“‘The Physiology of Arriving’ moves through time and travel, with a sense of wonder, apprehension, and curiosity. The movement in time—past and present—is unique and the character is likeable, interesting, strong. The creativity of this piece is a treat!” — Guest Judge Kim Chinquee. “The Physiology of Arriving” was selected as the second place finalist in our 2022 Flash Fiction Contest. Read Wong’s story in full at the link below!
For many nights, your ventricles thump-thump in dread—What if I chose the wrong major? Why does Yiu-Yan keep scrubbing everything? Then you remember reading Jane Eyre in school, how she went beyond Lowood, beyond governess, beyond her time, and flourished, and you keep repeating, I am Jane, Jane is I, beyond peril, beyond time.
Your feet move slowly, dragging one Samsonite hardcase till you reach the departure gate where you feel the eel of awkward slip from head to toe as each word bends the heart when Ba says my child and Ma asks in Cantonese if she’d let your hand go too soon, would your scholarship turn you into the moon, luminescent and distant?
And your hips shift a little on the hard seat, turning to the window where a sky full of promise looks down on the tropical island your bare feet have loved, only easing after take-off, after the body weightless feels gravity suck that eel into your stomach filled with airplane pasta, though just the thought of eating at 30,000 feet makes this a momentous occasion, and your acid gives a slow burn as you wonder how to live in a world without the salty aroma of Ma’s sambal fish, though in the future, you will consume umpteen meat pies and grow an ulcer from a variety of solitudes and beers.
On arrival, your lungs inhale, a deep breath in as the air is cooler without the pull of humidity, before a rush of eucalyptus fills the negative space, and your hand coils from the cold blue of winter. You see a sign that reads Welcome to Australia held by your big brother Yiu-Yan, and in the car you stare wide-eyed and spy, in the distance, mountains the color of the sea; in the next few months, you shall see koalas with pouches, and tails that push wallabies three feet in the air, and in the next few years, you shall witness burnt trees cresting hills of ashes, a body in the morgue and first love.