Tag: Writing

Numbers, and a life to demise

My head is wrapped around three. One. My hands are pulled across me. Two. My body is mangled beyond degree. Three. My legs wish to flee. Four.

I recall that night, many years ago, when I spoke to a mathematician. We talked for hours over the phone. But I remember so little of that night. Another friend once said that the best way to recall a memory of a distant past is to return what we were then. So, now, I need to speak in a language that will make this revisitation easy: numbers. We called for four hours, thirty-three minutes, and four seconds. We talked about devotion, people, religion, mathematics, and art. Memory tells me it was five topics; delight contests but gives no alternative. Perhaps it is true: the choice to measure is given up in moments of pleasure.

I was young and foolish. I moved into my dorm without an alarm clock. The only marker for time was my phone. Yet, talking to him over the phone meant that I could not have constant access to it, to time. The occlusion to it also implied that I knew nothing about direction and movement. I sought something else for anchor.

I looked out of my room and saw the light. I counted the number of times the light in the street ahead turned red. Ten was the most. His words were coming out of my phone; they were clashing with my numbers. Even though I mouthed these numbers, and said nothing, I still lost count. This arithmetic break told me that words and numbers could not go hand in hand. I had to stop. I needed to hear the reflections of my friend, his theories about applied mathematics and the linearity of lines.

Years later, tonight, I am thinking about this friend, his passion for numbers, and his belief in their workability. What will he say of my situation?

Your numbers could work, he would say.

But, as I write this now, I know that his answer would come from a place foreign to human relations; they come from data and equations. My numbers, in that regard, would work.

Being in England

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.

Singularity and Boldness (or the lack thereof)

This is of a hand, of an ear, of a bone that each I know is only within me when I watch it speak, an it that becomes a they soon after, this subject thickens the torturous delight. It is beyond a flame, a rich blue, of inferno that is not warm but hard to swallow, of a softness light as vapour, of weight heavier than ceramic. I am not quite sure how intelligible this motivation is. I know its singularity because of how they are all connected to one node and one node only. One must need more than a pair of eyes, a larger heart and two brains—to write and to feel simultaneously. One is not enough, never enough. He, she, them, all bodies that are smaller than their souls and spirits. Pen on their toes and arms, they write and spin, notes falling off the sharp edges of their esoteric smiles. Those people, these men and women, walking fleshes sometimes sedentary, silent and attractive—stories I want to know but would never ask. Through it all, I thought music played a part, but when it reached a decrescendo, I breathed with difficulty but still beating, my eyes parched no longer. I could still talk, still murmur. I could feel a love laterally wrapping me. I felt a different emotion, a birth, as if my body has reached another biological capacity—one I found hard to eschew. But if I believe that the mind and body are different, then what is this biology?

Now I take a sip of water, of warm, warm water. I feel the smooth fall of thick water, then splitting itself into a binary within my chest, I lose it immediately after. I know what drinking water is, what breathing with regulated fours is, what stretching toes on prickly Singapore grass is, but this detachment from watching Art thickens tonight. A sentiment I have fed and one that will never die. What does the body want that the mind is excited by? 

And now I can’t quite write, I can’t churn the feeling. This singularity in expression, this predictability in writing comes only when three words appear, another four concatenate and I have two sentences I know I must write down. The accomplishment of which is then perpetuated by the instantaneous feeling of how massive this motivation has become, how my body feels like writing will only make me feel like I am accompanied, like I am understood. Woolf has said that this is intolerable—this revelation is reinforced, I grieve for the absence of company.

Yet that is the truth of the matter: no one has ever felt so passionately for the movement of limbs and their defiance of gravity. Franz Schubert now you tell me!

When I end, the body will return to its machinery, a dead, dead matter, or in better words, an entity.

I must not sink

My fingers are ready to write, my mind is now ready to spill. My feet are thrown outwards, now my pencil will fill. I am far from the sea and you are the sky—all of you are. The suturing of them both is an idea copied and repeated. We believe in individualism but are drugged by the poets and the artists who marry us in harmony and make us believe we are one when we insist we are two.

We have become quieter, our lapses into madness fewer, and periods of an expected decency greater. Value does not exist without limit. So limit has been manifested under the short sunlit period today. We stood peaceful, like rocks beside a creek, listening to a busker singing “Stand by Me” by Florence and the Machine. Everything felt like a grand theatre and I was part of a performance that would never end. I now see why Virginia Woolf would prefer the violent jolt of London to the silent anaesthetic of Richmond. London is one with many voices, each apportioned an identity interlinked. It is a must for Charles Dickens to be born, for Jane Austen to be born, for Christina Rossetti to be born, for poets and artists to exist and immortalise the upset proportions of the world. Will I write a book? Why are we embarrassed by what we read? I must let the soul suspend and not always push it back to the body. I must write more and read plenty. I must not sink.

I, to you

It is with certainty that he will go. It is likely that he was, out of all my uncles, one most capable of intellectual conversations relating to university, to marriage, to the abounding uncertainties as a father of three daughters who are so different in disposition and in beauty. I could sense the tense depression of my cousin—the eldest of the three. There was a tangible command to ensure consistency in treatment and to not let commiseration grow. Fatality is frightening and in the knowledge of being mortally helpless, one cannot help but simply invest in hope. Nietzsche would have scorned at that choice. But if it sustains the living, does sustainability constitute to a lack of utility? Seeing a vase of flowers, absent in reality, put my aunt in grave shock. A nebulous entity too, my grandfather perhaps? I was reminded of the poem Sylvia Plath wrote in the hospital; I was reminded of so many things; buried memories resurrected naturally and they walked, without flesh, without colour, in the funeral in my brain. The possibilities in that evening—for both him and her—seemed so enormous, so cosmic, that to be walking or simply reading in the veranda must belong to an experience that even joy cannot equate to.

His wife, my aunt, my mother’s sister, my cousins’ mother, has her torment stabbed, due to the repeated explanations to the pattern of visitors entering opaque doors, disrupting a possible peace understood only by two. I wonder, after we leave the room so comfortably dull and so cold, what happens to her breathing, to her fatigue and to her happiness?

To be conscious, to be watching a man once so full of metabolism wither like a flower, trivialises all human capacity to help. When will you speak in a language we can understand?

A vacant motel

I adjust my sorrows
To gears perfect
I listen to its beat
My lungs retract

My temper never prone
To overt enthusiasm
From your excess, thus I loan—

The lack thereof—
I don’t feel I ever scorn
To affect

We talk of nudity
Of character, I mean
Your tolerance of mine
Is slowly turning fine
This weight, I bore in you
A trait, I detest too—

Reading and poetry
Breed crevices beyond honesty
To these doubts, no answers fill
Rises a plaintive woe, immortalised by quill

In dreams, in memory

I dreamt of war quick and fast
Of sanguine faces
And whirlwinds of dust

I pray to thee
Imploring whence does humanity
Gain its infinite glee

To a sickening dismay
As with all other prayers
On that bed I lay

Without an answer I slept
Ruminating in the limpid air
There in the far distance a lady wept

To whose horror! To whose gain!
Are flesh and blood harbingers of pain?

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