the builder and the brick wall

I walked down a road; a typical Malaysian tar road, multiple faded, white dotted lines stretching on and on, uncharacteristically empty of cars and their angry owners. On either side of me was a metal divider, some parts rusty, some parts freshly painted over in shiny silver. Pass the dividers were endless mountains covered in a thick expanse of trees, their countless, infinite leaves dyeing the mountains a rich, multi-shaded green.

Normally I would see this view tucked comfortably in the backseat of my father’s car on the way to Taiping for our race’s New Year, or for the funeral of another relative I barely knew. Today, walking down the highway, void of any vehicles, it was deathly quiet. No breeze, no animals. A slow crunch, crunch of my shoes on loose gravel, and my own steady breath, its rhythm out of sync with the former. Both sounds rent through the silence like one of those huge industry lorries crashing through the divider.

Soon I heard another sound that didn’t originate from my body; the sound of brick rubbing against brick. Someone was laying bricks somewhere ahead. I would hear the sound, then a pause as whoever it was reached for another block, then the sound again. I squinted, and saw an orange obstacle blocking the way ahead. I took my time in approaching it.

I stopped a few feet away from my new destination and looked upwards at the brick wall before me, an intimidating barricade of hardened clay. It was at least 15 feet tall; I wouldn’t be able to climb it without help if I wanted to. Looking higher still, I saw a young man sitting on the still incomplete wall, laying bricks. He did not dress like a builder at all; he was in a full-blown suit & tie. Nevertheless, he skilfully and patiently laid each block of material down, patting the cement in above it, then repeated the process. The Builder looked vaguely familiar. He finally caught sight of me.

“Hey there, buddy!” he called down, and waved. I stared for a moment, then awkwardly waved back, answering his greeting. I asked him what he was doing.

“I’m laying these bricks here because there’s a huge menace right behind this wall, and you don’t want any part of it.” He looked behind him for a bit, then looked back at me and made a face. “Boy, you really don’t wanna see this.”

“But I need to get to the other side,” I said. “Can’t you let me over? I could help you with whatever it is.”

“No, no,” said the Builder, shaking his head furiously. “I don’t want you to. In fact, I built this wall knowing you would’ve wanted to help, and that it would frustrate you by forcing you to turn back.” I looked at him incredulously.

“… You did it knowing it would piss me off?”

The Builder smiled and nodded smugly, obviously proud that his efforts were being recognized. I got a little impatient.

“Look, there’re only two ways on this road. I’ve come a long way, and I’m not leaving, I can’t. I can’t stay here and starve either. You need to let me through, whatever’s behind that. Or we’ll be stuck here forever.”

“You can’t help, buddy. I’ve tried fighting this menace long ago, and I’ve never been able to dispel it for good. I don’t see how an additional helper’s gonna make a difference, it doesn’t make any sense,” the Builder said gravely. This annoyed me.

“No, it makes perfect sense that if you couldn’t handle it on your own, an extra hand might actually cure it for good,” I said.

“Oh, here it comes again,” said the Builder, looking over the other side, obviously ignoring me completely. “It tries to climb up and grab me by the ankle sometimes, you know. But I give it a couple shakes and it goes back down.”

What tries to climb up?”

“It’s hard to describe,” the Builder said absent-mindedly, continuing to lay bricks. “Either way, I’ll tell you when it tries to pull me down again, if that makes you feel better.”

“I don’t see how that’s going to help at all… We’re still here.” I was almost angry now. Time was wasting, and there didn’t seem to be any way I could ever get past this wall. The Builder jerked backwards momentarily, and looked back at the other side, then carried on building the wall, pursing his lips.

“Did it get you again?” I asked.

“… No.”

“Then why’d you swing backwards so violently?” Silence. “You said you would tell me when it pulled on you.”

“Yes, it tried to drag me.” Annoyed that he went back on his promise, but also concerned for his safety, I tapped my foot against the road restlessly.

“Is it gonna get you by surprise one day?” I asked.

“Who knows,” muttered the Builder. “Who knows.”

“Let me over this wall. I want to help.”

“Nope.” I snapped at that response. Turning sharply around on my feet, I started walking away. He called out to me.

“Where’re you going?” I didn’t look back when I replied.

“I’m leaving.” I stopped walking abruptly, then turned to look at the Builder. He looked back at me sadly, a look that wanted to tell me something, something that he couldn’t bring himself to say.

“I hope it never manages to kill you. And if you need me, I’ll be somewhere down this road,” I said to him, cold and harsh, but meaning my words. He stared, sorrowful for awhile, then nodded weakly. “I’ll see you soon, then,” he said. Our eyes met for awhile more, then I broke the gaze and turned back. I continued walking back down where I came from.

The road to recovery.

