Letters by Kenny Mah

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Breath of life

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April 30, 2008

Hey you,

Time makes fools of us all.

We take risks, we flounder and we fail, we fall and wonder if it’s worth trying to get up again.

Life can be a series of bad decisions, each new one adding fresh salt to old wounds, and every turn of the screw compounding the hurt, the shame, the embarrassment we feel we won’t be able to outrun or outlive, even. But we will, we survive, not at the end of it all, but along the way, while we have our breath still in us, while we still have life to live.

The years have been cruel to us; the years have been kind. All we need is perspective, a distant mirror closer to reality than our little imagined everyday disasters, to allow us to see this good fortune. We are not that unlucky, we’ve not been that ill-treated. God, our families, our friends, strangers and enemies, the world, the universe… They’ve all been good to us.

This is true if we give ourselves permission to give up our grievances and our excuses and really take stock of what we have. And my dear friends, we have a lot. We have plenty. Food on the table, a roof over our heads, a decent job, good company and loyal friends. There might have been periods when we truly went wanting, but let that pass, let that go.

Time makes amends, time mends.

And as I say this prayer for all of you, surely I’m saying it for myself; I’m reminding myself, over and over again: This, too, shall pass. There is nothing gained from holding on too tightly, from desiring too furiously. Let go, let go.

Yet Life still has tricks up its sleeves; it is not an old man lost in sleep or a scheming crone, bitter and cold; nay, Life is Loki, the fire-eater, the master trickster and Life will surprise us even as we’ve given up on it.

There is so much love in the world, I think to myself, and I have so much love to give. But maybe there is no one for me. Yes, even I can falter, even I can consider the possibilities of never finding my other half. And here Life’s game begins.

We meet for dinner. I’ve postponed this meal a few times already, work gets in the way, does it not? And since I gave up dating, I’ve stayed longer and longer hours in the office and in the gym; I get thinner and thinner and my friends worry about me. But today, I take a day off and we meet at last.

And from that moment on, we’ve never really been apart, have we? A week lost to Australia, a dinner party no one sane would have refused — aside from these, there have been no gaps in our days and nights together. Where is the turn, when we meet as friends and leave as lovers? We have no answer to this, and we don’t really need one, do we?

I have no more love stories.

A long time ago, I read that one needs to be miserable to create art, to voice out true poetry. Is it easier to write when you’re unhappy? Then I’ll gladly give up my sole talent, if that is what it is, my lone contribution to this world, to spend the rest of my years waking up with you by my side, my dear.

You tell me “I love you” is too easy. Everyone says it. That there needs to be something more, something that wraps all the promises and vows together. The Chinese say, “执子之手,与子偕老” — eight words instead of three. But don’t you see? That these three small words are all I have? They are me, they are everything. And if you cannot see beyond their barren brevity, let me hope that over the years that span our life together, these words will lose their maligned mass appeal, and you will know as the days pass, that our love does speak louder than words.

But know you this, it all begins with words, with the Word, with these Three Words: I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
…till it becomes a litany, till it rings truer than ever, till your ears are bent to listen, till your eyes open up your heart and see what this is. I love you.

Damn it, I do.

When all was dull and worthless, you came and gave me the breath of life. Let us carry this breath, till we are old and spent and when there is naught left for us to give, let us leave together, let us carry this breath till there is no breath left to breathe.

Yours always and always,

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