On My Own

You close the door, sit in a chair and open your laptop.

There is silence in the room, or maybe there is background music – a tune that you routinely listen to.

You procrastinate. Scrolling through Facebook, reading the news, watching YouTube videos.

Then you get to work. Your document page comes up and the cursor begins to blink. You stare at the screen. You blink once for every three times the cursor does. Silence fills the room, or background music does.

You look around your room. At the mess your bed is in from the moment you woke up… seven hours ago. At the pile of books you should probably either return or start reading. At the papers that clutter the rest of your table. The post-its with illegible notes.

You are alone.

Even your muse is not in today.

If your background music is on, it has probably ended so you change the soundtrack.

Then you go back to staring at the cursor.

There’s dirt between the keys on your laptop, so you clean it out. You probably should use a cloth. And there are chores to do as well. You need to sleep soon. There is school or work tomorrow. Homework maybe. But you want to write this story.

You lean on one elbow.

You go lie down on the bed.

You fold your blanket.

You take a teddy bear and prop it up next to your laptop. You tell it to speak. It stares black plastic eyes back at you, almost taunting. It says, “You can’t do this.”

You sigh.

Then you close your eyes and place your hands on the keyboard.

You get a notification on Whatsapp. It’s from your friend. You lean back in your chair and start typing a message to him or her. He or she replies. So you have a conversation with them for a while.

Maybe you’ll get inspiration.

You don’t. The two of you have a good talk. Then he or she has to go and do their business. You tell them you are writing your story so they leave you alone. You close Whatsapp and tell yourself to get to work.

The silence becomes too loud. If you had music on, it probably stopped.

You’re on your own.

With a sigh, you type the first word that comes to your mind.

Then the words flow. Sometimes, they stop. You repeat the process. Standing up, walking around the room. Flipping open a book. Read a piece of paper that has been on your desk for five years. You look out the window at the dark sky.

You get back to writing.

Until you start yawning.

Your character starts looking fuzzy in your head. You cannot imagine him anymore. So you save the document. Then you watch another random YouTube video. Reply a few more Whatsapp messages.

Total writing time: 30 minutes.

You decide to watch a movie.

You close the document. And decide that you have done enough writing for one day. Or maybe the whole week.

It’s okay, you say, since it is just a story you are writing for yourself.

 

 

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Encyclopedia of Emotions

The Feeling of Nothing

By: Coralyhr

When Papa woke up the next morning, the first thing he did was to put his ear against the door of the room he had locked Rane in. He had never meant to hurt her all her life. It was just a part of his journey through life, trying to come to terms with his work-obsessed self and his commitments to people.

He knew he did a bad job.

But he had no idea how to change.

And secretly, a part of him was reluctant to change now.

He did his research on adaptation and thought that Rane would adapt. For a while, she appeared to. She loved drawing and he had done nothing to object to her new hobby. He thought it would improve her. HE thought she was independent.

He thought.

It wasn’t until she came and snapped at him for leaving her alone that he realised that he did not know.

After that, he wondered why she wasn’t there to help Rane. Why had she gone her own way and left him to his devices?

There was no sound on the other side of the door. Maybe she had fallen asleep.

 

The sky was still brightening, so he left her alone and went to make breakfast for the both of them. Fried eggs and cereal.

He remembered that breakfast had always been a quiet meal. He tried to remember if he ever heard her talk during the meal. If she had shared any part of her life with him. No. There was nothing.

What should he do?

What did she want?

Why didn’t he know?

He put extra soy sauce into Rane’s egg. He made her a cup of milo. He gave her a bigger portion of cereal than usual.

Then he went back to the door and unlocked it.

She laid on her side beside the wall, eyes closed, a pencil not far from her half-open hand. All four walls of the room which were white before, after they painted it when Rayden died, were filled with pencil drawings. He stared around him, not sure whether to be horrified or amazed.

