Meeting below Streetlights at Midnight


I tiptoed towards the door with my hands unconsciously raised in front of myself as a zombie would. The carpet padding muted my footsteps, but then again, it was really unnecessary  as everyone in my household slept behind closed doors.

I opened the door, there was no creak, and soon I was no longer in  the comfort of my own home, but enjoying the chilly winds and the eerie but serene quiet of midnight.

I headed to where we were supposed to meet. At first I didn’t see her, but as I approached the meeting point, there was a figure sitting beside the bush. She was not obvious at first because she sat in the shade cast on the bush by the streetlamp. She dressed like how a mugger would; surreptitious black hoodie, black pants, black shoes, and with her hoodie drawn. Then I looked down at what I was wearing and felt guilty for passing that judgement, for I was wearing exactly the same thing.

I sat down quietly by her side. She was smoking, something I didn’t do myself because I didn’t approve of it.

“Hey,” she acknowledged me.

I replied her with the same word. I could smell the stench of cigarettes on her breath and instinctively twisted my mouth. She noticed and mumbled an apology and cautiously exhaled away from me before continuing, “Nice to see you, Ern.”

“I wish we didn’t have to meet like this every time.”

It was something I felt ever since the first meeting but the initial excitement from the mischief of doing something past my bedtime had faded and was eventually not enough to overwhelm the annoyance I felt from always having to meet her under the cover of darkness and at the hours when most living creatures slept.

“What’s wrong with the way we meet?” she asked nonchalantly, as if nothing was wrong, while exhaling smoke into the frosty night air.

I did not have a plan of how to confront her about all the things that were wrong with the way we were meeting, so I decided to drop the subject and change the topic instead. I asked her why she was dressed like that.

“Do you have a problem with how I dress, Ern?” She emphasized the word problem. Her tone suggested that she was not particularly fond of my constructive criticism about her dressing. She also said it without making eye contact, which made me flinch.

I was about to apologize, but before I could, she beat me to it.

“I’m sorry, Ern.” She said as she turned to me. “I’m just feeling a bit cranky now that’s all.”

I laughed nervously and told her I totally understood, although I did not understand in the slightest bit. She finished her cigarette and I watched as she tossed it into the drain-hole  that was set in the pavement. Littering was one of the reasons why I disapproved of smoking, but I kept my mouth shut.

“So, do you want to make out now or what?” She removed her hood, which revealed her beautiful mahogany brown curls, turning to face me once more.

The virgin within me perked up and began to scream at me, “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” But her cold demeanor had turned me off, and I was not particularly feeling in the mood to make out with her, especially with the stench of cigarettes fresh on her breath, along with all the worldly problems I was facing at that point in my life. I politely declined her, while the virgin within me began to hurl curse words at me that I did not even know myself.

I did not realize I was blankly staring at the ground with such intensity that could have bore a hole in the tar road until she jerked me by pulling my arm.

“Hey Ern, I may not have much practice at this, but I can tell that something’s bugging you. And I may not be the right person you want to share this with, but I think you should share it with someone. It’s not good to keep all those problems bottled up.”

When I made no move to reply, she continued, “Everyone has problems, Ern. And everyone deals with them differently. For me, I smoke, I steal, I get high. And I believe you don’t do any of those things, right?”

I shook my head, although she was not expecting a reply because she already continued talking.

“So, one way or another, you have to find some sort of stress relief. Those feelings you have inside you, those bottled-up problems, they’re going to eat away at you for every day that you don’t share them and don’t solve them. You’re going to be worrying about them day in and day out, then you can’t live your life to your fullest, with those burdens on your shoulder. Trust me, Ern, I know.”

I abandoned my mission to bore a hole in the tar road and looked up. There was truth in what she said, and she was also true at suspecting that she was not the one I wanted to confide in, so instead I mumbled a lame ‘thank you’ and gave her a weak smile.

“It’s chill. Always glad to help,” she chirped as she withdrew her pack from her jacket pocket. She held it out to me.


I gave her a face which made her laugh, piercing the tranquil silence of the night. I looked around in sudden panic, glancing down the road at my own home, looking  for lights in the windows.

“Relax, Ern,” she said coolly, as she breathed out a cloud of smoke.

I calmed down and resumed my hole-boring mission while she smoked beside me. We were from such different worlds, I thought. She respected my choice to not smoke by not exhaling in my direction, but I could smell the nicotine fumes which drifted rebelliously beyond her control. It was a disgusting smell. At first. But as the minutes ticked past in silence, the fumes got to my head, and I began to feel a numbing calm.

How weak, I scolded myself. Getting numb on secondhand smoke. Seriously, Ern, get it together.

Just then, I heard sounds of gravel rubbing on gravel. I glanced up just in time to see a black box truck approach us, headlights turned off, despite the time of the night. I recognized this truck. It belonged to one of Lynn’s friends. It also signaled the end of our meeting, the end to this unlikely overlapping of two very different human beings from two very different worlds.

“Got to go, Ern.”

I waved my hand in farewell.

“Take care,” she said, blowing a kiss in my direction before entering the back seat and shutting the door behind her.

I watched the truck crunch gravel as it drove off until it melted into the inky darkness. Then I sat on the pavement for a bit longer, appreciating everything the midnight hour had to give, until there was no trace of nicotine fumes and until my butt hurt. Then I got up and trudged home, feeling like a vessel without a soul, as I returned to my own world.

Meeting below Streetlights at Midnight

A Prompt that Went Entirely Awry

Present-day you meets 10-years-ago you for coffee.

