Monday, 24 April 2017

Living That Fangirl Life



When I first saw the poster for the Losing My Religion Conference 2017 on Facebook about a month ago, I thought to myself, hey, this looks interesting. Then I clicked on the event page and saw that the conference will centre around the topic Islamophobia. 

Alhamdulillah I've been lucky to have never had to experience any episodes of Islamophobia first hand so far, but just because I'm not affected by it, doesn't mean it's not happening. Just because it's not happening where I'm living, doesn't mean it's not happening elsewhere. So at that point, I knew this event is something that I needed to go to.

And then I took a good look at the array of speakers who were invited to grace the event.

That's when I saw Nouman Ali Khan's name and face and I knew there and then that I definitely, 100%, confirm.com.my NEEDED TO GO TO THE CONFERENCE. No ifs no buts I straight away purchased the tickets.

Guys, I don't know if you knew this before but I'm telling you now : I LOVE NOUMAN ALI KHAN. I mean that in the most fangirl way lol. I've been watching his videos since my early KY days and every single one of them has left me in awe of how wonderful the Quran is and how gifted he is with words. Nouman Ali Khan really has the trifecta of a great speaker : substance, style, and structure.

I've only seen him in real life once, in 2013. He came to Malaysia and gave a talk at Masjid Wilayah, KL and I went even though it was exactly one day before my IELTS test. I remember this because I still have the bookmark from the talk and I wrote an entry about his talk in my previous blog hehehe hashtag fangirl.

The conference took place yesterday at 10 a.m. at ExCeL London, which is all the way in Zone 3, and the most convenient way to get there is via DLR, which, let's be real, isn't the most convenient in the grand scheme of London. (At least it's not the Hammersmith & City line so we good haha)

And the itinerary told me that Nouman Ali Khan's segment was scheduled to be the last one, starting at 5 p.m. But due to London Marathon also taking place on the same day, his arrival was delayed and his speech didn't start until 6.50 p.m., causing the event to overrun.

Uhhh I commuted all the way to get to Zone 3 by 10 a.m. and stayed until late afternoon to hear my favourite Youtuber speaking? OF COURSE, no mountain is too high & no valley is too low for a fangirl.

So to be given the opportunity to see him in the flesh again yesterday was truly humbling, inspiring, and eye opening, as always. I don't mean to negate the excellence of the other high calibre speakers as well, because they're all fantastic in their own ways I can't stress that enough, but Nouman Ali Khan is the first Youtuber I've ever liked so my fangirl feels went over the roof yesterday.

At the end of his speech, he even gave us a tutorial on how to take pictures with him. He told us not to ask for permission before taking selfies because the answer's always No, so don't bother, just take the goddamn picture. He also admitted that he seems to make people feel intimidated & nervous near him, "maybe there's a Jinn, I don't know" hahahah, so he reminded everyone to get the camera app ready with the correct side of the camera and just snap away. He ended with, "Whoever takes a picture with me promises to memorise a page from the Quran before Ramadan,".

UH CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

"And I don't mean the Al Fatihah page,"

Ugh how did he know?! (Kidding) (there's always the 3 Qul page hewhew)

Anyway, the crowd was downright mental. There was literally zero chance of me having a selfie or  a close up photo of him but that's fine, I came to terms with that even before coming to the event. Besides, pfsh, what's a photo compared to the speech he gave?






ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

PIC OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.


So far away you can barely make out the face but that's Nouman Ali Khan I swear



On a side note, I've always thought that Nouman Ali Khan looks like Ross from Friends. Come on, it cannot be just me who sees this resemblance...?

Came home when the sun had already set, feeling tired but madly inspired by the incredible speeches delivered at the conference. The conference was everything I needed to hear, and everything I never knew I needed to hear. Loved every. Single. Bit. Of it.


Saturday, 22 April 2017

KDrama Review : Page Turner



The much dreaded end of my 2-week Easter Break was drawing nearer, so I desperately needed a new KDrama on my plate. Since I won't be getting any more study breaks any time soon, I might as well go all out on my KDrama pursuit this Easter Break right? Hashtag Sheera's logic. A couple of KDramas came up on my radar upon friends' recommendations, so I gave them a go.

I wasn't sold at all by their first episodes, but I had hope and I had curiosity, which warranted a chance to push past the first episodes and see where the dramas were headed. But still, I couldn't bring myself to finish both dramas.

My brain just. Couldn't. Do it.

In all honesty, I really wanted to finish both dramas, so that even if I didn't like them in the end, I'd at least be in a place where my judgement is valid since I would have seen the dramas in their entirety. But I have this principle whereby I shouldn't feel obliged to finish a certain Korean drama just for the sake of finishing it, because why should I? It's like quickly swallowing a massive dinner in one bolus just so I can do the dishes, you do it as a chore, the fun's no longer there.

Maybe it's not the dramas' fault, maybe they really are good in their own merits, maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just picky and hard to please and the KDrama rut that I was stuck in was a duly deserved penance.

And then somehow Page Turner came along and I decided to click on that play button on a whim.

