The Town

She said she wanted to walk through a pink city in the middle of a summer night. He painted the whole town pink: the hottest, sharpest kind of pink. 

 

She never came. She couldn't find it. She was colorblind. 

(Los Angeles, 2016)

Home Run

Fight. He joked. Or maybe he said “flight”. Then it wouldn’t be a joke.

 

Exhausted.

 

Recognizing the smell of the sunset, he knew he was finally home, and he was already depressed. His home had seven legs and it was constantly on the move. The only way to find it was to follow the smell - the smell of the sunset, or the smell of the first day of fall. He never meant to find it though. He just kept running into it.

 

Each time he came back he had to numb parts of his senses. To stay safe. Just like in his recent recurring nightmares. He made it a ritual to take a long shower each time he arrived. Long showers are quite similar be it at home, in a motel, or in an apartment 313 feet above some foreign soil. It offers a warm delusion of omnipotent. It offers a safe space for the million pores all over the skin to yield to the fundamental difference in the air particles.

 

This time he was more exhausted than usual (from the journey, or from the return?). It took him awhile to find his bed - it turned out that not only his home had legs, each room also had its own set of limbs disguised as stairwells, chimneys and corridors, so the rooms were constantly rearranging. He found an old photograph by the bedside. Who are these people? He wondered. This is not the right bedroom, buddy, he told the photo. Or may be it was?

 

He could hear the crickets outside. And the occasional laughters of his neighbors - who he had yet to meet for the first time. “There will be a different group of neighbors by tomorrow morning anyway,” he reassured himself. The crickets would stay though. At least their sound would. At least he wished that their sound would.

 

“Stop this mumbling already!” Cheered his neighbor. In distance. It was a female voice. And it was the first day of winter.

 

He recalled a smile. He didn’t know the face. But he recognized the smile. It was a smile of kindness, fulfillment, but from a lifelong prisoner. So it was either a disguise or a surrender. “What the hell y’all doin’!”, his neighbor yelled again. This time was a male voice. And the image of the smile emerged again.

 

That night, he woke up, in cold sweats, from a dream that wasn’t his. He was in a rundown factory he had never been to, working on a mundane task he had never done before, surrounded by some robot coworkers he had never met. He wanted to make sure he was dreaming someone else’s dream, so he ran around the factory looking for a mirror. When he finally found one while stumbling down the staircase, the stair collapsed and he woke up before seeing the face in the reflection. He sat up straight, in bed, in a small puddle of sweat, in darkness.

 

And he knew. He knew that photograph was still by the bedside, and that everyone in the photo was still staring at him.

(Hong Kong, 2018)

Through the Flickering Candles

She dresses all in black, from head all the way down to her ankles. Her hat is astonishing. It is tall and huge: two feet tall and one-and-half feet wide, estimatedly. It is made of the feather of 23 crows from the south. She has nothing on below her ankles though. No stalkings, no shoes. She dances into the bar barefoot. Her skin is remarkably pale from a rare health condition. There is a bewildering, almost cunning smile on her blood-red lips. She doesn't look sober. Her unlikely happiness hints insanity. She calls it love. 


The bartender is a working student majors in English Literature. He finishes one book everyday since he was 13. Or so he claims. He never buys any books though. He borrows them from the library downtown. And in the bar, he only plays the music of the late Leonard Cohen. His favorite is not The Letters, and he never plays You Want It Darker. 
 

"A Glass of Montoya, please", she requests in British accent.
 

"For sure", he acknowledges, without even looking at his customer. 
 

"I lost my shadow this morning," she declares, intoxicated, "and without a shadow, one's existence is a physical impossibility."
 

"Have you reported that to the police?" He asks, still not looking up. 
 

He only reads novels. 

