Sunday, February 11, 2007

Friday, 8.15 am

I wait for my tram, an unexpectedly cold morning breeze fluttering uncomfortably through my cotton shirt.

The tram arrives, a boxy sheet-metal carriage with indistinguishable front and rear ends. Passengers climb on board, a warning bell rings and the doors pull shut. The tram moves on, its steel wheels thumping noisily over the track’s expansion joints.

The passengers were mostly heading for another day of work, and anticipated it with quiet idleness. A few were absorbed into their own MP3-created universe, and some flipped lazily through magazines.

As I stood in the cramped, non-interactive tram, I suddenly recalled another place…


It was bitterly cold outside, and a mist of condensation had formed on the windows. The young one was repeatedly writing her name on the condensation, and I was trying to out-write her in terms of aesthetics.

We moved on to writing in Traditional Chinese, and tried writing each other’s names. We got bored after several iterations, and she called out to my brother.

The Little One: Yee Hou, does your name have a 繁体 writing?
Yee Hou: Err…
Lao Chen: (interrupts) Yes. You put a 囗 around the 豪, then add a 氵 to it.

Graphite on paper; text size 9 mm

The Little One humoured me with a laugh at this absurdity, but the brother gives me an expression of appalled disgust. When the laughter and disgust faded, a residual ‘WTF look’ was clearly visible.


The memory evaporates, and I my consciousness returns to the tram. The reversible sheet metal vehicle is still jarring over endless expansion joints.