There were pictures of humanoid lizards, little dwarf creatures holding a wii controller. There were fields of flowers he had never seen before and a forest of mushroom spitting out acid. He touched the wall. A bit of the graphite came off in his hand.

He turned to Rane. He had forgotten to give her a blanket. He shook her awake. She was so cold. “Rane,” he called.

There was no reply. Maybe he should take her to her bed.

He picked her up and brought her back to the room. Then he pulled the blanket up over her and locked himself in his study.

It was only that evening when she still did not wake up did he think to check her breathing. By then, he didn’t have to, because he could smell the rotting smell of a corpse.

And the breakfast he had meticulously prepared remained on the table, one half eaten, the other completely untouched.

Encyclopedia of Emotions 23

Those In Charge

By: Coralyhr

When the light turned red and the vehicles began to cross the road, I stepped onto the gravel pavement.

“RANE!” a voice roared from behind. Without meaning to hesitate, I turned and found myself looking into the cold eyes of my father. He stopped a distance away as if afraid that if he came closer, I would step out onto the road.

I wanted to. I wanted to break away from his strict, cold eyes and cross the road. But I could not. I stared until he walked right up and slapped me across the face.

At that moment, I saw white stars in the sky. One of them streaked across the sky. So I made a wish.

‘I wish I was not here.’

He grabbed my hand and I wondered if this was the first time he touched me in ten years. He never cared before, why did he come chasing after me?

I struggled from his grasp and took a step back. A car honked. Papa jumped, grabbed my hand back and yanked me away. “Rane,” he hissed, and his voice cracked with anger.

“What?” I demanded. “I am old enough to live my own life.”

He dragged me down the dark path. I wondered what he thought of this whole thing. A man in a business suit dragging a girl in her pyjamas who looked like she was mentally unstable. He should just put me into a girl’s home and go on with his life.

He had parked his car nearby and shoved me into it.

Maybe the bystander who saw would think he was a kidnapper. Would anyone call the police for me?

No. I thought so.

We got home before I realised what was going on.

He opened Rayden’s room. It was empty now. He had thrown out everything or given it to Mummy. There wasn’t even a bed inside. I was thrown inside and then the key turned.

“Think about it,” he said, “and tell me tomorrow: What do you want?”

Encyclopedia of Emotions 22

The Wanderer’s Road

By: Coralyhr

So she said instead, “Help me.”

The unicorn looked at her without expression, staring like it had been staring the whole time.

Rane felt like an idiot for saying that.

“I want to get out of here.”

“You do not want that,” said the unicorn matter-of-factly. It swished its pink tail leisurely and snorted elegantly.

Rane asked, “What do I want then?” Since everyone else seemed to know better than I do about what I want.

“You want peace. You want rest. You don’t want conflict. You don’t want to DO anything.”

Rane thought about it. She seriously considered the words said to her and nodded. “Yes.”

Then she waited for an answer. The unicorn knew she was waiting for an answer and it waited before giving it to her. “You will not find it.”

Rane opened her mouth to retort.

“Do you understand,” interrupted the unicorn, “what Elusive is?”

Encyclopedia of Emotions

The Fog of Discernment

By: Coralyhr

Rane squinted at his flickering form in the blue fog that thickened the further they went down the slope. “I don’t know if there is a definite way out.”

“You’ve lost hope.”

“I don’t know anything.”

“You’re just drifting around trying to find meaning in your life.”

“So? Isn’t everyone trying to do that?”

“But the problem with that is that often than not, you will conclude that there is no meaning and then the meaning of your life will be for your personal gratification.”

“Is that wrong? Why can’t I, who exists, and suffers for existing, have my own happiness?” Rane looked down while she spoke, watching where she put her foot because the slope began steeper than it should be. “If someone will tell me definitely…”

“If someone tells you definitely,” said Bai’s voice, “you will not believe them because you don’t think they know it definitely.”

“If they have proof, I will believe them,” Rane said.

