coming / going come
Water’s fluidconscious
Author: Trần Băng Khuê
Published on: 9/21/2016 4:13:13 PM


With all certainty, I know that I have just dozed off.

I'm not dreaming, but I feel as though I'm drifting atop water. I think of water, as a kind of animated fluidconscious that is trying to cajole me, and they must wish to [be][enjoy being]tie[d to] me in an indefinite wavering feeling at the moment.

It may very well be that I find it easy to recognize the fantastical wavers thanks to that familiar sound. It must be so, there is no other way, since in silence they have taken over most of my life, have dissolved in my blood, and have truly granted me my life.

It is thanks to neither a coincidence nor a too large curiosity that I can easily discern water's fluidconscious. I must assert, I used to stand by gentle summer rivers to listen to their echoes. And, maybe, I had also stood in front of waterfalls, with my eyes closed, simply for the sound of water to dash against my eardrums. Or, I had wound my way through the creak to munch on my dazed, carefree adolescence.

Now, I seek the fluidconscious, from the external vibrations, from the profound liaison between memory and presence, from the existence and demise of a possible being that I know, I have, I connect to.

Sometimes, I imagine them to be quite simple: as mere drops of water dripping onto my palm -- calm, whispery, gentle to all the lively present beings surrounding me. They are not tied down by any physical exertion. They are free. Completely free. Waterdrops of heaven and earth.

Once in awhile, I’m seized by a tremor, as I myself am at a loss as to whether they are purposefully trying to cajole and disturb my dream-filled sleep in the wavering thin lines between being conscious and being awake.

Then my mind wanders off to the other present beings.

The walls for example, they are still frigid in their too-familiar shade. But, immediately, right after bouts of being part-conscious, part-awake, I’m haunted by the sound of water once more. Disgruntledly water runs, incessantly it circles around my ears in my chamber.

I think, I turned the faucet off and I double-checked it before I left. Given that, everytime I lay down on my crampy twin bed, as my body and half my soul start to loosen and drift off, I hear, once more, the jovial waterdrops, resuming their rhythmic game somewhere inside the solid concrete block amidst these chaotic planes. At first, the sound of water meanders unhurriedly before accelerating into impish, hearty, overflowing steps.

Idly,  I sprawl on my twin bed, not making any sound. Eyes closed. Despite being in my subconscious, I still consider myself very awake. Sleep is such a strange concept; one that is so close to death. I know what is going on, even with my eyes closed.

The messy room is interwoven with other sounds. I keep lying -- still and defiant -- and keep listening. To the rhythmic hums of the electronic fan. To the dry cracklings of someone’s keyboard. To the heavy painful purrs of the CPU, not too different from that of a patient. To the recurring dribbles. I keep on being defiant, and listening. One after another, waterdrops dash and flow. Water is certainly surging with power. Water is certainly wailing like a spoiled child, one who is too used to sulking and stomping their feet. It must be so, behind the door left ajar. Slowly, I close my eyes, locking the image of water in my stream of consciousness.

Nonetheless, I cannot escape. It sounds like someone is crying for help, someone is fumbling, sometimes he is close, sometimes he is not, sometimes his mouth wobbles whispers, sometimes it enunciates vivid rhymes. I suddenly recall, that behind the door, there is only a sink, several plastic basins, and a locked faucet.

If so, I cannot figure out where the water would run? Where would they chime? Where would the wailings and the screamings come from? How strange.

I think of a dream.

The dream wears me out. It’s still noontime. The harsh sky tilts, pouring down glaring beams that seem to wish to burn down everything, pouring down winds, the early-season winds that scream as though in seizure. I still lie there in between consciousness, to listen to the noises chasing one another in the walls, in the toilet. The faucet is still locked, blocked.

The question marks keep dancing.

Where is water running water spiraling water boiling water wailing incessantly?

I don't know. (Maybe I do.)

Sometimes, the shadows startle me. A disgruntled sound slips and falls into pieces on the floor, I’m stunned. Must be the sound of water.

I prop myself up, abandon the hotheaded noon, turn off the faucet that was not on, then put on my shoes and go out. Glaring sunbeams blindfool my eyes and dance on the sides of my nose in clingy jest. The roar of rushing water pierces my mind, rushing from a weary waterfall of unknown origin. Somber. Drifting. My water, my hazy waterdrops in a twilight of dream and reality, of ravaged fantasies and bygone glories.

Can the sunbeams blindfool the phantom of water up on the mountain top or down in the hollow low plains? Unwittingly, I mumble: it must be so, the faucet is locked. If so, where is the falling water, the breaking water?

I plop down on a pavement, my palm over my forehead: I think about water.

