Diary of Tarantula Lau – February 16th

17 04 2017

I cut through the university grounds today. Found a gap in the fences around the large field by the gate and walked on the grass to feel it under my feet. It was brittle, and pale yellow – the color high class women favor for the parlor or the bedroom walls.

I wanted to fill my eyes with only one thing. Ignoring my black boots and dark green stockings, I was able to do so. The pale yellow seeped into every corner of my vision. It reminded me of the day they gave me away.

We were the first ones to walk on the blanket of snow that had fallen the night before. She was sniffling, but I don’t think she was crying. He coughed, because he’d spent another night sleeping by the stove in the folding bamboo chair. Our kang was narrow. Three pairs of footprints made a black trail of footprints behind us, but the ground before us was pristine, monochrome, glinting and almost blue.

I left the field, and walked over the bridge. For some reason, every university in China has a river running through it, and at least three bridges.

There was an old woman in a small grassy clearing surrounded by trees. The glade and the veranda reminded me of old ink prints of imperial concubines – Consort Yang with attendants on a terrace. Except the old woman, though zaftig with the bulk of several outer garments, would never be mistaken for a great beauty of ancient China.

Head down, she paced slowly across the clearing, contemplating each footstep like it would be her last. I wondered how she came to be at the very center of the university, if this was part of her routine. Her daily bread.

Rise at seven, and pass through the neighborhoods flanking the school. Make her way down the stairs, across footpaths, past students, bicycles, and cars all missing her vortex. Step, slowly, for hours, to arrive at this glade, which she probably thinks of as her glade. To pace back and forth, looking at the pale winter grass, filling her eyes with just one thing.

I took the bus to Taoranting Park, and sleeping on the way, dreamt of them for the first time since coming here. They were stepping carefully through the snow, placing one foot in front of the other, like it would be their very last, and between them was a hollow.

A shadow. Just wide enough for a ghost.

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Death Spiral

20 03 2017

After I thought I lost everything, I found I could lose just a little bit more.

It started with the dieting. A meal skipped in the morning, a lunch and dinner merged. Another lap around the park. Then another. I lost. Oh how I lost. And all along the way they kept goading me, kept saying, yes, yes, you look good, you could look better if you just lose a little more. Let go of your desires a little more.

Until the day they stopped. Until the day a stranger told me to eat a burger.

Eighty pounds. Eighty pounds I carved from my body through sheer cussedness and starvation. Maddening, backbreaking exercise. Salad after salad after juice cleanse after salad. I found out that the world still ran contrary to my desires, and with that, I lost the belief that there was SOMETHING I could do, SOMEHOW, to get the amount of approval I need from the people I need it from.

I gained the feeling that I was always cold. A constant, bone-deep chill.

Then Greg told me he was leaving. Not because he stopped loving me, but because he loved me too much, or some lazy, half-sincere blather like that.

I couldn’t blame him. I hadn’t eaten since May, and my behavior of late had been…shall we say, less than kind.

Then they fired me. Something about being difficult to work with, or inability to concentrate on the task at hand, or emotionally unstable….

Then my parents were swept away, and in their wake, I jutted from the earth like a concrete monolith. Far too singular. Far too still.

I lost the ability to define myself against their greater shadow. Absent of the dark, the light is rendered only beige.

The house and the car…I didn’t lose them so much as give them up. The payments. It wasn’t going to…I wasn’t…they kept calling so…

I lost my number. The number I used since I was a tender green shoot of overweight 14 year old.

And I lost consciousness here and there and there and here. Kept losing weight. Though by now it was more of a listless drift than a concerted effort.

I found out how easy it is for a regular member of middle class society to just slip through the cracks like that. How no one can see you flailing in your own head, and no one would be bothered to do something about it, even if they could see.

It reminds me of this thing that Greg told me back when we were still together.

I was lying in bed, flattened in the aftermath of one of those crying jags that comes out of nowhere, and paints the inside of your head the color of a hospital wall. Greg had pulled out a box to distract me from my inexplicable grief, and when I opened it, it had a ring in it. A pretty little ring with a black pearl at the center that sent the linoleum flat landscape away for the time being. I put it on, and he told me he bought it because he wanted to propose to me with it, but was afraid to because it wasn’t expensive, and it wasn’t a diamond. Then he grabbed my hand, and did it anyways.

After I’d said yes, and we were lying there, content and on and off glancing at each other when Greg suddenly said

“Did you know a pilot once ejected from a plane in a nose-dive, and after he jumped out of the plane, it landed safely on the airstrip?”

