Ep. 32 “I didn’t ask you for the truth”

This is a piece of autobiographical fiction. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.

This story is written as an example to anyone who wants to believe that we are more than the patriarchy deems us to be, more than our limitations, and more than our fears.

29th September, 2020 – Berat, Albania

I receive a whatsapp message from Marianne.

“Hey, can I ask, have you and Gideon still been in contact?”

I look at her message and I wonder what’s going on. Gideon must have been lying to her.

In March, when one of my cats died, Marianne felt that I had to know so she called me to tell me and then she launched into a conversation I never asked for, starting with

“Woman to woman, are you REALLY okay? Your pictures make you look so happy, but are you REALLY okay? Woman to woman, I feel really bad for you. I keep asking Gideon if he wants to change his mind. I just feel like marriage is sacred. But you know, Gideon tells me that even without me, he would still leave you. That’s the only reason I’m still with him. ”

My cat had died and this woman was trying to see if I was recovering okay from my husband leaving me for her. My cat dying had nothing to do with her. My recovering and healing has nothing to do with her.

Me being in Boise with Gideon had nothing to do with her but she felt the need to spy on us, even asking Gideon to move the security camera into the house so she could watch us watch Netflix. She didn’t care about my feelings at all, so I never thought that I needed to care for hers. Since she didn’t respect me or my family but putting up all the photographs of them, I didn’t think she would mind if I finally told her the truth about her fiancee.

Who is she anyway? I don’t know her. I have nothing against her.

These thoughts were going through my mind while I decided if I should tell her the truth.

I make the decision to tell her the whole truth. Not because she deserves it. But because ‘woman to woman’, I wanted to do for her, what she never did for me. I wanted to let her know that she was with a compulsive liar, a narcissistic person. Not even a narcissistic lover – because as long as you remain a narcissist, you are incapable of truly loving someone else.

I felt for her, because I was in her position once.

“Let’s have a chat,” I tell Marianne.

“We’ve been fighting alot” she tells me.

“I’m honestly so tired of his lies. He keeps lying to me about things. He already knows he has to save money but he keeps spending money to buy starbucks drinks for his friends. Do you want him back? Just say the word and I’ll back off, I’ll return him to you”

In my mind I thought – who does this woman think she is? That she can just fling a person around and then give him back to me now that she’s sick of him? Instead, I realize that she’s on the same boat as I am. We’ve both been lied to. So instead of reacting to her words that definitely hurt me a lot inside, I decide to tell her the truth.

I tell her about our week in Mountain home together, how I helped him lie to her that we weren’t hanging out. I tell her that we’ve been having calls over the last 9 months and that Gideon was helping me with many questions I had. I tell her that it wasn’t her fault that our marriage broke apart, and that Gideon and I just had too many incompatibilities. I also tell her what happened in the hotel room – so that she would know he has already cheated on her. I wanted her to realize that him deciding to sleep with me wasn’t “an accident”. It was a decision that he made.

She thanked me for my honesty and before we hung up, she said – “This is really weird to ask, but when you come back to Singapore, do you think we could have a drink? I just feel like we could have been friends if not for the way we met.”

I knew how she felt, because I myself have made friends with 2 of Gideon’s exes before. They have remained my friends even after Gideon and I have parted. I knew what she felt – a kind of ‘sisterhood’.

I would only understand why I felt this way much later on.

During therapy, when my therapist said, “It will be common for you to feel like you want to reach out to his exes. Narcissists leave a trail of empaths behind. Because they typically hunt for the same type of women, women who exhibit similar traits and would experience the same kind of trauma during the relationship. This trauma is what makes them feel like they can relate with each other.”

Hours later, Marianne messages me again.

“He told me that you’re lying – do you have proof?”

I give her all I have and she grills him for the truth. He must have admitted his side of the story because she came back to thank me for my truth again. I said “No worries.”

From leaving each other in January till now, Gideon and I have still been in regular contact. So to stand up for her, I send him a message, feeling so much anger for both her and I.

For months now, he had been lying to us both. He would tell her lies about me and tell me lies about her.

He painted me as the sad ex who couldn’t move on and painted her as the insecure new flame. He used the word ‘psycho’ to describe her so many times. I can only imagine the word he used to describe me.

Through our conversation, I found out that he had told her we were already separated when they first met. He had told Marianne that he never loved me. That he only stayed with me in the marriage because he felt bad. He told her that he didn’t find me attractive and so didn’t sleep with me.

