Unedited and will continue to remain as such.
She has never seen herself as being a particularly emotional person. For as long as she can remember, she has always favoured rationalising her reactions and occasionally eliciting socially accepted emotions through a stream of logical deductions when situations necessitate. Thus, during the (thankfully) rare and unexpected occasions in which she feels her logical self losing the battle to the overwhelming force of feelings surging within her, the cage of her being barely containing the furious crashes, she finds herself reeling from the loss of control, irrational thoughts conquering her mind and mostly resulting in her breaking into a sobbing mess or an infuriated madwoman.
She knows that allowing herself to fall into the embrace of fleeting emotions every so often can be rather therapeutic, but what terrifies her is when it continues to hurt even after rationality has returned. It happened in the past before, but only during what she has classified as sporadic chance occurrences which were usually resolved soon after. Unfortunately, she found that she has not been blessed with such reprieve in the recent years. More disturbingly, the perpetrator was no longer her mother, but her father – The last person she would have thought she would be betrayed by.
Her father has always been someone she looked up to with boundless admiration and respect. His perseverance, sacrifices and wisdom entranced her even to this day; constantly reminding her that even as she prepared herself to enter the world of adults, she still has much to learn. She enjoyed sitting in the car next to him, listening to his impossibly fanciful tales about exotic places which work brought him to: getting chauffeured in a bulletproof car with no less than five inches of protection in Guatemala, getting stuck for hours in the human and animal traffic in India with no air-conditioning and little ventilation; realising that the Westerners will never show the same amount of hospitality as Asians, for a sandwich treat is held in equivalence to a dinner banquet in Asia; understanding, interacting and now easily navigating the complex web of politics and bribery in China. He was like a treasure trove of stories, with something new to share each time he returned from one of his lengthy trips abroad. As a bonus, he would lapse into lengthy preaches on life’s wisdom, these nuggets cleverly interspersed in the dynamism of his recounts; mostly repetitive, but always valuably practical.
Which is why it pains her even more that of all people, it was the person she had the most faith in who had hurt her the most.
Maybe he was never as perfect as she had imagined him to be. Perhaps it was but the tinted illusion conjured by the almost obsessive worshipping of him when she was younger, because she had no one else worth looking up to. Or perhaps it was because to her, he never seemed to judge her as hastily as the rest, preserving the increasingly fragile speck of confidence she had left.
In the past, when she was demoralised about her academic abilities in face of the more advanced Chinese students, he spurred her on, reminding her that she had shown her intellectual capabilities before and would always be able to do so again. In the past, whenever she was unusually silent or moody, he would remind her that even though he was no Superman, he would always try to help her in whatever way he could; despite knowing that she will never take up his offer. In the past, when he chanced upon objects in flamboyant shades of pink in her presence, he would take a jibe at her colour preference; jokingly remarking on how tasteless such a colour would be on those items, making her both grin and grimace simultaneously before fervently defending her favourite colour. Because he knew that otherwise, she would hardly smile at all.
Yet ironically, the reason for her current disappointment is the absence of what she originally admired him for.
It all started when he robbed her of the only thing she truly wanted in her nineteen years of existence. When he casually dismissed her request, much to her surprise and shock, responding in a resolute tone she knew better than to challenge. In spite of the odds, she knew she had to try, for the dream she had spent countless sleepless nights yearning for was finally within her grasp, yet threatening to disappear from between her fingers. She pressed on, an inch at a time, for fear of losing the almost insignificant ground she had gained, rendering her efforts completely futile. Never once did he relent, nor did he provide a concrete reason for his refusal, just the constant denial of her increasingly desperate proposals.
When the opportunity finally slipped by, its touch forever lingering in her darkest nightmares and regrets, she continued on, forcibly downplaying the impact it had on her. She was careful to ensure the smile that everyone had grown so accustomed to from when she received the original acceptance letter continued to appear on her face; deceiving her parents and those around her that she was still fine, all the while trying to ignore the nearly unbearable paralysing pains from the knife lodged in her heart. When given a chance to retreat into the solidarity of her room, she frantically tried to rationalise her father’s decision, piecing together the illogical curt responses she had received alongside the potentially unreliable inputs from her mother when the other confided in her. Although she concluded that he made his decision based on paranoia not uncommon in overprotective fathers, she found it hard to convince herself with him adamantly asserting that the Asian market’s potential was his sole reason for choice. Such a rationale merely added salt to her gaping wounds: despite all her willing sacrifices during her twelve years of education, her own father would rather his perception of practicality precede her sole childhood dream.
