the loneliness of public holidays

October 1st, 2020

its mid autumn. meaning this is the day when people go back to celebrate the holiday together as a family. its like the chinese xmas or thanksgiving. i was trying to get a foot massage today, because i have been running so much lately but all the foot massage places were under capacity, because everyone went back home. and when it was finally my turn, she asked how long i wanted the massage for, and then i realized i was standing between her and her family dinner. which made me feel bad, a little. for her and for myself.

as i left the foot massage place, the streets were empty, and most restaurants were empty. i realized it would be awkward for me to have dinner by myself, even more so than usual. i generally have no issue with this, not anymore, at least, but tonight, it is hard not to feel like a loser, or being concerned that maybe people will look at you as a loser. i went to this japanese small hole in the wall that serves amazing fried pork, and it was almost empty as i got in. it was still happy hour. i got a glass of umeshu that was strong and sweet, being exactly what i needed. i took a few sips, and my body started to feel warm. next to me was a couple, speaking mandarin. i was the only person by himself in the restaurant. but the food was good. i tried to eat slowly, tried to enjoy my food. the miso soup was warm and flavorful and gave me some comfort.

walking home, the streets were quiet, the lights were yellow and seemed like they had seen it all. like they have been around forever, shining their lights on our existence. in the bars, some foreigners. peel street, a handful of expats. at some point, i found myself strangely drawing nearer towards a couple that was ordering a bubble tea, and i realized i was doing that just so i could get close to another human being. i stopped myself. and i slowly started walking home.

on the way home, i usually go through square street. but suddenly i remembered, this one time i went through there, i bumped into celia, on her way to her family dinner. and suddenly i imagined a scenario where i again bumped into her, and we make small talk, her gesturing to me she is on her way to family dinner whereas i tell her i had dinner already, secretly and silently hoping she would not ask any further. so … instead i took a bit of a detour so i would not run into her. and took a turn at a dark and damp alley instead on my way back home.

sitting in the park, suddenly, a text from alison. asking how my day was. im touched. but im also thinking, do i tell her how i feel? or do i pretend im ok? i feel like ive already given her so much baggage. and im afraid she will find me annoying, or emo, or that she might even think less of me. but i remind myself i promised to be honest, so i write that i feel a little bit lonely because its a public holiday where you are supposed to have dinner with your family, but that i enjoy the book im reading. sitting in a park.

the sky is clear. some clouds. through the twisting banyan trees.

it’s been over four years. every public holiday is like this. survive is my middle name. im back home, in my quiet apartment, im going to make myself a warm cup of tea. and i am about to survive yet another public holiday.

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book and sword : gratitude and revenge

is the first novel written by Jin Yong. The protagonist is Chan Ka Lok, who is the leader of the Red Flower Society. The book title refers to Ka Lok being famous for being well-versed in culture and martial arts, but also for having to make a difficult ethical decision. My father named me and my brother after him.

The subtitle is from a poem Desiderata