Sunday, March 25, 2012

Maybe it might feel like home.

When I first moved here, the surroundings were unfriendly.

I was sure I would never get used to the north, never call this place my home. I grew up in the south; all my friends stayed in the south; all the bicycle rides in solitude, the seemingly mindless gazing at the roads leading from Harbourfront to Bukit Purmei from the windows of Bus 65, all of it belonged to the south. All my shiny medals were labelled "South Zone", as were all of my memories.

There was something about leaving the old and worn (but still enbloc-ed) apartment and moving into a new one, with wide windows stretching from the ceiling to the floor - inviting warm sunlight and ample fresh air - that felt horribly depressing. Bus rides were uncomfortable and unfamiliar, and I wondered why it simply would not be as cozy as journeys home from Bukit Purmei to Harbourfront.

We went to celebrate my dad's birthday today.

It's a day early, and it is rare. Yet throughout much of dinner, my replies were too short. Too obvious, that I wanted it to end as early as possible. It's so ridiculous, how two people can sit next to each other and not utter a single word to the other, despite the continued chatter. Even more ridiculous was the slight tinge of cheerfulness in the atmosphere. Like nothing was wrong at all. Like it was the most normal thing in the world to completely block out the person next to you and keep up with the conversation.

But it was when we bundled into the car and dad drove home that I suddenly felt it again. The warm, familiar feeling of gazing out the windows of dad's car and seeing the trees along the roads of Bukit Purmei to Harbourfront waving lazily back at me.

I was seven again, and we'd only just finished our Sunday dinner at river valley. The late-night grocery shopping at the huge NTUC somewhere nearby was completed, and sis and I had finally gotten that tub of ice cream we had wanted so badly since the week before. Dad's playing some old English music, humming along and breaking into song only at the choruses. Mom's nagging - again - about how our Chinese was simply dreadful and how we really had to read more books before we were reduced to being monolingual girls (and therefore disgracing her motherland). Sis is to my left, sound asleep and floating in dreamland after the big dinner. And me, I was occupying the backseat right in the middle, hooking my arms around both the front passenger seats (because the middle seat had the best view, safety be damned), ignoring mom and humming right along with the song.

Left turn at the fork before Mount Faber, right turn at the junction in front of Keppel Bay; the roads were all familiar and expected, the trees friendly and swaying with the cool night breeze.

I was seeing it all today, as dad drove back home. It's as if the familiarity only comes when I'm seeing the roads through the windows of my dad's car.

In those quiet 5 minutes, the drive home was genuinely comfortable again.

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