This drama is virtually unheard of in my circle of friends, so I went into it having no clue whatsoever about what's in store for me but I'm happy to report that I was reminded once again of why I love love love Korean dramas.

You can't really see their faces but L-R : Yoon Yoo Seul (played by Kim Soo Hyun), Jung Cha Shik (played by Ji Soo), and Seo Jin Mok (played by Shin Jae Ha)


It didn't take long to fully immerse my whole body into the depth of the story and to laugh at its ironic humour and to tear up a little at its underlying sombre themes. 


I think it's easy for an adult to relegate a teenager's problems as no big deal, to call a teenager's misbehaviour as a desperate cry for attention. This drama addresses these issues in a manner that I find very poignant and witty, putting forth real dilemmas of adolescence and lacing them with comedic values to give the drama a more cheeky tone. That isn't to say that the problems faced by the youthful characters are mere attention-seeking methods (thus should be dismissed easily), but the drama sheds a light of optimism over it as though to say: this, too, shall pass, so turn that frown upside down. Like when Yoo Seul jumped off what she thought to be the edge of the rooftop after her emotional outburst, only to have Cha Shik catching her like 2 metres below (HAHAHA) and telling her off for playing victim with her mother. 

The row that Yoo Seul had with her mother hit close to home for me, but it's so beautifully resolved when Yoo Seul realised that her declaration to quit playing the piano was actually anger stemming from frustration towards her mother, but misplaced as hatred for the instrument itself. I love that even though that row severed their mother-daughter tie temporarily, it was a catalyst that they both needed - for Yoo Seul to experience that renaissance into piano loving, for her mother to realise that she shouldn't weigh Yoo Seul down with her expectations. What the drama does really well is that not only does it explore the issues from the youngsters' point of view, it also gives an insight from the parents' perspective as well. Yoo Seul's mother not only ended up being Jin Mok's page turner for the competition, but she also gave him sincere compliments at the end of it, for once. And that's a whole lot of pride to swallow.

I'm glad that the one who pushed Yoo Seul to rediscover her passion for the piano is Cha Shik. Good Lord, Cha Shik is suchhhhhh a loveable character!!! Always so positive, so buoyant, so exuberant. It's like there's this invincible bubble of happiness surrounding him that nothing can ever shatter. NOTHING. Not even Yoo Seul's mother's rude remarks about his appearance being similar to a hooligan. He even showed up the next day in a suit and slicked back hair and asked for her approval hahaha. And even when she deplored his sense of style still, he said he'll keep trying to improve. AWWW!

But just because he's All Smiles, All The Time, that doesn't mean he lacks any emotional trajectory. My heart throbbed in pain as he worked through the stages of grief - from denial to acceptance - upon finding out that he had to give up on being an athlete. Contrary to Yoo Seul, Cha Shik is not a born genius in anything. Despite appearing inflated and boasting like nobody's business early on in the drama, I later learned that Cha Shik is just a lad next door who has to start from the bottom & work very hard to achieve something. In times of downer where he questions his own capabilities, it helps to hear from someone else (his mother) that he's indeed born to do something great.

Cha Shik's transition from being a complete piano newbie to being able to impress Yoo Seul solely via self learning required a leap of imagination, but the drama at least managed to show that this wasn't a transition that happened overnight. (How the drama convinced me that Cha Shik's practice went on for weeeeeeks in 1 single episode is beyond me, but impressive writing, directing, everything!) And I appreciate that this drama stayed realistic in the end whereby he didn't actually perform in the competition and even asked Jin Mok to fill in his place (thus enabling not just Yoo Seul's dream, but Jin Mok's too!!!). Isn't Cha Shik a sweetheart?! (heart eyes emoji) What I love even more than him backing out from the competition due to his awareness of his own shortcoming to meet Yoo Seul's standard, was that he was finally able to pull the final recital when he was angry that his mother thought she hasn't raised him right (drowns in a puddle of tears). Anak soleh right here. 

I'm surprised by how moved I was by Jin Mok's character. The many times that he silently helped Yoo Seul without due credits speak volumes of the good natured traits hidden underneath his cold outer shell, but they're mostly fuelled by his guilt. (Also, how CUTE is it that he channels his rage at Yoo Seul's arrogance to praying that God punishes her??) I wasn't fully sold of his character until that scene in the practice room where he played the piano in Cha Shik's place. The look on his face when Yoo Seul showered him with loads and loadsss of accolades and sincere praises!!! I cried!!! He was so close to giving up his dream and that instantaneous moment just cemented his conviction & love for the piano!!! This just goes to show what a world of a difference it can make to say something nice to someone, haih. (side note : I wish Yoo Seul heard Cha Shik's praises about her playing the piano! Man, she'd swoon, because even I swooned)

A page turner is the person who turns the page of the music sheet for the pianist. A page turner is the one standing the closest, assisting the performance, bearing vital importance to ensure the flow of the performance. Yet a page turner is not the star, a page turner always lets the pianist shine the brightest on the stage. Yoo Seul, Cha Shik, and Jin Mok, they're all each other's page turners, taking turns to help each other grow and be the best possible versions of themselves.

