The sun streaks through the exposed window, bathing the room in glorious brightness. I’ve always loved exposed windows, how unfettered and aesthetically clean they look. It’s a Saturday morning and the time is 8.45. She’s still in bed. I get freshened up, thinking about what exactly do I have in the refrigerator that I can make breakfast out of and just why I can’t grow a beard like Sam Beam.
I walk into our work room, pick out a Clientele record and put it on. ‘Isn’t Life Strange’ gradually swirls throughout the apartment. The water’s come to boil in the kitchen and I make my way there to put together my cup of coffee. I catch a whiff of it but leave it on the counter and open the refrigerator door. Some slices of bacon, eggs, leftover rocket, garlic butter and bread. Sandwiches it is. I fry up the bacon and eggs and start toasting the bread. The counter top is now bustling with food items and utensils. I pick up my cup of coffee and take a sip and I go back to the pan. She’s awake. She hugs me from the back and heads into the bathroom to freshen up. I finish up the fry and plate the sandwiches.
I pick up my cup of coffee, settle on the couch and take another sip. The record’s moved to ‘These Days Nothing But Sunshine’ now.
Everything I do today I do for the day above, that’s hopefully to come …
I have come to understand that society in some ways, was built on contradictions.
When I was a kid, I was served a pair of opposing philosophies to approach the larger world. Firstly that ‘good things come to those who wait’ and secondly, ‘if you want something, you have to go out there and get it’. Both were served in largely equal measures depending on the situation and what my parents perceived to be the most effective strategy to get me to shut up.
If I dragged that out to a more adult context, it would be me shutting my whining about not getting that girl because who knows, she could walk in through the door if you wait long enough (I have come to know this as being completely bollocks) and if you want that well-paying executive job, you have to get into the face of the interviewer and show them that you really want it (can backfire and make you look like sad try-hard sod). I grew up not quite understanding how each philosophy properly applies, except to know that neither has really worked for me, in almost equal measures.
Then again, if you scaled that back further, a middle class Asian upbringing is often filled with stacks of ridiculous contradictions. How our parents want to feed us well and gawk at our salad-chomping ways but then complain when we get too fat. Or how they want us to work hard to earn an honest living but nag when we have to work late to meet deadlines. It’s like trying to score against a constantly shifting goalpost and feeling like a loser when you don’t, which is most of the time.
But it got me thinking about the byproduct of these contradictions. What happens to the people who have been raised this way? What kind of an adult do they end up being? Can someone really be untouched by such perplexing parenting and if so, what does that say about the effects of rearing anyway? We might as well just leave a child to grow up in the corner of a room if that’s the case.
Perhaps this is one reason why we have people who are quite adept at missing the point of something. I have watched families slowly being put to sleep because the father pours himself completely into work so that he can provide for the family. I have seen romantic relationships end because one person decided that the other ‘loves them too much’. Or how about people who accept the wonderful terms of a gracious God for their wretched existence, only to turn around and judge another for being not good enough to accept those terms.
It’s tragic when these things happen, because it’s one thing to stride for something and fail in our efforts to, it’s another to be served the assessment that the reason why things did not pan out was because you were busy trying to make that very thing work. It’s somewhat insane and yet it is happening everyday at places that are near each and every one of us.
That is somehow so sad and incomprehensible to me …
That 10 seconds, it’s what separates love and apathy.
I used to have a habit of assigning value to superfluous things in a bid to obtain more meaning to my surroundings. In regards to the partner I wanted, I was certain that she would be absolutely perfect for me if she could sing ‘There’s a Light that Never Goes Out’ by heart (actually, in hindsight, this cannot be further from the truth).
With age I’ve gradually realised my folly, mainly that the heart-flutters you’ve reserved for your partner’s ability to karaoke Smiths classics quickly vanishes if they are unkind, vindictive and unreasonable. The truth is, we may dress our needs up in Salford Lads Club threads and train them to speak like dialogue from a Richard Linklater film but our based need to connect with another is really not based on the lyrics of ‘Here Comes Your Man’, no matter how much we think it is.
She affords me those 10 seconds. 10 seconds to gather my shoulder-drooped, scatterbrained thoughts over an issue. 10 seconds to rescind a gob-smacking decision before she sounds the red alert. 10 seconds to just breathe. I’ve never been a boot-to- door kind of guy. I do not rise to duress. I am the schmuck that needs 10 seconds to make the right decision, on just about anything. She gives me that. As such, for the first time in a relationship, I do not feel like I am the last rich cocky Chinese kid in a zombie yarn. It actually feels like I’m going to be around until the end.
I’ve actually taken an unnecessary rendezvous around the derriere of relationship junkyards and ended up back at the words of just about anyone’s mother, ‘Marry someone kind’. Actually it’s more than that for me, ‘Marry someone that gives you 10 seconds to be the best person you can be’.