(Boston, 2018)

餐廳

原來記憶裡總藏著一家餐廳,裡面沙發都是深紅色的,餐桌特別高⋯⋯每一次我都會邀請抑鬱陪我去點一碗湯,一碗橙紅色的濃湯。然後默默地,望著落地玻璃外面的細雨,和狼狽的人們在匆匆徘徊。

記憶裡原來藏了一家餐廳,餐廳外面,總是下著雨。

(波斯頓, 2017)

The Island

He sailed to an outlying island. Alone. And for nine months the rain did not stop. At night, countless puddles all over the walkways threatened him with the hysterically garish reflections of street lamps. Life never retrieved its purpose. Islanders started falling asleep abruptly: in street corners, on benches, and on the oversaturated lawns. Like stray dogs. Stray cats.

At the end of September, he decided to imprison himself at the attic. The rain must have given him amnesia. For he could not recall where he abandoned his boat. 

(Boston, 2015)

The Gaze

She doesn’t talk much. She responds in brief, compressed whispers. The answers are leads with no ends. Meant to confuse, not to direct. She mentions her ancestors (they were from Austria), but never her parents. And, even though she questions, she never asks questions.


The conversation has paused for a bit too long this time. The restaurant is empty now. The sound of the ventilator is getting louder. And louder. Her face turns pale, then faintly grey, firm and completely motionless. Like a marble statue, but quieter. A statue would reflect sound. She absorbs it. Very soon we can’t even hear the ventilator. Not even our own breathes. The air is becoming too thick for consumption. The light is dimming. The colors, fading, merging, desaturating into mere silhouettes and shadows. Existence has reached its permanent stalemate: a thick, solid, suffocating blankness.
 

In her eyes, though, there’s a universe. Withholding all the violence, all the traumas, all the griefs, all the answers

(Boston, 2018)

The Ride

Uber Pool. Hit and run. Radio was playing some old-school jazz music... The two at the back were too high to care and the one in the front seat was too drunk to notice.

The driver was sober though. He dreamed of his late mother that night.

(Boston, 2017)

The Walls

Small talks cease, along with all the giggles and noises. Music starts. Rhythm, drinks, and the suggestive dance moves. Candles flickering, loosely following the beats of the drummer. Skins and tattoos are colored, filtered and saturated by a layer of the indigo smog. Shallow lyrics hitting on the pale white walls, yet the walls stay still. 

 

The walls stay still. 

(Los Angeles, 2016)

粉红色的肺部,呼吸著湛蓝的雾霾,最平常的吞雲吐霧,閃著異光,有點像遙遠某地的夕陽。

科學家與藝術家合作造出了一種「黑物質」,光被吸進去以後就再也出不來了,成了影子的影子。記憶與潛意識,也差不多吧。

 

呼天搶地的音樂開始變得零碎,帶著三種拍子,要起舞,卻帶著醉意,於是又多出了第四個拍子。

 

女人的背上紋了一隻黑色的蝴蝶,正退化成一條螢光黃的毛蟲,在暗淡的燈光裡閃閃生輝。卻庸俗,像極了深夜公路旁的路燈,讓人彷彿聞到汽油的味道。

 

時間進入了無盡的停頓,最廉價的永恆售於最高檔的街角。那裏,哪裡,還有音樂,還有藝術。

(洛杉磯, 2016)

The Dragon

There’s a dragon on the counter top. It is staring at a girl. She doesn’t notice. She looks fixedly at the phone of her male companion. Their cheeks are close. Too close. They look happy. Everybody looks joyful. Life is good. Bright and full of purpose. The only skepticism comes from this dragon, the sculpture. It is about a foot tall and it looks ready for battles. 
 

And this young man. Now that she has moved to another coast, he has no idea who to share the night with, who to share the conversation with, who to share this filthy smell of optimism with. So he shares it with his second glass of whiskey. 
 

Oh and there’s also a cat. Two cats, actually. About 5 inches tall. Two ceramic sculptures. From Japan, perhaps? Most likely Kyoto. 
 

The bar tender just dropped his cocktail shaker. He was trying to show off his skills and at the same time commit to a conversation with this gentleman he just met about a trip to Mexico. Two tasks, he could only manage one. He embarrassed himself. And announced it with an “opps”. That “opps”, instead of the smack from the dropping shaker, killed the conversation. 