All in all, I absolutely loved Page Turner. It reminded me that sometimes it's okay to not have trophies & recognition to validate one's dream, sometimes the act of having a dream so rapturing, so passionate is enough to make one's life worth living. Most importantly, Page Turner revived my love for Korean dramas. This one goes straight into my favourites list!

It's super short, only 3 episodes, but it moved me and made me laugh and cry and it's just incredibly well made despite its minor flaws here and there. So I COMMAND YOU TO WATCH IT, GO, RIGHT NOW, PLEASE, TRUST ME ON THIS.

Man I'm overjoyed that I heeded my instinct to click that play button and managed to squeeze this amazing drama before my Easter Break officially ends.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

13. Forgotten




When I was 13, I woke up and logged into MySpace first thing in the morning, ecstatic at the sight of notification upon notification at the home page.

New friend requests. Approve, approve, approve.

New picture comments. You think I'm cute? Thx. U too.

New comments. Hye.

My name was Sheera, but my surname was a group's name, a group that I identified myself as a part of. It felt nice to have the name of the group as my surname, it felt like I belonged to a certain untouchable clique, and that automatically elevated my status on the hierarchy of the virtual world.

Selecting top friends was a chore, because uh why would I put this girl as my top 8 if she didn't put me on hers? But maybe if I initiate it, she'd reciprocate the act?

I spent hours juggling with HTML codes to make sure that my profile looks fab. Comment link? Pfsh please, I had a comment box ok. I also had a playlist of all the latest songs so that anyone who visited my profile had an all encompassing pleasurable experience, visually and audibly.

You best bet my pictures were all toilet selfies, with all the possible filters layered on top of each other.

Ahhh. MySpace era = my zaman jahiliah.

Wish there's a way for me to completely wipe out everything about MySpace from my memories & anyone who ever knew me on that platform, I really want to destroy all evidence of my zaman jahiliah, leaving no trail behind. So that I can say I have forgotten all about MySpace.

But I can't.

Because truth be told, I remember everything. I wish I don't, but I do. I desperately want to forget it, because man I was so ugly and so unabashed and so rempit ok it's mortifying hahaha.

But that's the thing, my mind does this thing whereby it holds onto embarrassing things like MySpace instead of clearing the way to store useful information, like the anatomy of circle of Willis that supplies blood to the brain, for instance.

Oh my God, who remembers answering surveys on the bulletin?! Hahaha. I used to do it all the time, it's like laying my self bare for everyone to see, even though I knew no one bothered to look. But it was fun! So today I googled random fun funny questions and thought I'd make a blog post out of them.

Ready?

Here we go, danger.






Question 1: When did you screw everything up, but no one ever found out it was you?

Ohohoho this is a trick question isn't it? Halus permainan dia, halus. No way jose I'm divulging it, I'm carrying this top secret information with me to my grave hewhew.




Question 2: What would you name your boat if you had one?

Idk, not sure I'd want one. Might sell it off if I had one though, and then use the money to buy enough nasi lemak and serunding to ensure a lifetime of happiness. 



Question 3: What will finally break the internet?

Entah.



Question 4: What celebrity would you rate as a perfect 10?

Okay I think we all know that I'd answer Park Min Young in a heartbeat. But others on my list :

  • Seulgi from Red Velvet (dances like a dream and has cute bear-like tendencies and owns my dream closet and uh her abs!!) 
  • Taeyeon from SNSD (it's uncommon for me to listen to whole albums and enjoy every single track, but I've been listening to her new album for over a week now and I don't foresee myself getting sick of it anytime soon)
  • Lisa Surihani (beauty with brains, and her rhotacism is cuuute)
  • Ji Chang Wook (fell in love with him in Healer, thought it was just the character that I find charming but this Instagram post sealed the deal for me. Officially in love because cuuuuuteeeee)
  • Byun Baekhyun (I'd pay good money to hear him singing his beautiful voice live and dancing his sharp moves and frolicking around on stage like the lovely idiot that he is)
  • Farid Kamil (liked him since my teenage years because I had have a thing for Chinese-looking guys, but is it just me or he's gotten way handsome-r after getting married?)




Question 5: Which fictional character would be the most boring to meet in real life?

Ross from Friends. He'll bore me to death with his ceaseless dinasour talk (yawns). And Hermione from Harry Potter kot.



Question 6: What is the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?

Best : hmm idk can't think of any right now. 
Worst : I'm like the easiest target any salesperson can guilt-trip into buying ANYTHING. One time a beauty salesperson at Whiteleys (Queensway) pulled me and convinced me that I needed a diamond-infused moisturiser to make my life worth living. I ended up being £80 poorer and having a breakout soon after...



Question 7: If you had to change your name, what would your new name be, and why would you choose that name?

Oh oh oh I've always wanted a Malay flower name. Like Melur, or Cempaka, or Mawar, or Dahlia. But mcm dah ramai orang nama mcm tu right so why not be bold and different? Why stop at flowers? Why not leaves? Daun limau purut. Or daun aloe vera. Be unique.



Question 8: What are some things that sound like compliments but are actually insults?

Hahah when I was in KY, I used to struggle at giving an appropriate response to "Omg Sheera you don't look like a national scholar!"




