My mother says I have lost my soul. My soul? It is somewhere between the dying hours of the morning when I drag myself out of the covers of deep concussion. That hard split-second whack on the head, like a drug-induced impact, so I black out and fall down a winding spiral, only to land and realize, no, wait a minute, I’m not Alice. Haha. There’s no talking little bunny rabbit going, tickity tock, must hurry for tea with Mr rat-a-tat-tat, although I do hear a constant and faint mechanical sound, tick tick tick, like a time bomb- my bloody alarm clock. I find myself wide awake, in a world just as black as before. Hello. Good morning. Where is your soul? New day, to repeat what you did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before…
I’m tired and overworked and my body is screaming for a break. I was trying to find my soul, somewhere between the newness and freshness of faces and places, of different perspectives and personalities. But somehow, somehow, I always have the tendency of biting off more than I can chew. Now I’m tired of anything new. It takes a great deal of optimism, boldness and vigour, for me to take on anything new. And I’m running out of that energy, that strength to sustain a forgettable casual conversation and the silliness of laughter that seems to come so easily for everyone else. I’m longing for the cosy comfort of familiarity, for someone whom I don’t have to get to know from scratch (because the novelty of novelty has run dry), for someone who understands who I truly am.
I’m not good company. I’m not a sociable butterfly. I pretend to be, and sometimes I pull it off so perfectly that I deceive myself into thinking I can keep this masquerade up forever. But it’s not me, at least, not most of the time. I live in my own world of extremities, ranging from bubbly friendliness to sombre moroseness, and I’ve come to accept it. Ironically, I even try to protect it, no matter how obstinately idealistic and softly sensitive it makes me. I realize how readily I slip into solitude when I am not required to engage in any forms of interaction. I like the silence now. My soul is here. I like it more than the music I blast into my ears from my mp3 player. I don’t deny it anymore. It is with me all the time, when I struggle to wake up, with the whispers of the spirits of dead dreamers urging me to leave them for just a while, when I eat alone, when I travel to and fro, and when I collapse on my bed in the ungodly wee hours of the morning. I like it most especially during that one and a half hours ride from home to the Night Safari. The roads are straight and long and they stretch on and on, my mind along with it, so that I forget the buzzing noise of voices talking and the occasional half-heard laughter that rises shrilly above the hushed cloud of delicious gossip.
Still, on a more cheerful note, some things never cease to amaze me even now. I try to get little kicks and perks from my jobs to break out of the tedious drag of monotony. The kids are always a painful pleasure to be around. They produce rubbish -of all kinds- from the things they say, the things they do, to the things that trail them from behind. The other day, one little girl, Kai Ying, chased the blistering white sun around the field and came back gasping for air. She put one hand on her hip, her golden glasses skewed carelessly, and complained like a seven-year-old auntie, “Jie Jie Faith, I got many sweat. So hot lor! Got many many sweat.” Indeed. There are many more classic lines of course, coming from their own informal company of personalized cards, which they produce and give to me as quickly and disastrously as tiny elves making Christmas presents while drunk, with sticky fingers filled with rainbow glitter glues. One card reads, “I love you. I love me also.” Another one reads, “The best teacher teach me only.” Wonder how kids got so ‘realistic’ huh. There’s so much we can learn from them. Hehe.
The little girls and boys have stopped calling me “Miss Ng” or “Miss Faith”. They shout out loud, “Jie Jie Faith” or even “Mummy” and I know instinctively that I am needed urgently, usually to come to their rescue because they can’t remember how to tie their shoelaces or because someone bigger bullied them. Sometimes when they cry out my name, helpless hands and helpless eyes, I think, those are cries that could have come from me. I wonder if they know that I am leaving them soon. I have to go to uni. And I’m exhausted from holding two jobs. So many reasons. Excuses, excuses. Doesn’t change the fact that I’m leaving. They tell me not to go to school. Silly monkeys. Don’t you know that I can’t stay forever? I feel guilty, as if leaving them is an act of betrayal. But children heal surprisingly well, and I know there will come a time when they will forget me. I replaced someone else, and now, someone else will replace me. Like the moon, old and new. Like... everything.