continuation of issue 2
i am i am i am
FROM WHAT HE HAS SAID, IT IS OBVIOUS THAT HE DOES NOT BELIEVE IN LOVE, WHICH IS THE OBSTACLE FOR HIM EVEN TO HAVE A GOOD SPOSE. HE HAS A LOVER. HIS FANS WANT TO KNOW WHO HIS LOVER IS. BUT IT SEEMS THAT HE DOES WANT TO ANNOUNCE WHO SHE IS. IT MIGHT BE THAT HE HAS NO INTENTION TO MARRY HER OR SHE HAS NO INTENTION TO MARRY HIM. She types.
I wonder why she typed so. I am not sure whether I answered that I did not believe in love. In fact, I have even no idea what she asked me about love. Did she ask me whether I believe in love? If she asked me like that, my answer would be nothing but yes.
No matter what her question was. No matter what my answer was. It is wrong that she typed like that. I believe in love. Love is so powerful. Love can change the world. Love can build the world. Here the meaning of the word love I refer may differ from that of the word love she knows or the others know. We know love in our own ways. We define love in our own ways. Your knowledge about love might differ from my knowledge about love. Your definition of love might differ from my definition of love. In fact, I have many things to say about love. However, I can’t. I must admit that I am like the one who has many stories to tell but is unable to speak.
According to what she has typed, I have a lover who I don’t want to marry or who does not want to marry me. I think I should know who and what she is. Is she beautiful or ugly? Is she generous or stingy? Is she educated or uneducated? Is she polite or rude? Is she intelligent or stupid? I know nothing about her. Don’t you think that it is strange I know nothing about my lover?
I, with the hope of getting some hints of her thoughts, try to study the expression on her face without her knowledge. Surely she is lost in thought. Or it could be that she is like a hermit focusing the mind on a certain object. It might be that she is concentrated. Or it might be that she is meditating on something she has typed or what she will type. Does she have something to say about love? Does she have a boy friend or a lover or husband?
No one pays any attention to what we are talking. No one seems to be interested in our talk. No one seems to be curious. Curiosity seems to be a danger to them. Curiosity seems to be a trap to them. They seem to be afraid of curiosity or even the word curiosity. Or their curiosity seemed to be crushed. That is bad.
My curiosity has not been crushed. It remains original. I want to know things. Sometimes I want to know even what others are thinking. I want to intrude their minds to investigate their thoughts. It is a certain type of hacking into others’ mind. I know well that it is illegal. If so, let me ask: what is legal? Who does have power to judge what legal action is and what illegal action is? A certain action is legal according a certain law. A certain action is illegal according to a certain law. And the question is: who makes law? These thoughts are working in my mind. Are these thoughts legal or illegal? Is there a certain Article of a certain law which allows these thoughts? Is there a certain Article of a certain law which prohibits these thoughts?
Mar Wai. A name enters my mind. It is her name.
Mar Wai is thinking of what happened to her in the past. Surely she had badly past experiences. Everything she underwent when she was young was a nightmare, and she can’t imagine how she could bear and overcome every hardship. When she was a child, her mother died in prison. Mar Wai’s mother was a very strong political activist, a very strong-minded person like her grandfather on her mother’s side. Mar Wai’s father is apolitical. But he did not forbid his wife to take part in political activity. Her father’s second marriage after her mother’s death made her hopeless, helpless, and she tried to suicide. Fortunately or unfortunately her attempt to suicide failed. From then onward she came to see the light of life. She came to realize that her father’s marriage to another woman was not abnormal, but normal. And in her eyes, her father becomes an ordinary father who lives as an ordinary human. But the trauma does not leave her. It remains rooted in a deep part of her mind.
In reality she wants to erase every data in her memory about her childhood, about her views of life, about her. When her mother was in prison, she was belittled: she was despised: she was bullied. Fate was not on her side. The word fortunate seemed to be a censored word for her. She had no play mate. No one dared to play with her. Even her cousins dared not to play with her. No one dared to go to school with her. Even her cousins dare not to go to school with her. No one dared to be friend with her. Even her cousins dared not to be friend with her. All shunned her as far as they could. She detected their fear in their eyes and in actions. She therefore realized the nature of fear. Fear is a barrier to freedom. As far as she can recall, she felt lonely, but she did not feel depressed.
And now she is thinking of the meaning of life. Life is really a dream. Nothing more than a dream. She feels that she is being in a dream.
Now she is thinking about me. She thinks that I am dodging some questions. She asked me a few minutes ago how I felt when the first film in which I starred as a psychic murderer; I replied that I did not want to say about things in the past. In reality, I am unsure whether I have starred as a psychic murderer in a film. I am not certain about my first film. To be exact, I have no idea about what she is speaking. That is why I gave such answer. But she thinks now that I intentionally avoided her question because I did not want to say about it. Indeed I have nothing to say about it. If I said like that, my answer would be very rude, and she would be angry with me. My answer might be something which would beckon danger. Now I use the word danger intentionally or unintentionally. Is this situation not a danger to me? At present, no one shows the sign of aggression on their faces. But if I do or say something against the plan they’ve devised, I will surely be attacked by them.