Bai laughed. “Evidence is subjective.”

“Find evidence for ME to believe then.”

She looked up to inquire his answer. But he was gone. The only shoes that made squishing noises in the tall grasses that brushed the knees of her pants, were her own.

Encyclopedia of Emotions 20

The Valley of No Answers

By: Coralyhr

Bai was silent, as if contemplating whether to tell her or not. He grinned. “I don’t know. You know it though. Or at least,” he took a puffball off the same tree and bounced it, but unlike with Rane, the green acid did not burn him, “you will know when you find out.”

She took out her wooden stick and pointed it at him. “Why won’t you telll me?” she demanded.

He shrugged, unperturbed by the stick which caused a dark purple trickle to leak from a sharp cut above his collarbone. “You can kill me if you want, I don’t die. And, I also don’t know the answer.”

“Whatever you know,” snarled Rane, she picked another puffball and made to throw it in his face, “tell me now.”

He sighed and sat on a short toadstool, folding his legs beneath him and settling his tail on his lap. “Alright,” he said, “listen carefully and do not fall asleep, for it is a long story.”

Rane sat on a nearby toadstool, keeping the stick on his shoulder. “Go on,” she said.

He cleared his throat and gave his most serious face. “Once you find out how you got here, you will know how to leave.”

There was a long silence.

“Go on,” said Rane.

Bai laughed. “That’s it.”

She lifted her stick and swung it at him. He blocked the blow with his tail, rubbing the blue appendage along the length of the stick.

“Ah ah ah,” he taunted, “be careful with your actions. Pay heed that you do not become rash.”

Rane did not know why she felt so jumpy. During her journey, she had not felt much of anything, but now, she was tired. Very tired. “I want to know how to get out of here.”

“You don’t want to get out of here?”

she stared at him. He smirked.

“There’s a difference between wanting to know and wanting to do. If you just want to know, I assure you that it is better not to. If you want to do, go and look for the answer. Asking me who has no idea will not help you.”

Rane swung her stick again.

Encyclopedia of Emotions 19

The Password-locked Cabinet

By: Coralyhr

All the teachers offered to meet up with us if we had any questions about the subject we wanted to ask. The Chemistry teacher who thought Oxygen was in Group II. The Math teacher who forgot that 10 was not a one digit number and who mixed up x with the multiplication symbol. The English teacher with terrible grammar. The principal who was frequently late for assembly.

I did not believe any of them.

O Levels was in one month. We did not have to come to school anymore. I didn’t. I stayed at home. Since none of them could answer my questions anyway. And even if they did, I don’t believe them. “Did you ask?” Papa said.

It was a strange day. He came home from work early, claiming that it was a public holiday the next day. I had lost track of the days that passed. He frowned and asked if I had stepped out of my room for the past 24 hours.

He picked up my food trash and carried it to the kitchen.

I didn’t want to study. It was meaningless. Math that I would never use. Chemistry that I never understood. English that never communicated anything for me. But I did because I couldn’t ask anyone the questions. And no one could answer me.

“Yes,” I told him. Then I stopped writing with my pen and glanced at the window. “No. I didn’t.”

“Ask,” he said. He had picked up an assessment book that I finished. I did not do any of the questions. I had drawn eyes on one page. Bouncing balls on another. A dolphin out of some figure that was supposed to be deciphered. I finished drawing on all the pages.

Now, I had started on my Chemistry ten-year-series, colouring in the enclosed spaces of the letters in question forty two.

“Study hard,” he said.

He left the room.

I thought that maybe the person who needed to ask the question was not me. It was him. It was the teachers. I had nothing to ask. I had an answer. But no one wanted to know it. So it was stuck in my throat and over time, a question marked formed on top of the fullstop.

Encyclopedia of Emotions 18

The Fragile Heart

By: Coralyhr

Rane stared at the still water. It was not rising. ‘No. I can’t do anything about it.’

