Kristi Wong
Meghan Lok

It’s a Thursday, and you’re peering out the train window with your earphones jammed in and cranked up to proclaim “thanks, but no thanks” as loudly as possible without having to say anything. You blink your eyes wider to stay open against the sting of a late night, and staring at your monitor for ten hours today. (Every day.) 

There’s a four minute walk with eighty-seven stair steps between the station and your apartment, but you know that two minutes in there’s an Asian grocery.


This is how to heal yourself with pork bone soup:

  1. Buy whatever pork bones are available; they’re still not considered the gold they are unless it’s some hipster-ass store in the city, so however big the bag is, it’ll be cheap. It’s your first real job and your first real apartment. You can’t afford anything else.

  2. Also daikon, chopped into big pieces. Dried cuttlefish that your mom slipped you last time you were home. A nubbin of rock sugar, splash of soy, lots of cracked black pepper. You try to ask Popo how big the nubbin is and she shrugs, gestures vaguely at the first knuckle of her forefinger, and grins at you.”
  3. Boil the bones first in a big pot, and skim the stuff that floats to the surface. Mum calls them “impurities”. She stands at the stove, hand on hip, warm glow of the stove light making the steam look like billowing clouds. She dumps the muck into a blue and white striped mug.
  4. Turn the heat down and pile everything else in. Salt last; not too much, but more than you think. Lid goes on. It’s ready when the daikon splits with a spoon-edge press.
  5. Pour yourself a bowl and sit on your bed. The tiny window in the tiny apartment is cracked as much as possible. There’s thin light seeping in over the top of the next building; it’s your only view.
  6. Take your first inhale. It smells like a night when dinner isn’t ready until Dad gets home late. Everyone stays up watching scary movies even though mum faux-complains, and Dad falls asleep before the credits roll on the first one.
  7. Sip a small spoonful – careful, it’s always too hot. It tastes like sitting at Koong Koong and Popo’s table for hours after eating. You watch Koong Koong peel fruit and feel victorious, because it’s not your turn to wipe down the vinyl tablecloth.
  8. Bite into a piece of daikon. It’s not even biting really – it’s so soft it smoothes along your tongue and melts away.
  9. Notice the rich flavour. It’s salty, a little bit sweet, and deep. You can feel the heat curl and creep around your fingers, your toes. It slides up your arms and legs to meet in the middle, a glowing, happy belly. It’s warm, but it’s also warmth. This is how it heals. Mum smiles from over your shoulder, and Popo pats your hand.
  10. To finish, slurp directly from the bowl. There is no other way.


Repeat as many times as needed. I hope you feel better. 

Whenever someone mentions Troye Sivan, I always wonder if they’re aware of the cultural phenomenon that his coming out video was in the mid-2010s to every queer kid that spent too much time on Tumblr. At twelve years old, I was too young to engage in subversive queer subculture but I was at an age where subconsciously I felt the pull of the self-expression through consumption of media that I felt was unique that has long been intrinsic to queer people. And at the time, I, a questioning East Asian girl growing up in the Catholic school system, figured that a white conventionally attractive gay man (the most digestible form of Gay Person to parents and the like) would be a widely accepted idol that could pose as my first iota of queer representation. At the axis of expressing individuality by supporting an openly gay artist while still remaining in the bounds of non-offensive apolitical pop music that was widely accepted as “likable,” I found myself becoming an avid fan of Troye Sivan.

I first listened to Youth, the album’s most popular track at the time, in March of seventh grade. The girl I was arranged to sit next to had recommended him. I thought she was so cool. Because of both allegiance to her and my desire to find individuality through music I didn’t hear from the radio, I began listening to the song regularly on Google Play Music when our teacher let our class use the computer lab. Google Play Music didn’t last as a platform, but my love for the album did grow while it humbly acted as a cornerstone throughout the teetering uncertainty of eighth grade, being thirteen, and the numerous first times feeling an emotion for real. Real joy was playing track 4 on blast with my first real friend group. Real sadxness was track 5 mediating the very messy end of my first extremely close codependent best-friendship (for whom I definitely felt real love for the first time, platonic or romantic). Real “Oh God, I might be gay” was crying through the music video of track 9, a song that depicts queer religious angst. It played when I cried in the bathroom because I realized that I liked her (in a way that went beyond the crushes on boys that I would arbitrarily decide on as Attractive after going through the laundry list of all the boys in my elementary school class). Playing, as I freaked out and wondered why this would happen to me out of all people and it had to be horrible divine intervention and remembered that on a trip to Singapore four years ago I had wished at the supposedly magical wishing fountain to be ambidextrous and I googled the definition of ambidextrous and found that it also means Bisexual. From that point onward (and for longer than I’d like to admit) I thought that surely the reason I like girls is because I cursed myself with bisexuality at the Singapore wishing fountain. At the end of that year, I sort of stopped listening to Troye Sivan.

I did listen to Bloom, his next album, and “Strawberries and Cigarettes,” a song for the movie Love, Simon, when they came out, though. I watched Love, Simon (a teen romance flick between two gay men, not unlike the concept of Blue Neighbourhood) in theatres around a time when I was really questioning my sexuality and I thought, surely I’m straight, because, frankly, what representation was there for me in that film. I introduced Troye Sivan to a hardcore BTS-loving friend who at the time only knew track 3 because Jungkook had covered it. Now, Blue Neighbourhood is one of her most cherished albums, and she is one of my best friends. “Strawberries and Cigarettes” always reminds me of her.

Since then, nearly everyone I know who loved Troye Sivan in 2016 has come out — even if we didn’t know back then. I guess we found solace as 12 and 13 year olds in yearning nongendered lyrics (and maybe, that we subconsciously were listening to because we knew they were about queerness). And the thing is, it’s not particularly outstanding musically now. Of course, it’s a solid pop album. Sivan sings of pretty mirages of car rides with a lover, walking through nostalgic suburbs, and how much radio silence between two lovers hurts. I’m definitely being overly critical but despite the emotion in the lyrics, it’s never groundbreaking or experimental — he does not, in fact, leave the safe blue neighbourhood of simple metaphors and face-value teenage heartbreak. In a way, its sophomoric qualities were perfect for my tweenage self and friends. I can’t blame him, but it is difficult now for me to see myself in the album, and I’ve since found other albums to project any queer internal angst onto.

But though I haven’t listened to it in years, Blue Neighbourhood, to me, is an album rife with the bittersweetness of freshman year, early adolescence, and developing a sense of self. Nearly every song has a strong memory attached to it, often of feeling an emotion for the very first time. It is the single entity most intertwined with the long journey of coming to terms with myself as queer. Even considering those I call my favourites now, I can’t say that about any other album but Blue Neighbourhood.