“No, I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, the first thing he heard after he ejected was one of the other pilots saying ‘you better get back in'”

“How did the plane land by itself?”

“Something to do with the physics of ejecting the seat. When the pilot launched himself out, it pulled the plane out of the death spiral.”

“Death spiral?”

“It’s this thing when you’re in a plane, and it’s going at constant speed. If you tilt just a little bit, your plane might start slowly spiraling toward the ground like an object swirling towards the drain. There’s no way to physically detect it. That’s why an artificial horizon is so important.”

It occurs to me that the source of all unhappiness might be found in the curious conundrum which arises when one attempts to be oneself, while the voices of others still somehow permeates the consciousness; so that any action is either in defiance of others or a reluctant compromise that makes no one happy.





1 03 2017

It is a small ache in the chest, that with time, may give way to a sweet throbbing akin to the wake of a passing orgasm.

For now, it is still too fresh and keen. The Grey Man casts his big grey shadow across her mind. A living ghost.

She is living a life composed of a series of exorcisms. Writing, listening to sad songs, exercise, taking care to clean up after herself. A first for her. As if living to these carefully regimented new routines will change her into somebody who never met the Grey Man.

It is a curse that the Grey Man casts on those who wander too far into the dark unfathomable.

She had picked a direction and walked off one day, into the woods. Careless eyes on the new, no mind for the trajectory.

He appeared disguised as a fellow traveler. Unconcerned. Not appearing to have any intentions centered on her.

He moved around her in such wide circles that she thought they were walking parallel to each other, and by the time she realized he was penning her in on all sides, drawing clear, thick, straight lines that she could not traverse, she was mostly caught.

She still could have gotten out then. Broken the rhythm of his leading, her following. But he was leading her to places she had never been. Showing her ways of looking that she had never seen.

A curious double-vision of the world appeared before her. The Grey Man’s world. Not quite identical, superimposed over hers at an angle. Off kilter.

He started leading her to sudden drop-offs. What appeared to be flat ground would give away in a sudden plunge of vertigo, and she would find herself at 90 degrees to her former orientation, walking up the trunks of trees, breaking the treeline to see birds in the distance. The sky stretched in front of her face forward forever.

Then he started flipping her orientation by 180 degrees.

Letting her fall screaming into the sky. Hours. Days. She was gone, and he didn’t have to hear her screaming.

When he flipped her back down, sometimes he would do it gently. Sometimes not at all so. But she would always feel grateful to have her feet back on the ground.

She was so long in the Grey Man’s company that she began to forget the existence of other people. He began to grow in magnitude as she began to shrink.

She shrank so much that he began to hold her in the palm of his hand and tell her how small, how very small, and pointless she was. He would sometimes take the sky away with his other hand, and hold her down flat with his thumb.

She was so small, and grateful. To exist. Because of the Grey Man.

He would tell her things about herself. What she looked like. Who she was. Her longs and shorts. He sketched a new face on her. A new body. A new cunt. A new mind.

He put a price tag on her. He wrote a definition for her in his dictionary.

She had been so amorphous before he did this. A non-being who cost nothing. Who was practically free.

He told her what she liked, and what she hated.

She was so grateful, because she had always had such trouble deciding. And here, he had decided for her.

The Grey Man loved to talk. When he talked, his voice would block out the sun. It would shake the earth and scatter the birds. It would send a hook down and snag itself on a lid inside her that she never knew existed, and pull it shut.

She was sealed so tight and safe by the Grey Man.

The Grey Man would threaten horrible things sometimes.

He would threaten to throw her away. Tiny as she was. He would threaten to lose her. Dig a hole and chuck her in. Reverse the sky and let the speck of her fall forever.

She would beg and weep and beg when he did this.

She would bargain, though she didn’t have much. She would bargain with promises: “I won’t…anymore”, “I’ll stop…”, “I’ll change”, “I’ll be…”

Sometimes the Grey Man would convince her to dance. Then he would sit back, so he could laugh his earth-shaking laugh. Sometimes he could only see her red little face, and he would have to squint and try so hard to see the rest of her.

Sometimes the Grey Man would be kind and touch her face or her hair, and she could grow a little bit bigger for a while. Almost up to his knee.

Sometimes the Grey Man would tell her how important she was to him. How clever. How different. How she was the only one that understood him.

Sometimes, it sounded like a slogan.

Sometimes the Grey Man would hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And kiss her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And kiss her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And kiss her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her.

