Academia is an act of dreaming

Thinking is so hard. Sometimes stuff floats out of the detritus of the everyday. I can dream while awake, drifting like seaweed through aisles in a supermarket, and somehow I’ve put a thought together and then another and then another and it becomes a paper, an argument, something that hangs cogently. Sometimes it is like this where I am at my desk and I am writing here because I cannot and do not know how to write elsewhere. That I have a million words in my head and no way to give shape to thought. But the knowledge that eventually I will. That time is sure, embodies surety. And the knowledge that when I will, that when I write, I will not only give shape to thought but foreclose it. How thrilling to exist in this gap, to know that I know something beyond what I can articulate. What is the present tense of “wrought”? What is the space before something is “wrought”? Here is where I am now. I think about writing and it is like spelunking. Do you know what it feels like to wake up from a dream so vivid you have to write it down immediately? And yet how all you can muster are stutters, groups of words confused as sheep in a field, too plain for the fast-fading dream. Ocean liner 1611. A man who drowns another man, and I fall in love with him. Notes from a dream I had last night. Before I write I am in this space, the space before the dream fades and before I put it down. To write is to reverse-engineer a dream and to find it concrete and disappointing. To see a dance club in daylight. But also how the more you write, the more you remember, the more you know. That writing is inevitable. Again I am here because I am struggling elsewhere. But the struggle is delightful. It is as real and as delightful as a jazz apple cold from the fridge.


Ang Mo Kio St. 42

Three girls, legs thick, hair tangled, walking down the street in staggered formation. Two of them eating milky popsicles. A third nosing a bar of ice-cream out of a plastic cup. Shoes white. They are still babyish-short, waiting to unfold, like promise crammed into a flower bud. I look for the ice-cream cart. There it is, parked outside Deyi, crimson and inviting, uncle’s umbrella folded away like a swan wing. A group of boys buzzes around it. I’m suddenly fifteen again, or maybe eight, where bubble tea isn’t Koi but is nameless syrup from nameless HDB shops, a loyalty card tired-out in my velcro wallet, every stamp inching me closer to a heavenly free cup; where after-school snacks were fried chicken and chocolate milkshakes and ice-cream, yes, and hours before dinner-time.