I woke to the gentle
of rain hitting the window sill. I was
dreaming about a railway line, and was roused by the discordant
clanging of hammers onmetal. Like a distant fog, the railway blurred
into this oddly familiar reality that grew on me as if the dream had
never existed. The cold kitchen tiles stung my bare feet as I set the
kettle to boil, goose pimples growing underneath my pyjamas – I
wasn’t accustomed to the British winter after years of Southern
China’s mild climate.
If you ask me why I came to
Sussex, I would say
that Sussex is charming in the way that any new place is; curiously
enigmatic and left to the imagination’s interpretation before its true
history and intransigence is revealed.
I peered into Dan’s room–he had fallen asleep midway through
writing a story. His forehead rested on the edge of his typewriter,
his arms crossed over the desk like a Tibetan monk in prayer. The
floorboards were barely visible beneath clothes, bedsheets, shoes,
empty cigarette packs, magazines. Papers and books lay open over
the floor –Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell To Arms’ and a collection of
James Joyce novels. The dark, tangled mop of Dan’s head stirred,
his unwashed hair falling towards his shadowy face as he lifted his
head off the desk. Late sleepless nights had enhanced the dark
circles under his eyes, casting a shadow of unconsciousness across
his blank expression.
‘Good morning,’ my voice cracked the cold air, still rough
‘You should have knocked before coming in,’ he spoke
emotionlessly, as if in a trance.
‘I shouldn’t have to.
You must be exhausted
‘I have to go to work. Isn’t that what you want?’ He hated
knowing it was his job that gave me pride and happiness.
He was right – it was what I had wanted, when he was younger.
Despite scarring his weak knuckles, my brass ruler had disciplined
Dan to work hard, proceed to London University, study to become
an anaesthetist. Funny how it was he who had gradually lost sensory
perception since starting his degree. Back then he had wanted to
write. Not research papers or medical transcripts, but stories. As a
child he wrote about werewolves and zombies and vampires, not
about the real world. But they were childish ways, and it was my
duty to discipline him into growing up to cope with the adult world.
I had repeated every syllable, every consonant of the Chinese