Jacky Tang

Kevlar is one of the strongest materials available. It is a synthetic polymer constructed with a tightly weaved, interlocking structure that produces an unbelievable tensile strength. When a bullet travelling at 300 m/s makes contact, the crystalline arrangement of its molecules absorb most of its energy, stopping it and minimizes its damage. This is what give bulletproof vests their resistance.

My mother calls. I see the screen light up with her caller ID. Slide left to reject, slide right to accept. I let it ring, silently, before reluctantly answering.

She ask me what I’m doing. I know she has something else in mind. There always is a purpose to every call, otherwise there is no reason to. She mentions she will be going to the doctor this Saturday, which is the excuse she needs to meet up. There’s no reason to see me unless she is already out, or has something to deliver, even though I’ve told her she never needs to bring anything. I’m always tempted to lie in order to get out of it, yet it is difficult to deter her attempt to go into the outside world knowing the loneliness she encounters in my brother’s stale home at the edge of the city.

Thursday. A text comes from my father asking to set up a time for coffee. It’s the first text in six months since the obligatory ‘Happy new years!’ and two months since ‘Happy birthday!’. It never goes well, but, again, I oblige. ‘I’m free on Sunday at 11am.’

Saturday comes and I receive a call from the buzzer system at my building. My mother comes in with her usual bag of random household items and ingredients. A box of crackers, a bottle of Maggi seasoning sauce, some dishwashing pellets tied up in one of those plastic produce bags from the grocery store. She starts asking questions about whether I’ve gotten an internship, comments about my dishes in the sink, my white bike in the kitchen, how hot it is outside. I get an email about a potential gig for my band, so I sit for a second and think of a good response. More questions are being asked into thin air, one after the other, without even any intention of listening for a reply. I try writing a response. More questions. “Can you wait a moment? I’m trying to write something.” “What did you say?” “CAN YOU WAIT A MOMENT? I’M TRYING TO WRITE SOMETHING! PAY ATTENTION TO THE PERSON YOU’RE TALKING TO. IF YOU JUST TOOK A LOOK YOU WOULD KNOW THAT I’M BUSY DOING SOMETHING. DON’T JUST ASK QUESTIONS WITHOUT EVEN TRYING TO PAY ATTENTION!” Silence. Now I can write my response.

Sunday comes. I receive a text saying that my father is here. That usually means he is on his way, which means he was texting while he was driving. I head to the door anyways. Of course he wasn’t there. He had just parked and was walking over. We stroll down the street, and I ask him where he wants to go for coffee. He mentions the little place around the corner that roasts their own beans. We grab a coffee and head towards the river. He asks a question, and before I have a chance to respond he answers the question as if it was posed to him. I tilt my head down in annoyance and keep walking. At the river I head to one of my favourite spots where the trail dips close to the water underneath the bridge. He asks another question, and answers it himself. Silence. “Why do you bother asking questions you don’t even let me answer?” “I wasn’t doing that.” “You asked a question back there, then answered it yourself. Then you just did it again here.” “You’re not supposed to count. Don’t think like that.” “No, no, no. Why do you bother asking questions, and then answer them yourself?” He redirects the conversation again. I punch my hand three times to redirect my pain to something physical. “WHY DO I BOTHER COMING OUT WITH YOU WHEN YOU DON’T EVEN TRY TO LISTEN? THAT’S THE REASON I BROKE UP WITH MY GIRLFRIEND. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS LISTEN CLOSELY TO WHAT THE OTHER PERSON IS SAYING.” We walk back silently to my apartment. He holds up his fist and smiles. “Ok, boy, see you.” “NO. YOU JUST DON’T GET IT.” “So, what am I supposed to do?” “LISTEN CLOSELY TO WHAT THE OTHER PERSON IS SAYING. LISTEN CLOSELY TO WHAT THE OTHER PERSON IS SAYING. LISTEN CLOSELY TO WHAT THE OTHER PERSON IS SAYING. DO YOU GET IT NOW?” He pauses for a moment. “I have to think about it.”

A standard bulletproof vest is meant to stop more traditional 9mm bullets travelling at just above the speed of sound. Pellets from a shotgun travel slower, so they aren’t a problem. However, a AR-15 rifle is capable of shooting rounds at 1,000 m/s, nearly three times the speed of sound. It would be able to maintain its speed until it pierced through the vest. But there are armoured plates designed to stop what the Kevlar can’t. They are heavier and more difficult to move with. That is the price of impenetrability.