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Testing the waters

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Skills Test passed! And I was amongst 40, out of a pool (ha ha) of 60, who were selected to proceed to the next stage of training to become a certified swimming coach (that is, if you wanted to teach in a public pool). This doesn’t necessarily mean that the others ‘failed’ the test. As places for the technical course were limited, only the better swimmers would be selected. I would say however, that a handful certainly looked like they needed swimming lessons first!

The Skills Test required us to swim each of the 4 strokes for 25 m. I was confident about passing — I knew I could swim all 4 strokes fairly well (though I’m aware that there’s still some way to go to perfecting my technique). In the past year, I’ve been (and still am) honing my pet strokes, the breast and free, and I’ve also spent time on becoming more proficient in my weaker strokes, the fly and back.

We were split into 6 groups (or details) and assigned in alphabetical order based on our surnames; I was in Detail 5 and got to check out the level of competition in the earlier groups which were tested first. We swam the breast first, followed by the fly, free and back; we got a breather in between strokes while waiting for the rest of the group to complete their swims.

Several of the swimmers swam a strong breast and the fly leg was quite competitive too. Interestingly, some of the candidates floundered in the free and back; there were few all-rounders. I was feeling really glad that I had trained for versatility by including Individual Medley sets in the last few months. It meant being spread thin, since the time could have been spent on my racing strokes, but I sure am feeling thankful now! Plus I’m definitely motivated about working harder on my versatility!

The technical module just started on Monday and will run for 2 months, after which I will sit for a theory, as well as a practical test. Thereafter, arrangements will be made for my training attachment.

* * * * *


I had teased him about being single and said something about a closet. (We tease each other quite a lot.) In response, he leaned in and put his face up against mine. Close, too close. And for those few seconds, as I studied his face and his mouth up close, I actually contemplated leaning in… But of course I didn’t — not in public; not in front of our friends; not in front of other people who knew me (even if barely).

Later, as the teasing continued, he curled his leg around mine and pulled me under. Testing the waters, literally. Heh. Well, he certainly passed the Proximity and Touch Test. I don’t know how I did. But, whatever. Shrug. It is interesting however, that he didn’t hold himself back even though Uncle was around for that lesson — I guess they have come to some kind of… understanding.

And so, just as I’m losing interest (for various reasons) and becoming less conscious of his presence, he decides to tug on the line. Sigh. Must it always be so? It’s not even like I was trying hard to begin with. I guess I’ll just continue to focus on doing my own thing and only pay him sporadic (but just enough) attention.

If nothing else, at least I’ll still get my own stuff done and be able to move on with my life.

Besides, it’s probably in my favour at the moment that we all take our time ;-)


Written by The Intimate Stranger

September 11th, 2014 at 12:35 am

The game is on

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“So _____,” The Primate called out my name and, in the presence of the whole damn lunch table which included 2 other colleagues, a visiting post-doc from Australia whose talk we had all just attended, and a colleague of The Scientist, “You wanted to know how to get to know _____ better right?” And then he arrowed The Scientist’s colleague to “organise” something.



What was I to do but laugh it off (??!!!) and make a halfhearted protest (though nary a denial of my interest), even as the otherwise all-male table perked up in surprise.

Thankfully, men being men (except for a certain childish specimen; and yes, I saw it coming from the calculated looks he kept giving me throughout lunch), the topic was quickly dropped after a short exchange amongst the group.

On the one hand, I was miffed that he had deliberately put me in a spot, and that he fudged the facts — The Scientist was the one who made his intentions known first. But I didn’t choose to correct this — it would have come across as defensive (and moot, in any case) and would not have worked in my favour. Besides, the way to deal with such behaviour is simply to NOT reward it with the expected response(s), or more childishness.

But more importantly, one should keep one’s eye on the goal always. Since the ball is no longer in a reluctant party’s court, things should start moving. Hey, whatever gets me what I want ;-)

PS: That’s one huge withdrawal that The Primate made from the Brownie Jar. This had better be worth it.

* * * * *


And so the madness begins. For the next 2 months, I’ll be juggling a twice-weekly coaching course, continuation of lifesaving training for the Distinction Award, training for 2 competitions (Masters and National Games), renovation planning and more work (yay, NOT).


