Friday, March 31, 2006

Testing Wan, To, Pee (Part 1)

"You cow! Don't do this to me!"

"I'm sorry! I just know I can't do it!"

The heated conversation had to be carried out in a hushed tone outside the audition room. The girl inside had obviously had vocal training, as she twirled around the notes like a pen guided into cursive on lace-embossed paper. All the while Angeline had been anxiously keeping her eyes fixated through the glass panels, on the five judges lining the back of the room. It was unfortunate for her, and consequently me, that the hopefuls before us posed as horribly good competition. Angeline and I were laborious sisters of the art. Through triumph and suffering, I thought we would go through it together. She suddenly left me high and dry, shivering in the desolate cold of a simulated winter.

I didn't dare look inside, for fear that intimidation of trying out for the first time for a musical production would get the better of me too. I had to stay strong. I had to do it for Angie if not for me, and I did not want the trip to Sentul be in vain.

"Don't worry, it's not the first time she's pulled out of an audition at the last minute," Angeline's boyfriend, and designated driver for the evening, assured me.

It's been a while since my last theatre audition, where I was sworn at and casually dismissed by the director as a result of my session slotted in at the end of a presumably long, rough day, and also for me not being suited for any particular role unless I could pull off the portrayal of a 13-year old boy.

The nightingale left the audition room with a geeky grin and the next candidate entered, putting me next in line. I poked and pleaded, but Angeline was not budging. It was clear her decision was final. My growing jitters weren't being any less soothed by the over-achieving air conditioner, neither by the sudden sonic booms from the PA system every five minutes, politely ordering patrons to get their fashionably late derrières into the theatre before the doors close for the next stage performance.

Time had flown too fast for me to gather my wits to a sensible level as I watched the last person leave the room. I saw the tea lady enter with drinks for the judges, and motioned me in once she emptied her tray.

I took off my shoes, held my breath and opened the door. I walked into a bubble of comfort - it was heaps warmer in here, and for some reason, the judges did not look like judges anymore... just a bunch of people sitting at a table.

I was offered the chair placed directly in front of Joe Hasham. THE Joe Hasham. Also known as The Real Deal. The Head Honcho. The Big Kahuna. I grew up listening to his voiceovers while I was still an introverted little runt in a quiet Western Australian suburb. I have grown up with a desire to be introduced to him, and now that the opportunity was literally in my face, I was too dumbstruck to even remember what I was doing there. Had Faridah Merican not left the room for a breather, I would have by now soiled my knickers.

Joe the director was seated between the choreographer and two writers of the play. He gave me a firm handshake and introduced himself and his team, his black beady eyes providing a stark contrast to his pepper grey hair. "You are Davina, yes?" he asked in his voice of bottomless depth.

"Yes I am..."

"Davina... Davina. Hmmm. That's such a lovely name. Is that your given name? Where did it come from?"

Before I could go into my hackneyed explanation about how my mother borrowed it from Prince Charles's ex-girlfriend while she was living in London with my father all those years ago, he asked me if I have a Chinese name.

"I do... Mei Pin... Although I don't usually go by it."

"Mei Pin. Goh Mei Pin... What a beautiful name!"

Not only had I finally formally met Joe Hasham, he liked my name too. I hugged the clouds in my head. I felt the love.

He brought up my occupation as Assistant Events Manager.

"In such a field, there may often be times where you are required to work overtime. What would you do in the 'what if' situation that you being held back at work, but still have a rehearsal to go to?"

"Well, my boss has previously let me take leave for two weeks to shoot a movie..."

"But this isn't two weeks. This is four months."

I stuttered and spluttered.

"Okay, don't worry about that just yet. We'll start worrying about it if it does happen. You have a song prepared for us?"

I was not prepared but I did have a song, a blues number called Black Coffee which I sang once at a college prom night. I stood up and started singing in a voice which I did not recognize. My diaphragm had crept up to my throat without sufficient warning. I made Lindsay Lohan seem like a Grammy frontrunner.

Thankfully for me and my audience, Joe halted me before I got to the 'big' notes and instructed me to head over to the back of the room, where Jan the pianist was seated at a keyboard. She ran through some scales for me to orally mimic. There were some tricky parts to follow and my voice cracked at some points, but Jan assured me that she only wanted to test my range.

"Does she have an ear?" Joe asked.

"Yes, she does," replied Jan.

He noted it down, and I hugged another cloud.

Pat the choreographer then rose. "Do you dance?" she inquired.

Can I dance? Heck, I put on my boogie shoes with KC and The Sunshine band every Wednesday night.