To be honest, I don’t like such character. Whenever I watched the film about a psychic murderer, I felt uneasy. But it is strange that I can’t help watching such film. Last month I read a novelette titled Piercing, and I felt restless. It was written by Ryu Murakami in Japanese and translated by Thint Lu into Burmese. I did not read the original version but the Burmese version. It was my friend who advised me to read it. I don’t know why I remember these things. I even remember the name of my friend who gave me a tip to read it. He is Myo Minn Zaw. I even remember the Burmese title of the novelette. It is Sue. Are all these things real? Does Myo Minn Zaw is real? Does he really exist? Does Ryu Murakami really exist? Does Thint Lu really exist? Are they the writer and translator in my imagination? And how about Piercing and Sue? Are they the titles in my imagination? Is Piercing really the title of a novelette in English version? Is Sue really the title of a novelette in Burmese version? Did I really read it? Did I read it as an actor or as someone else? Or are all these things unreal? I must tell someone about Piercing or Sue, or about Ryu Murakami or Thint Lu, and ask him whether all those are real or not. Whom I must ask now? You? Or someone else?
Is there someone I can trust? Is there someone who loves justice? Is there someone who is detached? It is hard for me to have confidence in anyone now. I sense that everyone is trying to force me to accept the false fact that I am an actor. But maybe it is a fact that I am an actor, and it is a fiction that I sense so. If they are right, I will be wrong and surely I get paranoid.
I am unsure whether I really have intruded into her mind: it might be just a figment, too.
‘Can you tell me what drove you to be an actor?’
‘Nothing to say.’ This is what I want to say. What I really say is: ‘I had a dream to be an actor even in my boyhood.’
‘Oh, amazing, really amazing’ She exclaims.
I know it is just pretention. What I said is not something amazing.
I add, ‘However, I don’t know why I had such dream. I don’t think that there was no reason. Actually I don’t know the reason behind my dream to be an actor.’ While speaking so, I ask myself whether I am telling truth or telling lies. Am I a good liar? I seem to be sure that I am not telling lies, that I am not a liar. If so, what am I? Am I an actor as they said? Am I someone as I think? To certify that I am not an actor, I must have several documents. To certify that I am someone else, I must have several documents. Do they have documents to certify that I am an actor? Do I also have documents to certify that I am not an actor?
I am alone. No one is on my side. She has a group. Everyone is on her side. I have neither right nor chance to deny that I am an actor. She has either right or chance to prove that I am an actor. I feel very bitter to I find myself in this unpleasant situation.
‘You have not answered my question yet.’
‘You seem to forget to answer my question.’
‘I think I already have.’
She gives a light laugh.
I feel that her laugh is not real.
Then with a laugh, she says, ‘Ok. Here is the question,’ then she asks slowly, ‘W h a t d r o v e y o u t o b e a n a c t o r ?’ She pronounces each word with unnecessary emphasis.
I don’t like her tone of voice. I don’t like her way of speaking with false intonation. It is like that of a short-tempered investigating police officer who questions a suspect angrily and impatiently. However, the expression on her face shows that she does not get short-tempered. Judging from the expression, she is in a good mood. Perhaps she seems to have a great ability to mask her emotion or perhaps she is really in good mood. Any way I am not ready to accept that everything I experience now is real. I have no confidence in her. Instead, I feel that she belongs to or is indirectly related to those who make me believe that I am an actor or who mistake me for the actor who is identical to me. From my mother I never heard that I have an identical twin brother.
By now I invent a story.
In a rainy day of July, in a temporary, shabby shack in a construction site, two identical twin brothers were born. Their teenage parents were construction laborers whose daily income could not afford to nourish and educate two children. They were uneducated. They were poor. They had no chance to dream to go to middle school. At the age of twelve they started as construction laborers. They were grown up together in construction sites. The shacks in the construction sites were their homes. They did not know what education is. They had no great hope. They had no knowledge about the importance of life. They got up in the morning and would work. And in the evening they would rest. At night they would sleep. This was their daily routine. The day they worked was the day they had income. The day they did not work was the day they had no income. As laborers, they married young. They had no marriage certificate. They had no future plan. They did not really know for what they married.
As parents, they did not know what to do for their twin babies. But they knew well that their small and unsteady income could not afford to feed their two sons. They knew well they could not rely on her siblings or on her other relatives. When the babies were three months, the mother made a heartbreaking decision as advised by a senior engineer Swe Swe.
‘My friend has no child,’ Swe said. ‘She will adopt your son legally. You can trust her.’
