Saturday, April 24, 2010


Last year I visited the parents of a girl friend I had for ten years. L moved to France to start a new life. Few of us heard from her ever since; fewer saw her when she made quick trips back to Hong Kong, alone or with her husband's family. Her parents did not see much of her either except her sleeping at night in the bed she used to occupy, her getting ready in the morning to go out--L had a lot of errands to run.

'She came back to visit the Immigration, the dentist, her hairstylist, shopping malls, not us,' her mother said. In her early 60's, she had developed serious back pain and put on weight because of her relative immobility--she needed bed rest for the most of the day. She was still the lady I knew from my teens: short-haired, laid-back, spoke Cantonese with a strong Indonesian accent and occasional giggles.

I had brought nothing with me: no fruits or herbal remedies or anything a Chinese kid would bring out of courtesy when they visited their elders. L's parents watched me grow up for a few years when L and I were best friends. They liked to hear about the books and music I loved; they made soup for when I was around. In their mind I was as good and intelligent as a girl could be, and I had no parents.

'You don't need to know why a relationship dies. It can happen for no reason, like my relationship with my daughter,' she said, sitting on a fold-up chair with her arms crossed against apple green walls. She was trying to console me when I mentioned my broken friendship with L. I felt sorry for not being able to come up with better dialogue, in return for the affection she still had for me after all these years.

L's father picked up his guitar and began to play. Back in the days he was a minor celebrity around town. He worked in a bicycle shop in the neighborhood L and I grew up in, played a lean electric guitar along with his band mates every Friday night, which attracted a large crowd and constant media attention. Now retired, he still had his punky hair, 60's style shirts and a rocker's look on his face.

'Would you like to sing now?' he asked.

'But we already jammed in the park before we came up here,' I said, 'next to all those Filipino domestic helpers who were singing Christian songs!'

'It's kind of noisy downstairs. We can do another song. What about 'If I Give My Heart To You'? Here.'

I did not know the song, but I followed every note he played and sang along.


Last week E.T. and I had satay at a sidewalk restaurant near the countryside. He had a bottle of Corona and I had a pineapple drink.

'Now even you've gone over to the other side in life,' he said.

'It happened very quickly since last summer. I don't need to be understood anymore when something's already fucked.'

'It's a good thing. Here's to your birthday.'

We toasted.

1 comment:

  1. This is lovely too I think. There's a stand-alone piece in that first part, maybe? (A nice flash?) I like these posts!