Share with your younger self the most challenging thing, the most rewarding thing, and the most fun thing they have to look forward to.

I wouldn’t have a single nice thing to say to nine-year-old me. I will probably start out the conversation by telling him my current accomplishments and the situations I am now in. Then proceed to tell him the hell he is going to walk through in the next ten years to get to where I am. Call me mean, and brutally honest, but I call it tough love.

Perhaps I don’t want to spoil the surprises, however unpleasant, but I will warn him of the many things he will discover about life and how harsh it can be. Reflecting back on the past ten years, I realize there really is nothing to be grateful, or thankful, or optimistic about. Life just sucks. It’s a cycle of stress, disappointment, anger, hatred and irritation, which all culminates in death.

I feel like another walking contradiction. I feel proud of what I have accomplished and where I am, but if I were to be given another chance to do it, I don’t want to be where I am right now. I rather have my fun, take my risks, and lose it all. But then again I wonder if ten-years-in-the-future-me will reprimand me for doing so. Is fun and thrill worth it?

I guess I will never know, because I have never taken that road, and I cannot form an accurate comparison. My life is all about the regrets on the other path that I did not walk. Then again, I am proud of where I am now, thus I can’t really call them regrets, can I? Let’s call them objects of curiosity instead then. That’s much more accurate. How do you overcome this curiosity of wondering what would have happened if you walked the other path?

You can’t advise me to focus on the present, because I will always be curious. You can’t tell me to be grateful for what I have now, because I am not. The grass is always greener on the other side, in theory, and my imagination is a powerful thing. I always perceive the path I have not walked to be so much more rewarding.

If I am still being confusing, let’s phrase it this way. One path leads to safety and security. You are well-to-do, decently satisfied and achieved the minimum of what leads to a financially successful life. The other path leads to risk and adventure and thrill. You are exposed to strange things, experienced a great number of things, and perhaps have one great artistic talent, like singing, drawing, dancing or playing instruments. The future is very uncertain, though.

Oh, I just thought of a different way to phrase it which is much simpler. Comfort zone. Doh, why didn’t I think of that earlier!

I feel like I’m digressing so I’ll wrap it up here with a curious query: How do you dare to wander out of your comfort zone if you have so much to lose?

A Prompt that Went Entirely Awry

Why I Don’t Want Children

Today’s afternoon was a wet one. But it was the cold, soothing, stay-inside-and-nap-all-day kind of afternoon.The sound of the rain falling itself was enough to make the entire atmosphere peaceful and tranquil. It made me forget about time and made me just want to sit on the front step and stare at the rain together with my dad, and my dog.

Then my father said something that somewhat spoilt the mood. “I wish I can listen to this kind of rain all day.”

Of course, to anyone, this sounds completely innocent. But no one knew the suffering that my father goes through everyday. He has a condition called tinnitus, more commonly known as the “ringing of the ear” illness. He describes it as a high pitched screech that goes on and on and he’s the only one that can hear it. Kind of like a mosquito trapped behind your eardrum. He wishes to listen to rain all day because it can drown out the ringing.

He has other chronic conditions too. Consistent neck aches, scoliosis, numbness from the neck down, short-sightedness, poor memory, and so on. It pains me to see him wearing all the medication, ointment and various other things he uses. He says it comes naturally with old age, and there’s nothing I can do to prevent them. There’s no miracle food I can eat and no miracle life habit I can practice to prevent them from coming to me. It runs in the family, he says. My father had scoliosis, and so did his father, and probably the father before that too.

Surely with all the advanced technology and science, there must be some way around this? Like, extract the DNA that causes these ailments and vanquish them. Or produce a gene that counters aches and tinnitus. Someone could design nanorobots that help to promote blood circulation and prevent numbness. And let’s hope that these solutions do not cost me an arm, a leg and a kidney.

If they do, then I hope I live a short life so I’m spared from going through the suffering. Maybe I will commit the greatest sacrifice and save the rest of the Tan generation from suffering by choosing not to continue my lineage.

Yours faithfully, in support of birth control,


Why I Don’t Want Children

I am a Teenager

The problem with being a teenager.. is the ambiguity of it.

I ask you, can you define a teenager?

You would reply, someone around 18 years old.

Then what exactly does that mean? It doesn’t mean much would it?

People define adults as individuals who are able to think maturely and make correct decisions, by theory anyway.

Children are young and therefore may make wrong decisions. How many times have we seen a toddler do something wrong and people brush it off with “He’s just a child. He doesn’t know right from wrong.”

What about teenagers?

Teenagers… well… we call them young adults. Adults, in the sense that they are supposed to know how to make the right decisions. But young, suggests that they still don’t know right from wrong.

Now, I am a teenager. And when I make my decisions, I make it in the interest of myself. I know right from wrong, so my decisions aren’t amoral or against the law. But after I decide something, my parents would come along and yell.

“Fred! You’re supposed to consult us before you do anything! We are your parents!”

So I learn. And the next time I make a decision, I would delay and reply, “Let me ask my parents first.”

Then I get yelled at again.

“Fred! You’re eighteen! Almost an adult! Can’t you make decisions by yourself?!”

So now, I just sit and play dumb like a rock.

When people ask me anything, I reply “hmm.”

I am a Teenager

When your hard work is not even rewarded with kind words

Have a little faith
in me. Don’t you want to believe
in me? It’s all I ask for,

It can do wonders
to my self esteem,
which I never seem to have enough of.
The hurt, I can never begin to describe,
when you accuse me of lacking
discipline, knowledge, respect.

Because all I do have done,
I do did it to please


When your hard work is not even rewarded with kind words