What Are We
by Chua Han Au
I: In the train
The two gentlemen discussed enthusiastically about the marvellousness of technology; the accessibility of a scientific calculator by simply turning the phone to landscape mode. I saw one of their eyes metamorphose into a pair of thin lines, indicative of satisfaction and contentment from living in the 21st century. Distinctively, the way he enunciates “common sense” as “common cent” is proof that he once belonged to the civilisation of attap houses, with bamboo poles as gates rather than alloys.
Another stands beside me, sending his recorded words of concern to his wife through Facebook. I couldn’t quite comprehend his language for his accent suggested that he probably originated from a certain dialect group in China. More admirably, he is not bothered about the judgements others might have of him, as the tone of his voice was relatively loud in the rather silent cabin. Separated by distance, what he only has on his mind now is whether his wife would be able to receive his audio note as he awaits her reply patiently in Singapore.
II: At the playground
Life is just gravely pretentious since birth, the nurse exclaims in undue excitement whilst announcing the gender of the baby. In actuality, her excitement is the same old demeanour she grabs off the shelves before surgery, masking her stoic countenance.
A girl runs past me, being genuinely eager about wanting to have fun at the playground, her mother merely smiles and gestures her to go ahead, pushing the pram placidly. The child surmises her approval to be a form of motherly companion for play, only to be disappointed. We reach a point in life where we lose all innocence and extract ourselves away from childlike behaviour. The mother sits by the side, being wholly engaged by whatever is going on in her phone, smiling to herself, unconsciously leaving her child alone. Alas, the playground is a metaphor for our elusive happiness, the colours of our life, always far from home.
III: In the car
The music playing in the car is utterly loud, like fireworks rupturing the repose night sky. I feel sick, perhaps it’s a consequence of staying up too late in the night while reading the unabridged journals of Sylvia Plath and hastily writing down fragments of beautiful phrases that I would like to read again in the future. The car is going at a rapid speed and I think to myself — rather perversely — if it loses control, what will happen then?
When I am on the brink of death, with the smell of metallic crimson blood being so pungent, will my mind go blank because of my inherent disability to witness blood or would it be due to sheer resignation? Will I remember that I am still human, capable of hollering for help?