Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
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Vol. 2 No. 3 Apr 2003

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To Leave The Morning

By Ma Shaoling

For some time already, she has been a morning person.
There is always something very decisive about waking up. About making the effort to be awake, early.

There is always some satisfaction in placing the book sleepily discarded by her bed the night before, knowing that the story would go on without her.
There is always some delicacy in preparing the coffee machine, laying out the cup, but not yet making the drink. Till later. Approximately later, she will be able to sip.

All these routines, yet they fail to make each other day less strange.
She does not know why, she makes her bed when she will be returning to sleep back in.
She still does not understand, why she closes the door so softly, when there is no one at home who she might disturb.
In fact, she neither reads, nor can she bear the taste of coffee.

So in fact there is nothing strange at all, for by these moments early morning, it’s about the only time her heart beats for infirmity.

The door closes.

To get to the jogging trail along the canal, she has to cross a street where cars sound with hurried reluctance. Drivers horn to rush each other along, but distress hides a secret desire to be late.
These are all morning persons, or so it seems.
The morning is only too aware, that scorns make a bad greeting.

A quiet one sped past. Smiling.

For this one crossing, her street is narrow. Too short a crossing to worry about the traffic. Such things can be left for the afternoon. For the morning now, for the air still asleep, there are more important things waiting.

She paces her walk till the canal is in sight. She stretches her body across the morning dampness, and remembers each night as she draws circles on her bed with her toes.
She takes a deep breath and wonders if today she should walk instead. But the thought of walking seems always too insincere; too much of a let down after making the effort to wake up. She dreads disappointment, and especially dreads disappointing others. For the latter then becomes another secret that the world has to be let known to. Maybe that is why, for some time already, she has been a punctual person, oh yes, and of course a morning one at that.

And so at this point of the morning, for many mornings already, she has always decided to run.
And for some time already, she runs with him. For him, and to him.
Today he passes by with the same quiet excitement – last night, as it has been for several nights already, he dreamt that he will leave. He will leave all these behind, all these that confine, and become free. Freer to go to places he has always dreamed of, freer to go as who he wants to be.
This morning, as it has been for several mornings already he wakes up optimistic. He tells her, proudly and assuring, that he is prepared for the trip.
‘After this stretch of shallow waters, after these meters ... You will not miss me.’

She listens.

As she listens to him, they have missed the dawn and it is bright enough to see that they are ready. Ready for his leaving, ready for her to be there to see him leave.
For some time since they have been meeting, she does not ask if the night before he has had a different dream. Never once, has she enough courage to whisper to him gently – ‘this morning is still not the day, yet’.
The day when she can see him go, and will not run with him anymore. Not after him, nor for him.

But this morning is not yet that day.

The jogging trail marks in yellow every 200 metres. From the end where she usually starts, she will glance at the mark, and inhale a breath, in which that second of a breath, closes her eyes and imagines. At the beginning where she usually ends, she would have crossed 10 of these yellow markers. Those markers yellow. Or yellowed. Depending on the form of the word, she sometimes likes to play with the ontology of the trail.

They run at the same pace, she knows that because every time she turns around, he is always by her side, on her right. Neither of them pauses to walk, nor to stretch, because she knows he is too excited, and he knows that she does not want to be left behind.
As they run, he is often the silent one. She, on the other hand, tells him of her schedule for the day. Depending on her mood, sometimes the real schedule is told, sometimes a constructed one is. It is only natural she does not want him to know, that sending him off is actually the most anticipated activity she has planned for herself.
A girl, and even an early-riser at that, must always have other plans.

By the 9th mark, neither of them is breathless, because that is when he starts to slow down. He is seeing - the mist is clearing – that this morning is still not the day.
He turns around to look at her, and she does the same.
It is still morning, and he is still here.
This morning he cannot leave, and this morning she will be happy.

They pace the remaining distance back, he insists on doing so. She pretends to believe his explanation, and so she pretends to be tired. But she knows only too well, that it’s because he is too sad. Too sad that he is still here.
There, by her side, he cannot be happy.

They reach the end of the beginning, the last of the first mark that says in yellow - 0 meters.
As always he asks her if she thinks the day may be tomorrow.
As always he never says if he wants her to send him off.
Most importantly he never asks if she wants to come along, because she never says that she, too, dreams to go.
She never once admits, that she too, for some time already, been dreaming the same dream.

So she goes home, alone, forgotten is how she even woke up the morning. Forgotten is how she chases the night away, along with what she sees.
She turns on the tap, let the water run, and feels the coldness as if it was like touching him.
And then she soaks in the bath, already thinking of tomorrow’s morning. Ignoring the goose pimples on her skin, she disregards the noon ahead.

The rest of the day has already grown accustomed to it. Since for some time already, she pretends to be a morning person, someone who can bravely wake up.
Someone who has a friend to send off. A relationship in sending.
A friend, unlike her, who dares to remember the night and its dream. Unlike her, he rouses to disappointment. Unlike him, she wakes to run away from.

Outside, 8 am, the canal passes by with allayed presence. Last night he dreamt himself leaving.
As it has been for several nights already, he dreamt himself becoming a river.

QLRS Vol. 2 No. 3 Apr 2003


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