Art Direction by Nur’atiqah Nadhira Bte Aj, Nur Syafiqah Binte Muhammad Ikram, Star Julia Sta Maria, Zhang Yitong, Syed Abdullah Bin Syed Mohamed Shariff;
Photography by Syed Abdullah Bin Syed Mohamed Shariff; Cam Op by Syed Abdullah Bin Syed Mohamed Shariff, Mohammad Izzadely;
Lighting by Alif Iman;
Styling By Hair & Make Up By Star Julia Sta Maria, Zhang Yitong


I feel watched.

The emptiness of the vast sea seems endless. It has been so long since I have been on the water that it feels foreign. The sun descends, the sky slowly darkens. There are no neon lights like I am used to in the city, leaving me with a peculiar and unsettling feeling. Standing in my tiny boat, I seek comfort in the roughened wood beneath my feet. The edge of the shore before me splits the world in a perfect horizontal line. It is a gentle oasis. Drowning in a wave of silence, an undercurrent of worry overwhelms me. When we meet again, would my father’s reaction be coloured by disappointment, joy, or the enduring indifference of the day I left? The days that once felt eternal, we used to play pretend. We would draw circles on the sand with our hands and feet, giggling as we raced around the boat. I remember the summer I made everyone laugh by climbing the tree like a monkey.

At the top of the tree I could see just a faint edge beyond the water, dotted with the city skyline. And I wondered, “What do they climb out there? What do they see?” Home. The warm air blankets me as I rub my arms desperately, trying to soothe the goosebumps crawling across my cool skin. I look around my room. The half-peeled smiley sticker is still stuck stubbornly on my dresser. From yellowed curtains to old clothes hanging stale in my closet, everything remains unchanged. It was as though time had stopped the day I left. Freed. Changing out of my wet clothes, I notice the red imprints on my arms. A sore reminder of the the city. It is the sway of the dress I wore as a teen that caresses the angry red marks that bind me. My tired body slumps into my soft cot. City existence has left my soul starved of the quiet rhythm of island life. I wish I could stay here forever, but everyone is waiting for me. Like a tug of war, roughened hands on my body bring me to familiar faces. The jetty looks old. I feel the wood beneath my feet, now worn and smooth. The jetty sways beneath me as I stand idle.


My father says in his quiet way. I could not confess to him that I had run away, shirking my bold proclaims that I made. He smiles and pats my shoulder. There's a silent understanding between us as we sail for the open sea. The bond between us was woven here, on these vast blue waters. My father takes his position at the back of the sampan, his rough and steady hands guiding the oar through the water. My father is strong and wise. The stories of his youthful adventures echoes in my mind. I'm overwhelmed with pride and gratitude, knowing what a strong legacy he has left me. Upon arriving at the spot, we gear up to fish. My eyes scan the water, searching for signs of movement beneath the surface. As my father readies his own spear, his hands move with the same ease that comes from years of experience. My hands move instinctively as I tighten the ropes around the spear. My instincts effortlessly guide my hands, like an ingrained ritual. I am shocked that my unpracticed hands could still do this. Locking my eyes on a target, I position myself above it. The anticipation hangs heavy in the air, and I release my spear into the water, finding its mark instantly.

“Good job”. I turn to my father with a satisfied grin. “Let’s do it again”. I find myself again on these familiar shores, my father by my side, as the warm sun kisses our faces. Our knees sink into the soft and inviting golden sands. The restless waves have thrown rocks, seashells, and other materials ashore. My fingers brush against an enormous seashell as we sift through the sand. I hold this spiral shell up to my ear and listen to the waves of the ocean. In my shell, I can hear the waves of the ocean. Could that be true? A spark of childlike wonder ignites within me. “Why am I acting like such a curious child?” I mused aloud, looking up to meet my father’s eyes. His gaze, soft and understanding, holding a familiar affection. It is in that look that I see a reflection of his daughter, always curious, always looking for life’s wonders. As my fingers smooth over the eroded shell, I can almost hear the echo of our laughter.


I float weightlessly, carefree, and wish I can stay forever. I feel one with the water. I am connected to something greater than myself, something that gives me a sense of belonging and peace. Afar, wooden houses on stilts stand strong against every tide of the sea. A breeze shakes the coconut trees, and children run away from the rounded fruit that might fall on them. I giggle as I hear their high pitched screams. A different echo jolts me, calling me back to shore. I see my father waving his hand, inviting me to join the feast from the catch previously. It is the familiar, tantalising aroma wafting through my nostrils that makes my mouth water. The sight of a multitude of seafood fills my senses, and I grow eager to gorge on it. Upon settling into my seat, I am surrounded by a boisterous group, every neighbour talking like a long-lost family member. There is only laughter and smiles in the room and my heart is full of wholesomeness. My eyes close briefly, savouring the moment with all my senses. Fear slowly crumbles, giving way to an overwhelming sense of belonging.