the tamago report

Eggs benedictated

Tag: memory

A SHORT STORY ABOUT RECURRING DREAMS.

by MDY

I have this recurring dream where I’m running after the girl I love. The faster I run, the further away she gets, but when I stop and look away she slowly shuffles back like Eurydice’s shadow. I don’t know her name, only that she’s someone I lost millenia ago and I can’t possibly let her go again. So I keep chasing, and she keeps running, until I wake up drenched in sweat, my wings burning like the day we were cast out from on high.

Writing to Remember

by MDY

We are sitting in a lobster pot down Soho way when she asks what I think of food photography.

“I don’t think it’s good or bad,” I say, “more just a remediation of how we’ve always sought to both capture and share the ephemeral. I guess food is just a prime target for that human urge to remember: it’s beautiful, it evokes new feelings in our senses, and it is by definition perishable, unable to retain its corporeal presence in the manner of clothes or jewels. Food makes us think and feel better, and I think it’s instinctual to want to try and hold onto that by passing it on as best we can.”

I’m writing this because I, too, want to hold onto something fleeting. I want to remember the way she brushed a stray sprig of lavender across one leg as we grazed on leaves in take-away trays. I want to remember the easy way we could laugh as we meandered through Studio K, and the raucous direction-giving and insinuations about our relationship from the trio of her compatriots who we glanced into at one station of many. I want to trace back everything we said about the perks of being a food blogger, the impossibility of befriending dumb people, the intricacies of love and friendship and loneliness and sacrifice that we spooled out along the train tracks and cobblestones in our wake, like breadcrumbs leading us towards our better selves. I want to write down everything we said about writing, and what the words mean to us.

“It all comes down to social proofing,” she says sometime on, as I splinter open a lobster claw. “Have you seen that comic where the guy tweets about a druggie in the toilet, and as he sits waiting for the RTs to come in he’s in exactly the same posture as his erstwhile subject? But what happens when that social validation becomes what we define ourselves by, not by the experiences we document but the metrics they generate?”

Only later, now, do I remember traces of a lecture long past: the act of inscription is the act of definition. We didn’t say the things I wrote we did. At one point in the lobster pot, I float the idea that I prefer writing because I’m no good with talk, my thoughts trip over each other like tourist-herds stampeding down sooty high-streets, whereas on paper or screen I can order things the way I wish they could be.

Which is, of course, exactly what I’m doing now. I’m editing as I go, summarising lengthy discourses, eliding tangents, connecting logical spaces. So my words, as a transcript of our day, are not perfect – more like the opposite – yet to anyone apart from us they would seem to be, like a photograph of a macaron tower that falls the second after the flash.

“The idea is that words have power,” I tell her, about a work in progress, “so what if we could really create things with our words? Like, if we sang a poem about Xanadu, it would rear up in front of us with stately decree?”

“How do you come up with ideas like that?” she asks when I’m done. “Where do those linkages, those syntheses come from? You say there’s nothing new under the sun, but then why do we always crave the next story? And why is it that the feeling of originality can still exist?”

The thing is, I don’t feel original. I feel like for everything I say to her, there’s so much more I can’t put into words. Like I’m brushing up against the limits of common vocabulary and the only thing to do is venture into the uncommon, the juxtapositions and patois and absurd images that I can only draw on paper, outside the far-too-fast-for-me stream of everyday life. To say “I care about you”, I make a basilisk await a human child’s return for all eternity. Instead of “it’s lonely without you” I conjure up dementia and robotic swans. Everything I write is both a memory of how I’ve felt, and a wish that I could say it better. Perhaps one day, I’ll know how to speak words as crisp and clean as a photograph, saying everything I want to tell her at the moment I need to. Until then, I’ll struggle to catch up on paper, filling in the blanks that each day leaves behind.

 

Mark Yeow

London

9 June 2014

What my fish did this week.

by MDY

In one of the tanks, two fish have begun to swim together. They’re of the same species, silver-scaled brutes with a penchant for petty larceny, but where they once used to go after another’s fins (in what I always thought to be an ironic variant on the generic police chase), they now swim as one, shimmying through foliage and basking up and down the main parade in perfect parallel. There’s nothing they gain through collaboration, not like dolphins or world leaders. Yet they swim side by side anyway, a pair of louts matching one another’s pivots and turns like two shadows, unsure which one should take the lead. This disposition is awfully persistent, even through the inevitable plagues and water-changes that accompany tank life.

One of our prize specimens was not so persistent. He would make his rounds every morning, resplendent in his orange-striped plumpness, before returning to his cavernous lair behind the tank’s fake-rock backdrop (he was a nocturnal breed, like owls and university students). When the plague hit, he was the last to succumb. His body is wedged between some foliage and a rocky outcrop even as I write this. From time to time, it sends up tufts of decay that billow up to the surface in a slow, stately cloud.

I write this thinking there was something of the Emperor’s new clothes to his life, though I can’t imagine why. This story was mean to be about immortality, not sartorial expediencies. If I was trying to bring him back, but I’m not. The more epitaphs you write, the more tired your hands get, even if you don’t realise you’re writing them. James Gatz tried to live on a tamago, but there’s something heroic about being the last to leave the party.

In one of the tanks, three fish continue to swim together. They’re of the same species, goldfish, and are blissfully unaware of the difference between gravel, food pellets, and their own fecal matter. Most of the time, they just float listlessly back and forth, like university students and world leaders. If goldfish had hands, what would they write about? We can’t time our exits in perfect parallel, but there are gains to be had from collaboration. Words, and others of our species, are all we’ve got.