Pet Sounds: Cheng Tim Tim

Pet Sounds: A series in which teaching staff and students from the English Department reflect on a piece of music or song. [Read all entries.] [Revisit the “Headspace” series.] [Revisit the “Ongoing” series.] [Revisit the “Interrogative” series.]


– after Joe Brainard’s “I Remember”

I remember the incessant minimal waltz of exit A’s escalator in Kowloon Tong station.

I remember the buzzing in my skull at Mouse On The Keys’ gig. It was the night of a faux world’s end. A dancing girl armed with a belt of Yakult knocked into me. The beer bottle in my mouth removed a corner of my front teeth.

I remember Ruth’s microphone-filtered voice guiding us to read Wide Sargasso Sea.

I remember more Joey Yung’s lyrics than Joe Brainard’s.

I remember the first time understanding the mechanical clarity of S-bahn announcements against the silhouette of railway facilities in the sun’s dissolving palette at 8 p.m. I always say I would like to learn more German.

I remember listening to the trees by Urban Spree when I didn’t know how to talk to a group of Spaniards and a Jewish person whose crying to Adventure Time reaffirmed my affection.

I remember re-watching The Reader and found myself able to identify what’s in the background noise, like one of the fluorescent ambulances that I saw in Berlin.

I remember waking up to the hysterical laughter of Kookaburra and walking beside Johnson who can identify bird songs. I haven’t talked to him for a while.

I remember the acknowledging laughter as a weird old guy recited something that sort of went ‘hard window / soft window / in window / out window / in window / out window / in window / out window / in window / out window’.

I remember ‘I remember you well / in the Chelsea Hotel’ and ‘I remember how we met / but your name I forget’ as I lay in my bed looking out of the window.

I remember Verda’s door screeching jazz in my Tartu.

I remember variations of my name. Tianr, Tin Tin, Dim Dim, Chin Chin etc. etc.

I remember the dull disco anthems from the radio at the police station in Riga. I forgot my passport and shouldn’t have taken a bus owned by a Russian company, ‘which is checked more often than others’.

I remember anticipating a long scream when I walked on the street after returning to what they call the Post-Umbrella Hong Kong.

I remember the K-Pop riffs coming from a juicer in Sham Shui Po that I think only I can detect.

I remember imagining what distinct notes Frobisher would catch if he went yum cha: the clanks from utensils being rotated and washed together in the first brew of tea; those porcelain spoons clinking bowls in use; and the deft and merciless piling of finished dishes amidst families that shout to talk, in between the ripples of smartphones being unlocked.

I remember the ghostly ventilation knocking on my bedroom door as I wrote this until 5 in the morning.

I remember the Fujian ghosts dancing behind my mother’s lips. ‘Clothes’ (Saam1) is confused with ‘to close’ (Saan1). Ginger (Goeng1) leaves a nasal ending sound more curved than the tail of her eyeliner.

I remember feeling exposed when people asked about my Hong Kong / South London / Eastern Europe / Aussie accent.

I remember my mum’s childish cries at a caa4 caan1 teng1 for not being able to contact me for 15 minutes. I was 21, had been out for 6 months without whatsapping her.

I remember my grandmother saying ‘I too have been to a lot of countries but they have changed a lot I can’t really say I have been there.’ Her wisdom was not undermined by her tendency to lie.


Tim TimCheng Tim Tim is a graduate of the Department of English and Department of Education (Class of 2016). She has problems with proper nouns. She is one of the founding co-editors of EDGE. [Read all entries by Tim Tim.]

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