The mother was shocked. Then she cried. And Swe tried to sooth her. Swe has two daughters and a son. Her eldest daughter was in tenth grade and her youngest daughter was in the third grade. Her son was in sixth grade. She, as a mother could sympathize with her feeling.
‘I would like you to give an advice only. You can decide as you like,’ she explained. ‘You should ask yourself. You have an answer. I have nothing to say that it is right or wrong. Whatever you decide is right.’ The mother was in a dilemma.
This was how the twin brothers’ life began. From then on they were separated.
I am one of the identical twins. If I remember rightly, I, with the help of Swe, could try to get a so-called degree. As a victim of poor education system of our country, I got nothing but a degree. I studied English and Burmese. I read books on hand and became an avid reader. Later I came to realize that I have language talent and translation talent. In this way I started to translate. The story I translated first was First Love written by I.S Turgenev. I translated it because I liked it much. Unfortunately, it was not published. The other famous translator named Pe Myint translated it into Burmese. Only after some years later I came across a copy of his Burmese translation in a bookshop. I don’t remember the name of Publication House and the date of publication. But I remember its Burmese title.
I had no chance to meet my twin brother. I had no knowledge about my twin brother. I had no knowledge about his existence. They passed away six years ago. My mother died first, then two years later, my father died. My parents took the secret with them. Now my identical twin brother is a famous actor and I am mistaken for him.
Great is my invented story! What is your view? Reasonable or unreasonable? Logical or illogical? Can you confirm that everything which has happened and happened to us is reasonable and logical?
Let the story be as it is. But where is my identical twin brother? Is he dead? Is he lost? Is he kidnapped?
And I feel that the others in the room might know what we are talking even though they can’t hear we converse. Is it possible? No matter whether they know about what we are talking. When our conversation pauses for a while, the whole room goes silent as though there was no one in the room. Every object in the room remains silent. Everyone in the room is being busy with his or her own work or maybe everyone is pretending to be busy. Anyway it is clear that one pays no attention to the other. One neglects the other’s presence and existence. There is no verbal or gestural communication among the people in the room. Everyone is alone. Everyone is detached. Our conversation is the only verbal and gestural communication in this room.
Everyone seems to be afraid that s/he will happen to make something wrong. Everyone seems to feel that everything and everyone is being recorded, photographed by CCTV cameras. Everyone seems to feel that everything and everyone is being watched by someone, using CCTV cameras. I look up the ceiling. The ceiling is painted white. I don’t see any CCTV camera. The walls I see are painted light red. I have never seen the walls painted light red. Red is warm color. But light red here is not warm, very pleasant to see instead. I love it though I have no idea why they painted the walls light red. They may have a certain aim or symbol. Light red might be a lucky color for them. Or light red might be a healthy color for them. Or light red might be a warning for them. It could be that the walls are painted light red without any intention or any symbol. Light red, however, has a certain meaning or symbol for those who see it. Some time ago, I had a view that bulls hate red. And that is why bullfighters use red cape called muleta to excite the bull’s anger. Later I read a short note that bulls, like other cattle, are color-blind to red: it can’t discriminate between red and other colors. It sees only movements. It is the movement of cape not color of the cape that can irritate the bull to charge. In other words, the cape, no matter what color, can irritate the bull with its movements. It was since the early 18th century that the red capes have been started to be used. In reality, red capes are used because they are considered an important part of the culture and tradition of bullfighting. From this we can see that red has to do with the audience, not with the bull. And the question is: why does red cape have to do with audience? Here we can see the words culture and tradition. It is obvious that color is related to culture and tradition. Ok. What is culture? What is tradition? Culture or tradition is surely associated with people in a certain society.
Red has ability to condition people. Red means blessing to Chinese and hell to ancient Egyptian. Why different people have different views on red? Is red responsible for this? Or are people responsible this? Does red make people see it in different ways? Or do people make red have different meanings? Can we say that red is red? Can we say that red has no meaning, no symbol, no conditioning force to excite people?
On the walls, I don’t see any CCTV camera. But there, somewhere on the wall, hidden CCTV cameras might be planted, and somewhere in another room, someone – I don’t know who s/he is – might be watching everything and everyone every second, I think. We have no right to commit even a slight mistake.
The question arises in my mind: is it necessary to watch us? To be watched is to lose basic human right. I don’t want to be watched like that. I want to do anything freely. The thought that there must be some hidden CCTV cameras and some hidden microphones somewhere in the room makes me feel rather out of sorts. The knowledge that I am being watched, that everything I say is being recorded corners me. And I struggle to drive the thought out. Damn it! My attempt ends in vain. The thought is stranded in my mind.
