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hearts still beat when they're broken
perfect_english
I saw the moon while I was flying in the sky.

It was late last year, when I was on the way home from Hong Kong in a plane. I was listening to Coldplay's all I can think about is you on the in-flight entertainment system while I was staring at the moon. It hung so perfectly, bright and glowing, glittering against the backdrop of inky darkness of the velvet sky.

I couldn't take my eyes off it, my eyes wide in wonder and awe. Although it disappeared momentarily behind thin scraps of cotton-candy clouds once in a while, I spent the entirety of the song craning my neck staring at it.

I've never been so close to the moon before.

I like bright things against dark backgrounds, because it reminds me of how happiness and hope contrasts with sorrow and misery. It's difficult to fully grasp the meaning of one without experiencing the other.

Night lights, for example. Hong Kong's Victoria Peak. New York City's Empire State Building. The view is breathtaking, the height overwhelming and the scenery majestic.

And most importantly, it reminds me of sonder. It's not a real word — in fact, it's taken from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. It is defined as "the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness".

For each light in each apartment, it represents at least one person. For each vehicle zipping through the snarls of traffic, it represents someone going somewhere, anywhere, to take them away from where they used to be. Looking down at all of these people going about the humdrum of their daily lives makes my life and my own issues seem insignificant.

Sometimes, in the grand scheme of things, none of this even matters after all.

Thinking about this helps me put things into perspective.

Everyone has their own problems, their own stories where they're the star of their own autobiography.

All those stories.

I've never been this close to the moon before.

After a while, I looked away from the moon and gazed with blank eyes at the dark television screen in front of me.

I stayed like that for a while.

Many, many years ago, flying — flitting between the clouds, gazing at the moon and dancing with the stars — could only be an unattainable dream. Now, because of human ingenuity and technology, flying is such a commonplace occurrence — something that we tend to take for granted.

I've learnt that humans like to take a lot of things for granted.

***
My aunt passed away during Chinese New Year.

She entered the hospital in late January, and passed away one month after she was admitted. She was diagnosed to be in the final stages of pancreatic cancer.

The doctor gave her less than three months to live.

She left us three weeks after she received the diagnosis.

The night before she died, she could barely speak and swallow. She had stopped eating a long time ago, and it was difficult for her to even sip on water. We watched her lie on the bed of the hospice, hooked up to a machine which provided her with oxygen. She looked at us with half-lidded eyes, nodding or shaking her head at my mum's questions while my parents took turns feeding her droplets of water with a spoon.

I wanted to hold her hand. The bones of her fingers were crooked, and her skin was dry. I didn't care about any of that, of course. I wanted to hold her hand because I've always been bad with words. I never know what to say in situations like this, I don't know how to comfort with words.

I don't like showing emotion in front of people.

Perhaps I should hold her hand the next time I visit, and not now?

But I was afraid that there wouldn't be a next time.

So I raised my arms and cupped her left hand between my hands.

And I burst into tears.

My parents haven't seen me cry in years. I bowed my head and rested my forehead on my upper arm and I sobbed while I held her hand. I felt her squeeze back faintly and I cried even harder. Someone pressed a tissue onto my hand, but I ignored it. I cried and cried, hoping that she would miraculously know my feelings — grief, helplessness, regret, resignation — just through my touch and tears.

I could feel the thud of her heartbeat through her hands, and I held on tight.

After a while I let go, just in case it was uncomfortable for her to have her hand in the same position. Eventually, she held onto my forearm, and I placed my other hand on top of hers. When the pain of her disease struck her every few minutes, she would frown, wince and clutch me tighter. At some point in time, she called for my grandmother — her mother. I bit my lower lip trying to keep my tears at bay and squeezed her hand.

We were with her for two hours on the last night of her life. When she was tired and wanted to rest, she slid her hand away from my arm.

We left with heavy hearts.

The next morning, we got a call from my dad saying that she had passed away. It was on a Sunday. There was no wake, and the cremation was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

That week was camp week — students were going to stay overnight at the museum so our schedules at work were more erratic than the usual 9am-6pm. Activities for the camp started early afternoon and lasted until morning the next day, plus we had to stay overnight with the students.

The time of the cremation clashed with my first guided tour, so I was very thankful to my colleague for covering my duty. After the cremation, I went home and cried somemore. Then I went to shower, wash my face, looked long and hard in the mirror to steel myself, and then went to work. The bone-picking ceremony was on Tuesday morning, and I was also granted time off for that.

I am very, very grateful for my colleagues.

We placed my aunt's ashes between my grandmother and grandfather's ashes. Her wish was to be near my grandmother, and I'm glad that we were able to fulfil that.

I don't think my aunt was supposed to leave us so early — the doctor gave her three months.

I like to think that my grandmother saw how she was suffering, and wanted to protect her.

My aunt passed away on 25 Feb 2018.

My grandmother passed away on 27 Feb 2004.

My aunt kept saying she wanted to be close to my grandmother.

Sometimes, I think that things are destined.

***
My fondest childhood memories belonged in a sixth-storey flat in Telok Blangah. The household was comprised of my grandparents, my aunt and my uncle. My parents had to work, so they usually left me with my grandparents, especially on weekdays. My parents and I lived in Serangoon, but I always was excited to stay at Telok Blangah because it was near my primary and secondary schools, and there were people over there to keep me company.

My uncle had a computer, and he bought me Archie comics, which I read out in different voices — high-pitched for Betty and Veronice, and normal- and low-pitched for Archie, Jughead and Reggie. I drew on his walls, and he let me. He would buy me chips or food from McDonalds, which cheered me up greatly. I played games, listened to music, used MSN, practised typing skills on his computer. He introduced me to Diablo II. I played this game with my cousins too, back when my grandma was still around and we met each other for Chinese New Year.

