Drawing Parallels

I typically shrink away from physical contact, but hugs from children are different, I’ve come to find.   It’s borne out of such innocence, which makes it trustworthy.

Some time ago, I told a pretty, little ENFP child that she’s smart.  “I’m not smart,” she responded softly.  In that moment, it was as though my ceramic heart cracked.  “You are smart,” I emphasised, but she shook her head.  She told me that I’m friendly.  « Je ne suis pas gentille.  Tu es gentille, plus gentille. »  I said to her, and placed a hand lightly on her shoulder.  She held my arm, and I knew it was a moment so I held onto hers as well, and she said, “You are good at your work, you are a good person, and you are a good friend.”  I looked at this sweet, little ENFP, thinking about how she’ll learn to intuitively tell what truly matters to others as she grows, and gave a smile and nod.

There was this other time when another bright, little child stopped slurping her spaghetti, looked up at me and said, “You have something here,” while tapping the side of her lips.  I looked at her, saw her chin and cheeks covered in a beard of pasta sauce, and burst out laughing.

When talking to two adult INFJs on separate occasions about my experiences with children, they each said, “You’re a good person, you know?”  Ah, the NFs and being a good person.  “You’re just like Katniss,” one of them commented, which is amazing — that they see the resemblance, that they understand.

As I retreat further into myself, my world becomes smaller and I feel more alone. As I retreat further into myself, I then truly become more alone. The connections I make through work fuels me, yet the sadness persists. I’m caught in the land in-between, sinking further down into the soil. Some have come to me with their problems, some while crying. I feel sad for them, but I also wonder why they feel comfortable enough with me. Shouldn’t I, a stone-cold INTJ, be the last person others would want to approach with emotional issues? Perhaps it’s the environment we’re in — the conducive atmosphere. From an outsider’s perspective, it must seem like such a bizarre setting. I feel like a fraud helping them. I am in no way qualified to do so, and I’m much more troubled and unhealthy than they are. It’s strange, isn’t it?


Hospital Roommates

I must have been 13 or 14 when I was first admitted to hospital.  In juxtaposition with my rather traumatic second hospitalisation, it was quite a pleasant experience overall.

I was first roomed with a girl about my age, just a few years older.  It was odd sharing a room with someone else.  I’d always had a room of my own.  She described me as “cheerful”, “always smiling”, and “happy-go-lucky”.  Upon her discharge, she invited me to hang out with her and her group of friends sometime, but I knew that what she saw and liked was only my mask.  I must have declined when she texted me some time after that.

After having the room to myself for a couple of days, a new roommate was admitted.  She was an adult, probably in her 20s or 30s, though at my age then, the adults were just adults and I didn’t/couldn’t really discern the differences.  She spoke different languages so we couldn’t really communicate fluidly, but even so, we somehow managed to bond with each other.  Some of the other adults commented that she shared the same name with John Lennon’s wife, which wasn’t something I understood at that time as I didn’t know much about and wasn’t fond of The Beatles yet.  She chuckled and said that I was too young to know this and that it was before my time (and probably hers, in retrospect).

One day, she was wheeled back to our room unconscious from her procedure (a procedure that she was nervous about), then strapped in with restraints on her waist and wrists, and left to recuperate on her own.  A while later, I heard her panic and struggle, and I rushed to her bedside.  She looked freaked out and confused, and was straining to break loose from her restraints.  I tried to comfort and soothe her, and explained that she was in a hospital.  I tried to tell her the things I knew about her to help her remember.  She remembered my name partially, which calmed her down slightly as she felt that she could trust me, that I was a pillar she could grasp onto.  I glanced at her bedside table, remembered what was in her drawer, and took out a photo of her baby.  I showed it to her and talked to her about her son.  Slowly, her memories started trickling in.  During that whole time, I felt out of place and at a total loss of what to do.  (In hindsight, I was just a child back then.)  Since I didn’t know what else I could do, I proceeded to take my leave after she had calmed down sufficiently, but she grabbed onto me in a panic and asked if I could stay with her for a while longer.  So I agreed and stayed by her side.

After that ordeal, she had frequent fainting spells and nausea.  One day, when her husband was visiting her with their baby, she ran into the bathroom while her husband stood by the doorway watching, with the baby in his arms.  I went in to check on her and found her kneeling on the bathroom floor retching into the toilet bowl.  Again, at a loss of what to do, I knelt down beside her, saw that her hair was getting in the way, so I held her hair back.  I don’t remember what I said in an effort to comfort her, but she stiffened all at once and then fell across my lap.  My reaction hadn’t been quick enough to catch her, so when she roused later with the nurses’ help, I felt bad when, touching the swollen lump on her temple, she asked me if she had bumped her head on something when she blacked out.

When the time came for me to be discharged, she held on to me and asked if I could stay with her longer.  So we came up with a plan to ask the doctor if I could extend my stay for a little while when he made his rounds.  The response we got was that my funds were running low and that it was better that I leave.  Disappointed, we exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in contact.  I gave her a burger plushie as a parting gift and told her that I had a larger version at home.  Hearing that made her happy and she said that we could always remember each other when we looked at them.