Question 9: What’s a body part that you wouldn’t mind losing?

My nails actually. I envy people with kuku gelas. Mine macam kuku periuk 



Question 10: What’s your biggest screw up in the kitchen?

Hahaha. Banyak sebenarnya, I've written about some of them (the wok incident) (the ikan steam incident). But as a general rule of thumb, I always screw up whenever I have to deep fry something. Ugh. Tak suka. Nanti minyak meletup meletup pastu sakit kena kulit. You know what needs to be invented? An apron that covers every inch of the body. Like an astronaut suit, but for the kitchen.




Question 11: What’s the worst commercial you’ve recently seen? Why is it so bad?

"I'm pregnant. Really? 2 weeks. You already went to the doctor? Not yet, but I took this new clear blue test." AND ALL THE OTHER UNSKIPPABLE ADS ON YOUTUBE TO BE HONEST.



Question 12: What’s the closest thing to real magic?

Video calls, from Skype to Oovoo to Facetime. Amazing.



Question 13: What is the craziest thing one of your teachers has done?

Okay this isn't particularly crazy, but it's funny and a bit unexpected coming from a teacher. In KY, my favourite teacher is Mr Vroege. He's an English man, he taught me Biology. He has three sons and then one day his wife finally gave birth to a daughter and a few months after that I asked him "How's your daughter Mr Vroege?" "Oh she's gorgeous! We decided to keep her" hahahaha




Question 14: Who is the messiest person you know?

My younger brother. There is no ground for you to step on in his room because every inch is covered in his laundry and God knows what 




Question 15: What problem or situation did TV / movies make you think would be common, but when you grew up you found out it wasn’t?

Love at first sight..?



Question 16: What quote or saying do people spout but is complete BS?

"Age is just a number". Age is obviously a word...



Question 17: What’s something your brain tries to make you do and you have to will yourself not to do it?

I'm at that stage of medical school whereby I can't talk to another person without staring at his/her plump, juicy veins and wanting to draw blood out of them....



Question 18: What is the dumbest way you’ve been injured?

Okay so when I was around 5 or 6 mcm tu, I cycled with a bike that had trainer wheels on each side of the back tire. I went up a hilly side of the neighbourhood, solely because I wanted to enjoy the way down. Wind in my face. Didn't need to pedal. It was just gravity doing its job. And then I felt like it was going way too fast so I got scared and my knee jerk reaction was to try brake manually by using the back of my heels on the trainer wheels instead of using the built in brakes like any normal person would.... Cerdik bestari tak Shahirah Hasbullah... As a result from grazing the back of my heels, they bled like crazy, and until now I still have the scars.



Question 19: If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?

Hmmmmmm. Can't think of any right now, probably because I'm scared to know the answer so I tell myself that I don't want to know the answer at all. Because what you don't know can't hurt you haha



Question 20: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read or seen this week?


  • I just finished Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo earlier this week. By no means perfect but I enjoyed it regardless. There was so much hype surrounding the main couple during its air time, and I do agree that they're adorable, but I'm surprised that no one told me that the drama is a lot more about coming of age struggles, overcoming insecurities, friendship, loyalty, family, etc. Also, no one warned me that I'd be attacked by my Healer feels once I learned that Jung Joon Hyung is such a tragically wounded character? :( Don't mind me, I have a thing for heroes with scarred history.
  • Also, haritu can't remember who but someone posted on Instagram a picture of a birthday cake made out of fruits. Like legit fresh fruits, something like this. MY DREAM BIRTHDAY CAKE.
  • Ulfah and I have been spending our Saturday afternoons live streaming Gema Gegar Vaganza. I can't remember my last time being this hooked to a Malaysian TV programme, probably AF2 (Farah breep breep!), so it feels a little nostalgic to have a Malaysian show to look forward to on a weekly basis. Anyway, Mirwana and Hijjaz blew me away!!! GOOSEBUMPS.



Question 21: What ridiculous thing has someone tricked you into doing or believing?

All those "forward this email to avoid 20 years of bad luck" emails that 12-year-old Shahirah obliged to....



Question 22: If you were given a one-minute ad slot during the Super Bowl that you couldn’t sell, what would you fill it with?

Idk



Question 23: What’s the most useless talent you have?

I can stay still for long enough to buat-buat stuck on Facetime just so I can enjoy the "Sheera? Sheera?? Ala stuck lah!!" grumble haha



Question 24: What would be on the gag reel of your life?

My entire life....? 



Question 25: Where is the worst smelling place you’ve been?

The perfume floor of any department stores. Sakit kepala byk sgt bau


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Life 1 - 0 Shahirah




I've never cooked fish, ever.

No wait, actually, pardon my momentary lapse of memory. I have actually cooked fish before. Once. Years ago. I wanted to deep fry a fish for ikan masak tiga rasa. I'm ashamed to divulge great details about how it turned out but think dense smoke. Think panic. Think a horribly lacerated fish. Think a cranky, hungry Shahirah who's filled with regrets and thoughts that sounded something like "Never again with fish, Shahirah, never again,".

It's not just my lack of skills, it's also my lack of knowledge.

