Heaven (part 1 of 2)
Friday, 17 December 2010
Heaven is available in printed form in the "Hong Kong Stories - As We See It" anthology:
Heaven (part 1 of 2)
Heaven (part 1 of 2)
After Gabriel fades out of sight, I let out a heavily muffled mental murmur: “So long you prissy feathery prig . . .” The juvenile remark, so unlike me, feels great.
So, this is my Day Number One of Eternal Life . . .
I can still smell the sanitised odour of the urine bag that hung from my deathbed, and feel the warmth of soiled diaper creeping inside the prickly hospital blanket. The squeaky weeping of Elena, and the droning prayers of our son Rev. Kelvin Lee (II) still ring in my ears. And I can’t stop the phantom pulses of the monitors I was plugged into, like a car being checked at the garage. I have no idea what these things were, but had long realised they were futile.
Thursday, 16 December 2010
To read Part 1 - Heaven: http://guo-du.blogspot.hk/2010/12/heaven-part-1-of-2.html
I tried not to let my frustrations show. After a brief pause, I changed the subject once more: “What about Jesus?”
“What about Him?”
“I’ve been His devout follower all my life. Can I meet Him?” I could hear my pious and reverent voice hardening but was hopeful that the situation might improve if I could meet Christ in person.
Gabriel sat down somberly in an invisible armchair, and signalled me to do the same. I lowered myself cautiously into a sitting position. I couldn’t feel any supporting furniture, or the strain of hunkering down. I finally let go completely, and came to rest in a sitting position. There are some neat things in Heaven after all.
Thursday, 9 December 2010
我等到加百利完全消失在茫茫煙霞中之後，才鼓起勇氣，在心底里的最深一角喃喃的牢騷了幾句：「再見啦天庭公公。人不象人，鴿不象鴿， 陰陽怪氣，小心給飛機撞散哦 。。。」 如此幼稚不敬的想法，一點也不像我的所為。不過這無聊的深心一咒，卻很實在地舒緩了我胸中的慪氣，令整個靈魂貼服了少許。
哎，這不過是我得享永生的第一 天 。 。 。
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Friday, 3 December 2010
Julian Assange of Wikileaks, and Bradley Manning, an American soldier who’s been accused of a leaky conscience and is currently in prison in Virginia, are being ruthlessly persecuted by a Coalition of the Desperately Willing more impressive than the one that invaded Iraq. Assange is also being accused of rape. Many governments seem to be giving unprecedented attention to the felony of rape. I can’t recall another suspect being pursued with such spectacular ferocity and sweating foreheads. Can you?
Whether Assange had indeed raped another human being is not for me to speculate. Most people have given their verdict one way or the other anyway. However, he has indeed forcibly screwed a very self-righteous system, damaging its verbose facade on all sorts of inviolable principles: Human rights, government integrity, political openness, accountability, and freedom of information and expression. He has flashed light at a dark corner, exposing hypocrisy without consent. I can understand why those unveiled feel assaulted naked - feeling on the receiving end of a molestation for a change. Furthermore, if the charge against him is fabricated, like many cynical people conjecture, then Mr. Assange should in addition be guilty of having indirectly defiled the pretence of the rule of law and respect for justice. Unforgivable, really, therefore: Crucify him! Crucify him!
I have never met a rapist; but if I were a movie director casting for one, Julian Assange has very little chance. I might pick him for an assassin, a hacker, or math professor with a turbulent home life, but rapist . . . ? Ah, I might pick him for a Nobel laureate though. Why not? In comparison with Al Gore, uh, Dalai Lama, uh, Obama and, uh, uh, Liu Xiao Bo . . . I’d find it much easier to compose Mr. Assange’s nomination. Before downloading a Peace Prize application, however, we need to make sure he stays alive. On that, all we can do is pray and plead: “We ask the United States to respect the freedom of information and other miscellaneous nobel principles that they hold sacred, and stop using their national might to persecute a single individual (weighing, what, 170 lbs.?) for putting some of these principles into action. Finally, Mr. Assange and Manning have the prayer of the international community, mumble jumble. God bless. Mumble jumble.”
