Soulmate & I Remember

By Eileen Lian


How can I find you?
In this mad crush of people

Over there
Purple socks inside
Purple shoes decorated with big
Purple glass beads

Over here
A black and white
Checkered hat
Sitting atop a pretty boy’s head

I look right and left
But don’t see you

Young girls in tight jeans and flats
Tall, slim, bright
Babbling excitedly
Whole futures ahead of them

Babies tucked into prams
Eyes alert
Taking in everything
Pushed by mothers, fathers, grandparents
Older brothers and sisters

Couples stroll arms around waists
Laughing, bumping, sharing text messages
Happy to exist for the moment

What chance do I have
Of finding you
In this crowd

What chance do we have of meeting
Two strangers
From two different lives
Unknown still to each other

Can you hear me
Feel me
Across the stars and the sky
Across this mall

Can you see my face
In your mind
Remember my energies
From beyond the clouds

I look for you again
In the jeans-clad, square-jawed strangers
The bald polo-shirted man
Queueing for his bubble tea

I look for you
In the eyes
Of the smiling young girls
Waiting for their flavoured pretzels

I search the shops
The supermarkets
The restaurants
Look in the cinemas
And the bookstores

But all I see
Are the faces of strangers


I Remember

I remember at 9
The back room in Fettes Park
With the cement floor
And the wooden bed unsteady on its legs
Covered by a sheet checkered brown and yellow
Sloppy in all four corners
One naked bulb hanging limp from the ceiling
I remember the way she made me remove allofmyclothes
The way she removed allofhers
Sunshine bounced off the white walls then
Like laughter screeching at me, derisive
Of the prisoner trapped in her revenge games

I remember at 19
The entire world before me
Late night suppers with friends
Talk of changing the world
University and the fervour of youth
All I had to do was focus on my studies
And memories of the back room
Fell away into the darkness
Chased into that secret space
I’d created specially deep inside my brain

I remember at 29
The jugs of alcohol I consumed
To drown out the memories
Babbling now like a nuisance toddler
At the back of my head
I remember the corporate gloss
The Powerpoint presentations
The driving down Orchard Road to get to work
I remember the press conferences in hotels
The office by the window
The meetings that stretched way past 6 pm
My confident laughter
Brash, pushy, forgetful

I remember at 39
How the memories kept knocking on my consciousness
Demanding to be acknowledged
I whispered to you then the stories of the back room
My voice, trembling like that of the nine-year old
Shaking in a corner, arms crossed over bare chest
Stunned at the sunlight on the floor
Bewildered that something so cheerful
Could coincide with something so ghastly
Surprised at having banished it from memory
All those long years ago
When the world lay at my feet
And corporate glamour had left me haughty
I remember at thirty-nine
Shaking, choking, gagging
Desperate to stop the memories
Coming at me with the force of an airbag
Life carries on, I thought
I will carry on, I resolved
Carry on with a dash of leftover corporate gloss
At home in Taman Melawati with two young children

Today at 49
I think about our constant fighting
About how I find fault with everything
You do and don’t do
Say and don’t say
About how I needle you into submission
Day after exhausting day
Driven myself by
The big black ball of hate hurt abuse that
I’d choked back and stuffed somewhere
Safe between my heart and my stomach
I can feel its hardness now
The same hardness I throw
At you
At 49


Soulmate & I Remember

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