Loveless, Chapter III

Every morning, I would awake in a forest of trees. It’s pretty confusing and wrong, because there’re all sorts of trees in this strange forest; a birch would be sitting beside a pine, and an oak would be right next to it. No two same trees are ever by each other. Some are touching, their branches caught possessively among themselves. Some lived alone, and the trees around them were dead and lifeless. Others also stand by their lonely selves, and these trees reeked of death. The moment I stand, I would start walking, like I did a day before, and the rest of the finiteness that already passed. 

Every now and then, I would spy this beautiful deer among the trunks. She was an adorable little thing, with a rich chocolate coat, dotted with little cloud-like spots on her back. She would look up from her daily doings, and bat her pretty lashes at me, coercing me into stepping towards her. Without realizing it, without fail, I would find myself approaching her, my hand reached out in front of me.

As soon as I’m within touching range, she would immediately turn her torso around, rear her hind legs and kick me with the force of a horse jabbed in his nether regions. I would never feel the pain of the blow, but I would feel the breath knocked out of me, just like Iskandar’s dog centuries ago. I would fall back into a magically appearing hole, about 10 feet deep, landing hard on my back, and the deer would run away, and I wouldn’t see her for the rest of awhile.

I would lay in that hole for ages after being kicked in; sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks. Never in months, which is fortunate for my sanity. I also don’t deny that I do get myself into trouble occasionally. Moments of carelessness, or a distraction would see me putting a foot into air, losing my balance, and tumbling down into that miserable place. But most of the time, I would be lured in by the damned deer.

It would be the same hole every time; I know it to be the same place because of the disgusting aura it gives me. This shouldn’t make sense as I am very sure I progress further on into the forest (or out of it) every day. But not all things follow logically in the world.

Back to the aura. The hole has a most disturbing vibe that I cannot fathom. I only know it defines the word darkness. There is no light here. If I had to find words for this place, it would be along the lines of anger, sadness, blame, grudge and pain. There is so much negativity here, and I love it in a most masochistic manner. Within the hole, I face a constant conflict: an overwhelming desire to drag the deer down with me, and a most romantic urge to warn the deer, and to keep her as far away from this dark grave as possible. Either way, there is no happiness in this place. I can never feel a sense of joy, even from thinking of the deer, a usual but rare source of gladness.

After a certain period of time, I would get up and decide to remove myself from this wretched dungeon. I would begin the climb, and reach ground level within minutes. Some days, I would continue my journey. On the bad days, the mischievous little deer would be there again, waiting for me in front of the sunlight, and no sooner will I have climbed out before she kicks me again, sending me toppling back into the hole. 

I know this will drive me mad someday. I know this will eventually lead me to kill her with my bare hands, and send her flying into the hole I loved. But today I am still in the hole, patiently waiting for the next time she sends me here.

It is still morning.

mean

This is purely unfiltered thought. Again, I need to get this off my chest, and this blog works as my own little Pensieve. This might be hard to read for you, because I didn’t really bother formatting it in a way more pleasing to the eye. Sorry for that. Also, if there’s anything you’d like to say, do try to keep it as neutral and argumentative as you can.

 


 

 

I think, despite how much I know I’m definitely right, I tend to be the downfall of my relationships. Because ‘right and wrong’ has never been an applicable concept in love. Unless, your partner has an urge to throw kids off a boat into a sea of man-eating microbes. Why not sharks, you say? Cause I would’ve expected myself to type that. Going off topic. Focus, focus.

Yes, so, I have this very powerful belief in right and wrong. Justice. Sidney Sheldon once had a character called Constantin Demiris, in his most famous book, The Other Side of Midnight. This guy was the most powerful man in the world of Sidney’s creation, and he was described to have the moral judgement of a double-edged sword. The people who helped him, he would pay back tenfold. The people who wronged him, he would destroy, in the most painful way he could think of in his intelligent old brain.

I don’t think I’m anything like a Constantin Demiris. I could, however, relate to that one personality trait. I have a tendency to shower deserving friends with too many materialistic gifts and too much love (that’s debatable). I also have a terrible sense of vengeance. When someone rubs me the wrong way, it’s all I can do to not make sure he or she suffers an equal or greater amount than he or she had dealt me.

This is not the doing of some insane, emotional asshole. I know someone was clearly in the wrong, and vice versa. Therefore I can reward or punish with no guilt or hesitation at all. This is probably wrong. I’m not a God, or a dictator. Although you could argue that if rewarding someone deservingly is right, giving them the opposite should be perfectly fine too.

However, put justice into a relationship and you have one big fiasco. So what if your partner’s wrong? So what if she doesn’t want to apologize? She doesn’t think she’s wrong. Are you going to convince her with facts and reasoning? No. That’s not how relationships work.

You disagree. You think reasoning and talking facts is KEY in maintaining a healthy relationship, and I second that. The problem is, she’s stubbornly sticking to her stand; that she’s not wrong. Or she knows she’s wrong, but she refuses to regret it. That, is another story, or another Buzzfeed article.

