Two months after I started this blog, and finally we have come back to Singapore. Returning here means that every morning when my brother gets up for school, I’m still sleeping, and the bus I napped on for ten years rolls away full of screaming elementary schoolers without me, thank god. It also means that Google Calendar has become my best friends and Bus Uncle on Messenger a close second. I’m waiting for a routine to slowly immerse me but also starting to realize maybe it never will—that no one will fill up my time unless I do it myself. People ask me what I’ve been doing, and I shrug: meeting people, I guess? Only a few days have passed since the humidity pounced us like a damp Labrador. But without a schedule now to compress every hour into forgettable chunks, the time feels crammed with people and places, with laughter and coffee, awkward introductions and familiar hugs.
A friend and I spent an afternoon wandering indie bookstores around Singapore—producing yet another Robert MacFarlane, a book of short stories I’m determined to open after my bookshelf stops glaring at me, and long detours among overpriced and most definitely useless but oh-so-gorgeous art supplies. I watched Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (possibly one of the best titles for a sequel, ever) and tried to count the number of discontinuities and gaping plot holes with another friend. We failed, miserably, but the infectious, ridiculous, surrealist joy of the movie compensated. Lily James didn’t hurt, either. My parents and I explored a Japanese grocery store for hours, emerging with several unintended purchases courtesy of consumerism, and went home to attempt what ended up as an oversalted chawan mushi. Unfortunately, merely the fact I’m on a gap year hasn’t magically imbued me with professional cooking abilities. I did succeed in a pureed avocado pasta (with only one major blender explosion, too!) that’s not as disgusting as it sounds, but no one’s taking my word for it.
But amid all the meetings and dates, I’m also spending a lot of time on my own on public transport. I have no valid excuse for not having the time for an hour-long MRT ride any more, and rather than being claustrophobically boring, it’s freeing. I sit and people-watch—the couples falling over one another, the lady next to me reading a newspaper on TV show reruns, the girl leaning against the train doors and staring far off—entirely relaxed, knowing the world has no demands of me. I savor the familiar textures of old songs, take my time to lay flat the harmonies; I read—Timothy Brook’s Vermeer’s Hat, Terry Pratchett’s The Science of Discworld (again).
My current bag-padding is Virinda Nabar’s Caste as Woman, a book-long explanation of why India hates its women. It’s discrimination I, growing up in liberal, Westernized countries have never known. No one has told me what to wear, what to think, what to do. I’m not a woman or an Indian or a foreigner. Or rather: I am all of those things but also myself more than any of them, and no one is holding me to any single descriptor or standard. And so I am relishing the unencumbered sunlight of the slow walk home. I don’t have to hurry.