Other than the distinctive ones - anchovies, catfish, salmon, stingray - I really can't tell fishes apart at the wet market. In fact, I shun the fish area, it's like a territory marked with Do Not Enter warning signs.

But last Sunday, exactly 4 days before my end of module exam, I returned home from the library with a fresh sense of panic which had just kicked in. My tension ran high as I realised that I was not REMOTELY prepared for the exam and there was still a LOT that I needed to revise and I was potentially going to fail the exam so I decided to

cook fish.

Otak letak kat kepala atau kat lutut?

Indeed, lutut.

So I spent hours in the kitchen cooking up a recipe I've never tried before (steamed sea bass) (You best bet the only way I knew it's a sea bass was a humongous sign right above the fish that yelled SEA BASS in my face).

I don't know if any of you have ever had the delightful experience of eating steamed sea bass or seen a steamed sea bass before, but if you haven't (God, you're missing out on life), but I can guarantee that it looks nothing like this :

Too much water I was surprised the fish didn't somersault back to life to be honest....


At least it's not, you know, mangled. At least it looked edible, right? Right??

Ate it with rice. Taking the first bite in, I closed my eyes hoping that the taste would transport me back to a seafood restaurant in Malaysia





but no.

Much to my dismay, it tasted nowhere near restaurant-level.

I was disheartened, but I carried on eating anyway, despite wanting to cry at the failure that's myself. My inner voice was singing, chanting, "Can life get any worse?".

Life responded to my question faster than a Uniqlo salesperson can scream "Welcome to Uniqlo," when a customer walks into the store, with an answer in the form of a fish bone. In. My. Throat.

Several bouts of cough and 20+ years of life flashing before my eyes and a jug of water and a fist of balled rice later, I started breathing normally again thankfully. I washed my plate and walked the walk of shame to my study desk, pulling out my laptop from the sleeve, ready to start revising again.

I could hear my laptop chiming the familiar boot sound, but I couldn't see my desktop wallpaper.

My laptop screen stayed pitch black, looking oddly similar to my future.

It was a rhetorical question, Life. 

Ahhh, halus permainan dia, halus.

But touché.





Thursday, 6 April 2017

29. One Hundred Years



People watching could be a hobby that Sean has picked up many, many years ago. But it's a real skill, watching people and foreseeing their innate adrenaline response upon a hint of danger - whether they fight or take flight - and Sean's got it.

He takes in another deep puff of his cigarette, closing his eyes, savouring the nicotine high rushing to his brain, before sending grey smoke billowing out between his lips.

As a lady in black sandals walks past him, he notes the subtle eau de feminine emanating from her. "Good," Sean thinks to himself.

She's wearing her usual perfume today, which means it's just another ordinary day, and she's going about her schedule like she does day in day out.

Sean has everything up in his head, he can easily enumerate everything the lady has done since she woke up this morning.

But just to push himself further, he leans on the wall a little while longer with his eyes peeled on the lady's back to see if she makes the right turn at the end of the alley.

And she does.

Sean chuckles, entertaining his own ego for being right at predicting the lady's movement.

He drops the cigarette off his fingers. Smiling as he's cognisant of other members of society darting hither and thither, he sets out on a small jog towards the end of the alley and turns right to a narrower alley.

Unlike the previous one, this alley is littered with a lot more trash, bereft of any human beings, apart from Sean himself and of course, the lady in black sandals. Sean can't see the setting sun from where he is now, but weeks of religiously watching & following the lady tells him that in a few more minutes, the sun will fully retreat and the street lamps will light up.

He continue pacing down the alley at a more or less constant distance from the lady whose head hangs low, engrossed on the rectangular screen she cradles in her hand.

The minutes tick away. The glorious orange-crimson sky overhead has now been replaced with a starless black canopy. The street lamps are alight.

Sean takes a lungful of air and picks up his pace.

In no time, he's next to the lady in black sandals, grinning. "Hey,".

The lady looks up. All colour drained from her face as it finally sinks in that she's not alone at the alley.

Sean takes it up a notch to overtake her. Now he's in front her, impeding her way to the end of the long alley to her apartment. "I said hey," his voice comes out raspy, the offended undertone deliberate.

The lady seems to have lost the function of her voice box. Beads of sweat adorn her forehead, glinting in the white light of a street lamp above.

"What's the matter boo? Can't you just say hey back to a man?"

The lady refuses eye contact, but she attempts a shaky "Move over,".

Sean guffaws at her pathetic attempt. He grabs her by the chin forcefully. His malicious eyes staring right into hers; her widened eyes are like an open window to her brilliantly dilated pupils. Ah, Sean knows that at that very point of time, her adrenaline is in full gear.

And Sean is positive that her response is definitely not fight.

She swiftly breaks Sean's grip on her chin and turns around, charging at full speed towards the alley she came from, the alley where there were human beings, the alley where she can seek help from. But not 5 steps has she taken before she trips over Sean's leg which has mysteriously appeared between her running feet.

There's a pounding pain on her head upon impact with the ground. Blood gushes out. "HELP!!!!!" she cries with what's left of her energy.

