[aesop_parallax img=”http://blog.ernie.sg/files/2014/07/PHTO0022.jpg” parallaxbg=”on” floater=”off” floaterposition=”right” floaterdirection=”up” caption=”Wherein she looked like she lost and I won (a fight)” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”off”]
The thing about being together with Xin is that so many days are note-worthy… I stopped taking notes. The GSK of my body has never produced more oxytocin for anyone else. I know that the adrenaline was bound to get taken off the shelf once it’s had its run with every batch, because that’s what it was manufactured for – its prescient duration meant to last long enough for the breeding to happen. But to build a nest together, to negotiate differences together instead of retreating to colonial territories marked by separate egos – that takes oxytocin. In my mind I continue to toss events around, juggling interpretations and trying to decide on some sort of a conclusion. My fondness for anyone and anything is renewed by the amount of learning they expose me to so suffice to say, I have learnt a great deal about myself, about being with people and about life in general with her. Through things we did together, through being close to someone else, through being in collision, through things that happened to us… This one is about one of those things that happened to us.
The day started out like any other day that we had; we scrambled out of bed a little too late, she got her places mixed up (even though we were in her hometown) so we had to walk for a distance of sufficient length to render our previous act of hailing a cab unnecessary, and it was hot and humid. Putting up with Chongqing heat, sold-out train tickets, a friend who was already waiting then frying our brains inside out for a way to get to where we were supposed to be proved too much for 2 people with a limited budget to handle and resulted in 2 tempers running amok.
Just imagine us sweaty, frustrated, cursing; Xin eventually taking it out with a few violent kicks to the metal barriers (what do you call those things?) by the side of the highway and seeing that, my anger gave way to concerns that 2 lives were in jeopardy under such hazardous and temperamental conditions. My concerns proved to be right as foreboding when after various failed hitchhiking attempts, a BMW finally stopped and drove us on a leisurely pace towards our destination – Chongqing.
The driver needed some convincing at first, so we even handed him our IDs as a “friendly” gesture and Xin switched codes,
“I speak Mandarin so she can follow the conversation as well. (A series of Sichuanese dialect next.)”
If you are a tong xiang to another Chinese, you enjoy a complimentary “Get Out of Jail Free Card” in your relationship him or her. The jail in this context being the layers of scrutiny they subject another stranger to.
He looked 30-40ish and apparently did work related to buildings and construction sites – my limited understanding of the Sichuanese dialect and the locals’ limited willingness to converse in Mandarin meant that I wasn’t quite sure whether he was a contractor, a worker (most probably not, thought he did mention that he and others had to do the physical work themselves last summer when they could not find workers and it was so hot their hair got burned off), or a designer.
He seemed very interested in gambling and visiting Singapore – and after he mentioned something about losing millions in gambling last year I found myself thinking about: why, you will be very welcomed to spend that sort of money in Singapore indeed! Travels, especially the bootstrapping variety, puts you in contact with people from all walks of life constantly; and I have the habit of assuming truth until proven otherwise, provided that no major conflict of interests are present and at worse I’ll have only my pennies to lose for making a bad judgement.
The conversation carried on for a while,
“I’m calling my wife,” he said and we sealed our lips shut with silence.
Everyone’s got that 1 person they need to call when they’re anywhere else but home. And I think that it’s a very sad life to be living if someone has no one that they need to call when they are out there on the open road. Maybe it’s because they are looking for that someone to call while their shoe soles brushed against bitumen, tarmac, waysides… It is the great paradox of life that you’ll have to go traveling in order to find Home.
When he was done, the inertia of our silence was maintained and then my eyelids started getting heavier…
Less than 3 seconds later, I found myself plunged forward as if God’s hands had pushed me from the back. There was no time to react but to collide with the car seat in front of me. I saw no stars, my lips felt pressed against an elephant foot brimming with mass. When it was over, blood trailed down from Xin’s nose like a tap had been let loose somewhere. I passed her some tissue paper, brought my hands to my lips, ran my digits inside them and found the faintest traces of blood.
As with most sudden crises that could spell the difference between life and death in a split-second, you experience first the impact, then the nagging sensation of survival grabbing your intestines when you know that you could have ended up otherwise. A curious dualism always occur at such moments for me personally. Emotionally I felt scarred; logically I deduced that I fully deserved what had happened (we did not put our seat belts on) and that whatever that happened was bound to happen because it was the final outcome out of a series of possible outcomes that I had experienced – predestination on hindsight. In fact, it should be surprising that it took this long for an accident to happen to me personally given how much I was on the road in China and the way their drivers terrorize the road.
Yet I know that I am a singular human being; like there may be 2 statements being made, but they were both made from the same source, the same loudspeaker. No doubt such is the duty of the corpus callosum…?
This time though there wasn’t a vivid regret – personally – about dying there and then (though of course I would still cringe at the impact on my family). Either it was too brief a moment for the regret to sink in or maybe it is because I am happy in life. I am happy in life so I have no qualms about dying anytime. I know that this sounds like a strange notion; what about visions of grandeur and dreams of achievement, would it not be such a waste to die young? Honestly though, I think of working hard and making it as something that you do because you owe it to the fact that you are alive and to the people around you as well as the institutions that make these things possible. Most of all there is value to meaningful work because everyone needs to answer the calling from themselves. So this is rendered irrelevant should life were to fall short of a statistical average, then the only possibility for regret remains where happiness or the lack thereof is concerned.
Or like sunga – everyone has a predetermined allotment of earth-time that we should take in our stride.
And I am happy to say that I have been happy. I have been needlessly happy chasing cars, rubbing cheeks and lavishing my time on moments.
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Then we spent the rest of the day putting Xin’s head through a scan and had the fantastic Japanese food we had the last time to perk us up. What you need most in a shell-shocked state like this is precisely anything with a semblance of familiarity. These connections to memories pull you back to a time when things were normal and life was the usual.[/aesop_content]
Her friend who had finished 100g of white wine while waiting for us to pull the rabbit out of the bag (“We should reach 12ish / We should reach 1 plus / Train tickets were sold out so we should reach even later… / We got into a car accident”) came and bought us lunch. Our series of unfortunate events meant that Pizza Hut would do instead of the intended local delights.
We talked about our traveling experiences, he is another one of those restless Chinese youths whose parents want to see settled down so he tries to be filial yet rebel at the same time. He is planning to cycle to England next year, for which he needs to have $100000 frozen in the bank under his name for the visa application, Xin told me later that he is probably working as a cab driver. He used to have long hair with mustache and digs the underground rock scene. When Xin and him first met he hadn’t bathed for 20 odd days because he had been cycling from Chongqing to Tibet.
Birds of the same flock fly together, he would not be the first atypical Chinese that I’ve met.
After lunch, we got Xin’s results checked out. All her faculties are fine save for the usual lapses in language that she makes. Or is it usual? Come to think of it now…
Anyhow, the moral of the story is to as much as possible, never take your eyes off the windscreen when driving; don’t risk your chances. According to Xin’s version of the story (she was slightly less asleep than I had been) another car had tried to overtake us, the driver that picked us up did not brake in time and so that was that. The front of the BMW was bent into an inverted “V” shape, there was liquid leaking, the driver wasn’t harmed and the greatest casualty would be financial. The possibility remains that our driver had been less-than-alert as well, resulting in the collision.
Anyhow, never take your eyes off as much as possible and keep your seat belts on.