To me, he told me that he didn’t care about her. That he was only with her because he didn’t want to be emotionally alone. He told me that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to marry her because she was so psychotic. He blamed her for everything.

Yet, during our conversation she showed me proof that the security camera was his idea. Her extending her stay in Mountain home was his idea. That he had lied to her we weren’t still in contact. Additionally, she told me that he had cheated on me during his bachelor’s night.

Lie after lie after lie.

I couldn’t take it any longer, so I shot him a message.

“Stop lying to her. You’ve already messed up our marriage by constantly lying. Why don’t you just tell her the truth? Stop throwing other people under the bus and just own up to your mistakes. If she truly loves you, like I did – she would forgive you.”

My message bounces – he has blocked me. I check all the other apps – he has blocked me off everything.

I shoot him an email out of anger – Why do I deserve this treatment? You’re the one who’s been lying to her and now I get shunned out?

I didn’t know then, but this was my trigger. His actions towards me had triggered my wounds – wounds that were still so fresh.

Similarly, his actions towards her triggered her. Triggered her into then sending me so many messages full of personal attacks.

Attack after attack after attack.

At some point, I asked myself.

Why are we, two capable, strong, beautiful and amazing women – fighting over a coward like that??????

That day, I reminded myself not to react to her personal attacks. Because for the first time, I realized that her attacks, though meant to hurt me – were only evidence of her own pain. Her reactions to me, were because of her triggers.

They had nothing to do with me.

Ep. 31 “I thought you were Marianne”

This is a piece of autobiographical fiction. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.

This story is written as an example to anyone who wants to believe that we are more than the patriarchy deems us to be, more than our limitations, and more than our fears.

4th January, 2020. Mountain Home, Idaho.

We’ve just finished dinner. It’s Gideon’s birthday and we celebrated it together.

Since arriving in the U.S, we haven’t fought. We’ve treated each other like friends. We’ve been going to Walmart together, watching alot of movies together. We’ve been picking out furniture for his apartment together and having dinner with his friends. On the outside, to everyone else, we’re still husband and wife. Legally, we still are.

It’s late at night and Gideon is fast asleep in the bed next to me.

Marianne had requested for us to sleep in separate rooms but I wouldn’t allow it. I hated sleeping in hotel rooms alone and so he relented but asked me to stay out of the room so he could video call her.

I have jetlag and I can’t sleep. So I’m reading a book when suddenly, the front door of the hotel room creaks open. Omg omg omg, I’m scared.

I have stayed in haunted hotels before and only had bad memories of hotels. Now, why would a locked door suddenly creak open??? I didn’t dare to go to the door to close it, so I crept out of my bed and shook Gideon awake. He doesn’t wake up.

I flip open the covers and crawl into bed beside him.

Suddenly, he’s wide awake and realizes I’m beside him. He starts grabbing me and says to me, “I just wanna fuck you now.”

I can’t think straight. But the only thing on my mind is that my husband finally wants us to have sex.

After we’re done, I smile to myself – I thought that this meant we were getting back together. I thought that it meant he had changed his mind.

After 8 months of not sleeping together, we’ve finally done it.

“So, what does this mean?” I ask him.

“Uh….uh. nothing. This doesn’t mean anything. I’m sorry – I thought you were Marianne.

I feel the pain in my chest and it’s too big. It’s too much to bear. So I bolt out of the room with only my pajamas and a jacket.

It’s snowing outside in the parking lot and I cannot feel the cold. The rage inside of me has heated up every living cell in my body. “I thought you were Marianne.” His audacious words echoed in my head.

He has followed me out but doesn’t let me cool off. Instead, all he can say is, “I’m super cold, can we please go back in?”

Even after he has done such a despicable thing to me, all he can think of is HIMSELF.

All he can think of is HOW HE FEELS.

He could have grabbed us both more jackets, some scarves, even just the blanket. But he completely wasn’t understanding what I was going through.

He couldn’t empathize. He didn’t want to.

Instead of saying, “I’m sorry, you have every right to be angry.” He said, “I’m cold, can we please go back in.”

Back in the room, I ask him. “How can you not know that I’m not Marianne??”

“I….I don’t know. I was asleep and then when I woke up, you were next to me but I was still very groggy so I just grabbed you. I thought you were Marianne.”

“At some point while you were fucking me, did you realize that I wasn’t her??” I shouted.

“Yes I did.”

“Why didn’t you stop?”

“It was too late by then.”

Wow

I never knew that the first time after 8 months of not touching me……

I didn’t know that I was so repelling, I was so unworthy of love, I was such an unlovable creature – that my husband would only have sex with me because he thought I was another woman.

