These surfaces are rough as hell. They are uneven. There are strange patches where tarmac used to be but is now gone. The rough edges of the material ruin shoes - heels, especially - quicker than usual, and so you can imagine or understand the sheer sense of dread that shot through me as I fell, anticipating the feeling of skin tearing against those sharp edges, the unforgiving roughness of the ground. My delicate skin. It simply had no chance.
I went down, my fall broken only by my right hand and my left knee. There was blood instantly. The tarmac tore an unsightly, bloody gash through the surface of my right wrist, tore off a piece of skin from the bottom left corner of my hand, and left smaller scabs on other parts of my hand. My left knee was mercifully covered by the 3/4 leggings that I wore, so there was no blood, but the sheer impact of the fall coupled with the ease with which I bruise (a few days ago, I discovered that a pretty big bruise and some swelling next to my left knee, and I still have no idea how that happened) guarantees a bruise for the next week, at the very least.
For a few seconds, all I could feel was the pain in my left knee as I stared in shock at the blood on my hand. It'd been a really, really long time since I'd fallen and injured myself like this; the rare times I fell playing tennis, it was in Singapore where we have civilised, proper hard courts, and so nothing happened. I was in such shock that I couldn't move for a while, and couldn't even muster the strength to answer a kind passer-by - the only kind passer-by - who asked if I was all right. I looked up at his concerned face - registered that he was elderly and looked English - and I couldn't answer; all I felt was the pain and the shock.
Then my survival instincts, or something like that, something in me socialised to deal with such situations in a specific way, kicked in, and I found my voice, and I told him that I was all right. I clearly wasn't, but I also clearly wasn't dying, so that, in my book, qualified as 'all right'. He left, and I moved myself off the centre of the pavement and sat by the curb, breathing deeply, trying to get over the shock of seeing my hand bruised, bloodied, scary. At some point, I thought, 'Shit, I hope I can still type; I need to revise my paper.'
I slowly got up and limped my way back home. My wounds stung, my left knee hurt, and I felt like crap. I'd only ran for 11 minutes before I tripped, and I'd wanted to run for at least 20 minutes. I also thought about going to the gym and was about to go to the gym when I remembered that I'd left my student card in the law library the previous night, and that Chris, another PhD student, had kindly returned it to the porters' lodge, and so I would need to go to the plodge to get it. I thought it was too cumbersome and so I went for a run.
I really regret that decision.
I should have known, though, that Sunday was not going to be my day. I woke up from another vivid dream of G: I saw him in an airport, he'd seen me but he didn't come up to me; and when he walked in my direction, he'd only wanted to talk to someone next to me. I feel the emotions from that dream as if it had really happened; but that's because it did happen, and my dreams merely recycle these emotions, as if taunting my inability to exorcise them once and for all.
While walking the long lonely road back home, I'd wanted to cry at times. I thought, How nice it would be if Dominic were here and not in Princeton. I also thought, Why the fuck am I in this stupid place? If I'd fallen in Singapore or something, someone can drive me back, but now I have to fucking walk back. I thought a lot of self-pitying thoughts, and I felt like crying, but I didn't actually cry until I thought about that stupid dream. I guess the bright side was that it took my mind off the sting that quietly but surely emanate from my wounds, as if blood evaporated from them and took pieces of my flesh along with it.
I got back and even attempted the 10-minute abs exercise that Dominic introduced to me, until I decided that maybe it would be better to get on with my routine so that I could go to Boots and get something for the wounds. I even attempted to cook until I thought about the difficulty that I would encounter in washing up, then decided against it, but not without some reluctance; I was really looking forward to fried rice with bamboo shoots. Showering and washing my hair was challenging. I didn't get shampoo in all parts of my hair as I used only my left hand but I did what I could. Blow-drying my hair was challenging too; after trying and failing to blow dry with my left hand, I awkwardly held the hairdryer in my right hand, locked into a certain position, and manoeuvred my head around it. I managed to get it more or less dry, and then I had to put on a bra. I was almost not going to wear one after encountering difficulties hooking it but I tried again and it worked the second time.
Basically, life sucks without the normal use of my dominant hand. At least I can still type.