(Boston, 2018)

Off

Something is off. Something. Perhaps the cars passing by. Perhaps the humming noise of the heater. Perhaps the lighting. Perhaps the lack of lighting. Perhaps the coffee that is getting cold, though still black, with smoke rising so faintly. Perhaps the way he breathes. Perhaps the way it isn’t breathing.
Something is off. Something makes reality look like a distant memory

(New York, 2020)

What Does Your Memory Say

 

 

So that’s how it feels? To feel nothing? Is that how you feel?

 

You don’t feel anything?

 

I’m afraid I don’t. My memories say I do, but my presence disagrees.

 

What does your memory say?

 

It says I should be deeply sorry. I’m responsible for the tears. I should feel as hurtful sitting beside you. But I don’t. I honestly don’t.

 

What color do you see now.

 

It was green. A very bizarre kind of sharp green. It was glowing. Though I think it’s turning yellow now.

 

You are hallucinating.

 

I don’t hallucinate. That’s my problem.

 

You happy?

 

Define “happy”.

 

Joyful. Feel good. Positive. Do you? Ever?

 

I don’t feel anything.

 

Is that happiness?

 

I don’t feel anything. But it’s smooth.

 

What is?

 

What isn’t?

 

Describe what you see.

 

I see you.

 

Describe it.

 

You are agonizing. Like everyone else. It gives you colors. Vibrant colors. But they are turning grey right now. Right when I’m describing it. Like the cat... You are turning into a cat, aren’t you?

 

I’m not turning into an animal any time soon.

 

You are. You just don’t know it yet.

 

Describe what you see. Not what you hallucinate.

 

I don’t hallucinate. That’s my problem.

 

So you like cat?

 

Which cat? The black cat? Yes she is loyal. Or maybe it is a he. I can’t remember. Ask Poe.

 

Poe? Poe is dead, buddy. Poe is dead.

 

You can never be sure.

 

I’m pretty sure...

 

What about the cat? Is she dead too? Or he?

 

The cat was a hallucination.

 

I like how you use past tense here. And no. It’s not. You hallucinate. ‘Cause you need to. We don’t.

 

We? Who are “we”?

 

Me. And the cat you are turning into.

(New York, 2018)

The Mirror

Have you ever met another person as skinny as I am? I have. Every morning I get up and I look into the mirror and I see another person. He's as skinny as I am.

(New York, 2018)

Next Stop Is Dumbo

He always arrived at the pier sharp at 0839. Today he got here 11 minutes early. He sat on a bench, sipping on an espresso, watching other passengers from and to the earlier ferries. At 0837, he saw, not without surprise, another self rushing down the aisle with an espresso. Should I board, or should I watch him board? He puzzeled. The other him looked focused, highly irritated, almost hostile. 

 

At 0841, he left the pier for the subway

(New York, 2018)

It Is The Sunlight That Is Distracting

He was drown in a cup of black coffee.


The coffee was so black it looked almost like ink. The bottom was completely covered. But one should always know the depth of one's coffee. Always. Especially when it’s hot.
 

Especially when it's black.
 

He was never a good swimmer. He probably panicked too. Otherwise he would have floated for a little while and one of his colleagues would have caught his peculiar predicament and come to his rescue. He probably struggled frantically and sank straight to the bottom.
 

His body wasn't found until Friday morning when the cleaning lady came to pour the coffee away. The mug was unusually heavy. The poor lady lost her mind when she glimpsed inside. She smashed the mug against the wall. Lying on the floor, his body was inflated three times its original size and dyed (stained) so dark the small curious crowd first thought it was a black toad.
 

"But toads don’t have hair on their heads... do they?" Then they realized it was him. 
 

And then there was something about reincarnation, a black toddler, a giant mother, an inappropriate white lie, the end of one world versus the end of one’s world, and a French restaurant down the block that only served frog legs.

(New York, 2020)

That Thing That Is Growing

It's getting very dark. Not without light, but the shadows are becoming unbearably prominent. Like a migraine. Or The Big Electric Chair in the Broad. A reality so overwhelming that it consumes everything else. 
 

