Friday, December 23, 2005

Our Son and the Water Shortage

When the water shortage comes along
he’s been waiting all his life for it,
all nine years for something to need him as the
water needs him now. He becomes
its protector – he stops washing, till dirt
shines on the bones behind his ears
over his brain, and his hands blaze like
dark badges of love. He will not
flush the toilet, putting the life of the
water first, until the bowl
crusts with gold like the heart’s riches and his
room stinks, and when I sneak in and
flush he almost weeps, holds his
hands a foot apart in the air and
says do I know there is only about
this much water left! He befriends it, he
sits by its bedside as if it is a dying
friend, a small figure of water
gleaming on the sheets. He keeps a tiny
jar to brush his teeth in, till green
bugs bathe in its scum, but talk about
germs and he’s willing to sacrifice his health
to put the life of the water first, its
helplessness breaks his heart, the way it
waits at all the faucets in the city for the
cocks to be turned, and then it cannot
help itself, it has to spill
to the last drop. Weeks go by and
our son is glazed with grime, and every
cell of dirt upon his body is a
molecule of water saved and he
loves those tiny molecules
translucent as his own flesh in the spring, this
thin vivid liquid boy who has
given his heart to water, element
so much like a nine-year-old – you can
cut it, channel it, see through it and
watch it, then, a fifty-foot
tidal wave, approaching your house
and picking up speed as it comes.

By Sharon Olds


Unlike my friends Cheong and Gilbert, I find it extremely difficult to write about my childhood. I’ve tried several times and they all ended up either too prosy or too sentimental. I seriously suspect I am trying to suppress certain episodes of my childhood’s memories. What could they be?

Was it that time when I “accidentally” saw some girls bathing along the river? Maybe it was that time when I “accidentally” played my uncle’s video tape assuming all tapes labelled Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs must be, ahem, about the fairly tale? Gosh, childhood is indeed a dangerous time where “accidents” happenes so frequently.

Like the boy in the above poem, I do have certain obsessions when I was a kid. One particular obsession stood out from the rest, i.e. I was obsessed with comma. Yupe, I was obsessed with this --> (,). I love to spend my free time counting commas in story books. Not only that, I organized competitions for my story books and declared the book with the most commas wins. Weird right?

Maybe I wasn't weird, maybe I was bored. I don't know. So who wants to count the number of commas in this post?

(Updated on 28 December 2005)


Fred said...

I wanted to stop by and wish you a great holiday season, Alson. Enjoy!

Alson Teo said...

Thanks Fred!

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year too. :)

Bluesky_Liz said...

I feel along the same lines about my childhood, seem like a great resource, but somehow when I try to get down to it, it's very hard.

Alson Teo said...

I’ve also wanted to write about my village where I spent the bulk of my childhood’s days. But again, I find it very difficult to do so.

blue_blue_bedsheet said...

I was pretty weird child. I do believe i had an obsession to poke holes in every 'nian gao' my babysitter makes for chinese new year, and to arrange everything in our old neighbourhood provision shop according to the colour sequence of a rainbow!(nearly got killed by my nanny and the shopkeeper)