Fiction

Scientific Methods

“Scientific Methods” was written on a particularly moody day, when the rain was drizzling and it was cloudy smog polluted like it almost always is in Hong Kong. Oh, a good dose of sad music helped too. I never quite figured out why I sometimes write these semi-personal pieces in third person. It’s almost like I’m pretending that I’m not actually the person in the excerpt when it’s plain as day to everyone and *anyone* that it is me. Or maybe it isn’t and I just gave up the game. In that case, uhm, whoops.

There’s a method to science. Observe, create a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, record the results. She’s never been good at science. While she can process everything that National Geographic and Discovery Channel throw at her, when it comes to actual science, textbook equations or “which-chemical-plus-which-chemical-doesn’t-go-boom”, she’s… abmysal at it. Her grades testify as much. All the subjects she excels in are for humanities – history. Language. English. Literature. Her ticket into one of the toughest courses in university was via English.

Which is why there is something ironic about what she does now. She was supposed to be emotional, to tune in, to feel about people. To be moved to tears, to laugh with abandon, to love with an all-consuming passion, akin to Romeo and Juliet except hopefully without the death at the end. But she feels – nothing. Nothing at all. And she’s beginning to wonder if she’s become far too detached even for her own good.

She doesn’t react according to the situation, to the emotions that come and swell with each day-to-day passing. When she sees her friends, she smiles, but she realizes she’s beginning to struggle to sympathize, looking in from an outsider’s point of view. When she meets her boyfriend, when they’re kissing or frisking around, she tests her words, tests her actions, watches him for a reaction. He tells her to do what feels right. She can’t bring herself to tell him she doesn’t know what it means anymore.

For all her background, she feels like a scientist tinkering in a lab, with a complex machine she can’t exactly understand. She carefully tugs at strings, manipulates levers, to gauge the reaction. She adds her words and carefully measured doses of emotion, smiles and condolences to each situation. She gauges the responses, watches them carefully, avoids conflict. Some might call her a coward. She likes to think that she’s trying to save herself.

Sometimes, she opens her heart too far. She blathers to complete strangers and friends alike about what she’s doing sometimes. Her parents complain at times she talks too much. She can’t tell them she’s worried that the people around her will find her boring and leave her, because the people around her is so illustrious, so beautiful she feels like a grey shade that’s slowly fading away. So she experiments. Watches. The science of creating and maintaining a relationship. And to hold it as long as she can, because she wants to keep her friends, she doesn’t want to hurt them. She hates hurting people, and so she feels at times like she’s water – fluid, always changing, perfectly ordinary. Never adhering.

Then, of course, on some days she catches herself working into some sort of murderous rage, some despair for her friends, panicking about the latest batch of cookies she’s made for her boyfriend and praying all night they’ll stay soft and chewy so his teeth won’t break, and there’s a little hope. Not a lot, but there’s a little. Just barely holding on there, but it reminds her, at least there’s a little human left in her.

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