Tags Posts tagged with "EW19"

EW19

by Anonymous

(1st Place)

My mother was a beautiful woman in her day. Even today at the age of 60 you could see the remnants of her beauty on the curve of her smile and in the depth of her eyes. I tip toed into her room as quietly as I could, because she had yet again fallen asleep waiting for me to come home from work. Her unconquered silver curls wreathed her face and there was the familiar scent of lavender in the air. She always did love scented candles. I took a few minutes tonight just as any other night to sit by her side, just breathing with her. Inhale. Exhale. Thank god she was still alive. Thank god she made it through. It was in these moments that I took the time each day to just be grateful. I would close my eyes and tilt my head back on the rocking chair beside her bed, letting the memories come gushing out of the trembling cracks of my heart. It’s been 20 years since we left and yet even to this day I could not think of him without it breaking my heart a little each time. Salty drops welled in my eyes and I let them leave a trail to my ears. Thank god. Thank god.  

I was 10 years old when I watched my father, drag my mother’s curls on the floor along with her. Too young to understand whythe only emotion I could feel was paralyzing fear. I can still hear her screaming for me to look away, trying to protect me. This only seemed to anger him, how blasphemous to make him look like the villain. With his fury, his hand hit with a harder force, this time she crumbled to the floor with blood. It was a loud and ugly sound, like the cracking of a bullwhip or the tearing of a limb. Power and malice, those were his weapons and he made sure we never forgot. This was one of the harder days. And one I doubt I will ever forget. 

I got upchanged and washed up for prayer. And as usual I spent an extra few minutes in quiet meditation not sure how to put into words but hoping god would understand my confused mix of emotions. I hated him so deeply and yet my mother had asked me to understand him. And if I could not understand him, to not hate him. Because that would do me more good. Because maybe, just maybe that would unbind me from the shackles I put on myself – the constant rumination over the past. And while I’ve spent many a year trying to forget and forgive, I’ve just learned how to numb. The scars have fibrosed and yet they’re easily friable and comfortably numb, all at the same time. I needed to change. 

It’s not that I don’t want to change. Sometimes or rather for most of my life-  I’ve just felt like an old oak tree with my roots firmly projecting through the soil, twisting and turning and descending into the depths of the earth. I’ve tried to get help before but I guess as much as I had to admit it – I never had enough drive to change myself. After all it was easier staying in what I knew, what I was familiar in – the self-hateI didn’t need to change when I struggled with major depression in college, not when I know that my husband, Subhi – the kindest person I know and the one I love most after my mother hurts when he sees me hurt. But something’s changed recently. My husband doesn’t know yet, but I’ve known that I’ve been pregnant for 3 months now. And for the past 3 months I’ve been in therapy. 

Subhi has dreamt of fatherhood ever since he was a kid himself. He’d excitedly and somewhat embarrassedly describe the details of these dreams to me over breakfast, giggling and laughing over the dirty diapers and baby bottles of comically variable sizes and shapes. I’d fall in love with this version of him over and over again – with this twinkle in his eye, passionately describing the minute details so I wouldn’t miss out on anything. And while I knew he would never force me into anything, I also knew this was important to him. For me, the idea had not crossed my mind, while somewhat naïve I simply didn’t think the shell of a person I was, was capable of harboring another life. I was a nurse, I knew how this sounded. I would’ve scoffed and mocked if I heard it too. But to me and what I thought childhood was – I never wanted that for anyone else. I knew my husband was not made from the same cloth as my father and yet I was still afraid. It was not something I could explain. 

For as long as I can remember – I’ve lived in self-hate and deprecation. I made it a point to be kinder to everyone else– after all you never knew what kind of scars even the most normal seeming people harbor. But when it came to myself – every thought was laced with contempt and every accomplishment was subpar. The slightest thing could go wrong and even if it was beyond my control it was inadvertently my fault. I live on the 23rd floor and if I came home and found the elevator right at level 25 instead of level 1 where I need it to be somehow that would color my day useless and while I realize that is incredibly insignificant, these small things had more control over my day that I did. I still loved baby’s breath and big bright sunflowers and Mozart and movies about the high school geek finally one- upping the mean cheerleader. I laughed just as hard in class with my friends when we talk about the times we mimicked Hannah Montana episodes and I always kept my grades up. By all definition at least on the outside I was a normal person. What they don’t realize though is that when the laughter stops and I’m all alone I used to let the familiar creeping despair come out. I was comfortable in my shackles with weights bearing down on my shoulders. If I was falling too far, sometimes I would call a friend, asked for the warmth to ward it off atleast for a night longer. But part of me always knew that this wasn’t who I wanted to remain as.   