"Have you done ballet before?"


"I haven't been professionally trained in anything, but I've done pop and hip hop stuff before..."

"Okay, can you show off some of your stuff to us?"

I wish I had responded negatively to her first question so she could have at least shown me her own moves for me to follow, just like she did with the candidates before me. Alas, with me thinking that I am superbly multi-talented, Jan popped a CD in the player and played a song that evoked images of cute furry animals getting high on Kool-Aid. I performed an abstract dance of cute furry animals getting high on Kool-Aid.

Pat then showed me a move: two steps outward, then two steps back in. It looked easy enough, until she quickened the pace to the point where her legs were a blur. She suddenly stopped, and me a second later.

"Can we brush her up?" Joe asked.

"Yeah, I think we can." Pat replied. And a cloud came around to give me a pat on the head.

I sat back down and Joe pulled out a script. This was wierd, seeing that the other candidates before me left promptly after the choreography segment. "I would like you to read the part of Mei Ling. Just take a look at this part and start when you're ready."

I was halfway through until Joe told me to stop, and start again standing up. I read out the lines without knowing what I was talking about until I was done uttering them. From what I could gather, it was basically dialogue that made the character sound like a intelligent woman who was incidentally reading an intelligent book.

Joe thanked me after I was done. "You have a very good voice. Your expression is very good." I was alarmed at his observation, but nevertheless gave low fives to all my homie clouds in front row.

I sat back down. "Your acting is good, your dancing is ok. Your singing voice... Meeeehhhh..." He scrunched his face up and waved the 'so-so' gesture. I laughed and admitted that I still needed a lot of work in that department.

"We'll be having call backs soon, so we will contact you if you're selected for that..." I nodded like a shy schoolgirl.

"...But I think you might have to have a talk with your boss, because I would like to call you back."

My clouds rewound the tape and played it back to make sure they heard it right.

"I would like to call you back."

Joe Hasham would like to call me back for a Malaysian musical which he is directing.

My face was the emoticon of WTF.

I stumbled out of the room, collected my shoes and collapsed on the floor with my feet in the air. Angeline and her boyfriend picked me up and escorted me out: an overwhelmed, wheezing wreck. I was a piece of yellow paper short of going to Hollywood.

I thought my days of employee anxiety were long over, and then I had to be a wise@$$ and put myself in the predicament again. How I would explain to my boss that I wouldn't be able to stay back late? How would I get myself to KLPac for rehearsals? How would I be able to see my family, mates and boyfriend without looking like a POW?

I guess Joe was right, I should just chuck my eggs back into the basket and wait. And even if I don't get it, I'll be glad that a six-year stage hiatus didn't keep me from trying my best.

And as icing on the cake, my name rocks and I didn't even know it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


I was lazy to do it this time but I relented. Mom parked by the pump and I pulled out my wallet as I stepped out of the car. I hated the fumes. They gave me a headache.

Slipping three crisp RM10 notes through the plexiglass opening, onto the aluminium tray and into the hands of the cashier lady, I get transported back to the Grade 1 classroom of Noranda Primary School, when I am given a piece of purple-ink photocopied paper with identifiable-enough sketches of things that emit a scent. Put a tick next to the things that smell nice, the instructions read. I saw the picture of a gas pump. I left it blank. I saw a picture of a garbage dump. I left it blank too. Then I saw the picture of an insecticide aerosol can. Hey, now we're talking...

As I walked back to the car, the memory reinforced my history of aversion to the nauseating toxin (as in gasoline, not insecticide. Insecticide still kicks @$$). Even Harry Potter uses it in wizardry warfare.

"EXPECT SOME PETROLEEAAAAHHHM!" I hear him cry out in the trailer for the Prisoner of Azkaban. (It sounded something more like 'Expecto Patronum', but when in a life-or-death scenario, pronounciation isn't too high on the priority list.)

Unscrewing the cap where the liquid of all evils was contained and hauling the injection pump out of its storage latch, I inhaled one last breath to hopefully last me through the fill-up.

A timid forefinger pressed on the trigger, and the pump jerked as a surge of fuel shot through in a fit of mechanical rage.

I watched my mom in the driver's seat, bopping her head contentedly to a pinch of overplayed radio candy. Ignorant fool, I thought. To leave me alone, risking life and limb in a sensory numbing environment, should a careless smoker toss a stub in my direction while I stand around oblivious to a gas leak sneaking up on my toes. Or should a careless executive take a call on his cellular phone from a managing director whose capitalistic life wouldn't be too affected by the fatal explosion at a gas station miles away from the safe confines of his mansion downtown.