Time passed and we lost contact after a while.  I still think of her from time to time over the years and wonder how she’s doing.  I have no way of finding her as all I have is her first name, aside from the shared memories and connection.  I hope she’s well.

A Disheveled Man

As I was walking down an unfamiliar street downtown and closely following the map on my phone, an elderly man appeared by my side and started chatting with me, telling me enthusiastically about the buildings around us — their histories and the current events held there. He was a disheveled-looking man. Over the course of our one-hour talk, I noticed that his shirt and pants were tattered and torn, and that he walked with a limp. He looked like a homeless person, or perhaps someone who lived in a very run-down place. He struck me as an INTP who’s been down in the dumps for some time, and reminded me of Vivian Maier, especially in her later years of deterioration.

He spoke in Mandarin so I tried to speak using as much Mandarin as I could, though with much difficulty and interspersed with English. He used as much English as he could too. Despite the language barrier, I felt comfortable talking with him.

Him: Which country are you from?

Me: I’m from here. 我是xx人。

Him: 啊,我以为你是外国人。

He asked where I was heading and offered to show me where it was since he was heading in that direction as well. He asked if I’d seen this building and that building, whether I knew about their histories, and whether I’d like to see them. I went along with him since I wasn’t in a hurry and he seemed knowledgeable and genuinely excited to show me around.

Our small talk then turned to a deeper conversation about life. He enquired some things about me, and when I asked “你呢?”, he gave lengthy responses, though evasive (typical of INTPs). But it didn’t matter to me. It wasn’t necessary to know the details about him. He didn’t seem like a local even though the way he was talking about the buildings made him seem like one.

Him: What’s the happiest day of your life?

Me: Uhh… 很难说。

Him: Then what’s the saddest day of your life?

Me: (looks off into the distance, pondering the question) 那…… 那就很多。

Him: Ohh… life is like that. [Some Chinese proverb.]  I feel like I want to give you a hug. Can we hug?

Me: Aww, sure.

He proceeded to tell me that I was very different, that I was mature, that I understood so much — much more than most. There were strong notions about the pitifulness of life in his words.

Me: 你可以这样想,especially when you think of wars and things like that. 可是,we can try to make things better.

When we reached my destination, I decided to ask him a revealing question about himself. I knew he would find it alarming and invasive, but I just had to find out if my intuition was right.

Me: 你做画画吗?Do you do art?

Him: (gets taken aback, looks to the ground, seems like he’s going to evade the question but then decides to look up and say,) 我以前做 calligraphy,可是现在没有了。

Me: (gives a nod of comprehension)

We hung around and talked for a bit more, thanking each other for the conversation. Then, he dropped a bomb.

He asked if I had $10 to spare.

I was completely flabbergasted and said, “What?!”

While he explained that he needed it for things like transportation and food, I tried to wrap my mind around the entire situation.

“Is this why you talked to me?” I asked.

Because of my reaction, he started saying that it was okay, that our conversation was more than he could ask for, that he was glad to have met me.

“I want to help, but I’m sorry, I don’t like giving money.” I told him.

I ransacked my mind thinking how I could go about it in a better way. I thought about getting him a transit card but we weren’t anywhere near a station. I thought about heading to a grocery store with him and purchasing whatever he needed, but the closest store was like a 7-11, which was better than nothing. I was thinking about suggesting that, but as it became awkward between us, he made an excuse, affirmed that “it’s okay”, then made a quick exit while I stood there stunned and puzzling over the whole exchange.

Whatever his primary motive was, I believe we had a genuine conversation and connection. I still think about him from time to time, and worry about how he’s doing. I’d be eager to chat with him if I were to see him again.

He just might have been a fellow unhealthy 5. I can’t help but think if that’s how I’ll be if I fall further down the rabbit hole. I wonder if I already resemble that in some way.

It’s amazing how these sort of interactions and connections uplift my mood, yet the underlying sadness persists.

Moon Bear

I once met a bear named Shoelace,
Who had a crescent under his adorable face.
He was only a cub
And just like a pup
He was always keen to play and embrace.


He would gnaw on my fingers and toes,
And he would climb up then stick out his nose.
With his playful eyes
That hypnotise
And nuzzled into how many hearts? — Who knows.


Ten precious days I spent with him,
Giving in to his every fancy and whim.
Almost ten years since
I’ve seen the prince
How quickly time flies — its grim.


His life was harsh; too soon, he lost his mother.
Mistreated and emaciated, he hadn’t any fur.
But he bounced back quick
And became energetic
He was a mischievous pudge like no other.


Like a toddler, he wanted to play all day,
Even when he was fighting off sleep and nodding away.
Once, he rolled over
And fell, mid-slumber
He was dazed, but got back up at once anyway.


I wonder how big and strong he must now be,
From that little bundle of joy in my memory.
Perhaps one day soon
During a full moon
I’ll visit him not just in dreams but in reality.