A note from the beach

March 31

This is what I need: some shots of liquor, after which the reality could become some kind of an illusion, or it is not exactly as it is supposed to be; a good table, with good lighting would suffice.

I was sitting alone in the restaurant. There was something kitsch about the décor. I stared at colour-changing globes for a while. It was inexplicable. I could feel my heart beat. And, out of the blue, I touched the cover of the lamp, in the manner as if it was a moribund leaf. In fact, I could feel it that way.

These day I have become somewhat disillusioned about the world around me, and the future. I don’t really care about anything, myself included.

The golden rice paddies brightened in the scorching sun are running fast before my eyes, so fast that in the end it would only form an still image of what my eyes received and perceived at that time…

The sound of the sea has not the power to lull me into going to the beach just to hear it, any longer. It could be sad, but I have no desire to go to the beach, to feel sand under my feet. What do I need now? I do not really know.

… I would, and should, think about the plot of a dystopian short fiction that I have mulled over for months now.

The waves are rolling beneath. I can hear the sea roar, the sun and the wind are playing on my skin. It is strange, so strange that all my philosophical questions have ceased to pop up in my mind, nor the sudden, inevitable pang of fear of the death occurred. I would jump… and nothing would matter anymore. It is the way I would die. I would go to sleep, and never wake up…

It was a month ago, I was sitting in a hotel room after the dinner with my collegues during the two-day vacation we were taking. Some hours before, a cover designer in the publishing house, who had helped me with the cover for my debut novella published in French last year, had a performance in which he dressed as a girl. The performance itself was incredible, and he was really beautiful by any standards of female beauty, which was also stunning. I was very surprised. And it made me think about the politics and philosophy of clothes. Do clothes signify anything? What is all about body and clothes? And my thinking was brought back to the short fiction Story of your life, on which Academy-nominated film Arrival was based, in which heptapods were described as a species who use a non-linear language and have a mind that enables them to know everything before it happens. Consequently, their actions are much like a performance on a stage of theatre. By drawing analogy from this, I have been thinking how clothes play a part as a gender performance of human beings, as other dispositions determined by the society in which a subject lives. For example, when one is born, one’s sex becomes known by his or her parents and doctors. Then he or she will be dressed accordingly. When the one is grown enough to have some kind of perception of the gender they want themselves to be, one can act and/or try to act as the very one and the rest of the society think that fits for that gender role. Why and what makes a man think that he feels more like a woman? Who is the woman in his mind after all? The woman who will wear a skirt, high heels and lipstick. The woman who must have a vagina and breasts? I am somehow very distressed to know that by looking for some measures of surgery to change ones’ sex organs, they are unhappy with the current sex organs they have at the moment. And once again, a man wants a vagina and all female clothes to feel fully as a woman, to perform what a normal woman does by social standards. All he does is just to imitate the image of woman set by the respective society. Why ones need to think of themselves as a specific gender? Can ones be, and become a gender? As regards genders and gender roles, it seems to me that human beings, like heptapods, are just performing the roles set by the society and traditional thinking. And I have been wondering that if it is our binary sight that helps build up our binary mind about the world: right and left, right and wrong, male and female, black and white; that in our world there is nothing like a blurry and heterogenous system of conceptions in which we can think. A man who feels himself like a woman will dress like a woman, and may be transgendered to be a woman. A woman who feels herself like a man will dress like a man and may be transgendered to be a man. Even in homosexual world, they categorise and characterise themselves as masculine/effeminate, top/bottom, active/submissive, husband/wife, seme/uke, and so forth, which fits perfectly into the binary system of gender roles by old standards. So why is that?

*

I have been learning Spanish for two weeks with an instructor who is also a Mexican nun at a foreign languages centre named after Alexandre de Rhodes, a French missionary, whose major book Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum, based on works by previous Portuguese missionaries Gaspar d’Amiral and Antonio Barboza, laid the very foundation for modern Vietnamese writing system. The language sounds very breezy and sexy. And I believe I have a head start for I have learned French before and the two languages have so many similarities. Though I do not think that Spanish is as easy as many people claim. The verb system and conjugation must be as complex as in French.

I have been listening to Alvaro Soler (a singer based in Barcelona, born in 1991) long before the first thought of learning the language ever came across my mind. And it was incroyable for me today when I played a CD by him and could understand some words of what he was singing. I come to realise that while in French textbooks you can easily find materials by and about Camus and Sartre, French famous writers in 20th century, both Nobel laureates, who happened to be philosophers; cuisine of course; and clothes; along with their obsession about politics, labour unions, elections and demonstrations; you can find also, in Spanish textbooks, many topics from cuisine (of course), and literature (García Márquez and Pablo Neruda, both Nobel prize winners, yet they were not philosophers for good!), films too (Pedro Almodovar) and so much about music and how to spend free time. It seems to me that Spanish-speaking people have some kind of a movable feast, which is safer to conclude after watching some Spanish music videos. I find that Spanish has the most vivacité among the languages I have learned, perhaps mostly by the spirit of those who speak it.

*

I stare out of the window to catch the sight of the national flag moving in the light wind. One of my cats has gone away, and I do not know if I am able to finish the story I started writing. While the night wears on…

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