It was at this thought when I realised that my lungs were beginning to give in to the pressure of air fighting to escape. I looked at the meter - only halfway through. There was no way my breath would hold for the rest of it. I let it out in spurts, thinking of the paracetamol overdose I would probably be indulging in after this monstrous olfactory encounter.

I ran out of breath. I released my ribcage.

I found out that at the exact moment I did so, an overbearing waft of fumes had already crept out of the fuel tank and had been fervently waiting to rape my defenseless nostrils.

It entered, filling my head with the suffocating wrath of flammable hydrocarbons.

It was full of horror. Of despair. Of a thousand lifetimes of human suffering. Of the Numa Numa song and For Love Or Money reruns.

...Then indifference.

Then adaptation.

Then playgrounds. And dandelions. And Kristin Kreuk in a vat of melted chocolate.

A smile crept up on my lips and from them, the universal expression of peace and eternal love oozed out.


I finished pumping, slowly opened the car door and collapsed into the passenger seat. I didn't want to talk. Or move. All I wanted to do was smile and make love to the birds and the bees. Life was da shiznit.

My mother shifted nervously in her seat.
"You know, I forgot to turn off the engine..."


My hippie persona was bludgeoned to death on the spot and life shifted itself back to its state of greasy food, lack of exercise and decay of responsibility.

At least I was alive, and the tank was full.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Civil duty

Some of you are already familiar with my previous post which has provoked the following comment. I deleted the message, firstly because it was not in relation to the post and secondly, because I didn't want to let things get personal on my blog. But the intention of that person was to make his or her comment public, and I shan't deny such a privilege.

Plus, the attempt to clarify may culminate into a round of mud-wrestling, and I'm always up for that.

I present to you, unabashedly, the latest comment in my blog. Unedited.

anonymous said...

Re: April 2005 post

Perhaps you forgot to mention in your one-sided story to the masses what you did in the days just before you and him got together?

Does making out with a certain guy from college in his car ring a bell?
And being caught doing it too. And you knew R really cared a lot for you then.

What about when you walked to his house in the rain to apologise for that?

His heart was broken, but yet he let you back in.

Nah, it probably got lost somewhere in your post - when you found out that he did the same thing to you.

It is always easy to say you were the victim, and all humans can easily fall into that trap - after all, we are only human.

But think again in those 'rough' months you mentioned. You scolded him for calling you when you were at work. And after he learned not to interrupt you during work hours, you were still annoyed at him eventhough he tried to time his one call per day to you at lunchtime. Just to find out how you were doing.

You asked him to count how many times he swore a day and report it to you.

Through all this, he would still pick you up almost everyday from work in a means to ease your family's burden. He also tried to see you for lunch everyday. He tried his best to pamper you but was met with stony if not stubborn resistance.

He put up with your mother's incessant insults to him and your family's refusal to accept his existence.

He also, at any point, never forced himself on you to have sex because he respected your beliefs.

I speak on behalf of him as a good friend who has known him for a long time and also because it was your friend who 'heard' he cheated on you. I am also familiar with this because he confided in me a lot. I told him about your blog entry and he said it sounded 'one-sided' and that was all. He did not want to react or even read it because he said it was over but I'm choosing to set some things straight.

He will never deny that he cheated on you. He admits it but not proudly. If it is any consolation - he ended it with that girl before he ended it with you.

He knew he was wrong for the same reasons you knew you were wrong when you were hanging/making out with that guy. That people should not look to another just because they can't get the correct kind of attention they need.

He will also never deny that he loved you with all his heart and soul but was met with disappointment. He felt you distanced yourself from him when you started working and put him much lower on your priority list. He tried for more than three months to stick it out, but in the end got confused (cheated) and lost patience (ended it with you) because it didn't look like you were trying very hard.

I have no sympathy for him or you - that you must understand. He already paid the price before he went steady with you.

Karma's already gone one full circle. You were the one who started it.

My turn.

I played with his heart, and he found out.
I came back to him and redeemed myself by giving him mine.
End of one karma cycle.