Steadfastly water flows rushing over my knees flooding my chest drowning my nose my eyes. I’m unable to stand up. I'm unable to keep running. Water has taken over each and every existence with me at the moment. Tracing the underdoor gaps water rushes to the hallways alleyways highways. Slopping one sloshing another we are swallowed by water. Drab thrums up high release an impish, eerie snort into the air.

Water is playing hide and seek with a couple of dappled spirits. Where am I?

Is water dead? Alive? Where am I?

Water sways amidst a drunken malt of a diabolic fest. Where am I? Am I still searching for an escape to get out of the darkness?

Stumpy toilet. Stumpy and stale. Water starts to gasp its dying breath.

Summer's noon. Route X. Coordinate Y. The house number has lost some of its gloss. A bachelor washed away while dreaming in a locked room.


I thought, I have to thoroughly prepare everything before I can cross the threshold to leave my house. The door always appears in front of my eyes, persevering, regardless of the time, of the place.

With all certainty, one must leave these doors behind. No one can keep on being stranded between four walls,  I recall, actually some people can, I try to rearrange my thoughts to permit myself to think about transcendence, as humble a transcendence as to leave these walls.

How many times have I planted my feet in front of that iron door, and still, I have yet to find any familiar clues.

From a general stance, it's just a door. Painted in brown. An aged brown-painted door. I reach out to touch the latches. The upper latch. The lower latch. The middle latch. The left wing. The right wing. One by one, they are opened. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, I plant my feet in silent hesitation in front of the slightly parted door.

It’s as clear as day that the door is partly open, no doubt. [Yet I still tie myself to puny suspicions.]

I look up. The clouds glisten, the pure, untainted clouds. Nonetheless, some careless dull clouds still fall into my vision field. They mingle among other fluffy cotton clouds. However, some intuition reminds me that nothing remains concealed when one looks at reflections on a river surface. The river is the sky-bottom, the real world of the clouds. Let's close our eyes and listen to what the river possesses, what it presents. A thought comes to me: perhaps below the inverted sky lies another world, a parallel world, or simply a profound sadness that has been accumulated by the hand of The Creator. They are like invisible worms that are here one moment and gone the next; yet they are everywhere, they fall into my eyes and never leave. There, singing, at odds.

Sunbeams thrust in through the creeks of the dirt brown iron door. Sunbeams scatter the warm glittering of daytime and the prairie winds on my eyes, on my lips. Sunbeams flutter caresses on each of my eyelashes. Sadness is frolicking like a playful child.

I am still unable to lift up my feet to leave the house.

My mom has been awake since very early morning. Her space is the house, the courtyard, the kitchen. I hear the swift sounds of her sweeping broom. Then I hear the water, chiming and boiling right next to the door and below the faucet that mom has turned on to water the vegetables that someone asked her to tend for them on an unfamiliar terrace. The sound of water yanks my conscious off to another direction, one that is at once familiar and not. I dawdle my feet as I do not want to leave. In the end, I decide to stand still by the door that has been wide open for a couple of minutes. Mom lifts up her head to look at me, at the door, then casts her eyes down to the full bucket of water and mumbles how pure and sweet the water is.

She dips her hands, tainted with red soil from the gardening, into the bucket of water. The stirred water becomes muddy. Mom is speechless for a while, she looks at the glassy sky and sighs a dainty breath: tonight, the water may be cut off.

Scathingly, the sunbeams of the afternoon hurl themselves at each of her silvery hairs. The bed of her eyes caves in. Depthless.

Below earth lies water. In water there is earth. Sometimes red blood bleaches them, and there must be some rotten white bones mixed in. I respond in deserted melancholy, ashen. Mom gazes down at the water bucket. The clear water is turning into a reddish shade of brown. Surely it is from Mom dipping her soiled hands from gardening in there.

The door slowly closes behind me. I stretch myself to cross the threshold, whispering as I say goodbye to my mom I'll be back late in the afternoon.

I walk as though I'm running away.

I run away from the bulky door each morning when the latches are unbolted. The stained rusty iron screeches like the snappy, dried up branches of autumn. I run away from the stuffy noises trapped in between thick walls that are lightly whitewashed and well tended. People have to tend their houses, continuously and tirelessly so. Someone has just reminded me to latch the door, be gentle, or else the door’s paint will flake off.

I couldn't sleep yesterday. Sleeplessness is quite bothersome. It makes me more aware of the dreary happenings that are laid out in an effort to resemble the Last Supper.

The thought of leaving the house comes up again. The grownups would not be pleased if I left the house at this hour for the sheer game of sneaking through the iron door and unbolting each of the latches.

Suddenly, a wailing from the wildcats behind the mezzanine, four-legged shadows romping around the face of the house across the street. An elder one whimpers, the sound is thwarted, the weary body of bones is always afraid to die on the cramped bed. Frigid echoes of homeless bottles being broken creep up from somewhere in my hazy fluidconscious. I don't want to hear any other sounds. Including the buzzing inside my brain at the moment.