By now I notice another young lady sitting across me. She is in Burmese dress of which name I don’t know: I don’t have any knowledge about the Burmese female dress. So I can’t tell the reader what her Burmese dress is. But I can tell you that the dress suits her. She has a slim body, fair complexion, bright, beautiful eyes and red, thin lips. She speaks clearly and confidently. Sometimes she pauses to choose her words carefully. She is sitting still, focusing her eyes on me, focusing her mind on what we are talking. Surely she is interested only in what she is doing, not in anything. Her face is serene, which signifies that her mind is balanced to a certain degree. It might be that she has a practice of keeping mind balanced. Without any practice, it is hard to keep mind balanced. I must admit that I can’t keep my mind balanced all the time. In my boyhood, I was very crabby. Parents did not want their children play with me. And I always played alone. It was no problem for I like loneliness. I remember well that I beat a boy of my own age when I was young. I don’t know the main reason why I was a crabby boy. Was it because of the environment where I lived? My parents are very polite; especially my mother is very polite, pious and kindhearted. She always told me not to quarrel with anyone, not to fight with anyone. And whenever she heard that I fought with someone, she never hesitated to reprove me. I am awed by her, and I tried my best to be a good boy.
By now I am no longer crabby, I, however, try hard to show tolerance towards everything bad or good I experience and keep my mind balanced. Most of the time, I fail, but I don’t give up. I endeavor again and again. It seems that I begin to remember some parts of my real life now. It is blessing, isn’t it? And how about this situation? Can I show tolerance towards this predicament, too? Can I make my mind balanced while I am in this predicament?
One minute or one second ago, the young lady might be somewhere else in this room or outside. It could be that she entered the room a few minutes ago. If so, through which door did she enter the room? To my right, there is no door or window. To my left there is no door or window. The wall in front of me has neither door nor window. But I am not sure whether the wall to which I am sitting with my back has door or window. I therefore can say that she entered through it.
I am not sure where she has been, but I am sure she was not here in my presence; she was not here, in this room, sitting across like now. Maybe I overlooked her presence or maybe I have been too absorbed in my own thoughts that I can’t spot her presence. Don’t you think it is strange that I did not see her sitting still across me one minute or one second ago? Don’t you feel it is strange that I was not aware of her presence? Surely I am not blind. Surely I don’t have bad eyesight. My eyesight does not fail at all. I can see everything clearly and vividly. If it is true, why I don’t spot her presence? I must say yes to the fact that I really was not aware of her presence. If she was my assassin, I would have been dead by now. I blame myself for my negligence. Can I no longer rely on my eyesight?
No. It is not true. Certainly I have good eye-sight. I am neither short-sighted nor long sighted. My eyesight does not fail. I wear no spectacle. I can see even the eye of a small needle, and it is impossible that she could hide herself from me. She must have psychic power to make herself invisible from me. Once I say like that in my mind, strangely some titles –Invisible, The Invisible, The Invisible Man – occur to my mind. I wonder why these titles come into my mind. Is it because those titles are partly related to me? Is it because I kept them in my memory once? If so, when did I store them in my memory? I have no idea how and when I stored them in my memory. At the moment, it is unclear to me even what they are. It seems that my memory does not work well enough to recognize those titles in detail.
While I am wrestling with the titles, she is being with typing. The room is so silent that I can hear her touch the keys of her laptop now and then. As I have mentioned above, she is very good at typing. When I am about to ask her when she started to type, some names appear. Paul Auster, Hunter Hayes, David Goyer, H. G. Well, Ralph Ellison. I ask myself why I remember these names and how these names are related to the titles. It will take time to be able to recognize everything. I always boast about how I have a good memory, but now I see that my memory does not work well enough: I can’t recognize anything but titles and names. I am about to curse my memory.
I am fatigue and overwrought. Fucking memory.
‘You should not blame your memory: your memory is good. It seems that you have no knowledge about those titles and names. it seems that you did not put any data about those titles and names into your memory, and so you can’t. Maybe from someone you learnt these titles and names. It seems that he told you nothing but titles and names.’
Finally, I, with the help of something, manage to extricate myself from the crisis. No more stress. No more tension.
I don’t want to upbraid myself any longer. Whether I overlooked or not does not matter any longer. Everything already has happened without my awareness. What can I do? What I can do is to admit that I can’t. I shake my head. I shrug my shoulders. I make myself prepared for what might happen to me next. I have no ability to know what will happen to him next, in a few seconds or in a few nanoseconds. My ability to know things is very limited. It seems that what I know is what I am allowed to know. I don’t know what I am not allowed to know. And you? And she, the young lady who is sitting across me? And the others who are being busy with their fucking business in the room?
I give her a quick glance. She does not notice it. Or she seems to pretend not to notice it.
From her expression, I can guess that I am not familiar to her. But according to the data from my memory, she is familiar to me. I sense intimate relationship. Was she my girl friend or lover? Was she my high school friend? Was she my university friend? Maybe we became friends in primary school or in middle school, in high school or in college, or in university. I know nothing but that I know her. The important data in memory seems to be deleted or damaged.
