Excerpt from a fiction project

Photo by Cloris Ying.

Scraps, you find them everywhere. I often find scraps of journal entries, documents I’ve written for various things, old photographs, pieces of art. I can lose myself for hours, trawling through boxes of scraps. Lots of scraps are like memories. In some ways they are memories, themselves moulded through the connections they have to other scraps and the actions and processes that made them so. There’s nothing like reliving old memories to conjure up emotions you’ve forgotten even existed. Good ones, bad ones, you can’t remove one from the other. That’s the fun with scraps, in a way. You can never be certain which feelings are going to surface. And for the scraps left by others, well, that’s an entirely new adventure every time. Piecing together the life of a mysterious stranger, or even the sibling it turns out you didn’t know at all. Their scraps tell you a lot about yourself, too, measured by the reactions you have. I think that’s part of why we leave so many behind, on purpose that is. Diaries, logs, scrapbooks, tapes, songs, photographs, holograms, short videos you’ve taken after a night on the town. Part of experiencing life is knowing you can leave scraps behind, to once again live those moments, safe within the confines of your present self.

I like to leave scraps. It’s why I started keeping journals. Hell, it’s the entire reason for making this journey, other than to see some pretty sights and get some ideas for my novel. I want to be able to look back and remember all of the feelings I find myself having out here. Some might say I’m in danger of missing out on the here and now. Blink, and you’ll miss it, they’ll scold. Obviously this isn’t what I’m trying to do, though — I’m quite careful not to spend all of my time writing and documenting. A few snaps here, a couple of notes there. Most of the time the camera won’t do the things I’ve seen justice. A camera can capture light, but it can’t extract the life from a place until it’s been bled dry. Only a story can do that. Whether it’s recorded, spoken or written. I prefer to write — I hate the sound of my own voice and I find talking to myself in an empty room (or worse, outside) a bit ominous. Plus, the embarrassment of being overheard is too much for me to bare (even if I never see the person for the rest of my life, which is almost certain). I like to have a hot drink by my side when I’m recounting a story, and I don’t think constant slurping is the best for the recorded voice. I like to take notes whilst I’m out — nothing too complex, that takes too long. But enough that I’d remember what it is I’m talking about when I come to write up later.

There’s something quite cathartic about writing. I know this isn’t the case for many people — in fact, the thought of their written voice makes them writhe as much as my spoken one makes me. A couple of weeks ago, I stayed in a set of rooms surrounded by the micro-falls of a hot spring, somewhere in the middle of a rice jungle. The whole place was steamy, and very moist. Warm, too, as you’d expect. There was a small spa town nearby, up in the tall grain pines. They had a local radio station that quickly became a favourite of mine — I try to tune in over the light stream, but the signal can be patchy in some areas. I was particularly fond of the music they played whilst I stayed in the jungle — a mix of chromatic guitar tunes and old pop vocals. Very old pop vocals, to be exact, from a bygone decade centuries ago where I hear the original televisions became popular, alongside blue denim jeans. My history is patchy, but I know a period vocal when I hear one. And this station played them by the boat full. I saved some recordings of my favourite songs, which I like to play when I’m feeling thoughtful and introspective. Often during rainstorms, too. Those are usually good inspiration for storytelling. Wistful tales of lost loves in the forest are great for the soul, and even better for the creative mind.

Writing a diary seems, for me, the perfect way to capture the many places I’ve visited and hope to visit on this trip. Every time I sit down to write, my surroundings are different. My mood is different, the songs on the forest radio are different and the people I meet across every planet, star and moon are the most different of all. In a way, my true goal is to collect scraps of the characters I encounter, to cultivate my own exhibition of lived lives across the universe. My favourite thing of all is other people, their stories, their loves and losses, their jokes, their distinct reactions to the world around them. The insignificant things that make us all individuals. I love to sit and appreciate all of them, one by one, day after day. I’ve started to collect the scraps, tiny snippets of others’ lives, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

This piece was written for a science fiction project called “Diary of a star-bound interrailer”. You can read the other parts I’ve written so far here.

23 ~ politics grad ~ amateur writer