Sunday, April 23, 2006

let me know

what do you do
when your heart feels bruised up
when you're nothing but a shell of yourself
when the bright moonlit night offers no solace
when the westward sun shines no light into your heart
when you cannot spend a minute to yourself
when you aren't able to face people without pretending
when sleep offers no peace
when food offers no satiation
when the drink numbs nothing but sensation
when those closest to you are the farthest
when singing offers only temporary refuge
when every noise hurls you into rage
when silence is the only courtworthy asset
when you keep pulling yourself back when you push
what do you do

Saturday, April 22, 2006

i'm not dead yet

on thursday evening, i went for one of the last of my driving lessons - the slope course. nothing very complicated about it, just clutch, footbrake, handbrake. proceeded to Great World City where i tried to exchange my broken heels for another pair of shoes - but didn't fancy anything and paid an additional $15 to exchange lousy heels for a bag. there was a slight pressure on my chest by now, but it wasn't bad enough for me to stop shopping or walking. i hopped on a city bus to Borders to get a congratulatory card for a colleague who just got his first child. the dull pain didn't go away, but did not exacerbate either.

happily, i went home. dropped my bags on the floor and laid my exhausted body on the bed. rang Ravi on the speed dial and within minutes, it got worse. long excited sentences became laborious "uh huh"s and "ahmm"s. that pain i felt was scarily familiar. i'd had this in school before, when i overexerted during physical tests i had not trained for. but the pain went away when i controlled my breathing and slowed down. it disappeared.

this didn't disappear.

i switched off and bubble thoughts appeared above my head.

"oh god, i am obese."
"23 year old lady dies of a cardiac arrest."
"23 year old lady dies of heart attack weeks before wedding, fiance devastated and found on ledge of tower"
"cavalier eating leads to premature onset of heart disease"

then i said, "Ravi, keep talking, i can't really talk, my chest hurts." hurts suspiciously like a major heart cramp. i turned to my side, the pain got better, but i still couldn't breathe. inhaling was taxing. i stood up. i groaned. i couldn't stand up straight, i couldn't breathe, i dropped back onto the bed. i didn't think it was very serious, but it was serious enough that i knew i couldn't go down and wait for a cab. decided then that i would wait it out, after all, if it's a cramp of some sort, it should go away, shouldn't it? but it didn't go away. it got worse. i was pretty sure if Ravi was at home, he'd have dragged me to the hospital. i told him not to worry and i called Joy, to find out if she has ever experienced something like this. the answer was, no and i'm picking you up now.

and that was how i found myself at the hospital after Joy was busy cursing and maneouvering around idiotic drivers and road works. it sounded bizarre to me when these words came out of my mouth "i'm having chest pains". i was happy that Nurse Yogeshwari didn't look shocked. i mean, dali, there's GOT to be at least 3 cases of juve chest pains at the ER everyday.

i was led into a room where Nurse Yogeshwari hooked up giant multi-coloured crocodile clips to my limbs, on both arms and both ankles. little electrode things were put on my chest. the wires looked like some kind of torture instrument. Nurse Yogesh seemed to read my mind and said soothingly, "don't worry dear, it looks like i'm going to electrocute you but you won't feel a thing."

i didn't feel a thing.

she started printing out the ECG results, they wanted to rule out heart disease/problems. the pale dot matrix paper displayed four lines, i wasn't sure what they were, but i figured out each line measure activity in each heart ventricle. as the paper rolled out from the side of the machine in landscape mode, even i, as a lay(wo)man, could see everything was fine. then suddenly, a short section on the 2nd line went berserk, the needle drew lines vertically across all four lines occupying the width of the entire paper. i looked at Nurse Yogesh and asked, startled, "what is that? am i gonna die in the next two minutes?!"

"i hope not! i haven't had my coffee yet."

she went on to explain that the frequency measured can be interrupted by cellphones or other devices, that there's nothing to worry about. she went on to print another four ECGs, all of which were normal.