I’ve been in therapy for 3 months – that’s 2 months and 3 weeks longer than I’ve ever been in therapy before. I used to always stop when it started to get real. It’s been a terribly hard experience trying to gnaw at years of fibrous tissue that had grown over something that died when I was so young. At first I was skeptical and found it hard to talk openly about my past, but I’ve been changing. One the first sessions she asked me whether I had any hobbies that I had lost touch with. I talked about how I’d always loved painting skies and oceans with brilliantly bright colors. She gave me an assignment that day and I went home and painted for the first time in years. My mother and husband complimented the aquamarine waves and pink skies and that was it. A flooding feeling of goodness filled me. I was so engrossed in myself I had forgotten how to enjoy those small things. Not just on the surface but really truly enjoy them. My pregnancy was what made me want to change but what I’ve come to want to change not just for my loved ones but also for myself. I am, atleast I am trying to equip myself with the tools to deal with the pain and rebuild myself. It’s a small step  but I  no longer grimace when I come home from work and I see the elevator at 25, rather I’ve started to giggle at why that had bothered me so much for so long.  I’m not completely cured and I don’t know if I ever will be. I still cry when I think about those hard times but I’m also hopeful to reclaim my freedom from my own shackles. For what may be the first time in my life I was really trying and I don’t think I could be prouder. 

I got up from prayer and went straight to see if Subhi was still up. I found him watching Netflix on the couch. “I’m pregnant and I found out 3 months ago.” I blurt out with no thoughtSubhi got up and stared at me for a bit, walked up to me and gave me the warmest hug. “I started going to therapy again just when I found out, and I wanted to be in a better place when I told you this, I’m sorry for keeping it from you.” I tried to explain. “I love you.” He said. I smiled. And we both stayed up that night, stories that we had missed from each other’s lives spilling out, laughing and crying and unbelievably happy. Before we knew it the copper hues of morning peaked through our windows. Streaks of magenta and soft pinks danced on the porcelain sky spreading with it the start of a new dayAnd I knew, I was going to be alright. I was going to be just fine.

by Nor Najiha Zulkifli (ME218)

(2nd Place)

1.

I might sound like an ungrateful person, but my life is yet to be what I had hoped. I have a job and a boyfriend, Darren. And I was just promoted to assistant supermarket supervisor, it may not be glamorous but it pays the bills. And Darren is my modern prince charming. I still can’t believe we’re together. I won’t lie though, he has his dark side. And every day, I wake up with that feeling of hopelessness and despair. Like there’s something that I could, should be doing than checking supermarket stock.

Reminding myself I have this month’s rent and bills to pay, I swallow my unease and head towork in my car. What can I possibly do, I’m cornered.

All the while thinking of good thoughts, so that when I get to work I have a reason to smile.

 

2.

“Good morning!”, I greeted my cute favourite cashier, Minnie, fresh off of high school. A part-timer until she gets her college offer. She replies with a less cheerful manner than she used to.

“Anything to report today?”, I ask her. Thankfully I’ve worked up a smile, but greeted by a haunted look on her face, I can’t help but frown.

“All is good, and today I’ll stick around to help unload the cereal shipment this evening.”, replied Minnie hurriedly, muttering under her breath about something. Something she was not
supposed to tell me. She then left.

As soon as I turned around, I meet Julie Holden, my frenemy.

Okay, I’ve been dying to use this word.

My nemesis.

“Why, good morning, Dork.. I mean Ashley, the new assistant supervisor. So glad you’re on time to work today.”

I don’t know what she’s trying to say, I’ve never been late. And God, does she have to use my name that way?

“Good morning to you too, Julie.”

It took every fibre of my being to suppress all the rude and inappropriate things I really wanted to say to her. In the end, I settled with; “I would love to chat, but I’m waiting for a truck load of goods and I have preparations to do. So, if you would excuse me..”, with that I closed the door, trying to sound as obnoxious as possible.

I don’t understand why she would pick a bone with me. I did absolutely nothing wrong.

Or did I?

I first started as an ordinary cashier. After six months, Darren, who is also the Supermarket Manager, confessed his feelings to me and after that we started going out. Two weeks later, the
Supermarket Director promoted me from cashier to Junior Supervisor. Three months afterwards, I was Assistant Supervisor.

I asked Darren if he had anything to do with this. He said no, telling me how much I deserved the job more than anyone. So that was that, until.. I overheard Julie.

“Can you believe that woman?”

“Who?”

“Don’t play dumb. I’m talking about Dorkus. She’s such a sl**, she had eyes on Darren from the start.”

“But do you think Darren would let himself be used?”

“Oh sweetheart, you give men what they want and they stay at your feet.”

“God knows what she let Darren do ..”
That was when I had to defend myself. I came out of my hiding spot and tried to challenge her.

But, I had nothing to say.

Julie saw me and nudged her gossip mate, Carly. “Well, at least she heard it straight from me.”

She laughed and left the common room, with Carly right behind her.

Why did I freeze?

The answer was obvious.

She was right.

 

3.

I pushed the thought of Julie away and do my work.

During lunch time, Darren comes in.

“Hey babe. Wanna go out for lunch?”, casually he asks. He knocked on the door and went straight behind me. Wrapping his arms around my neck as he asks me out for lunch.

“I would love to …”, I stopped, a sudden thought occured to me.

Darren noticed and asks “There’s a ‘but’ coming along is there?”. He lets out a sigh and sits on my desk.

I didn’t like the look on his face. It was as if he regretted walking here, now forced to hear my ramblings when all he wanted was someone accompanying him for lunch.

This was one of his dark side.

