I keep dreams in my pockets.
When I was ten, I wanted to be a Blue Ranger.
I wasn’t handsome enough to be a Red,
nor black enough to be the Black.
So I had to settle for Blue.
When I was twelve,
I wanted to be a soldier.
The kind that would go into battle at twilight,
motivating men to give their all
annihilating stinky bugs and aliens,
telling them “Welcome to Earth”
before I shoot their brains out.
At eighteen, I became more humbled.
I simply wanted to be, Iron Man.
Rumbling out with the baddies,
tumbling in bed with ladies.
I would wake up at twelve every day
and make out with random strangers every night.
Which reminds me, when I was nine,
I wanted to be…
I don’t remember.
I keep dreams in my pockets.
At fourteen, I ran away from home,
away from the monster in the baju butterfly,
she who calls herself, my Mak.
I wanted to be an artist and run to Hollywood.
A traveller, setting my sights on new land and faces.
“But dreams are bad, dreams are contagious”, the monster told me.
“Don’t follow your dreams, don’t be delusional
listen to me, fold your dream and put it in your pocket.”
And so I did.
I fold it into small and smaller and smallest
and I shove it deep deep in my pockets.
When I was fifteen, I learnt to wear pants with pockets
spacious enough to store all my dreams
of that Gameboy Advance, that PSP,
of that Clementi chick, that Bedok babe,
of love notes and receipts
of phone numbers on crumpled papers
of tissues and drawings
of friendship and penmanship
of heartbreak and heartache
of beginnings and ends
of God and grace
of words and words
all of it,
I learnt to keep in my pocket.
My Mak also keeps her dreams in her pocket
in her baju butterfly
those humongous pockets
to store her dream and ours
a lifetime of unfulfilled desires,
her despair, her desperation.
My Mak is a strong woman
She left school at fourteen.
At fifteen, she was the best epok-epok seller in her kampong.
Curry, egg, sardine, veggie,
she had baskets of pastries
and she would sell them all, till her pockets were full,
full of coins and notes and spare change and crumbs.
At night, she would count her blessings,
every cent and every dollar of it
before she goes off to sleep and dream.
My Mak wanted to be a nurse,
the kind that wears a white and blue gown to work
injecting sick kids with laughter
And mad men with renewed meanings to life.
Now, she is a nurse
Working twenty-four hours a day,
Cooking lunch and dinner
And washing clothes in between,
emptying out one pocket at a time.
My Bak also keeps his dreams in his pocket
but it keeps falling out every single time
through the infinite black holes.
He never knew how to sew those holes
so his dreams kept falling out
he could never catch them back.
My Bak is a strong man,
so strong that he never once got angry
so strong that he could work for days without sleep.
My Bak have eye bags so deep,
that the black stress lines could fill up an entire column on the Berita Harian.
I once asked, “Bak I want to know.
Tell me about your childhood, your marriage with Mak, tell me.
I want to know.”
But he only smiled back to me,
as if in kindness, as if in peace.
I once rummaged through his pants for answers while he was deep asleep
and all I found were pink slips of TOTO and 4D results.
His dreams dependent upon the coincidental chance of four magic numbers,
each one of them, numbering up his destiny.
I still keep dreams in my pocket.
I still wear pants with pockets
only now, I go out carrying a bag
so I have more storage, more pockets to fill.
My Mak still wears her baju butterfly.
She is now on her twenty-third hour shift,
an hour more before she can rest
and dream of that white and blue gown that she never got to wear.
My Bak doesn’t wear pants anymore.
He now wears a sarong at home, renouncing his dreams.
I ask him, “Why Bak, why.”
And again, he smiles to me, kindly.
His lips are stuck. He doesn’t know what to answer.
He only whispers, “Fiz, Don’t be like me.”
When I am old and have a son of my own,
I will tell him, “Go and keep your dreams in your pocket, now.
Go make your bed.
Go sweep the floor.
Go find a job.
Go get a life.
Don’t dream. Don’t delay.
And he will listen to me, he will obey.
He will stomp away and sulk
But he will obey me, and he will listen.
And at night, I’ll read him bedtime stories of Peter Pan,
of Thumbelina, of Cinderella and other lost souls.
Of his Grandma with big pockets to fill
and his Grandpa with holes in his pockets.
I will tuck him into bed, switch off the lights
and let darkness consume his dream.
I will kiss him in the forehead and whisper in his ears,
“Son, wake up.
Go and empty your pockets, now.”