If he really did love me once. I wish I could have returned it. I don’t want this kind of love. This is not love.

Ep.30 – ‘It wasn’t love, it was selfishness’

This is a piece of autobiographical fiction. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.

This story is written as an example to anyone who wants to believe that we are more than the patriarchy deems us to be, more than our limitations, and more than our fears.

15th June, 2019 – Sengkang, Singapore

Gideon and I are in the gym downstairs. We’ve just done a great workout together. He smiles at me and playfully hits my butt as I get down to the floor to do some butt exercises.

When we reach back home, Gideon undresses and says, “I’m going to take a shower and then we can make lunch together?”

I walk towards him hesitantly and starts kissing him, on his chest, his neck and finally we lock lips. The kissing is great and I think it’s going to happen. We’re finally going to have sex after not 4 months. But no, he leaves me hanging once again, steps into the shower and I turn around to walk out of the bathroom.

It’s been 4 months since Gideon and I have slept together. 4 months.

I had first asked him if anything was wrong. The first month that I brought up, he told me that work was getting very busy and he was tired all the time. But he promised that he would make time for me. After all, we’d just been married for such a short while. Nothing else could be the problem right?

The second month I brought it up, I did it in tears. I felt really unattractive and had been going to the gym very often. I was also eating much less and putting in more effort to dress up whenever we went out. He would wear t-shirts and pants everywhere but I would still put on the effort to dress abit more sexily for him. Nothing. Nothing at all.

The third I brought it up, it led to a fight. And then he finally told me that he had some credit card bill payments that were racking up. They were causing him a lot of stress.

He finally gave me an answer. That it wasn’t my fault. That I wasn’t responsible for our lack of love-making.

Now, it’s been 4 months. Even though we sat down last month to talk about our finances and drew up a plan for it, he still hasn’t made any advances onto me.

At this point, my ego is heavily bruised. I keep asking myself if I’m not being understanding enough. I talked to friends about it and they all thought it was weird but couldn’t offer anymore help or advice.

When I first heard about his debts, I was in shock. I didn’t know that he had so many money issues. I didn’t know that he had allowed our credit card bills to pile up. When I asked why he didn’t tell me, he said that he thought he could handle it.

Yet, whenever we go out to eat, he would always choose to go to restaurants instead of cooking or eating at hawker centers.

I started blaming myself. I’m the one who told him when we first got married that he has to pay for all of our meals. I said to him, “If I’m going to be bearing your children in future, the least you could do is fatten up the cow.” I was obviously joking. But I thought I hadn’t made it clear to him that I was here for him through thick or thin.

He had never once told me that he can’t handle the bills. I offered to pick up a full time job but he just told me that his bonuses would help cover our debt. He always told me that this was his way of loving me – to provide for me financially.

My mistake was to think that that was love. It wasn’t. It was two people flailing around trying to save each other – when neither of us had a lifejacket on. You can’t save someone else when you’re drowning yourself. You have to first save yourself before wanting to save someone else. If you try to hang onto someone in hopes of trying to save them, while you yourself are sinking, you are robbing away the chance for the other person to save themselves.

It wasn’t love, it was selfishness.

In the end, I was the one who had to come up with a plan and a solution for our debts. He brought me his problems and I helped to solve them.

Little did I know….that his credit card bills were not the only thing he owed.

In that same breath, I thought I was loving him – but I wasn’t.

I went into our marriage aching for love. Aching for someone to tell me that I’m worth all of their time and their energy. I fell into our relationship because there was such a deep pit of longing to be seen, to be loved by someone.

I didn’t know that I too, was being selfish.

Ep.29 ‘You’re living in a telenova drama’

This is a piece of autobiographical fiction. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.

This story is written as an example to anyone who wants to believe that we are more than the patriarchy deems us to be, more than our limitations, and more than our fears.

31st January 2020 – Puerto Escondido, México

I’ve survived a whole month. A whole month after D-day.

México has been amazing.

I was in Oaxaca for 3 nights and met a group of amazing friends. They have asked me to join them at the coastal side of Oaxaca. This beach area is called Puerto Escondido and we can either take a flight or a 12-hour bus.

We’ve been lounging at the beach the whole day and the views are just amazing!

Puerto Escondido

It’s 8pm and a group of us from the hostel are hanging out at the bar for drinks.

