A work of fiction: Sleep Angie, sleep

It’s 7.48am and Angie is walking home from the hospital, where she works as a nurse. Today is the 8th day in a row that she’s been assigned the graveyard shift but she doesn’t mind it. It’s quieter and she likes watching her patients sleep and find rest, while she watches over them to take care of their every need.

As she walks, she holds her bag close to her and although it’s summer, she’s wearing a thick jacket and stockings. Inside, she wears a long sleeved black top underneath her tight-fitting uniform. Never again would she wear anything without sleeves. Never again would she allow her neckline to be exposed. She never knew this part of her body would be the thing that attracted him the very most.

Her palms are sweaty but she keeps her right hand in her sling bag, her fingers clutching tightly around the pocket knife. She can never be too careful. He might appear anytime, anywhere.

Walking along the street from the hospital to her home would take an hour, but she welcomes the exercise. It fact, the only time she’s able to find peace is when she’s walking.

Angie walks everywhere. She never takes the bus, the car, the plane, not even a bicycle.

If she cannot walk to where she’s going, she will not go.

As she’s about to cross the bridge where he first raped her, she mentally prepares for the nausea that always hits hard.

“Ready?” She asks Anni, one of her imaginary friends that Angie’s mind created in order to protect her. To no one else but her, Anni has been walking alongside Angie since the first incident.

They arrive at the start of the bridge, a bridge that Angie has taken countless of times since she was a child. It’s the bridge that separates town from her neighborhood. She crosses it everyday when she goes to work.

“Can we count backwards this time?” Anni says in her cheerful voice.

They count backwards from 318 as they walk across the bridge. Angie can feel her heart pounding. From her chest to her back, a sharp pain increases in intensity as she inches closer to the exact spot where he first defiled her. Where he first decided to ruin her life forever.

’56, 55, 54…….53′

At step 53, Angie looks at Anni, takes a quick breath and slowly lets it go as they pass 52, 51, 50, all the way to 1.

They made it again. And no one will ever know what a feat they’ve accomplished, just by being able to cross a site of trauma without going into complete panic.

No one will ever know what Angie carries with her. She can never tell anyone. She can never name her perpetrator. Because who would believe her?

He’s a respectable business man in town who owns 2 hotels, 3 restaurants and is the supplier for all of the medicine to the hospital she works in. Everyone in Berat (Albania) knows who he is. From the burek stall owner to the mayor, Miro is the local town hero.

She tried to make a police report against him, after he had raped her a second time – this time in the supply closet on the top floor. The police dismissed her and said that she was “the 5th girl who’s claimed to be raped” by him. “It’s just not possible, look at his hot wife, why would he want to even touch someone like you?”

The second time it happened, he had found out about her work schedule and attacked her while she was doing her rounds. With his strong hand clasping her mouth shut, she couldn’t scream. She couldn’t fight him. She was helpless against him – in all ways.


After Angie got home, her mother, Gloria, heard her opening the door softly, the hinges creaking because of the rust.

As Angie brought a cup of water to her mother’s bedside, Gloria grabbed her wrist and sat her down on the bed, next to her. Gloria is blind and her blindness heightens all her other senses. She could feel that something wasn’t right. She could feel her daughter’s agony, even though Angie hasn’t spoken a word.

“What happened, my love?” Gloria asks.

“Nothing mama, I’m just tired.” Angie’s been avoiding Gloria’s questions for a while now, 7 months and 2 days to be exact.

In silence they sit, Gloria holding Angie’s hands and putting them on her lap.

Gloria knew of course, that something had happened. Something had changed in Angie. This was her child. She would always know if something is wrong but she knew better than to push Angie to talk.

“Okay then, turn around sweetie. Let me brush your hair.”

Angie turned around, her back facing her mama, and let her close as she felt the brush comb through her long black hair. With every stroke, Angie feels her eyes getting heavier and heavier. She lets her head tilt up and down naturally as her mother combs through her hair. She knows that this is how her mother cares for her. And she lets her. Because it’s easier than telling her what happened.

Before long, her mother stops and Angie blinks open her eyes again, her face staring back at her in the mirror on the wall. The mirror that her mother used before her blindness set in.

Every time Angie looks at herself in the mirror, she doesn’t recognize the person staring back. Who is she? Where has the light in her eyes gone to? Where is the healthy glow that once used to radiate from her skin?

Before the self-interrogation continued in her mind, Angie stands up from the bed abruptly, and kisses her mother on the cheek.

As she lay on her bed, ready to go to sleep, the flashbacks begin. They go on for what seems like an endless of time but her fatigue takes over and plunges her into her dreams.

There, she’s free. There, she’s finally able to live a life she wants. In her dreams, there are no men. Only happy children singing and dancing. For the next precious 5 hours before she has to wake up for her day job as a waitress, Angie sleeps.

Sleep Angie, sleep.

i’m sorry for your pain

I was talking to a new friend of mine. And he shared with me how his parents denied him after they found out he was gay.

His family was very religious, and they didn’t understand his coming out. They didn’t understand what he was trying to explain to them.

At 17, he made the brave decision to come clean and tell his family that he was never going to get married in a church, that he would never have children, and that he can never live up to their expectations.

At 17, they denied him. On the surface, he attended every family function. But his parents never stopped badgering him to go for counselling, to go for confirmation classes and they never stopped hoping he would “change his wretched ways”.