Dr Fat then came in. i chuckled inside, hoping he wouldn't give me a speech on diet control. i wonder if he ever had to - he's so obese, his pants were above his ankles. he pressed parts of my chest asking if it hurt, asked me to breathe deeply - which hurt to high hell - and told me that i most probably scarred my skeletal muscle on the left side.

by what? pulling up the car handbrake 8 times 3 hours before?

what i should look out for when i go home - irregular heartbeat, pain that goes all the way down to my left arm, major difficulty breathing.

er, Dr Fat, i just told yer that the pain's gone up to my upper arm and i can't breathe. i took some medicine back and laid on the bed, puzzled.

i knew what i needed most - rest. but it was already 0100.

got up on friday and the dull pain was still there, but not as bad as the night before. somehow i got through the day without much difficulty. and this Saturday morning, the pain returned, but this time, concentrated mostly at the back. and when i take a deep breath, the pain seems to come from the back to the front and squeeze my chest.

if i die today, there are a bunch of things i'd regret not having done yet.
1. not visiting Macchu-Picchu, the Pyramids, the French/Netherlands Antilles.
2. not taking beautiful pictures and learning how to use Photoshop
3. not buying that digital SLR i wanted to use to take beautiful pictures with
4. complete reading Women in Love by DH Lawrence
5. learn how to play the violin

and today, instead of learning the violin or reading Women in Love, i will pick songs for the wedding playlist, read The Tattooed Girl, perhaps do laundry and if i feel motivated enough, reply a coupld of emails and then go out in the evening.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

rolls of bubble pack and tons to wrap

work's been better, considering the fact that i have been receiving lesser emails - and i'm more driven to work now that the boss is back. i will not pressurise my kid as a child and draw up timetables for him/her. it's bad. you grow up needing to be constantly monitored by a tyrant wielding a giant metal spiked ball.

and i have piles of work to clear before i leave the company. it's always the administrative stuff i hate.

but enough of that, and on to the shoes. the shoes that broke. the shoe that caused me to drop 3 inches on my right as i was walking to the Ladies. imagine my shock when i found myself lopsiding. never have i broken my heels, and never will i laugh at someone who broke her shews, though ahm pretty sure i can't stop mahself (dont ask why i have suddenly morphed into a south carolina resident).

i have been craving soyabean curd everyday these past three weeks. comfort food. my mom ate it all the time she was preggers with me, and i ate it all the time as a kid. i'm gonna teach myself how to make soyabean curd and poison self in dubai, along with 1000 others with soya smoke.

might be able to convert half the sheesha addicts in dubai to switch to a healthier alternative, hell, they could even slim down with tofic fumes. here, we were smoking some sheesha at El Sheikh along Pahang Street in the Arab Street area of Singapore. as lehooooserly as it might sound, i can get rather addicted to this damn thing.

it's getting tiresome here. i'm just counting down the days till i wear that sexy dress aboard SQ to dubai and hug ravi at the airport, risking imprisonment for indecent public smooches and causing massive uncontrolled erections all around (from major kissing, not sexy dress).

Friday, April 14, 2006

daydream believer

i have turned into an inefficient, unproductive, irresponsible slob. to say that i have lost focus at work is a major understatement. the reality of this hit me hard when i looked at the Sent folder of my mailbox. between 1537 - 1725hrs, i had not sent a single email out. the emails had not stopped coming in, but i had stopped replying to emails. it's like being a cashier at McDonald's, you keep taking in orders and their money - but the burgers don't come, and the queue of irate customers keeps growing. like an ostrich, i dig a hole and put my head into it - i surf the net for random things that pop in my head, but my body is still sticking out of the hole and i am still in trouble.

there is, however, only a very, very slight nagging feeling to being this irresponsible. i have overstayed. you should quit when it's still good, not when your favourite colleagues leave, your boyfriend gets stationed overseas and your parents are fucking up your wedding plans.

the only things i can focus on are good things like books and music. books, the other orgasm. i'm just done with blink and have started on the historian by elizabeth kostova. blink was an easy read and confirmed i am an absolute sexist (read not feminist, i love chivalry too much) - this is not going to change anytime soon. on top of the 7 unread books on my bookshelf, i bought another 8 books including bram stoker's dracula and *cough* jane austen's sense and sensibility. yes, i am attempting to be a littérateur.

