Pollyanna-ish is a column about the process of becoming (undefinable). Exploring the intersection between life and art, these essays will explore and intermingle different aspects of the author’s life, interests and development. We are very excited to share it with you.
Some nights, while walking from the station to my car, or from the station to West Writers Group, I pause.
I pause outside the same two houses, one in Hoppers Crossing, one in Footscray.
There, they (b)loom, street-light bleached. As if waiting for time to begin.
I feel blessed, tranquil even, caught between this world and the next. I guess suburban dreams do come true. For a moment, I am just another girl waiting for a sign.
I take my phone from my pocket, trace the correct sequence of dots to unlock and select camera.
I know it’s too dark. I know I’ll never capture them, those dear, dying roses, as they were.
Is not and yet the point?
The burning itch-desire. The whisper. His thumb stroking your index finger before digging into your palm. Knee against knee. Breath against neck. Swallow. Shallow heart. Ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum…
Is not and yet the point of writing, of giving your mind and body over?
In Lust, Caution by Eileen Chang, Jiazhi is to seduce and lead a Japanese collaborator to his death. She hesitates:
Surely she hadn’t fallen in love with Yi? Despite her fierce scepticism towards the idea, she found herself unable to refute the notion entirely; since she had never been in love, she had no idea what it might feel like.
Unable to sleep one night, my left arm darts down, fingers tap-tapping for the cord to reel in my phone.
I can just make out the blush of a silhouette against the black. A crown and two lower petals.
I nudge the little circle for saturation to 100. I know from memory, from photos taken in daylight, that this rose should be pale pink, not crimson. I caption the image: an approximation. (heavily saturated.)
I open the edited photo in Twitter and tap the magic wand icon. The rose is now fluorescent against a noisy background of ultramarine, violet and magenta. I caption this photo: #melodrama.
Chang begins another story Red Rose, White Rose with a wry observation:
There were two women in Zhenbao’s life: one he called his white rose, the other his red rose. One was a spotless wife, the other a passionate mistress. Isn’t that just how the average man describes a chaste widow’s devotion to her husband’s memory—as spotless, and passionate too?
There is, saved, on my laptop, a file titled ‘Men’. It contains 15,827 words.
I used to text M, on Thursdays after work: Hey! Are you free tomorrow or this weekend?
The man who visits me most nights now lives in a shadowy world parallel to ours.
Memoir too is approximation, a form of mimicry.
Memoir is cold milk hitting hot tea—pale tendrils, little eddies twisting, tangling—past melting into present.
Perhaps all I want, all I ask for, is to remember being a young artist on her way home.
Shu-Ling Chua is a writer of memoir and criticism, who focusses on sex, culture, femininity and growing up. Her work has appeared in Feminartsy, Peril Magazine, The Lifted Brow and Meanjin, among others. She tweets @hellopollyanna and is working on a collection of essays on coming of age as a young Asian-Australian woman.