I think I’ve spent a huge part of my life on the train.

I remember sitting on a train with a friend I’m no longer friends with on the way to watch Hu Bo’s An Elephant Sitting Still. We were having a conversation about metaphors and allegories in storytelling. I proposed that a dualism was possible, that an element of a story could be simultaneously both literal and symbolic, but it didn’t quite register with him. “Well, take this train for example,” I proffered, “everyone on this train is literally on this train, but I could interpret this train as…


I am selling everything. I am selling my Mizoguchi DVDs, my Pink Floyd records, my Murakami novels. I am selling the colourful squares I propped on my wall and called an identity. I am selling them because I am leaving this room with its green walls and its narrow view of a quarter of the sunset, and when my sister takes her long-awaited residence here she will only put them in a cardboard box, where they will sit and would collect dust, if not for the masking tape that seals them from the light of day.

But I know I…


A coming of age synonymous with grief

Photo by the author

I had a dream in my last year of high school that I was in a university dining hall. In this hall I sat down opposite somebody I did not know, and I spoke to them. I remember waking up feeling liberated. That in this still intangible space and time I was anticipating, I would have none of the social apprehension that high school had shrouded me in, and I would be free to unlock with words the private reveries of a stranger, a title that surely was fleeting.

But that space and time is still intangible to me. The…


I will keep calling out to you through the art that has kept me alive

Photo by Dongyeon Jin

I haven’t written in months. I haven’t seen a film since Tampopo, which was six weeks ago. I still read everyday before my two sleeps, but last year it took me two weeks to read Runaway Horses, and this year it took me a month to read The Decay of the Angel, which is half as long. I have been able to listen to more music. I’ve listened to Phoebe Bridgers scream at the end of Punisher a dozen times and it made me cry each time. Shoegaze emanates quietly from my laptop as I labour through problem sets, I…


I think that quiet, anticipatory acts are what keep us going. I suppose they call that “hope”

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I reached the epilogue of War and Peace today at a bus stop opposite home. I didn’t realise that the narrative had ended until a blank page confronted me, in fact at first I found the ending abrupt. But before I could admit the perfection of Tolstoy’s coda its impact on me had already begun to seep into my being, as I started to smile under my mask and reel in self-contained whispers of “wow!”.

Tolstoy’s capacity for coalescing a vast array of individual experiences into a larger, coherent narrative gives his writing a truly transcendental air. What he coalesces…


I’m starting to feel left behind. My friends have left the country to the likes of Australia, the Philippines, South Korea, the USA, the Singaporean army. I have taken the train to the airport four times in the last month. I have been left here to turn on my computer at 9PM and log off at 2AM and wake up before 7AM for my next tutorial, daily.

During orientation I had the option to follow a schedule written for students in difficult timezones, but I didn’t. I told myself that I would not be an outsider, that I would do…


Mourning my grandfather and my inherited inability to grieve

(Photo by the author)

I was a twelve-year-old boy when I first encountered grief. I learnt of my grandfather’s passing on a Friday afternoon, and I thought I’d still be able to go to my friend’s house the day after. My little sister, still five years old, asked our father if our grandmother had passed away as well. I wasn’t as incognisant of what death was, but internally I was just as confused.

Before I could even speak, my father’s father had suffered a stroke. As soon as I was able to, I felt obliged to talk to him, even though he never spoke…


Where intimate histories come to rest

Photo by the author

There is a record store on Coleman Street that has been around since 1962. It was first a shophouse, until it was demolished to widen a road, and when a mall was erected in its place it was invited to set up shop there. When the mall was closed for renovation it took its place in a hole in the wall on the second floor of an obscure, run-down shopping centre, and when the mall was reopened they did not move back.

This short history is articulated to me by the store’s owner who, when I ask him if they…


Noname’s debut mixtape is a soulful take on coming of age in Black America, and coming to terms with death

Photo by Ben Kaden, Flickr

Death envelopes the 33-minute runtime of Noname’s Telefone, yet it is an album I often seek solace in. The combination of Neo-soul beats and Noname’s conversational delivery creates a languid, soulful atmosphere; it is the sonic equivalent of a conversation with a childhood friend in which nostalgia is made bittersweet by the subject branching into shared grief.

Telefone is a coming of age album, and a truly bittersweet one at that. The African-American girl on the album cover balances a skull on her head and holds flowers in her hand. She is not Noname, but she represents her, such that…


And, writing to come home

Photo by the author

When I was in the third grade I ran away from home. Or at least, I tried to — I didn’t quite get past the front door. It was a Chinese exam that had motivated this, or more specifically, my father’s reaction to it. Upon laying his eyes on my score, a side of my father I had never seen before came to life, as playful teasing gave way, in an instant, to judicial terror. My sentence was Chinese vocabulary: between the time my father finished dinner and midnight, I would be grilled on phrases and words I should’ve known…

Nathanael

I’m not here, this isn’t happening

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