Being in England

by Chua Han Au

It is painful to know what kind of a friend I am, what friendship, or a possibility of friendship might mean to another person when they speak to me, me at 22. (I do not do this deliberately) I do not wish to be in the company of threes. I want only to be with one, to be with few people, fewer even, until we have nothing but just the both of us, just two and you. If people knew, they would know that in comfort, I am silent. There is a buzzing with words, a wave after wave with conversations as if they never die. Intimate conversations are dear, but those otherwise are burning, agonising. I have too much to read here in Oxford, and I know this is merely a taste of the beginning. I have come here two years ago, failed at the first attempt and am here two years later. I remember the streets being as quiet as they were before—especially at night—and the people do not look at you as much as others did in London. I am heading to London, the Globe on Saturday with three other people. I want them to know about this silence, that in the absence of words, I am not repulsed, not pained, but am only breathing, only observing and keeping those thoughts silent (though not necessarily negative). People talk excessively, yawn excessively when watching Hiroshima mon amour last night. Why do people not sit silent, listen to the music specifically composed for this film and fall deep into the countenance of Emmanuelle Riva—her grief, her sorrow, her frustration with loving a Japanese man because she is French. She is beautiful.

Apart from school, I want to read when I can, when I want to, not because not reading will put me sterile, will have my head under a metal bat. To promise oneself to fall in love with the next book I read, to know the artist as himself, as herself, and that writing (a novel) is a deliberate act (lock yourself in a room for days, tell yourself you must write, and if you have nothing, you become nothing, produce nothing). A deliberate force without an urge is futile. Creation comes after the urge, an urge becomes essential. I have been searching for this urge, to write new things, academically or otherwise. Searching has become tiring. Have I become one who no longer loves to read but reads to love? The summer gives me more time with the sun, deluding me that I now have more time in this little town as opposed to when I was in Singapore. I am watching many things pass me by.

I wish, unrightfully, you were here. We will watch a performance together—remember our first concert in Esplanade? (we were terribly late) We will walk down Gloucester Green, and walk, and walk. We will rob the trees of their leaves and the river of its moisture. You will speak in laughters that will remind me of my strange comfortable silence. We will head back, believe ourselves to be tired because we must sleep; everyone must sleep. Our call that night summarised: to feel intensely, and to feel inferior in a university. This painful paradox is our common affliction. You know I want to meet new people, those who dance, who draw, who paint; everyone who is unlike us. I saw someone drawing in the Pitts Rivers Museum today. It was a lovely sight.

A year will soon away. When will we see each other again? You once wrote “together but not together was the single realest thing”. To(your)night—yes, it is night over there in Singapore—I am returning it to you.