and then, i've discovered eMusic. as you can probably imagine, i have already gone ballistic and used up my free 25 songs in 45 minutes. they have an unbelievable collection of oldies which you could not otherwise get access to unless you buy whole albums at the cd shop. downloading is super easy and the cost of downloading songs after your first free 25 is peanuts. for the first time in my life, i feel legitimate a.k.a. not music pirate.

i do this comfortably while stuffing my face with ice-cream. ben & jerry's came up with a new flavour - marsha marsha marshmallow. the flavour makes you stutter. choc ice-cream with fudge chunks, toasted marshmallow and graham cracker swirls. i'll spare you the drools by only showing you the shiny new design for this spunky new flava.

iina came over and we do as friends do, nothing, just bask in the comfort of each other's presence. then we walked around, went around. as we were walking along killiney road back to my place after a night on orchard road, we came across this stencil art at the entrance of the old mitre hotel. we stood there just staring at this cherubic face. something so innocent, yet so un-naive about the expression on his face that pains me. it's extremely beautiful - took this shot with my motorola v3 (yes, go ahead, be jealous and it's only a VGA!).

boredom is a good thing - it drives you.

Friday, April 07, 2006

the glamour that is Lasik

it's been a few days since the Lasik surgery. my eyesight is great, apparently my left eye has perfect 6/6 vision, but the right oscillates between clear and blur all the time. i'm still getting used to it, i keep telling myself NOT to remove my 'contact lenses'. my vision is clear all the time. unless i have lubricating eyedrops in me eyes. but boy, are my eyes dry all the time, and this will take another month or two.

looking at the computer screen all the time, as is the nature of my sedentary job, is straining my eyes. they are tired all the time, and i cannot keep lubricating them, or my vision will be blurred and i won't be able to focus. i feel better when i look at distant objects, at trees, at birds, at the sky. i should be a dreamer instead.

after spending a bomb on my new eyes, i am beginning to take better care of my eyes. am not sabotaging it this time round. i will listen to what all those teachers told us everyday years ago.

don't read in the dark, don't watch the tv too closely, give your eyes a break every once in a while. on no occasion should i (1)stare at sun, (2)watch tv 20cm away from screen, (3)read in the dark and (4)persist to read for hours without rest.

i was provided a pair of goggles to sleep with. at first i tried not to burst into hysterical laughter, and then i immediately realised they didn't want me scratching or rubbing my eyes in my deep unconscious.

i was sceptical.

i sleep on my side, it WILL be difficult to sleep with goggles on.

the first night, i wake up at 0300am and realise the goggles have ended up near my knees.

the second night, it was above my head.

the third night, it was beside my ear.

i even tried tightening the band around my head so the goggles wouldn't budge, so i won't have the strength to rip it off my face in my deep unconscious. nothing worked. today, i will try for the fourth time. if it ends up somewhere else again, i won't even bother tomorrow night.

as you can see here, with this photo, the glamour that accompanies Lasik comes slow. i can't apply eye make-up for 1-2 weeks and i have to sleep with these goggles. i look like a schizophrenic sky-diver with slit eyes. the chinese in me emerges. i can't be more fashionable than this.

Monday, April 03, 2006

over the cliff, into the ... not so mysterious unknown.

i am not supposed to be in front of my computer terminal. but i am.

this morning, i switched the snooze function off my alarm three times after it first rang at 0645. i had to be at the hospital by 0745 for my first Lasik surgery. 0745.

i never get up till 0745 for work and i need to get to the hospital by 0745. rather cruel and unusual punishment for someone who was adamant about getting herself her first pair of glasses when she was 9. didn't know staring at the sun, looking straight into torchlights, reading on my back and in the dark would cost me a very painful SGD4000 14 years later. also realised, with my first pair of glasses, that i had made a mistake. my mother insisted on a giant pair of DARK PINK/RED frames that conquered half my chubby little face. if i find ONE picture of me with those glasses, it's going straight to the incinerator.

i get up finally at 0710. drag myself to the shower and wash my face with the luxurious Eversoft facial cleanser (much cheaper than its Clinique counterpart and just as effective) and think to myself "this is the last time i'll be able to rub my eyes with soap this hard for the next month." i remind myself, "no make-up, no fragrance". not only will i walk around like an hantu (ghost), i'll be a stinky hantu. have not left house without eyeliner in years, not sure how i lived without eyeliner all those years before i found it. put on some warm clothes, feed the psychotic feline i am cat-sitting and practically ran to catch my appointment at 0745. it's already 0742.

