winsome little nothings

Selina Xu Jewel Changi

S I N G A P O R E — engulfed in days of tropical thunderstorms and endless showers. The city is crying and I wake up to the pitter-patter of tears streaking a windowpane accidentally left ajar. The floor next to the window is slightly wet. I leave footprints all over the wooden floor, around my bed and books.

Early mornings are for eating round, white tangyuans soaked in rice wine, wolfberries, and dried longan, each ball soft and chewy with hot peanut and black sesame filling that cascades over my tongue.

I boil water myself and watch dark green Chinese tea leaves unfurl in the glass flask like underwater corals. I peel a hard-boiled egg and dip it in vinegar. I think of the green milk tea with golden bubbles from Koi, milk guan yin with white pearls from Liho, the cold soymilk from Lao Ban Soya Beancurd in the MRT underpass, and the constellation of routes I can take to each of them in the orbit of our family’s evening stroll.

When my parents aren’t watching, I sneak a pineapple tart from the container with a red lid. The sunflower-shaped pastry sits on my palm. The blob of sweet pineapple jam is washed down with steaming tea.

I find three types of red apples in the fridge, each from a different country. My parents know my favorite fruit. At home, I can scoop directly from ripe mangoes and pink dragonfruits, carving shapes and scraping the flesh. Hands sticky, juice on lips. The husk of the fruit left still on the dining table, nature morte.

Life doles me presents. I’ve forgotten the taste of milk in fried fish soup. Poached chicken in red chili. Fishcake in sesame oil. The rush of pleasure when singing songs at top volume and butchering high notes in the shower. The hum of neighborhood nightlife as I run around the LRT track, phone slick in my hands.

What can I hold you with? asks Borges.

Wet, splintered floorboards rubbed smooth by socked feet; warm rain on fingertips; late sunsets; the hiss and gurgle of boiling water; dewy green of cacti by the sill and rainforests in a dome; ambling down supermarket aisles dotted with Pokka, Khong Guan, Marigold, and Chinese New Year goodies; four limbs hugging a big bolster like a baby; yellowed pages of old books I’ve owned since I was twelve; loose leaves of paper damp with humidity; sweat. All these I offer you, murmurs my home.

Lots of love,

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