路途上，毫無景色可言 ——掉漆的貨櫃滿身鐵鏽，兩旁工業大廈外牆處處風霜，本來從車裏可見的天空，都被大廈遮去半邊，沿途綠意更是談不上，只感壓迫。我向目的地往前駕駛，風景往後退。然後，我走上錯的分岔路，看見未踏足過的商場、不熟悉的街道和老舊並奇怪的樓宇。離開迴旋處，第二次駛經同一個屋苑，導航系統說要駛出第二個出口，我疑惑了。第二個是指我那一秒身處的位置的第二出口嗎，但我在圍繞着迴旋處繞圈，到底是哪一秒哪一個出口？我想起《The Garden of Forking Paths》。小說裏，人們隨着不同決定，踏入不同的岔路，步向不同宇宙。所有宇宙都不同，但都是真實的存在於非直線的時間軸上。而現在，在其中一個現實裏，我在一條人流不多的街道上，車子左方有些小檔售賣各式各樣的東西。離目的地倒不遠，我便泊好車子，走路過去。
雜務終於辦妥，我返回車停泊的地方，在旁邊的小檔隨心買了兩個嫣紅的當造愛文芒，我想Jorge Luis Borge也沒猜到吧。回程時，同樣看見那些不太好看的街道，音響從剛才停止的一刻，繼續播着音樂。雖然我時常走往錯的分岔路，駛出錯的迴旋處出口，花更多燃油和時間，但我總會到達目的地。有一年冬天我很想去Bath走走，計劃了行程，三次都不得而歸。第一次，鬧鐘沒響，我趕不上火車；第二次，我上到火車，車開了沒幾分鐘便停下，壞了，然後我去了Borough Market吃意粉、買豐腴的紅蝦和帶子。最後一次，出發前一晚我在精緻的餐廳裏吃晚餐，然後食物中毒了，接着兩天都在吃外送唐餐。行程徹頭徹尾的失敗，我知道我在那時那刻不該去Bath。
There is an invisible boundary on the expressway or spell on the turnabout. There must be. Otherwise, I couldn’t explain why every time I set off to Tsuen Wan I end up in Yuen Long, and vice versa. Every time.
I trusted the, supposedly, meticulously advance GPS, followed direction from as basic as the overhead road signs en route, attempted with different cross-harbour tunnels, and I lost count on how many times I got lost.
The route wasn’t scenic at all. Containers covered in rust and fainted paints, industrial buildings in weathered façade and the size large enough to block the vast blue sky you could have seen from inside the car. Green was rare. It’s suffocating. They all went past however as I drove ahead to my destination. Then, on the wrong fork of road, there were shopping centres I had never been to, streets unfamiliar, housings looked old and peculiar. On the second time passing the same housing estate after exiting the turnabout when the GPS told me to go the second exit and I was confused; by “second” did it mean the second exit on that second where I was but I was driving around the turnabout with four exits, so, which one was the second at that second?《The Garden of Forking Paths》came to my mind. In the fiction, men fork down to a different path into a different universe with every different decision they make. They are all different. They all are the reality existing on a non-linear infinite timeline. And, in one of the realities here and now, not exactly where I had to go but close by, I was on a quiet street with a few sparse stalls on the left hand side selling all sort of things. Alright, I might as well pull over and walk to my destination.
Errands done, at last. I returned to where the car was parked and bought a couple of scarlet, fleshy Aiwen mangoes fresh into the season, which I didn’t plan to, at one of the stalls. I guess Jorge Luis Borge didn’t see it coming too. On the way back home, passing by the same not-so-scenic streets, the audio continued to play the music from where it was stopped. Although I always went down the wrong fork of road and exited at the wrong turnabout exit, at the cost of extra fuel and time, I always got to the destination in the end. I remembered one winter I really wanted to visit Bath that I made trips, three attempted and failed trips. In the first one, I missed the train because the alarm clock didn’t go off. In the second trip, I boarded the train but the train went dead after running a few minutes, and I ended up eating pasta and buying succulent Carabineros prawns and scallops at Borough Market. In the last attempt, I had food poisoning from a fancy bistro the night before that I had to stay in and eat Chinese takeout for two days. It was an epic fail. I knew then I wasn’t meant to be in Bath at that time.
In my last trip to that same destination, I yet again followed the confusing routes on map, and moved farther from where I wanted to go. When I saw the shopping centres I still had never been to, streets still unfamiliar, housings still looked old and peculiar, I knew it was right. “I’m on the same wrong route again, so, it must be right!” I said it out loud and, unapologetically, felt quite relieved and happy. The route that takes longer to my destination, inefficient and not text-book perfect, but it will take me to where I need to be. It is not justifiable to call it wrong. The trajectory may be different, winding, not scenic, and perhaps lead to a destination least expected, but it will eventually take you to where you are meant to be at that moment. You will know when you look back one day.
Unsalted butter 120g, room temperature
All purpose flour 100g
Corn flour 20g
Baking powder 1.5 teaspoon
Sea salt a pinch
Egg (small) 3 pieces, room temperature
Milk 30ml, room temperature
Pure vanilla extract (for the cake) 1 teaspoon
Pure vanilla extra (for the cream) 1 teaspoon
Powdered sugar (for the cream) 1 tablespoon
Powdered sugar (for dusting) To taste
Aiwen mango 2 pieces
Mango jam 2 tablespoons
Whipped cream 120ml
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease two 6-inch tins with a thin layer of butter and line them with parchment paper.
Sieve the all purpose flour, corn flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Add sea salt and mix well.
In another mixing bowl, cream the butter with sugar with a handheld mixer. After the mixture turns pale yellow, add the eggs, one egg at a time. Add milk and vanilla extract, beat well.
Add 1/3 of the flour into the egg mixture, gently fold in with a spatula. Repeat for the remaining flour.
Equally divide the batter into the two tins. Smooth out the top. Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove the cakes from the oven, let them sit in the tins for 10 minutes before turning the cakes out onto a cooling rack and remove the parchment paper. Personally since I’d like a flat top for the cake, so I had the cakes dome sides down when cooling. It’s optional.
Peel and dice the mangoes. Keep them refrigerated.
Add the vanilla and powdered sugar to the whipped cream with a handheld mixer until it reaches soft peak. Keep the cream refrigerated.
When the sponge cakes are completely cool, spread one of the cakes with jam and another with whipped cream. Place the mango cubes onto the cream and layer it with the other cake. Dust the top with powdered sugar and decorate with more mango or flower as you wish.
It’s raining outside, crisp and bleak. Three chubby sparrows took shelter on my balcony and I gave them the baguette bits left on my breakfast plate but they flew away. I stayed in, played Damien Rice on vinyl and made apple crumble. Repeat.