维基泄密的创办人 阿桑奇 和一名23岁美军 曼宁（在狱中）正被以美国为首的联军追捕，参加围剿的国家比抢占伊拉克的盟国要多。听说阿桑奇还犯了强奸案，所以要出动八国联军和国际刑警缉捕。也不知什么时候开始，盟军对强奸罪的打击决心，提升到这么高的层面，要最高领导人来亲自掌舵处理。
我从没有机会见过强奸犯。不过假如我要拍电影，想物色演员扮强奸犯的话，老实说，阿桑奇中选的机会不大。找他扮个冷面杀手，或有点神经质的大学教授，还有几分像样 。 。 。嗯，捧他当个诺贝尔和平奖得主又如何？他的提名表格，肯定比戈尔，达赖，奥巴马，刘晓波的都好作，容易填，对不对？但要他有机会拿和平奖，得首先保证他的生命安全。这点我们都没甚法子，唯有祈求美国，不要以泱泱大国，欺负一个看来不够八十公斤重的个体户。用他们的惯用口吻来说，便是：“国际社会要求美国当局尊重人权，言论自由，表达自由，立即停止对捍卫以上原则的人仕进行逼害。”
Monday, 29 November 2010
夏麗心想：“我的媽呀，你三分種前才說這毛線很漂亮！” 但口裏還是慢條斯理地解釋著： “我故意挑中性顏色，男女合穿，彈性較大。”
未打 “照鬼鏡” 之前，夏麗本來覺得腹中這塊肉無論肉體靈魂都是自己一部分。但浮現眼前的卻是個不慌不忙，在她體內吐吶養神的老幽靈，一隻準備借她的身體搞投胎的野鬼！她看了兩眼便無法看下去。淚水一下子忍不住湧出來。未經過專業訓練，她和宋煥當然看不出死老鼠是男是女。
“夏麗，好消息：看來一切良好。是不是很想知道小寶寶是仔仔還是女女呢？ ” 黃醫生用專業口吻，得意地賣了個關子。
她打算叫她 Sonja —— 宋妮。夏麗不用甚麼鬼掃描也知道她是個女孩。可惜人們都情願相信機械，也不信媽媽的第六感。小宋妮在她肚子裏又暖又安全，翻身抓腳吃手指過日辰。不急，慢慢來，一切順應天時。時辰一到，自然相見，半秒不差。
2010年11月 29 日 於过渡网发表
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Man’s Last Song Chapter 2-3: isä’s ASHES
Alone in a frenziedly beeping airport, embroiled in foreign noises that droned without meaning, not even a rhythm, Laina felt dizzy.
Why am I doing this? she asked herself, travelling so far away from her cosy apartment, the comfort of familiarity, from Heikki, to be stuck in the sticky time-zone of this clamorous terminal.
All for Sari, she thinks.
Her daughter was trapped by love at the end of the planet, in a dot of a place without dark rye bread. She had never been anywhere that didn’t have some form of ruisleipä. She couldn’t imagine. Help; her girl evidently needed help although she had no idea what on. And if Sari knew of her secretly helpful intentions . . . Alas.
Her baby girl was turning twenty-five in a few months, stolen by time, intoxicated with love, she was afraid. Afraid of what? Wasn’t that what she once searched? Why then was she worried? And Sari was twenty-five.
So parlous: Still young, but threatened by age; still hopeful, but desperately tired. One day, it feels the exciting beginning of a new chapter. Next day, it feels the hasty ending of an unfinished book. What a critical turning point. So brutal. Better be there for her one and only daughter, her dearest person in this world, just in case.
When Laina turned twenty-five, life was yet to begin. Quarter of a century had slipped by. Not much had happened. What was that something big she had been preparing for, while the body and spirit quietly started to wilt? A young and zestful girl woke up one morning to discover the shadow of an old woman in the mirror. Hidden; but she saw it. The realisation was abrupt, nearly shocking, and cruel. At twenty-five, she was only young in the eyes of those who didn’t matter. When exactly does middle-age start? The little girl lost grip of her dream.
Dream? What dream?
She couldn’t say. Did she have one? Most certainly yes. It was here a moment ago, yet . . . With each passing day, she became less sure that she’d ever had one. Her dreams had vanished like the soap bubbles her mother blew at her when she was little. So many, each with a rainbow on its skin. But she had never caught one. Blip. They never existed. She giggled.
What good is a young woman without dreams? Her surefooted steps to become somebody, achieve something or, perhaps, something else, never existed. Intoxicating love never existed. In their place loomed an uncompromising urgency. Hanging emptily.