I’m not talking about reasoning and facts, though. They complement justice, but they aren’t part of justice. Justice means dealing a reward or punishment according to the actions of a person. The punishment bit is purely unnecessary and doesn’t do anything but aggravate the problem in a relationship. And I’m having problems coming to terms with that.

Especially when my partner refuses to acknowledge, or deliberately does something to hurt me, I find it terribly hard to swallow the urge to make that sucker pay for what she did to me. In my mind’s eye, I want to make sure she hurts, as badly as possible, and expect her to realize the amount of pain she caused me and proceed to apologize, grovelling on the ground. On the outside, I battle hard with myself (between logic and emotion), and eventually emotion ends up winning. I will end up hurting my partner, albeit not as badly as I would’ve without consulting logic.

I’m not justifying my actions. I know this is wrong and isn’t healthy for a relationship, and I’m working on killing off this cruel, cruel attitude ASAP. For now, it’s just pretty relieving to put it into words.

I do wish you’d have a bit (a fuckload) more empathy for a person’s feelings, though.

the battle

I have two sides, like everyone else; one of logic and reasoning, and one of emotion.

Everyday I face moments where I need to make a decision, but it’s never as easy as an ‘okay’ and ‘probably not’. A second debate between logic and emotion usually takes place before choosing an answer. Logic usually leaves emotion in the dust.

Things get even more complicated here, and I’m trying hard to pen down my extremely jumbled thoughts, so that both you and I can understand me better.

Both logic and emotion will give way to either a selfless or selfish act. When it comes to friendships and romantic relationships, a logical decision will typically lead to a selfless act, while my emotional decisions will be purely selfish and obnoxious.

Like I said, the logical side usually wins out in the end. It’s a good thing, to a certain extent; I end up choosing a path which will (hopefully) try to mend, help, or provide, at the cost of getting hurt or neglected in the process. It’s been like that for awhile… Probably since 2012 or 2013.

Here I am now, realizing all I did was make someone I loved scared, unhappy, unconfident. Emotionally, I wanted to scream at her, to point out how unreasonable she was being, and to tell her how I constantly fought down those very emotions since two weeks ago in order to keep her from being unhappy. Here I am, disregarding my own emotions for now, because what’s the point of adding more debris to a hurricane? Here I am, making the logical decision to drop the rock before I collapse on the both of us, because I know this will be good for her in the long run. I think I really do love her, and I’ll be sad to see her go with a more patient and submissive partner someday.

This post in itself makes up for all the ‘selflessness’ I’ve mentioned. This is such a selfish, attention-seeking post, but I think this made me feel better, so there. This time round, my emotional side beat logic to it. I’m just left with a sense of helplessness and lostness.

I don’t know what to do for the rest of my summer.

Loveless, Chapter II

Disclaimer: I’m starting a very informal project called Loveless, detailing some very vaguely related stories, past and present that occurred in my life. I was very inspired by Haruki Murakami’s ability to write about things in daily life and make them sound absolutely magical. This is, thus, also an outlet for me to try out different writing styles (chiefly, Murakami’s). This might be discontinued anytime, and post frequencies can range from daily to annually. I hope you enjoy.

Read Chapter I here.


A girl came into my life 30 days ago and left today. A very short comment on an Instagram video led to us finding each other on Facebook, and on that same day, we started texting. Meeting a girl online and reaching a stage where I was relatively comfortable with her without any physical contact was a rarity for me; I tried it with a medic student once and struggled everyday not to make it an awkward experience for her. But this girl was a strange exception.

She is a very strange person. I liken her to a cat, and how I’ll never know if a cat is about to claw me or rub its side against my shin. She is a lot like that. She could be very entertained by our conversations, and then she would lose interest. She would come into my life seeking me, and then leave abruptly without a goodbye. I’ve never met someone with a more accurate representation of ‘hot & cold’. It intrigued me, and kept me talking to her.

I remember the first time we saw each other physically with razor sharp clarity. I had sped through the New Pantai Expressway towards Bangsar, not wanting to be late (my mother had forced me to pick up the weekly maid earlier). I slid into a parking spot underneath Bangsar Village II five minutes early and hung around the ground floor after texting her. She replied: “I’m already here.” which sent me into another sprint, this time on legs, slowing down to a controlled stride awhile before our meeting spot. She was standing outside a café, looking just as pretty as her photos were. She wore a white shoulder-less top, with a gentle frill that ended under her chest.

She looked up from her phone and saw me, and smiled gently. My first words to her were “I’m not technically late.” She lifted her hands in response. A little paper bag with a wrapped present and a note was in it. All I felt was relief, because I had luckily decided to bring a gift as well. Later I would have guessed the present to be The Kite Runner, as it was the only book she had talked to me about earlier, and I was right. I slightly clumsily pulled out an aged, yellowed copy of The Five People You Meet In Heaven and proffered it to her. We had both gotten each other books.

