from Christine Chia’s Separation: A History:
“For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.”
– Oscar Wilde
Imagine that our hero never fell in love. He never married, not the first time, not the second time. He was never handsome, that curse of symmetry, so women never gave him a second glance.
He was told by a famous fortune teller that if he could avoid women he would live a long, happy life, and that he should become a sea-man. The sea would be good luck for him.
Our hero knew the fortune teller was right. He broke the news to his sisters; he would make more money, he would send it back. Unlike his mates, he never found use for women or men. His only fetish was facing the waves when a storm was about to blow, keeping his back straight, defying the wind.
His mates called him the Scholar; he liked to read. Behind his back, they called him the Monk (which he also knew).
He became a fixture of the kopitiam when he retired, an indulgent granduncle.
He could feel his death coming like the rising of the wind before a storm but he told no one. He knew his soul would be safe, wherever it went.
When he died, during his late-morning nap, at the ripe old age of 91, his nephews and nieces all agreed that this was the kind of death they wanted, so quick, so painless.
Reprinted with the author’s permission, this extract is taken from Separation: A History by Christine Chia (Ethos Books).
Christine Chia is the author of The Law of Second Marriages (Math Paper Press) and Separation: A History (Ethos Books). She is the co-editor of the groundbreaking poetry anthology A Luxury We Cannot Afford (Math Paper Press) and a featured writer for the Singapore Literature Festival in New York at the 92nd Street Y. Christine is currently working on a novel and a third collection of poetry.