the tamago report

Eggs benedictated

Month: November, 2012

What my eyes taught me

by MDY

It was an incident. “Wrong place, wrong time” implies a causality which I’m hesitant to believe exists. So it was an incident, and an unglamorous one at that. A tennis ball, propelled by a cricket bat and blatant adolescence. The pain was negligible. When my vision rebooted, things seemed a little duller and redder than before. The adolescent me proclaimed he was fine, but the seraphic presence inside – what some have not ungenerously called my old soul – was deafeningly silent, which by definition meant I didn’t hear his warnings. The teacher-on-duty expended her duty-of-care by carefully advising me to go to sickbay. I waddled from the playground alone, and the first real dialogue between adolescent and angel began when I peered at myself peering back in the turquoise-laced plastic mirror and saw half my pupil its usual sullen hazel but the other, the bottom half a pale, almost desexed red where the blood had filled up within and I wasn’t sure what to say.

What’s it like to go blind? I barely notice yet when I glance at the maple tree outside, studded with lime-greened conkers which are as yet invisible, hidden beneath the bushy foliage of leaves and stars. It is not dramatic. If anything, it is humorous, like Beckett or televised war reporting. If I close the not-damaged and stare at a person from a certain angle, it appears to me that the top of their head has been chopped off.

The damaged has, by my reckoning, lost around a quarter of its field of vision, not all in the same place. The nice doctor who I have seen since the accident showed me a graph of the damaged, with black spots demarcating the lost areas. Another doctor, also nice, recently showed me a series of graphs illustrating the different rates of ocular decline with, with substandard, or without medication. The sort where you laugh because it is something to do, and you subconsciously fear becoming a cliché. I don’t like seeing the tops of my loved ones’ heads chopped off. Contrary to popular belief, laughter is not the best medicine, but has the least side-effects.

I started writing after the incident. I didn’t write of the week spent bed-bound and motionless, or the cover-up at school that followed, not directly anyway. Two years later, when the same thing happened to a friend of mine, there was a special investigation and he became a minor war hero. I remember the Headmaster – he’s still there now, expressing his utmost sympathies in front of school assembly, as the hero looked on resplendent in eyepatch and blazer. My parents weren’t told not to sue, not directly anyway. I didn’t get an eyepatch either.

At worst, the incident only accelerated the inevitable. The glaucoma is far less pronounced in the non-damaged – meaning less nerve endings have been pressured into pale desexed shadows of themselves – but it is nevertheless present, like the conkers on the springtime maple tree. I have my own regime to complement what the nice doctors recommend. I try not to worry or overexert myself, physically or otherwise. I take laughter despite being hesitant to believe in its palliative value. I save my money so I can spend it on luxury goods – new drugs, surgical procedures, second opinions. I do my best to live by the old verities.

I pray for my family and friends to enjoy the same good fortunes as I, but without the incidental side-effects. I choose to forget where I cannot forgive. My documents say I am 22, but those around me say I resemble an old man in many ways. The physical deterioration is purely incidental.

What I learnt from university

by MDY

I learnt to double-tap. One essay I wrote in high school was returned with red-rimmed comments: “Your thesis is bland, but it does the job”. First draft on paper, then the word processor. I’m still not sure whether Barthes and Foucault knew each other, or if the similarities were solely linguistic. I eventually found out that most university students stop at the first draft, which doesn’t do your cardio any favours.

I learnt to break things down. Coir is a mixed-material coconut fibre which is used, amongst other things, as the digestible bedding for worm farms. It comes in pallets which you have to first soak in water then, when the pallet has sufficiently expanded, crumble into an earthy dough that smells and feels something like dried-then-saturated expired Black Forest cake. It’s a task which can only be tackled piecemeal, and you’ll strain yourself if you over-accelerate the process. Barthes and Foucault didn’t come in pallets, but they were hard for me to digest. After writing a paragraph, I would allow myself ten minutes for restfulness to soak in. It took longer, but it did the job.

I learnt to eat apples. They’re light, refreshing, and easy to consume while trotting around campus. As snacks, they’re far more cost-effective than coffee and they make the worms happy too. I ate apples to stay healthy. To stay healthy, I avoided group study sessions (unproductive), excessive alcoholic consumption (mostly), and student politics (always). I read a lot of Literature, but not a lot of stories.

I learnt to beware opinions. Everyone expects everyone else to have an opinion at university. Opinions are like opossums: nice to keep in theory, but with a tendency to scratch off valuable body parts. I would prefer an owl to an opossum, or a falcon. When I was little, before I left home-away-from-home, I used to go to Jurong Bird Park and gasp at the acrobatic toucans. My friend’s year-old parrot enjoys hopping on my neck and cleaning my nostrils with her beak, but my other friend’s (much larger) parrot gets squawkily protective of her when I’m around. A lorikeet flew down and danced in a circle around my feet as I sat outside this week. I prefer birds to opinions.

I learnt to sleep early. At first, I would stay up late because I liked the virtual company of others my age. Then, as I came into increasingly-pervasive employment and (more recently) less-than-optimal health, I began to sleep more and socialise less. Partying was never my strong point: I much preferred (mostly) to write children’s poetry before sunrise. I lost a lot of acquaintances that way, but not as many friends as I would’ve thought. I learnt that the important people are the ones who befriend you for who you are.

Writing from experience

by MDY

They say write what you know. When I first started with short stories, I used to structure them around swathes of luxurious dialogue in which my characters would ponder the quandaries of war, God, and double dates. These weren’t very good, because I didn’t actually know how to talk a lot. So I moved on to writing stories where the characters wouldn’t speak at all, and those were better. Then I began writing in the first person because I do a lot of thinking, but without any increase in dialogue because I still don’t like talking. The only person I feel truly comfortable talking to is myself. Blogs are surprisingly well-suited for interior monologue.

They say write what you don’t know. When I was in high school, all my protagonists were intellectual-leaning teenage boys who were sweet on unattainably beautiful women and would often partake in swathes of luxurious dialogue about war, God, and double dates. But that was boring, so I moved on to cybernetic assassins, telepathic trees, and little girls who wanted to be chefs. For a long time all my protagonists were male, until I realised my understanding of men was about as poor as that of (invariably unattainably beautiful) women. So I started writing about animals. Sometimes knowing is half the battle, but it may not be the winning side.

I say write what you want to know. My illustrator wants to know more about learning to teach, and teaching to learn. One of my friends writes about God, and fashion, because she wants to understand both better (though her allegiances, like mine, fall squarely on one side). I write about writing. Words are thoughts, made close-to-real. They give us something to hold onto, and something to build from. You don’t have to know what you write, but it helps knowing what you’re writing for.