About Confessions in Third Person

Conceived as an experiment in literary non-fiction, Confessions in Third Person is a cumulative anthology of prose. Based on personal experiences, feelings, and thoughts, the series was intended to systematically document a collection of personal writings that aim to be at once cerebral and emotional, self-indulgent and self-deprecating.

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Berny Tan
#8: A Problem that Wasn't a Problem

Sunday / 27 December 2015 / 6 am / Her bed, Singapore

She had woken before sunrise again – it had been happening, quietly, almost everyday for the past few weeks. But this time was different. This time it felt as if she held within her chest a core of nervous energy so tenuously bound to her lungs that it could, at any moment, explode into an all-consuming, unstoppable breathlessness. It felt solid and heavy, this core, but also like an immense nothingness that threatened to suck herself into herself.

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Berny Tan
#7: More

Monday / April 27, 2015 / 5 pm / Seven Grams Caffé, NY

This had all started as an experiment, you know. She was bored, and she was trying to see if it was possible for the fundamental nature of a connection with another person to change – by adjusting the frequency, by adjusting the tenor of conversation with this person that just so happened to be there. She should have known better than to think she, she who took everything seriously, whose fervour was forged in solitude, could treat this as “just an experiment.”

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Berny Tan
#6: Dawn, and What It Used to Mean

Monday / February 10, 2014 / 5 pm / Her sister’s apartment, Orlando, FL

The bane of the houseguest who sleeps on the sofa bed in the living room is the early departure of the host. The former had been awoken earlier than she would have liked by the sounds of a morning routine that she tried her hardest to ignore away. Though she would have preferred to pretend herself back to sleep, assisted by the blanket pulled over her head like an eyelid in its own right, the host woke her up out of the necessity of entrusting her with the keys. And so, the houseguest found herself involuntarily vertical.

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Berny Tan
#5: Materialisation and its Dangers

Saturday / July 27, 2013 / 10 pm / Her apartment, NY

This time, the Other was real.

It wasn’t some figment or writing device, like all the Others she had previously used and discarded. This one was real, and it threatened her. Well, considering the Other most likely did not know she existed, one might have to say that she perceived the other as a threat. The appropriate term for this situation might be: an ‘unrequited romantic rivalry.’

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Berny Tan
#4: Perhaps

Thursday / 25 July 2013 / 10 am / Long Island Rail Road

Perhaps it was transit. That thought occurred to her as she sat in the train, her back facing her destination as if its metal body was dragging her there against her will. She noted the train’s horn, as frequent as it was distant, and wondered why the repetition was necessary, what was there that needed to be warned or frightened. (She got her answer later – she had to make sure the sound was really called a ‘horn,’ so she googled-with-a-lower-case-g just to make sure, and found a press release stating that they were trying to minimise its use, but that it served to warn motorists, pedestrians, and passengers on station platforms.)

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Berny Tan
#3: The Text

Thursday / 18 July 2013 / 9.30 pm / VCS Library, School of Visual Arts, NY

Upon re-reading a certain text, one with which she had defined herself by giving it that damning title of ‘one of her favourite books,’ she felt strangely disconnected. ‘One of her favourite books…’ That had infused a certain weighty permanence into it, and now this commitment was waning. She wasn’t sure why this was happening – she had deep, deep, deep feelings for these words, or at least she remembered having deep, deep, deep feelings. She had always felt that the words had shaped her in some way, or revealed her, or paralleled her. They were the words that she had meant to write, she once thought. Someone else got there first; when she had that realisation, all those years ago, did she feel relief, or disappointment?

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Berny Tan
#2: The Disadvantages of Anticipation

Saturday / 15 June 2013 / 2 pm / Lower East Side, NY

She liked to suspect that the reason why she had very few people to call her own was because she could read people too well. There was a feeling she got, as she judged each person that walked by, that there was something that wouldn’t… work. It was a comfort to her that her solitude resulted from a skill rather than a deficiency.

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Berny Tan
#1: Composition on an Unplanned Walk Home

Sunday / 19 May 2013 / 6 pm / Along Bukit Timah Road, Singapore

She took a different bus route home, not by choice or sudden whim, but to avoid the – at this point she really had no qualms about resorting to a cliche – numberless horde. Mentally, she ascribed no race or nationality to them, merely occupation, for even in her head she strained to be politically correct, to resist that virulent strain of xenophobia to which so many had succumbed. That was the only quality that bound them, the ones who spent their Sundays off on the same stretch of road as the rest of their seemingly homogeneous domestic sisterhood.

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Berny Tan