Wednesday, December 21, 2011


“Beach rocks are slippery and dangerous. Enter at own risk”, said the sign at the pier.

He smiled wryly at the word. ‘Risk’. A word he has heard all too often in the past decade or so. 
Risk; expressed in percentages of likelihood of success for a particular treatment or surgery, for the number of months he would live. 
Risk; a word he has heard too many times from doctors and loved ones alike. 
He knew a thing or two about risk, he thought as his stick-like legs swung over the low wall of the pier and onto those dangerous beach rocks, the movement unexpectedly graceful.

A deep breath of the salty sea air. Looking around he found a flat rock, and slowly, painfully, he lowered his skinny rump onto it. A sigh of satisfaction which stung his battered ribs. His gaze returned to the sunset on the horizon, the smile returning to his face, albeit tinged with a quiet pain.


Colours of the sky so beautiful almost to seem unnatural. Bands of blue, white and grey…kissed by the fiery orange of the setting sun. Ahead of him an emerald ocean of waves, jagged in its uniformity. On the rocks he felt like being in a fortress. Those brave waves doing nothing but sending white spray which tickle his feet. The irony was not lost to him as once again he smiled wryly: he felt safer on these dangerous rocks than he ever did in the hands of the finest specialists.

His mind gradually emptied, and he looked around at the scenery spread before him. Across the emerald waves three green islands. Virgin beaches twinkled at him from afar. How he would love to feel the fine sand under his skinny toes just one last time, before he leaves…

To his left, the dock. A quaint symbol of Man’s attempts to control his environment.  Masts of anchored yachts stab into the pregnant sky like so many toothpicks. It pained him to look at them, so he averted his gaze upwards.

The salty sea breeze was blowing grey rainclouds to the shore. Lazily they moved along, showering the sea below. Soon the light drizzle kissed the man on the flat beach rock as he closed his tired eyes.

Opening them he viewed directly at the centerpiece of this entire scene – the setting sun itself at the horizon. Partly hidden by clouds, it has made its leisurely way behind the gentle curvature of the ocean afar. The once orange orb now threw an angry red light. Now the clouds were highlighted red on a rapidly dimming blue background. The waves caught this light, and they too glowed a sinister red as they moved closer to the man on the rock.

Suddenly dread gripped his frail heart. He suddenly knew; his final hour has come and gone. Years of expectation, of waiting, have finally come to a close. Doctors have warned of this moment, his loved ones speaking of it in tearful hushed tones. It did strike him as strange that they would not be with him in this much-awaited second. He would be alone.

He reassured his frantic heart. The light drizzle washed away years of misery. Dying rays still peeked over the horizon, seeming to shed some final hope on the dreary scene. He found it a fitting place to breathe his last. 

Later they would find him on that flat rock, the spray still tickling his sickly legs. Despite his tortured physique his face was a picture of calm. Loved ones would say that his smile was different; for the first time in a long time it was finally free from pain.  

His sun has set. But it was beautiful.

Work of semi-fiction.

Inspired by a breathtaking sunset off the coast of Kota Kinabalu.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

existence at the edge of a roof

He is on the roof once again. Stars twinkling ever so subtly above, a breeze of air fresh enough to awaken the dead…it was the first time that day that he has felt so alive.

He takes a breath, drawing that crisp air deep into his lungs. It unlocked the cage which has imprisoned his mind all day. Like a newly-freed dove, it takes flight and starts to wander.


The relief from being on the roof was all too brief. He could never escape those questions. He never would. He never really tried, frankly.

It was past midnight by now. Soon he will have to climb back through the window he used to get on the roof, sneak downstairs and back to the dorm…before the guard begins his rounds in about an hours’ time. He would have to slink back into the dark, into his miserable life again.

He sighed, and pondered the other way he could get off the roof. The drop in front of him was so tempting…he could almost picture himself falling into the damp embrace of the dewed grass below…

The abyss ahead was as tantalizing as it was terrifying. It invited him forward to his death. It would feel so good to let everything go and just take a leap of faith. Wouldn’t it? 

Unsteadily he stood up. He moved forward. Ironically attempting to keep his balance as he edged toward his demise. His mind was set in cold certainty. He was going to do it.

He was at the very edge now. The same breeze which had felt so fresh a little while ago now blew cynically on the back of his neck, egging him on. It was so enticing… One foot lifted off the frigid tin roof. Eyes shut, he leaned forward…

Then, abruptly, instinctively, he fell backwards onto the roof with an almighty clang. Still his position was precarious, and like a caged rat scorched with boiling water he scrambled frantically for a footing. Eventually he calmed down. He was safe, only his feet over the edge.

Slowly, trembling, he backed away towards the top. Hot tears sprang from his eyes. Was he so weak to even take his own life?

On the rooftop he was left alone with his tears. The twinkling stars and cold breeze going on as if nothing had happened. Eventually he raised his head.

And through his tears he stopped merely looking. And he started to observe. The outlines of gnarly trees looked graceful from this distance, the light from a distant town like the glow of a dream.

Through the silence of the night he stopped merely hearing. And he started listening.  The lonely drone of a motorcycle on a bleak country road. The sound or crickets, comforting in its predictable repetition.

He realized that this is why he loved the roof so much – not because of the indifferent stars or breeze. It was the sense that everything around him fit just perfectly. That everything was within sight, within reach.

He knew then that while the roof had been teaching him all this time to observe and not just look, and to listen and not just hear, he had ignored the biggest lesson it offered:

That he had to live, and not merely exist.

How? The answer to that question depended on him. But live he must.

Later he clambered through the window into the obscurity of the building with tears still trailing down his cheeks. But this time they weren’t a sign of weakness, but a sign that he had been strong for too long. And he is stronger than he would ever know.

Work of semi-fiction.

Dedicated to a guy I have the honor of calling a friend. A guy who has faced much troubles – alone – lately. I hope this, in whatever small way, can atone for my lack of support for him through all his problems.

I don’t expect this post to give you answers, bro. Only He can provide that. This is just my attempt at understanding your life these past six months. Ultimately, I will never know. It’s between you and Him.

Perhaps all of us, in some way, is that guy on the roof. Searching for meaning, for answers, for ourselves. What we learn, ultimately, depends on us. But in that very search we forget the people around us who are in the same position, and need help as much as we do. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to look around and tell them (to quote my friend):

“Thank you for existing…”

And then help them live.