Fiction by Christina J. Chua: Mobile Ekphrasis

By Christina J. Chua (photos by Stephanie Burt)

011 Girls

 There are other stages you occupy on the next set, though I know little about your fringe commitments.

This one is tight to walk between small, propped knees and splayed-out tulle. There are directions hushed into the corners, partitions to mind.

The girls look up at you.

I peer into the textbooks at the open, airy old paintings of pointed shoes, ribbons, French bronze.

Nothing like this pool murmuring in the dark, glancing down at painted fingernails — a hidden text message under a skirt. Neon bathes their backs a solid blue.

My own niece could have been among them.

 


012 Fans

I pin my lashed skirt flaps as the lights flashed white, on. Their hair twists left — right.

I count the Chinese red. Silk flowers bob to the timed wait. Eyelashes bow in layers, the undergrowth.

A smaller hand pulls me down. Another grins, shines into my face. Cross-legged and scored onto knees, I feel the paper air. It streams in between cut-outs and square letters.

I remember photos of my niece and flip my screen, to show you.

You whisper to me that the costume designer has left extra lace for your material in a red plastic bag.

 


013 Corridor

Here it diminishes into angles. I shiver to see this blur. It reminds me again of another night when I hurled over bottles —
But no, you pull me to the edge — stop there, at the red lane.

The balcony stirs me black into the forest night. Blue squares cascade to the next reach, placing notches onto your stern face.

I look up, a safety light blinds in the upper reaches.

Let’s go, you say. The work is in the studio and it has nothing to do with anything else.

The line is clear and ahead of shadows.

Nothing to do.

 


014 Door

 The night is long, and I find it hard to wake. In the morning, the sun is pale and white.

Your boyfriend needs a smoke in the alley. Its yellow walls seep ash lines after so much rain. No second-hand touches me now.

My eyes lose focus, crossed at lime green lines. Graffiti has redacted a recording. A tarpaulin hides the chest, wraps it heavy.

There are grills, slats, other passages for air. But within them, I am drawn to a peeling blue.

Could it open to another place, a wood between us to another room, an older world?

 

 


015 Glass

 The hotel floats in three rings. Crystal drips like candlelight over the morning hall.

We prepare for a prim interview, this time tipped with bows and heels. I feel uneasy winging my eyelids in the perfumed mirror.

The slick court weighs light out to the ceiling in even arches. My chest rises, remembering the cement floors of another island —

There, in the distance.

Gulls visit the round windows where the shutters are wider. I can almost hear the beat of their wings against the panes.

I fold my fingers over orchids, around a lamp post.

The screen shuts to black.

 


016 Tea

 The interviewer shifts a recorder between the trays. I cross my legs to manage the strain.

The menu could offer another read, a distraction in embossed lettering. A candle dries on a starched napkin.

There is a cliff over the lip of every silver stand. I follow the edges, the lines, slowly. Condensation slides through.

Hold the milk. The liquid sets, still. My roll is set on its side. Sweetness cools over my tongue.

I watch the lips.

There are words that pass between you and the interviewer.

When the waiter moves away, I feel his glance at my back.

 


017 Pool

The basement elevator widens to a flooded, humid purple tank. My eyes adjust to the damp, as the only light leaks in through cracks in the Corian. Mist curls at our toes.

Is it Day-Glo paint? I try to normalise the alien fiction according to surfaces I know.

The manager brings around green towels to soak up foam at the edges.

Pulling aside, I slide into the warm water. Soap rinds and barley sink to the deeper end.

The seven changes our shape — it’s a veritable leap for you.

I steady the lens. Its square resumes a hyper-resolution.

 

 


018 Vitrine

 The basin dries overnight — the second night since the red hall. My lips are very parched. I’m constantly rubbing flakes, and am conscious of the salt.

When you come to, a raw bone hangs from wire between us. The vitrine stuns, encloses the shells — air tight. Glazes sit in a plastic bottle, untouched.

Which gallery? I ask, counting the tell-tale neon posts.

No — a restaurant. Look, as the glow drains the reflection — utensils, sauce containers.

What floor are we at? I meet my own surprise, disoriented, as you are.

The device glows, swaps so much quicker than our type.

 

 


019 Flash

 A restauranteur’s commission in the last hall cloaks the air with a net of fishing wire, spinning it from one globule to another.

The mirrors clutter, and descend from the synthetic purple before. I feign a count, amusing our guide.

Amidst the thousand, scintillating points, there is a single sound that reverberates. Each tip skids and leaps a ping.

I follow it downwards.

It vanishes.

Breakage is impending.

Then, at the very southernmost teardrop, a gasp is heaved. A ship horns farewell, its low moan, guttural shores leaving.

In my ears, all glass shatters.

The couple waves at our direction.

 


020 Mirror

A boy counts pixels and hairlines at the end of the hall, reassembling the fractures. He beckons us over to the jigsaw table.

I look forward.

The reflections still sway from right to left in all the particles that remain. But the circle is still clear, in the very centre.

In every line, I see a cross. I remember the words of a confusing night, alone in a bathroom, with the lights on. There are vacant stalls here also, along the levelled shelves.

You repeat my name.

Again, I falter. I am aware I had lapsed.

You redraw the circle.

 

 


 
Christina J. Chua is a writer from Singapore. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the National University of Singapore in 2013. After years of living out of a suitcase, her affinities divided between the urban and the islands of the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific, she finally returned to root herself in Singapore in 2017. She survives her memories by writing a poem every day and cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude and generosity. She is currently working on her debut novel on generational trauma, travel, and faith. 
Stephanie Jane Burt is an artist whose practice spans from sculptural installations to fictional prose. She completed her studies at Glasgow School of Art where she received her Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Painting in 2012 and her Master of Fine Arts in 2014. She moved back to Singapore in 2015, where she currently works and resides. Her work invites the viewer to explore dialogues between her installations and their settings through a fictional narrative at times referencing film and literature. She is currently invested in feminist readings of mother-daughter relations, dynamics of female friendships and the analysis and representation of Girl Culture.

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