“Everything tastes of violets today, of memories and the too long shadows that fall when one approaches silence. I’ve been walking backwards, hopscotch, over the cracks in the pavement (which open, welcoming me, it is cooler underground) running out of ink, as always, and waiting for the mail which does not come, like the rain.
It has been two hundred and forty eight days and three hours, february is the kind month, a little less to count.” -TLP
I’ve been living somewhat of a double life. But it is mostly a dream thriving on wanderlust. Making plans for holidays – perhaps Portugal? Italy again? Switzerland? I have a dream of snow. The ones in the West have a dream of warm sunshine.
I deal with numbers mostly at work. Sometimes, I get very emotional about letting ‘the crooked guys get away’.
I met H again, after a long time, and she is now specializing in commercial properties. H has been a long-time friend, from our first days in English Drama Society back in high school, where we experimented with zany characters, laughed over so many things in the school cafeteria, listened to our coaches and became trees and ice cream lollies and a lot of newfangled ideas about theatre I was not always convinced by.
Meeting her is like seeing someone close to my heart. Has she changed? Somewhat. Have I change? A peculiar case of Benjamin Button.
Irving’s first proper Hong Kong Book Club meeting starts this week. He shared with me excitedly about his first book, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which had been one of the books in my Literature S Paper syllabus.
Suddenly I realized reading to me was like a life journey. The good books envelope and became part of my life and form another memory. You might not remember much of what transpired, why and how it came to be, but there is a lingering aftertaste, of remembering the good from the bad books. I might remember, where I met a book, like Kundera’s Life is Elsewhere in a little bookstore in Prague as J.C played chess in the corner. I might recall, for instance, what I ate at a certain moment, or a certain symbol like a hat on a floor. I lose tracks of names, addresses, plots. Kate Atkinson captures this disparity of life, and the way sometimes it is all these little figments that attach onto ourselves, like travel keychains. We are part this and part that, and have our Eggs Benedict or like to have only Leone Violet Lozenges. Some do not walk under poles when they pass by an apartment building. We cannot fathom when and where this came to be, but little things like that tell a story. I spend my life trying to guess other people’s stories.
I have been spending alot of time with Fitzgerald’s Beautiful and the Damned. It started on a relatively mediocre note, and the speaker’s voice does not lull one into the plot very easily. But somehow halfway there was the wistfulness of a life not knowing where, the characters caught in a web of dissipation, and trying to grasp onto luxuries and fripperies to bring themselves back to a time when they were happy, and the lady was beautiful.
Everyone often complains about Fitzgerald’s women as being empty vessels. But I actually found his depiction of Gloria as particularly affectionate and moving. The constant lethargy – the need to break through the boredom and do something – and yet being drawn back to the need to be amused and charmed – “What to do with oneself when one has nothing to do?” – I saw within myself, the feeling that time is going like the wind and one peculiarly fails to decide how to exercise control over one’s life.
And so it is a particularly depressing book. So I don’t really talk much to anyone about it, except raving about the beautiful moments lived, and the flashes of intimacy. There is it, the first discovery of a gray house, of becoming bored with someone, of being suddenly frightened of a mousey stranger. I am sometimes not sure how it became to be a novel. But sometimes, I realize that it is quite unlike anything that I have ever read. But perhaps, it is just this stage of my life that I feel so.
Sometimes I pick up old books which I found true in some stage of my life – Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters when I was 17, for instance, when I finished it in one enraptured sitting – and find them a blur on the memory, an intellectual exercise, and nothing more. It is sometimes, when a novel comes to have an impact on us, that we might realize there was something more in ourselves that we were hiding away from, after all. There is the living in moments, and there is the everything else. Without Irving, everything hides within me, and sometimes I accidentally blurt these to a stranger.
I don’t know sometimes what it means, when Katherine Mansfield speaks more to me than Kafka at a particular stage of my life, only that perhaps I am blurring the edge of living in a female solitude where I feel peculiarly well and truly alone – and life is boring – and I am in this drip of lethargy – and a bowl of warm, hot ramen might take my mind off things for awhile.