Saturday 2 November 2013

Always With You

Boajia proceeded to walk carefully up the stairs carrying a breakfast tray of porridge for his wife who was bedridden.  It was precisely 6.00 a.m. and like always, he was on time to the minute.

“Mustn’t keep my love one waiting,” he thought to himself.  “Ching Lan, I’m on my way.  Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten you.”

Boajia, a diminutive man of over 70 had short black greying hair and wore a neatly trimmed moustache that left an impression, to those observing, of a retired bank clerk.

He reached the landing, pausing for a moment to catch his breath.  Ching Lan was propped up in bed with pillows either side to support her frail body.  Her pallid boney face stared motionlessly at the opposite grey wall.  She had suffered a stroke 5 years ago and was now completely dependent on her husband for all of her daily needs. Since that time, not a word had come from her lips; a mind entrapped inside a  dead outer shell.

Boajia slumped into the chair next to his wife’s bed and picked up a spoonful of the hot steaming fluid.
“Here my dear, take a mouthful for me, it will make you feel better,” he whispered as he gently blew over the hot liquid. 
The porridge was not swallowed but sat inside her mouth until it slowly descended down her heavy jowls leaving a small cooling lava trail much like a dying volcano.

Thirty years ago they had moved from the village to the city.  Ching Lan was very reluctant to go.   Family, friends and all her memories existed in that village, but she knew what was best for her daughter, Hua.  There was no long term future for the young in the place she herself was brought up in. The world was changing and she must change with it.

The family adapted in time to the much faster city pace and the lack of intimacy that came with it.  Boajia was lucky to secure a job in the local post office sorting incoming mail and Ching Lan knuckled down to becoming a competent house wife and mother.  They put a down payment on a small two-storey terrace house and for a time life was looking up for them. Hua flourished in this environment and did very well at school, topping her classes in most subjects.  Both her parents were very proud  of her achievements and this helped justify in their own minds the sacrifices they had made. 

Boajia cleaned his wife’s face, sighed and laid his head into the palms of his hands. 

Time past slowly, it did most days. They had not heard from Hua for quite awhile.  After receiving a scholarship to study overseas, she left for England and enrolled in the School of Medicine at Cambridge.  For the first few years she returned home during semester breaks to visit her parents. They were all pleased to spend time together and talked about the wonderful experiences she was having. By the third year the home visits stopped due to the pressure of study but she always promised that as soon as she finished she would return.  

The morning light streamed through the window, fell upon his body creating a black blanket of shadow on the opposite wall of a forlorn figure.  He raised his head from his hands and stroked his wife’s hair. 

“Remember the early days in the village, Ching Lin, when we first met?  Each morning I stood  across the street from your parent’s place hoping to catch a glance of you on the way to school.  You never even notice.”  He chuckled. “I tried too hard those days,  I was so nervous." 

"Remember the day I knocked on your front door and your mother came and shooed me away?   But I persevered until in the end, you gave in and decided to fall in love with me.” 

A broad smile helped to conceal the tears rolling off his face. 

“You came to be the one and only love of my life and I want you to know, through all the years together, with all the ups and downs;  not for one-second have I regretted being with you.” 
The mists of the past engulfed his reddened eyes.

Thoughts turned to his daughter.

”Hua wasn’t to blame for losing contact.”  He tried to convince himself.  “She was establishing a career and had become an important person, so her time was very limited.  Way to busy to worry about her parents.  Yes, a very important person.” 

The doorbell broke his day dream. Boajin peered out the window to see the postman waiting downstairs.  The bell rang again as he slowly approached the door.

“Hello “

“Mr Baojia Wong?”

“Yes that’s me.”

“Parcel for you, sign here.”

The postman screwed his face up whilst trying to look over Baojia’s shoulder.

“ What’s wrong?” asked Boajia”

"Nothing; I’ll be on my way."

With haste the postman left.

Boajia gently closed the door, turned and shuffled into the lounge examining the parcel.
He placed it on the dining room table and proceeded to slowly climb the stairs to be with his wife.

Later that evening, just before dusk a dark-coloured sedan pulled up in front of the house.  Out stepped two tall gentlemen in uniform.

The doorbell rang for the second time that day.

As the two policemen entered the house, they looked at each other and nodded, one immediately started to look around while the other escorted Boajia into the lounge.

“Sir, can I ask you who else is in the house?”

“I live here with my wife.”

“May I ask where she is?”

“Yes, she is upstairs in bed, but please don’t disturb her, you see she’s not been very well.”

The policeman looked at his colleague and beckoned him to go upstairs.  

“ Sir, can I ask you about this strong odour.”

But before Boajia could answer, the policeman shouted from the landing with his hand over his mouth.
“Tan, there's a deceased person up here in a state of advanced decay.  Been dead for weeks I’d say.”

Boajia appeared confused as they led him out of the house.  He turned for the last time and looked up towards the bedroom window.

“Oh my dear, I’ll never leave you, I promise.”


Georgetown's Terraces

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