‘You have right to say: ”This is possible or this is impossible,” the second young lady says, ‘but you can’t say: ‘Let this possible or let this impossible.’ Being possible or being impossible is beyond your power, beyond your knowledge. Your power is very limited. Your knowledge is very limited. You think that I was somewhere five minutes ago. No. I have been sitting here for three hours.’ She pauses for thought or for breath or for something.
I feel that her tone of voice seems to mock at me for I was unaware of her presence. If my ears did not cheat me, I really heard ‘three hours’. Really had she been sitting here for so long? Is three hours’ length of time long? No. Three hours’ length of time is not long. Three hours’ length of time is one-eighth length of time of a day. Therefore three hours’ length of time is not so long, compared to twenty-four hours’ length of time. No. Three days’ length of time is not so long, compared to three months’ length of time. No. Three months’ length of time is not so long, compared to three years’ length of time. No. Sometimes even three minutes’ length of time is so long, so unbearable. Three minutes’ length of time is enough for destruction. It would not take more than three minutes for Paul Warfield Tibbetts Jr. to drop Little Boy on the city of Hiroshima or to drop Fat Man on the city of Nagasaki. What does ‘three minutes before 02: 45 on the early morning of 6 August 1945’ mean to Hiroshima? What does ‘three minutes before 08:15 on the morning of 6 August 1945’ to Hiroshima? What does ‘three minutes after 08:15 on the morning of 6 August 1945 mean to Hiroshima? What does ‘three minutes before 03: 47 on the early morning of 9 August 1945’ mean to Nagasaki? What does ‘three minutes before 11:02 on the morning of 9 August 1945’ mean to Nagasaki? What does ‘three minutes after 11: 02 on the morning of 9 August 1945’ mean to Nagasaki? And what do all these questions mean to you? Something or nothing?
‘I did not say, ”I have been sitting here for so long,” I said, ”I have been sitting here for three hours”, as you heard.’ She says. Her tone of voice is like the tone of voice of a teacher who explains a term or an expression to students. She seems to want me to understand what she really means or she seems to warn me not to misunderstand.
I remain mute. I wonder why she is explaining to me like that. Perhaps she has something special to say about time and space. I want to hear what she will say about time and space. It is very interesting subject. We can’t flee from time. We can’t rebel against time. We are under control of time. Time to get up. Time to go to school. Time to go to bed. Time to take a rest. Time to go to work. Time to tear, time to amend. Time to speak. Time to be silent. Time to love. Time to hate. The word time is making a loud sound in my mind. Who did invent “time”? Who did invent time?
We don’t know who invented time or ‘time’. But we know who invented the first hourglass, a device for measuring time. It is said that in the 8th century AD a French monk called Liutprand invented it. Besides we also learn that Ancient Egyptian invented the clepsydra or water clock to measure the passage of time. And it is said that hourglass represents the present as being between the past and the future and symbolizes time. Hourglass is the symbol of time, too. Even now, we lost a certain amount of sand from the top glass container.
Time is what we can’t see. But “time” is what we can see.
It was in my mind that I was telling myself about ‘three hours’. In reality, I am not interested in the length of time. Really, I would like to ask her, ‘I am not interested in time and space.’ In fact ‘time and space’ is ‘time and space’. Your interest in or your indifference to ‘time and space’ is nothing to ‘time and space’.
At first I did not know who and what she is. I thought I knew nothing but that she might be one of my friends. By now I come to realize that I was wrong. I recognize her. She is a short story writer. Surely, I know her as a short story writer. Among her peers, she is very bright, upbeat and ambitious. Though I can’t recall her pen-name at present – it seems to be Wut-hmun or Wut-yee or Gne-nge or something like that- I am sure that I like most of her short stories. Three years ago, she got ‘The Readers’ Prize’ for her short story, of which title I forget but of which plot and of which leading character I can remember well.
The story is about a young woman named Nwet Kyi Thar who murdered her own lover Wynn Lwin Oo. She could not believe that it was she who killed her lover, by cutting his throat. Before she really killed him, in her dreams she killed other men several times. Everyone she killed in her dreams was a man of about forty: her lover too was about forty. She was ten years younger than he was. She remembered in detail the scene of how she killed her lover. The scene did not frighten her at all. She enjoyed the scene much. However, it was not she who killed her lover, it was someone else. She saw a young woman cutting her lover’s throat in cold-bloodedly. She was murmuring. She did not spot fear on her lover’s face. He seemed to be experiencing the taste of being cut the throat. From the expression on his face, she concluded that her lover enjoyed being cut.
She murmured, ‘Pain is good, isn’t it?’
Her lover said nothing. He seemed to know beforehand that he would be killed like that. No surprise on his face. No sign of bitterness, no sign of shock on his face. But sign of tranquility, sign of peace on his face. Possibly he died in peace. He rested in peace.