And oh, The Mother has agreed to let me have The Dog. I just have to help her adopt a puppy. Onz :-D


Written by The Intimate Stranger

August 31st, 2014 at 2:14 am

When it rains, it pours.

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It looks like the year-end dive trip cum New Year celebrations is going to be really interesting, if not entertaining. We might have 3 (or 4) new additions to the party. Am crossing my fingers that G will come along. Otherwise, rooming arrangements might get a little awkward with The Little Primate — or Cock Block, as G calls him. Laugh. Yeah, Cock Block is the term alright. Mutter darkly. AND, especially after his ridiculous tantrum at a recent outing. BOYS. Roll eyes. Sigh.

Invitations were sent to the other 2 during a casual conversation about holiday plans. Since Uncle was particularly interested in the make-up of the group and how the lone male was related to me, I thought, hey, you know what, why don’t you and the Swede come along to help me out with the awkward situation eh? Plus, Uncle clarified that the Swede wasn’t attached afterall. The territorial Chinese chick who showed up at the pool several weeks ago was just an interested party.

Anyway, we’ll see. Checking on the availability of extra rooms now, and in case something else starts biting at my line again. Grin.

* * * * *


Have secured my housing loan from the bank and exercised my Option to Purchase. Am now gathering ideas for renovation and furnishings while waiting to meet (and evaluate) my first ID contractor next weekend, and to attend the first appointment with HDB in 3 weeks’ time.

Meanwhile, I’ve obtained my Lifesaving Award of Merit certification and my coaching course resumes in September with twice weekly sessions, ending November.

I’ve been so busy that I’ve not started serious training for the Masters swim in mid October. Oh well. It’s all for a good cause :-D

And oh yes, a dolphin (albeit a small one) has joined Club Ink ;-)

Changes are also afoot at work with yet another reorganisation, and this one will affect me somewhat. Waiting to receive more details at next week’s briefing but certainly, the workload will increase — hopefully, in a positive way.

So, the next 6 months will be crazy, and I’ll need to keep it all together!


Bedroom - Glass doors













Written by The Intimate Stranger

August 17th, 2014 at 4:01 pm


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There’s daydreaming, in your head; all woolly and sleepy sheep cloned in a sterile test-tube.

You don’t stop dreaming these because they’re the fanciful flights of an idle mind and no one will ever know. Shhhh.

Then there’s the dreams in your heart; the kind that you feel in your entire being.

Some people stop dreaming because their hearts grow weary over time and they close the doors. Perhaps no one ever knew these dreams even existed, if they had never told of their hearts’ desires.

Some people dream during their waking moments and even in their sleep. Then one day, the dreams smile back and they step through the looking glass — because you believed in your dreams, and so they became real.

Written by The Intimate Stranger

August 4th, 2014 at 1:23 am

Taking flight

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“I’m walking away
From the troubles in my life
I’m walking away
Oh, to find a better day”

~ Craig David


I used to have a fear of crossing busy roads. The relentless onslaught of cars hurtling towards me was terrifying. And if I was crossing with company, I absolutely hated being left behind when I didn’t seize the ‘right’ moment to cross. Well, I’ve learnt that it’s fine to wait calmly at the side or middle of the road, and to watch the cars until I was sure about crossing. I’ve also learnt to cross the road more decisively. And if I was alone, I would use pedestrian crossings.

I don’t like being left behind very much, literally and figuratively. I have abandonment issues; or maybe the Arian in me simply hates to lose. Shrug. At some point, it was so bad that I even got stressed about missing out on checking off travel destinations or holidays with friends — it reminded me of how much I’ve fallen behind in the rat race, and life. And it doesn’t help when people remind you that you’ve fallen behind. (Just saying.)

Obviously, if I don’t want to be left behind, I’ve better catch up AND keep up, and I’ve to learn to do it on my own steam. But more importantly, I also need to believe in myself, that I’ve what it takes — probably the hardest part of all.

I also have to accept that sometimes I won’t be able to keep up, and that is fine. (Be kind to yourself.)

