Saturday, December 29, 2007
'I did come with a tour group. I left them behind... I came for the monument of the Tropic of Cancer, the boundary of the tropics thing.'
'That pillar down at the seaside? The one beside the highway?'
'But why did you come here from there? It's quite a long walk from here, it's at least half an hour.'
'I was looking for the perspective from which this photo was taken. Here. See, it says "Home" behind, and I've wanted to-'
'I'm sorry, but where did you get this photograph from?'
'My mail. It's one of hundreds. It's one of the few with words on them. I don't know where the photos are coming from, that's why I'm here.'
'Are you from Singapore?'
'And you are the one who got these photographs.'
The Chens' house has a balcony on the second floor, an extension of the room where they finally agreed to let her stay for the night. On the face of the person who had obtained all her answers, on his parents' faces, a strange, slow sadness has settled; they are kind enough, but everything is tinted with the caution of being hospitable to a guess who brings a telegram announcing a death in the family, in a place where the rest of the family has never been.
She still knows nothing, except for what the photograph and her own eyes tell her. The camera faces forward, onto the monumental pillar far in the background, it says nothing of the photographer behind it. How old is this photograph anyway, was it taken and then sent immediately? By coincidence the paddy fields are at around the same stage now as when the image was captured, even though the sky suggests a different time of year. Here she realises how completely foreign she is, she does not know either the habits of paddy farming or the way seasons move in Taiwan.
She only knows - or she doesn't, she senses - that something irreversible has happened.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Juvenilia. (Of course I'm not *that* old, but age is still relative. Youth is a time of swift aging.)
But I don't discard the pieces from three or five years back when I clear my store of documents. The things that do go are those from three days back, which have already lost their apparent coherence or rightness after half a weeks' revisions and redecisions. This habit of clearing things out is an old one, from my high school years.
Therefore the conclusion - whoever I was at the time of writing my oldest crap, I must have thought it truly worthy then. Errors of judgement aside (also, I don't do drugs) I must have loved then the same thing that makes me gape in embarrassment now. Why did I love them then? And why do I keep them now?
I suspect the latter is to convince me that I am making some sort of progress, that what was 'good' then is indeed egregious by now, which must mean that my constant process of maturation has brought (is bringing, hopefully) my skills in creative writing to new heights. Onward and upward. But now even that seems a misconception. I think I have a better answer now - that I am simply a different person than I was before, and that my self-righteousness, whether deserved or not, requires as fuel the writing of another person to mock and be ashamed at - someone who was young, and has since failed to grow up while remaining the same person.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
(This piece came to me in Chinese, and I cannot see how to put it in another language, so there we are...)