Punch-holes of Existence

by Ng Wei Lin


“Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time.”   

Look Homeward Angel, Thomas Wolfe

Modern living is a spectacle of truncated motion. Overlapped timestamps litter concrete pavements, braille breadcrumbs left by humanity as we trudge towards our fragile future.

We mark time with routine: alarm, snooze, phone, lights on, bristles, coffee, shower, dress, traffic, work, food, work, coffee, traffic, food, phone, lights off. A checklist of requirements for a day, a week, a year. We embellish it with appointments, tag it to exacting numbers to make it count. Give it a ticking sound to remind us that it is there, sand leaking out of a bag.

We can be ahead of time, behind time, make up for lost time. Time is clay in our busy hands, a vessel to hold form and purpose. We subdue it with our own manifestation. Manage it into boxes of teeming activity.

Our automatic bodies move in a daze of preoccupied efficiency, minds humming with anxieties and possibilities. Life is a conveyor belt of forward-looking timestamps. Endless stepping stones.

As we populate our own night skies with punch-holes of existence, a rapidly rising tide chills our feet, washing ashore an obscurity. Fueled by borderless currents and human congestion, it casts an invisible web of contamination, hysteria, and blame over the entire globe. By the time we bolted ourselves shakily to safety and scrubbed our peeling, culpable hands raw, it had stolen too many breathless souls into the night, leaving behind a phone, a watch, a keychain. And us, shut within four walls of blank anguish and horror.

Confronted with silence amplified within the chambers of our flushed hearts, we cautiously hang up the key to the gears of motion.

Seconds, minutes, hours, days.

The smallest denominator begins to stretch across boundaries in stealth, turning outlines hazy.

Disoriented, we attempt to patch the holes of normality through a buffet of self-motivation and self-improvements. Tales of war-time geniuses who shut themselves in basements and conceptualised revolutions peppered social media. There was no time to waste even as death and systemic collapse pervaded the world. Idle mind, devil’s playground. Or distract the unfamiliar hollow with entertainment marathons, until our eyes sting from the alien blue light.

Yet the holes grow, burning away at the fragile patchwork pieced over decades. Inevitably, we bubble up with ennui. Time seeps under our porous skin, nebulous, and disquieting.

As the pause lengthens, we raise our eyes for relief, staring at vacant ceilings. We feel light as ghosts as we disappear into the whiteness, falling indefinitely through space like dust.

The sky begins to adorn new hues, bright and strange. Droplets clap loud as thunder; we hear rain again, and the swish of occasional wheels on hungry damp roads. A singing voice floating up from below becomes a prayer, an insistent tapping from above morse code. We become a fly on the walls of our lives as the sun’s molten glow warms the living room from overnight chill. We sway with laundry in the wind, gentle as morphing clouds and winged creatures sailing across days. We wax and wane with keen shadows and their secrets.

As we wait with disabled hands and blind faith, fleeting moments weave themselves into a tapestry of continuous motion. Our bodies become vessels of time, filling, flooding, drowning us. We lose sight of timestamps as they slowly capsize into the deep. And Time takes over, sweeping away our inconsequential footprints. Debouching us, into its great wide mouth.


 Ng Wei Lin is an Economics and Political Science graduate. Freed from the whirlwind of education publishing and media relations, she has chosen the slow life. A poet and writer of non-fiction and fiction, she explores the human experience, the everyday, and the power of moments. She lives with her partner and experiments with jazz piano for her spoilt fat cat.