"Time x Love" by Rebekah Chan

When you stare at something for too long, your vision gets fuzzy. Or does it? Things are obvious at first sight: a tree, a leaf, a mountain, a person. You see shapes and lines, definition and certitude. Certainty is found in an object’s edges. The knife-like ends of a leaf, the unwavering bulk of a tree trunk. I cannot shake this tree, you think. I cannot move this mountain, you believe. This feeble leaf cannot hurt me, you say. Convictions, lines, limits. 

You rest in this found meaning, using the curve of a leaf as a hammock as the sturdy branches of the tree cradle you from falling. But perception, like certainty, can change over time. You take for granted the sound of the rain, the weight of a mountain, or the steadfast affections of a lover. And soon, soon, as definition is defined, lines disperse, meaning becomes unclear. 

Do you still love me?


The location of a kiss can vary its meaning drastically: eyes, forehead, cheek, nape. A kiss usually starts on the lips and then falls to the nape, joyfully indulging in the sensuous pleasure of a lover. After, it will return to the origin, the lips, before a side-step and shuffle to the cheek. Eventually, the kiss finds its way to the forehead as the ultimate declaration of unselfish love. The Christians called it agape. The Buddhists called it metta


Kimchi begins as cabbage. Cut the cabbage lengthwise into halves and then add a little salt, much more water and then soak the cabbage in this brine so it will be ready and receptive to becoming kimchi. Allow the cabbage to bathe in the salty water overnight. Ensure that it is entirely submerged. In the morning, check to see that the cabbage is soft to the touch and graceful in its bend. This is how you know it is ready.  

Now, make a paste with the other ingredients: red chili flakes, salted anchovies, chopped green onions, and more salt. Combine this red paste by mixing and massaging it all over the cabbage with your hands. After the cabbage is completely covered in the mixture, pack it in a clear, protected, sealed container, like a jar with an airtight lid. Leave this container at room temperature and allow the fermentation process to slowly take place.   

At first, it will be difficult to discern if anything is happening, but have faith and patience. Korean women have perfected this process for thousands of years diligently transferring love, taste, color and strength from the palms of their hands and the fiery red pepper flakes into the limp, limpid cabbage. It is a rigorous process that requires rest for completion. 

Depending on how warm or cool the air is where you live, you may have to wait for a few days or even longer. But soon, very soon, tiny bubbles appear as a sign that a transformation has taken place, a sign that the cabbage has started to become Kimchi. 

And the appearance: the cabbage will now blush a bright coral, like lobster or shrimp, indicating that the flavor and essence of the pepper flakes have been received.  

The longer the kimchi has fermented, the truer, more authentic it tastes; the sharper, more sour, more pungent, the acquired taste of Kimchi will possess. Korean women rarely give away their kimchi recipes and even if they did, recipes are an equal mix of history, ingenuity, instinct, discernment and intuition. This love, this labor, is equally a process of discovery, mastery and finally, generosity when you serve and feed someone your kimchi.   


How could you have known, my love? That it would be like this? Like that time we strolled through Aoyama Cemetery for my first hanami season while living in Japan. We were about to get married and you looked like a Korean movie star dressed in your grey suit and black trench coat. I skipped and swung your hand as we walked through the silent path of tombs and pink petals floating down from old trees. And this scene, this time, this love, is the love I keep coming back to, keep writing about, keep thinking about. 

Somewhere along that path, we buried Norah, our daughter who was born, but never lived. We buried her heartbeat, her tiny body with my face, my lips. We buried our dreams, our pain, our life with her deep within the ground. 

Everlasting is such a foolish word, my love. Even cherry blossoms bloom so they can die. Along that path, we kissed and loved and fought hard not knowing, but thinking we knew. 

Looking back, I see. I see that this is place we started walking together in Singapore, and this is the place we were married eight years ago in Canada. And see this is the place we buried Norah, in Hong Kong. This is the place we died. 


Sand is mainly composed of silicon dioxide, in the form of quartz. When time and weather disintegrate rocks and stones, crystals remain as grains of sand. Some grains of sand have travelled thousands of miles to where they are found because of strong winds and rain. While sand is a natural result of erosion, the destruction of things, only the most sturdy and weather resistant materials remain after hundreds, thousands, and in some cases, millions of years after significant abrasion and weathering.


And this? This is the place we kept walking, together, holding hands among the flowers and the tombstones. 

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From Toronto, Canada, Rebekah has lived in Asia for over 10 years. She holds an MFA from City University in Hong Kong and served as the Editor-in-Chief for the anthology, Afterness: Literature from the New Transnational Asia (2016). Rebekah has been published in Entropy, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, and Reed Magazine






Posted on October 27, 2017 .