What is your earliest memory?

    Waking up to four concrete walls, the smell of plywood furniture, an old mattress and a grass-weave mat on the floor still warm, elbowing off the ground and steping out into a hall suddenly bathed with sunlight pouring in from the corridor like a running tap.

    At that exact moment, chopped garlic hitting the hot, oiled wok, the sizzle, aroma, and hiss from the kitchen arousing the sudden clear knowledge of 6 o’clock and of hunger.

    Unnoticed, walking to the grilled door, peering through the bars, staring at the pots in the corridors full of jasmine shrubs which are beginning to perfume the darkening air.

    Tell us more about your childhood home.

    A three-room apartment in an apartment block which no longer exists. Long common corridors, neighbouring units lined up row after row piled ten storeys high, faced off with an identical twin.

    Eight floors down, a common open area between apartment slabs, paved with concrete. Chipped and grimy marble seats surrounding a table engraved with a permanent chess board. Erratic plots of green, each governed by a rain tree. Children used to play down there in open view of the surrounding blocks with other children in the neighbourhood, whose names they never knew.

    Being children, we never found out where we lived, who our families were, what language we were supposed to speak apart from the language of play: long afternoons in the shade of those concrete blocks, running, shouting, falling grazing knees, laughing, crying. Likewise, avoiding the road, inspecting trees, killing ants, drawing lines, losing shuttlecocks, borrowing them, sharing instruments in the serious enterprise of getting the game going, until the inevitable shout from on high, the call to come home for dinner resonating down from the eighth floor.

20 June 2003   16:31 hours
on literary definition { } patience