Meat Eater

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.

10.22

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.

India

I’ll have to write about India, before I start to write about anything else. But before India, I have to tell you a little bit about Shusaku Endo.

I was reading Shusaku Endo’s 1993 novel Deep River earlier this summer. Shusaku Endo (1923-1996) is a Catholic Japanese writer who when he died in 1996, chose to be buried with two novels that he wrote – Deep River (1993), and Silence (1966), which became a Martin Scorsese film in 2016. Silence is a historical novel about the situation of the Catholic belief in 17th century Japan, the question of faith, etc., told through the journey of two Jesuit missionaries who secretly landed in Japan in search of their missing teacher. Deep River, on the other hand, is a story set in the contemporary time and largely about the lives and pains of modern Japanese people. The characters in the novel have different histories but they all belong to a same travel group that is leaving for India, and the story culminates when they arrive at Varanasi, the holy city by the Ganges, where millions of Hindus came every year to worship, bath, wait and die. Deep River is also Endo’s last novel published three years before he passed away in 1996 at the age of 73.

Initially my plan was to do a 10-day Vipassana session at a meditation center near Jaipur, at least at the time when I bought my round-trip tickets. But after careful deliberation, I decided to cancel my reservation and do some sightseeing around India instead. Endo played a big part in my decision. I should probably also mention E.M. Foster and A Passage to India, also turned into a great motion picture by the brilliant David Lean.

When I arrived at New Delhi in mid-August, I was overwhelmed by the heat and humidity of the monsoon season. It took me at least two days in my hotel to just get used to the weather, the food and recover from my jet lag. After that I turned off my tv and marched unto the streets – perhaps I should tell you a little bit about what was on tv then. I arrived at the Indira Gandhi airport late at night on Aug 11. By the time I got my on-arrival visa it was already Aug 12. Then I took a taxi to my hotel, which was another hour or so. By the time I went to bed it was around 3 AM. And when I woke up, 6 PM the same day, I turned on my TV and Naipaul’s death was all over BBC World News.

I carried a Naipaul novel with me. Then only other book I had with me was a latest edition of Lonely Planet India. The Mimic Man is the title of the novel. I read it on my flight from Boston to London, during my layover at Heathrow, and on my flight from London to New Delhi. And now the author is dead. He just died, at his home in London, when I was flying from London to New Delhi. Stricken my the news I decided to put down his book and go outside. So starting from his death my journey began.

Writing in Arabic

Writing needs context. It is, for example, much easier to write with some purpose than just babbling on a blog.

So this is my fifth week of Arabic lessons. I love my class – we have a great teacher and I love working with the other five students who are all so different and interesting in their own ways. I enjoyed the diversity in the classroom and the fact that we are unmistakably united every day in this foreign tongue.

Above all I like the journal assignments. They reminded me of a time when writing in a foreign language was not yet traumatic. Currently my vocabulary in Arabic is very limited, and we haven’t even covered the most basic grammar rules yet. Therefore, I don’t have to worry about diction or style so much as I do in English yet. S, our instructor, expect us to write only basic, uncomplicated sentences.

That said, I found my storytelling not affected by my very rudimentary command of the language at all – what a fascinating discovery. You see, we have to do these writing assignments in respond to prompts and serial illustrations provided by the textbook. So in order to make my task bearable, I make up unreal, sensational stories.

On a Tuesday afternoon, P and I stayed after class to complete some unfinished exercise. After that, we found ourselves suddenly trapped by a raging, pouring rain. Chatting with her, I found she do the exact same thing as I did. For example, she wrote for a set of weirdly suggestive illustrations: “The professor had an affair with a student. After that he was fired. But he still thinks about the student, even now when he’s on the beach.” I wrote something similar, but certainly less dramatic. Therefore, I thought her story was much better.

夏天

在国内转了一圈,然后又回到了波士顿,过了一周梦寐以求的安宁日子。先是阴沉了两天,但是今天,第一个周五,阳光明媚,气温冲过了三十度。昨天下的一场雨,以及早晨的露水和弥漫的湿气,转眼间就在阳光下蒸发了。

读阿拉伯语的一周过得特别快。每天天不亮就醒来,然后煮上粥(听按摩医生的话总是撒一把红米),洗澡,出来炒个菜,然后粥就着腐乳一起吃,看Anthony Boudain的Parts Unkown。看天逐渐变亮,然后读两三个小时的阿拉伯语,做作业,九点多出发去上课。中午下课走几分钟去Harvard Square的clover吃一个三明治,然后回来继续上课到下午三点。回家的话会立马倒在床上,看点不费脑子的电影,做东西吃,很早睡着。