The day went on like any other outing does; we went around the area with no plans in mind, content with the presence of a companion. We were comfortable with each other, or at least, I was. I’d like to think she was too. I dropped her at church after. We met again a second and last time at another café, but something was missing, like puzzle pieces that just mischievously decided to disappear on their own. She was colder, less receptive, and obviously upset at something, but she never revealed it. I tried finding out by any non-straightforward means possible, but she just stayed icy.

On Friday night (read: Loveless, Chapter I), three days ago, I told her to tell me what upset her. She told me I wasn’t real, and that she didn’t know me. She did not like me flirting with other girls. She also told me another man approached her last night that touched her deeply. I asked her if she wanted space; she said it was fine. I had initially only wanted to texted her because of the continuous, unbearable pain in my belly. She, coincidentally, had not been sleeping almost at all the past few days.

On Saturday, we talked like normal. I’d only just realized that night that we were not compatible in terms of the way we saw and thought about things. I was too open for her; I would upset her because of my lifestyle and my thought processes. On Sunday, she sent me some short messages saying she’d reply me later. She never did that day. I went to bed.

Today I woke up, and she had left my life, just as suddenly and as similarly as she had come in. All she left was a superficial message announcing her departure, and a hasty reply to my messages the previous day. I absent-mindedly scrolled down a few times, as if to see if I had missed anymore messages. There were none. I never got to know her in the end. All I found out about her were meaningless habits and quirks. She ended up only being an acquaintance. I felt slightly sad about how wasted the 30 days were; everything we did was nothing but a complete waste of effort and niceties.

Otherwise, I felt nothing. I could have been sad about losing her, and maybe I will tonight, but until now, I still feel nothing, because she never belonged to me, and I was never hers either.

Loveless, Chapter I

I would always see her at night, when the clutter of thoughts in my head I struggled to pipe down gave way to sleep, and dreams. I’ll be in a cab, and I would see her by the sidewalks of Jalan Bukit Bintang, the only clear, sharp figure in a sea of moving blurs. I never saw her face; she was always turned away from me. But I knew it to be her: Her petite frame, brown, shoulder-length hair falling beautifully on her back. The cab would somehow take me to the 57th floor of the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, and I’d get off, and she’d be there, looking out the glass windows, watching the sun stain the background of the Twin Towers a gorgeous palette of pink, gold, blue, orange, red, and yellow. I would call out to her and attempt to take steps forward. She would tilt her head gently to the side as if hearing my call, and begin to turn around. I would wake up every time she did that. The image of her standing before the evening sky would be printed behind my eyelids long after I woke.

I had that dream on a daily basis in Europe. It’s a frequency that should’ve been worrying. But I didn’t really care for that; like repeatedly reading a book which story you didn’t want to end, I made myself have that dream over and over again, if only to finally be able to reach out and touch her shoulder. All day I would convince myself it was a lost cause, that a bond between her and I was never meant to occur. She’s a world of difference from you, I’d say to myself. By night I would change my mind.

I came back to Subang a week ago and the dreams stopped. That was probably cause I barely slept, I had the worst jet lag I’ve ever experienced in my 21 years on Earth. Also I was out every single day, so I was probably too tired to give her a second thought.

Except last night.

I was pretty sick; the doctor I saw the next day would tell me it was a stomach flu, and that it’s been going viral (literally) in Malaysia lately. Without any medicine or reassurances from a specialist that night though, I pressed a cushion against my stomach and willed the cramps to go away. For hours I just lay down and felt pain, and I really thought I was a goner. Somehow I fell asleep, clutching the cushion hard against my front.

They say if you put pressure on your chest while sleeping, there’s a higher chance of you experiencing a dream that night. This might’ve happened to me, or maybe it was just chance. EIther way, I started dreaming.

I was in that cab again, but there were more details this time round. I remember wearing a brown jacket, with a striped tee underneath with my navy jeans; my typical outfit in the UK. There was a huge bag beside me. The cab driver was spouting nonsense, I swear. It just sounded like absolute gibberish, but I didn’t find it weird cause, well, it was a dream. And then she appeared.

There she was on the sidewalk, and this time, she was facing my direction. She was with two other friends of hers. She had her hair tied up in a ponytail, and she was wearing a mint green cardigan over a white tank, and brown shorts. The mint green was so vivid. The cab driver turned a corner, and somehow, she caught my eye through the window of the cab. Her face registered mild shock, and unsureness. Slowly she realized it was me, and her expression slowly gave way to… relief? Gladness?

