#2028 | (It’s been waiting for me)

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Mid flight – SIN-SFO/SFO-NYC

Here I am in transit at San Francisco Airport, waiting for my flight to New York, which will then propel me headfirst into a dream which has been a decade in the making. When I first said, at 18, that I’d move to New York some day, everyone dismissed it as the words of a young dreamer. At 23 I said again I would move there within five years and people were amused at the conviction of someone who could not possibly know what she was declaring. Occasionally I catch echoes of the same sentiment in myself, and know that I might have eye-rolled my 18-year-old self too. I have reminded myself many times over the last few years not to laugh off the airy dreams of younger girls. I hold the naïveté of hopefulness in both hands and blow on it.

But it is not New York the physical space that I seek but the heterotopias of my mind. I want to stand at the cross junctions of metropolitan chaos and watch it collide with the literary heartbeat of the city. I want to watch the ways a people can be both chained and set free by ideals. There are things I know I am looking for and things that I can sense but cannot yet name. I am starting at my dream school in my dream city and I cannot help but wonder if I have reached the dream version of myself that deserves these things yet? Probably not. And so I am excited but also nervous and afraid. But yet here I am in San Francisco Airport, waiting.

I know it may not be what I imagined; I know the New York in my head has formed out of half-impressions from a nostalgic age. I know it may not be all I’ve dreamed of. But the difference between that dream and my reality is what I find myself searching for. In that space between realities I will make my own. And then we shall see.

x
Jem

#2027| equality or fomo?

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If a marriage is a partnership then how is it that it is always the man who exerts himself jumping through loops and performing feats of love to win the hand of the woman, who is indeed a woman, and not chattel to be bought or haggled over –

Anyway I also proposed to Shane.

x
Jem

#2026 | Once upon a Friday

So many things have happened recently but here we are with a slice. Once upon a Friday I was busy being productive with my life, waking up early to work on script edits, going to the gym after TWO MONTHS of being out of commission (travel + work + shin splints and doctor’s orders) therefore nearly fainting post workout, heading to the hospital for two vaccination jabs, one on each arm (meningitis and influenza), and then heading to meet my girlfriend Georgina to bring her to a surprise dinner with the girls for her birthday.

Xiaoqi had booked a home dining omakase experience, which in my head translated to – it’s someone’s home, so it’s super chill. So naturally, I showed up with no makeup save for some smudged eyeliner from the gym which I got lazy to wipe off (it’s a ‘look’, i protested) and in an orange t shirt with sneakers, which explained G’s look when she gave me the once over and went:

You look… cute.

Anyway. I got us a grab to the secret address Xiaoqi sent me which turned out to be a three storey townhouse, and knocked on the door. When the door opened to a dining table which was completely unset, in my head I started thinking what an unprofessional dining experience this was because they were clearly not ready for our 8pm reservation and also this is why you make a booking at somewhere established aka Luke’s Oyster Bar or something because you wouldnt be caught in a situation like this on someone’s BIRTHDAY

While I was panicking (secretly texting xiaoqi WHERE ARE YOU WE ARE HERE AND CONFUSED), G started walking up the stairs and was like: Hey maybe it’s upstairs

And I went: Er G you cant do that i think this is actually someone’s house

G: No maybe dinner is upstairs

Me: No this is one of those home cooking experience things. You cant go upstairs!

And she just ignored me and started walking up anyway.

So I followed her up and the first thing I saw on level two was a couch and a side table with a gopro mounted on a little cardboard box labelled storis which is this engagement ring company in Singapore, and in my head I immediately went

FRED IS PROPOSING TO GEORGINA

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Exact moment of absolute horror

And

WHY DIDN’T ANYONE GIVE ME A HEADS UP?! STUPID BOYS

And I tried to block the gopro with my body so she wouldnt see it

SEE NOW I HAVE TO PLAY BY EAR AND IF I MESS UP THE PROPOSAL FOR HER IT WILL BE MY FAULT

And

SERIOUSLY, BOYS ARE SO STUPID ARE U KIDDING ME

G: What are you doing
Me: Nothing. I think this is part of the dining experience.

G stared at me like I was crazy.

G: Er.. okay. Shall we sit down?
Me: Erm

Then music started playing, and our friends started walking out. The problem is, G and I being so close, have the SAME CLOSE FRIENDS. And so I got kind of mad because

HOW COME EVERYONE KNOWS ABOUT THIS EXCEPT ME

All this time my face was trying to seriously play it cool because I didn’t want G to know I knew nothing about her proposal in case it bummed her out or something, but I was seriously cursing Fred in my head for being such a bozo.

It was only when I noticed they were wearing black shirts saying CREW and little red stickers going HELLO IM JEM and HELLO IM SHANE that i went

Oh. I guess I’m getting engaged!

So the moral of the story is I am not very smart.