And when you look closely, the shadow isn't just deepening. It is growing. One might even call it flourishing. Very much like her beard. Very much, like migraine.
 

It has density. Somewhat pseudo, nonetheless, somewhat circumstantial. An outsider (to life) might even call it a hoax. Like the air that is only dense for those whose respiratory systems are impaired. And it is more delicate than a soap bubble. A little bit of sound would have bursted it. A little bit of repetition. A little bit of second-hand opinions. A little bit of nonsensical notions of happiness. 
 

Shadow. Another word for silence. You never know whether you should preserve it or eradicate it. Both would be impractical, anyway.

(New York, 2020)

A Flu, Presumably

The door is shut. There’s a flu, they said.
 

Or a fly. They might have said fly.
 

The sudden distress. Frustration. You don’t want to scream. But you want to destroy. Destruct. Break something valuable. Something vulnerable. Your nerve. Or someone’s heart.
 

Diarrhea is sitting calmly in a cafe, sipping on his coffee, reading a novel about wars and a small village and the pact generations had made with solitude, passed down as a genetic trait. Someone sneaked into your bedroom last night. It was nightmare. You caught him. His footsteps were too loud. You stared. He panicked. “What a skinny creature”, you thought to yourself, “and so pale...”. He ran off.
 

The glass is covered in a thick layer of vapor. Almost like smog. Almost like steam. Like sweat. It is the bad breath of everyone in the bar, fleeing from the crowd but trapped on the window due to condensation, not conversation. Trapped, like the rotting flies on a spider web.
 

It’s a flu, they said.
 

It’s like a flu, they might have said.

(New York, 2020)

About Two Months Ago

Late at night. It’s usually at night. And it’s usually late. Two men walked into a cafe. Asking for alcohol. One took a beer. The other, a glass of red wine.
 

The third man came in. “Happy New Year!”, he yelled. He was a friend, apparently. “I thought you moved!” “Nah I never moved,” she greeted, “I got something for you.”
 

The two men looked shy. Very shy. It was obvious from the outlook of confidence they tried too hard to put up. The one with red wine opened his laptop and started typing. And biting his nails. The other, scrolling his phone, mentioned something about Chicago, rubbing his own cheek.
 

She walked out. For dinner, presumably. She came back very shortly though. With something in her palm. “Didn’t get yelled at,” she told the third guy, smiling. The third guy cheered. He had a cowboy hat on. And he never took it down. Probably meant that he didn’t plan to stay for long. Two girls walked in to join them. All cheering, chitchatting.
 

“When?”, she asked. “The article said, you know, when I read that article”, “I can’t bring myself to read this kind of article. It makes me sick”, “well yea, I, literally”, “I was in high school!”, “oh I can see that. Oh. Oh! That make sense”, “that’s what slowed him down”, “but then again I never went to gym it was just too far”, “and then, wait, and then”, “mine was two years ago and guess what, I did the most terrible thing you can possibly”, “that guy was a creep”, “I was like I need them right now these are my Saturday earrings I can’t put them on during the week because I’m a teacher and on Sunday I help out in church”... “I’m on medication too”, she said.
 

“Meditation. I said meditation”.

(New York, 2020)

Between Reading Something And Drawing Something And Writing Something

Anything before 9pm is bullshit. All the anxiety, depression, oppression, obsession, compulsion and distraction. All biological. None logical.
 

9pm. The hour of hysteria, diarrhea and early insomnia. And a mild migraine. After the despair of the sunset has started to wear off. After the heater has been left on for far too long. After the voices in your head have lost all their visual evidence - they are merely voices now.
 

You only have to hang on till 11 for paranoia to knock on your window pane, like an old creep. For the shadows to start chasing you around a house of complete strangers. For the iridescent lights to start beaming through the cracks on the walls and the floor and disappear in split seconds. You. Colors. Shadows. Lights. And music. Fainting. And the chase. The chase. The chase that seems never-ending.
 

2am. The sudden clarity.
 

It only lasts a few hours before the sun rises again and tears everything apart.

(New York, 2020)