I stumbled out of the cab, and struggled to fish ringgit notes out of my wallet. The driver was babbling about how he’s seen me before every single day, but I ignored that. Stuffing the money into his hand, I ignored the bag in the backseat and almost ran over to her. I stopped right in front of her, and we just looked at each other for awhile. She was just as pretty as I remembered her to be. She smiled shyly at me. We both made a move forward, and we embraced. I could feel the fabric of the cardigan under my fingers, I could smell her scent. I didn’t really know how to feel. She pulled back slightly, and gently kissed my cheek. Then she whispered into my ear, and I could almost feel her smiling against the side of my head.

Welcome back.”

I opened my eyes, and it was very early in the morning; around 5am. I looked out the windows of my room. The sky had a familiar tinge of orange, pink, and red, but it was softer, weaker, and not as beautiful as the sunset I had known in my dreams. The pain was better now. I barely felt it.

I slowly reached out, as if to grab the sky and that it would somehow lead me back to her, and touched nothing.

5 steps to become a Liar. Number 3 will blow your balls off.

The world isn’t fair.

 

I know honest, good people who do not boast about their work, are completely genuine, and build their solid foundation on legitimate achievements. The topic isn’t about these people, I’m just describing them here to make a contrast.

I know people who’re definitely good people, but have hid behind a mass of lies so huge it’s as big as that wall of bodies Leonidas and his guys made in 300. These guys build on their lies, one after another, and they’ve gotten so skilled at coming up with bullshit on the spot, it’s truly remarkable. They lie about their achievements, about meeting great people and how those greats are offering them jobs, when all they did was actually take a picture with a celebrity. They lie about how they’re going to go overseas to study a double degree on ‘Save The World’ and ‘Looking Like A Saint’ with honours, and end up somewhere much, much lower. They’re boasters. They’ve spent their whole life boasting and exaggerating about how they just paid for a guy’s meal, grew wings out of their asses, etc. They’re also plagiarisers. They take someone else’s work, ensure the average human cannot know for certain that it isn’t his original product, and use it to gain credit. They’re Liars.

There’s this one guy I know who’s that, above. All that. He boasts about his fake achievements, he steals the work of others and uses them for himself, and he lies, he’s a big time liar. I would’ve admired him, you know? I would’ve given him props for being such a slimy, dirty snake, but he isn’tThe thing about him is, he’s a weak, WEAK liar. My family, my friends who actually have 20/20 vision have caught him in his bullshit so many times it’s stupid that he still thinks it works around us.

And even now, I still haven’t gotten to the meat of this post. It’s not about the Liar, it’s not about the community of bullshitters and free riders. It’s not about the good people who don’t get what they deserve.

I’m here to rant about the people who worship these Liars.

I see these humans, these beings that are apparently equal in mind and body to me and the rest of Earth. Somehow, they don’t possess enough intelligence to avoid being hoodwinked by a Liar. They lick the dirt off his boots, and admire his life, and wish to be like him, and they have no idea what they’re wishing for. And you know what really gets me? These people aren’t kids. They’re ADULTS. These adults, ranging from guys my age to people who had at least a decade of time more than I did to learn and grow, are being tricked by the facade in front of them. They’re giving the Liar chances, opportunities that he doesn’t know what to do with! It frustrates me that the corporate world which I grew up to be in awe of, to respect, has such pathetic observational skills. He’s not even fucking good at this game! You’re feeding these guys, and you’re inspiring others to pick up the mantle. It’s not a healthy cycle.

You guys on Facebook wanna be like a Liar? Too fucking easy. Follow these steps.

1) Lie. Simple, right? Take a picture with a CEO of a good, well-known company, or a president of some big shot society. Tell the world he’s gonna offer you a job when you’re done with your degree without an interview, scot free. He wouldn’t know; he’s got too much stuff on his hands to bother with your li(f)e.

2) Create a personality. Be the angel. Be the lucky guy. Be the high achiever. Be the guy dishing out good advice all the time, always does great things and has great thoughts. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t these things, but the world needs to see it. Social networks are the best.

3) Do good things. This one’s too easy. Bring a stack of cash wherever you go, and be ready to give 10 times the amount you normally give to a beggar, or buy him a big meal. Make sure it’s not just 20 cents, it’s gotta be a good one. Not willing to contribute that much money to those who need it? Just follow step 4 below.

4) Tell the world. Follow the exact opposite of Proverbs 27:2: Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Make sure you write down exactly what miracle happened to you or what good deed you did in all its glory.

5) Exaggerate. Gave only 10 cents to a beggar? No problem! Just write on Facebook that you gave Rm100. Who’s gonna know how much you gave exactly anyway? Only the beggar, and he’s not friends with you on Facebook.

 

With all that above, you’re set to becoming an honest-to-God liar.

