The Same Moon - Sample Chapter
‘I witness bright Moonlight in front of my bed.
I suspect it to be hoary frost on the floor.
I watch the bright Moon, as I tilt back my head.
I yearn, while stooping, for my homeland more.’
- Li Bai, Tang Dynasty
The landscape is barren and primitive, striking a cruel and almost unique beauty. I look around; the mountain range is covered in snow, kissing the blue sky. Not a single cloud, nor path, nor road sign. All around me are rocky cliffs of various shapes and statures; thick layers of snow and ice forming wondrous sculptures. The sharp whiteness of the snow reflecting the sun is blinding. I blink.
What is this place? The question hovers, the mystery quickly a realisation: Tibet. I have seen it in pictures. An unknown force has transported me to that far-away land; an unseen hand has guided me there. Somewhere there is a deep male voice, barely audible, leading me into this wildness, the place where “even birds would not land,” according to a Chinese clich.
Then I see him: his pale face, his clearly defined eyebrows above the deepest pools of black and white, and his trembling lips, turning purple. I cannot hear what he is murmuring and I am afraid to ask, fearing that if I speak, the spell will be broken, and he will disappear into that never-ending black hole beyond.
All of a sudden, there are wolves - fierce-looking white wolves - crowding in. Their eyes are reflections of crystal ice, shiny, sharp and merciless, sending a chill down my spine. “Run,” a voice in my head urges me, but I cannot move, my feet glued to the ground. I want to reach out to him, but am unable to free my arms. All I can see are his eyes, full of sorrow and desperation. A lightning-bolt strikes and he is gone, in an instant, just like that.
I shudder and wake up, feeling hot and sweaty. The lingering thunder can still be heard in the distance, and I notice that I have kicked my duvet cover off onto the floor. It has been a cold night - I can feel the chill in the air - yet my nightmares have burnt me.
The dreams of him have been constant for many years. It is weird, definitely surreal, and almost frightening the way he occupies my nightscape with such frequency and insistence. Freud would have us believe that our dreams are rooted in our past, while the Chinese say “dreams at night reflect thoughts of the day.” The strangest thing is, I have hardly ever thought of him - not consciously - for 20-odd years, and nothing in my new environment reminds me of him; yet, he seems to dominate my subconscious.
Every dream seems different, but he remains stoutly the same. He hardly ever speaks, but it is always the same piercing gaze from his dark eyes: so deep, so sad and so lonely. He would appear from nowhere and stand at a distance, staring steadily at me. More often than not, I act like a scared rabbit and avoid returning his gaze. I cannot bear to face him, as his pain seems to penetrate deep into my soul. It is difficult to comprehend how a person can contain such sorrow. I dare not probe. Maybe I just do not want to be reminded.
With few exceptions, after these dreams, I would become wide-awake, with tears in my eyes, a wet patch on my pillow and vivid images left over from my dreams. Does he have a message for me? What is he trying to tell me, this messenger from another world? Has he really been watching over me all these years? Despite my atheist education, I cannot help but wonder.
Fearless I may usually be; therefore I cannot comprehend my fear of his gaze. It follows me around and gives me no hiding place, no solace, and no peace of mind. Maybe, unconsciously, I have been carrying his soul with me, deeply attached to the unseen part that nobody has ever been able to reach. He is there, within me.
I think I know who I am. Over the years, I have tried to become who I want to be. Then I find myself pausing and pondering: do I really know who I am and what I want to be? Does anyone really know?
The search for my identity haunts me, eventually becoming my only burning desire, from which I have no escape. I can no longer control this overwhelming desire to search deep within for the true, life-sized being, not the images I see in a mirror nor what I present to the world.
The time has come, when I must take a good, long look back, beyond the oceans and mountains, beyond countless borders, beyond the crowds of people I have encountered, beyond my shell, and search for the meaning of my existence. Through the looking glass, tinted with the rich colours of passing years, I reflect over significant events, essential to shaping an ordinary life in not such an ordinary way.
Many years after I have made a home in a foreign land known as the United Kingdom, I spin the time machine backwards. When I look up to the sky during those sleepless nights, I see the same moon that I had seen in that remote, then-isolated country, the Middle Kingdom. Reciting silently the poem “The Moonlight,” by Li Bai from Tang Dynasty, one of our greatest poets, I see a little girl, who is lost in that dear ancient land and who then finds herself in her dreams of the New.