Firsts

“It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.”- the little prince

My heart is in my throat as I wake up from a pool of cold sweat. I dreamt of trying to find you when you wandered into the adjacent. The gravel beneath my feet feels like heavy sand, and the first stars are appearing in the valley. I stand at the end of the drive way in the time stopped stillness of the moment and take a deep breath as I realized I’ve gone to look for you at the wrong house.

Suddenly you appear. Everything happens at light speed.

We are shrieking with laughter and our bodies were shaking. We are at one point the same height in each other’s arms. Your neck smells like clean sweat, heavy with you. I hadn’t seen your face in over a year. I don’t really know what you look like anymore. You’re wearing a black hat, with bracelets at your wrists. We’re staring at each wide eyed and a little shell shocked, laughing with nerves.

You and me.

We were only ideas of us before. A teacher I met on Instagram who made me hold my breath late at night as I listened intently to his voice over my phone. I am a simple girl from California with a little camera and a penchant for words. These were moments of extreme lightness, the story of two people continents away.

You pulled my head into your reality. The voice on the phone telling me you enjoyed talking to me live rather than texting. I paced around the house trying to drop my voice just a pitch and a half because I was worried I’d wake the neighbors.

But I was afraid you’d be like my other dream, where you dissolved in the morning. The one where you wake up and half-remember. I am looking for you through a relentless search, except I couldn’t find you. Other men have appeared, I was drinking and lonely. Disoriented and scared. My mannerisms made me stammer my way through timezones and explanations of kumquats and the countryside life. I imagined you in my future life a little but I was a timid kitten in the woods and didn’t know the impact of the realization it had on you. I held still and waited, but you were already gone.

I had always wanted to love. I never craved for passionate kisses, presents or fancy dinners. I wanted to be the only one to have a key that could unlock someone, so that their soul came spilling out, perhaps someone as lost and spirited and wondering as I am.

A soulmate.

“You see, one loves the sunset when one is so sad.” 

Someone to pour my life into, to mold together with. We’d be the torrent river on the way to the wild sea. Full of rainwater and brightly colored pebbles all worn and smooth from the passing of time. Something the world had never seen before, and perhaps, maybe never see again.

But i was always wrong for you, while I worried that for you I had been far too much, or maybe far too little. The realization made me feel devoid of all else. My brightly colored version of love did not fill your empty spaces. Maybe for me it was a sad tale that happens to far too many – without nurturing you, you turned inward. I am always on the lookout for something meaningful to quench that aching thirst for connection. I prayed that i could be different, for you, though mostly I felt that my efforts had been a failure before it really began, that balmy May night. I couldn’t be sure that you’d turn the tides the other way and I thought maybe you’d fight a little harder for me. That you thought the exact same of me as I thought of you.

I think I knew more about you than you realized.

You never revealed anything. You were nowhere to be found. There were small clues along the way if I looked keenly enough. A hint that something was wrong; the vagueness of a certain June weekend. Something troubling you at a place where no one would catch sight of.

You were like some kind of fortress, your emotions indiscernible, your true feelings hidden just past where I could see them in the fall and rise of your chest.

It had been a secret pride of mine- the ability to read an emotional landscape like it was a vast expressionist painting, every stroke of the brush and where it came from visible to the eye.

But it wasn’t that way with you. Everything was carefully organized and tucked away. When I reached in your direction the space was grey and shrouded in certainty. Your face was unreadable. Your brown eyes huge and unfathomable. What you thought as you watched me fumble through making you tea and I lost track of what I could possibly say, it was all mystery. You were a mystery. You were made of walls. A maze of dark heavy stones that towered high above my head and out of sight. There were no doors, there were no windows. No signposts, no hints.

The only way in was to go in at the very start and work my way through to your brain, path by path right in the thick of the endless dead-ends. But at times the ground was very hard and if I looked very sharply in the dim light I could follow where you had once been, the mark of your shoes on the interior of your world. A world that you kept separate when there were others involved.

A girl and her many tattoos. A beautiful young woman with hair like the sun. Chasing you. Protecting you. Understanding you through the epic frontier of Alaska.

