Jill Chan

 

 

 


Movie: A fictional dream




Don't believe anything I say here. Even I don't. This is not a secret. It need not be, because we are all mature here. We are adults who see into others, think into still others, prey on moving others, spite supple others—All for our benefit. In other words, nothing is new. History is newness turning old as we live it, concerned with how we are burning our threads along with our traditions. Then we think—ah, there is no we, only a separated I, a collection of separateness, like fervour for the dead, something to do in other minds, our own sits there, allowed to be theirs once in awhile. But I am not what I am describing here. I am taking on a character. In fact, I may be a victim of what I describe. But who wants to hear a victim speak? The nature of power is to keep other people silent, especially the weak, especially the so-called victim.




~



This makes someone else sad:



How, in looking around, he sees the colours as colour, nothing to affect him, emotion snugly his own. Suffering is essential unless one morning, it comes through like expectation, like a day that forgets to be a day. Then he will respect himself for his subtlety, congratulate himself not subtlety, not where he came from. He always knew the answer anyway, the way birth is as definite as a name, as painful as his recollection of it. Perhaps the people around him would understand. When the idea crosses his mind tonight, he will let it go, stop himself from the unfamiliar, stranger dark of what isn't him, what doesn't listen to him.



~



She's sleeping; as far as she knows or doesn't, she is dreaming. From out of the corner of her eye, something moves her. She turns in her bed. Her body is still like one dead but without the benefit of dying. Sleep is not death, to her mind—just a walk somewhere, a talk no one hears or even she overhears. Some straight thing in her turns. But she is focused on a gentle disturbance like that of another careless dream, a moving streak. There is a solidity that this faint disturbance aspires to, she thinks, or whatever sweeter action the sleeper does in lieu of thinking. It is all black except for the corner of her eye—It throbs now like a wisdom, a long ascent into waking. But she lets fear sleep beside her, and braves into a closeness too late to hesitate.



~


I remember many years ago, I woke to a thud on the floor near the bed beside mine as if someone fell. It was my mother (grandmother). She got up, still very agile, a bit frightened, calling out my brother's (father's) name. Being young, I was startled, and asked what happened. There were firecrackers' loud explosions that night. And I wondered if she thought it was gunfire. I asked her but she just said, Did something happen to your brother? No. And that was it. I heard nothing more about the matter.



A few years ago, I was in my room. In my clumsiness, I dropped something on the floor. I think it was a key in the key ring. I was surprised to hear people scrambling downstairs, as if frightened all of a sudden. I thought it was strange but didn't give a thought to it. People were strange and distant in my house. My father (grandfather) knocked on the door but didn't say he who he was. I opened the door and there he was with my mother (grandmother) at the door.



~



I once asked my brother, Have you ever been depressed? His eyes turned sad like mine were with my question though his were filled with experience. He said thoughtfully like he dared not relive it in my presence for fear of something he feared I would not understand in my ignorance, Yes, I have. I didn't expect him to open up but he did in his own way—with equal measure of silence and reserve. But he stopped there short of my curiosity perhaps sadder now for him, perhaps thinking about his.



~



I was a forgetful child. I couldn't remember my classmates' and teachers' names. Couldn't remember when things happened. Which places we went to. I asked my family why I couldn't seem to remember anything, they had no answer. So I'm left with blanks and indecision about most details of my early life. But they fed me so many histories or stories about histories. They are like fables and tales that rang true as a child but sounded like lies as an adult. Lies which won't be amended or said any other way, one assumes either in desperation or in surrender. Perhaps both my family and I feel desperate about the same thing—one, with achieving it; another, with untying it. But I think I couldn't be sure.



~



Sometimes I think even in this environment, there were people who helped in small ways, perhaps against their better judgment. I remember an acquaintance came to our house and when she saw me do some daily, trivial thing (I'm not describing the situation to protect the innocent), she warned me (though I didn't think of it as a warning then) not to do that. It is dangerous, she said. And this is such a common chore that I was surprised though didn't show it because of the weirdness of her comment. Perhaps my general faith in people was beginning to erode. I could remember so many similar instances like this that, taken together over the years, started to make me doubt.



~


I cry most of all for their next generation, a generation which, like themselves, start off tender and young, maybe innocent—though innocent of what (I wonder, not being one of them nor against them). Across the table, we seem even and even to understand. But all the while not or cannot afford to. We cannot be close to our murderers or those we murder. It is self-preservation for both parties playing their parts.



