251. Rapt

I’d like… To be able to drive out into an open field, far away from the city, where my sight is not obstructed by trees or buildings, on a starry night. There, I’ll kill the engine, spray on insect repellant, lay out a blanket on top of the car roof, and just lay there with my hands tucked behind my head, staring up into the inky black sky that is punctuated by a thousand twinkling, milky-white lights.

And I’ll just be rapt in awe.

In the same open field, I’d also like to pitch a canvas tent and lay out layers of mattresses on the ground, then laying inside with my head rested on a pillow, reading a book by the light of an electric lamp as heavy raindrops pelt against the sides of the tent. I’ll smell the rain through the little opening in front of the tent, and maybe feel the chill of the wind as it whistles in.

I’d like to sit in a meadow teeming with foot-tall, multicolored flowers. I’d sit on the ground hugging my knees, and just gaze out into the sea of varied hues, breathing in the faint, sweet smell carried on the gentle breeze. When I think about this, I never consider the bugs that might be around. Maybe I’ll be wearing bug repellant.

I’d like to walk through the forest into a clearing where a river gently trickles downstream, and sit myself upon a smooth, large riverside rock. I’d listen to the bubbling and splashing of water, like a symphony of liquid crystals, and breathe in the cold, humid air.

But I also love the cityscape as much as I like nature. I’d like to go up to the rooftop of the tallest skyscraper and feel the buffeting of the wind, and watch the sun set over the concrete jungle. I’d like to see the cold, grey walls come alive in golden and orange light, and as the lights go down to a deep navy and purple color, watch yellow and white lights illuminate the buildings one room at a time. All of this will happen as I sit at a little table, working my way through a dinner of steak (prepared medium-rare) and potatoes.

I sometimes dream of sitting in a cozy, if cramped room in a flat, on a bed pushed up against a small window. The room would be seven storeys up, just high enough to get a bird’s eye view on the busy streets below, and just low enough so that the sounds of the crowd are not a distant mumble but a nearby cacophony that challenges the boundaries between music and noise.

I’d like to experience moments like these: not thinking of anything else, not trying to capture the image or the feeling, but just to bask in it, and, for that brief time, to be lost in the experience. To be enchanted by the moment. To be caught up in a single frame of sensory perfection.

To experience rapture.

I think I’d like that.

52. New York

No, I am not in New York.

(although I would very much like to be)

The Big Apple. The Empire State. The Capital of the World. The City So Nice They Named It Twice. Among other cities including Los Angeles, Montreal, and London, I’d like to live there one day, God be willing. To wander the streets and get yelled at by busy, impatient New Yorkers. To see the yellow cabs. To finally learn and understand how streets and avenues work. To feel the pulse – the life of the greatest city in the world!

It all started with Sharon, I guess. She had left Malaysia to spend a summer in New York City, where she wanted to experience the life and to hone her skills as an actress; and the whole time that she was there, she was updating her facebook status almost daily, detailing the encounters that she had and the things that she’d seen.

And then at the same time, I was reading Wolves of the Calla, where one character spent several chapters talking about his journeys in the city. The next book, Song of Susannah followed up with this plot, having the protagonists emerge into the busy city and finding their way around.

Both of these things combined made pretty solid lenses for me to glimpse into another world, one unlike the one that I had lived in all my life. I mean, the farthest I have ever gone from Malaysia was to Madras (now Chennai), India, and that was when I still had to be carried around in diapers! I have never seen the world outside of Asia, and I would very much like to.

(which is why I’m doubly hoping that I would win the Manchester Fiction Writing Prize – so that I can travel halfway across the world. Looking at the travel prices, however, has crushed half my soul)

So when Sharon put out the request for someone to fetch her from the airport on September 1, I thought that it was as good an opportunity as any to explore my options concerning the place. And in our conversations about her summer there, she told me about how artists – actors, musicians, and yes, even writers – are able to carve a living out for themselves despite the competition and a market that is so full of incredibly, insanely talented people. You didn’t have to be crazily successful to live there – just good enough to work, and that’s it.

This was all very new to me. I mean, if I could have a future where I could continue to tell stories through my writing, and earn a living out of it, I would be a very happy person. Really – that would be enough for me. If I can write my stories and sell them for enough money that I don’t have to worry about paying the bills, and I can focus on higher endeavors with the financial worries out of the way, I think that life would be very much fulfilling.

“I want to do that,” Sharon had said, “I don’t want to work a day job and then pursue this as a hobby – I want to be able to call it my profession.”

That makes two of us, I guess.

18. One Day

One Day, I’d like to pack up some essentials in a backpack, put some money in my wallet, slip on a pair of sneakers, and walk south.

(before I go any further, I think it is important to note that this desire does not stem from any disappointment that I am feeling at the current moment)

It’s a ridiculously romantic idea – to leave everything you know behind and to walk out into that big, unfamiliar, dangerous world that’s out there. Stopping when you need to rest, eating when you need to eat, working odd jobs to get money when you run out of it, and living each day without having to worry for the next. But that’s what it is – ridiculous and romantic.

(I find myself using that word more often than I’d like these days – “romantic” – but is there any other word that means “an idealistic notion”?)

Of course, it’s been done before – that’s how people got around in the days before cars and planes, right? And this was before they invented backpacks and sneakers! And highways!

But here’s my main concern whenever the idea crops up: the streets aren’t safe these days. And who knows what could happen out there? Sure, there are no highwaymen waiting to ambush unsuspecting travelers, but with the recent popularity of automobiles, robbers looking to prey on defenseless people don’t even have to lie in waiting – they can easily pull a hit-and-run, and the whole thing will be over before you can even finish singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

(not that you would, but that’s how fast it would be if you did)

Sure, I don’t actually have to walk – driving across the country (or even countries) presents itself as a much smarter idea, but then I get this sudden, paranoid fear that my car will choose to break down and completely stop working at the worst possible moment, and then I’ll be forced to commit the rest of my journey on foot – putting myself in danger of those high-speed highwaymen all over again.

Then again, I realize that all of these problems could be overcome by simply carrying a mobile phone with me when I head out. And I’m left wondering what is it that’s stopping me from doing all of that – from making that “one day” today.

There’s always something. I’m studying, I have to go for classes. I’m working, I have to finish writing for this show. I have to make revisions to these projects. I have ministries that I have committed myself to at church. I have things to do at home. The list goes on and on.

It seems that the main obstacle standing between me and exploring that outside world has nothing to do with what is actually out there – but everything to do with what is right here, where I am.

One day, I will pack up some essentials in a backpack, put some money in my wallet, slip on a pair of sneakers, and walk south. But today isn’t that day.

And tomorrow won’t be, either.