The faces of the past

These days I have been shutting myself in, from work; reading articles, books, book excerpts, everything except what I am paid for; sleeping; watching TV series, movies; daydreaming; searching for a new apartment to move into. I don’t really fret over the scenario of packing my stuff and moving, perhaps thanks to hosts of changing houses.

Today, I had my hair cut. Watching locks of hair falling from my head, studying them to discover that my hair has become thicker, wirier, grayer, less lively and less raven than before, I recalled when I was a child, I would love to let my hair grow so long so that I could tie it back or make a bun out of it. My hair was soft and straight, and shiny then. It was not until my final year in college did I have my hair cut as short as it is now. And it fits well to the hot climate here in Saigon.

The night is silent, after the torrential rain in the evening, which is rare in the time of the year. The silence itself is rare and exotic. It is somehow inexplicable, beautiful, and haunting. I believe it has something inherent that I cannot name properly but I feel it. I like to walk around at night, to see how the city transform itself from being overcrowded to falling asleep. I love its approaching peace and serenity.

The drops of water are falling in the water closet, making a distinct sound as each reaches the water body in the bucket. Sometimes I feel like I cannot differentiate between what is reality and what is possible version of my dreams, I have been much like a host in Westworld.

***

It has been more than a month since I came home for my sister’s wedding. I wanted to write about it as soon as I flew back to Saigon. Yet my procrastination is invincible, and I have had to struggle with the ease of writing in Vietnamese, my first language and the inclination to write in English, of which my competences have irreversibly dwindled with the velocity I myself cannot explain. It seems that I cannot do anything about the hopeless trend of my mind.

It was not until the wedding did I see my brother-in-law for the first time. It was partly because I do not come home to visit my parents and my sister often, since I have been here. On top of that, I and my sister have barely been on speaking terms for a long time. And yet, despite all this, whenever I saw her smile, I missed the old days when we were close, we would play together for hours, just two of us, or lie for hours talking, running around the neighbourhood to look for some strange insects, or to discover some un-trodden paths to schools or my parents’ workplace. She is my history, she is my past, the past that I can now only retrieve in broken and abridged pieces from my faulty memory.

At the wedding, I saw a lot of my neighbours whose faces I can remember, they are the older versions of those I lived with since I was much younger, but whose names have stayed forever on the edge of my tongue. I cannot match the faces to the names I have heard. They are the faces of the past somewhat lost to me. It was my feeling that my mind has been shrouded in such a thick fog that for me, they are ghostly human beings whom I find familiar and of whom I am scared, simultaneously.

***

[ I met my ex. And while talking to him, I stared at his neck, and a desire stirred inside me… He told me about his escape in a narrow margin from being in a dangerous cliff with a large poisonous snake. I believed, with a stroke of a flashback, that I had dreamed about it before, perhaps in the same day or some days before the event.

I thought I still love him. ]

I am reading Fernando Pessoa, who was born in 1888 and died in 1935 at the age of 47. He was considered one of the most important literary figures of Portugal. He wrote prolifically, not only under his own name but also under a whole lot of heteronyms, whose characteristics and worldviews are various and, more often than not, different from those of their creator. He led quite a recluse life, avoiding much of the buzz of literary circles and lives and most of his works have been published posthumously only. Reading his most well-known novel, which is itself a collection of his notes and miscellaneous writings that would be a novel, and which is put into order by some Portuguese scholar, and what people write about him, I have grown to wonder how many authors out there have decided to live a life like him, to write for one own and not let others to read what they write. And how many trunks of manuscripts that have been destroyed by their own authors? (Imagine if Kafka had fired his own writings without any help, or if his friend (and the one to whom the famous writer bequeathed his properties had followed exactly what was written to him.) Yet, I think more about the man who was writing for his own sake, without the want of publication, of recognition and acknowledgement, of any prizes or favourable reception, anything but himself and the intrinsic need to write.

And with those fragments of the novel, many undated, we can have an apparently infinite possibilities of organising them into another novel, again and again. The thoughts have left me with an intense curiosity. What did he think, I wonder.

***

The night is coming to an end, as it must be. It is inevitable.

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