But, I felt, no I knew this was important and I had to discuss it with him. I have been putting it off for so long.

“I wanna talk about us, it’s not what you think though,” choosing my words carefully, searching his face for any sign of worry.

“You see Julie has not been very happy with my promotion and she has started spreading rumours about me.”

Specifically about us.

“I know I’ve asked you this before but now I want you to be really honest with me,” His face was still unreadable.

“Did you do anything, I mean even a small recommendation to Mr. Charling of me for the position?” It took all of my energy, afraid I’ve stepped out of line with Darren to finally utter those
words. Fear had stopped me to confront Julie but I can’t possibly be afraid of a discussion with my own boyfriend.
Darren took his time. He got off my desk and instead leaned on it.

“Look, I’ve told you before and I am going to say it again. No.”

He gave me a stern look and began to walk out. Guess lunch was out of the window.

“Darren, wait!”, I got up and went out to him.

As we were face to face, I asked him to do something about Julie.

That was the last straw.

“What do you want me to do? First, you accused me of using my position to win you over and now you want me to deal with Julie. You know I have a lot more important things to do than babysit my staff?”, Darren snapped and stormed out.

He didn’t even care.

I heard him loud and clear.

 

4.

Darren wasn’t always like this. Or it was me who didn’t see the signs.

You see, I was never the popular kid neither was I the smart one. I was just … me. My name didn’t help but predefined who I was. A Dork.

School was a nightmare. No one took me seriously. Throughout the years, I just couldn’t wait to get out and finally be free to do whatever I want. I got through reassuring myself each day it was
the other kids that were holding me back and not me.

But now that I am where I am, who is in the blame?

My family?

My parents love me and so does my sister. They have always  pushed me to do greater things in life. But, they never understood my dreams.

So as soon as I graduated from college, taking some course I hardly benefited from, I moved to the city. A good four hours away from them.

So, when Darren told me he liked me. I went completely blind. I needed companionship. And I needed it bad. Friends from work warned me about him, but I didn’t care. I’ve been on my own for so long. Even if he turns out to be a jerk.

The cute guy likes me. I never said that before in my entire life.

 

5.

With the glooming telltale signs of a failing relationship, I focused on work, skipping lunch entirely.

At exactly 2:30 pm, the electronics shipment arrived. As assistant supervisor, I was in charge of making sure everything that we had ordered had arrived and was in good condition. And this was my first shipment. I had to make sure all was in order.

The cereal shipment had also arrived but I gave the task to my junior assistant, Carly.

Minnie was helping her out as she had told me this morning.

After making sure all was in order, I made my way back home. Sending off the rest of the work to the staff.

Just as I was leaving, Julie stops me. She was the Facilities Manager, she had no business here.

“Good night, Ashley. Make sure to get enough sleep,” I was prepared for a mean comment, but her greeting completely caught me off guard.

“Umm, you too. Julie,” was all I could muster.

Just when I thought life couldn’t get any worse. My car breaks down. I called for help and me and my car was towed to the nearest workshop.

The mechanic, Sam, says it’s probably a problem with the engine. Something I couldn’t understand and says it will be a few days to get done.

Wonderful!

“Your name and phone number, Miss?” Sam holds out a pen and notebook for me.

“There, thanks.”

Taking the notebook from me, he smirks. Letting out a stifled laugh.

“Excuse me, Miss Drakus? Am I saying this right?”

Yes, my name is a laughing stock. At school, I’m Ashley Dorkus.

Now that I’m an adult I have Julie to remind me of how lame I was.

One of the reasons I hate meeting new people. They’d laugh at my name.

“Drakus, that’s right. Just, just make sure to call when the car’s done”.

Without waiting for a reply, I rushed outside and called a cab.

 

6.

Home. Finally. Today had been so exhausting, not to mention I haven’t had anything to eat since breakfast. But, I didn’t feel like eating.

There was a hole in my stomach, all the events of today had completely shattered me.

Julie, Darren, my car.

Dorkus

Instead, I slowly made my way to my bedroom and sat on the floor.

I tried to stop it, but why?

It would feel so much better. So, I let myself cry.

It’s okay for big girls to cry, right?

What have I done to deserve this?

There’s nothing in this life worth living for. The job I got is because of a favour, despite Darren’s reassurance. Because who would want me?

Who?

After all this time, Darren doesn’t want me anymore. He finally sees me for what I’m really worth.

Even he sometimes jokingly calls me Dorkus even after I told him I didn’t like it. Better to shut my mouth than offend him. Better to shut up than to lose him.
I’ve abandoned my family for so long, they probably thought I died somewhere.
And maybe that is for the best.

I finally climbed into bed, pulling my knees to my shoulders into a fetal position. My favourite hobby nowadays. Wallowing in self pity, contemplating about my life.

Just when I thought I’ve run out of tears, more comes out all of a sudden.

When my tears dried, I sit up. Taking out my journal from under my pillow.

Ashley’s Journal is written in big block letters. A book I confide to whenever I am in my moods.

On the first page..