Walls are suffocating and irritating. Sometimes, my affection for them comes close to an obsession. Maybe they will control my dreams. Maybe they are singing about this life of mine. But, for sure, they can no longer cling to my feet.

I spring up, put on my shoes, wind my way through the door. With resolution, I unlatch it. Leaving it behind. The fluidconscious starts to swell, piling upon itself, drowning itself. Jammed. Suffocated.

I have left the house. I head straight to the small concrete road, then turn left. At the corner is a steep slope. It creeps and crawls up like a wandering snake, roaming around in the middle of the night. A couple of innocent memories permeate my thoughts. I sense that I must have been quite a dreamer, spending my entire tender adolescent affection on these slopes. I was inebriated with them. I was head over heels for them. I longed for them. Yet, now, I've lost my pleasant impressions of this happening. It has become as overwhelming and threatening as the steep pit of whirling fire and forceful winds that imbues my fantasy of delusive spectacles.

Isolated, wistful ideas have taken over each fluidconscious that belongs to me. My fluidconscious cannot exist independently nor can they be asleep in any phenomenon I perceive. Restraintlessly, fluidconscious make choices, then, in darkness, they creep back to the walls, and become fluidconscious.

[take in all the existing fluidconscious, don't deny them]

I will start with some long-winded listings.

Isolated, suffering fluidconscious. Elated fluidconscious dreaming of another world, one with more light. Ethereal fluidconscious of beings that are at once eccentric and cloyingly mundane. Nonetheless, almost immediately, I and another I are thrown back to the present predicament of the familiar skeptical, fanatical fluidconscious.

All the fluidconscious occupy me, trifle with me, prevent me from transcending my fears. I look at the iron door. I think about running away. At least, if I run away, I will still be. Or, I will exist in another mode: another concerned fluidconscious. The world is always fragmented. It must be so.

I keep thinking about running away. The idea haunts me every day, every hour, even when I’m half-conscious at the erratic border of dreams.

I’m still thinking about running away.

Without a definite destination.

I must leave this place. But, how can I depart from the thoughts of water, of earth, of the indiscernible mishmash of colors. All colors become hazy. There’s no longer any border. My heart aches with each frightened beat for a loss that has yet to learn its form. That, that is grander than death.

The slope in front of me has just been hit by a wild wind. Nebulous dust. Even so, I still see small grassy flowers calmly leaning on each other, swayed while sheltering one another. I try to shed my thoughts, one by one. Let them drift off as they please. So that, with all certainty, I myself can drift off in serenity, can dissolve in the free dream current.

A silvery halo of the moon. I’m in water. Water’s in me. I’m in the moon. The moon’s in water. As exquisite as the constantly possible beings in our mystical cosmos. However I immediately realize that the moon has cracked all over the surface of water. The sly, deceptive water.

I wake up from my dream, plopping down right there on the slope. Arms folded in front of my chest. Trying to listen to the fluidconscious of space’s cramped chiming in: clammy, nagging, clingy, tortured. I think of the unfamiliar plot of land where my mom is tending vegetables in someone’s stead, I recall the iron door through which I leave the house each early morning.

Tonight, I will lie down on this slope and close my day.

Deaths, I think about them quite often. I have experienced them as well. I must assert that they are not frightening at all, they are mere endless fits of dream.

Mom told me once about the lasting slumbers. They are quiet and soothing.

With all certainty, I don’t need to be afraid as I lie down on this slope, I should start to close my eyes instead of thinking about the brown iron door or commence my escape.

Mom told me once about one’s sanctuary, you don’t need to be afraid, seek shelter in your own soul, since, everywhere is water and earth.


Excerpt on a death.

“A waterdrop begins to fall, slowly reaching the smooth surface of discolored floor tiles. The past, the bygone time, is always discolored; sometimes it becomes too stained to cleanse. Waterdrops are rolling, rolling slowly, as they are curling into a carpet under my eager, delighted scrutiny. The delusional ones always believe that each waterdrop has legs. That they know how to run. How to jump. To disappear without leaving a stain, only for us, or only for me to realize that everything is one in its possible beings.”

Someone must be quite surprised if I don’t provide a clear account of a death. However, I’ve just realized, there’s no need to provide any account of or any excuse for a death. It will certainly come of its own accord. It will fulfill for itself its role, its mission, as the laws of life and death dictate. I will attempt to end the entities that haunt me by quoting the opening paragraph that I wrote in another fiction before this, on something that might have “dissolved and died.”

Water’s fluidconscious is eternally present.

- Trần Băng Khuê
- translated by Ngân

- photo by Nguyễn Quốc Thành