I got my ass to Boots, where the assistant manager administered some basic first-aid. We discovered that there is a tiny splinter lodged in my hand. It is so tiny that it is almost unnoticeable, but whoa, the pain that it produces is fucking disproportionate to its size. Due to the UK's health and safety laws, she was not allowed to take out a tweezer to remove it. Her colleague recommended this magnesium paste that would help to draw it out, and so after a day in the library, I am now home, and the first thing that I did - one of the first things - was to apply the paste to the relevant area and put a plaster on it. I really hope it works; I don't have time to waste on dealing with these stupid things.
The most disturbing thing about this whole ordeal isn't so much the wounds, but the sight of them. Even my untrained eye can tell that the wounds are just surface wounds, but they look so disgusting. The worst one is this gash on my right wrist. It is probably 5cm long (though I have no concept of how long this is at all) and it's red and the centre of it is dark red and it looks awful. It looks more awful than it is, for sure, but sights like these just gross me out. The little hole on the base of my palm is also gross; it keeps producing liquid. I thought maybe it was because I put some water on it, but I pressed a piece of tissue to it a while ago and now it's wet again.
I am so grossed out. At times like these, I wish I had Wolverine's healing factor, some magical ability that lets me heal instantly. The pain merely stings, so it's fine; it's just the sight of the wounds that disturb me.
My right shoulder also hurts, and needless to say, my left knee is suffering so much. I wore a skirt sans leggings partly because I wanted someone to look at it, and also because wearing my skinny jeans would cause a lot of pain. Thankfully it was relatively warm today, i.e. 7 degrees when I walked back at 8.45pm. (Yes, how sad, right? I know.)
Apart from this, I spent my afternoon 'revising' my paper. I thought I'd made progress when I reduced the word count to 18,000+ yesterday, but right now, it's 19,000+. Fuck my life. Fuck, in fact, my fucking life. It would probably be wise to delete the stuff on section 3(1)(e) (I think?) of the Sedition Act and section 298 of the Penal Code and Amos Yee, but oh my god, I spent so much time on all these things that I am loathe to delete any more substantive sections. I spent a week writing about defamation and in the end, what happened to it? Highlight + delete button. There goes one week of work.
I may or may not have mentioned this, but in any event, I had to give a 15-minute presentation in front of my classmates last Tuesday on anything that I choose, and obviously I chose to present what I've been doing for the first-year paper. I think it was good in the sense that preparing for it forced me to really narrow down what it is that I want to say with this paper, and so it helped me substantially reduce the section on the Shared Values and the government's purported communitarian ideology. Apart from that, it was also good practice. I am not exaggerating at all when I say that one of the few genuine fears that I have in life is speaking in front of a group of people. I trace this fear back to one very, very bad experience in English class in secondary 2, when we had to give a speech in front of the whole class. Since I speak really fast, I spoke really fast while delivering that speech and made a mess of it, and was scolded by the English teacher (it was Mrs T!en, for St Nicks people reading this). That experience has scarred me for life. I'm also not good at speaking off the cuff, and I can't think on my feet. My mind goes blank in pressure situations, especially when I am in the middle of a point and I forget what the point is. I used to read out a prepared script when forced to give presentations, and I did this to some extent when I presented at that constitutional law conference in Singapore last year, but this time, perhaps because I was talking about something that I've been working on for months, I spoke as naturally as I could under the circumstance without reading from a script. I was surprised when feedback was given by the professors and they both did not say that I spoke too fast. All in all, I think it actually went quite well. Of course, I had to prepare like crazy. I practised a few times at home and made Dominic listen to me (it was so cute when he pointed out that the abbreviated form of 'professor' is 'prof.' with a period, and tried to make me change 'the differentia is intelligible' to 'the differentia are intelligible' because 'differentia' is Latin and it is plural). The thing is, though, this probably becomes easier with experience, and since I want to be an academic, giving talks unfortunately comes with the territory; and so I'd better get used to it.
In non-PhD news, I went to the Magdalene Lawyers' dinner yesterday and spoke briefly to an elderly IP professor. He was supposed to say grace but he was late, and he forgot the words. It was very cute. He said that my primary supervisor taught him a course or something and that I was very lucky to be with her. I agree, actually; she's very no-nonsense and doesn't let me get away with assumptions, generalisations, and vague statements. She's also encouraging where it is warranted, and since there's little that I hate more than false and therefore rubbish encouragement, I am glad to be her supervisee. (Also, she's so hot!)
