Struggles of the Daily Peak Hour Commuter

It’s a long line, a wait that seemed never ending. Dare I say, there were over a hundred of these zombie-like beings, waiting eagerly, with sunken faces and clouded eyes. Everyone had somewhere to be, some place to rush off to for a long day and it was becoming a fairly excruciating wait.

I was one with these band of zombies. I, too, was mirroring their exact facial expressions. I, too, could use a little bit more light in my eyes. But it was not going to be easy.

How do you look for the optimism in the daily struggles of the average man?

How do you find it upon yourself to break into a smile, although subtle and more so of a hint than the actual smile, when you look around and see the faces of the disgruntled, peak hour, commuter?

Although I was pissed at the long line I was a part of, this early morning, I soon realised that everyone else would be just as pissed as I was, if not more. I consoled myself into thinking, these people probably had bigger struggles to deal with. I was blessed in the fact that the situation I am in, was a situation that I could avoid, should I really wish to.

I had a choice.

I feel that many of my fellow queue monsters, did not.

I could be wrong.

But that is the kind of thought process one would go through, as one waits eagerly for the highly anticipated ride to roll up.

And then, a low rumbling noise and the soft screech sound of the brakes, interrupted my idle thoughts, as our bus finally came up to the berth. Those of us who were far from the designated queue of the berth could only look in disappointment as the others began boarding the all too small, single carriage bus.

Tampines_Bus_Interchange

Could the transport providers not provide a bendy bus (double carriage) during this extremely busy period?

We watched as the line that was moving fast upon the arrival of the bus, began to move in the slowest of pace, signalling that many in the front of the line, had chosen to skip boarding this already full bus, for a guaranteed seating on the next.

While the rest of  us in the back, who had barely scrapped into the alumimium barriers that marked the line for the bus route, could only sigh and pray that the next bus the providers send out, was going to fit the rest of us.

It was 8:15am and I was going to be late.

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Childhood

To see a world in a grain of sand

And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

― William Blake, Auguries of Innocence 

When do we lose our innocence? When does wonder and amazement cease to exist?

Remember those warm sunny Sundays spent frolicking in the green grass, without a care in the world?

Growing up, I would not say I was sheltered, but my parents provided an excellent environment for me to discover new things and grow. Yes, they were very strict parents, but they only reprimanded me for the things that I did, that may shape my future character in an unpleasing way.

I was a tomboyish girl in my younger years (still am to a certain extent). My first true play mate was my elder brother. Hence, that may explain the more boyish activities I was exposed to.

In Primary School, I found that the boys in my class were the ones who knew the games I was used to playing. Thus, it was only natural that I made friends with them and with that, spent my recess, gobbling down food as fast as I could, so that a game of “Rounders” could ensue.

Other times, the boys and I would sneak into the “Science Garden” and got ourselves a couple of tadpoles to keep, or spiders to “battle” with others’.

My Ummi would never get angry that I brought home those tadpoles or spiders. But, she would freak out when the tadpoles started turning into little frogs. She would demand that I release the frogs, but in those moments, the little girl in me would freak out and say “No!”, for as a girl, frogs will always be disgusting.

Since my family resides in the northeast of Singapore, while all my other relatives were in the southeast, my brother and I would rely on each other for games and company. Our imagination was admirable and would have been the envy of many children of the 90s (or naughties).

We were superheroes, long haul bus drivers, and GLADIATORS. We used to have “wars” between our rooms, all for territory sake, territory here, being the last chicken wing at dinner or control of the remote for a certain amount of time.

My brother also instilled a great sense of adventure in me. When we each got our first bicycles, the first thing we did was ride them to the furthest point away from home, which was permitted by Ummi.

Some 6 kilometres away from our home, we would set up a picnic of snacks and drinks to toast our adventure.

It was in these adventures with my brother that I discovered many things. I found out that rain water is okay to drink, when you are stranded in a thunderstorm, in a gazebo, in the middle of a park, 3 kilometres away from home, with nary a drop of water, to quench your ever growing thirst.

But the most valuable lesson I learnt from these adventures was, that my brother, although a typical elder brother that bullies his younger sister, would protect me from harm’s way should the need ever arise, no matter how minor the harm may be, in this case, a stray tabby cat.

Childhood is when simple pleasures and endless discoveries were bountiful. When life is made easy and love was free of judgements.

Why did we all have to grow up? Growing up means, leaving your childlike wonders and discoveries behind you.

As adults, we pretend our way through life. Although it is perfectly acceptable for a child to say that he does not know something, the same does not apply for an adult. As we age, we become more ashamed if we were not to understand something.

Plus, our perception of life changes as we grow up. Life experiences, education and circumstances cloud our judgements and hinder us from exploring new paths and ideals. It is in growing up that we realise, the simplest of an act, is made more complicated by the games that we, adults, play.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.

― William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

My two cents. What is yours?

P.S My love for the works of great romantics is rooted from being a romantic myself. Expect quotes from works by Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron, amongst others, from time to time. Weren’t they brilliant?

Starry, Starry Night

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2009

It was a still winter night. Nothing was stirring outside, except for the passing of the odd car, every hour or so.

She sits, alone, in the dim kitchen of her apartment, her hands wrapped around her coffee cup, while her eyes were fixed on the sparkling stars in the night sky.

Her thoughts took her back to the year before.

Her life, then, was a stark difference from the one she was living, today. The once sunny disposition that she was always complimented on has since been replaced by that of a recluse. And, she had no one to blame except herself.