It was never the Grey Man’s fault.

It was usually her fault.

She wasn’t:

Pretty/Kind/Sexy/Understanding/Selfless/Experienced/Young/Clever/Slim/Innocent/Maternal/Cool/Interesting/Different/Polite

enough

She didn’t deserve. Because she wasn’t anything to him.

Sometimes she would dream of being something, and get the vague impression that there was someone shouting at her from behind a thick, heavy door. As if? She had? Been something? Before?

But it would slip away like a twig in a strong current.

And she would be come nothing again.

She became nothinger and nothinger and nothinger

The Grey Man became everythinger and everythinger and everythinger.

Soon everything was the Grey Man while nothing was her.

One day, she was so nothing and he was so everything, that while he was hitting her and hitting her, he simply forgot she ever existed, because there was nothing left to hit. Not a puddle. Not a tear. Not a smudge.

The Grey Man paused, and said

HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

and left.

She was nothing for a very. long. time.

12 universes formed. 7 died.

One day she remembered something.

The starting tumble of Fantasie Impromptu.

Another day she laughed at a queer sentence that popped into her head, and she couldn’t stop for a very long time.

The next day, she remembered something else: the smell of Rosemary

Here is a list of things she remembered after that:

  • Tetris tiles fitting together
  • Rain on asphalt
  • A German Shepherd her parents had looked after for 2 weeks when she was 16
  • Crying like the world had ended when he went away
  • Her parents
  • Being 16
  • New notebooks
  • Chanel lipstick
  • Vietnamese Pho
  • The lives of suicidal penguins narrated by Werner Herzog
  • Slam Dunk Manga
  • Pooping in a box once when the water stopped in her apartment
  • The brief delight of throwing the box down the garbage chute
  • Christmas nostalgia
  • The sea
  • Clean white sheets
  • Her body
  • How to make other people laugh
  • Other people
  • White pepper in egg drop soup
  • Cat gifs
  • Sex
  • Words
  • Clouds over Sunset Point on Route 19
  • Falling in love

She was growing. Little by little.

She did not grow into the same shape and size she was before.

She avoids the woods now. Is afraid of dark places. Of men. Blue men. Brown men. Grey men.

Her bodies remembers, and goes searching for the Grey Man.

So she is still afraid, because she has caught her body wandering around the Grey Man’s part of the woods at night.

She has to admit she looked for him.

She has to admit she misses him.

She is afraid, and she is different. His curse will forever be inside her. Be her.

She thinks she might have to grow. Grow so big that if she should see the Grey Man again, she might be the same size. Or even bigger. Big enough to pick him up and tuck him into a neat little drawer, and slide it shut. Big enough to blot out his sky.

All the same. She would prefer not to see him again. She tells herself.





Diary of Tarantula Lau – March 5th

15 09 2015

I thought I saw my mother today. My real mother. I saw her in the park. An old woman walking at sunset. The low slope of her shoulders, her side to side shuffling walk. She even held a bag at her side which swung the same they used to when we were walking back from the market. I sped up to overtake her and turned my bike around to look. The face staring back at me was so suddenly wrong it gave me a sharp jolt, and I almost fell off.

The woman opened her mouth, and I hoped for a mad moment that she’d say my name despite her incorrect countenance, but she only dismissed me and brushed past.

I watched her leave, and began sifting through the faces again. I lost track of time and the number of faces I sifted through. I kept riding until the snow began to fall. I watched it settle on my bare fingers and waited for it to melt, but it didn’t. Then I felt the cold stretching down into my bones; so I turned my bike around and came home.

When I opened the door to my building, the security guard nodded awake, and went back to watching his program. It was one of the singing programs, and a girl was singing Silent Night. Hearing the song made my stomach hurt. I know it’s cliché to be affected by a song like Silent Night because all the people in stories are moved by a song like that when they are cold and lonely and alone, but the reason things like that happen in books is that they happen in real life.

I went up to my flat, stripped naked and just looked at myself in the mirror. I looked sort of small and dark and insignificant. I wonder if she would recognize me if we happened to pass each other. I wonder if she had to break herself of the habit of looking for my face in the crowds. I tried to break myself of that habit because it did not make any logical sense to be looking for her in American shopping malls when I knew very well she was all the way back in China. I thought I’d forgotten, nevertheless, I’m here.

I turned on the faucet and let it fill up the sink for few minutes before soaking my still-frozen hands in near-scalding water. The tingle that went through me was sister to what I felt when I heard that girl sing Silent Night.