 

In all honesty, I don’t think there’s anything wrong or evil about it. The liars I know aren’t evil people. Even if you didn’t give money to a beggar and bragged about doing it anyway, I’m not a Christian, so in my books, you wouldn’t be going to Hell. And if you actually did? Great job! You contributed to poverty, so I guess I can’t complain when there’s a net benefit to the world. I’m just very annoyed and having a hard time dealing with the fact that the world isn’t fair.
So don’t call me out saying this is a biased rant, I’m just venting some feelings out, and I stand by my points, including the ones immediately above about how “lying isn’t the worst thing you can do”.

caffeinated chapter II: Grindsmith

I was told about this “coffee box” behind Harvey Nicols by a friend, and I went around the city looking for it. About 5 minutes down behind Harvey Nicols I saw this down below.   Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset     Cute little thing, isn’t it? I ran eagerly towards it, cause it was raining (you can’t really tell), and I was pretty soaked. You could fit 10 people in there at the most, and everyone has to be all up in your face and breaching your comfort zone. And that’s the whole idea of Grindsmith. Not the bit about intentionally cramping people, but a cost-efficient sized café. And I love it.   Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset     This thing was made out of an abandoned shipping container. From the picture above you can tell there’re really limited seats. The close proximity of everyone sitting in that little box encourages (forces) us to carry conversation with each other, and I kinda liked that idea too. Personally though, I do prefer larger spaces when it comes to drinking coffee. Malaysians reading this post would probably know of Whisk at Empire Shopping Gallery, the guys who were in the coffee business before all the trend-followers and bandwagon jumpers annoyingly set up their respective coffee shops. Whisk has great coffee, but I’ve always found the tiny enclosure a little claustrophobic.   Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset   As usual, the café makes excellent use of wooden furniture and places them in a sort of neat clutter, which I like. Loads of glass, so there’s plenty of light. I’m honestly a little tired of cafés with warm, dim lighting.   Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset   I had myself a cappucino for £2.70, a little on the pricier side for coffee in Manchester. However, it’s a much larger cup of coffee than most of the other cafés, so it’s worth the price. It was a little bit on the sour side; I think I prefer the coffee at Fig + Sparrow’s still. This was still okay though. It’s not nearly as sour as the stuff at North Tea Power, that was just overpowering. I just spent about an hour sitting there and chatting with Luke (the barista and co-founder), and a couple customers. Apparently this café was inspired by another container café in Tokyo, Japan. They funded the Grindsmith project on Kickstarter, and successfully reached their goal of £10,000. The whole thing including the coffee machines and electricity costed them about £25,000. That’s under MYR150,000. It’s pretty damn affordable, I’d say.

 

I’m just gonna fill up some space with pictures of the café.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset IMG_3284     I love that they have siphons; it reminds me of a Japanese café I worked at back in Malaysia. That café back home used only siphons to make their coffee (it’s a very Japanese thing). Their Japanese blend of Sumiyaki coffee was great.   Overall, I enjoyed the coffee and the place, and I’m coming back with some coffee junkies to earn these guys some money.   Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset     Grindsmith, Greengate Square, M3 5AS Mon-Sat 7.30am-7.00pm Sun 9.00am-5.00pm Follow them on Twitter.

caffeinated chapter I: Fig + Sparrow

Yet again I introduce another category in my blog: Caffeinated. With the amount of time I have left in Manchester, I’ll have just about enough time to blog about every single café in this city, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. We’ll start off today with my favourite spot for coffee, called Fig + Sparrow on Oldham Street.

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I personally think the environment in which you drink your coffee is just as important as the quality of what you’re drinking, and these guys nail it perfectly. They make use of wooden furniture and floors to give it your typical, rustic café mood, with a fantastic use of fairy lights (you can see them behind the little wooden chairs and tables in the picture above, they’re pretty in the evening).

I don’t usually eat at cafés, but they’ve got a tasty-looking breakfast and lunch menu, so you guys might want to give their food a try. They also serve a huge range of teas. I haven’t given those a go either, but I’m planning to order some green sencha the next time I’m here.

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While I usually go for a cappucino or a latté (less of the latter these days; my mom converted me to cappucinos), I ordered a flat white today, a favourite of my fellow and more experienced coffee junkie Roshan Kanesan. Click on his name to check his blog out.

The coffee here’s so, so good. And it’s a stronger blend than the average coffee in Malaysia, something that’s commonplace here in Manchester. This flat white was a fucking kick. It almost tasted like espresso with a dash of milk. It tasted amazing, anyway. (Note: To anybody drinking coffee with sugar, do try giving your coffee a try without. I don’t scoff at people who add sugar, but it does kill the flavour of your coffee.)

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The hipster side of me also appreciates how they couldn’t care less about latté art. I never really cared for it, I just want to drink good coffee (they actually can make latté art, they’ve done it for one of my cappucinos before. The swirly things on your foam’s just an added touch, I don’t find it necessary at all).

