Ongoing Moments: Nicola Chan Oi Ching

Ongoing Moments: A series in which teaching staff and students from the English Department respond to a photograph of their choice. [Read all entries.] [Revisit the “Interrogative” series.]

Janet and NicolaJanet and me.

If moments could be ongoing …
Together we live twenty-nine days, moving from Russia to France, France to England.
In response to my non-sense orientation, her survival instinct grows and usually, if not always, leads us to our destinations. Her adrenaline is all consumed, however, by the time she, the sleepyhead, smells the proximity of home. That is when my survival instinct awakes, keeps my eyes wide open on buses and trains, until walking home becomes possible without brains.
In the mornings and on public transits, we do not talk much. And when transportation takes long, she reads, sleeps or isolates herself in music. Silence sounds more dissonant the further we go. I fear an ennui of me grows within her, wide and slyly, like tiny thorns sprouting between long married couples. I probably overthink, for most of the time she simply spaces out, missing interesting conversations from our surroundings. I overthink until I grow accustomed to her independence. Next to each other, we read in our own bubbles. Perhaps lonely, but not alone.
Listening to her is like cracking fortune cookies. Fortune cookies of the same brand. Usually, I get decent and unsurprising lines. Occasionally, the candidness of the expressions freeze my heart. As if a compelled consumption of bitter gourd: the senses hate the acrid; the logic knows its merit. Other times, I giggle or laugh, learning the unimaginable comic junks.
Little patience has she reading the remote histories of the long-lived Egyptian tombs or Renaissance paintings. Even less interest has she in committing the intentional crimes of many women, the self-initiated contour of unnecessary worldly desires. Yet, she hardly interferes with my back-to-the-ancient journeys and vintage-earring hunts. If possible, while waiting, she gets herself a seat and self-gratifies (or, in my opinion, self-abuses) by eating Bubble bar chocolate non-stop and, with a bit of fortune, by mentally swimming towards a physically unreachable Hong Kong in the invisible and often unstable waves people called Wi-Fi. If not, she quietly squeezes out her last drop of patience, learns exhibits and (window-)shops with me. (What else can she do travelling with a slow, detail-minded and indecisive lady?) In either case, my graciously respected freedom which, in return, ungraciously restrains hers, gives me more discomfort than her kindly bestowed comforts. “Freedom cannot mean the freedom to limit the freedom of others.” No one, but everyone wins. Unuttered compromise. We visit museums and (window-)shop. Not too long, not too short.
One cannot know another person through any better means than by travelling with him or her, people say. I wonder how much of this is true. I dare not say I know her better now. I only see myself insecure in my reading of her and us.
Ceaselessly aging, my slowly wilting memory doubts the possibility of “ongoing moments”. “He lies like an eyewitness,” a Russian saying goes. We all lie like eyewitnesses. Yet, moments, be not immortal. Let these words be my youthful crime, the warrior against time, and the tangible traces of our private February, the February of our leap year, my graduation year.


NicolaNicola Chan Oi Ching is a BA graduate in Stylistics and Comparative Literature (Class of 2015). [Click here to read all entries by Nicola.]

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