Sean gives her a large blow on the head. His eyes remain transfixed on her as her lids drooped and closed completely. Unconsciousness gradually envelopes her, stifling any further screams and movements.

Suddenly it seems like her face contorts into something familiar.

A wave of deja vu washes over him like the ebb and flow of tide at the beach shore. The euphoria he felt just minutes ago has magically evaporated. Flashes of visual disturbance come attacking, but Sean quickly shakes them off.

A deep sigh escapes him.


Hours later, Sean finds himself in a basement room sparsely decorated with several chairs and a large stainless steel table. On the table is a massive black plastic bag. Directly above the table hangs a solitary lamp shining its glorious fluorescent light.

"Where the fuck is Banu?!" he roars. "He should be here hours ago!! I fucking told him that we have no time to waste!".

His feet send a chair flying across the room, just inches shy from where Lisa is standing, arms crossed in front of her chest.

"Jesus Sean, you almost hit me," Lisa spits out her exasperation. "And can you chill? He said he's on his way,"

"Yeah from where, Africa? He should be here by now!" Sean barks back.

Lisa rolls her eyes. She knows it's impossible to try to reason with Sean's temper. She walks over to Luke, who's sitting in one of the chairs, and deposits her gluteus in his lap.

"What about Jen Wei?"

"Yeah I did what you asked, told him we're completely out of clean supplies,". Everyone knows by 'supplies', Luke is referring to sterile equipments and tools. And everyone knows that Jen Wei is the supplies guy.

"And??" Sean prompts, his brows raised to the power of infinity as he tries but fails to suppress his irritation. Nothing's going the way he wants today.

"I don't know man, haven't heard back from him." answers Luke.

Sean kicks another chair.

Lisa's head shakes in disapproval. "Will you give it break, Sean? Bloody hell. There's no point if Jen Wei's here with the supplies anyway if Banu's not here."

"Shut your trap,"

"No, you shut up and sit your ass down and stop breaking things," a feisty Lisa continues pouring gasoline on Sean's inferno.

Luke is at a loss as of what to do. He knows full well he's of very little value to the situation. He knows the most sensible thing to do now is to not say anything, yet his friendly ass can't help from talking. "Who is it this time?" his lips point to the black plastic bag on the table.

"Ooooh! Let's open the bag," Lisa hops on her feet and quickly makes her way to the table.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" Sean glares at Lisa, almost challenging her to proceed with what she's about to do. His patience is running low with that woman.

"Getting her ready so that at least by the time Banu and Jen Wei get here, we'll already have a head start, dumbass," Lisa's hands work seamlessly ripping open the black bag, revealing a lady with black sandals still strapped on her feet. "Pretty thing," she comments.

Luke glances at an indifferent Sean. He gets up to see for himself.

"Pretty, but poor thing," Lisa adds to her commentary, still vigilantly examining the lady who's breathing slowly, but otherwise still and unconscious. The lady's still alive, but she won't be for long.

Luke's finger continuously taps the table surface. "I feel like I've seen her face before...," he muses.

Lisa rummages through the other contents of the black bag. There's a small purse, must be the lady's. She unzips the purse and turns it upside down, pouring notes and coins and cards. "No donor card,"

Sean breathes heavily at Lisa's statement. He's not surprised, he shouldn't be surprised. It's been years, he shouldn't be emotionally affected by it, yet here comes a pang of melancholy hitting a secluded place in his psyche. Good thing he's always been good at not expressing his emotions outwardly.

"Ahaa! I remember now!! She looks a bit like that girl - the picture in your wallet, Sean, that girl! Don't you think, Sean? Yeah man. Come here, come look at her!!" Luke exclaims a little too excitedly. But his burgeoning excitement soon dies down, strangled by a deathly stare by Sean.

Lisa clicks her tongue, dumbfounded. "Who is this girl that you're talking about?"

"None of your business,"

"Uh, hello, in case you don't notice already, I'm part of this whole business,"

Sean doesn't respond, he doesn't feel like it.

Lisa looks at Luke, who offers no better response.

"For fuck's sake, why isn't anyone telling me anything? Why am I the only one being left out?"

"Because it has nothing to do with you, bitch. So it doesn't matter,"

"Of course it matters! I'm in this, Sean, I'm in this goddamn organisation. Of course it matters!" Lisa's voice climbs up an octave.

"What does it matter?"

"I wanna know who is this girl you guys are talking about. What, is she someone from your past? Is she the reason we're doing this... this... This whole business? She is, isn't she? I'm right, right??"

Sean smirks. "You think this is a fucking movie where the villain explains his motives and shit? No, Lisa. I don't owe anyone any explanation. And I certainly don't need anyone's approval to do whatever the fuck I want. You're either in this or not, Lisa. If you want to leave, then please, by all means, get the fuck out of my face. No one's stopping you. But if you want to stay, don't expect me to explain anything to justify your choice. That's just you feeding your ego,"

Before anyone answers, Luke's phone vibrates in his pocket, resulting in a fit of ticklish giggles. He fishes out his phone. A text from Jen Wei. "He said he's here with the supplies, in front of the door,"

All three of them exchange puzzled looks. "Why don't he just come in..?"