How did I live in a vacuum for so long without the smallest alarm? She was mortified. It was about time. Yes.
She married Sari’s father the following year.
They grew up in the same neighbourhood. He had been in love ever since she could walk, and himself only a few years older. Evidently an infatuation carried over from a previous life. With drained blue eyes, he watched her drift in and out of his life over the years like the tides, unstoppable both ways, eroding his fragile heart.
He had been her storm shelter. On a nice day, she would set sail and disappear beyond the horizon, frolicking into the bright blue sky cheerfully without a compass or destination. When it turned dark and windy, she’d rush back whimpering. He’d be there - still there - staring at the horizon, waiting. It’s Ok. Here, take the towel, dry yourself; have some warm coffee. She knew she could count on that much in life.
He was a book-keeper with the local supermarket. Steady, loyal and honest. Sensitive to others, everything, especially her. Never opinionated when he opened his mouth on rare occasions. Put all his attributes on a piece of paper, and you have a perfectly nice guy. “Too nice,” she’d said to her girlfriends. She was a salesgirl at the music store, envisaging a career in some kind of art. “A good match,” their friends said, but never elaborated why.
His reticence deepened after they married. A year later, just after Sari was born, he came down with postnatal depression in her stead. His love and hurt could not escape through words. Only vodka could release them through tears. The blue in his eyes started to run, and became more pale. He drank more and cried louder.
The first Saturday after Sari’s fifth birthday was a beautiful and crispy early autumn day. The weather wasn’t to blame. He spent the afternoon drinking at home, weeping on and off, and condemning himself for that. The kitchen was saturated with sad vibes and the fume of alcohol. After putting Sari to bed, Laina leaned over his shoulders and whispered: “Pathetic” before going to bed, putting her head between pillows. He woke her up early next morning with a severe fit of cough, and died in the hospital fifteen hours later. The doctor said it was a particularly spontaneous and fatal strain of pneumonia.
Even back then, it was pneumonia.
Laina decided to scatter her husband’s pulverised remains at the lake where his parents’ cottage was. “That’s what he’d have wanted. I know. I was his wife,” she wrote in his Facebook memorial.
It was cold and sunny. The wind was up. She took Sari out to the middle of the lake in the paddle boat. Their faces were numbed by the slashing wind. The wooden box provided by the crematorium sat heavily on her lap, giving the feeling of stability and contentment. She emptied the ashes into the wind without ceremony. Most of the sand-like remnants of the man who loved her under any circumstances got blown away in a hurry. She thought it ironic that after a lifetime of waiting and dithering, his last days had been hasty in every respect. A few heavier particles, probably dental fillings, made silent and negligible splashes.
On the drive up, she had visualised his final ripples waning softly in his beloved lake, gently nudging up to her. It was to be her poetic farewell to his unconditional love, unmitigated melancholy, and pathetic sadness. Instead, everything rushed off with the wind, and denied her the last opportunity to have one romantic moment in their deceased marriage posthumously.
“Say good-bye to your father,” she turned to her daughter, almost commanding.
Sari was sitting beside her, stiffened by the lifejacket, frozen. She knew what this was all about, yet didn’t quite know what this was all about.
“Moi moi isä,” she complied.
Laina flung the empty box off. It spun like a rectangular frisbee, landed with a crash.
“Äiti, can we go now? I’m cold.”
Laina wept for the first time in her marriage. He had monopolised crying. Now that he’s gone - flung off - she can again cry.
The next morning, they went down to the beach before heading home. Sari spotted the box in a patch of bulrushes. It’d been washed ashore last night. Laina threw it back out as hard as she could, propelled by an unreasonable annoyance with Sari for having noticed the damn thing.
The wind had died down earlier. A light mist hovered above the still lake. The box made a crispy splash, shattering the morning silence. Startled gulls appeared out of nowhere, screeching like demons rejoicing their escape from hell, causing a rare moment of excitement in the tranquil northern air. The box, as if stunned by the violent rejection, undulated dazedly where it landed.
“Let’s go!” She grabbed Sari’s hand and started flouncing back to the car. Sari, half pulled along, turned to take another look at the box. Concentric ripples, gleaming softly in the lazy autumn light, rushed belatedly towards an empty beach.
