ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷 (pjammer) wrote,
ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷

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Decade and One: Two Paths Untaken

In Decade and One, singer/songwriter Vienna Teng wrote, at the age of 20, a song speculating on what her life would be like in eleven years in her future.

Once when I was thirty-one
I woke in the dead of night
and heard the vastness of the snowfall outside
slipped downstairs in my bare feet
soon forgotten freezing
and poured a milk glass full
to wait out the tide


as the white went down
I thought of the child upstairs
I thought of the God upstairs
that I couldn't believe
I thought of the chosen man
asleep on his side of the bed
how green becomes wood
in a family tree

been a decade and one
been a decade and one so soon
a decade and one
since I stood
so proud
and so unsure

ebony glowing by the window there
as always
fingers kissed the keys oh so tenderly
cool ivory returned in kind
I thought of anger and adulation
and the taste of dreams realized
and the waste dreams realized leave behind

Listening to the lyrics this evening put me in a contemplative mood: what would an entry from my journal read like, eleven years from now? With a pot of hot tea at my side and a laptop humming before me, my imagination drifted in two directions: from an optimistic chronicle of a decade well-spent, where wisdom and fortune prevailed at critical decision-points, leading to a engaging life that made the best of my idiosyncratic strengths ... to a vision of a darker path in which my demons and personal weaknesses overtook me and I stood alone, a broken and shattered man.

Both scenarios were equally plausible in their own ways - but for whatever reason, the darker entry was easier to write (it begins: Life as a fugitive: Day 422. The setting sun squats like a bloated pumpkin on the jagged skyline, sending burnt-orange slices of light into the dusty ramshackle room I've been renting under the alias 'Thomas Kwok.' Living on the run means avoiding the daytime world as much possible; I keep vampire hours, sleeping while the straight world goes about its business, emerging only in darkness to stay a step ahead of my pursuers. When I think about everything that went wrong that led me here, my thoughts return to the image of Lucas Grissom's stone-faced visage ...)

As a writing exercise, I thought it better to first tackle the more difficult task of writing the optimistic journal entry, before letting my imagination wander in the den of sin and error that might have been my life:

Decade and One: The Path Untaken #1

January 27th, 2014

My semiconscious mind dances on the knife's edge between lucidity and early-morning dreaming as the waking world fades into focus. The clock on my nightstand tells me it's 6:30 am when I slip from our bed in the darkness. I take a moment to look at the sleeping form next to me - curled tight into a ball of peaceful slumber, and I smile as I dress in shorts, sweatshirt and cap.

Odin is already awake by the time I reach downstairs - his tail wagging in eager anticipation of our morning run.

"Good morning, you furry nuisance. Been waiting long?" I grin, snapping the leash on his thick neck as we jog into the pre-dawn mist under the maze of ancient trees that surround our home. For all its inconveniences, it's moments like these that remind me why we chose a life in rural isolation away from the crush of urban cacophony.


I pick up the pace of the run, beating a steady crunch-crunch-crunch tattoo of footsteps along the gravel path while my thoughts drift back to the woman fast asleep on her side of the bed. Strange that all through my wandering years, when I chased every sort of fool's errand hit-and-run relationship under the sun, I never imagined how good it could be - that certainty and quiet contentedness that comes from the sort of love that goes the distance. Perhaps it is our very ability to marvel at these tiny miracles that keeps them alive. If there was a God up in heaven I could believe in to thank for my good fortune, I'd be on my knees every night in gratitude for her unwavering love; in His absence, the best I can do is offer my affection and devotion to one who chose - my flaws and sins notwithstanding - to love me so freely.

The early-morning sun swiftly burns the fog to ribbons by the time we double back along the edge of a lake and return home.

As I rinse off sweat and trail-dust in the shower, I review what was in store for me today. Breakfast meeting with a studio executive to discuss the promising script draft I submitted three weeks ago. Keynote speech on sustainable agriculture I need to deliver this evening to an audience of 400 business executives. Lunch with a publisher who is interested in reprint rights to my first book. Review royalty contracts with my attorney in the afternoon. Hrm. This means I'll probably need to call sensei and put off my Shinkendo belt test until at least next week.

I think about friends in engineering and medicine, who go to work with the comforting knowledge that they carry everything they need to accomplish their tasks in their skulls. In the arts, you - like all your peers - face a blank canvas every day, and are judged by how you to fill it. Success is difficult to quantify in this wickedly fickle business; I've witnessed utter drek written by well-connected oafs sell for seven-figure deals while compelling stories languish in obscurity for want of competent representation.

Selling a script to a major studio nine years ago was the major turning point in my life; ever since, I've been a professional storyteller in one capacity or another. You'd think I'd get over the uneasiness after all this time - but the truth is, I still find earning my bread on the strength of my writing to be a strange and scary business. Though I've no doubt this is what I am meant to do, in weaker moments I still find myself overwhelmed by the day-to-day brand of frustrations attendant to the world I've chosen. In these moments, I try to remember what a successful engineer-turned-musician once pointed out to me "fulfillment != fun" - that there's a point to it, and that's the important thing.


Her voice snaps me out of my reverie. As I look at her, I ponder the odds of winning the love of a woman who is as beautiful in bathrobe and mismatched fuzzy slippers as she is in full makeup. I accept the coffee with a kiss.

"Morning to you, sleepyhead," I smile. "Hey - can you take Valerie to school? I've got this breakfast meeting with-"

"I know. You told me already." she winked, playfully twirling her car keys in her hand.

A tiny head peeks out at me from behind the bathrobe, still dressed in her pajamas.

I kneel to my daughter's height and tousle her hair. "Hey sweetie. I need to be in town today to meet with some people - so Mom will drive you to school today, ok?"

"Are you coming home to read to me my bedtime story?"



The Audi S4 gleams like a blue jewel in the garage. I drop my laptop briefcase in the back and settle into the driver's seat before firing up the mighty 4.2L V-8 and listen as it rumbles to life. The dew-slicked pavement offer little challenge to the S4's sure-footed Quattro as it roars down the winding road, kicking up a swirl of dead leaves in its wake.

It's going to be a long and busy day.

Other Decade and One Pieces:
Decade and One, by Rasee
Decade and One: the Path Untaken #2, by pjammer

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