He’s 32 now. He’s getting married in Germany soon, and they’re planning to have a baby through surrogacy. His family is still in touch with him, but he no longer feels that they’re his family. By denying him, they have chosen to put a distance between them and him.

Who’s wrong, and who’s right?

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I recall another memory of my childhood friend, whose father had 2 families. His first wife knew about the mistress, but accepted it as a matter-of-fact. She even once bought him a shiny red car, so that he would stay. Barely a few years later, he met yet another woman, married her and had a baby – 23 years younger than his second daughter.

Two daughters took their family fate very differently. The eldest one was always closer to her father, and she supported him by attending her step-sister’s birthdays and school events. She got married very early on, moved out and left her younger sister with their mother.

After being abandoned a second time, their mother fell heavily into depression, and never was the same again. She just couldn’t find joy in life anymore.

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My own grandmother, was sold as a baby – for $12 Singaporean dollars. Her adopted parents were lovely people, and also adopted another two children. At 19 however, her father suddenly died of a heart attack, leaving behind his wife, my grandma, and her two step siblings.

A week after her father’s passing, her mother died of an aneurysm, after having cried for 7 days in a row. Her heartbreak killed her.

At 19, my grandmother became a mother, father, and an elder sister. She no longer could think about herself. She had to learn how to survive and thrive as a young female in 1930s-40s of Singapore.

Very quickly, she learnt different trades, and converted each skill into a business. She rented a shophouse in tiong bahru, teaching people how to sew on the 2nd floor, and teaching people how to do floristry on the ground floor. She also learnt that investing in a payphone would be good in the long run, and collected a good side income from that.

My grandma survived and thrived, raising 2 step children, and later on 4 children, mostly all on her own.

But her insecurities never went away. She ended up marrying a man who was not worthy of her.

Till now, even after 60 years, she still suffers verbal abuse from him every day, and she’s still living with her decision of marrying a man who behaves like a child.

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I share these stories, so we can learn from them

Everyone has suffered through something in their lives before. What we cannot control, is what others do to us, and how tribulations surprise us from time to time. No one can cheat death, heartache, or grief.

But what we can do, is control how we respond to life. We can decide if we want to let them cage us in an unhappy cycle of hurt and hate. Or – we can decide to transform all of that pain and rage into beauty. Beauty in the form of extending compassion to others. In the form of apologizing when we’ve done wrong.

We can choose to become better human beings, by righting our wrongs, and deciding that from this day forward, we set intentions to be better. To listen better, to empathize more, and to put down our egos and place ourselves in the other person’s position more.

We forgive those who deserve forgiving. And we work on loving people around us more.

As much pain as we hold, it gets better when we share it around, and when we know we’re not alone.

A work of fiction – Liza and her bug

“I can’t deal with your need for validation” Damien says to Liza. In her head, she mulls this accusation over, then agrees with it and says “you’re right. I shouldn’t need anyone else to tell me I’m lovable, not even you.”

Making an extra effort to look calm, she ties her laces on her black Nike shoes, feeling his eyes on her back. “hey, I’m going for a run okay?” she doesn’t wait for him to answer, turns the door knob and walks down the steps, letting her feet ground into the wet pavement.

She starts off in a loose jog, shaking her arms out by her sides, taking a few deep breaths in and out, stretching her neck side to side, just as her running app has been guiding her to. A shoulder injury forced her to start running, something that is out of her comfort zone, and so she downloaded a running app to teach herself to run. Damien had an opinion about it. “Why can’t you just run? Why do you need technology to teach you what your body should naturally know to do? You’re like a robot. You have no heart. You can’t feel the way a woman should.”

Remembering to keep her posture straight and her elbows by her side, she speeds up into a sprint up the hill until she came to a junction. Left or right? ” why can’t you be more spontaneous?” “I can be fucking spontaneous. I choose left. Let’s go. There, see? I don’t even know where I’m running to but i need my thoughts to sort out”

Liza can’t remember the last time he kissed her. She’s wondering why they’re even still together. She knows the answer, and still it doesn’t inspire her to do anything about it. She’s afraid to be alone. She hopes that he would one day realize he wants her. But she doesn’t even know if she would want him? What is love? Is love reciprocity? Or is love constantly giving and waiting? Love is such a tricky thing…..

She enters the house again, finds him lying on the day bed, reading. She walks towards him and puts her hand on his shoulder, not expecting anything. Just before she could say anything, he puts his hand on hers, and pulls her into a hug. He nestles his face into her neck, and she can feel her heart melt again, her will to leave him crumble again. All it took, was a sign of semi affection. She feels dejected, desperate, but resigned to her fate.

“I’m gonna shower and then start on dinner, okay?” she says to him, kissing him on his forehead. “okay thanks! ” “baby?” she turns and looks back at him, thinking he was going to join her in the shower or offer to help with cooking. “could you be sure to close the door please? You always forget it. ”

Her eyelid twitched for a second as she paused for a while before smiling and walking out, turning the door knob with much control and carefully closing the door behind her. Ah…. It was always her own fault for assuming things anyway. “Maybe next time, next time is when I will address the problem. All is at peace now. I don’t want to fight anymore.”

That’s the burden she bears, a self deprecating bug buried deep into her psyche. A bug that causes her to bury grievances, suffer silently.