To-Do List

1. Become a journalist
2. Continue Grandpa Frankie’s fight

Grandpa Frankie. Franklin Dorcus. He is the sole reason I’m proud to have this name. He was a fighter till the end. He battled with his demons that were way worse than Julie. But most of all, he fought for what he believed in.

Back at his childhood home, a shoe manufacturing factory had been built. And everyone went from menial labour with measly pay to factory labour with a monthly pay. However, the factory
was cutting corners to maximize profits. The chemicals they were using were dangerous. My Grandpa Frankie knew it but nobody listened. He saw the factory workers’ health slowly deteriorate so he knew he had to take action. Fast. Everyone deserted him, saying he was crazy. In spite of his college degree, the townspeople labelled him an attention-seeker, just wanting to be part of the town’s gossip.

Grandpa Frankie was right all along. He died due to lung cancer, probably after all the exposure he got himself into a five-day protest he organized against the factory. He died with a smile however, for days before, the factory was finally shut down.

After that, I vowed to myself I would do just that. If I were to die, I will die fighting.

Reading my journal always gave me spirit. One reason to keep breathing was all I needed.

 

7.

The next day, I went to work as usual, well not as usual. My car was still in the shop, so I took the bus. At the parking lot, I saw Mr Charling’s car. Well, what a surprise. Usually, you’re afraid of your boss. Well, not me. I adore Mr Charling, he’s the greatest boss anyone could ever have. From the strength I’ve earned from Grandpa Frankie, I happily skip towards my office. Hoping to greet Mr Charling on the way.

Turns out I didn’t need to, he was already waiting for me.

“Good morning, Mr Charling!”, I greeted him with a smile. But as soon as I saw his face, I knew this was not a good morning.
He had a worried look on his face and when he saw me, it turned into a look of disbelief. Darren was in my office too. He avoided eye contact with me.

“Ashley, it’s been a while,” Mr Charling was referring to the last time we met.

“Yes, it has. How are you?” I asked, dreading the small talk as I knew there’s something to this morning meeting.

“I’m doing great, Ashley. Well, how about we skip the chit chat and great straight to the point.”

“You see yesterday’s shipping from Pansonic was supervised by you, I believe?”

“Yes sir. I’ve logged everything and every appliance was in good shape.”

“Yes, yes I read your log. But, there seem to be some discrepancy.” Mr Charling said hesitantly.

“Discrepancy? What do you mean?” I asked not understanding what was actually going on.

Mr Charling then looked at Darren, who then took the logbook where the details of the shipment was written down.

“The amount of appliances we ordered were different from what is in the store room. And yet, you didn’t notice this.” Darren explained, with a glazed expression, with almost a defeated look.
Saying there is no hope for Ashley.
Mr Charling then explained that last night, an unmarked grey truck was let into the loading bay by my access card. There were no plates on the truck and the men who came along with it were all wearing masks. They knew very well that there were cameras in the store room.
So it had to be an inside job.

And all fingers were pointing to me.

Mr Charling gave his ultimatum, either return everything and he won’t file a police report or go to jail. Either way, I had lost my job.

When I tried to explain that there has to be a mistake, he turned a deaf ear and stormed out.

Darren on the other hand, stayed around in the office. I started crying when Mr Charling left, but Darren just stood there at the corner of the room.

When I finally stopped, I looked up at him. He had his eyes fixed to the floor.

“Darren, do you actually believe this?”
“That I would steal?”. My eyes were still wet from crying, with blurry vision, I looked at him.

“Honestly, I don’t know. When I saw the imbalance, I was hoping you logged it wrong. If that was the case, I could’ve talked to Charling about your mistake.”

“Wait, you expected me to make a mistake?” I asked, my voice suddenly steady and an octave higher. Tears dried now.

“Y-yes, Ashley you’re not really fully trained yet for this kind of responsibility. You, .. truth is you got this job because of me,” finally he tells me the truth.

I couldn’t take anymore of all this nonsense, so I began walking out of the door. Not before Darren grabbed my hand.

“Hey, Ashley. If it isn’t you, then why don’t you take a few days off. To chill out.”

“And if it is me?”

“Then, I advise you to turn yourself in,” with a stern voice Darren replied. Without missing a beat, he continued, “And Ashley, you know what this means for us?”

“I’m sorry, for now you can keep your job, but I can’t have you as my girlfriend,” I was bracing myself for that. I didn’t expect the impact was this bad, though. Like my heart was ripped out and beaten with sticks then put back in. Only to be yanked out again. But unlike the situation
with Julie, I knew exactly what to say.
I took a deep breath and searching for my confident voice, I told him, “You know, our relationship was over the minute you lost your faith in me. Well, I lost my faith in you way before. So, goodbye. Darren.”

I planned on saying more but I was too wounded to stay any longer.

 

8.

A couple of days passed since disaster struck me. And still no word from Mr Charling or Darren.

Is this it? Will I be sent to jail for something I didn’t do? Will my freedom be taken away from me so forcefully?
Maybe, I should just admit I was involved and pay for the stolen appliances. Maybe even convince Mr Charling to let me keep my job.

And face Darren again? No way.

Lie out of this problem? What would Grandpa Frankie think of that?

He fought for truth, and I’ll do the same.

