Writing is very much like bloodletting. There’s a limit to how much one can afford in a certain period. 意識中無法忽略人與人之間的這道鴻溝。猶如不同的血型，我們並不總能明白對方的語言。語言是那麼身體的一件事。要不然只能打一架。沒有對錯的。語言從身體脫離了出來，傳染到紙上，然後無數誤解。
I’ll never learn to love anthologies.
I signed up for a creative writing course for the upcoming summer session, which starts on May 15th, just four days after my last final for this spring semester. I don’t know why I’m doing this to myself – haven’t I written enough papers already?
I guess the answer is that I really want to write something that matters. I’m kinda sick of writing about stuff that has little relevance to my life – hedgerows, daffodils, courtship dramas in the English countryside – can’t we move on to like 20th century modernist literature already? Then I realized that I’m taking this Intro to Brit Lit Part II class to fulfill my pre-1900 requirement for my English major. I have no choice. I got rid of my pre-1700 requirement last semester by taking Part I of this class, but I remember enjoying the medieval period material far more than I enjoy all this 18-19th century stuff. Perhaps it was because that the pre-1700 materials were just as alien and strange to my fellow native-speaker classmates as they were to me. Perhaps deep inside I’m a medievalist (I love reading medieval Chinese sources!). And for these reasons I found it easier to navigate that class.
But now, in the age of Alexander Pope and Jane Austen, Wordsworth and Lord Tennyson, I find myself a complete outsider. Like, I know what they are roughly about – I can write a paragraph for you on the historical and literary valency of these writers – but I can’t feel a deep emotional connection with their texts. I can’t really enjoy reading these authors. But why should I? I don’t share their British heritage. I’m not part of it. Not really. Although I study British history and culture as millions of English learners are required to do, I’m not obliged to identify with their sentiments and desires. Many of them are, to put it bluntly, sexist and racist, too. Not to mention some of them’s exceptional obsession with class and hierarchy.
The theme of my academic career this year is compromise. Now that I’ve read these people whom I’m supposed to read, I can finally permit myself to move on.
So I said to him hesitantly, “you know I eat meat, right?” I had five different ways to construct an answer to his earlier question about what I ate in London, and this was as close as I could get to an honest yet non-hurtful response.
I had mentioned that food in London was good, that I went out with friends and had eaten odd things with them. One of my friends, G, is an actress/microbiotic diet instructor. She cooked an all vegetarian dinner for me at her home and was exactly the kind of friend I knew he would approve of.
Crystal, on the other hand, eat foie gras and deer loin with me. You must try how they cook their yewei (“flavor of the wild”), she said, “it’s the only thing the Brits are really good at.” So I took her advice and thought, what the hell, if I’m going to eat venison it’s gonna be here at this fancy restaurant in Kensington.
The deer loin was lovely. And that was what I tried to but did not tell him. I was gonna say “and I went out for dinner the other night with my friend Crystal and had deer loin at this English restaurant called the Clarke’s and it was delicious.” But I didn’t. Instead, I worried intensely about his feelings for five seconds and cowardly refrained from saying what was truth. I said tentatively “you know I eat meat?” and hoped he could understand.
He didn’t. And I had hated to discuss why I still eat meat with him every time.
I said I was reading Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and that I had read part of it that was later published under the title “The Lives of Animals” before but never the entire book. It was so good that I didn’t even want to finish the book. I told him that the whole human-animal relation problem really did mean something deeply intimate to me and I did want to take it up someday seriously, but not now. For me it was really a more complex issue than “not harming sentient beings” and “consent.” I told him I was ill prepared at the moment to discuss this subject with him. “If it helps,” I said, “I eat a lot less red meat now, mainly fish or shrimp, that kind of thing. I am more conscious of my choice now and I can definitely feel the influence from people around me – my friends and you – stuff that I read, and my studies, etc. I think I will eventually work through this on my own, but I just need a little bit more time.”
We dropped the subject. I remembered that time I cried uncontrollably in his room when he told me quite harshly that “there should be no meat in this house.” I was hungry. I had no time to have proper dinner that day and therefore brought a salad to his house hoping I could eat it there. “I didn’t expect you eating,” he said, “at this hour.” It was half past nine. I had shrimp in my salad. My chewing sound disturbed his peace.
I felt nausea, deep inside my abdomen. I couldn’t eat anymore in front of him and I wanted to go. The whole situation seemed ridiculous if not extremely humiliating. I had more respect for my food than that whole housefull of pious people. But I caved in and stayed. I abandoned my box of unfinished salad and tucked it under my coat. I brushed my teeth. I went to bed and half an hour later we made love.
On our first date we went to this vegetarian sandwich place near harvard sq. I asked him “are you vegetarian?” as soon as he suggested over text that we should meet over there. I speculated because I often went there for a quick lunch when I was studying a language course over there during the summer. He replied, “yes,” with a smiley face. I happily agreed and rejected my very own earlier ramen proposal.
I will continue to eat meat and be good friends with my dear fellow carnivores. I guarantee you animal eating is not the worst thing a human being is capable of. Jonathan Swift is right in his “modest proposal.” It is cruelty between people ignorant of tenderness and who would like to profess kindness over love.
I started writing in a desperate need to save myself. Then just as I was unable to continue, I find myself too in a state of destitution. Hollow verbs, these are. Better to kill little by little, to die a slow death, than living your power-driven life.
I turned on the radio and some assistant professor proclaimed a discovery of Anne Sexton’s four unpublished poems. How strange it was, to meet her name again on NPR, in my bathroom. I thought she belonged to only to those winter nights.
Better not to say anything, and breath out your unspoken words in vapor.