Phenomenon II

Celia Wan
3 min readFeb 10, 2019


The sip of coffee that I just took tasted bitter than normal, or, to be more precise, I would not know how normal coffee of this kind tasted like. However, since he told me earlier that he over-brewed the coffee, I was intentionally looking for that hint of bitterness in my mouth, and it was there — what a relief.

He just finished cleaning the bowl that was used to hold the pancake batter. Now the pancakes were forming the expected circular shape in the pan. I heard the oil sizzling and so I was, habitually, looking forward to the smell of flour and olive oil to soon fill his small open kitchen.

Now, if I am writing a confession, I have to say that I was not expecting any pancakes on that Saturday morning. In fact, I did not know what to expect at all, at this apartment that I was completely unfamiliar with, wearing an oversized shirt that refused to accept my temporary ownership, and suffering from the overindulgence on whiskey the night before.

My attention must have dwelled on somewhere. The destination itself was uncertain, but it might have been the bowl that was covered by batter, the water running down from the tap, or the sponge that was previously filled with water and then released from it after he gave it a squeeze. He seemed to hesitate after the squeeze — a bit abnormal. But hell, what did I know? I hadn’t been myself that entire morning — Maybe he did, or he didn’t. I wouldn’t know.

He put the sponge on the rack under the sink, then turned to me to say something. My absent self now received some unexpected attention, very uncomfortable. He said that he knew what he was doing.

“I know what I am doing.” That’s what he said, utterly out of context. A strange statement, explaining something that I did not understand, like pointing an arrow toward the open air.

I was not perceptive at all that morning. After all, I was not there. My consciousness was attached to the sponge, the shirt, the coffee, the taste of bitterness, the whiskey from last night, the pancakes, the sizzling oil, the pause, but I was not there.

The pause. It was the pause. Something cracked after he squeezed the sponge. What was it? The routine that he held so much faith in was in fact unbearably contingent, although he had not been able to see this over the thousand times he squeezed that sponge before. Now he tried to justify something to me, not about the contingency itself but the revelation of such contingency, and that made me felt anxious — it was completely unnecessary. Didn’t he know that I was not there?

All the sudden I felt somehow relevant to this Saturday morning in this particular kitchen. My consciousness exploded outward, attaching itself to a million things of which I had no control, but it was on this explanation that it decided to settle. I giggled, and I also remembered, at that particular moment, the pause.

The way his forearm muscle contracted and relaxed cooperatively, the sponge that was lying firmly in his hand, the water that disappeared in the sink, the dizziness he must have felt when he hesitated, the unsureness of what was happening then and what would happen next…

Now I existed, like I hadn’t that entire morning.



Celia Wan

Certified paradigm shift identifier because I read Kuhn thrice; History and Philosophy of Mathematics @UChicago