One of the younger girls ask, “Ladies, I know we’ve just met but I have a dilemma. Could you help me please?” Eliza asks. “So my boyfriend and I haven’t seen each other for 3 weeks and we miss each other a lot. Right now he’s thinking of leaving his boys’ trip for just 2 days to come and meet me here. His friends are all saying he’s a wuss but he told me that he doesn’t care about them. He just wants to come and see me for a few days. Should I let him?”

Eliza is 21 and a very very sweet girl. The rest of us being a little older chime in with our thoughts.

“I think it’s amazing that your boyfriend doesn’t give a shit what his friends think. Good on him!”

“Yeah babe, why not!!! If you miss him too, ask him to come!”

Then one guy sitting next to us said, “Well if I were him, I’d just tell my friends I wanted to get some pussy. This way, he doesn’t look weak to his friends and he gets to come see you.”

You can only imagine what the 3 of us ladies thought of this bloody wanker.

I gave it to him. “It’s because of your ego that you don’t realize how insensitive and stupid that sounds. Telling 3 ladies that you would refer to us as “pussies” shows you just how daft you are. In the first place, you’re devaluing us. Just because you consider yourself to be a dick doesn’t mean you can sit here and disrespect us like that. ”

I don’t say this with a raised tone but with a very calm quiet voice. The calmness scares him off and he leaves the table.

“Brava!!!! Jane!! I love how you just told him off. He’s a real wanker, that guy. We don’t even know who he is but he’s been following us around since we met in the hostel yesterday morning. He hangs out on his own and he’s always rejected by groups because he says shit like that. He deserves it.”

“Sorry girls. I didn’t want to ruin the moment. But i’m kinda dealing with alot right now. Couldn’t hold my anger in. A month ago, my husband left our marriage and now his mistress is probably in the US with him. It’s been really hard to imagine the two of them together, especially when she’s been posting photographs of him all over social media. He also changed his whatsapp photo to one of them together and I’ve been the one getting so many questions about who that woman is.”

“Girl, WHAAAT??? First of all, how the hell are you married and second of all – she’s been posting photos about him even though you guys only broke up a month ago???” Cara says. Cara is a beautiful girl with long limbs, short hair and gives off a Moana vibe to me.

“Well actually, they’re already engaged. The thing is – I still love him alot. And before I left the US, he told me that he hasn’t quite made up his mind yet. We even….”

I can’t tell them yet. I can’t tell anyone yet. So I change the topic.

“But yeah anyway, it’s been a rough month. Mexico has been amazing though!!! I’m having so much fun. It helps me take my mind off things.”

“Jane you’re living in a telenova drama. My aunty is watching this show that is exactly like what you’re telling us. But if it were a drama show, by now the mistress would already be dead and your husband’s penis would be shot. So you’re really coping with this with alot of grace. You have to know this. ” Cara walks over and gives me a hug.

I smile weakly back. I don’t relate to what she’s just said. I don’t feel like i’m coping with this at all. In fact, I felt that Mexico is one big distraction.

But it’s better than thinking about my husband fucking another woman.

So i let myself be distracted. And we party the night away.

” Cara & Eliza – not their real names “

Ep. 27 ‘Paris in the Rain’

This is a piece of autobiographical fiction. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.

This story is written as an example to anyone who wants to believe that we are more than the patriarchy deems us to be, more than our limitations, and more than our fears.

5th March, 2020

I have 10 days in Paris.

After moving out of that morbid hostel, I move to a friend’s couch.

I’d met Carlo in Mexico – he was one of my 3 close friends that I made in Oaxaca. The 4 of us met one night in a hostel in Oaxaca and hit it off so well that we decided to go to Puerto Escondido together. We braved through 12 hours of a very bumpy bus ride and enjoyed the next few days of amazing beach weather and vibes.

While I stayed in Puerto Escondido for another week, All of 3 of them left to go back to Paris, Bristol and Morocco. They invited me over their cities, and here I was, accepting one of the invitations.

Carlo had a nice, cosy apartment in District 9 of Paris. I slept on his sofa bed and after his work, we would go out for long walks around Paris. He showed me the Eiffel tower.

We walked around Paris for days, and every day it rained. Paris seemed determined to match how I felt inside. To make matters worse, covid had just begun hitting Europe hard. The museums were all closed – including the Louvre. It was the one thing I was looking forward to visit in Paris.

Instead, I stood outside the Louvre for hours testing out my phone’s zoom functions and taking photographs of the statues. That cheered me up quite a bit.

We came to this bridge where it’s well-known for people to come and put locks.

I walk around and look at some of them.

Many of them are dated in 2017, 2018 and 2019 but one of them dated 1945.