She always spent time with her lover in a flat at every weekend. Sometimes they had sex. Sometimes they spent time by telling things they’ve read or they’ve experienced or they’ve imagined. Both were book-lovers. Both were movie-lovers. Both liked freedom. So they did not want to tie one another with marriage. She was a free young woman and he, a free man. Both have no spouse. So they could spend their spare time in a flat together at any time they wanted.
It was in a wedding ceremony of her friend that she met him. She never hoped that she would fall in love with him. After she lost her boy friend, she never thought that she would fall in love with another man. She had never slept with her boy friend. They loved each other so much, and planned to marry when they got a degree. In final year, her boy friend died suddenly, without any serious disease. Some thought that he died of food poison. Some thought that he committed suicide by taking poison. Some thought that he died of a disease which no one could identify. She was the last one who was with him, and suspicion fell on her. Fortunately everyone kept their suspicion secret for some reasons, and she was not inspected by any police. Fortunately no postmortem was carried out. Any way she sensed that she was being treated by his and her close friends with suspicion. She, therefore, left her home town four months later after that incident. It was six years later after that she fell in love with the man who was her lover by now. She told him everything she did and everything she went through in the past.
‘No matter whether you are responsible for the death of your boy friend,’ he said. ‘I am not interested in what happened to you and what you did in the past. If we can live in the present together, it is ok.’
Nwet Kyi Thar tried to avoid the thought that she was partly responsible for her boy friend’s death. When he came to say her goodbye, she should notice that it would be the last time for them to converse. She remembered everything they two chatted that night. They talked and talked. They talked about their childhood. They talked about how they fell in love with each other. They two never quarreled. They two never were angry with each other. She never sulked. And she could not imagine why he committed suicide. She did not think that he committed suicide or that he died of food poison. It might be that he was poisoned, she thought. Who did it? But she could not identify the culprit. As far as she could recall, he did not have no foe. He was very generous, affable, helpful, and sympathetic. So it is impossible that there was someone who wanted to kill him by poisoning. He was the only son: he was the sole heir to everything his parents owned. Therefore there was no sibling who would murder him for inheritance. He had one uncle and two aunts from his mother’s side, three aunts from his father’s side. No suspicion fell on them. His uncle was a drunkard, who had no contact with his parents. His uncle, however, loved him much. There was connection between them. This was a secret for others, but not for her, but she knew everything about his uncle because he told her everything about his uncle.
‘Your uncle is a good man.’ She said.
‘No one, including my mother, thinks like that.’ He said. She noticed his tone of voice. Surely he felt sorry for his uncle.
His uncle’s name was Khaing Soe. He took part in student movements and was arrested and imprisoned. He could not continue his education because he could no longer commit anything to his memory. He could not remember words. He could not remember events. Sometimes he could not remember even who he was. He forgot even the fact that he was so much interested in literature. The fact he was a university student disappeared from his memory. He was an avid reader. The books he kept in his small home library will tell you what kind of reader he was.
At first Nwet Kyi Thar suspected the man. Later from her innate ability, she came to see that the man would not do such inhuman thing. In this way the story about her boyfriend’s sudden death evaporated. Even in her memory, the story about his death, the story about them, turned into a dream which she was not sure whether she really had or not.
I stop thinking about the short story in my memory for a while to ask myself how the whole plot of the story is imprinted in my memory in detail. No answer. I tell myself that it is impossible to get a certain answer to a certain question. Some questions have no answer because they are questions without answer. Have I ever seen such type of young woman in my life, in my country? I am not certain. A name of a young woman comes into my mind. Did I have an affair with her? Does she really exist outside? Was she my girl friend once? I can’t visualize her. The name in my memory might be the name of a character in a fiction or in a novel written in Burmese. Before I can’t identify her, another name of a young woman comes into my mind. It is May, an educated young woman. It seems that I fell in love with May. But it is strange that I can’t recall when and how May and I met. It seems that we loved each other so much. The story about us in my memory is happy. Although I can’t recall how it stared and how it ended, I am sure that it is a good story with happy ending. As far as I can recall, May is beautiful, May is bright, May is clever, May is well-bred, and May is modest. My memory tells me that May is well-educated. May has a vast knowledge. How is this possible? I know well that our state formal education can give us degrees, but can’t educate us well. Instead it makes us mindless morons. So it is unbelievable that May well-educated. It seems that May is a young woman free from our state education.
‘May is a leading character from a novelette titled May written by Dagon Tar Yar.’
I hear the first interviewer say (Her words summon up memories of reading Dagon Tar Yar’s May sometimes ago, and when I realize that May has been dwelling in my memory as a young woman I have ever met outside, my heart sinks. I see that I don’t want to accept reality. May is a phantom. I, however, don’t want May to be a phantom. I want May to be real. Everything I keep in my memory of May differs from reality of May in May. What a fucking good memory!), and I look at her to say thank. She is reading what she has typed on her laptop screen. It seems that she said nothing; instead, she was being obsessed about what she has written. If so, who said? The second young lady interviewer? I don’t think so. The second interviewer is being in deep thoughts. She likes it. She has a habit of living alone with her own thoughts. She has only a few friends. When she was a child, she did not play with the other girls. She did not play with even her siblings. She loves loneliness. She loves solitude. She had been a very taciturn girl. It is unbelievable that such girl becomes an interviewer. I wonder what changed her habit pattern of mind. For me it is hard to believe that she is an interviewer. I tell myself in my mind that she is just acting.