i run to the Refractive Surgery Centre and greeted the lady at the counter cheerily (guiltily, more like). it's already 0755. i am not the only one late, apparently. four of us have the same 0745 appointment and i am the 2nd one to arrive. i am called into the Laser Suite (love the name) and am asked the usual questions.

drug allergies?
history of illnesses?
-cat induced-
pregnant, i don't think so, right?
-er, no-

glad to know the nurse doesn't think i look preggers. but then again, pregnant people don't go for Lasik. she puts a round blue sticker over my left eye to indicate the correct eye to be operated on. i step outside the Suite and wait beside an immaculately dressed gentleman. looks like a yuppie hiding behind a nondescript grey t-shirt, jeans, small brown sneakers. i turn and ask, "nervous?"

he: no, you?
me: freaked out beyond my mind.
he: ha ha ha. at least we are not the first one. she can help to warm up the machine.
me: ha ha ha.

this she actually came at 0745. she must have been very excited to have laser burn her eyeballs off. Closet Yuppie and myself wait another hour outside the Suite making small talk, filling awkward silences with our slow breathing (ok, his slow breathing, i was just TRYING to breathe). we who have blue dots over our eyebrows.

the first lady steps into the Suite for the surgery. at this point of time, my palpitations are getting faster and manifesting itself in nervous pop-more-Lakerols-in-mouth action. ok, i'm just exaggerating. i am calm all the way up till this point. i am actually a last minute panicker. the horror rarely dawns on me till the very last minute - that's why i am your perfect paintball partner, i am stupidly fearless. but i do pop in an unnatural number of giant Lakerols.

then they call my name out loud. i say adios to Closet Yuppie and step inside. they put on a white 'shower' cap over my hair that doesn't hold my hair and put a second one over. i have blue elongated shower caps for my shoes, then wear a thin yellow paper robe. i feel like someone from the forgotten Chin Dynasty or a factory worker putting in almonds in chocolates somewhere in the world. the nice i-know-what-i'm-doing nurse puts anaesthetic eyedrops into my left eye. i blink instinctively and some of the drops squeeze out. i restrain myself from saying "hey, can you put in MORE?" my lashes and eyelids are disinfected. she informs me my eyelids will feel heavy from the anaesthetic. but they do not and still, i restrain myself from saying "hey, can you put in MORE?"

the doctor checks my eye one last time before the surgery.

how are you?
-freaked out-
oh, nothing to worry about, OK?
-huh, ok-
you just have to lie down, look up at the light, the ring will create the corneal flap and your eyesight will be blurred, but do not get alarmed. just keep looking up at the red light, OK?
-uh huh-
and then you will hear a couple of buzzing sounds, not to worry, this is just the laser. then you will smell something burning.
not to worry (she continues in her don't-you-worry-honey voice) cos this is just the laser fuse.

LIAR. my eyes are burning, BURNING! but ok, ok, it's just the laser fuse, just the laser fuse, laser fuse.

i enter a second room and am directed to an elevated bed. and as i step up onto the bed, the only thing i can think of is, "hey, that step is from IKEA!" i lie down, and before i can think about how fucked up i feel, they do all kinds of things to my face. they disinfect my eyebrows, eye area, cover my right eye, tape my lashes away from my eye (now have naked eyes cos i SWEAR some lashes were stripped off), place the eyeclip over my left eye to keep it unblinkingly open.

"OK, dali, keep both eyes open throughout the surgery, OK?"

i am dumbstricken. what have i signed up for? why am i more freaked out about this surgery than all my previous tumour removal surgeries? no wonder they sedate people like me. that's right! the Lasik preparation CD said i'd get a mild sedative before the surgery, WHERE'S MY SEDATIVE?!!!! STOP! STOP! GIMME MY MY MY VALIUM!


i look above and spot two lights, one red and one green. i keep looking at the right light. they tell me they are placing the ring over my eye but they do not tell me they are now making the corneal flap - just as well that they do not.

