Question of the Day

Written by Cherie Koh

“Is it possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?”

It’s not untrue that I spend a great amount of my time, if not too much – thinking of the things that have happened in my life and the motivations I have put into achieving such moments and its final denouement that was all but disappointing. I try to be precise, but sometimes a puzzle remains unsolved and I’m no Conan so I don’t know why things happen the way they do, or did. Some times it confuses me, but most days it makes me retreat into quiet somnolence not knowing what to do with all these carefully preserved images, pickled delicacies put on a shelf to age well.

If I know you, then chances are I’ve written about you. Maybe not a thirteen-page tear jerker, but definitely something – a line, a verse or two, maybe soliloquy in a quatrain… but somewhere, something I wrote about you.

Two years ago, I found myself not being able to clasp my hands because I was used to holding someone else’s. There was something about holding your own hands that defiled the innocence that fingers brought to mind; letting on hope that was concomitant with the act of prayer. The gaps of my fingers with its jutted bones curled inwards whenever I tried to lace them together. It was an unnatural, almost grotesque gesture that was neither pleasant nor reserved, contrary to common schoolgirl etiquette. And so it was, I wouldn’t have to say Grace (not that I found myself having to, anyway) or had there been any occasion that required me to club my fingers into a semi-balled fists.

Nor could I ever forget a vacant room diagonally opposite mine, emptying out its contents and shipping its belongings and its owner across the pond. I stood numbly in the early hours nearing dawn, and once more in the afternoon when the rain fell and obstructed my proper farewell.

One winter night last year, it was one of the colder months – in the drunken haze on the cobblestoned streets on the way to St. Cath’s, there was another story. In fact, it transformed into a 4am piece a month later, my mind trying to dredge up whatever that was left from that late night of hand-holding and painful twenty minutes walk. It was comical, but also cruel – the way the the night ended but always pleasantly tucked in the prefrontal cortex.

But if it wasn’t for that winter night, then I probably wouldn’t have received a call in March and no one would have been able to tell me how thick the snow was in Miyagi in early Spring for an hour or talk about spiders two weeks after I was in Prague. This one deserves more words than all the others, but I would be giving too much away and most importantly, I fear it will taint the way these were collected: selfishly detailed and painfully rare to come across.

The thing is, no I don’t think it is ever possible to understand anything, or anyone completely. Not towards another human being, nor towards events and instances. I don’t know why I felt the need to speak of the days I remember so clearly of things and certain persons and that it took so long to answer a question I was confident in answering. I suppose it makes me slightly sad to think of these as just transient phases in my life that I am so determined to retain; it agitates me that the effort one has put into attaining the most ideal outcomes only stays in the limelight for so long, before taking a permanent leave of absence without any explanation. I suppose the only consolation for one is that: truth exists, even if it exists in secrecy.

vincit omnia veritas


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