‘You didn’t do anything about it.’

‘I can’t. The world is that way,’ explained Rane, ‘You can’t stop the arrows from coming. I’ve tried to tread carefully so I don’t get hurt, but there’s only so far that I can go.’

‘So the world is at fault?’

‘Yes.’ She paused. ‘No. You are at fault too.’

‘Me?’

‘For being so fragile. For failing me.’

Bai smiled. Rane wondered if he heard the conversation. She felt awkward standing in the middle of a lake, talking to the ground.

‘Fragile…’

‘You broke so easily. Just a little bit. You didn’t survive very long did you.’

‘No. I didn’t. I always thought it was your fault.’

Rane was silent.

‘And apparently, you think it is my fault. Where do you think we are right now?’

‘Elusive.’

‘No. We are gone. You want to know what you’re not feeling anything. You don’t really want to know.’

‘I do want to know.’

‘Then why don’t you accept the answer?’

‘I’m not happy with it.’

‘You can’t be happy if the question is why are you not happy.’

‘I’m not satisfied.’

‘You can’t be satisfied-‘

‘Okay. I get it. What do you want me to do?’

‘Fix it.’

Rane sighed. ‘I’m not humpty dumpty. There are no king’s men to try and put you together. And they ultimately failed.’

‘All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men, could not put humpty dumpty together again. I know that nursery rhyme. It was your favourite one.’

‘I liked the colours of the pictures,’ said Rane. ‘And how they assumed that Humpty Dumpty was an egg. But maybe, maybe, Humpty Dumpty was a heart.’

‘Maybe. Yes. Maybe indeed.’

‘I can’t fix you. I don’t know anyone who can. But you have to live with it and stop coming up with a solution.’

Encyclopedia of Emotions 17

The Field of Flowers

By: Coralyhr

Again, Rane interrupted them. “So why do you need to be friends?”

The two of them paused. The green one spoke, “You see, human, it is quite boring to live on your own with only yourself to talk to. There are the flowers of course, but sometimes they are poisonous and we die and have to wait for them to process paperwork to get us back here which is tedious. With the two of us, we can help each other.”

“Do you?” asked Rane, “Do you help each other? What if one person is poisonous?”

“It’s your opinion is it not? On whether the other person is poisonous. A friend isn’t there to protect you. They are there to help you. There’s a difference. That’s why you need to have the same ideas to be friends.”

The red-eyed rabbit-human glared at the green one. “I think there must be something wrong with your eyes. The flowers are pretty.”

“They are not. Look there, that flower with the bl-”

“What’s the difference?” asked Rane.

The red-eyed rabbit-human looked exasperated. “Protecting someone means you put your life on the line for them. Why would you do that for anyone? Helping is much easier. A bit of time (we don’t have it but you know what I mean) and a bit of space, some talking, some gifts, ideas. That sort of thing you know. No risk.”

“What about storybooks?”

Bai laughed. “Rane, storybooks are fiction. They don’t actually happen. Have you seen with your own two eyes people who die for each other?”

“No.”

“So stop asking.”

“But I wouldn’t know because I don’t pay attention. Maybe there are people like that.”

“Would you? Give up your life for someone?”

Rane thought about it. “No.”

Encyclopedia of Emotions 16

The Glass Reminiscene

By: Coralyhr

“So all those things that I saw are gone?” she asked.

Bai nodded.

“Then why have you returned?”

He sighed. “I am different.”

“It would be better,” she whispered, “if you did not return.”

“Why?” he asked.

Without looking at him, she kept a few steps ahead of him. “Because even though I know I’m alone, I’m starting… to think of you as a friend.”

He was quiet for a while. “Then stop thinking.”

Rane felt the tips of her ears turn red.

But Bai said, “What’s wrong with that?”

