Hidden Treasure

by Lincoln Daw

Ok, ok here we go, he’ll love this one! Adjust the microphone. Do you get it? We haven’t got around to hooking up a webcam but the blank screen I’m staring into is indicative of his reaction. How to proceed? I feel as if I’ve stubbed my toe at the beginning of a long corridor, we hobble to hang up.

I’ve been in China for too long, forgotten how to tantalise. Hold on, you’re contradicting yourself. Here, even after a 13-stop, grimy subway ride you still have the ability to reach into your pocket for that stone of a wallet, and emerge like a waiter at the Shangri La bearing a fine dessert. They will pick at it. No, they don’t pick – they tear at it. How could you not lap this up? I’m the court jester, the clown for hire at an 8-year-old birthday. I’ve regressed to an infant state. Oh well, I can at least glean comfort from the toothless grin I receive from the guard downstairs.

I’m lying on a hospital bed, I’m healthy, comfortable, my body and the white sheets form a contiguous, stable border. STABILITY, COMFORT! Break out of this comfort zone, challenge yourself. I’m in a self-aware coma and I can break out of it if I so choose.

Pick 5 words out of a box and I can get by on them for the day. The rest is covered, given I haven’t contracted tendonitis, by a tilted-head, rigid-wave combo.

I have not uttered a witticism in 3 months. Is this cheating? I can hit home runs, pick a curve ball, why do I languish in the minors?

I’m walking along the street with her now, head bent forward, brow furrowed, competing with the traffic and an ocean and island archipelago of separation. Why do I persist? I persist because we rotate the roles of child and parent. I am human after all; I don’t want to be alone.

God this mood is melancholy, why do I expect so much of her? I remember those afternoons so vividly, the time we spent whiling away in that typically uni pub, drinking cheap beer out of plastic, malleable cups. The axis of those memories is the shift from generic rock to that so-cutesy intro. I didn’t know it at the time, but those friendships weren’t to last beyond those crumpled cups scattered like stepping-stones on a pond.

I hear it now walking down Xiaoyang lu – of course, an Australian owns that bar. I pause, Lulu continues an extra 3 or 4 steps, we’re out of sync, an opening characterized by the portentousness of the dam breach we may have just opened. With the most innocent of expressions I implore her to identify with the endless nostalgia I feel for this moment; she only replies with disconcerting vagueness. Disappointment wells up, but then fades away. Her almost imperceptible carefree shrug reveals she is still clutching onto the rope which stretches into the murkiness. She is not in awe, not pessimistic. I slip my hand into hers, that feels nice. We’ll get there.