The Girl Next Door

About eight years ago, in Wellington city, I met a Malaysian roommate. She was a petite girl with jet black hair that flowed down her shoulders in soft waves. Her dark brown eyes would sparkle when she smiled, but there were moments when her cheerful personality seemed to vanish, and she would withdraw to her room, sobbing for hours.

One day, as I returned from grocery shopping, I heard the girl’s uncontrollable cries. I sensed that something was wrong and felt an overwhelming urge to comfort her. It was like a sharp pain inside me that I couldn’t ignore. But I coulnd’t do anything.

That night, I found myself drawing on the back of a cereal box with a two-colored ballpoint pen. I sketched a girl wearing a piece of paper with two Chinese characters (順, 理) written in blood. These characters translate to “let it go” or “let nature take its course.”

I remember hearing or reading about how Buddhist monks would put paper on their faces and spend days facing a wall to rid themselves of earthly thoughts. This memory seemed to have inspired me to draw the picture. Despite not being a Buddhist myself, I found the concept of letting go of attachments to be powerful and hoped that the message would reach the Malaysian roommate who was struggling with emotional turmoil.

Of course, I did not show the the drawing as it was dark, intense, and maybe even a little scary. Instead, I just hoped that the message of “letting go” would reach her heart, even without the drawing.