“You’re not a friend. You can’t be a friend. You’re not going to help me when I need help, you’re not going to encourage me when I need encouragement, you’re not going to be there at the most important moment. And the worst,” she looked up at the white blue sky with streams of clouds that are frozen in the air, illuminated by a nonexistent sun, “is the fact that you are not real.”

Bai laughed, the mocking, irritating laughter. Rane felt anger boiling inside her. She tried to keep a straight face and marched along the path. He spoke, his voice nonchalent, almost as if he was oblivious to the raw emotions that Rane had voiced, “You don’t really know what a friend is.”

“Well,” Rane almost yelled, “maybe that’s because I never had one.”

“You’re too scared.”

A strange sound filled the air. The sound of a whisper but it echoed everywhere.

“You’re too scared that it’s not real. Even if I was real, you would not believe I was real because you’re afraid that I will not be real. Fear, even though you’ve killed her, she still lives inside you.”

The whisper became a grumbling noise.

The ground began to vibrate gently.

“I have never found anyone who would be a friend,” retorted Rane, spinning around to face Bai. “You think you can be one?”

“No. I don’t think I can. But you have the idea wrong. A friend is not there to help you. A friend is not there to encourage you. A friend is not going to be there at the most important point of your life. That is God’s role. Your friend, whoever it may be, will also need help, need encouragement and want someone to be there at the most important point of their life.”

“Then what is the point of a friend?” Rane asked.

At that moment, something jerked from under them, and they fell over. The dirt ground cracked beneath them and disintegrated into a smooth glass surface. The light shimmered around them and a layer of glass materialised. Water condensed along the smooth surface.

“What’s happening?” Rane banged her hands on the walls of glass and peered through at the trees beyond. But the trees were misted into a faint shade of green and blue and then she could not see beyond the glass. She turned to look at Bai.

He was leaning against one of the walls of the glass box, twirling his tail with one hand, watching her out of his electric blue eyes. “The point of a friend, is to be stuck in the same place as you.”

Encyclopedia of Emotions 15

The Way Out

By: Coralyhr

Drawing on paper stopped making me feel better. Better felt just like nothing. I could not make myself feel anything. I began to draw on my hand. With a sharp pen. There was black ink at first, then red mixed with the chemical pigments.

Poisonous, I thought. Maybe I could feel something. There was a searing pain. But when it faded and the picture washed off over the days, there was nothing again.

There was only so much I could draw on myself before someone noticed. When it was noticed, there was nothing to feel. I was not allowed to feel that anymore. Because it was killing me. I wanted to know how they knew I was still alive.

The counsellor was not interested in telling me. She wanted me to talk, but I had nothing to say. I would say something, but it was too late. The words were gone. The feelings were gone. I was gone.

And I only realised that I was gone because she asked me to say something. Here was a voice who wanted to hear mine. Someone whose eyes were not looking at the clock. She had a pass that allowed me to skip class. The room had air-con. There were toys on the table. A pretty doll too, but not the plastic kinds. It was porcelain and fragile. But it had kind eyes.

Say something, I told myself.

I told her I would not draw on my arm again.

She smiled. I wanted to see the smile again. But that was the last time I received that pass.

No, I did keep my promise. I did not draw on my arm.

Encyclopedia of Emotions 11

The Footstep I Can’t Follow

By: Coralyhr

“It’s worse when it hurts you,” I said. “When the robot is not hitting the wall. It’s hitting you.”

The three of them were quiet.

Then Lily got up, almost as if someone told her to. She came right up to Rane and slapped her across the face. “Like that?” she asked.

Rane, stunned speechless for a moment, just nodded.

Sunflower frowned. “Then what? You see, it’s all good for you to notice that you’re banging the wall pointlessly. But don’t you realise that if the computer is programmed to end there, than the only other choice you have is to give up.” He gestured at the controls on the table. “Like that.”

Rose bounced to the edge of his seat. “If you don’t want to give up, then you have to take the path that is given to you. And endure the pain.”