I also sort of went with Barry and Theo. As a PhD student, I sat at high table where there was a seating arrangement, so Barry was across from me and Theo was down there with the commoners (high table is usually for fellows and their guests). The table is too big to talk to the people opposite you, so I spoke mainly to an ex-student who is now in A&O (who also sponsored the dinner). She was very nice, and I enjoyed hearing about her undergrad experience doing law in Cambridge. All I can say is that the best time to do a degree in Cambridge is probably the PhD; the exam stress sounds insane! Have I ever mentioned that I am so glad in hindsight that I didn't get into the Cambridg LLM course? I had so much fun at the LSE that I can't imagine trading that for crappy stress here. Evidently, things have somewhat worked out.
I am still waiting to hear back regarding the NYouS scholarship. The wait is driving me crazy! I just want to know, one way or the other!
Apart from all that, my life has been pretty much dominated by the PhD. I was reading up on some death penalty issues to bolster the death penalty section in my paper, and I was so glad to find the reading interesting. My supervisor suggested that I considered whether Singapore's discretionary death penalty regime under the Misuse of Drugs Act was similar or not to the United States' plea bargaining system, and so I read an article about that. In the end, I mentioned it in a footnote, but I think however flawed the latter is, it at least gives the accused person a choice. Under the MDA, the offender has no choice at all; his fate is in the hands of the Prosecutor, more so than the judge who doesn't have the discretion to impose life + caning until the Prosecutor decides that the offender rendered 'substantive assistance'.
I was getting rather disillusioned and bored of my first year paper, but I think it's becoming somewhat interesting again. I really feel passionately that my argument is correct and I really believe that Singapore's human rights practice is inherently flawed. At the same time, perhaps it's a sign of age, but I no longer think that the liberal way is the only answer. I am still a liberal to the core, but I really hate the way liberty is used and understood as licence in the West sometimes. I mean, this debate about whether 'recreational drugs' should be legalised is just fucking stupid. What moral cause does it serve? It serves absolutely none. And so the argument has to be from individual autonomy: one should be free to smoke weed as long as it doesn't harm otherwise. But this is frivolous to the core. It is invoking the powerful language of rights to protect an interest that is meaningless and amoral, and putting it on the same plane as the right to engage in sexual intimacy with the one that I love, regardless of his/her gender, is frankly an insult to people who are fighting for autonomy rights in the meaningful sense: the right to the kind of autonomy that expresses a deeply personal aspect, one that goes to the core of the self. How can 'recreational' drugs fulfil this standard? It is pure frivolity and it is stupid.
Also, I honestly do not understand what human right is violated when a religiously-motivated public official declines to officiate a same-sex wedding, and I think that it is a violation of that public official's right to freedom of conscience when he is made to do it. The same-sex couple can always find someone else to officiate their wedding; why should a devout religious person be forced to go against his beliefs? I find it entirely ludicrous that a Christian (I think) bakery was found to have discriminated against a homosexual couple when it declined to write some pro-gay marriage message on a cake. In a pluralistic society, you cannot force people to bend to your will. If this bakery doesn't want to do it, find another one. In the same vein, the burqa debate is so misguided, and France's militant secularism is so flawed in this regard. I don't see why someone else should have a problem with a Muslim woman covering her hair. In fact, I don't even see why anyone, under normal circumstances, should have a problem with an Arab woman covering her whole face. Sure, it's a bit weird and disconcerting, but no one has a right to be protected from feeling weirded out and disconcerted. Maybe one would start suspecting whether this woman is covering up against her will or not, but why should we assume the worst? Further, it is patronising to automatically associate such modes of dress with oppression of the woman. While it is of course plausible that some women are forced to do it, it does not mean that all women who choose to cover up completely are oppressed. Judging another culture by one's own standards is narrow-minded. (This does not mean that FGM-like practices should be excused on the basis of cultural relativism, but then again, equating the burqa or the entire veil - I can't presently remember the term - to FGM is a bit much.)
Anyway. I was reading Michael Sandel a few days ago and he argued for a really interesting justification for legalising homosexuality that has nothing to do with autonomy. The argument is basically that homosexual couples pursue the same human good as heterosexual couples, and so homosexuality should not be criminalised. I'd been so used to thinking about rights from the starting point of autonomy, but this idea of autonomy is so hard to translate into a non-liberal tradition, I think. Rights are so interesting from an intellectual point of view. The different philosophical foundations and justifications for them are fascinating. I can't wait to spend my summer reading more widely and deeply into this so that I can properly structure the rest of my PhD.
Okay, I want to make use of my Netflix account and watch something before going to bed, so I shall stop writing now.