Basic Space

by | April 4, 2020

Editor’s Note: Basic Space is the runner up of the Hilary 2020 500 Words Competition.  Judge Natalie Haynes writes regarding the piece that it “shows enormous potential and is probably the best piece of writing at a sentence-level”.


“Psychoanalysis is about what two people can say
to each other if they agree
not to have sex.” Says Adam Phillips. Adam Phillips is
a clever man. He has grey hair and sharp eyes,
and at some angles he is quite pretty.
I saw him speak in a room with dark carpets and calligraphy on the walls.
I couldn’t figure out what it said because
I was reading it the wrong way around.

It said 龙马精神, which according to my dictionary,
means spirit of a dragon horse – vigorous spirit of the aged
Or more idiomatically, old but still full of vitality.
I wonder if this applies to Adam Phillips.
I also wonder if he would fuck me. And
if I would fuck him. Probably not. “Psychoanalysis is about
what two people can say to each other if they agree
not to have sex.” Adam Phillips is a psychoanalyst.

The first time I saw a psychoanalyst
it was in a room with dark carpets and
pink walls. That same year, thousands of miles away,
Stuart Semple released PINK, the pinkest pink in
the world.
He made it for everybody, except Anish Kapoor.
Julia tells me this as we sit in the sun.
Her eyeshadow is pink, her
coat is dark blue.

I’ve forgotten the name of that first psychoanalyst.
Maybe it was Lin. Or Lynn.
She had thick glasses and thin wrists.
I lied to her for an hour straight. I didn’t
want to. It just happened.

Julia holds my throat in her small hand.
I want to give her the world. I try
to tell her this without
telling her. I try to tell her
that in this closeness I could die.∎


Words by Ng Wei Kai. Art by Holly Anderson.