Yes, I made out with a guy. It's a mistake, which on my behalf, I have wholeheartedly accepted. See, the reason why I strayed was because he was not giving me space even before we got together. I knew R cared for me a lot yes, and I did too, but he was already starting to show signs of insecurities. I didn't know him well enough at that time to understand him. I stayed by his side because I didn't want to lose him as a friend, which lead to his feelings intensifying. I was scared and confused, and I sought refuge with a friend, whom I ended up caring for too. The reason why this was not mentioned in my post is because but this chapter was a book on its own. It is a story which, if I'm not mistaken, was even made into a highly-acclaimed descriptive piece which, upon the lecturer's request, was read out aloud by the author himself in front of a Feature Writing class in college. Although there was no reference to me whatsoever, his audience did the math and it has gotten people talking about me to this day. Nevertheless, I'm not ashamed of being human, and I have learned my lesson well.

Let's remind ourselves about the gist: I let him into my life. He let me into mine. Fair trade.

The irony in the situation is that the one person who taught me and demonstrated the greatness of commitment was the same person who pulled the rug from under my feet.

Priorities change as one goes through the different stages in life. From seeing a guy 24/7 to being thrown into an environment where deadlines rule and employers oppress, it's hard to devote whatever is left of your energy to friends, family, and love, let alone keep a cool head at the office. I'm sure you are familiar with the scenario. But it was a first for me, as well as it was for him.

As for the way I was, being uptight, I come from a background that has built itself on very staunch, traditional beliefs. His life was spent on another side of the spectrum. It didn't help that we entered the relationship with naïve impression of the mechanics behind it - after all, it was the first for both of us. Our personalities clicked like chalk and cheese. Our respective habitual and behavioral nature were constantly at each other's throats. Understanding and helping with each other's shortcomings, as well as the inevitable act of compromise, was always a challenge. I also abhorred the way my family treated him. My folks indeed have had a reputation for being ludicrously unmerciful to all who get close to me, but it was futile to deny their influence on my life as a daughter. I was torn between taking their advice 'for my own good', and accepting him for the way he was. He and I, and everyone around us, knew that we were both so different from each other, and some days were massively hard to cope with, but we stayed on hoping that something good will come from it.

I was the only person at that point of his life who took the trouble to see him as more than what people saw him as. And I was glad I was there for him when he had no-one else to turn to. I stayed on when I was the easiest target for his frustrations and bouts of hopelessness, despite my friends convincing me that it wasn't worth it.

Unfortunately, the toxic clash of values and beliefs, infused with a conflict between loyalty to family and love for him, persisted at the expense of our relationship. And it ended on extremely mutual terms.

He asked me to promise him to keep in touch. I did, and he didn't. I eventually gave up. I don't blame him though. Some people are not strong enough to build back a friendship after a painful history. I went on with my life for one year, not knowing that one thing that was made so inconspicuous from my vision. But now that it is out in the open, I don't seek revenge or ill-will on him. It was he who told me that people don't do bad things for no reason, and I can sincerely say I know that reason. All is forgiven but never forgotten. However, I do speak fondly of him whenever his name is brought up. He's a great guy, and I do wonder from time to time how he is doing with his new girlfriend. But my biggest hopes for him is that he has learnt from the love we had, because I definitely have, and for that I am grateful. I have accepted the fact that I do have my flaws and if you follow my blog, you will come to know that I am still humbly learning how to cope with them.

In fact, this confrontation has given me the impression that he has grown from our relationship too. The fact that you have posted up this very comment, valiantly defending him for the person he his and attacking someone who affected his life profoundly in the past, is a natural response from someone who is loved and treated right. Suffice to say that I am proud.

As you would have noticed by now, I am replying under the assumption that you are indeed his girlfriend. And if you are: From the deepest, warmest part of my heart, I wish you guys the best, may you grow with each other and keep each other safe and blissful.

...But there was never a need for you to set things straight, my dear. I was there when it all happened.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The De-scent

I recieved an invitation from Alan, a friend from Raleigh International, to join a cave exploration to Batu Caves, an outing organized by the Malaysian Nature Society. When you're stuck doing nine to six and the last definition of dirt you had was the delicate hand lotion-y fingerprint blurring your bespectacled vision, you know it's about time to get out there and start remembering how life is meant to be lived.

As advised, I pack my extra set of clothes, water bottle, torchlight and resignedly mandatory inhaler, and head off for some Saturday morning madness.

My long overdue re-acquiantance with Batu Caves is emphasized by my memory of the steps being a lot bigger than they were the last time I visited.

Entrance to the Temple Cave

A total of 272 steps: making athletes out of Hindu devotees for over a century.

The world's tallest statue of Lord Murugan, standing at 140 feet. I am unaware that it was unveiled just weeks before.

Contemplative macaque monkey.

Our trip focuses on scouring the Dark Cave, a restricted access area.

