Carpe Diem

One afternoon five years ago, a friend from Adelaide texted to say that someone we both knew from the university days passed away in Sydney that afternoon. I can still recall how the person looked, spectacled, tanned and thin. He was one of my flatmates for three months. Decades ago, six of us in our late teens got together and rented a big house near Coogee Beach in Sydney. The ad stated that there were several rooms and in reality only one of the rooms was a proper bedroom and it could barely fit in a double bunker bed.  All  six of us who had just gone over to Sydney for our matriculation moved into the house. We were mistaken to think that rooms had meant bedrooms when there was only one bedroom and the other rooms were basically living room and dining room.I still remember how all of us were away from home for the first lunar new year and we had missed our  respective families . After three months we decided to part as we had trouble focusing on our studies. Nonetheless we had fun  sampling each other’s cooking and I remember the guys seemed to be better cooks than me and the girlfriend who had kept in contact with these housemates. More than a year ago, I was also informed that another housemate had bitten the dust. Though I have not caught up with either of them for decades, I  feel rattled as these friends were still  some  years away from qualifying for senior travel discounts.

How often I am reminded that  life is transient, yet I get caught up with trivialities . Life is short is not just another cliché. Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero. Seize the day as you do not know what tomorrow will bring.

Seize the day enjoy the moment make full use of the moment. Not every life will leave a mark, not all lives are extraordinary, but I would imagine that these friends will be missed by their loved ones. Even though these friends and I have become strangers, their deaths still affect me. I cannot help thinking whether they had unrealized dreams. Death releases one from human sufferings. No matter what we say about human sufferings, we still prefer living than dying and we would like to hang on to life as long as we could.

In Kinder than SolitudeYiyun Li wrote, “ Uncle’s death had caused, however transient ,a ripple of melancholy in Ruyu’s heart, followed by relief. Uncle had been one of those whose lives were saturated by unwarranted sadness, and what could be a kinder antidote to sadness than death itself?”

Yiyun Li also wrote,

 “ People don’t vanish from one’s life ;they come back in disguise.

Maybe it is about closure, some people have caught up with many of their school friends or varsity friends while some people choose to move on without a trace and leave their school friends wondering what could have happened to them. As a rule  most people will only let you in for what they want you to know and if you think about it, do you really want or need to know about  all the  things that have happened to the people you know? 

Kinder than Solitude is a fiction about three childhood friends who have chosen to live apart, two of them stayed away from their homeland while one of them remained behind in Beijing. They are  all haunted by a mysterious incident whereby a friend of theirs was poisoned and ended up in vegetative state for twenty-one years. In 1989, Ruyu , a fifteen year old  orphan was sent by her adoptive family  to Beijing to live with a relative and her family  and there she had met Moran and Boyang who had been close friends since they were children. At the relative’s place, she had to share a room with their only child, Shaoai, a rebellious twenty-two year old young woman who was  obstinate and has relentlessly caused her parents distress and pain. Against her parents’ wishes, Shoai had been active in the democratic protest in the summer and had to face disciplinary action from the university where she was studying international trade and relations. The story is about the loss of innocence in Moran and Boyang. Before Ruyu’s arrival, their school life had been straightforward and sweet. Ruyu had learnt not to trust anyone ever since she was very young. She had once been deceived by a girl in first grade who had often begged to be taken to her home and she had promised not to tell a soul about the visit, “yet the day after the visit everyone in the class seemed to have leaned something about her home, and even a couple of teachers came to ask her about her grandaunts’books.

 While the story is rather straightforward, Li’s descriptions of the characters and their psyches are definite and compelling. Li  writes as she describes a young girl whom Boyang is attracted to  when he is old enough to be her sugar daddy: “ What made her different from other disillusioned souls? All young people start with untainted dreams, but how many would retain their capacities to dream? How many could refrain from transforming themselves into corruptors of other untainted dreams? We are all wardens and executors biding our time; what’s taken from us, what’s killed in us, we wait for our turn to avenge.

Kinder than Solitude written by Yiyun Li is a page turner that keeps you in suspense about the irresolvable crime that has caused three friends to become estranged and how each character is driven into loneliness and solitude by the weightiness of  their own memory and guilt about the incident in which a friend of theirs has been poisoned. Another insightful writing about how one cannot  extricate oneself from one’s past no matter how hard one tries. Kinder than Solitude is not just about a murder mystery. click

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