The Shortest Distance by Tania De Rozario

They say the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

I take out my map and after locating the relevant placemarks, draw a straight line between Holland and    Singapore. Apparently, closing the shortest distance between us requires me to swim a large bulk of the Indian Ocean, tread over a number of states and swim through the body of water known as The Black Sea.

I stare at the line for a good five minutes. I wonder whose homes, parks, national monuments I’ve trampled with my pen. I fold the map so that both our countries touch. I then realize that the trick to closing this distance, is not travelling the line that connects both locations, but instead, manipulating the terrain so that the distance closes itself.

I fold the world back up into squares and place it in my drawer. I dog-ear Antarctica by accident.

Does distance multiply desire? Or does desire multiply distance?

The first time we met, you stood two meters away from me. You were wearing bermudas and an old t-shirt with an ice-cream ad on it. I, was stark naked, in the centre of the circle you completed with ten other classmates. I was an object of observation. Your cheek was stained black with charcoal. I wanted to walk up to you and wipe the night out with my thumb.

The thing about maps is, they assume distance to be mathematical. Continents are shrunk to shapes on a grid, oceans denoted by contoured blues. People often forget the vast space that maps represent. It is one thing to scale a mile to a millimeter and a whole other thing to scale a mountain. When you leave, you will not simply be a certain number of coordinates away.

When you leave, the sun will shine on us at different times.

How does this all work out, me here and you not? You not around the corner of the kitchen. You not at work just a bus ride away. You not at  your parents house when you’re not at home. You not here, not next to me, not far from me in a distance I can cover within the day?

The first time we slept together, we were nervous as hell. It took a full bottle of wine and two six packs. We were inseparable for the rest of the night.

I’ve never been afraid of sex. It’s closeness that scares me. We disentangled ourselves from each other once the sun found us.

“Funny how time flies when these things happen,” you said, tying your laces and standing up.

A single statement put miles between us. I faked a laugh. I saw you were relieved. A silent agreement to erase the night from the day; that was what we had made.

And that was how it should have been. You on one side of the bed, me on the other. Forever on the brink of leaving for work.

The theory of the straight line was applicable to my mother’s beliefs. Preaching it was an everyday affair. A straight line was the fastest way to heaven and the shortest route to God.

Walk the straight line. Walk it proudly and never look back.

But I wanted to do everything else to the line but walk it. I wanted to bend it, fly it, flog it, straddle it, wrap it around myself till there was no line left to speak of. Till there was no more line that divided her from me and made us different.

I’ve never believed in the road to paradise being straight nor short. Jesus never said no to the expanse of the desert nor to Calvary’s heights. He never preached a straight line to salvation. He spoke in metaphors, analogies, parables. He wasn’t into short distances, short cuts, short changing his people. He wanted us to travel every inch of ourselves to find the answers we sought, to explore our souls to their fullest depths.

Because he loved us and wanted us to understand the depth of this love:

The shortest distance to heaven and the longest road in the universe.

Are you willing climb the world for me? Because I’d climb it for you. Scale it like the map our lives. Trample through accumulated layers of soil and rock to find you at its peak, shining like a new day. I will take the longest route if I have to. Carrying nothing but my desire. Willing to admit that you’ve found me out, that I’m weak and that I need you.

I need you. I’ve said it. You’re the chink in my armor. The glitch that will force me to shed this skin and be rid of its weight in order to run the world like a treadmill. If I want to see you, I must travel without baggage. I must be strong of heart, light of foot, naked of the past. I mean, can you imagine me plodding through soil and ocean clink-clanking with history? I don’t have that kind of strength.

And only you could have done this. Only you could have forced this admission. Only you with you poker face, mouth pursed with the anxiety of never being good enough. Only you with the scars on your thighs, hair ruffled with morning, knees bruised like apples. Only you with collarbone defined by stark ridges, body slender like a wick and bright like its flame. Only you.

The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line. But points shift. Morph. Appear . Disappear. Walk in a straight line and you are likely to end up in the wrong place. Love takes the path of the heart, a line as tangled together as two lives
intertwined. To trace love, one must journey the distance that cannot be mapped on two-dimensional surface. To trace love, I must run my finger across the ridges of time and fill every empty valley with your face.

You are only as far as one wall of my heart to the other; a distance that is forever, but that I must close in a single breath.

You are only as far as the spaces between us, that will collapse like shadows when you call my name.

Tania De Rozario is a visual artist and writer based in Singapore. Both her art and writing have been exhibited in spaces such at The Esplanade, the Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore as well as the Singapore Philatelic Museum. On days she isn’t fantasizing about modes of escape, she teaches Contextual Studies at LASALLE College of the Arts. Her poetry and prose can be found on the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore.


  1. Shanna-Mae Therese

    this is one of the most real and honest books i’ve ever read. it strips the auther of all layers and shows a brave and true human being. i couldn’t stop crying when i read it because you can’t help but feel everything you think the author felt. truly one of my favourite books. i’d recommend it to any reader. hell, i’d recommend it to any non-reader too!


  2. Simon Ng

    Thanks Ta, it’s always a pleasure to read it again, and many more times. It will always be a companion of mine, wherever I might be.


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