Carlo asked me, “How’re you feeling?” He knows about Gideon and me. He knows that I’m on a path of healing.

“I feel like this weather. Gloomy and dark, but the rain is just light rain, it’s not a thunderstorm anymore”

“I like that. Many people think that Paris is the most romantic city in the world, and they think many things of this city. But the truth is that it is only romantic for people who can afford it. I came here 10 years ago from Colombia, and I had nothing. I had to sleep in a shared room with 3 of my cousins for 2 years before I managed to find a job that paid me enough to rent a small room. It took me 8 years – 8 years to get to where I am now.”

“What do you work as again, Carlo?”

“I’m a product designer. I help companies make models of things they want to build. I’m already 38 and yet I’m working with people who are 25, 26. Sometimes I think it’s embarrassing. But then I remember that my life here is 100 times better than my family back in Colombia.”

From walking around in Paris with Carlo, I realized that Paris is only romantic when you come with someone you love. Or when you have alot of love for yourself. Right now, I had neither, so Paris wasn’t romantic to me at all.

My first trip to Paris however, was about friendship. It was about realizing that people are handed different lives at birth. We all have different starting points and yet we all can arrive at the same point at the end.

I look at the different locks placed by different couples and I think about all of the people who came from all over the world to place these locks.

In my imagination, I place a locket there for Gideon and I. One for the memories. I thought about love and why we always think relationships have to endure all time.

Relationships don’t – but love can.

Love endures all time.

Ep. 26 ‘I deserve to have you’

This is a piece of autobiographical fiction. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.

This story is written as an example to anyone who wants to believe that we are more than the patriarchy deems us to be, more than our limitations, and more than our fears.

2nd March, 2020 – Paris

I’ve arrived in Paris and I’m staying in another hostel.

This one has no soul at all. It’s completely just a business meant to maximize profits and have the lowest cost possible.

Having stayed in so many hostels, you can tell. If the past few hostels I stayed at were nice boutique hotels, this hostel was a hotel meant for business travelers.

In to sleep and then Out to do your own thing .

It’s 3pm and I’m STARVING. I welcome this hunger!

After I met Lucas in Prague, I went back to Berlin to collect my suitcase

Public announcement: PLEASE DON’T BRING A SUITCASE AROUND IF YOU WANT TO BACKPACK AROUND LUGGAGE

I still had some friends to visit in Paris and England so Lucas and I agreed to meet in Spain in April.

I’m at the hostel reception and I’m checking in when another guest comes up to me. He’s tall, well dressed, and has a lovely smile. We exchange handshakes and he says, “I gotta say, this hostel is great and all, but people aren’t talking to each other man!”

I laugh and say, “Yeah I got that vibe too.”

“Look, do you want some lunch? I’m just cooking up some now and I’ve made extra.” Hostel guy asks.

Omg are you for real?? Food available when I’m starving? FO SUREEEEE

As we sit down at the table to eat, he gets up and says, “Ooooh I have a bottle of wine, lemme go grab it.”

Wine at 4pm in the afternoon? Eh! Whatever, I’m on vacay mode.

It was a great lunch. We talked about him having grown up in Paris, but moving around Europe alot to buy and sell hotels. He had never come to Singapore before but has heard alot about the Marina Bay Sands.

I tell him about my past life, how I used to work in the finance industry, then a bartender and a hostel receptionist, but I always miss out the fact that I was someone’s wife before. No one needs to know that anymore.

We talk for a few hours and learn so much about each other. I was getting excited to have a new friend in the city. He offered to show me around, show me the cool and non-touristy spots of Paris that no one else knows about.

I start getting a little tired, thanked him for the meal and start making my way up to the room.

That’s when he reached out, grabbed my wrist and pulled me back down onto my seat.

I was startled, and he knew he had crossed a line, so he apologized.

“I’m sorry. It’s just that I find you so damn sexy, and I just wanted to ask if you wanted to sleep with me.”

Oh okaaaaaaaayy, they do it like in Paris huh! Direct and not at all in a charming way.

“Aw, thanks but I’m not interested. ” I said.

“But come on, you’re a sweet girl, and I’m really good in bed. I just really thought we had so much chemistry while talking, imagine what we could do in bed. Babygirl, you don’t run away from chemistry like that.”

Disgusting.

“Dude, I said no. Leave it, okay?”

He tries again and goes on a long rampage about why we would have amazing sex together. I keep refusing and trying to leave but he doesn’t let me. He physically stands in the way of me going back to my room.

Finally, he says what he’s been wanting to say all along.