2008

Their big city dream was soon to be realised. She was starting her stint in an advertising house, pitching ideas to the big corporations that want to stay relevant, while he was going to embark on his lucrative legal career as a Junior Partner, in one of the more prominent firms.

They were set to move in to their new apartment in the city. The hired movers were already on their way with the stuff, that both she and he have deemed important, for the big move.

Things were at their best and she could not have asked for anything more.

They settled quickly into their new lives. Each making friends at their respective work and soon they were falling into the patterned steps of every twenty something in the big city.

Breakfast. Commute. Work. Lunch Meetings. Clock out. Dinner and Drinks with Friends. Repeat.

Weekends were for sleeping in and meeting friends for lunch. After a quick day out in the city, it was home before regrouping for a night on the town. Repeat.

Before long, weeks were quickly turning into months and they were finding themselves engulfed in plans within their own respective circles.

She would attend work events until late and he would be cooped in the office with his team, preparing for the big case. Both coming home, too tired to strike a conversation with the other. Take Outs and Microwaveable dinners. Repeat.

It was around their ninth month in the city that she began to really feel the distance in their relationship. His usually happy face was slowly being replaced by a perpetual frown, and nothing she said, or did, could get him to crack a smile.

The once loving embrace that he used to greet her with, after a long day at work, was being replaced with a barely audible “hello”, followed by a quick shuffle into the bedroom they shared.

This has been the case for weeks now. But, he was not entirely to be blamed. She was partly at fault, as well.

When she had to deal with a haughty client at work, she would take her pent up frustrations back with her, unfairly taking it out on him. She felt guilty over it, always, and vowed silently to make it up to him over the weekend. However, things started building up. She became drowned in the rat race, as did he. Before long, those supposed “make up” weekends, were nothing but a distant thought.

Over time, the unconditional love that they once shared was slowly dissipating and, although, both realises it, neither was doing anything to fix it. The strain in their relationship was becoming irreparable.

He, in turn, sought comfort with a fellow junior partner in his firm. She understood exactly what he was going through, in the firm, and how it was affecting his personal life. She gave him sound advice, where he needed them the most.

She was his refuge and the relationship began to take on a more serious form. Yet, he knew deep inside that he could not act on his feelings for her, as he knew that he had made a promise, long ago. A promise that he will stay, no matter how challenging the city life was going to be, he would stay for them.

But, she changed! How dare she change!? How can she forget their promise to stick it out until the end? Their promise of staying together, no matter what challenges the city life throws at them? She changed. Why did she have to change?

It frustrates him that he was still bound to his small town love, bound by a promise. He blames his inner small town boy for feeling guilty at even the thought of breaking things off with her.

Even if he was doing relatively well in his career, he tried to not let it take over his personality. He left the Lawyer in him at the office. At least he tried to, in the beginning. Until he started to notice that she was not making a conscious effort, anymore. He tried talking to her about it on numerous occasions, only to be dismissed abruptly by her curt response every time.

She was his small town love. They mapped out their future perfectly; he did not want to believe that things have changed. His small town love had changed so drastically. She was no longer the sweet innocent girl who shared in his happiness and sorrows.

She was turning to be like all the other big city women. The ones who chased their dreams (of which was perfectly fine by him), at the expense of hurting the ones close to them (which was his actual gripe), without having a second thought at the results of their actions.

He had to leave.

One afternoon, while she was at work, he packed his stuffs and had them moved to a friend’s. The apartment was bare of his belongings; the only things left were the things they owned as a couple. He did not want those. He wanted her to have them.

He left his suitcase by the door, and sat on the worn armchair that held so many memories for them. He waited for her to come home.
An hour later, she came in, with that look of defeat he was all too familiar with, now.

He talked, she cried. He kept silent, stood up and fought the urge to run to her and comfort her cries. She screamed, ran up to him and began banging her fist on his chest, before collapsing on the floor in a sobbing mess.

“I’m Sorry”

The last thing he said before picking his suitcase up and leaving.

2009

She looked back on that night, a month ago.

She had just gotten news that an advertising campaign she headed was ill received. As a result, many influential companies were pulling out from signing with the firm she was working with, causing a substantial loss.

She was told to leave.

It was the worst day in her career. She rushed home to seek comfort in him, only to be dealt with a heavier blow, when she did.

He was tired of their charade and wanted out. He fell out of love with her and had sought comfort with another.

She never felt so alone. She had no one in the big city who was truly a friend. All her colleagues, that she had thought were her friends, abandoned her the moment she was dismissed.

She spent the past weeks in a stupor. Unsure of what was reality and what was a dream. The only time she went out of their apartment, was to buy more alcohol to help numb the crippling pain, inside of her.

At times, her heart felt so heavy, that she could not even begin to take a deep breath. Her painful weeping was muffled only by the pillow that once had his scent.

It was on that still winter night where nothing was stirring outside, except for the passing of the odd car, every hour or so, that she decided to slit her wrist.

For she could not bear a life, alone, in the big city. Her last words to the world simply read, “I’m Sorry”.

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Well, that was a short I did in 2009… Never really showed it to anyone before. Although at that time, I was battling with some demons within myself, the story is in no way a reflection of the me in 2009 =) Maybe…

Do let me know how I can improve this story… I would love to hear what all of you think… Yes, to my two readers! =D One of which could possibly just be me. Looking forward to hearing from you guys! =)

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