Do you know me?

You have seen me before

You know my name

But do you know me?

I am sure you do not.

I am one among the hundreds

Another in the throngs of girls

Knowing my name is not sufficient

Recognising my face is not enough

Do you know me?

I am sure you do not

For if I cannot,

Do not

Know myself

How can you know me?

I do not know me

Neither do you.

Denise stood at the top of the stairs, watching. Crowds of youth – faces and names she knew by heart. But did she really know them? Maybe she just knew their names. She walked slowly down into the milieu, smiling wryly to herself. The usual endless chatter and uproarious laughter. She stopped a few steps short of the bottom. She scanned the crowd. She had known most of these youths since young. They had grown up together in Sunday school and were now working together in the youth group. People like Alex and Nathan were her age. Lynn was fairly new, a classmate of Alex's. There were the younger teenagers, ranging from 13 (whom she admitted she barely knew) to those a year younger than her (whom she knew – somewhat). She just wished that her best friend, Yvonne hadn't gone away to study so soon.

She looked around again. There on the left was Sue Ann and her gang. Giggly Form Three girls. Further on was Nathan, talking with John. On the right she could see a couple of the younger guys just sitting around, doing nothing. Jane and Michelle further on. Edward, with his guitar, was trying to hustle people out the door. "Go home! Go home! It's late!" Edward was a year older than her. He had been away for a few years and had just come back. What a heart he had, to straight away jump into this madhouse. But still they lingered, talking. As if they couldn't talk tomorrow. Alex was suddenly in front of her. "Come, let's go. We're going for supper with Lynn and the others."

Denise shrugged her assent and followed him to his car. Two of the young kids who lived near their area were tagging along too. James and Henry. She got into the front seat as Alex slid into the driver's seat. Somehow, it made her feel more connected to Alex, just sitting in front with him.

Why do I need to feel this way? I've known him since we were kids! She wondered. It's not like I love him or anything. We've been friends since… since… forever. Or do I actually 'like' him? A serious point to ponder.

The two kids behind were singing silly songs. Alex turned on the Lakewood CD and there was relative silence for a while. Well, at least they sang along quite in tune.

"Denny!!! Come sit with us!" Lynn squealed as the four of them walked into the coffee shop. To think that Alex, Lynn and Denise were 19… Denise smiled and flopped into the chair beside her. A flurry of busyness as people looked for chairs, switched places and generally just made noise. The coffee shop guy came to take orders for drinks and it was another mess. Things settled down as the guy left.

"So, how was your college this week? So free, ar… miss call us during class."

"Well, I was bored," Denise replied defensively.

Lynn shook a finger at her. "Wait till the teacher finds out, then you'll see."

She shrugged. "It's college, dear. As long as it doesn't ring aloud the lecturer couldn't care less."

Alex sat down beside her, and her heart gave an unexpected bee-bop. Do I really like him? She glanced with a smile at Alex.

"How's the studying, Lex?" she asked.

"Bad… real bad. I can't believe STPM is so soon!"

"There are just too many things to read!" Lynn wailed in return.

"Ah, I'm sure you can do it. My sis was sick and she got 2 A's."

"But Anna's different! She's… she's just smart!" Alex answered.

"Who's Anna?" Lynn asked.

"You haven't heard of Denise's older sister? She's like a legend here," he sounded shocked.

"Yes, a legend for being short," Nathan cut in, snickering.

"Tell me more la, Den. What about her?" Lynn shook Denise's hand.

"Well, she's now 22 and she's studying far, far away at USA."


"Well, she was just sort of the founder of our youth group, and a big sis to the whole wide world… and well, she's… she's Anna." Sometimes she just hated being associated to Anna. It was irritating. Everyone wanted her to be like her older sister – to be outgoing, to be able to make friends easily, to be able to make new people welcome in the youth. But she couldn't. She was quiet, timid. She held herself aloof… away from people. Pride? Denise couldn't figure it out herself. She just didn't like crowds most of the time, except when she could escape notice in them – fat chance.

The conversation drifted towards movies and TV shows, and Denise just listened quietly. There was hardly anything for her to say. Food came and went (down the hungry stomachs) and at eleven o'clock, Alex stood up.

"Come on, let's go. It's late." The crowd started to dwindle, drifting away.

The car ride home was pretty quiet, Lakewood still playing on the CD player, the two boys at the back silent.

"You're pretty quiet tonight," Alex mentioned casually.

"Aren't I always quiet, Lex?" Denise replied with a tilt of her head.

"Well… hm. Well."

She smiled somewhat sadly. Another emotionally draining Saturday night.


[denise chew siew ting]

Journal entry November 1

Today marks the turn of a page for Malaysia. Today, our revered 4th Prime Minister has retired. Dr Mahathir has been the one that pushes us ever upwards, the motivator that has gripped our hearts and minds with the cry of "Malaysia Boleh!"

I admit, I'm not the best of citizens. I have grown up not caring about politics; not caring about the leaders of our country. Ask me to talk about our Prime Minister of 22 years and I'll probably just tell you "his name is Dr Mahathir Mohammad and he's been Malaysia's Prime Minister for 22 years." I could also probably tell you that I think he's a pretty balanced man, even though USA doesn't think so. Then again, I don't think USA is very balanced either.

Yet living in his shadow since birth (and he casts a pretty big shadow on all of us) I can't help but realise how much of the peace and stability of our country actually depends on him. Imagine having PAS and not UMNO as the leading party. I wouldn't be a Christian today. I wouldn't have the friends I have, for I have met them all through the church and through the Christian Fellowship. I might possibly be wearing the tudung and living in fear. I might even be fasting for Ramadan now.

But I am a free woman living in a free land. I can choose what I wish to believe and act as I wish to act as long as I do not break the law. I can study what I wish to study and write what I wish to write without fear.

We have a new man at the helm now. Let's see where he takes us. But Dr Mahathir's shadow will always cover me.

Ah but well, to focus on things more central to me: I'm tired. Tired of youth, tired of running around, tired of games. I'm standing on the fringes of the youth, knowing them, but not connecting. I think it's time to stand on the receiving end, to sit at the feet of Jesus. I just need a break. Maybe I just need a guy too. Flighty, flighty. Must not be too much like Sha. One of her is enough.

Do I like Lex? You know how that sounds so strangely like "Lex Luthor" from Smallville? But I've always called him Lex. Lex, short for Alex, short for Alexander. Why not Al? I wonder. And they call me Denny. Or Den. Short for Denise. Oh well. It has been a tiring Saturday, and I have church tomorrow morning. I shall rest for now and dream of forever.

[alexander chan teck wern]

1/11/03 – Sat

Denise looked a little under the weather today at youth. Maybe she needs to take a break. She seems a little bit stressed out.

Lynn seems to be fitting in well with the youth. Good.

Edward is really doing a good job pulling us together. He's just the person we need to help us. Thank God he's here! Music's taken a turn for the better since he came back too.

Reminder: Denise's birthday on the 15th of November. Must get her something.