Finally, I learnt that I could set my own goals too. Hey, hey! MY game, MY rules, MY targets.

If I’m always waiting for someone else’s cue, I’ll be missing almost every ‘right’ moment.

If I don’t have my own goals, I’ll end up mindlessly following other people instead of pursuing my own happiness.

But goal-setting is not an easy task. For most of my life, I simply didn’t know what I wanted. I thought I had no dreams; perhaps I convinced myself so, resigned that my dreams would remain woolly sheep, and that people would disapprove of or ridicule what I wanted to do. Practically speaking, I also didn’t know how to plan and execute the process of achieving a goal. At the same time, I also had to be ready internally to meet the challenges ahead.

I keep reminding myself: “What’s the worst that could happen?” – 6 important words that my therapist taught me to say to myself.

Post-midlife-crisis and thoroughly shaken to my core, I started swimming again to fill the spaces that had always punctuated my life, while I figured out what to do with myself. Through my new company’s social club, I also started looking for other sports to take up, organised outings with friends, and worked on filling up my diary and keeping ‘busy’. Work was just work and I entertained myself by pursuing interests outside the office.

Then I got into competitive swimming after the company’s annual meet last year and things started to move a lot faster (ha ha). Part of it had to do with spending so much time at the pool and on the sport itself that I had little left for anything else, and so life did feel quite rushed at times.

I enjoyed swimming as a teenager but I hadn’t expected the same, if not greater fervour the second time around. Pursuing this passion has helped me to re-examine, unlearn and learn many things about myself. It has also opened a door that has been closed for too long.

* * * * *


I was contemplating my life and the lack of a lifetime companion — particularly how every potential encounter always fell apart so quickly that it felt uncanny.

I thought about my daily routine of going back home, walking straight to my room and staying in that part of the house for most of the time. This room which holds all my belongings; this room which has become a symbol of my life; this room represents the stasis of my life. Whatever path or turn I’ve taken still brings me back to this room — alone — at the end of each day. This room is my ’50 Shades of Grey’ — sadly, the G-rated version.

I got it into my head sometime last year that to change my life — my destiny – I would have to stop returning to this barrenness lest I become the 51st Shade of Grey.

I had to get out.

Towards the end of last year, I quietly made a resolution that in 2014, I would move out. When the decision was made, I had somehow managed to build up just enough savings to finance the cash outlay of getting my own place; the housing market had started to slow down; and I was mentally ready and prepared for this major life event.

My efforts were sporadic at best throughout the first half of 2014 but things really picked up speed (an understatement, ha ha) early this month, triggered by a friend’s concern that I hadn’t made much progress on my resolution. The past few weeks moved so fast that I didn’t realise that it’s still July.

As I already had some ideas about where I would like to live, I got onto a popular property portal to check availability. I drew up a shortlist of preferred estates and blocks, and tabulated details and prices. Another friend provided his housing agent’s contact and I texted the latter the next day.

The agent promptly got me to apply for an In-Principle Approval from one of the banks to ascertain how much I could borrow. A week later, I got to view the first batch of 4 units in Estate A on a Thursday night. I was pleasantly surprised that they were all corner units (I was prepared to stay in a corridor unit) on higher floors (a stated preference) and a couple were bigger than the standard 3-room and hence quite spacious. I didn’t know what to expect as these were resale HDB flats which had been lived in for about 30 years. But during the actual viewing, I was relaxed and I could even see myself living in a couple of the units.

The BFF came along for the second viewing on Saturday afternoon which included 2 more flats in Estate A. There was also a repeat viewing of a shortlisted unit (A1) from Thursday so I could see it in daylight and get a second opinion. I shortlisted another flat (A2) from this trip — it was similar in size and layout to A1, slightly farther (but easily manageable) from my desired amenities, but on a lower floor and facing shops. On the plus side, A2 and the neighbourhood felt ‘brighter’ and more breezy, and there was a more positive vibe overall. It was also slightly cheaper (negligible when you spread it across the years) and the kitchen ceiling looked less dodgy — the other place had noticeable deformities and flakings due to spalling concrete.

The next morning, I checked out both neighbourhoods on my own, and looked out for shops, residents, estate maintenance and noise level (particularly for the lower floor A2). I also wanted to ascertain how I ‘felt’ about each place.