“Look, I DESERVE to have you. When I want something, I get it. And I want your ass. So i deserve to ask for it.”

By then, a few other people in the shared common space have heard his words and because I didn’t react but just stared blankly at him. The weight of his words rang loudly in the silence of the room.

“I deserve you. I deserve you. I deserve you you you you.” It seemed to echo around everyone’s minds.

This time, when I try to leave, he steps aside and lets me.

Ep. 25 ‘A resounding YES’

28th of February, 2020

This is a piece of autobiographical fiction. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.

This story is written as an example to anyone who wants to believe that we are more than the patriarchy deems us to be, more than our limitations, and more than our fears.

Lucas and I are having lunch at a vietnamese restaurant.

I have barely finished 3 mouthfuls of my beef noodle soup but Lucas has already finished his meal.

“You’re not going to eat that?!” He asks me, pointing to my food.

“I’m not hungry, do you want it?” I push the bowl over to him.

Unashamedly, he pulls my bowl of beef noodle soup over to him and starts eating it, big mouthfuls at a time. I watch him with envy because for the last 2 months, I cannot eat more than 1 meal a day.

My body is simply too traumatized to eat.

I notice myself losing weight because my clothes have started to be too big. But it’s winter and most of us have at least 3 layers of clothing on so no one else but me can tell that I’ve lost weight.

“So how long have you been traveling for – with your 10,000 usd?” I ask Lucas.

“This would be my 8th month since I left Chile.”

Lucas is from Santiago, Chile. He tells me that Chile is the richest country in South America, but it also makes income disparity a huge problem. The rich are very rich and the poor are dying.

“How much longer are you going on for?” I ask

“I don’t know, for as long as I can.”

“Will you be going back to Chile anytime soon?”

“Nah, I don’t want to. My plan is to go to Germany. They have universities there where you can study for free. I want to get another working visa there and maybe apply to take up another bachelor’s there.”

“Why is studying so important to you? Don’t you want to pursue a career?” I ask Lucas.

” During my 2 years of working in the corporate job, I earned in a year what I did by growing and selling weed for 2 months. The capitalist world is engineered such that people in power will always dictate what the rest of us do. I refuse that, so I’m refusing the pursuit of money. Instead, I’m going to pursue knowledge. I believe that seeking knowledge is seeking true wisdom. Money is a means to an ends – I don’t care for it.”

“How will you afford to keep traveling though?” I was intrigued by his carefree plan of no-planning.

“I’ll continue volunteering so I don’t have to spend so much. Maybe in Germany I will take up paid jobs, I don’t know. I’ll decide when the time comes. ” Lucas shares, in between slurps. He’s almost done with the big bowl of noodles. He makes it look so delicious I almost regret not finishing it myself.

” Tell me more about workaway?”

We walk, talk and arrive at a park – Lucas’s favourite spot in all of Prague. He has been volunteering at this hostel for 2 months now, and he managed to clinch a spot in another hostel in Barcelona. He’s headed there in a few weeks.

“I wanna try this volunteering thing. ” I declare to Lucas.

“For real?!” He asks me. “You? The Singaporean who has a fancy house and fancy life?” He makes fun of me.

Through our conversations, he finds out bits and pieces of my life from back home and says that I own too many material things which is why I feel so empty.

” YEAH ME. I’ll show you…. I wanna go to Spain too. But instead, I’ll go to Andalusia, where my good friend JS comes from”

“Good. You’ll have to start learning Spanish then. Repeat after me.”

“Que” – “Que”

“Chucha!” “Chucha!”

Lucas starts laughing and I ask why.

” You just said WHAT THE FUCK in spanish”

We laugh heartily.

“But really, Jane. If you’re serious. I will come with you and we do a workaway together in Andalusia.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I’m not. Say yes and I will meet you there in a month’s time”

I don’t hesitate and I reply a resounding “YES”

He kisses me and for a second, I forget all of my problems and fade away in his arms.

Ep. 24 ‘Prague’

This is a piece of autobiographical fiction. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.

This story is written as an example to anyone who wants to believe that we are more than the patriarchy deems us to be, more than our limitations, and more than our fears.

27th of February 2020 – Prague

I’m standing in a square, freezing my ass off while I wait to join a walking tour.

“Hi Ma! Hi Pa! How are you?”

“Hi Jane….Where are you now?” my mother-in-law asks.

“I’m in Prague ma, I’m walking around the city now”

“Aye we were just there in Prague, a few weeks ago, it’s very nice. Did you see the old clock?”