"OK, you will feel some pressure now, your vision will be blurred, do not worry, just keep looking at the red light."

i know at this point of time they are creating the corneal flap. this is when they slice the top part of your cornea with something called a microkeratome. they do not slice it off completely, they make the flap and flip it up.

"OK, the first step is now over, we will begin with the Lasik. you will hear a series of buzzing sounds now."

this is when they start using excimer (excited dimers) laser to sculpt the exposed inner corneal surface. depending on your condition, myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism, they shave off how much they need in order for images to be transmitted to the back of your retina clearly.

here is when i start get a sniff of that burning smell.

then they replace the corneal flap. the amazing thing about the body - the corneal flap starts healing immediately and glues itself back.

and i'm all done!

they remove the pirate thing off of my right eye, and this is when i realise i kept my right eye shut the entire time when i should have kept it open. i do not know if it was from the nerves, or if it was because my body realised that if i kept my right eye open, i'd keep blinking both eyes and that would make my left eye uncomfortable, what with the eye clip and all.

but who cares! i'm all done! i step outside and remove all 'shower' caps and the robe. the nurse explains the aftercare procedure. lubricating eyedrops every 10 minutes today, antibiotic eyedrops every 2 hours today. lubricating eyedrops as and when i want tomorrow onwards, antibiotic eyedrops every 4 hours for a week after today. the doctor checks my eye again, seems pleased, and says "the surgery went well."

the nurse continues, saying "you will experience discomfort. different people feel different things. some feel pain, some feel like there's always something in their eye, some feel pressure. you could feel a prickly sensation."

the doctor says, "you might feel a smarting sensation." felt like saying, "for the millionth time, lady, i haven't the faintest idea what SMARTING means."

i ask, "what's an abnormal reaction?"

swelling, extreme pain, apparently anything that seems out of the ordinary and not listed in the expected reactions above.

i am at home by 0945.

i order a Sausage McMuffin with Egg meal complete with hashbrown and iced Milo. McDonald's delivers promptly. i eat. i lie on the sofa, closing and opening eyes and putting the antibiotic eyedrops every 10 or so minutes. mom keeps talking excitedly about a wedding she attended over the weekend. i have a feeling she wants my wedding to become a circus like that too.

i go into the room, lie on the bed. mom goes on for another hour or so. i like hearing her so happy. her happy makes me happy. most of the time. unless her happy means me disgruntled which happens sometimes, and all the time when i was a teenager.

we say goodbye, i set my phone alarm to snooze every ten minutes, i know opening and closing my eyes won't keep me awake. i'll just fall asleep. and i do. somehow, i manage to have a good sleep, AND wake up every 10 minutes to administer eyedrops.

and get up and am amazed i can see the license plate number of a car 7 storeys below. Lasik is surreal. i'm not sure if i am lucky or if the anaesthetic is that effective, but i have not had any of the reactions listed above. my vision is slightly blurred, but it's still better than what it was before. much better. i keep closing my righ eye to check my left eye out.

why didn't i do this sooner? tomorrow, my right eye. hopefully it all turns out as well as today.

oh, by the way.

intr.v. smart·ed, smart·ing, smarts
1. To cause a sharp, usually superficial, stinging pain: The slap delivered to my face smarted.
2. To be the location of such a pain: The incision on my leg smarts.
3. To feel such a pain.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


yesterday afternoon, i went for my pre-Lasik check up. yes, i am finally taking the plunge. walked through the automated doors into an extremely clean, modern looking facility, nothing like i expected a government subsidised (they are subsidised, aren't they?) institution to look like. i was expecting plastic chairs screwed to the floor, like as though they were expecting people to haul government chairs off on their shoulders in the 70s. you know, ala government handouts that everyone expects these days. but no, the first sofa i see resembles something that rolled out of a mies van der rohe showroom. plus, security was an athletic, good-looking young indian.