Sean rushes to the door and yanks it open.

There, a box as tall as his nipple level stands before him.

But Jen Wei is nowhere in sight.

Sean tilts his head to the side. "The fuck is this?"

The box suddenly shakes and erupts and out comes a very Asian Jen Wei, arms outstretched spreading confettis in the air. "SUPPPPPLISEEEEEEEEEEEE-"

BAM, a smack right across his face.

Lisa hurries to catch a stumbling Jen Wei, panicky and at the same time furious at Sean's lack of sympathy. "Jesus christ, Sean, what the hell was that for?!". She slings Jen Wei's arm over her neck and gestures for Luke to assist from the other side.

"That was for making Asian jokes at the wrong time," Sean replies sternly. He's not showing any remorse, but he actually feels pretty bad because admittedly that was, actually, a hilarious joke. However there's a time and place for everything, and now is not the time to be comical. Sean tries to regain his composure, to not lose focus.

"God knows how long he waited inside the box. Must have been uncomfortable for his fat ass," Luke says while empathetically caressing Jen Wei's monolid which has now turned a deep shade of violet.

"Good that I punched him then, now he's slipped into something more comfortable. A coma,"

Lisa shoots Sean an insolent stare, then shifts her gaze to Jen Wei who's clearly out of it now. His overweight body habitus is like ten times greater when he's passed out like this.

It's about 40 minutes later that Banu finally arrives, bustling into the room in a whirl of apologies trying to dampen Sean's anger. If not because of the fact that they are terribly behind time, Sean would have gifted Banu a purple eye as well. Alas, he knows that's not the number one priority right now.

If Jen Wei is the supplies guy, Banu is the executor. If this was America, Jen Wei loads the gun, Banu pulls the trigger.

Sean lets them do what they're best at. He's not interested in the meticulous manual labour, his expertise lies in the transaction. Just as he's about to light a cigarette, his phone rings.

"What's up?"

"My temperature,"

The voice on the other line breaks into a small, apologetic laugh. "Oh come on, Sean, relax. Everything's going as planned," he says reassuringly, to which Sean doesn't reply.

A clearing throat on the other end. "Have you done the cross matching?"

"Yeah, did it as soon as Banu came. Lisa's working on it so results should be out soon. Banu and Jen Wei are harvesting the parts now,"

"How're things looking?"

"Good, I guess,". Truth be told, Sean is in no mood to hold a decent conversation with another human being now, especially vis a vis a human being whose painful demise is guaranteed and happening in the very room right now.

"Ahh...," the other guy muses. "She's a good one, that girl. Last time she came her bloods were in tip top condition, everything within the normal ranges. She doesn't even drink, can you believe it?!"

"Uhuh,"

"I mean, it is pretty rare in this economy to find someone who doesn't down 10 pints in a week from work stress or whatever. Mental. And her LDL too!! Good Lord her liver must be beautiful. And her kidneys, man, her kidneys. There's someone in the waiting list now that I know personally. Wonderful soul, but poor chap, not like he did anything wrong in his life to get cystic kidneys, you know? He's just born with it. Saw him probably more than ten times this year because the cysts kept getting infected and every single time he tells me he just wants a fair shot in life, man, and I want to give him that. Man deserves it,"

Sean's lips quiver a little. The very mention of the genetic condition of Polycystic Kidney Disease sends all sorts of signals to the part of his brain where his memories reside.

"Hope he gets it. And remember the girl with AML you told me about couple of days ago? Hope this one's a perfect HLA match," Sean manages to swerve lane in the conversation.

"Yes, YES, the AML girl. Brill! Ahhhh, can't wait! I knew everything with this one is gonna be wonderful when I met her for routine check up last time. Bless her,"

"But she didn't register," Sean replies matter-of-factly.

There's a brief silence on the other end before the reply comes, "No, she didn't. I offered her, alright, but she just brushed it off. Said she can't afford to bear the medical costs involved and she feels like I want her to die early if she registers,"

Sean's hand balls into a fist. "Bullshit."

"Exactly. When people will realise that the cost is not on them, God knows. And come on, if I really wanted her dead, she'd be dead ages ago,"

"People are just ignorant,"

"Ignorant by choice, that is. It's not like we haven't done our part in informing them. It's them. They don't care,"

"Until they or someone they know ends up in a waiting list," and spends the remaining of their lives hoping against hope that they get to live another day, Sean adds in an internal monologue.

The man on the other end sighs. "Okay I gotta go now, I'll let you know once the transaction is done,"

"Sure, Dr. Miller," with that, Sean ends the phone call. As he returns the phone back into his pocket, he feels the weight of his wallet, so he pulls it out - his grey, dilapidated wallet.

He opens it.

A warm smile greets him, almost like saying Hello.

Sean smiles back. "The girl looks just like you with her eyes closed," he whispers. "You must be disappointed in me,".

"Don't be silly, of course I'm not," Sean knows his mind is playing tricks on him, yet he can't help it. This time, he just wants to play along, he just wants to buy the premise that the woman is in fact present, alive, interacting with him.