I took out my laptop and began searching.

Time to relive my dream of writing. I signed myself up for a writing course at a college. I had enough money in my savings to keep me afloat.

Truth will prevail. I had faith in that.

Just as I was finishing up, my phone rang. Unexpectedly, I rushed immediately towards it hoping it was Mr Charling. At this point, Darren calling wouldn’t be so bad either. But whoever was calling was not in my contacts. Turns out my car is ready. Well, hooray.. At least something in my life is repairable. Calling a cab, I rush over. I needed the fresh air anyways.

“Hi, I’m here for my car,” I was pointed to the desk at the back of the shop.

There was no one there, so I rang the bell on the desk. Then came a man in overalls, dark-skinned but quite handsome. Great, with Darren gone I’m a free woman and do whatever I want. Or be with whoever I choose.

“Hi, I’m here to get my car,” I told him. On his overall, he had his name patch. Michael.

He took out a clipboard and asked for my name.

“Ashley,”

“And .. a last name?”

Of course, time for some humour.

“Drakus. Ashley Drakus,” he gave me a puzzled look.

“Drakus, for real?”, he said while instructing another worker to my car.

“Yes, no need to hold back. Go on, laugh but can I just please get my car back.”

“No, I wasn’t about to laugh, it’s such an unusual name,” he said, giving me a smile that would’ve melted my heart if I weren’t facing possible jail time.

As Michael opened his mouth to continue talking, Sam came in with my car. I paid and left. Not wanting to hear any hurtful comments about my name.

Although, on the way back, I couldn’t help but replay Michael’s smile in my mind.

 

9.

After a whole week of silence, I finally showed up to work on Monday. To beg for my job? Hell no! To own up? Neither. I wanted to know what exactly was the evidence they had against me.

The only thing tying me with the crime was my access card that I had lost a week before the robbery took place. I had also reported this to Julie. She was in charge of access and security, could she be responsible?

I had my own problems to worry about and blaming somebody else without proof would do no help at all. Mr Charling realised this too so handed the situation over to the police. I gave my
statement and after further investigations, they had no other proof or motive to prosecute me.

So, I was off the hook. Officially by the police.

I only found out months later who the real culprit was. Someone I least expected. Minnie. She claimed to be forced by her boyfriend to gain access into the storeroom. She was a good girl so I believed her. I could only hope that the police would believe her too.

The next day, I went to Mr Charling with a resignation letter. He understood the ordeal I have been through, apologizing for accusing me. Stating, the job was open if I were to change my mind. But I’ve made my decision.

I’m destined to do more and this event has opened my eyes. While I’m battling with bullies and thieves, constrained by fear and a feeling of incompetence, people are actually hurting and
dying with no one to help them. Battling with diseases and corrupt governments. They are the ones who are truly imprisoned. I should be the one to help them. I am Franklin Drakus’ granddaughter after all.

So, the first small step I would take is to apply for a writing course I’ve been dreaming of. And afterwards, obtain a job as a journalist at that magazine company that focuses on stories of famine and environmental issues. Writing about these events would definitely help to spread the news of such real-life horror in a modern sophisticated world we live in today.

That is what I should be doing.

 

10.

Exiting the supermarket, I went to the sidewalk to get a hot dog.

As I was leaving, a familiar face came by.

“Ashley?”

“Umm..,” was all I could muster.

“I’m Michael, the mechanic from the other day,” he extended his hand towards me and I took it.

He ordered a hot dog and I silently prayed that there’s more to this chance encounter.

He got his food and we started walking together in no particular destination.

“So, how’s the car?”

“Well, I had a great mechanic. So it’ll live,” he laughed at my remark.

Something like a child’s laughter that was somehow very pleasant to my ears.
We found a bench and sat down. I finished my hot dog and so did he.

“I’m really glad we met, I feel like I’ve offended you,” he turned to face me. I gave him a puzzled look.

“What do you mean? We’ve only met,”

“Yeah, it’s your name. It’s unique,”

Here it comes. In that split second, I made a solemn promise to myself, if he makes a witty remark of my name, I’m leaving no matter how cute he is.

“Drakus, do you know what that means?”

“Umm, no not really,”

“Drakus, prince of dragons. Well, in your case the Dragon Princess. I bet you’ve been through a lot to gain that title.”

“Well, as a matter of fact..”

And so I told him the recent events that led to my resignation. He sat, listening patiently to everything I say.

Then it was his turn to tell me how life had been for him. Racism hit him hard back home, and in a way we had something in common. He had to work hard to open the workshop, not to mention cut the stereotypic chains people had against him. Having a darker skin than anyone else has labelled him a criminal, simply because of statistics. It’s not in the genes, just that they were poor and forced into that title.

Trapped in a world that has already predefined us as who we are supposed to be, not who we want to be. Breaking free from those chains would take a lot of effort and courage. Not to mention the fear of being wrong. What happens when we are destined to be what everyone tells us to be? What happens if our dreams are too far to reach? That they were right all along. Well, if it is too high to jump, grow wings and fly. If things go south, turn to the other pole.