Her mood swings became increasingly unpredictable and she found herself becoming painfully irritable; snapping at the most typical of habits or phrases; smirking and finding it hard to muster even the smallest of smiles when need be. Unconsciously, her words assimilated a tinge of razor-sharp quality when directed at those beyond her immediate circle, and worse, mere mention of the taboo topic would send her into a silent rage that she was unable to hide even from her family. Inevitably, she grew increasingly distant from her father – A product of numerous unsuccessful attempts at restraining herself from bitterly lashing at him with whatever sarcastic remark she could verbalise whenever the words ‘school’, ‘university’ or the likes were mentioned. She had hoped that perhaps he would finally understand what her dream meant to her; even if he insisted on never changing his mind, she hoped to finally get a direct validation that the real reason for him not letting her go was his foolish worries as a father for his only daughter.
What tipped the precarious scale in the dangerous game she was playing occurred a little less than half a year later. Her father had endured her progressively aggressive outbursts with thinning patience, (and by carelessness on her end) only to receive notice that his daughter who never had a notable academic struggle was on the verge of getting dropped from her second degree due to lacklustre performance. The cold indifference she had to responded to his outrage with finally snapped the last thread of his patience, and for the first time in her life, she saw him look at her with a mixture of sheer disappointment and defeat. From then on, he never checked on how she was since.
Little did he know that the apathy she had worn at that moment was all she could do to prevent herself from screaming (and most likely regretting) how much she hated him for wasting her childhood there and then. What he had failed to notice was that through a single syllabled word, through that one decision, he had effectively crushed the only dream that really mattered to her. And with that, naturally evaporating all the hard work and effort she had spent the best parts of her youth fighting for.
Needless to say, the father-daughter relationship never fully recovered; although both parties did gradually overcome the awkward tension with the help of time. She tried to rein in her emotions toward the dreaded topic a little more, taking additional care especially when interacting with outsiders. After a painful year had passed, she even almost succeeded in fully deceiving herself that her father’s choice was for the best; although until today, she had not reaped a single benefit her father had raved about before. Even though she could feel her father warming up towards her (he did take the first step), its progress halted long before where they were in the past. The little actions and comments which she had once taken for granted for they seemed permanently weaved into her daily fabric of life were lost amidst the tangle of threads which she was still trying to unravel. She even took it upon herself to not-too-casually mention that she fancied the ostentatiously coloured car which sped past, hoping to receive the usual good natured quip from him, only to find herself uncomfortably shifting in the now palpable silence. After several failed attempts, she stopped pointing out pink items to him.
She found herself becoming more talkative around him, possibly a subconscious measure at trying to get her father to communicate with her more. Aside from resorting to bringing up certain snippets of news she had read online, she had taken to mentioning her day’s events; something which she vaguely recalled her parents wishing for their then fourteen year old daughter to make a habit. She would recall what she thought was the most interesting event of the day, only to notice his attention focused on something else or hear him changing topics or answer another family member midway through her story. Each time it happened, she always tried to pretend that he assumed she was talking to her brother instead.