We were a relationship that hadn’t quite made it. As everyone bears a thorn in their heart at times, there was an idea of hope that fell to the ground in torn paper wings. A hurt that may take a long time to go away. I knew the feeling from both sides, especially when forever turns out to be a lot shorter than you thought it would. It wakes you up in the middle of the night while you blink back tears remembering the sweetness that turned bitter. Wasn’t this love? If it wasn’t, what did I do wrong? Why were you conflicted? How did we lose? 

Perhaps the love we had, you were cautious to begin. It was me, maybe. I was the girl everyone claimed was made of syrup, sunshine and smiles. The girl always reaching for your hands, laughing and laughing. My life, wholesome and bright, with the scent of toasted marshmallows.

That was how I lost you. In that long June night, I left my glasses on the bed post and began to cry, petrified at the sudden loss. A head rush of knowledge that this, the romance felt by strangers in Bangkok, was over.

Your river begins to flow. You’re free.

There Is One Thing

There is one thing you should know about me.

It is about my ability to lead hope to dark places. To embellish what I cannot understand.

Please do not indulge in my hopelessness, as it results in addiction as close to sadness on a winter’s night.

How easy it is to get captivated by loss. I have walked with it, been intimate with it. I invited loss to my heart. But it was through loss that I now see you were an intermediary; a long and narrow bridge to something perhaps more beautiful.

– mysteries

Quantify 

Jennifer ngan photography
To you, love was a number.
To me, love was boundless.

I love you I'd say.

How much, you'd ask. 

This is what I would tell you.

If I could drain the ocean floor and count every grain of sand; sum up every breath that echoed since the dawn of our becoming; unveil the sheets that blankets our sky; 

In utter darkness, only to reveal

The frightening multitude of the stars beneath. 

If only you let me, this is how much I could have loved you. 

                               - Jen Ngan –

Seasons 


Winter in California on a rainy day is a rare mix of nostalgia and flowers, a welcome rainshower of change and clarity. 

As the season changes, we will have. It will be cold now, for you are a distant frozen memory like all good things are. And as I frolick in the pier, a bottle in hand, with a little note that is ready to travel, a part of me has lifted. And changed. Where will the bottle go? 

The message is a message of our time, seasonal leaves in gold and orange colors, frozen in time and trapped in the bottle. 

After the storm, feelings will have changed. The sun is gone, the clothes left dripping. In a city of millions, the streets are quiet and mellow. Like an apocalypse. 

My aching chest, it hurts. I try to read, but my eyes are tired. I am in bed, thinking of the letter in the bottle. I listen as my cat mutters in her sleep, though I, I am wounded but a warrior no less. 

The seasons will change again. A new brightness will evolve, and I’ll remember you as a memory of my past, walking along the equinox rain.

Days Upon the Ocean

If I could bottle up the sea breeze, I would run my hands through the salted air, and capture the dewy sweet fragrance from the flowers that bloom in the Spring.

I would take it to your house and open up the bottle, pour it loose on your mantle, like sand from the ocean, warmed by the life-giving sun.

Light rays would burst through your window panes, like boats pushing past the docks.

We could run in the water.

Empty out sand out from our pockets.

Get swept up by where the sun meets the ocean.

We could live like that, in the sun drenched haze of your white window panes.

Read More

Chapter 2  excerpt 

He is asleep. His breathing has the rhythmic quality of unconsciousness – it is shallow, regular but quiet. Slight hiss as air is drawn in through his nose, huff as it slides back out. He is on his side, his face away from the door, his knees bent and one arm tucked underneath the pillow. Asleep. A reversible condition, but I won’t wake him. Not yet, anyway. Not tonight. Someday, maybe.

I sat still in my own emptiness, letting it wash over so that I, too, can begin again. 

When I was in China, I visited a temple on a rainy day.

I was there to admire the beautiful architecture and the peaceful surroundings in an otherwise too-populated city.

Little did I know, I was observing the daily comings and goings of a regular day, with people making a stop to and from their daily lives to meditate, pray and gather. The monks who lived there worked as any worker would, saying hello to people, fixing the lights, sweeping, cooking. This was their home. I felt oddly out of place, yet strangely okay.

Read More