Posted 23 Nov 2010 on Guo Du Blog
Friday, 19 November 2010
In the middle of a meeting with a lady bureau director in Guangzhou, China, in the mid 1980’s, I was shocked when she casually referred to someone we were chatting about as a dumbfuck. Back in those days, a Hong Kong person, particularly a woman, in her position would never swear or fart in public. I was therefore taken by surprise. I did my best to recover after swallowing a phantom blob of saliva, by muttering something like “no shit” to demonstrate solidarity, and to lessen my embarrassment (I was embarrassed by my embarrassment, since no one else present seemed embarrassed). The Revolution had made women as crass as men back then. Female profanity was more than swearing, it was a social statement, like Vivienne Leigh in Gone With The Wind I suppose. Perhaps I should say “it had been a social statement” because to my lady director, it had already become a habit, and ceased to carry any meaning or political gesture of gender equality.
It’s interesting to see how we take turn doing the same thing. While swearing by educated women has gone out of fashion in the mainland, more and more young people “in the outside world”, boys and girls, are swearing publicly, frequently, in high decibel these days. I wish they were also a statement of some kind, but they aren’t, not any more anyway. So, why do I think profanity is an issue one way or the other?
First of all, let me declare: I swear, of course. In fact, I enjoy swearing at the right moment because I like descriptive words that convey emotions, can be delivered with passion, or an exclamation mark. Many a cuss word fall into that category. Furthermore, I don’t discriminate whether an oath has been uttered by a man or woman, except for some Cantonese expletives that seem to be for men only because of physiological restrictions if you take it literally.
So, the issue of profanity, to me, is quality. Like many things these days, swearing has lost it’s spark because of unthinking application. Something that should be colourful and emotional has, again, become banal in the 21st century. Take the subway train, go to a bar, look up Facebook, watch a Hollywood thriller, or, if you’re in a cool business, attend a business meeting: One small word, a single four-letter word, is threatening to dominate the English vocabulary. Surprised? Oh fuck! Excited? Oh fuck again! Angry? Fuck! Fuck fuck!! Envious? Ooh fuck . . . Sad? Ah . . fuck. Frustrated? Fuck!!! Impressed? Fuck me! Some Hollywood big star (I can’t think of an example, sorry) staring at a tsunami wave rushing towards him at 200km/h would mutter: Ooh fuck, ooh fuck, oh my Gawd! before turning and running to safety towards the camera, against all odds and gravity.
Oh well, what’s wrong with one word fits all. Imagine, when you’re texting or chatting on line with a limited vocabulary, when you are, you know, you know, stuck for words, but compelled to say something, anything, then just type: “ooh . . . fuck . . .”, and click SEND. You could be meaning anything: Support, objection, approval, condemnation, admiration, concern, disgust, all at the same time, or none of the above. You can’t find a more powerful and versatile word in the history of language. No other word can give the impression of a strong and definite opinion without committing to any position. It’s a great way to be part of an online circle of 527 friends without having to think. Why bother the brain huh? It’s fucked anyway.
在八十年代中期，我有一次到广州开会，与一位女局长闲谈之间，她神态自若地用常规广东粗话形容某某人“憨九九”。突然而来的一句，我差点把口里的茶喷了出来。在哪个年代的香港，讲粗口是男性特权；有教养的女性，绝对不会公然爆粗或放响屁。在大陆，革命破除了传统的男女之别；女的，当时已变得同男的一样不雅了。所以局长的一句 “憨九九”，其实充满了革命意义，为中国社会的历史性转变，打了个感叹号，与当年费雯丽 （港译：慧云李）在 “乱世佳人” 里哄动一时的轻轻一句，有异曲同工之妙。不同的是局长比起费雯丽年长的多，亦比她能干，果断，声大，和有严重哨牙而已。
随着世界退步，女人讲粗口，已经再没有什么革命含意，不值得大惊小怪。但世界轮流转，当今大陆的女强人，开始穿高跟，扮高雅，有屁死忍；而香港很多年轻男女，却越来越粗口，越爆越大声，在地铁，酒吧，网上，高声地屌，大字地屌，开怀地屌；虽然整句的英文说不出来，但拿着一个 F 单音字制造现代感，则绰绰有余。我也感觉到他们有点儿渴望得到周围的注意，认同他们豪，放，串，酷！