“Not yet Pa! I think they will bring us there later. Sorry I couldn’t come home for Chinese New year. How are you guys?”

“We are okay…..And you? Why so long already still don’t want to come home? Now got this covid thing ah, you have asthma, you have to be careful you know.” Ma says.

“Yea, i’m okay ma, don’t worry. I will be home soon.”

We talk a little more and hang up the phone soon after.

Prague

After putting down the phone, I give up waiting for the walking tour. Maybe it’s just not happening today. Instead, I decide to walk aimlessly around.

Orloj- Prague Astronomical clock

The Orloj, I find out from google, is a tourist attraction because it shows the relative positions of the Sun, Moon, Zodiac constellations and, sometimes, other planets. 

It also tells the time, provides the date, shows astronomical and zodiacal information, and, best of all, provides some theatre for its viewers on the hour, every hour. The show is pretty lame and in my opinion, not worth the wait. But what amazed me was that it was installed in 1410 and still works perfectly. It’s the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world, and here I was to see it.

Cool – I thought to myself.

I look at a map that the friendly receptionist gave me and decided to go to a viewing point. My thoughts were too big and they were filling up the city, sucking up the air wherever I walked. The conversation with my parents-in-law was too much for me to just ignore. I needed to walk to somewhere and process my emotions.

After a long while, I come to the top of a hill where a cemetery stood in the grounds of a church. There, I wrote an entry in my journal.

” It’s the 25th of February and I should have already been in Singapore for 2 weeks by now. And yet I find myself in a cathedral atop some hill. I need peace, but peace feels like the wrong thing to want. To feel peace now would be arbitrary because what I need to feel is the chaos in my mind, I need to see it and navigate through it.

I don’t want to feel okay when I shouldn’t. I don’t want to build walls up and force my emotions into a box and bury it deep. This kind of pain kills you slowly but stronger.

When time and space throw you into a parallel universe, one that you have barely even entered, you can’t begin to understand what reality is.

In a parallel universe, Gideon and I are sitting in our apartment in Mountain home. Our cats are running around, we are watching Brooklyn 99 together and snuggling on our couch after a long day.

Yet, in my current reality, I sit in a garden with 4 statues surrounding me while I feel the 6 degree wind slowly freeze my face up, numbing my senses. People around me dress warmly from top to toe, coffees in hand and walking a dog or four.

Is either universe more right than the other? I don’t know. A sort of surrender is necessary I suppose. I’m more aware now or many things I have to work on. It’s been painfully brought to my attention how the experiences I have gone through in my life still hold power over my actions and thoughts.

I want to break free from the shackles of my pain that I buried as a child. I want to break free from them so I don’t dig myself into future pits of pain.

I need….to break free.”

Ep. 23 ‘Yellow North Face jacket’

This is a piece of autobiographical fiction. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.

This story is written as an example to anyone who wants to believe that we are more than the patriarchy deems us to be, more than our limitations, and more than our fears.

26th of February 2020

I’ve taken a bus to Prague – one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

It’s still winter and really really cold so I pull the hat over my head a little tighter. Before leaving Boise, Gideon had taken me shopping to get some winter clothing. He felt bad because Marianne had found my things in his apartment and shipped them back to Singapore. I didn’t understand why she didn’t to do that but in a conversation we have much later in the year, she apologizes to me for it. He bought me a woolen hat – white and blue, a pair of black gloves and a red scarf.

I’ve decided to stay in this hostel in the middle of town. It costs double than the ones back in Mexico, but I’m only in Prague for 3 nights and it does say that breakfast is included, so I book it anyway.

There are two hostels of the same name and I pick the one with a higher rating. I was lazy to read the reviews so I go with the more higher-rated one.

I arrived and was greeted by a friendly receptionist. It immediately brings back memories of when I worked in Adler’s hostel back in Singapore. It was yet another part-time job I picked up after leaving the insurance industry. I worked there for a year, often picking the early morning or late night graveyard shifts. Partly because I enjoyed the company of the early risers, partly because it was quieter to work the graveyard shifts. I could sleep for a few hours if there weren’t any guests around.

I did however, also not want to stay home at night so much. I was definitely avoiding having to spend nights with Gideon.

The receptionist hands me the key to my locker and I assess the room. There are 10 beds and only 5 of them are occupied. It’s going to be a good night’s sleep hopefully. I’m tired from the bus ride that brought me from Berlin to Prague.

I enter the kitchen to get some water and get a little startled at what I see. The kitchen is packed with people, at least 15 people are sitting around the dining table. 3 of them look like they’re volunteers because they’re organizing for people to gather round and start some sort of ice breaking game.