My thoughts go back to the story.
It was a rainy day. At about twelve, Nwet Kyi Thar phoned her lover Wynn Lwin Oo to come to the flat they always spent time together. They talked about the movies they watched. Coincidentally, both loved movies, especially, they liked the movies like Dreamscape, Red Lights, The Fury, The Dead Zone, Inception, Shutter Island, Basic Instinct. Strangely, most of the movies they’ve watched were the same. They wondered why they two liked the same type of movies. Whenever they were together they shared views on the movies they had watched. When they met the last time, they talked about the film they would like to make.
‘It is impossible to know everything,’ he said. ‘Our knowledge is limited. We know what we are allowed to know. We don’t know what we are not allowed to know.’
She laughed heartily and said, ‘You look like a philosopher.’
He remained mute, as if her words were right. But he was not interested in philosophy; he was lazy to think. He liked not thinking. When he was twenty or so, he and his friends always mocked at their fellow university students of philosophy. At the time they were not familiar with this: ‘Philosopher is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that is not there.’ He wanted to lead an easy life. He was not ambitious. He was not studious. Strangely he never failed his examinations. No one imagined that such an indolent student would get MA degree. Among his relatives he being the first person who got MA degree, his parents were so proud of his success. However, he did not think that it was his success. He felt nothing for getting MA. He knew well that his MA was nothing but a name.
He was born to a considerable rich family as the youngest son, so no need to worry for him to earn money. His parents were successful brokers of the agricultural products. His parents, his elder brothers and elder sisters were born in the country, but he was born three years later after his parents moved to a small town. In his family, he was the only one who was introduced to the urban life once after birth. Only when he was ten, he paid a first visit to his parents’ native village, with his older siblings. He liked the country life style. He felt free there in the village. But he never dreamed to dwell in the village because he became bored when one month passed in the village.
He fell in love with a beautiful village girl, who was three years older than he. She was his first love. It was the first time he ever kissed a girl’s lip and cheek. Some years later, he forgot her name, yet he never forgot his first experience of kissing. No one knew that they fell in love with each other. Perhaps they two were too good at keeping it secret or perhaps the others pretended not to know it. When summer holidays were over, they left the village. When he said goodbye, his first love wept, but he did not. He knew well that his heart sank.
Though he could not recall her name, her face and figure were imprinted on his memory forever. Her sing-song voice was still in his ears. Her lovely gesture he could see. She had a slim body and fair complexion. She had wide eyes and thick eye-brows. She had a pretty face and a straight nose. Her short blond curly hair made her different from the other village girls.
The news of her lover’s death horrified Nwet Kyi Thar. She could not imagine why she felt like that: she herself killed her lover. She was prepared to confess the crime she committed. She was prepared to receive the punishment which she would deserve. But no one suspected her. No police officer came to her. Everything was as usual. She felt surprised: all newspapers and journals reported that her lover died of heart failure. She did not believe in what she read, but the photos of her lover in the newspapers showed that it was true. She saw no wound on her lover’s throat. He was lying on his back, with half open eyes, as she placed. She saw a faint smile on his face. She knew well that it was a satisfactory smile. Surely he faced death with ease. Surely he felt at ease on his deathbed.
‘What is real?’ She asked herself. ‘Did he die of heart failure or did he die because I cut his throat?’
No doubt that if one was true, the other would be false. If the fact that he died of heart failure was true, the fact that he died of the knife wound would be false. If the fact that he died of the knife wound was true, the fact that he died of heart failure would be false. She doubted whether she cut his throat with a knife; possibly it was just in a dream that she did it. In fact she should be happy for she really did not kill her lover. But she was not happy now. Why? Was it because she wanted to be sentenced death or to be imprisoned for years as a murderer? She had no reason to kill him. She did not hate him. There were no problems between them. It was true that they had different views. Having different views is not a problem. It is just nature. They two never quarreled over this issue. They did not try to understand each other; they understood each other: not because she was meek, but because he was meek.
Did he really die? Did he pretend to die? Impossible. Any newspaper or any journal would not print his death if he really did not die. She failed to attend his funeral. On the day when his funeral was held, she was on a journey. She set on a journey the day before his funeral. By now she thought that she should attend his funeral to be sure how he died.
Five months later she came back from her journey. No one talked about his death any longer. Almost everyone forgot him. It was as if he did not really live on this earth. He was a phantom, which was removed by now from the minds of his friends, of his fellows, of his relatives.