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I’m currently blogging this from the café itself. You can see the beginnings of the blogpost in the picture above. #BLOGCEPTION. That’s my favourite spot. These days, it’s been sunny and stuff, so I’ve been drinking the stuff outside on those tiny chairs and tables you saw earlier on.

Great coffee, coupled with great classic jazz music, friendly staff, and a pretty café, this checks everything on my “fantastic café” list. I come here at least once a week, and anyone in Manchester should too!

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Fig + Sparrow, 20 Oldham St. (It’s a 2 minute walk from Picadilly Gardens)

Check out their website here.

They also have a Twitter account.

That’s café #1 on Caffeinated. Next up: Takk Coffee House. Thanks for reading, and keep on drinking!

the perfect fit

All Nick wanted was to get home.

It had been a terrible flight from Manchester to KL; there was a delay, giving him only a 20 minute transit at Dubai, meaning he and a mob of Malaysians and tourists had to sprint, shout and shove their way to the plane bound for KLIA. His guitar case had come in handy, at least. It helped buffet a couple of dismayed passengers who had tried to push past him. Reaching Malaysia, he texted his parents.

“HERE! Fucked up flight. Tell you about it later. Grabbing baggage.” Sent.

A whole hour later, and his bag was still nowhere in sight. Turned out a huge group of passengers from Dubai had a whole load of holy water brought back with them to KL. For more than half an hour, there were no bags; just boxes and boxes of holy water. To make it even better, Nick’s phone had chosen the most fantastic time to run out of battery. His parents probably thought a bomb threat had been announced and he was stuck in immigration. He gritted his teeth and stared at the never-ending conveyer belt of sacred H2O. It’s a free country, thought Nick, it’s a free country. Tolerance is key. Tolerance is key.

At 11.00pm, Nick eventually got hold of his baggage, and a couple hugs and tears and bear hugs from dad later, he was in the back seat of his dad’s new car, waiting for the final part of his journey to end. He felt a hand tighten around his.

He looked up at Ellie beside him. She had insisted on coming to surprise him, when Nick had adamantly told everyone not to waste a 40-minute drive to come see him looking like he just went through an 18-hour flight (which he just did). She had hid behind Nick’s giant of a dad, and grabbed him right after his mom’s turn, giving him little space to breathe.

But he didn’t mind.

For 8 months, he had been waiting to see that cheekily beautiful face in the flesh, instead of a flat, 2-dimensional image on a computer screen. That first hug at the arrival hall was a burst of senses: Wrapping his arms around her petite frame; breathing in the scent of her hair he recognized on his sheets; seeing her pretty eyes tear up in front of him. There was so much physicality to catch up on.

He couldn’t wait to get home.

“What’re you staring at?” Realizing he had been creepily fixing his gaze on her for the whole inner monologue he just had, he blushed and hastily looked away. He could see her smirking teasingly out of the corner of his eyes. Don’t look, he warned himself. You’ll jump on her.

“Nothing. I dunno. You,” he said, leaning back and closing his eyes, letting a huge sigh out. He ran his thumb over each of her fingers. The feeling of their hands touching kept him comfortable and calm. Casting a glance at his parents, and then at Ellie, he mouthed the words ‘I missed you’ at her. She grinned and mouthed back, ‘Ditto’. Eventually, both their smiles faltered and they just looked at each other. There was a physical tension, a longing ache that had been growing ever since he had left for the departure hall back in September. Now he was here, inches away from her, the tension was highly strung like a piano wire. He let his thumb drift slowly up her wrist and forearm, feeling her shiver. Nick knew Ellie felt the ache, too. They wanted to be alone.

They didn’t say a word the entire journey back. Dropping his bags and lazily declaring he’d unpack when he’d finished hibernating, he dragged his legs up to his old room, Ellie following behind him.

He switched on a bedside lamp, bathing the place in a soft, warm light. Mom had obviously cleaned it out that day. Otherwise, everything was just as he had left it 8 months ago.

“This place hasn’t changed at all.” Nick turned around, a little disturbed and mostly impressed at her apparent ability to read his mind. Ellie had just shut the door behind her. They were alone. His lips were suddenly really, really dry.

“Yeah. It didn’t, huh?” said Nick stupidly. She took a few small steps closer.

“Have I changed much?” She was right in front of him now. He was a head taller than Ellie. She’d have to tiptoe to reach his height.

“No,” said Nick, “Well, you got taller.” She smiled playfully at that remark, then made a mock pouty face.

“So I haven’t gotten any prettier since then?” Nick almost laughed at how cute she looked; the effect was so much more amusing face-to-face. Speaking of face-to-face, they were really close now. Intimately close. It’s been 8 months. He was going to fuck this up with the worst kiss ever.

“You can’t improve perfection,” Nick said, not breathing. He felt his hands automatically wrap around her body. She sighed at the contact and reciprocated.

“You people pleaser, you,” she teased. She lightly brushed her lips against Nick’s.