~



Reflecting on this, I feel it is all very childish. One party does damage to the other by doing some small torture, and the other takes it, or reacts verbally. The other party then in turn reacts to the reaction by retaliating with more tortures. And they ask, silently, Well, you started it. But in truth it doesn't begin with any one of them. In fact, it doesn't begin with their lives. But in surviving, in trying to, each member of the parties involved go on as if everything—their unhappiness, their guilt, their loneliness, all started with the 'opponent.' And not one of them dare do anything to change it. In truth, all are trapped—the victim is the perpetrator, the perpetrator is the victim. All done without choice or free will. All are scratching on some surface they are so accustomed to.



~



And the worst of them will continue to do what they think is right (some even believing in it. And the best of them will continue to lament what they've done, what they shouldn't be doing if given a choice at all.



And the worst of us will continue to endure and think it brave. And the best of us will continue to endure and think it wise.



Meanwhile, the unnecessary is deemed essential; the truth is never considered past what can be seen.



~



But where does it end when you've given into it, became one of them? Is it so easy to tell what is greed and what is surviving, what is retaliation, what is inevitability, what is excuse, what is revenge, what is strength, what is control, what is fear, etc.? What is willingness and what is fear again?



To love at all in such an environment is near impossible, or rather to hang onto to one's humanity.



And weakness is shunned in the name of survival. One could understand this.



But soon, it graduates to hatred to hang onto the little you possess. Or soon, it reduces to love and guilt to bring out your humanity.



~


I was a very sickly child. One time, every time I had my period, I would get sick with fever and infection. And also constipation, etc. etc.



I think I went through a lot during my younger years also without knowing the suffering I went through. I thought, it must like this being a child, always sick and cared by my mother (grandmother).



A child doesn't question the environment. Acceptance because they don't have other experiences or relationships to compare with. And my parents are very particular about friendships. They think them unnecessary. And I suppose in a world in this milieu, even friendships are, for the most part, doubtful.



~



I remember one time on holiday with a family member, we were going back from a walk in the city and we met some people who looked like they were going to abduct us. The family member and I were able to walk back safely, by some minor miracle.



But looking back now, a strange thought occurs to me: What if the above experience was part of a plot to abduct me, and only me? It is not farfetched when placed in the context of other stranger occurrences at home, some of which I've described.



~



A relative, a close relative, is a physician. I suspect there is a lot going on than is acknowledged. I’ve tried many times to get him to open up and talk about the past, which I surmise might have a hidden, dark, perhaps even “evil” connection. Evil is now so relative a word that I leave it up to him and you to decide to what degree this purported dark side might entail. I could only deduce from conversations and strange happenings, observations and coincidences. But, at any rate, visions and feelings too nagging to overlook.

~



This physician I talked about above has been withholding documents from me, documents which could reveal the true nature of our relationship, and my relationship with another close relative. Of course, I couldn’t reveal anything more than this for fear of my life. In fact, I once got close to obtaining the evidence which might reveal all but decided against it due to tortures, etc. and fearing worse consequences if I were to actually know the truth of this matter.



~


I remember when I was a child, there was a postal delivery and I was curious to look inside the box. I removed the ribbon and was about to open the cardboard lid, but my brother (father) shouted at me when he saw what I was about to do. I was surprised at such adamant refusal and anger in his voice in relation to such a trivial thing I was about to do. Even as a child, I knew something must be up. What was in the box? Of course, I still am not able to look though I could see something horrifying there.




 Copyright © 2011 Jill Chan

 

Jill Chan is a poet, fiction writer, and editor based in Auckland, New Zealand. Her poems have been published in MiPOesias, foam:e, Tears in the Fence, Blue Fifth Review, Otoliths, Snorkel, Broadsheet, JAAM, Poetry New Zealand, Brief, Takahe, Trout, Deep South, Blackmail Press, and other magazines. Her stories are forthcoming or published in  A-Minor, and 52\250 A Year of Flash. She is the author of four collections of poetry: Early Work: Poems 2000-2007 (2011); These Hands Are Not Ours (ESAW, 2009), winner of the Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize; Becoming Someone Who Isn’t (ESAW, 2007); and The Smell of Oranges (ESAW, 2003). She is one of the poets featured in the New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive. Official website: http://www.jill-chan.com


 


 

Photo by Albert Chan