A third viewing was arranged the following Monday night for 2 units in Estate S and 1 in Estate B. They were all corridor units on the second or third floor, smaller and slightly more expensive. None of them appealed to me though I tried considering the Estate B place since it was my first choice.

So in a week, I had viewed 9 units. I deliberated if I should continue to view more houses and to look outside my initial shopping list (because you never know what you might be fine with, or otherwise) — I liked the 2 flats in Estate A; I could see myself living in either place; I was comfortable with the asking prices and seriously contemplating an offer on either one. Admittedly, 9 is a small pool to choose from and a week is a short time. But how many and how long would be enough? More buyers are also returning to the market and there are only that many corner units in each block which are for sale AND satisfy my shopping list.

Still, I held back from making a decision — not wanting to be told later, AFTER I had exercised the Option to Purchase, that I had been hasty or that there were better flats or that the price was not low enough, and being plagued by those nagging thoughts in my own head. Besides, I wasn’t in a rush and could wait a few months.

Then it came up during a talk with the BFF that I was withholding making a decision for the wrong reasons — not so much that I wasn’t certain about my choice, but because I didn’t trust myself and cared too much for what others thought.

Instead of taking personal responsibility for the purchase of a house that ultimately *I* would be living in, I was choosing to let other people who would NOT be living in the house ‘decide’ for me.

And so it was that I contacted the agent on Tuesday morning to make an offer for A2. That same evening, I went down for a repeat viewing, wrote a cheque for the $1000 deposit and left the negotiation to the 2 housing agents representing each side. The agreed price turned out to be between my negotiable offer price and final offer price, which was a pleasant surprise even though it was just an additional savings of $3000. And then I laughed when I saw the purchase price — it was my month and year of birth :-)

On hindsight, it was a good call to make my quiet resolution known to my social circle. A few people actually checked in on me regularly. And others were happy and ready to help in various ways. It felt so good to be able to talk openly about my plans and not be held back by what anyone would think. Talking about getting my own place made it REAL for me, and no longer just a dream.

Of course there’s since been several surprised comments that I made my decision within a week. All I did was smile and said “I liked the place.” And then the conversation would move on without missing a beat. Heh.

As fast as things moved in the last few weeks, it helped that I have been thinking seriously about moving out for more than a year, and I did do a little research on and off. But more importantly, I never felt I was rushing into a decision. Yes, things moved and are still moving very quickly, but I generally feel relaxed about the whole thing and the stress is mostly the good kind of happy-stress. Call it a gut feel — everything feels like it was meant to be. 

This is the right moment, and I’m crossing the road — with a grin on my face ;-)

* * * * *


The morning after, I was enduring a delayed and jerky train ride when The Mad Scientist texted that The Professor wanted to “get to know the sporty and capable-looking woman at the outreach event better”.

That didn’t deliver a jolt though I was taken aback at the odd timing. My immediate response was that “he’s married” which The Mad Scientist promptly and firmly corrected. (I must have read the news article wrongly. Shrug.)

I wasn’t surprised about The Enquiry itself because I remembered the event held earlier in the month. In fact, it was just a day after I resolved to get off my procrastinating ass and work on getting out of my parents’ place. I had seen The Professor around a number of times at work events but had never made an effort to interact with him (because not-cute-lah and I assumed he had to be married) until the outreach. When he joined our table during the breaks to chat with the scientists, I listened and joined in occasionally. Notwithstanding my initial impressions, I had always been a little curious about him. Besides, he didn’t have any airs about him and seemed like a nice person. I reckon I made an impression with my little suggestion when he was explaining why the sun always rose in the east even in space. I remember teasing him later in the day during the networking dinner and the expression on his face as he moved eagerly towards me — and I quickly broke contact and walked away BECAUSE I really thought he was married. (Sigh, dumbo.)


We’ll see :-)

* * * * *


I stopped seeing The Numbers some time after I realised there was no monster under my bed waiting to jump out at me. Interestingly, they went away around the time just before I entered my Third Pinnacle.

I hadn’t expected to see The Numbers again.