“What for?” she asked. “Why would I want to endure instead of giving up?”

Lily shrugged. Then she smiled. It reminded her of Bai. “The person who endures holds on to hope that there is a chink in the armour, that the ‘programme’ will weaken and let them through. The person who gives up throws away hope and dies. You are not a robot, so you will not make a rational decision.”

“Humans can be rational.”

“What then,” asked Rose, “is rational?”

“Dying. Saving energy.”

“If you live, encounter difficulties and then die,” said Sunflower, “you have not achieved anything.”

“I wouldn’t know that.”

Encyclopedia of Emotions 5

Treading on Eggshells

By: Coralyhr

Rane took a step sideways. Bai pulled on the chain with all his strength. She cried out, the knives and swords scratching her on either side like oversized sharp fingers.

She tripped over the last knife and tumbled to the ground, all her wounds crying out. Her palms hit the ground with a thump and she crouched there, trembling. Blood dripped from a wound on her cheek and stained the stark white floor.

Her vision blurred because of the pain. She was gasping, but she barely heard herself. Rane squinted at the droplets of blood that were forming patterns on the floor.

“Stand up,” Bai said, smirking.

Rane wiped blood that dripped into her eye. “Shut up,” she hissed. “It’s painful.”

He shrugged and tugged at the chain, jerking her upright. All her wounds screamed. “If you stay here until the wounds heal, you’ll be here forever.”

“Why,” she coughed out the word. Her neck began to hurt again.

“Time heals wounds but there’s no time in Elusive.”

Encyclopedia of Emotions 4

The Illusion of Security

By: Coralyhr

The doorknob squeaked and turned slowly. The voices became louder. A head peeked in. “Rane?” he said. The little boy came in.

“Yo,” I said back. He came and sat at the corner of my bed. He held out a worksheet at me.

“I don’t know question four.”

I looked at the paper. He forgot to close the door, so the screaming was drowning him out too. I gave him the paper back. “Your denominator should be five. Close the door when you leave.”

He took the paper but kept sitting there, kicking his heels against the leg of the bed. I glared at him even though I was not angry. “Do you think they’ll stop?” he said.

Mummy was shouting and crying at the same time. Papa was quiet now. His voice low and dangerous. “I think there won’t be a family picnic tomorrow.”

“Can’t we go without them?” he asked, staring up at the whitewashed ceiling with its glow-in-the-dark star stickers.

“Yeah,” I replied, “We can.”

“Can we ride the bicycles?” he kicked against the bed harder.

“Yeah. We can.”

Encyclopedia of Emotions 3

The Mirror of You

By: Coralyhr

The humanoid creature saluted at them, spraying water as it did so. “Hello there, my name is Rane.”

Rane took one step back and reached for the wooden stick.

“No. I am Rane,” she said.

Bai laughed, a mocking sound that echoed at the foot of the Great Wall.

Water Rane shrugged. “You are Rane. But my name is Rane.”

Rane frowned at it. “I am Rane and my name is Rane.”

Water Rane found a rock and perched itself on it, folding its legs under itself and stared at her. “Listen to yourself.”

“What?”

Bai laughed again. Rane wanted to find a way to shut him up. Water Rane beat her to it. With a wave of its hand, a stream of water rose from the lake and drenched him. “I am you. Get it?”

Rane stared at the water version of herself. The facial features were unnerving to look at, even though the creature was made of water. It was a resemblence that she was not sure she liked.

Encyclopedia of Emotions 2

The Ruins of Reason

By: Coralyhr

I was four years old when I asked my father the reason the sky was blue. I was full of questions. Why was the water colourless but we colour it blue in school? Why did Mummy wear a dress but Papa wears pants? Why did the sun only rise in the day?

Why?

Why?

Why?

He answered my questions patiently at first. But then… “It only looks blue,” he said, eyes clamped onto the screen in front of him, the fingers of one hand typing across the board of buttons, the other jammed on the notepad scribbling notes as fast as he could type.