If my name destined me to be a dork, then so be it. Sitting there with Michael made me realise no matter what I’m destined to be, I am always free to be happy.

 

NOTES

Inspired by:

My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.”

– Adlai Stevenson (31st Governor of Illinois and United Nations ambassador 1961-1965)

 

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes”

– Mahatma Gandhi


Dork

informal : a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair, etc.

by Jumana Shahid (FIS119)

Humans are odd beings. They are social creatures yet they have a tendency towards rather toxic relationships. Society is very toxic in itself. It creates these norms that it enforces onto its people. Like a queen bee with her workers, a hive mind of a sort. The biggest example of how toxic society can be is best shown through its reaction to homosexuals. 

My father was a nice man. He was smart, nice looking and respectful, in short, he was a good catch. Since he lived in the 1960s, he never was truly himself. My pops was so deep in the closet, that it took my dad forever to get him. Though he did have a good reason for being so worried, after all, being gay meant harsh criticism. It means being forcefully taken to a church to be purified, or being tortured by everyone around him with little things. His parents, my grandparents were homophobic themselves so I understood why he was the way he was. I always felt miserable when I thought about the hardships that my parents had to face because they happened to love each other. 

My dad was a bit luckier than my pops. He too was gay however his conditions were better. My dad is horrible at keeping secrets, you’d know within seconds if he was hiding something. Its why we never tell him if we were planning a surprise party for my father. Long story short, his parents already realized that their son was gay. It took them a few days to deal with the surprise but they decided that they loved their son more than letting other’s hurt him for his preferences. When dad brought pops over, my grans already knew that they were looking at their future son in law. The stories they told me were hilarious really. 

They hid their relationship and lived together for years. They lived like this until they heard that gay marriage was made legal in Denmark, 1989. That year, in December, on their anniversary, my dad took my pops to Denmark, with the blessing of his parents. They were one of the first couples to get legally married. When my pop’s parents found out, they rejected him and renounced him from their family. It broke my pop’s heart but didn’t really affect him too badly. Everyone knew it was going to happen eventually.  

Eventually they decided that they wanted a child. A friend of theirs’s was the surrogate. Pops volunteered his sperm for the job. That ended up with my birth. I loved them and they loved me. They had full custody of me and I loved my life with them. It was all warm and soft.  

Time passed by, I reached high school and eventually graduated as an honor student, my parents where one of the loudest people there. All three of us went on all the LGBT marches and campaigned for more rights for people like my parents. It was all going so great. 

This was when I learned that not all good things last forever. The LGBT supporters started to change, they started to turn rather toxic really, kind of like the society that they resented which didn’t support them. See my parents are gay, I have no problem with homosexuals, transgenders, bisexuals or anyone. I was straight though, I preferred women. My parents knew this and had no issues with it, we joked around a lot about these things. Other people though weren’t too happy with this. 

They started to say that I was gay. Like because my parents where gay, I had no other choice but to be gay myself. I had to start telling people that no, I am not gay, I am straight, I very much like women. If I say this, they then say that I am homophobic. I always answer back that I am not, that I am very much proud of my parents. Then they circle back to calling me gay again. It was a vicious cycle. 

I lost many of my friends like that, including my girlfriend. I was going to propose to her but my so-called friend went behind my back and convinced her that I was gay. That I was just using her to hide it. I don’t know why she believed it but she did and she broke up with me to be with him. 

I never hid things from my parents, I always told them everything. I told them from the first-time people started to try and force me to be gay to by friend and girlfriend betraying me. It took me years to realize it but I started to notice how my parents started to distance themselves from me. How my pops would sometimes flinch when I tell them my frustrations with people calling me gay. How my dad would narrow his eyes and get annoyed with our talks. 

I had thought that my parents would always have my back, I never realized that they would be influenced by those so-called supporters of LGBT and start to hate me. I stopped telling them things when I realized this. I kept doing my best to improve our relationship but things never changed. Eventually things escalated. What broke the camel’s back was a child of my parents’ close friend. Apparently, he had a crush on me and asked me out when his family and mine where having dinner. I rejected him and told him that I was not gay. I rejected him as gently as I could. His parents for some reason got really angry and began to should at me. Calling me a homophobe and the such. They were supposed LGBT supporters as well. When I looked at my parents for help, my pops flinched and looked away while my dad got angry and told them to leave. After escorting them out, my dad shouted at me. They agreed with that couple and rejected me as well. 

Now days, I live by myself, working instead of finishing university. I had no money so I had to support myself. I think about my life when I am alone. What exactly did I do wrong? I loved my parents dearly and fought beside them to give them freedom to love each other legally. However why was I not given the same freedom that we fought for? I may be straight but never once have I acted homophobic against people. I still check up on my parents, send them money when they need it, making sure that they don’t realize it is me sending it. They still stick to that toxic crowd of people who fight not for LGBT rights but LGBT empowerment.  

Freedom to love someone is a right that belongs to every human in my opinion. You love your parents, you love your siblings, you love your friends, you love your spouse. There are many different kinds of love; eros, agape, philia, storge and many more. It shouldn’t matter who you love. If a woman loves a woman or a man loves a man. Or even if a man loves a woman. We all should have this freedom.  