“I haven’t showered,” he said hoarsely. Ellie grinned, her eyes dancing with life and cheek.

“That’ll have to do for now.” And just like that, the tension broke. He firmly pulled her into him and kissed her deeply. And into that intimate contact he tried to pour all of the emotions, the missed things, the longing, the insecurity he had felt 7000 miles away from home. He felt her lightly run her fingers through his hair, tugging softly, and he groaned. He missed all of this. He missed her.

“God, I’ve missed you, Ellie,” muttered Nick, pulling away and guiding her towards his bed. He sat down on the edge, and Ellie proceeded to sit on his lap, cradling his face gently.

“You said that just now.”

“I didn’t actually. Mom and dad were there.”

“Same difference,” she laughed.

“No.” Nick looked at her seriously. “It’s not the same. Like how we talked over Skype. And now.” His gaze softened, and he nuzzled his head into her chest.

“I’ve missed you.” Smiling slightly, Ellie stroked the back of his head, then tilted it up, making eye contact.

“I miss you more.” He saw her eyes glaze over with love and want and everything else, and they kissed again, hard. Nick slowly slipped his hands under her top and lightly caressed her bare sides and back, the smooth skin he had longed for so much, pulling her close against his torso. He heard her moan gently into his mouth from the sensation of his rough, callused fingers on her soft body, and he laid her down on the bed.

______________

Hours later into the night, they just laid together, basking in the physicality of the moment, and the presence of each other’s warm, living bodies, skin on skin. He held her hand, and she was snuggled close to his, her head against his chest. He had remembered the first time of each different contact. They had first held hands when they crossed a road, and Nick had grabbed her hand without thinking about it to lead her to safety. He had wanted to pull away after, but stuck with it. It had been a clumsy grip, and his palms were sweaty with nerves.

The next was at the movies. It was both of their first times at the Platinum cinemas at the Pavilion Shopping Complex. The tickets had cost a bomb, and they were provided with two huge, retractable seats that could morph into beds at the push of a button. The down side was that there was so much space between the seats. But one was big enough to fit both of them, so they squeezed into one in the end, wasting a ticket. Halfway through the movie, she had gently laid her head on his chest, making him go stiff with shock and euphoria. He had awkwardly patted her head, and proceeded to stroke her hair for the rest of the movie.

Two years later, her hand was naturally resting in his, and he had his hand on her head, lightly stroking her hair and teasing her ears. They were huddled comfortable together. It was a perfect fit. And he couldn’t have been happier to have her back beside him.

He took a moment to look at her. Her eyes were closed, and she was breathing deeply. Her soft, brown hair felt amazing under his fingers. She was petite and fit overall, but she had these slightly chubby cheeks she was always insecure about, and he found them to be the cutest things ever. She was so pretty.

His smile dropped as he thought of how much time was left before he had to fly off again. He only had under three months with her. Time would fly so fast… too fast. And they’d have to repeat the painful cycle of a long-distance relationship again. The thought filled him with dread, and he shook his head gently, trying to clear that thought.

“Nick?” She was looking up at him, concern etched on her face. She studied Nick for a moment, then reached out and stroked his head in return.

“Nick, we’ve got a lot of time.” He stared at her. She did it again. How does she do it?

“I know, I know. But, it’s going to go so quickly. Summer’ll be over before we both know it, and I’ll-“

“You’re not looking into perspective, baby.”

“I am, Ellie. Three months here and nine long months there-” She put a finger to Nick’s lips and shook her head slightly.

“Nope, not like that. The next eight months will be your last in England. We’ve got all the time ’til forever after that, Nick.” She smiled sadly. “Eight months away from me compared to the rest of what comes after with me. You could wait those eight months out, couldn’t you?”

Nick looked at her, surprised. She had never said it that way. They had both agreed, long ago, that it’d be awhile before they talked about marriage, and kids, and being old seriously. She finally chose to bring it up. And it filled Nick with the warmest affection for this woman laying beside him. He smiled back and kissed her forehead.

“Yeah. I could wait, Ellie.” She smiled that beautiful smile, the one that struck him down in love for her all over again everytime.

“Good.” She snuggled back on his chest, sighing heavily.

“I love you, Nick.” At that moment Nick stopped fretting, and chose to fully utilize every day he had left with her before their summer ended. To appreciate every single thing about this holiday. Starting with this first night with her: his woman, his life, his future.

“I love you too.” With that, he drifted to sleep with one last thought flowing through his head, that he would forget the next morning, and probably for the rest of summer.

We’re a perfect fit after all, aren’t we?

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Thanks for reading. A friend of mine approached me, and asked me to write a post based on the title “The Perfect Fit”. There’re three of us in this gig, and we’re posting our respective posts consecutively. I decided to go with a love story, because I haven’t written fiction in awhile, and my right brain has lost its six-pack abs. Hope you enjoyed it!