Headspace: Tammy Ho Lai-Ming

Headspace: A series in which teaching staff and students from the English Department write about a place or space they go to write, read, study or create. [Read all entries.]  [Revisit the “Ongoing” series.] [Revisit the “Interrogative” series.]


A room with graffitied walls. Inside this room the dogs bark. A room cluttered with porcelain figurines. A room decorated with binary numbers. A room filled with beer kegs and crates. A room with an altar surrounded by incense. A room with the sound of a woman crying. A sandy room. A room with no room. One must kneel in this room. A tiny room for a tiny baby. A dark room that smells of oysters. An empty room with white tiles and a mop standing next to a closed door. A sunny room. A room that was once a cave in which sinners were secretly beheaded. Clocks melt in this room. A collapsing room. Sugarcubes turn to gold in this room. Night or day, a room, one tree, a wintry country road, two tramps. A room dressed in the French Indochina colonial style. A cork-lined room in which a man writes while lying in bed, fourteen pens rest on his tray, several others are scattered on the floor. A room in which a chamber orchestra is tuning up. A room where nobody speaks your language. A room with absolutely no straight lines. A room that is stuffed with burnt marshmallows. People get drunk in this room and take the wrong umbrellas home. The room is enormous and belongs to e.e. cummings. A room that cannot be photographed. A room in which one’s memory of childhood is rekindled. A room in which Sherlock Holmes plays his violin. A room in which love is made. Jane Eyre discovered that the chill red room was very seldom slept in. A room in which time does handstands on five continents. They don’t feel excluded when two real English speakers are in the same room, commenting on Memoirs of A Geisha or Bill Ashcroft’s postcolonial theories. Chow Mo-wan agrees to rent Room 2047 in the meantime. A room that is both sour and sweet. As we all know, the thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world. A room in which one imagines blowing out candles and going to the moon. A room is a sentence is a room. A room with a stained glass ceiling. A room for a particular Assistant Professor to rehearse her Modern Drama lectures. A room in which a young woman, petite and Asian, refuses to sing a song in Italian. The existential crisis of rooms in the age of digital reproduction. Last night, there was a typhoon in your room, 3.5K away from my home. A room in progress. Ted Kooser: ‘No one’s at home in this room.’ The painter’s bedroom at Arles. I suppressed a cry of horror and my sisters ran out of the room. ‘Dostoyevsky described hell as perhaps nothing more than a room with a chair in it. This room has several chairs. A young man sits in one.’ In Stalker, based on Roadside Picnic, there is a room that is said to grant whoever steps inside his or her deepest wishes. A room in which people are reincarnated as animals, perhaps. Judith Shakespeare’s room. A room exists in several formats. When they all leave the dining room, Mrs. Copperfield hugs David in secret and asks him to love his new father, Mr. Murdstone. A room in a shattered glass globe. In the living room where I smoked a cheap cigar for the first time, the desktop speakers vomited music that was apt for hip-dancing. A room with a postmodern, poststructuralist, postcolonial, posthuman, postfeminist, post-time view. A room in which decisions have to be constantly made. A room with a dumb waiter. A room covered with paintings of paintings of paintings. Winston Smith would not want his face to be chewed by aggressive rats in this room. Dali, in the drawing room, with a pancake. Tammy, in the lecture room, with a microphone. Men gather before the fire and one tells the story of The Turn of the Screw. A room with a rain-drenched lawn. A whitewashed room. In this room, all light switches are invisible. Six characters in search of a room. The man, bejewelled, broad-shouldered, stands on the middle of an elongated skull shadow. Everything goes in this room. In this room, is Cezanne’s fruit basket on the crowded table or on the ground? There’s a room on her face: the hollow eyes are windows facing the symmetrical cemetery, her nose is a broken chandelier, her mouth a round bed. Is there a text in this room? Is there an author in this room? Is there a reader in this room? Is there a theory in this room? Is there a professor in this room? Zen-like, he throws the room out of the room. To find a room numbered Catch-22. The room in which a small goldfinch is eternally trapped. I walked with you in our living room, hand in hand, back and forth, for half a mile. John Ashbery: ‘The room I entered was a dream of this room.’ A room that launched a thousand ships. The room in which Turner died: ‘The sun is God!’ A room, a photo of that room, a photo of someone in that room. How do you reference a room in MLA style? No one can walk into the same room twice. A room in which three workers are scraping the floor, ‘by force of exactitude.’ Songs from the room on the second floor. A room that is only useful as a reference to the past. In this room, the differences between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional are eroding. Find a room in which to develop a sense of nostalgia for something. Death be not proud, in this room. With a certain him, in that room, a triple pang of being loved and lonely and lunatic. Thomas Hardy: ‘Who’s in the next room?—Who?’ In one room I was born. In another I learnt to spell. Once, in a room, I fell in love, first shallowly, then urgently, as though we meant it. There’s a room in which I shall die the death of a woman. A room that has an infinite number of rooms within it. John Donne: ‘And makes one little room an everywhere.’


hlmTammy Ho Lai-Ming is Assistant Professor at the Department of English Language and Literature. She is the administrator of Agora. This piece was previously published in Eminence’s Newsletter and Berfrois. [Click here to read all entries by or about Tammy.]

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