In Hanoi, Vietnam, there is a Ceramic Wall so long it holds a Guinness World Record.
A tall, muscle-bound, blonde, white man leads my fat tourist’s body through a jog. He explains the features of the Ceramic Wall. Nearly four kilometres in length, it flanks a thoroughfare packed
with shiny red and blue and silver motor scooters. There are five million motor scooters in Hanoi, the tour guide says,
and whizzing cars, and bustling peddlers, and city pedestrians, and walls of noise that hem us in,
beside the wall.

I smell exhaust as I run along the sidewalk, following my trainer.
Its endless shiny tile mosaic, one vignette after another:
here a temple shrine with red roof, curled up at the corners,
next a village scene with children playing, then a series of vignettes rendered in pixels of tile:
The name of the city, Hanoi, a bamboo forest, koi fish and waterlilies in a pond, dancers with fans, celestial objects, ships with oars sailing the waves.

He says to be careful not to leave the sidewalk as we skirt around a slow-walking family. Horns honk in agreement, the traffic never ending, at least ten lanes of chaos right beside us. I am choking on the fumes.

Imagine what it would be like to run outside beside all that traffic. It is the twenty-third month of the Pandemic and instead of exploring the wonders of Asia in person, like I thought I would at my age,
I am exploring it through the 6-inch video screen of my treadmill, watching a recorded workout video, trying to reclaim what was lost from my body during these past two years of isolation,

picking up fragments of my former self,

what I used to love, used to wish for,

none of it seems relevant in the face of, the threat of,

imminent death on contact with other humans or being the cause of death for the frail members of my family. It all seems so selfish now. Who can fly to Asia when there is disease, and the earth is dying? I dump out my bucket list and run

beside the Ceramic Wall, looking for fragments of my former self, to create a new mosaic.


This version performed live via zoom at the Oxygen Arts Centre Author Reading Series, 26 Jan 2022, 7pm. (Gwen Higgins was one of two student readers, followed by two published authors).

Youtube recording:

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