Editorial / March 2012 (Issue 16)

Pillow Books

[1] Things that quicken the heart/give you goose bumps—A Saturday morning latte, sprinkled with nutmeg. A cup of warm red wine infused with cinnamon.
The wails of the neighbour's cat—more human than feline. The alarm at 2.00 a.m.
The thud of an Amazon book landing at the stoop. The lights coming down at the theatre. The opening chords of "Helplessness Blues."

[2] Things that rise—Banana bread. The sun, every morning, even though I may not see much of it. Boiling water. Friends' pregnant tummies. A dozing cat roused by a distinctive sound. Nipples aroused by a distinctive touch.

[3] A thing that surprised me at firstBeing called "luv" by a complete stranger.

[4] Mysterious things—How one supermarket can close at five, when its neighbour closes at nine. The difference between brands of washing powder.
What a partner sees when he goes running alone.
A photograph of my family which cannot be deleted from a memory card and follows me from camera to camera.

[5] At seven o'clock last night, my partner returned from work. He stood outside the door, adjusted his red scarf and then walked away to get the milk he always forgets. Ten minutes later, he reappeared with a Tesco bag, claiming he had come straight from the train and had only now just arrived. I was highly suspicious, especially since he smelled faintly of beer. It did not occur to me until later that there is no Tesco nearby.

[6] Memories of my grandfather—Peanut-buttered bread. Empty peanut-butter jars, scraped nearly clean, lined up on the far end of the table. His wooden staff. Him, sitting alone on a bench in the playground. His smile when he saw my sisters and I skipping rope.

[7] Infuriating things—A person you are fond of turns out to be far less worthy than you thought. Discovering that an image you thought original has been used before.
Delayed trains. Departing trains that squeak too loud.
Someone's underwear—visible beneath his loose jeans. A still-lit cigarette thrown in a bush.
When you are wearing your tallest heels and the elevators in the Russell Square station aren't working so you have to climb the 117 steps.
When receiving guests in your house, you see a cobweb that you had not noticed before.
Fine hair above the lip. Shadows that bear little resemblance to their owners.
A recalled library book. A paper clip that doesn't clip. A zigzag in a pair of stockings that leads everybody to speculate on its cause.
An inadequate supply of chilli oil at dim sum. After you spill wine on your keyboard, and the keys stick and produce random letters.

[8] The electronics graveyard in the closet—Three digital cameras. Every generation of iPod. Headphones. Discordant cords. Keyless keyboards. Wireless mice. Once loved brands, now out of favour.

[9] One day a Jehovah's Witness came to the door and promised to return with a Chinese bible. The next day he delivered the book as promised, and he asked when he should come again. When I told him "in one year," the disappointment on his face almost made me convert.

[10] Things that someone else takes care of—Hair mice in the shower drain. Contact lens cases. Leftover soup in a Nissan cup noodle. The cup itself. Orange peels. Fallen leaves that sneak past the door. A dead spider.

[11] Kinds of days—Dewy days. Due days. Productive days. Reproductive days. Redo days.

[12] Things that sadden the heart—That each lover is not a recapitulation of all those loved before and after. A white cloth that is no longer white. A hole visible when the nail is pulled out. The removed second place setting at a table for one.

[13] Things that give me pleasure—It is pleasing to unexpectedly discover a particular Cantonese dish you love on the menu of a local restaurant.
Seeing herons along a bridge. Deleting junk emails en masse. Returning a dropped coin to its owner. Brushing my teeth for five minutes, undisturbed. Seeing my mom comb her thick hair like a young girl. Feeling the stubble on the sweetheart's face.
When the pot of morning coffee turns out perfect, not too bitter or too watery.
That every day is not like the next. That as John Steinbeck said, "Nothing good gets away."
When my name is uttered softly or raindrops on the windowpane doodle a letter. Well-worn boots.
The smell of new books. The smell of old books.
Being praised, even stutteringly. Being admonished by someone I love and who means well. Being reminded of something in a timely manner.
Listening to my father sing old Mandarin songs, perfectly-pitched and confident—something which has not happened for three years.

[14] Things to have when sleeping—The light on. Two bottles of water. A stifling number of blankets. Six pillows to my partner's one, including two orthopaedic. Soft-covered books which can double as pillows in an emergency.

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming / Co-editor

18 March, 2012
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