“Coffee Thing” by Ricky Garni
It was a delightful March day spent on Lamma Island this year. Whenever stress threatens to do me in and I come close to buckling under, my mind invariably endeavours a course back to that lovely day when the wind stood fair and the ray of the sunshine was perfect.
Refrain from expecting me to spare no effort on a poetic description of the beauteous Lamma, with the said description running the gamut from Lamma’s flora and fauna, its beach, to its fishing village, inhabitants, and its seafood. Reachable only by ferry, this self-contained, undisturbed, and child-friendly island is the ideal getaway for a weary mind, for those seeking seclusion. Indeed! It fascinates; it charms. Its general nature of fascination is not in dispute. But this time I only want to briefly apply myself to the recollection of an entertaining episode over lunch at the dock that day.
A bunch of young kids had a table to themselves next to mine alongside the railing above the sea. Their parents sat at another adjacent table, letting them off the leash after first leaving them clear instructions to wash their hands. Kids, when in pairs, are compulsively boisterous as they are wont to be. Cheerful of countenance and buoyant of spirit, they chirped and twittered like sparrows gathered jubilantly on a telephone wire, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a blond boy assumed a serious and profound air and, with no small amount of drama, preached to his companions “You need to learn how to chillaaaaaax.” Basking in the glory of his own maturity and wisdom, this 8-year-old (I assume that was his age) contentedly believed his audience had been impressed and that everyone would immediately join him in the spirit of the occasion. Much to his surprise, however, this dose of wisdom he dispensed fell flat and went unnoticed. Amid the articulate sounds of each child-orator immersed in its own invented world and its individual eloquence, nobody paid heed to this “golden counsel” of his. But worry not, my friends. Do not take our boy for a troubled and afflicted soul striving for attention by aping an adult. It is not like he was left alone and nobody talked to him. He and other kids got along quite well and often pressed close together along the railing behind their table, to look at the fish below. There were exclamations of wonder and amazement when any sort of fish swam by. No bruised ego; no hard feelings; this sanguine character just carried on dropping his golden counsel into the conversation with an avuncular glow on his face.
I am not easily surprised, but I do confess to not expecting such words from the mouth of a child still wet behind the ears. Decorum prevented me from laughing about such a comic spectacle, but inside, I was chuckling. It greatly amused me to even think that the little devil was enjoining upon his gang the necessity to chillax. Though failing to elicit the desired response from his peers, his message had been picked up by my attentive ear, and I, holding back my laughter, had a brainwave and wondered if I could somehow engage him in a telepathic interrogation: “Hear, hear. Be that as it may, little man, already at an age of all-play-and-no-work, are you not scared of an overdose of chillax?” But shortly after this question entered my mind, I did a double take and realised I was a bungler – “this is a bumptious and unknowing adult who worries too much and knows not how to chillax”.
This gave me a start and set me thinking—”For God knows how long, I have allowed myself to be wrapped in, and even worse, habituated to a chronic state of worry, which might also be true of most my contemporaries.”
The innocent babbling of these kids continued, but I was too preoccupied to hear them any more. Silence rushed in, as if an invisible sound-proofed wall rose up around me and blocking out all voices and clamour. I put down the shrimp I was eating, sunk my whole weight into the depth of my chair, and looked out to sea. The wind stood fair and the ray of the sunshine was perfect. I detached myself from all earthly bothers and dwelled with satisfaction on the meaninglessness of existence.
Helen HAO Jia is a PhD student at the Department of English Language and Literature concerned with the phenomenology of mind and currently engaged in trauma studies.