Lasik is definitely overpriced.

and i'm loving it.

after registering, a fresh young-faced lady comes to me with a Lasik booklet printed on nice paper. she speaks crisply with a confidence that i find extremely unusual of *cough* usual local girls. and not a single grammatical error at that. she runs through some of the risks involved with Lasik. first at the top of the list is 'permanent loss of vision'. before i can even react, she looks at me calmly and says "but we have not had a single case of vision loss here at this centre" and writes '0%' in thick black ink beside the header "Loss of Vision". she promptly goes on to the other risks that don't quite sound as bad, but really, are just as bad. Visual side effects like glare, halos and starbursts that sound more like marshmallow names in my cereal. and then there's the possibility of undercorrection or overcorrection of the eye - she assured me that touch up surgeries are free. oh, that's good to know. i might turn blind, have marshmallows in my eyes and they are also willing to give me free touch up surgery should, on top of all that, i am quite the lucky star who gets undercorrected/overcorrected. oh, the relief! and then there is the other thing, corneal flap problems. but let's not go further. not knowing everything can be, sometimes, good.

the first test was actually a scan of my entire eye(ball). i sat on a swivel stool that is not for the weight-challenged. put my face on the chin/forehead rest and looked into a screen that looked like it was an austin powers prop. it had yellow and black swirls. then came a test that convinced me i was as good as blind, astigmatism really blurs your vision near and far. the third was just the usual test you'd take in a shop when you need to buy glasses.

then finally, i get to meet my doctor who's in her late 40s with a chinadoll haircut. she's a very simple lady, not a trace of make up or faded hair dye. extremely petite and prefers dress suits and very elegant glasses.


she wears glasses.

why would an opthalmologist wear glasses instead of opting for Lasik? is there something i should know about Lasik?

she checked my corneal thickness with something that temporarily rended me blind with brightness. she seemed extremely pleased with my thick corneas. the nurse then came along and said, "we need to dilate your pupils" and i resisted the urge to ask "why?". the drops stung and i couldn't keep my eyes open for 15 seconds, i looked pretty ridiculous blinking like that. but hell, i was in the midst of 10 dilated pupils, we all went through it. after that, i went through the same three tests, i was told that dilating the pupils was to check if my eyes were stable enough for Lasik. to see if the variations between test results before and after dilation is too huge.

looked into my pocket mirror and found that my pupils were extremely dilated. never seen my pupils so huge, they were almost as big as my irises. i felt like a cat. actually, i felt more like linda blair in exorcist. then i realised that i started having difficulty focusing on my book, it was difficult to read. felt like my eyes had a life of their own, becoming laaaazy. the entire thing took 4.5 hours, 1.5 hours longer than they promised.

i made poor Ah Tak the Electrician wait for half an hour at the carpark because of the delay. there was a power outtage in my home. i jolted awake in the morning from the silence, there wasn't the usual low humming of electricity in the home, the air-con was off. it was too quiet. i had to move slowly, didn't want to perspire buckets before i left for work. Ah Tak spoke extremely poor English but he wasn't shy about it, he couldn't stop talking, he didn't stop trying. there was something absolutely endearing about him. he was very kind, very down to earth and gave a million tips about electrical safety in the home. he's a malaysian from ipoh (hooties to my kind malaysian friends). he even sat on the sofa with me for 15 minutes just talking about the many homes he has visited, fixing pipes and blown fuses. and of the many homes he cannot afford or understand. "i was construction", he said, "no good, this not so good, but better."

the worth of a good hard day's work for money is lost on many of us in this generation.

i didn't feel like going out, didn't feel like seeing anyone. my vision was still blur and my pupils would stay dilated for a couple more hours. i ordered in pizza, the singapura special and the classic italian. i hate thick crusts.

watched Enough on cable starring Bill Campbell and J.Lo. i hate it when i realise an actor is acting in a movie, and J.Lo reminded me i was watching a movie about 3 times in the show. i watch movies to get lost in them.

for some reason, i burst into tears on the floor with my back resting on the arm bone of my sofa. Enough wasn't a particularly moving show.

i think it's time i join Ravi. it's been too long. we've lasted 5 months with the current arrangement, and if i don't join him soon, i'll go mad.

and today, it's the same. i still do not feel like going out, i don't want to see anyone. i am enjoying the quiet at home. i actually like being alone. being quiet. i am already dreading tomorrow, i have to meet someone when i really feel like staying home.

what more, it's a cool Saturday with a strong breeze blowing through the house.

it's perfect.