Photo: Priscilla Du Preez
My earliest memories of involve lots of books strewn around the house. I suspect that it was my parents’ way of getting me to read. If it was, it definitely worked, and it’s probably the reason why I write for a living today.
Of course, after graduating from Enid Blyton and R.L. Stine, I found myself flipping through the Zig Ziglars, Dale Carnegies, and Napoleon Hills. As a sixteen-year-old, I never could relate to the lessons in those books, so for me, self-improvement was only something I’d read for fun.
But when I found myself alone and crying in Thailand more than a decade later, a snippet from How To Stop Worrying And Start Living popped right up from the recesses of my mind, like a piece of turd that refuses to be flushed down the toilet. It was a father’s letter to his son, and it went something like this:
Photo: Anthony Tran
All right I’m going to start this off my saying that I may or may not have depression. Let me explain.
I’ve never been a particularly happy person as far as I can remember. In fact, the last time I’d felt true joy was probably at the age of twelve. Then secondary school came and swept me off into the world of angst and darkness.
Photo: Kelly Sikkema
“I think we should break up.”
“Right,” I said. I slipped the paper rose I’d been hiding back into my pocket.
“I just want to be honest,” Lana said. She pointed out the main entrance of the shopping mall, where her new boyfriend was waiting in his car. “It’s just that he has… you know… and you don’t… you know…”
Money, she meant money. To be fair, it was one of the most honest breakups I’d ever had to endure. You had to give her credit for that.
“I get it,” I said. “Okay then. Guess I gotta go back to work.”
“You’re not mad?”
Mad? She’d been hanging out with this guy all week, told me he was just a friend she hadn’t met in a while, was breaking up with me for him, and they were heading off on a date right after this, while I’d have to spend the remaining hours of my shift dealing with customers trying to haggle a couple bucks off our pirated Playstation 2 games.
Photo: Remi Jacquaint
I’d like to think I have a universal face. That’s probably the reason why people tend to speak to me in their mother tongue at first meet. I’ve been mistaken for a Filipino, Thai, even Vietnamese, but I seldom get people speaking to me in Chinese, which actually makes up half of what I am.
As a result, what’s supposed to be just a transactional conversation often turns into a tactical decision. Should I continue speaking to them in Malay, or do I reply in Chinese and risk a follow-up conversation that I don’t have the energy for?