RICE

ASIA, UNFILTERED

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Photography by Kwok Jia Xin.  

11:35 PM  

I see you, in your crop top, ripped jeans, and high-cut Converses.

You’re dressed to impress, but your actions say otherwise.

Even in the dark, I can tell from your glittery eyeshadow that you truly planned to have fun tonight. An hour ago in your bedroom, you swiped your eyeliner over your eyelids, thickening it stroke by stroke, in anticipation for the wild night ahead.

You’ve got a drink in your hand but it’s barely touched.

You see another one of your kind—the only sober person in a group of seven. He slings his arm around his bro, who was shitfaced even before he entered the club. He catches your eye and smiles wryly. You can’t really tell; it’s too dark and he’s too far away.

Picking up your phone, you refresh your Instagram feed.

I know you. I was once you.

12:00 AM

These days, I don’t party anymore unless I’m really, really feeling it. And then I go all out. Otherwise, I don’t even bother showing up.

Social obligations mean less as you get older, but I empathise with being torn between staying home and heading out. You’re restless being cooped up at home, yet you don’t quite want a night of havoc either.

But when the unspoken leader of your clique texted the group chat at 10 PM asking who was down to club, you didn’t want to be that party pooper. You also didn’t want that FOMO you knew would come with looking at Instagram Stories from bed.

After the next 30 minutes of internal conflict, you convinced yourself: “It’s okay, once in awhile anyway.”

12:28 AM

Okay, how is it not even 12:30? Didn’t you just finish two drinks? Haven’t you already gone to the toilet to fix your makeup, like, five times? And just where the hell is Teresa? You thought she said she’d be here 15 minutes ago. You only came tonight because of her.

A voice in your head says, “People who are late are pathetic!

Almost immediately, another voice retorts, “Yeah, but no more than people who do things even when they don’t want to.”

From the dance floor, your friends are waving you over. You wave back to indicate that you’ll be there in a second. Then you settle back into the couch and watch a couple more Instagram Stories.

Next to you, a guy is playing some game on his phone while his friend watches a drama with subtitles. They look bored and extremely out of place. Something tells you they’re here for the same reason you are: they didn’t know how to turn down an invite.

Secretly, you admire their passive aggressive rejection of clubbing norms.

1:10 AM

A fun game you play when hoping for the night to pass quickly is figuring out why the wallflowers are at the club.

Perhaps they’re classic introverts waiting for their friends to call it a night; perhaps they’re just not in any mood to party or socialise.

Is there anything wrong with just wanting to be in the presence of friends?

Perhaps simply being in a club is their way of challenging themselves. If they can do this, they might finally ask for that promotion they so deserve.  

Or maybe they’re not confident enough to fully let loose, because they haven’t found their place. But this is a step out of their comfort zone.

To them, watching the crowd bop to the beat is enough.

1:30 AM

You don’t know why people feel obligated to dance, but who are you to judge? You felt obligated to be here.

You want to ‘rescue’ the girl on the floor who doesn’t look comfortable, but decide to mind your own business. You watch as her awkward energy ripples outwards amongst the group, and how they eventually shuffle back to their table after just one song.

Nearby, two guys stand with their arms crossed, observing the dance floor like it’s a museum exhibit.

They might be waiting for the right moment to plunge in, or they might just be satisfied with people-watching tonight.

Not for the first time tonight, you’re reminded why they call alcohol “liquid courage”.

Finally, Teresa shows up.

2:00 AM

Wait, did the guy in front of you really just whip out his phone to start an Instagram Live session of the dance floor when he’s not even on it? Perhaps he wants to show his followers all the “fun” he’s having. Come to think of it, you may have just witnessed him checking off an item on his bucket list for tonight.

After a few minutes, he closes the app and resumes standing stoically.

As much as people insist on standing out, being in a club makes you realise all anyone really wants is to fit in. Ironically, this makes you feel less alone.

At least he’s not playing Candy Crush.

2:20 AM

Your friends call you from the dance floor again.

This time, you decide to join them.

On the way there, you walk past a girl leaning on a pillar. With her phone in one hand and drink in another, she doesn’t seem like she wants to be here.

But you remember her from a few hours ago, and remember that she’s stayed on for almost eight songs, only moving twice from her spot to get another drink.

She shows no intention of heading to the dance floor. Whether this is self-confidence or indifference, you wish you had some of it.  

3:25 AM

As the night drags on, the alcohol is finally kicking in. Your head feels like cotton wool, and everything is fuzzy. You want to leave, but your friends are still going hard.

You scroll through your Instagram feed, mindlessly ‘liking’ photos of your other friends’ Saturday nights. A pang of envy hits you when you see someone spending a night in with popcorn and a movie.

I suppose losing yourself in the music and a sea of people can be quite therapeutic. In fact, when you remember tonight, you will fondly recall the warmth of your friends’ hugs as you part ways and say you “must do it again”.

This is how you convince yourself the $80 you blew was worth it.

And perhaps it really was.

But just in case you decide to stay home next weekend to watch Netflix in bed, I hear Mindhunter is great.

Not giving a shit about what anyone thinks you should be doing on a Saturday night is pretty awesome too.

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