I watched him do three things at once.

“The sky is made of many colours. Blue is just one of them.”

“But the sky here is blue,” I had said. “Why is it blue here?”

The phone rang. He stopped typing. He stopped writing. He turned and picked it up. He muttered into it. Then he stood up, scraping the chair back, pushing me to one side with his free hand. I sat on my bottom. “Yes. Yes. That’s right. I will be prospecting the offer…”

I squatted where I was, picking at the wooden grain of the chair. I traced the shapes. I drew a cloud. A sun. Why was the sun a ball? When I looked at it, it was just light. There was no ball, and light was not a sharp point coming out of it.

My father did not return. He strode towards the door, shifting his handphone from the right hand to the left. He reached for his starched white shirt and wore it with his right hand. He opened the front door and closed it behind him.

I stared after him. Why was he leaving?

The door opened again. He held the phone away from his ear and said to me, “Tell Mummy I won’t be home for dinner.”

The door clicked shut now. The lock turned, a metallic sound, like the ticking of the clock. Only there was a tick, no resounding tock.

I climbed into my father’s chair and sat there in the silence. I had grown used to the sound of silence. I heard it more than any other sound. Even after YouTube was invented. It was the sound that told me to stop asking questions.

Encyclopedia of Emotions 1

The Feeling of Nothing

By: Coralyhr

‘I don’t mind staying here.’ Rane looked out into the nothingness. She tried to remember what colours looked like. Maybe nothingness was a greenish-red. But what did green look like? She had forgotten.

‘Oh, you want to stay here?’ His voice was low now. He bent down so that he could stare into her face. He was not smiling. Rane found that this expression was more unsettling. ‘You like this nothingness?’

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘Everything is equal here. I don’t have to exist here. I can exist here. I can do whatever I want.’

Suddenly, he grinned. ‘I have nothing to say.’ And he straightened up. ‘You can do whatever you want. But you can’t want anything here. Because there is nothing.’

Nothingness had no colour, no sound, no sensation. It was like a blank piece of paper that would never hold a pencil mark no matter how hard you colour it in. No matter how much she looked, there was nothing in nothingness.

Home

~

This song has been sung every year on our our national day since my birth. Every Singaporean knows it. It permeates our identity. It permeates the many languages spoken on this island.

Music is our universal language. English is just for commercial use.

I am not particularly patriotic and sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own country.

But home is not a feeling. It is an identity. You may dislike the ants that form an army camp through the corners of your house. You may disdain the cracks in your ceiling and the way the water drips imperceptibly from the water pipes at 11:59pm. You may want to tear your hair out when someone decides to hold a party below your apartment block the night before a major exam.

All those quirks make up your home. Home is not really a decision for you to make. It is something part of you that you slowly learn to accept. It is a place, a location where you can navigate with your eyes closed. It is somewhere you unconsciously return to someday because you want to meet your family or your friends.

It is somewhere you can move the furniture about as you wish.

It does not matter if you dislike where you live or if you don’t know anybody there. So long as at the end of the day, you are saying, “Oh, I’m going home after this,” it is home.

The reason I decided to write this post all of a sudden is because my country is celebrating its 50th birthday on 9 August 2015 and the whole country is preparing for this event.

People whom I pass on the street turn their heads at the sound of the national day songs playing on the MRT (our subway system) .

People with vacant eyes smile when the airplanes practicing their skyward spiral roar across the expanse between the high-rise buildings.

People I always thought were cold and cynical queuing up for three hours to get a ticket for a local film production while talking to each other like old friends.

These are my countrymen I lived with for seventeen years now. I guess I don’t know my home very well.

But this process of figuring out is like exploring corners of your house you were never interested in before. Sweeping aside cobwebs to reveal something precious or something to be discarded.

What part of your home do you want to explore? What part of it do you dislike? What part of it can you change?