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Jan 21, 2019 14:21:18

Berlin, Berlin (3)

by @jasonleow | 1254 words | 477🔥 | 516💌

Jason Leow

Current day streak: 477🔥
Total posts: 516💌
Total words: 313892 (1255 pages 📄)

A #10YearChallenge for writing. A short story from 10 years ago. Read part 1 and 2 here.

This was a story I wrote from my travels maybe a decade ago. It's fun re-reading old writings, and learn about how my writing voice had changed through the years. 

This is the last of the 3 instalments of this short story. Why did I bother sharing it?

Maybe it was about reconnecting with the writer in me. I used to write a lot more. And I wrote lots of random sh*t just for the fun of it - poetry, journalistic pieces, stream-of-consciousness essays, micro-fiction, blogs. After starting back on writing on 200wad, I realised how homogeneous my writing had become. And it tends to come from just one side of the brain - the rational, intellectual side - and increasingly disembodied from the senses, feelings, emotions. 

Perhaps by re-reading and sharing this short story, I hope to rekindle that diversity that my writing used to embrace. It feels good to engage all of me, beyond just work and career, beyond just the intellect. After all, we human beings are complex creatures. We are more than our jobs and our tweets, more complex than our reason and logic. If anything, being able to write in the myriad of ways which makes us human, makes me come alive to my own humanness.  

Now, to conclude the story...

                                                           . . . . . . . . . . . .

She was seated by one of the rest benches along the museum corridor, and as I approached, her slightly woeful countenance lit up a weak smile. I was struck by her picture of frozen serenity.

It was just a few moments ago that we had trudged through knee-high snow around the Jewish Museum just to appreciate the architectural design. It felt impossibly cold, and snowflakes fell in a manner that suggested they were in the slumber of floating dreams - and they fell continuously, all around us.

The white purity. The pristine silence. The soft crunch of our careful steps. The timbre of our voices emanating a warm ebbing echo within the chill of our throats. The sublimity of the mundane we celebrated by the simple joy of a simple walk. She told me about what her grandmother used to do to keep warm when winters in Germany were unbearably cold. I told her about how silly I was to wear sneakers in this snow. I think she laughed.

Frozen serenity.

But she was ill from a cold she had caught, which never went away. Taking seat next to her, she mentioned something about it being chilly, and immediately my scarf found her neck.

"Take it. I'm not really cold."

With that weak, frozen smile again, she accepted my offer with a grateful nod.

We went on browsing about the various exhibits, occasionally drifting away from each other. Before long she shivered slightly again. This time, I offered her my jacket. Again, the silent smile and nod. It was warming to give, especially yo such grace. It really was.

We drifted off amongst the countless exhibits, but alone this time. I walked into an installation art piece which featured hundreds of round iron plates with holes punched right through, each one depicting morose faces in pain and suffering. The room echoes with metal 'clings' and 'clangs' with each step I took on them. Towards the end of the room, I took seat on those poor, cold faces and proceeded to snap a few pictures. The dimness of the room with a lone ray of impersonal cold, the sounds of the iron face-plates being stepped on - the room emanated a desolation that induced much empathy for the unspeakable suffering during the war.

As I snapped away with my camera, she strolled towards me, bursting through the lone light ray like a divine angel.

Like a frosted fire glowing in abyssal darkness.

On the third floor, there was an artificial wishing tree, where visitors could write on small apple-shaped cards their every desire, and hang it up on the tree branches.

"Hey......" she tugged at my arms, pointing out the said tree.

We got a card each, and in almost prayer-like fashion wrote upon the card. I took slightly longer, lingering upon the metaphorical significance of tree, the questions plaguing my mind, my wonderful company. In the end, I asked for grace of elucidation.

Just as tree take from the Life of the Earth and in turn bequeath upon us all further, greater life, I wish I have the grace and courage to see and live up to that allusion where my ceaseless taking from the great reservoir of life around me would in turn bring my unconditional joy.

I left mine stuck somewhere between the roots, placed almost carelessly like it had dropped off from the treetop, or abandoned. I thought the roots, the ground, would be a good place to start if I had really wished what I wrote.

M climbed up a short ladder where she carefully hung her card amongst the leaves. I thought of asking her about what she wrote, for I had partly wished for her well-being and I wondered if our wishes crossed paths in any way. But my better sense of judgement pulled the question from my lips. Better not pry, I thought. With the well-wishing done, we again wandered off into the maze of the museum corridors.

The pace of the day seemed to have mirrored the manner by which the snow was falling. At long last we found ourselves, exhausted browsing the endless exhibits, and staggered out of the winding, labyrinth-like corridors towards the exit. Collecting our coats, we eased slowly into them, and as she was still wearing my scarf, I wrapped hers around my neck instead. It was strangely comforting to exchange means of warmth - perhaps that was the poignancy I've been feeling all day, a feeling that pervaded the air like sweet perfume.

We strolled towards the U-Bahn station, towards home, towards warmth. Along the way, we indulged in a chocolate crepe each, made fresh from a side shop in the underground station. I wasn't hungry, but seeing she was, I gave in and took one as well. Licking the delicious hazelnut chocolate between the fluffy crepe, while we continued on our slow connections, tasted of completion.

The simple completion of sharing warmth on a cold, winter day.

                                                           . . . . . . . . . . . .

Walking into the departure security check section of the airport, I turned around and blew her a kiss. She waved one last goodbye, smiling that usual radiant smile. Then, turning, she walked off, not looking back once.It was farewell, but also a vision of our separate futures too, perhaps, as we both headed off in our unique destinations, clouded by a lingering haze of a promise of reunion yet to materialize. Perhaps it will. Maybe it will not.

Languid girl shakes his sky but
beneath her picture it's still a
vision in shadows.

Certainly, visions in shadows it had been. Will the shadows lift?

Can it?

Should it?


From Jason Leow's collection:

  • 1

    @jasonleow "Perhaps by re-reading and sharing this short story, I hope to rekindle that diversity that my writing used to embrace. It feels good to engage all of me, beyond just work and career, beyond just the intellect."

    This really resonated with me. I'd like to expand my writing beyond just "intellectual" stuff and into more personal or fictional stuff.

    I think for me the decision to limit my writing maybe comes from uncertainty on how to share it and it not feeling as "productive". But now I think not everything has to be.

    Keenen Charles avatar Keenen Charles | Jan 29, 2019 15:00:33
    • 1

      @keenencharles cool glad it resonated for you too. ? Yes the misconception that writing has to be productive did creep up on me too. It's so habitual isn't it?!

      On the side, interestingly I didn't have that thought that you quoted until I started writing it. It wasn't like something I already knew and then proceeded to write it down. It was emergent from trying to make sense and put abstract feelings in my head into the physical world. So writing does help in personal exploration (relating to what you were saying in the thread in your post)!

      Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Jan 30, 2019 13:01:45
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