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  • Running To Stand Still
    Jason Quek
    8 Mar 2002

    It has been a tough few months, a deadly juggle of work and life in uncertain times. And finally having the opportunity, I booked a plane ticket and flew off for a short vacation. Partly due to circumstance, partly due to choice, this was the first time I was travelling alone.

    After the plane touched down on the wind-swept, sun-drenched island, and as I was driven to the resort, I realised there was little I could do worrying about things back home. I gave my mobile-phone one last five-second look, and turned it off. Nothing would bother me, I decided, for the duration of my stay.

    I checked into my room, and couldn't quite shake off the emptiness around. Despite the rustling of leaves in the sea breeze, and the gentle chirping of crickets, something was missing. Lost in my own emotions, I stood in the middle of my room for a long time, not knowing what to do next. For the first time in my life, I truly understood the meaning of isolation and aloneness. It wasn't a bad feeling, although it was a scary one.

    That evening, I sat alone in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by Caucasian and Japanese couples engrossed in their quiet candlelight conversations, oblivious of everything going on about them. I watched all of them, as I played with my pasta, and licked the salt off my margarita.

    After my meal, I walked down to the beach. The lights of the chalets cast ripples and waves on the sandy beach. I chose a beach chair and sat down. The waves broke quietly on the warm sand, as if afraid to disturb the silent peace. And as I looked out and across the bay, I could see the lights and hear the music beats stealing from the resort where I stayed when I first came here 2 years ago.

    And when I lay back, I gazed into a moonless sky ablazed with stars - an image I last saw while driving in the middle of the Australian desert in the dead of the night.

    She sat beside me as we gazed into the sky, mesmerized, too, by the display, wide-eyed as I pointed out, "You see the three stars lined up in a straight line? That's Orion's belt. And that bright one over there, that's Jupiter..."

    It was only much later, that I realised our differences. While I saw beauty in the space and distances in terms of the universe, she saw beauty in the stars themselves, in their own terms, in terms of the sky.

    In the back of my head, the distance verses of "Send in the Clowns" played over and over...

    Isn't it rich?
    Are we a pair?
    Me here at last on the ground,
    you in mid-air.
    Where are the clowns?

    But little matter now.

    That night, I slept under a blanket of a thousand stars.

    I'll remember this day for a long time to come. Flying off to a foreign island alone. Checking in to the resort alone. Sitting in the middle of the high-ceiling-ed restaurant alone.

    With an awful live band playing in the background.