by Ang Kia Yee

Is it hormones? I’ve been writing in all my formal emails: “I hope you have a gentle end to 2020.”/”I hope you have a gentle turn into 2021.” I’m having such a hard end, such a grief- and anxiety-stricken turn.

I’m at the park. Instead of running, I’m sitting on a bench, watching the runners, the children, the dogs, the other people sitting and watching. I’m watching the trees and their leaves. I Googled “sunset singapore” a few minutes ago: 7.09pm. I’m waiting to watch the light change.

I have Spotify stemming my ears. The shuffle function is leading me through a string of ballads. I rarely listen to music like this nowadays. I rarely really pay attention. Music has been more like a battery pack, or a means of endurance or isolation. Listening properly now, I’m beginning to cry in this beautiful park, amidst these lives that go on despite everything. Despite knowing, even if only subconsciously, in some crevice of repressed feeling, that the world is still on fire.

I am also beginning to see how grief stays. I’ve felt varying degrees of sadness and misery. But none of them have felt as permanent as this, this sense of being forever changed after losing you. “Losing you” doesn’t sound right. I’ve tried hard to not-possess you.

In the end, my instinct to accept what we couldn’t excavate from memory was right — at least I think so. What do we expect ourselves to fully understand about our histories? There is a limit to how much we can know about anything. And there are holes in language, holes through which so much slips through. To chip at the knowable is an act of tenacity; to accept the unknowable is an act of courage.

My new understanding of language was one of the hardest things to arrive at this year. That the thing that saved me, which I desperately romance and continually strive for precision in, is terrifyingly flawed and leaking. I have worked really hard to get good at this, but there is no perfect precision here. I will be misunderstood. I will misunderstand.

Is accepting this opacity pessimism or pragmatism? Is it a part of Zen, a way of making peace? Why does the world turn away from me?

But of course it does not. It still faces me; what I’ve done is, in fact, come to better understand it. Its temperament makes sense now. In some ways, our break-up also now makes sense. I am still learning to live. I am learning that to live is also to grieve griefs that stay.

Where is my sunset? It is past 7.09pm, but the sky has simply darkened without the vivid tinge of orange-pink I was hoping to see. Still the children are playing, the runners are running, and the dogs sniff the ground as they go.