New York, Singapore
When people ask me what the MFA program is like I tend to compare it to having a nutritionist or physiotherapist – you identify the areas where you want your body (of work) to be strengthened, enriched, fixed, and a specialist works with you through small, cumulative repetitions to the end of extending, widening your range of movements. In that light it feels telling that I am taking not one, but two classes that have to do specifically with time, and on top of that, a lecture by a writer who is also preoccupied with dismantling the presence of a clock in every work of fiction. In my masterclass, (mis)adventures in time, ayana mathis asked during our first meeting what the significance of time was… how it functions, specifically, in each of our lives.. automatically I replied it seems to exist purely to frustrate me. And it is true, I sometimes feel like time is something I dip in and out of, but of course what I am starting to see is that, inevitably, it is something one is bound to, happily or unhappily it progresses and with it we must go or rage.
In The Time Traveller’s Wife, which was a favorite book of ours (shane and i, when we were twenty one), audrey niffeneger explains time travel as traced back to a gene that causes one to be chronologically displaced, involuntarily dropping in and out of time, and it was an idea that immediately echoed in me… so much of my life I have tried to organize in boxes and discipline into schedules, I like timetables, the rigidity, the solidity of something that I can rely on when otherwise things dance around in my brain with no fidelity to order. But when you live in a body that lacks chronological rigor things old and past can seem fresh and new, sometimes intrusively, sometimes pleasantly. Was it seven years ago that we took the train together from the west to the east and found each other familiar or six and a half that shane bought me a plate of NTUC sashimi to cheer me up after a long day of wrangling with an essay on modernism? Or just yesterday that he read me a poem on the ADM roof and asked me to be his girlfriend – was it this morning that I replied oh, finally or two months ago that i read the play he wrote, the play with which he asked me to marry him, or just a year before that I said, as a writer i will be broke forever, are you sure … round and round my memories go, mixed in an undiscerning swirl.
Perhaps ten years from now I will be confused as to whether we had gotten the dog or married first, or if the fights preceded the apologies or vice versa. Perhaps my need to record has always traced back to a need to explain to myself the order of things, this happened, and then this, and then we got older, and time compressed here, here, and lingered here. Perhaps. But for now it is enough to say that it feels new and fresh and amazing and wonderful and fun and incredible and all the things that! I woke up one day and! We were six.