Nwet Kyi Thar stayed five months in a small town to keep herself away from what she had done. One day she was sipping her coffee, sitting at table in the corner (she always sat in the corner) of a coffee bar, when a girl of about eighteen entered. The bar was not crowded. There were three empty tables, but she did not walked to those tables; she walked straight to the two-person table at which Nwet Kyi Thar was sitting, and asked permission to sit. She said yes. The girl sat opposite her. A waitress came to her and handed the menu to the girl. Without looking at the menu, she ordered Latte to the waitress. Nwet Kyi Thar noticed that the girl was after her own heart. A few minutes later the waitress brought her a coffee cup, a small packet of sugar and a small spoon.
Nwet Kyi Thar watched everything. The girl tore the small packet of sugar, poured it into the coffee cup and stirred with the small spoon. Then she lifted the cup and tasted the coffee. A satisfactory expression appeared on her face. After she had sipped two or three times, she put the cup down and pulled a book from her pack back. She opened the book and started to read it; she seemed to be a bookworm. In a few minutes the girl had her nose in the book.
Nwet Kyi Thar saw the book cover, and knew that it is a novel she read two years ago. She read it from cover to cover more than six times, and knew the whole novel by heart. It was her lover who bought a copy of the book to her on her birthday. Majority of readers did not like it, but she liked it inordinately. When she talked her friends about the novel, she noticed sudden change of expression on their faces. From their expression, she could say that the novel horrified them.
Obviously they never had read such horrifying novel.
She was about to say that she had already read the book more than six times, but she feared that the girl would be annoyed by her words, and so she kept herself silent.
A long silence between the girl and Nwet Kyi Thar. She had no idea how to break the silence. She therefore remained silent.
This is just a small part of the story. I can tell you the whole story in detail. I can’t imagine how the plot of her short story remains stuck in my memory. You can’t tell a story in detail if it is not written by you. That is why I doubt that it is the story written by her. Maybe I mistake my story for hers. If so, I must be a writer. I am sure I am not a writer. I am a translator.
‘May I know why you tried to commit suicide?’ she asks, looking at me straight. The cameraperson in white T-shirt shoots the lady’s face close-up while she asks me like that. The other camera closes in on me.
The question pounds my head hard. I am sure that I never committed suicide. Even a slight thought to kill myself never occurred to me. I don’t mean that I always enjoy my life, I am always happy. Sometimes I felt tired of life. I, however, never thought I would end my life. I don’t think that suicide is the right way of solving problem. I never thought to curse the day I was born. I accept the view that life is very precious, living is very valuable. Living is better than dead, isn’t it?
One of my friend committed suicide. No one knew what kind of problems he had. He was very honest. He left from high school and became night watcher at the high school he attended as a high school student. He had no many friends. Maybe it was because he was aloof. I paid a visit to my native town four months before his death. I did not know that it would be the last time I had a talk with him. We spent some hours reminiscing about our boyhood and about the dreams in our boyhood. I did not see any sign in his expression on his face that he would commit suicide four months later. I did not see any sign of depression on his face for the failure of his boyhood dreams. His eyes were bright with happiness.
In my view life is to live. I must confess that sometimes I feel tired of life. You should not take this as the idea to commit suicide. It is a just a turning point.
‘Why do you ask this question?’ I ask her. I try to mange my tone of voice, but I know that my tone of voice can’t cover my resent. Her question is not an insult, but it annoys me.
She does not answer my question. She asks me a question instead. I must have misheard her.
‘Have you ever starred as a translator before?’
‘No. This is the first time.’
‘And you have some problems in acting, haven’t you?’
‘Not so many. ‘
‘Not so many?’
‘Of course, not so many.’
‘Oh, great. And did you study how translators lead their lives?’
‘I am sorry. I am not sure whether I did so,’ I say. ‘But I am sure I am familiar with how translators lead their lives. But please don’t ask me why. I have no answer.’
Translators in our country lead hard lives. Any book of translation is sold not more than one thousand copies. They get ten or fifteen percent of the book price. It takes three or four months to translate a book. Their income is very small: it is impossible for a translator to live on translation. He must have other jobs, too. The result is that a translator can’t keep on translating.
This is the film about a translator. The main character in this film has to lead a hard life, too. He is about thirty-five. He has translated six books of fictions. Four of them have been published. The book he translated first was a novel written by an American novelist John Irving. While translating The Cider House Rules, he worried that the publisher would not appreciate the book. When the publisher gave him the green light, he rejoiced. He is a self-taught translator. He reads everything on hand.
Maybe these are the synopsis-like thing of the film. I can’t imagine why this synopsis-like thing is in my mind.
Did I read the synopsis or the whole film script?
Why did I read the synopsis or the film script if I am not an actor?
Why do these thoughts occur to me if I am sure that I am not an actor?
Does this imply that what I sense that I am sure is not sure?
I am being haunted by questions.
To be continued……..
Ke` Su Thar