问题不是粗口，而是粗话的水平，越来越低。粗话，本应多不少带点激情，冲动，粗胚和发泄的力量；在21世纪，也变得淡然无味。看看 Facebook，时下年轻人，惊喜时：哇 F； 愤怒时：F！FF！！气不顺：噢 F！刺激，妒忌，伤心，懊恼，喝彩，通通一个 F 字包办。看情况以后修读语文系，肯定越来越轻松。这个与好莱坞电影有些关系。看！海啸爆发，滔天巨浪冲入城内，男主角逃难之前，还得面对大浪 “噢F，噢F，我的天呀！” 一轮，才转身拔脚而逃，与大自然赛跑。电影中的男男女女，一般在紧急关头，若要发号施令，控制局面，第一，必定要够大声，第二，要不停的 F！ F！ F！，以示事态严重。
世界越来越繁复，普通人交友广阔，在 Facebook 随便有五六百个Friend；每天要应付的通讯极度频繁，能够 “以一字以概之”，也未尝不是好事。一句 “噢。。。F！” 让你积极参予了对话；不过语调虽然兴奋，但对你的立场，丝毫未有透露。因为不论赞成，反对，羡慕，感慨，捧场，喝倒彩，都可以用 “噢。。。F！”来代表。如果在外交场合可以爆粗，哪么 fuck 应该是有语言以来最有概括性，最不须要伤脑筋，和最受外交家欢迎的一个字。唯一牺牲了的，只是我们的想像力和表达能力而已；但那是小事。
Sunday, 7 November 2010
The last Financial Analysis I read might have been in the 1980’s; so why am I writing about something I have neither interest nor knowledge on? Well, since there’s supposed to be a currency invasion out there, I should prepare myself for being a refugee just in case. Like all war victims throughout history, I want to find ways to better my chance of survival, and find out where the front line is so I can run the other way. All I’m doing now is to record my flight path for fellow refugees before everything has disappeared.
The market is booming out there. Oh yes, I’m not one bit surprised, but won’t even blame it on foresight this time. My engineering background told me it will happen: It’s mass balance. Like gravity, it’s unavoidable. A friend had put it in more user-friendly terms: There’re unlimited funds out there going after limited equity. So, what do you expect? What else could have happened? If you had the power to create garbage money out of dirty thin air, and realise that your days maybe numbered, what would you do? Duh, what about turning them into assets, equity, tangible resources before too late. What about buying up the products of others’ hard work for a sparkling holographic dollar?
Does that mean the price of equity would go up forever? Of course not! We don’t live that long. But it may go up for a very long time, with lots of short sharp plunges in between to jerk the breakfast out of people with a weak stomach. Ha, the financial coyotes will promptly lick it clean so don’t you worry about the sanitation consequences. These turbulent drops are required to prop up the show - hey! people are cashing in, seeking refuge in the dollars again! See? - in addition to allowing Wall Street to get the most out of fake money. To get more juice out of an orange, it should be pressed multiple rounds, not just once. To real misers, even fake money should perform efficiently you know.
So, the market will drop like an airplane in turbulence, and similarly regain altitude in no time. That’s my fictional vision of what may happen. What it won’t do is burst like a bubble that it undoubtedly is, and stay burst. Because that would mean the coyotes finally dumping all the assets in the market, and holding on to a lot of cash that they could have just printed from the onset. What do you think they are? Stupid or something?
Now what can I do as a promising refugee? A few things.
Number one: I won’t leave anything in USD or other phantom entities directly related to the USD. My friends know I have not done that for more than a decade anyway. I have been leaving my meagre cash reserves in Australian and New Zealand dollars, and RMB as soon as we were allowed to purchase in Hong Kong. RMB is obvious: Name me another currency that can only go up, with a government that is not controlled by Wall Street and a bunch of elected crooks. Australian and New Zealand dollars enjoy some isolation, and de facto linkage to commodities that are always needed.
Number two: I plan my cash flow. Since my lifestyle is pitifully humble, I try to plan my cash flow for three years, and put the rest in equities and things that I can touch and sniff. This is an annual exercise. In the meantime, if equities balloon away because of money collapsing, I won’t sell just in case they fly away, and I’m left holding a bunch of empty balloon strings. If they plunge, I won’t sell because I know they will come back up, and go higher, propelled by steaming greed, following the longer-term curve drawn with the holographic ink of the biggest market manipulators in the history of the animal kingdom. So, either way, I sit back and pick my nose.