“This is the time to step into your empowerment.”

How apt.
















Written by The Intimate Stranger

July 31st, 2014 at 3:33 am

No pain, no gain.

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Started weekly sessions of tui na treatment to fix my tight muscles and general circulation problems. I’ve had 2 sessions so far and am very pleased with the results — immediate relief of a few months’ of tightness and ‘heaviness’ have translated into easier swims, improved flutter kicks, almost no more cramping and sore back. I’m also walking better and differently now that the legs feel lighter and the back is better.

It’s ironic though, how painful the treatment is. If you’ve ever had a sprain and had to have tui na, well, it’s THAT kind of pain. Just a few more sessions to clear the blockages, in time for the swim meet. I wonder how the lactate clearance will be affected. Hmmm. Anyway, I hope to return to regular — and less painful! — reflexology and back massages for maintenance soon. These treatments are pricey at $200 each time.

The things I do for swimming.

And my replacement Speedo tech suit should arrive sometime next week. Really hoping the size works this time.

* * * * *


“So you prefer ang mohs.” He looked at me meaningfully, when I confessed to  being unfamiliar with the Mandarin music scene.

Well, since we are on the topic of what I prefer, I’m partial to Asian men — it just so happens that it’s not you. And it just so happens it’s not Asian this time. Shrug.

I like eyes. I like the quiet glow of the lighter browns in the sunlight.

And I’ve always loved colours — and coloured eyes.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

March 23rd, 2014 at 12:49 am


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I yelped as 2 hands squeezed my waist. I spun around and was met by his gleeful grey eyes and grin.


* * * * *


Was chatting with one of the lifeguards at the pool, who was also a competitive swimmer back in the Philippines. She suggested that I start a proper training programme for the swim meet instead of just aimlessly swimming laps. I already have my stamina and would need more targetted training now.

So that’s what’s been missing from the second halves of my sprints and finishes — when I start to struggle to hold on, and finish weakly as opposed to ‘attacking the wall’. I’ll need to work on my anaerobic endurance and raise my lactic threshold.

Can’t wait to hit the pool tomorrow to see how the new training sets work out.

7 more weeks.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

March 8th, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Finish what you started

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“A big part of the motivation to swim in the Olympics again was feeling as though I had been mentally unprepared in the 1984 and 1988 Games…

When, in 1991, I decided to train for the Olympics again, I didn’t consciously think that I had unfinished business in the pool. I just knew I wanted to swim again. I missed competition. I missed the speed. I missed the focus. I missed funneling thousands of miles of training into one or two lengths of the pool…

I knew I could swim faster than I had in the 1988 Olympic Games.”

~ Dara Torres


Unfinished business. Nod sagely :-)

* * *


Some of us have our quiet moments by the side of the pool. Resting in between laps. Staring ahead at nothing. Savouring the coolness against heated skin. Breathing a little harder perhaps. Waiting for the burn to fade. Getting ready to push into the pale blue again.

I don’t mind my lone trips to the pool. I got used to it after a while, focusing instead on the laps I wanted to cover, correcting strokes, committing movements to muscle memory, recovering by the poolside, catching my breath. Rinse and repeat. Small talk is fine. Talking half the time is not. I’m here to swim. Not to get pruned for nothing and catch a chill.

Other regular swimmers generally don’t talk to me. Ok fine, maybe a few tried but it’s hard to make meaningful eye contact when I am determined to stare ahead at nothing while resting in between laps.

But over time, people realised I didn’t just have one facial expression. Ha. Ha. And fine, I did start acknowledging familiar faces — the lifeguards — with a smile or a wave. Also, as my training picked up and my swims got stronger, people noticed and a few would engage me briefly — mostly women, strangely (or maybe not, hmmm) — with passing compliments and the lifeguards offered a few tips.

I first noticed The Princeling a few months ago. He always swam with his friend and almost every evening. And then he started to work on his butterfly. I knew he/they often looked over and once speculated if I was just a very dark-skinned Chinese (ha ha), but I was becoming a Master at Staring Ahead at Nothing While Resting in Between Laps.