We are led into the cave by a few members of MNS, including Darren, who works full-time in a bank and moonlights as a spelunker. I take a perverse liking to his shin pads.

There is another woman decked out in hardcore caving gear. I think it was quite nifty that her helmet had 'MINER' labelled on the side. That is before I hear her name being really called out as Min Er.

Cave dogs possess some of the sexiest bodies in existence.

The guides lead the 25 participants into the cave, the screeching of bats omnipresent. We step into soft ground. I reach down to run the feathery texture through my fingers. "What you are stepping on is guano - bat poo - and it's highly sought after as fertilizer," I then hear Darren explain. I stiffen while the other participants giggle over my head.

We are split into small groups and probe deeper into the caverns until we are in complete darkness. We trudge along stone pathways, and I turn my torchlight to the floor to see hundreds of small cockroaches scrambling for their lives. It is inevitable to avoid all of them. I cringe partially out of critter-loving compassion, partially out of a slight case of heebie jeebies.

Our group leader Darren shows us around with the deftness of a real estate agent pitching the latest innovations in natural property development. He warns us not to touch any formations, no matter how intruiging, as human intervention has led to the disentigration of many promising masterpieces.

Stalagmite in the making.

Stone formation

Temptations run high in my fingernails.

Malaysian crystal, apparently worth jack.

There are some chambers that are rich in silence, and Darren sits us down for a little 'meditation' break. We switch off all our torchlights and stay completely silent for a few minutes, the energy encircling us making our ears ring.

We move on into a few more small cavities, signatures of past explorers etched into the walls. I even see messages dating back as far as the 1940s, when according to Darren, the caverns were used as training ground for communists.

Even the darkest corners of the earth are not spared from the art of vandalism.

Jaws of the abyss

The one they call 'Little John', explanation unnecessary.

A gour pool

The antithesis of artificial intelligence.

We reach a resting point, above us a large crevice allows a hint of sunlight in to bathe us in color again. We take a quick breather and leave our bags and cameras here... No more tourist-friendly terrain from here on in.

Take me to your leader

We enter a gargantuan chamber, where we hear the distant roar of a waterfall. We are lucky enough to encounter a 2-metre long cave racer snake, stretching itself languidly atop a large rock at a safe distance from us. It is here that we also see cave centipedes scuttling across the walls on their legs of threateningly sensuous length.

The roar grows in resonance as we walk further in. The ground is a bright orange goo. A soft breeze teases the fine hairs on our arms; the air is soaked with the acrid stench of burnt plastic. Darren does the silence test again. Torchlights are switched off and mouths are zipped shut. I suddenly start feeling a little edgy.

Darren turns on his head torch and I cower at the mass of flying mammals darting just a few feet above our heads. There are bats by the thousands. The stench is the guano. The roar is the flapping of their wings. The wind is from the same source. The asthmatic in me writhes in intolerable pain.

We leave the chamber and follow Darren until we reach a part that narrows itself into a dank tunnel.

"Ah, it's a good thing it's a wet day," Darren quips as he crouches down and pats the ochre puddles at his feet. "Who's first?"

Being the macho retard I am, I step forward and follow him in. My hands and knees sink into craggy wetness. The walls close in, and a shiver rushes down my legs as I my belly embraces cold mud. There is a tight spot ahead, and I see Darren already having difficulty squeezing his large frame through the uninviting cranny. Then it's my turn. There is no space to keep my eyes ahead. I look down, angle my head to fit the shape of the fissure, and use my toes, hips and elbows to inch myself through.

After three more hours of crawling, climbing, wading, slipping, sliding and unfathomable filth, the blanket of pitch black ahead of us is eventually torn apart with a ray of dappled light, and we end up back at the same point where we left our bags. We emerge from the cave looking like a band of thieves, top to toe in gravy of questionable origin. I have never felt more at home.

I look relatively clean as my tee is black and my cargos are the same color as the mud.

The MNS guys congratulate us on a job well done and inform us of their future caving expeditions around Malaysia.

Alan, Mr. Whatshisname, K.K. and Min Er.

It's time to wash up and head home.

Unfortunately, I do not live up to the physical prerequisites of the female restroom.

I travel home with the disposition of an invalid. I try hand-washing my soiled clothes, and by the seventh pail the water still runs opaque brown so I surrender them to the washing machine. The day is still young, and I utilize it to its optimum extent by switching off my phone and hitting the pillows.

But not before I leave on the porch table a little memento which my father's plants will worship me for.

I admit, I fancy any excuse to play with muck for all its worth.