Us war victims selling low is the one thing that the coyotes would love to see, and plan to happen. I’d just go Omm when all the bombing happens. Let them play shock and awe. I nap. I don’t believe it will stay down for longer than my cash flow period. If it does, a miracle has happened: I love miracles, so I’d dance and sing, rapturously praising the Lord.
Number three: To help cash flow, I only invest in things that yield a reasonable dividend. When it comes to stocks, I only invest in major Chinese Government corporations. Not because I’m a patriot. China will not let artificially created market tremours bring the share prices of say the country’s banks and oil companies below par value, so that Coyotes can lap them up at a ridiculous discount. Fat chance. Scream! Call them “market manipulators” in the FT. See if I care. A more important factor is that State Corporations will not go bankrupt if you don’t live beyond the life expectancy allowed by the United Nation. That’s why the Royal Bank of Scotland, for example, are more stable in the free market these days. If all that fails to happen, if gravity has suddenly disappeared from earth, the worst case is to sit back and collect more than 10% dividend yield, the kind of return you’d be enjoying if you bought at the bottom of the financial tsunami.
Well, I’m kind of socialist, sometimes even vegetarian for a meal or two, so you shouldn’t share my delusions. Look at the opposite escape route: American companies are still trading at great prices. In comparison with say the Chinese Banks, they are run by reliable, honest, and transparent people who are law abiding, who understand corporate social responsibilities and care about sustainable development, democratic values, and human rights. They seem a better bet in each and every way. I would invest in them too if I were not suffering from chronic prejudice, clinical cynicism and incorrigible rationality.
See, the world is beautifully diverse, full of investment options. It’s all up to us, potential refugees of the Free Market, to find our own flight path. Good luck.
7 November 2010
打什么仗？外面歌舞升平，股市又创新高。哪股市创新高又有何奇怪？应该是意料中事。这绝对不是什么马后炮投资眼光，是物理学，是物料平衡。以无限的资金，追逐有限的资产，资产有跌的可能吗？假如你有权印假银纸，又心知一屋子的 “鬼影变幻钱” 时日无多，你会怎样做？我就会拿着一箩箩现金，连你家里的旧痰盂也买回来，插花也好，盛零钱也好。
如果让资产直线狂升，不加插多轮暴跌，这台戏便演不下去。每次掉下来都是“证实” 钱还是有价值的 － 看！快看！美元回弹啦！要加息啦！快拿点垃圾回家避难吧！－ 股市每插一轮水，华尔街便把垃圾钱的抢劫效益提高。虽然本钱是不费吹灰之力凭空创造的，但也得讲效率，否则算不上是个好的资本家。
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Click to read Man's Last Song full Chapter ONE.
Dogs can be heard barking in the distance. Song Sung finds that relatively reassuring; some have started to howl, especially on a full-moon night, to theatrically declare their return to nature, reversing centuries of fussy breeding. It gives him the creeps nonetheless. Now that there are no more dog biscuits with nutrient labels, they’d eat anything, including people. Preferably people?
Yes, they must find humans tasty, even rotten ones. The feasting faces of the German shepherds remain vivid in his mind after all these years. He can still hear their ravenous sound; every slurp, snap, yank, squirt, and grunt. The stench had made the air viscous, keeping everything in suspension, trapping the flies in its space. Blood dripped in slow motion from slimy jaws, like molten plastic.
Man’s best friend. Sure, when we manufactured dog food. Wolves. That’s right. Wolves.
I’ll end up wolf breakfast.
He wonders how thoroughly wolves kill before muzzling in. They’re supposedly smart hunters, like humans, perhaps just as cruel. He sees himself pinioned by four big dogs. Canine teeth penetrate his flesh like ceramic nails, clamping the bones, pushing deeper into his guts. He writhes weakly, keeping his eyes closed, trying to relax, submitting. Entrails are being ripped out, but there’s no pain, just a feeling of becoming lighter, being reduced . . .
To dog food.
Stop it! He curses his actively silly imagination.
Why not turn back for a warm drink and more sleep then? No. Keep going. No backtracking. Call it pride, stupidity, whatever.
He clutches the walking staff tighter, and treads on.
Dense fog covers everything like a divine correction fluid, attempting to smother the creator’s faulty designs. Why bother anymore? Song Sung thinks. There’s hardly anyone left.