In my life now, I celebrate 5 things, my parents’ anniversary, all three of our birthdays and the day that I was ousted from my family. I celebrate all 5 by getting drunk and crying myself dry. I am stuck with this label of a homophobe for some reason and I have admittedly been harming myself as well. Who knows, maybe a few says after this, there will be a newspaper headline of a homophobic man who committed suicide. Maybe I am getting ahead of myself, I probably wont even make it into the news. I hope they don’t see it if I do end up there. 

by Sarah Z. Virani (ME118)

(3rd Place)

I could feel the wind rushing past my face, the birds whistling, the ground crunching and sweat trickling down my back. My breathing, initially erratic was now more controlled as I trudged along. I took another moment to take in the area we had covered and made a mental snapshot. My heart skipped – it looked like somebody had painted the earth in all these wonderful colours. No matter how many times I stopped to look at the view, I never tired of it. The hills stood gracefully, with maize plants growing at various levels and carving steps on them. The water of the lake glistened reflecting the beautiful blue sky, streaked with cotton-wool clouds. The branches of the trees swayed giving breeze scented with the fruits they yielded. I wished I could plant my feet into the ground and stand there forever. I felt on top of the world. I’d hiked such a great distance, I’d reached a point where I was as close to freedom as I’d ever hoped.  

My whole life I craved to find the one thing where I could lose myself, empty my mind and come back feeling renewed. Being a girl from a conservative family, it was difficult for me to be as adventurous and my thoughts wanted me to. My brother would travel with the school on treks, while I’d stay home because it was “better” for me. It really didn’t sit well with my heart and I longed for an escape.  

I got my chance a few years ago to spend a day hiking in the jungle and my experience was absolutely breathtaking. I felt like I’d found my wings – they’d been hiding in my feet all this time, itching to stretch out. Suddenly I found myself hiking every other Sunday and every time I came back, my wings felt stronger and my heart lighter. Every peak I conquered, pushed me to climb a steeper one and gave me a new perspective on the world around me. Every time I thought the I knew a place, seeing it from a different angle, opened up a whole new world. Every time I came back down I felt changed. I’d go back to my normal life, but I never forgot the world up there.  

Fears, I’d never known I had, erased themselves. I learnt to trust my instincts because nature gave me clarity that the city silenced. I let go of the negative thoughts that made me insecure and my worries about my life. As a hiked, I let the sounds of the leaves calm my mind and the sound of feet hitting the ground create a soothing rhythm. I allowed nature to take control of what I could not and seemed to fly higher. Flying higher meant I’d come back down even faster, with more power and energy to deal with my problems.  

The world is so beautiful. Sometimes we’re going through a really tough time and you really wish something significant would change in your life. But sometimes, we have to make that change. We have to put ourselves out there because, as cliche as it sounds, after every hard climb there is freedom and there most definitely is the most incredible view. So, fly so high your troubles can’t reach you. 

by Joslyn Chua Hao Min (DT119)

Run, run, run and you will be free,

Away from yourself, you should be.

It’s then you never have to see

The monster that is after thee.

 

But you just could not resist

To not see the things, you miss;

You always turn to your list

Thinking that it is pure bliss.

 

Oh dear, why not be at ease?

Why, put yourself through all these,

when you can do as you please?

 

Oh my, how dare you?

When the only thing you do,

Is use the bloody loo.

 

Fine then, you do you.

Just don’t call for rescue,

When you are no longer your value

by Chia Peang Hui (NT119)

In its abstract form, calmly it goes. 

It is something I would like to feel,  

to hold and to have. 

As it gives calamity to me, 

saying everything is fine. 

 

Longed to be in my real self,  

when I can laugh and cry without anyone telling me when to, 

please don’t force me with something,  

somehow it gave me uneasiness. 

Let millions and billions of them fly at their own pace should be better.  

 

Eager to retrieve the right of helping people in need. 

Only if it is not camouflaged by something else beneath it. 

Shouldn’t it be misused as an advantage, 

in this relationship of trust. 

I claim it as my right to help. 

 

Hoping to be an honored child of the great motherland. 

The land greatly matured richness of everywhere and our successful home. 

I know my home. 

It might not be the best, 

yet it is the land I freely trust and love. 

Standing on this land, I am a child with the right to hope. 

And I am free on the land. 

 

My dream for this happily ever after, 

The name is freedom. 

The idea to live on with my sparkle and will, what makes it so difficult? 

by Chua Teck Kwang (FIS119)

If a doctor is interviewed for his perceptions towards the word ‘freedom’, the doctor probably would define freedom as the entitlement to receive medical treatment in the time of needs. A chemist would define freedom as the permission for random interactions between humans just like the reaction between an acid and a base that would form the elixir of life, the water! A physicist would describe freedom as the axis of a graph that gives meaning to a graph and thus, freedom is the very fundamental component that grants meanings to our life. A biologist may depict freedom using the motion of our skeletal muscles. It contracts and relaxes which bans the human from doing something and allows human doing certain things. An activist lawyer may see freedom as the acts of fulfilling one’s whim without crossing the boarders of law. A politician may flowerily describe freedom as the ultimate enjoyment of the electorates who have experienced a better standard of living under his or her political coalition. As a result, people from all walks of life mirror a myriad of definitions towards freedom.

