The colour indi­cates that I have a lot of tox­ins built up in my body.

The darker it is, the more it’s sup­posed to hurt, but I feel nothing.

I take a sip from the mug that he hands me, full of pale yel­low liq­uid. It burns going down. Flavourless, but maybe that’s just the congestion.

It’s spicy”, I mum­ble, no longer speak­ing Chinese. It’s too much on my mind. I need to express myself with­out limitations.

It’s just ginger-water. If you can’t take it, you can add some sugar.”

I don’t reply. The unas­sum­ing con­sommé raises the inter­nal tem­per­a­ture, killing the sick air. To quell the spasms in my chest, I take slower, deeper breaths. It doesn’t work.

I admire you, uncle. One day I hope to be a father like you.”

He breathes a short but heavy sigh. I can tell that these words pain him more than any­thing else I’ve said. He tells me, in Chinese, “Uncle doesn’t make a lot of money. I make sure I spend a lot of time at home”.

I like you, uncle. I hope that no mat­ter what hap­pens, we can still be friends.”

No mat­ter what hap­pens, you’ll always have a place to stay with us in Hong Kong.”