He labours a deep breath; gummy air sinks inside damp lungs. The atmosphere seems anoxic. Can asphyxiation happen gradually, imperceptibly, like boiling frogs? Probably.
The misty world started out enchanting this morning. He even thought it romantic, and gaily pronounced so. Then it turned insufferable without changing appearance, suddenly. Or is it me again? But at least it looked calm from the house. Suffocating, but calm. Out here, in the middle of the grey viscous air, he’s flustered by the roiling turbulence. He opens his eyes wider, as if that would help him see further; but depth has been lost, compressed right against his face.
It’s silent, eerily silent. How come? Where are the birds and their clamourous twittering? There should be hundreds of them about the big banyan. This time of the day? He’s not sure . . .
Am I still alive? Do lost souls know they are dead?
Rhea’s right; it’s dumb to go downhill in this weather. Even dumber to take the footpath rather than the main road. “Dumb it is then,” he mutters grumpily. Pushing the whiteness in front, he walks trancelike towards the overgrown Old Peak Path.
What’s another day? Not to say a few hours to wait out the fog, Rhea had urged gently. What’s the hurry? Is everything OK? Yes, of course. Everything’s OK, he assured. Just can’t stand this fog; got to go where there’s air.
Where there’s air . . . ? Right now?
Yeah, right now, sorry. I can’t breathe. Fogs up here last forever you know.
Sure. Whatever you say. She returned to the dishes.
She normally leaves the evening dishes for the next morning; cleaning up in candlelight is a pain. Scratching absentmindedly at a speck of food on the porcelain dish, she considered different approaches: A soft purring? Matter-of-fact announcement? A light-hearted “guess-what” surprise? One way or the other, it must come out, soon. He must be told, soon. Why not now? The secret that shouldn’t be has been growing inside, like indigestion: Burning, gurgling, refusing to go through, too chicken to come out.
Just turn around and say it. Speak: That’s all it takes.
That’s right; that simple. But she said nothing, and stared at her hands instead. How pampered they once were. How silky and diaphanous their skin used to be. And how impermeable and slack they now looked. The tiny furrows and creases seemed a touch more prominent, a bit more assertive then . . . the last time she checked? Just a bit, hardly noticeable, but she checked often. Ageing doesn’t just happen does it? It creeps, steadily, stealthily, relentlessly, all over you, and stays.
The knuckles . . . look at them. One molecule a time, they swell. One of these nights, while sleeping, unsuspecting, the last breaking molecule would be deposited; the final straw. She’ll wake up to the arthritic pain of red, swollen knuckles — a trademark of old ladies’. Time was undoing her. All quite subtle, but nothing escaped her unforgiving self-scrutiny. These hands, under a thin lace of suds, bluntly reminded she was forty-eight. So what, she thought with a burst of positive energy. I’m still the youngest woman around.
Fine, but old enough to know not to confuse men at the wrong moment. When is the right moment though?
Not today. Not today anyway.
She could hardly believe the hesitation: Why do I need courage, as if guilty of some unforgivable wrongdoing? Oh well, be patient, time’s ticking — slowly for once, on my side for once. Before long, I’ll be able to sit back and let events take over. In the meantime, I can afford to dither. Can I?
Too late now anyway. Song was antsy, eager to get out, pausing at the door for a recognisable farewell — any sign to demonstrate her wholehearted acceptance of his sudden swing of mood and anxious departure. Rhea swallowed her brooding thoughts, but refused to lessen his unease. Such a petulant man sometimes. She scratched at the dish again. It squeaked; the speck of food had long gone.
Fog had sneaked through every crack and joint of the lavish mansion, creating big wet patches everywhere. Water droplets slithered down the walls as if they were melting. Everything smelled of mildew. A dull silence throbbed in Song’s head, pouncing him from within. Silence is supposed to be relaxing, but . . . He had to go: Now.
“Sure you don’t want to come?”
“No. I’ve got lots to do here. You go.”
“Should I get a few buckets first?” He saw the pails sitting in the living room, ready for their daily trip to the stream.
“It’s OK. I’ll do that a bit later, when the fog has cleared.”
Just a bit later, it’d clear. Not forever my love. Do you hear?
Posted 12 Oct 2010 on Guo Du Blog
Revised 5 Feb 2011, 10 April 2011, June 2011