Her confidence suffered during this period. She found herself becoming a frequent target for relatives and strangers alike as to why she chose to remain in Singapore; recurring questions to which she would parrot a carefully crafted answer with strategically placed eye contact and smiles. She tried to keep up her façade, despite feeling the disbelief and malicious glee openly directed at her for finally falling to a level which she had once believed to be far above. She could hear them whisper behind her back; mocking her for her years of honestly believing that she would go overseas for college, others discussing the possibility of her and her family lying about her nearly perfect grades. She could hear the satisfaction in their voices as they remarked about their children, who were never blessed enough to taste the sans pareil education of prime institutions, going to the same university as her. A further dent to both her ego and confidence arrived in the form of consistently mediocre or even substandard grades. In spite of the increased effort she channelled into her studies, she found herself barely being able to keep afloat while those whom she knew she was not intellectually inferior to easily surpassed her. More than once had she entertain the thought of reapplying to other universities and taking a bank loan against her family’s wishes just to escape the hell she had fallen into. Yet a part of her knew she could never break the hearts of those dearest to her. Instead, she turned to small but sufficient circle of friends she was lucky enough to have for comfort and reassurance
She was never one who dabbled in the confusion and lies of politics, thus when the local general elections arrived, needless to say she tried to avoid the topic whenever possible. Her father for once, noticed her silence and through her defensive responses trying to justify her lack of enthusiasm, assumed that she harboured the opposite view. Due to her reluctance in further elaborating on her stance, and him choosing to listen only to selected fragments of her mutterings, he had created an image of her being an overly elitist pro-government supporter. Once she had realised that, she tried to voice her arguments between his endless barrage of criticisms, only for him to either dismiss what she had said, or blatantly cut her off and return to his assumption. Although she did not appreciate his perception of her, she swallowed her discontent and returned to passively listening to his commentary.
Unfortunately for her, she had chosen the wrong time to surrender to her usually domineering father. The assumption of her he had created then was soon firmly etched into his mind and would be wielded as a righteous weapon against any of her arguments or comments in the future as she soon realised. When she suggested that her god sister try for a junior college instead of a polytechnic, before she could even get her second sentence in, she found her father half shouting agitatedly at her for always returning to her innate elitist. Each time she attempted to defend her suggestion, she would succeed in getting no more than a word or two in before he would overpower her with his accusations. Frustrated, she would shake her head and turn her gaze to the scenery whizzing past, vision blurred with unshed tears.
Everything was a downward spiral from there. Each time she showed any signs of discontentment or annoyance, she would immediately get reproached for her puerile behaviour. When she went to him about the subpar works of her group mates and their lack of commitment, she was simply told that she needed to be a better leader; when she returned home past midnight without bringing the keys, while she accepted that she was at fault, she was further accused of forcing him to stay up for her despite her suggestion to hide the keys outside; during the Lunar New Year, when she showed her annoyance at the bag she wanted being unavailable, he assumed that she wanted to purchase them immediately although she told her brother she wanted to assess the quality before deciding if it was worth the price tag. It seemed as though each mistake she made was because of how selfish she was; how she would only have her own satisfaction and comfort in mind, never that of others.
No matter how hard she tried to dispel the flawed mental image of her he had created, the accusing glare sufficed in reminding her that the roots of his misconception ran too deep for too long.
No, she would not tell him of all the times she had sat with her mother, subtly convincing her to inconvenience her father less when he was at work. No, she would not tell him how often she attempted to teach her brother about the value of money in attempts to curb his recent spendthrift ways. No, she would not tell him how she spent endless nights crying alone because she insisted on never burdening her family with her petty woes. No, she would not tell him that all the emotions she pretended she never had remained bottled up even today. No, she would not tell him that she too was vulnerable to cutting herself, but he either failed to notice or decided to ignore it. No, she would not tell him how he too, was not perfect, but she had learnt to accept many of his flaws over the years because he was still probably the best father she could ever ask for.
She had tried to ignore the fact that she had lost the father she had believed in somewhere along the way. The man who was her pillar of support when she lacked strength, providing her with his indirect words of encouragement to ensure she could weather even the most vicious of storms. Someone who was interested enough to interact with her given his busy schedule, learning from the cues she had unknowingly dropped during the short conversations they had as equals, and from those, carefully paint the picture of his daughter. She knew that father had left her alone after the stars in her night sky stopped shining.
Assuming, assuming, always assuming. Assuming the worst of motives, because he never really thought, or no longer bothered to understand how she worked; assuming that the angel of wisdom never graced her, forever cursing her with immaturity and childish temperaments; assuming that she only has her own interests and comfort in mind, that she will never possess the magnanimity to appreciate all that she has been given. In his eyes, she has always been the spoilt self-centred princess with an untamed fiery temper. And in them she will continue to remain so.