This uncle means a lot to me. More than I can ever put into words.

I will always remember my aunt in her long sleeveless dress, and whenever the dress was too long at the end, she'll pin it up with wooden pegs so it reached to her knees. I remember her smile and her laughter, her hair tied up in a messy bun. After dinner, she'll be sitting cross-legged in the white plastic chair in front of the television or writing up labels for her supermarket job. She would ask me to translate the English words for her, and I'd teach her how to write some words and their meaning. I remember her combs and brushes (kept in a Little Mermaid cup) and her facial powder on top of the white cupboard.

She wipes her mouth after meals like my grandmother.

That's mostly all that I can remember of her. After we moved out from Telok Blangah, we drifted apart, and the distance only increased after the deaths of my grandparents. I barely saw her after that, although my mum does visit her during Chinese New Year to give her pyjamas, and I call her to wish her happy Chinese New Year.

The last purchase that my mum bought for her was also pyjamas — three sets for her to wear during her last days in the hospice. But she passed away before she could wear any.

Her death saddens me greatly, but there was one thing that was especially poignant: when she was first admitted to hospital, she told us that she wanted to resign after she got out of the hospital. She had enough of working long hours and doing back-breaking work at the supermarket. This was before she was diagnosed.

She's worked so hard her entire life, and I think her plan was to retire and enjoy life.

But she couldn't.

She couldn't, and I feel so sorry for her.

I've learnt that life is short.

A month can change everything.

I can only hope that she's finally with my grandma now, and at peace.

Oh, and that sixth-storey flat in Telok Blangah?

Only ghosts live there now.

***
That was the main reason why February passed by in a blur of misery, self-pity and disappointment. The disappointment came about because of two friends. I don't want to go into detail about this because they're hardly worth my time typing it all out, but like what I hinted to in my recent posts — I expected better.

I thought wrong.

Guess it's really true: everyone changes, everyone leaves and everyone dies.

I didn't accomplish much in February; giving myself excuses, throwing myself pity parties where I'm the only one invited.

I'm tired of wallowing in my pit of depression.

I could've done better in January and February, but I didn't. Nevertheless, that's no reason to overlook my accomplishments for the past two months.

I finally set up my bullet journal for 2018, and things are going along pretty nicely. I'm used to tracking (I've been doing this since 2017, although I was hardly as consistent last year) and planning my time. I've set up my habit trackers (e.g., read the papers, meditate, my skincare regime and hug my rabbits). Setting them up is one thing, actually doing them is another, but I'm slowly getting there. I'm still learning to be productive enough — I'm wonderful at planning it all out and knowing what I'm supposed to do, but actually getting down to it... well, I'm still working on that.

Notable events include: Foster the People live in Singapore! Jacky Cheung live in Singapore! My first time rock-climbing! I've had bad times earlier this year, but I've had these good times too to balance it out. 

Fitness-wise, I've made damn good progress in January — hauling myself to the gym at least three times a week, along with my dailies (named them after a questing system in World of Warcraft). Basically, I do different sets of exercises like glute bridges, planking, push-ups, lunges, etc to work out at home on the days that I don't go to the gym. I stopped working out in February because some days I went to the hospital to visit my aunt, I was sick half the month, and also was busy feeling sorry for myself.

But I've got back on track now.

I've also worked on my finances: updated my insurance expenditure, budget and investment portfolio. I've also bought some new shares. Still got a bit more work to do on that, and that's one of my goals to work on in early March.

My major goal, my laser-light focus in 2018 is my novel, though. It's a novel-length fanfiction set in the Harry Potter world. It's an action and adventure fic, which is pretty cool 'cos it's my first time dabbling in this genre. It's been bubbling in the back-burner for 7-8 years, and I'm finally ready to breathe life into it, setting it from thought to pen and paper. Plotting the nitty-gritty is one of the main aims of March, but writing and publishing it online should take the entire year.

Pretty excited for that, heh.

After plotting it out, I'm going to be busy packing my room because it's not as neat and minimalistic as I'd like it to be. Clutter drags down the mind and hampers productivity.

Well, these are my goals for March, along with a crazy packed work-schedule and a tower of books waiting to be read.

Wish me luck.

***
Chloe doesn't appear in form as often now.

I don't know if that's a good or a bad sign.

Sometimes I feel her lurking at the edges of my sanity, laughing throatily while she leans back on her chair and blows a stream of purple smoke from her cigarette. At times, she's snarling at me, telling me I'm worth more than this, that I'm better than this, to stop feeling sorry for myself, while she saves me when I'm drowning in my pool of misery. She's the one wiping the tears off my face and telling me calmly to get on with things, that life moves on even when death lingers on my mind every single day.

She's the domineering voice ordering me to run another half a kilometre on the treadmill, hold on for another half a minute in that planking position and push on to finish that last push-up before she congratules me on a job well done and one to be proud of. She's the motivation that I need to hear to power on through my day, convincing me that hey, I can do this.

She's always there when I need her, the salve to my jaded, bitter soul.

She teaches me to embrace solitude, because this will be the state of my future.

She's the one whispering in my ear people might be leaving, and you may feel alone, but don't be afraid. I am here. I will not disappear. I am here.

I will always be here with you.

I don't have siblings, and I doubt I'll be married in this lifetime. I don't expect my friends to be around during my last days.

But at least I will have her.

She will be with me when I die alone at some point in the future.

Strangely enough, that thought comforts me.