He bites his lower lip. His hands are trembling now, a tear drops on the woman's picture, his heart breaks into a million pieces.

"I know you are, you must be, even I'm disappointed in myself. But I have to do this, it's the only way to teach them a lesson,"

"So is this revenge?" the woman asks.

"If they'd helped you back then you needed them, I wouldn't be here doing this today. They made me who I am today," Sean's voice falters in defence.

The woman's face softens. "Sean, honey, you can't hold someone accountable for your own actions. You can't blame the circumstances for the end result,"

"If they'd given you a kidney when you needed one, I wouldn't have to do this. And you'd be here, Mum, you'd be 70 this year. You'd probably live up to one hundred years, or forevermore even. Wouldn't that be wonderful?"

"Hmm, one hundred years?" the woman repeats, probably just realising the prospect.

"Yes, one hundred years,"

"Oh the things that I'd do if I get to live one hundred years!". The joy in her voice and eyes is impossible to mask.

Sean wants to continue talking, imagining, wishful thinking, confiding in the woman whose presence he's been craving for years, but something else grabs his attention. A sudden ruckus. 

He looks up to see the door flying open and a troop of men in uniforms barging in.

What the-

"STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING AND DROP EVERYTHING!" a voice of authority rises over the clamour, commanding respect and obedience.

To hell with that, Sean's respect isn't given, it's earned.

And he certainly doesn't need anyone's approval to do whatever the fuck he wants.

He drops his wallet and as quick as he can, swings his arm to his back. He never wants to resort to this, but desperate times call for desperate measures, he reassures himself. His long fingers wrap the grip of the handgun as though they're a match made in heaven. 

In one rapid movement the barrel is now out, pointin





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Hi everyone! So I wrote this.....

Yeah.

I don't know. It's almost 11 p.m. and it's way past my bed time (I sleep at 9.30 p.m., I know, I'm a baby) and this is a raw draft and I know it's shitty but I'm to sleepy to double check and edit anything so I'll probably do them tomorrow but I just want to say a few things before I hit the sack.

First, I got this idea while revising the Organ Donation lecture few weeks back. I had the strongest urge to write then, but I knew I had to get my exam out of the way first before I commit to any kinds of writing.

Second, I've always cringed at stories where antagonists reveal their rationale themselves.

Third, I've always wondered what it's like to read a story from the point of view of an antagonist. Specifically, an antagonist who doesn't survive. That's why the story ends abruptly, Sean gets shot.

Fourth, I want to put forth the question : do the ends justify the means? 

Okay I'm really really really sleepy now I'll edit this tomorrow bye bye goodnight.

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UPDATE : Okay, hi again, everyone! :)

It's 3.38p.m now.

First and foremost, organ donation. Why is there a need for organ supply? Simple, there's demand for it. I wouldn't be here writing a short story about organ donation if the demand and supply of organs are in balance, thus cancelling each other out, I'd be writing about other things. Unfortunately the demand and supply of organs are not in balance. There's a gap between them. Whatever I wrote up there is my measly attempt to bridge the gap. 

Sure, it's fictional, but I'm telling you there are real stories out there of real people who've lost their loved ones due to (lack of) organ donation. 

I understand that people have an array of different reasons as to why they choose not to donate their organs, be it on religious grounds or cultural or even personal preferences, and I fully respect their decision. What I don't respect, however, is misinformed decision. So if there's anyone reading this who has a certain set preconceived beliefs or doubts about organ donation, I implore you to educate yourself.

Google.

Read up.

Ask.

Be informed.

And see if the notions you had previously are proven to be fallacies.

And then only make your call. After all that hard work, if your decision remains unchanged, then okay. You're free to exercise your right, your prerogative as a human, and honest to God, I have nothing against you.

But if you've decided to donate your organs, though, then I ask of you another little favour.

Register yourself.

Pledge to donate.

Most importantly, communicate your wishes to your family members.

Spread the information on organ donation.

Raise awareness. 

End of rant about organ donation.

Next up, antagonists/villains. Ahh. Villains hold a certain appeal to me for various reasons, all of which can be filed under: they drive the story forward. 

They set the puzzle, the authorities/police solve it. They're always one step ahead, always more resourceful. They're free-er to do as their hearts desire which opens up to a myriad of possibilities to explore. Maybe that's why in most stories, the villains are always more interesting and better crafted as characters compared to the good guys. The antagonists almost always have more flesh, more layers to peel back, before we arrive to the core of their characters - the reason for their antagonism. But I cringe whenever I see a villain setting up the stage to explain themselves and the rationale underpinning their behaviour, so I thought about what it'd be like to navigate a story through the lens of an antagonist. Though technically I didn't actually write the story from Sean's first person point of view - I wanted more freedom to elaborate on the other characters - but I ended the story when Sean's life ended. He wanted to pull the trigger, but the police was quicker in doing so.

Can we agree that if Robin Hood's a classic who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, then Sean's a modern version who steals from the selfish and gives to the needy? But do the ends justify the means? Do good intentions excuse bad decisions? If we can't judge a person based on his/her actions because they aren't necessarily representative of their inner moral compass, how else then? What other parameters do we use? What do you think?