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Featuring Xiaoqi as Shane, Fred as Me, and Georgina as host (she’s holding a little pocket camera, not using her phone hahaha)

It turned out Shane and written and staged a short six act immersive play with our closest friends, one act for each year of our relationship, a play which was in equal parts dramatic and ridiculous and hilarious and sad, which somehow managed to find the space to mock my Dota playing skills, as well as incorporate a mid-show break for me to go change into a gown they had rented + do my makeup and hair, something which, when I relayed to my girlfriend in the UK later on, caused her to breathe a sigh of relief and go: I respect that.

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Legitimately a whole journey

Act six saw me walking up to the rooftop alone, where Shane was waiting with a recreated scene inspired by our time in Ponza all those years ago, with Papa Americano playing in the background, so I guess that’s our song now. We had dinner (cooked by Roz, a near perfect recreation of the same pasta we had on a boat in ponza), and on the table was the theater programme booklet for Ortensia (the play), complete with playwright’s message, cast and crew, backstory, and script.

Kindly memorise your lines, Shane said, so I flipped to Act Six and saw:

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This is as good a time as any
, he said, and he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

Being the annoying person that I am, I said: See how lah, which is a very Singaporean way of saying yeah maybe lets see how it goes, also the same thing I said 6 years ago when he asked me to be his girlfriend.

And he went WOMAN can you stick to the script

And I said ok lah yes

And that is how we got engaged!

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Hehe.

The end, but also, the beginning. 🙂

x
Jem

*All pics here are screengrabs from a video that my friends took and Ian edited hehe.

#2025| Busy/ Not Busy

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It has been approximately two and a half weeks since I have been engaged. In this time what have I done, I have changed my phone’s LCD screen, I have watched a play (Three Fat Virgins Unassembled by Theatreworks, described as such – virginity is not a state of the hymen, but of the mind), I have aggressively karaoke-d and also crossed the border with my family to play laser tag. My mother has been revealed to have zero compunction shooting us all in the face, which was predictable, but not as predictable as her pre-game spiel on how family should keep peace and how can we expect mother to shoot daughter and husband to shoot wife. Tugging on the heartstrings of the guilty she has come out top in all games we played. I see you, mother. I see you.

In all days except the monday of this week I have seen my ex-boyfriend who is now my fiancé which is a thing i like to say to throw people off. But throwing people off is one thing; I feel also, like i have been unbalanced in the days after. For example I have been regarding the word Engaged with some kind of curiosity. Engaged when employed regularly means busy. Busy, occupied, unavailable – the meaning of that last one pivoted to mean also, betrothed. It is funny because the primary meaning of the word is the opposite of what i have been. Ever since i have entered the state of engagement I have been anything but busy. I have been sitting around reading and also doing a lot of oversleeping. I missed a whole week at the gym because excuses. I have been afraid of my email. I have had my hand grabbed and examined more times than ever in my life. I have forced myself to work but felt unable to form an emotional connection to my emails. Again with the emails. I have so many emails. I used to feel so attached to my email but now that the attachment to my ex-boyfriend-now-fiancé has increased it feels like the attachment to other things have decreased. I opened three good emails and one bad one this week, the rest were more or less neutral. It sounds like a positive ratio but I dont know. I should feel more engaged with my real life but I have instead been infected with lethargy. When I have the lethargy i also historically make space for paranoia. So now I worry about things like crossing the road and the BULLISH MARKET that my phone’s news alert told me about this morning and also about my water intake. The sum total is a plus because I am very happy to be engaged to one of the people i love. But it feels like a weird trade-off that now i suddenly worry about the birds that have gotten into the recent habit of shitting all over my office’s window ledge. The ledge has always been there but the birds have only discovered it recently. We put some spikes on the ledge but whether or not this will be effective remains to be seen.

x
Jem

#2024 | reading update 2

Reading update for Jan-Mar here.

In the last three months:

April

The Sun on my Head by Geovani Martins
A Map of Betrayal by Ha jin
We, the Survivors by Tash Aw
Critical Incidents by Lucie Whitehouse
Hotel World by Ali Smith
The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink
South and West by Joan Didion
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
The Changeling by Victor LaValle
This is going to hurt by Adam Kay
Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe
Broccoli and other tales of food love by Lara Vapnyar
Lanny by Max Porter
The Lonesome Bodybuilder

Book of the month | We, the Survivors by Tash Aw | This is going to hurt by Adam Kay

May


Not that Kind of Girl
by Lena Dunham
The Farm by Joanne Ramos
Suicide Club by Rachel Heng
Crazy Cat Lady
Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen
Your Duck is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg
A Free Life by Ha Jin
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Book of the month | My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

June

Inferior by Angela Saini
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
10 minutes and 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak
Lie with Me by Philippe Besson, Translated by Molly Ringwald
This is my family: New Singapore Plays Vol 2 by Checkpoint Theatre
How we Disappeared by Jing Jing Lee
Hereditary (Screenplay)
Insiduous (Screenplay)

Book of the month | Lie with me by Philippe Besson | How We Disappeared by Jing Jing Lee

I’ve read less than I’d like to – slower than I’d like to, essentially, but I have reasons.. !!

Reasons or excuses I suppose, depending on how you look at them. Regardless, hoping to turn this around in the second half of the year, which I am sure will be spent reading infinitely more.

x
Jem