I am home alone, adding dollops of butter to a pot of Basmati rice. Some housewife chord has been struck in me during the fits of sleep, along with a bout of sickness.

(here, “sickness” is defined as a state of mind caused by one-quarter stomach upset and three-quarters loneliness.)

Rice pudding calls for one cup of cooked rice, milk and sugar. I turn the knobs of our gas stove in one of my mother’s cross-stitch sweaters. It’s older than I am, a relic belonging to the age of my mother’s young adulthood. The last time it was worn, she was an unmarried Londoner, bopping around in pastel work pants and dark shades. Now, I am the daughter who has taken it from the wardrobe, but I have neither spunk nor savvy, not today.

Samsara, “continuous flow”, the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. Then, can be it assumed I am a body travelling a circular path at a constant speed? This is a principle of uniform circular motion, something I was taught last year in sophomore physics. I can still remember my polyester uniform skirt sticking to the backs of my knees, sweat like cake batter, and my breath a tangible print in the air. Question four: calculate the velocity of an object travelling in a circle.

(here and in the realm of physics, “speed” refers to how fast an object is moving, whereas “velocity” is the rate at which it changes position.)

Samsara, a cycle in which I am the body stapled, marked and labelled, drawn as a dot in religious textbooks. But though speed is constant in a circular environment, I can change the velocity. I can accelerate or de-accelerate if that is my wish, though I am bound by egoism and futile desire.

A six square meter kitchen with a small balcony where clothes dry and detergent is kept. The oyster-colored tiles and cabinets of poor-quality wood, the porcelain bowls of green apples slowly ripening, and I, sitting at a dirty table eating salted crackers because my rice pudding has the taste and texture of charcoal.

I am reading “Madame Bovary.” Doleful and desperate Emma makes me smile, but I only ever want to be her twin in name. And on the days when I feel myself leaning towards her awful habits, I pretend my name is not “Emma” but “Ema”, and this small change seems significant because –

(here and everywhere, “Ema” are the small wooden plaques on which Shinto worshipers write their wishes, prayers, vows or expressions of thanks. Ema is hung up in shrines, where it reaches the gods.)


  • reading Madame Bovary I too worried about the extent to which I saw my reflection.

    Em edit: I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one obsessed with these sorts of things! Thanks for the read, Holly.

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