I am struck with an illness whose impending threat I do not know. For long, I have
foreseen my aging years and my weakening body; why, then, should I be startled? Yet, I am
perfectly fine. But I think too much of this dread; I am confined by my mind. Now, I think I am
only thinking. Nothing else. My senses cease, and I end my relations with society; I cannot think
of its authority, I do not feel it. I am vile thoughts of worry, and they are me. My physical self is
all flesh, and the consciousness of the mind is unknown—I don’t know anything. I imagine the
infinite fathoms against my resistance to the illness, and I don’t see the meaning. They don’t
show their physical form, they are intangible. It is so limited. But I feel its fervor, it is so
immense that I don’t feel it’s restraint. I feel it and I am; am I my illness? But it hasn’t dwelled
on me. I know it. But my thoughts have, and I am thinking. I think I am the resistance, the
vicious thoughts, the fundamental worry.
This has appeared before me as two states of existence, one where I know I am present in
this world and one where I know I am not. And when I am not, I am in myself, with the self that
is in me. But what is me? Thoughts? Should I fade away? I am alone.
Walking home at night, I reserved the evening free of work from the academy. I needed space to
myself—an emptiness of mind. While I was advised not take any more walks, I refused the
premise wholly. During times like this, I do not think of my illness when I am free of
responsibilities. The trees greeted me, and I saw the stars twinkling faintly in the sky. I think my
students are still struggling with self-imposition, stifling over the anguish of tests. But I needn’t
think how the sun’s imminent cast would soon bathe everyone under its reveal of calamities. I
am, hence, relieved of any relations to the objects I see. And in correspondence to the night, I
would then greet my students the next day (if it’d be a weekday) with a content face. Although, I
have not seen this face in others—certainly not my students. I could never see it in myself either;
by the time I stand before a mirror, it would have already been in the middle of the day and my
expression would have already changed.
The following day did not rain. The air was not humid, but instead warm with tender
breezes. The streets swept leaves of golden flakes. My gathering with former colleagues was in
an hour and I exited my house into the streets that smelled sweet of the last breaths of blossoms.
It struck me odd that many stores I passed were closed. Two guards greeted me before
the entrance of a store, and they raised their arms in a wave. But I smiled back impassively.
Then, the one on the left who appeared like a fragile creature, murmured something, that I did
not hear. He had neither the gait nor the physical stature of a guard. Swiftly, he glanced at me,
and I was hopeless of his dewy eyes that stirred the air of pity; it was so feebly suggested that I
construed of no fear, and slowly I found myself gravitating towards him.
“What would you like to tell me?” I asked. The two guards stood and looked at me
dumbfounded. I repeated, “What is it that you would like to tell me?”
“You see,” the guard who lured me in began, “I cannot—” He stopped suddenly, his
mouth agape. The sun was shining fiercely; I felt my cheeks searing—a moment of unbearable
stance. The streets were getting busy, filled with laughter as they passed. The buses honked
incessantly at the delaying traffic and—oh my friends who are waiting, I thought. At this
moment, I was annoyed, almost indignant at seeing these through my senses; I wanted to
submerge myself into fury, I felt my senses going numb. Then the other guard broke in
“Where is it that you are heading?”
“Why should I tell you?” I replied with hostility. Of course, I was then reminded of my
possible late arrival. Not only did I feel uncomfortable at his impersonal inquiry, but I also saw
my stupidity. “If I arrived late, would I anger my two friends who out of their lives have so
kindly invited me?” These guards, ignorant as they were, are wholly so without a bit of
competence. Do they always irritate people and exploit their time with worthless pleasantries?
They are negligent to the world, and they cannot but help to disturb someone, waving their hands
to people like dying branches of trees. These people are sick, absolutely sick! They must lure
people and distract them of their position as guards, contriving a moment of occupancy with
themselves. Now, I think of my illness. My senses are decaying, I cannot see the things around
me; I am concerned only with myself. I can feel my anguish, binding me against the futile fancy
of escape. I am held in a strain of dignity; I cannot manifest these thoughts but endure them
within until they render me mad; I wanted to shout at them, tell them of their impotency: “I’ll
escape very swiftly, and then they can’t do anything.” I felt like a heartless being. I was about to
leave when the guard took hold of me as if knowing what I was going to do.
“You must not leave; we haven’t finished.” I glared at him. Across the street, I saw a
drunken man walking. He gained much attention. Someone yelled: “Look how free he is!” I
thought of myself as the drunken man. He looked like he wasn’t suffering. But that could be the
alcohol. He slowly dazed off the curb. And I started thinking about myself: is my suffering from
an unknown cause any better than that of the man? The swift thought ended with a fading howl
of repentance. The collision was brief. Sputters of blood petals blew in the air. Then silence
dawned upon, until fleeing women and children screamed in agony. The sun continued to blaze,
and I thought about the time; too much was going on; the disarray of my meeting was my fault; I
shouldn’t have stopped; the death of nonchalance along a busy street—no I dared not think of
that; instead of anything going about my way, all that was achieved was two men void of any
capability that I cannot but grieve at their sight, the susceptibility of my state of mind.
Just as I summoned the courage to speak to the guards, they walked away, and another
pair came for the position. I was left alone. I thought about the impending night, about the
serenity that was to ensue on my way back home. But it has marked itself as a prison wall over
which I cannot climb. My composure at night contrasts with my current loathing. I know all this,
and I cannot condemn the situation. Two thoughts govern me: the mystic night and my friends
who have undoubtedly grown furious.
By Andy Liang