“Hey! You’re new right? Join us!” one of them beckons me to the table.

I feel tired but it’s only 9pm so I decide to join in. I grab a beer from the fridge even though I don’t drink beer and sit down in between two people. The one on my left is extremely attractive. I spotted him the minute I came into the room. He’s bald, has a beard and has the most alluring eyes. He’s wearing a loose tank top and jeans and I perhaps accidentally brush my knee against his when I take the only empty seat at the table beside him.

We’re playing a game to break the ice between everyone before all of them go out to party. I haven’t decided if I want to go, but I play along with the games for now.

“Okay, pick the person you think looks the youngest! If you’re wrong, you drink, if you’re right, everyone else drinks!!!” says the game master for the night. I later find out that they do this every week on Fridays and Saturdays.

The person who’s playing his turn thinks for a second before pointing at ME.

Suddenly, 15 pairs of eyes are on me. Suddenly, I feel extra aware that I’m the only girl in the room with 0 make up on.

“So?? Tell us how old you are!”

Fuck. Everyone in the room is going to know I’m almost 28 this year. Ugggghhhhh. Should I lie?

“I’m….28?” I say with a sheepish grin.

“28?! Omg girl, I thought you were at most 21 or something. I was about to ask if you were an ERASMUS student!!” someone said.

In the end, it turns out that I’m the oldest in the crowd. Everyone is between 21 to 24, save for the 4 of us who are 27 and 28. Very coincidentally, the 4 of us who are the oldest are sitting side by side together, including the very handsome man – Lucas, who is the same age as me, only a few months younger.

For a moment, I start missing the friends that I met in Mexico. I had met 3 of them, all of whom were older than I am. One was 40, one 38 and the other 33.

No matter, I decide to prove myself wrong by NOT staying in on a Friday night and head out to party with this whole gang of people.

During that night, we all did shots of tequila and it surprised no one that we got drunk. I ended up making out with Lucas big time and eating late-night gyros with him.

It was 2.a.m by then and we started talking about our lives from wherever we came from.

“I’m a neuroscience student. I did my masters 2 years ago, then went to work for a corporate company doing sales but didn’t like it. So I started growing weed and selling them. I ended up earning around $10,000 usd in 2 months. Once I had that money, I sold everything I had, bought a one way ticket, and now I’m here in Europe on a one-year working visa.” Lucas told me.

I would never have guessed that he studied neuroscience. But then again, who could have guessed just by looking at me that I studied political science?

When has it actually been possible to put people in boxes accurately and why do we do it anyway??? Why do we have this need to categorize people into boxes?

As we walk back to the hostel, Lucas notices that I’m cold and removes his yellow North Face jacket and puts it around me. He’s only wearing a t-shirt beneath the jacket. A grey one with a pictures of mountains on it.

“Aren’t you cold?”

“Nope, I love the cold”

“It’s a really comfortable jacket, thank you.”

“I remember buying that jacket for a hiking trip I went on 3 years ago. I was working for the corporate company back then, and even with a Masters degree, I was only earning 1000usd a month. Many of my friends from the neighborhood I grew up in don’t even earn half of what I did. Yet, my rent for a room was 500usd a month, leaving me only 500usd to spend and save. I saved for 13 months before I bought this jacket.”

It felt really refreshing for someone to open up to me like that, to be so carefree in sharing about his life.

“How much was the jacket?”

“I don’t remember anymore. Maybe 100usd? Maybe 200? I don’t know. It’s all in the past.”

I think about all the times I spent 200usd just on a whim in a mall buying shoes and I feel embarrassed for myself. I think about all the times my friends and I spend 100usd each just on Friday night dinners.

Have I ever saved up money for 13 months to buy anything? I don’t remember the last time I even felt like I had to save money just to buy something I really wanted.

Of course, this is also because I have never liked expensive things. I don’t own many branded bags or things and the most expensive bag I ever bought myself was from an outlet stall in the U.S. I have however, bought many pairs of inexpensive shoes that I never even wore. I had more than 30 pairs of shoes. Even though they weren’t expensive, they were a waste of materials. They were a waste of money. And most importantly, they were part of the waste that would overwhelm our landfills and be burnt into the sky as toxic gases.

I think about this a little more and before long, we arrive back at our hostel.

Before we opened the main door, I give Lucas back his yellow North Face jacket. He leans in and I know what’s about to happen – I lean in closer and let him kiss me. It was a soft and warm kiss, one that sent me to sleep sweetly.