Eventually though, keeping my head and neck in a fixed spot was putting a strain on my shoulders, and I decided to at least acknowledge their presence/attempts and also offer a few butterfly tips. The Princeling beat me to it though, and when I finally looked him in the face, I was really glad that he was kinda cute. Grin. A while later, I realised that we actually had a brief exchange some months earlier when he lost his goggles in the pool and asked to borrow mine so he could look for them. I spotted the goggles from where I was and retrieved them for him instead. And I gave him a dirty look and turned away. Ok fine, I need to stop scaring people away.

Since then, we’ve continued our brief exchanges at the pool, mostly to help tweak his butterfly. I also started to work more on mine. Then, just for fun, I invited him to race the fly — much to his trepidation of losing to a woman in front of everyone. But he accepted and touched home about half a second ahead. Heh. And then I thrashed him soundly in the free. Heh. Heh. Though he initially expressed disinterest in learning to swim faster, he has been the one asking to race since that ‘experiment’. It’s fun getting someone hooked :-)

It’s strange but I was just thinking of inviting The Princeling to join the Saturday swim classes. Again, he beat me to it and asked about the effectiveness of the classes I’ve been attending. So he might join. Or not. What’s this about having a problem committing to classes and showing up regularly and at fixed times? Youngest child syndrome? Sigh.

What also surprised me tonight was the casual mention of the ongoing art exhibition at MBS, and the somewhat tentative offer of free tickets. I think he was also caught off-guard that I went along with the conversation so nonchalantly. But we’ll see. He still needs to get the ticket to me ;-)


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January 16th, 2014 at 11:59 pm


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It’s been 2 years since N’s house party.

I’ll’d like to think no one looks too different, except for the fact that everyone’s significantly ‘under-dressed’ this time. Cough. Heh.

* * *


There is no liking like liking obviously — as opposed to quietly or secretly, or worse, less, because you are not sure about yourself (your likes, your dislikes, yourself as a person) and/or what others might think.

For one, liking obviously is a very pleasant experience and hopefully for the object of liking too. But yes, I do believe it was very pleasant for him too ;-)

Not so much for N, but at least he’s stopped the touchy-feely-every-chancy territory-marking very quickly. Ha.


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January 12th, 2014 at 11:38 pm

The 4th Dimension

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“This sign from your Spirit Guides signifies their disagreement with your thoughts and feelings and can be interpreted as a Cosmic ‘No!’ to questions you have asked or ideas you may have.”

The 444 that you see, is a representation of the fourth dimension as seen from a perspective of the third dimension. You are moving into the fourth dimension. Your relationship to everything around you is now changing and this is representative of this movement. This is a time to incorporate mastery of self. This is the time to step into your empowerment. Though the attributes of the fourth dimension keep you from seeing yourself as empowered, know that incorporating empowerment techniques will serve you well at this time. Every time you see the 444 remember Mastery and Empowerment.”

The angels are surrounding you now, reassuring you of their love and help. Don’t worry because the angels’ help is nearby.”

Number Sequences from Our Spirit Guides



The past several weeks, I’ve been seeing the numbers ‘444’ whenever I looked at the time on my phone (my wrist watch is an analogue). A few times, I’ve even seen it on the time counters of the computer games I play (Castleville, for the curious).

I’ve been anxious, and worried, and looking out for my own safety. It doesn’t help that there’s already been a few deaths and serious illnesses amongst family members of colleagues within my department of only 21 people, and all within this year. The number ‘4’, to the Chinese, means ‘death’. And repeated thrice…. well, you get the drift. I’ve shared this with a few friends – hoping for some reassurance that this was just stress-related; mayhaps an insight into the meaning of the repeated numbers; but mostly, worried that I might die suddenly, I wanted at least a few people to know the preceding… events.

I don’t know why I hadn’t looked this up on the internet sooner. (Thank you, Google!) But I have, just now – after having encountered the repeated numbers, this time on Scramble with Friends.


* * *


I finally stop running and looking over my shoulder, trying to catch the shadows.

I gradually slow my steps.

There is no one; nothing to run from.

I feel my right foot slide forward quietly to meet my left.

The air stills.

All is quiet.

I am listening now.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

December 26th, 2012 at 12:16 am