Freedom comes in varies forms and definitions which sometimes, they can be tangible yet intangible. The actions of penning my thoughts into words and, you, the reader who perhaps, are sitting on a chair and reading my words now, are enjoying certain forms of freedoms. Freedom to think, freedom to read, freedom to express and so much more freedoms, we are enjoying them at this present moment. Freedom can go from complexities to simplicities, but, this utmost privilege that we are enjoying now, seems to ensue the footstep of its father, humanity. After freedom experienced the grief of losing its father, it is diagnosed with life-threatening cancer, developed from inmorality, the one lump that once thought to be a benign tumor. The proverbial saying, to err is human, to forgive is divine, is no longer relevant to our society. Humans make mistake but they do not realize. So, freedom becomes the one who bears the repercussions. More often than not, the repercussions are carcinogenic and devastating until freedom is now seriously sick and has to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Freedom is the love crystal between humanity and morality. Humanity and morality have so much common grounds and thus, freedom has inherited that from its parents as well. A breach in humanity and morality damages freedom and humans have been persistently, unfailingly and determinedly to provoke a breach in humanity and morality. Humans now are becoming more and more self-centered, placing mankind itself in depth of chaos. Humanity and morality have yield to the evil and the daily fresh local newspapers have substantiated this. Hardly a day passes without the headlines on the unprecedented crime rates. Heinous and cruel crimes are prevailing nowadays, territorializing the headlines of the local dailies. Freedom is deeply gnawed and worried, but it cannot do anything. It grants the people the rights to do things as they are entitled to, if the rule of law is abided by. In this time of adversities, people do not atone for their mistakes yet, they shift the blame squarely on the rules and regulations.

Humans forget that rules and regulations are the best friends of freedom. The true foe of freedom is Draconian rules, the rules that are deemed unacceptable and have no rooms in the modern-day society. However, humans’ irresponsible crime-doings have welcomed the Draconian rules to descend upon the society. Humans excel in logical thinking, however, failed to think logically on the ways to preserve freedom. In this case, let us spilt humans into the good doers and the bad doers. When the number of perpetrators of crimes increases, the more inmates the society have in the prisons. Prisons are merely an infringement of rights towards physical freedom while the true effect is, when the infringement of physical freedom no longer serves as a platform to deter the perpetrators, the lawmakers would not

hesitate to promulgate a new set of harsh law to deter the would-be criminals. So, both the good people and the bad people are affected. No one is the victor, but humans are the losers.

God creates humans to naturally embrace diversities, challenges and eventually to love peace, but in the sea of unconsciousness of human hearts, there are also the presence of innumerable desires. Having desires are not wrong, however, humans have become more and more self-righteous as well as selfish. Thus, the internal peace could not be attained by humans, resulting the erosion of freedom of minds. Humans may be seemed physically freed, but they are held captive in their mentality instead. Consequently, to fulfill that bloated desires, human have stopped yearning for principles and virtues. Instead, humans yearn for false imagery and only see things as they see fit. The strength of immorality has grown as humans departed from reality of their own volition, craving for more desires to be fulfilled. Speaking of the strengthening of immorality, cancer in freedom has reached the last stage or commonly known as the fourth stage, where the demise of freedom is almost an inevitability.

Freedom can no longer sustain its form if it does not receive treatments properly and will soon face its demise. The only magic pill that can rejuvenate freedom is doing a post-mortem on freedom. During the post-mortem, perhaps humans will find mankind itself has been deluded by desires and climbing staircase of sins that are responsible for the death of freedom. A post-mortem may be conducted but not necessarily be conducted because there are throngs of people who do not realize the demise of freedom and have forgotten to attend the funeral wake of freedom.

by Shazna Ahamed (PS118)

In the end
I won’t make sense
To anyone.

I’m just there
Floating between people
Not belonging
To anyone
Anything
Floating like the clouds
Over spaces
Places
The folds and creases
Of clothes
Hung on lines
I’ll lie free in empty palaces
In its paint-peeling glory
And the last remnants
Of its flag
Flying
Dilapidated but strong
Majestic
Free.

I’ll be a black man
Amongst a sea
Of white-skinned speakers
A concrete well standing
In the centre of
Well-groomed flowers
The flowers die
The speakers’ words die
Leaving the black man behind
And the concrete well
Resilient
Amidst thunderstorms
And heatwaves
And rains
And snow
Uncracked
Life-holding
Standing like the black man
No flower could break it
No word could destroy him.

I’ll be a woman
I’ll be a refugee
I’ll be anything
You want me to be
But
I’ll always come back
I’ll break the chains
Throttling my neck
Piercing hard
Into my heart
Shards of glass
Trying to strip away
My dignity
But I’ll come back
Standing strong
Standing free
Fearless
Against the words you speak
The guns you hold
The stereotypes
That speak for you

I’ll come back
Again and again
I’ll be free
And not an inch of you
Will ever be able
To cage me.

I’m not the caged bird.