The Vegetarian

2006 midnight:

Come, walk with me.

It is midnight and Folkestone’s leas are the starting point for one of my favorite night walks. We can walk till the very edge of the cliffs of Dover with its white limestone sheer cliffs rising straight out of the sea.

I’ll even walk on the side closest to the edge and you can walk on the other side if it will make you feel safer.

Come, please.

Isn’t it lovely?

Who knew I would end up in Folkestone, walking along the leas and you walking alongside next to me?

But there is a reason why I asked you to join me here. I was a vegan most of my time here in Folkestone.

That is correct, a vegan.

Watch your step. If you stumble and trip I might go over the edge cartwheeling in the air with my clothes flapping in the wind down into the sea.

But if you want to see better the cliffs come closer. Stand where I am standing and let your eyes adjust to the darkness. There, do you see the cliffs curving out into the channel? They are about ten miles away.

Come, come, let us keep walking.

I am sorry I have to raise my voice against the wind. I am not used to talking louder than in a whisper. I have even brought two umbrellas in case it rains. Once I was caught in the rains midway and caught a nasty cold from the rain and the wind.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to walk behind me. Oh yes, I noticed. We are out of earshot of everyone, but even otherwise I am quite harmless. See, just to prove it, let me stand on the very edge of this walkway with my back to you.

Go ahead. Nudge me. A centimeter forward and my center of gravity will pull me over the edge. I won’t even turn back.

This is the section of the walk that I love the most.

The monotony of the wind blowing over the bluffs. It is noisy but the noise is not layered. There is just the elemental sound of the wind. There are not even trees or birds or humans. Somehow this stretch always lulls me into serenity.

I love to think that many Kentish merchants have stood here, eye affixed to telescopes, watching for their colonial ships laden with spices and fortunes. It gives a timelessness to the walk, doesn’t it? To the geography.

If you weren’t here, I would have squatted down, hugged my knees close, rested my chin on the knees and huddled here for some time, watching the moon travel the clouds.

The Vegetarian. Right, right.

Probably why Yeong-Hye failed in her pursuit of vegetarianism was her insistence that everyone accept her change in identity? Did she fail to fully appreciate the extent of externalities that connect a human to their existence? Even when she wanted to escape once, she wanted to bring along her sister, a tether that would only weigh her down.

Yeong-Hye was no Siddhartha I think.

Standing here on the exposed cliffs at night you can yourself see we are bound to no one. But standing here in the middle of the day with your friends, families, and a throng of humanity, you will realize the fibers of connection.

Sometimes one has to trick existence in laughable manners.

Night walks rejuvenate me. They do not hold a destination nor a speed nor a vector.

They are micro journeys that exist and end without reason.

My Vegan journey was one such digression in life. But unlike Yeong-Hye I had cut loose and embarked on the journey far away. It was a new identity in a new place. Poor Yeong-Hye, she wreaked havoc on everyone with her rebellion. The more she undid herself, the harder those around her tried to stick the fallen pieces back onto her. It was as if they were losing their minds with Yeong-Hye.

She was defiantly holding a mirror to those around her. The mirror reflecting nothing but savagery and panic.

The Vegetarian might not have been the best of my reads, but it ended up being read, and it has affected me in whatever critical or trivial manner.

We are some way into the walk and I generally do not speak much.

My apologies. We can walk till the end in silence.

It should take us a couple of hours till we reach the end and by the time we return it will be day break and the thieving gulls will be out.

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