an excerpt from Unrest
ZIQIN doesn’t know Weikang. But when she answers the phone and hears a man identifying himself as Guoliang, her old classmate from Singapore, she is overjoyed. That evening they meet at the Regent’s Hotel in Tsim Tung. Ziqin is so moved to see him, she grabs hold of his arm. The Guoliang before her is a distorted version, almost deformed, but she can dimly make out the contours of a familiar face. The boy of her memory is sharp-featured, with clear, bright eyes full of youthful energy. This middle-aged man’s face is scored with deep lines, and his eyes are tired and listless. A closer look reveals a profile she still recognises, and more importantly the way he looks at her is still the same. Yet he’s shorter than she remembers, and is a little fat. For a moment, she has the surreal feeling that she might be greeting his father instead.
Even so, Ziqin is thrilled. You can see it in her eyes, that special-occasion sparkle. We haven’t seen her look like this for a long time. How should I describe it? Maybe you can use your own imagination. Return to a classroom in a Singaporean school thirty years ago, where you see a sixteen or seventeen-year-old girl dressed in a pure, white uniform, her hair in pigtails. She’s staring back at you with wide, intelligent eyes, full of excitement and passion. That’s the gaze that is greeting Guoliang now as she clutches his arm. Perhaps this is what touches him and makes his eyes brim with tears. Does he feel himself transported back to that classroom thirty years ago? Because back then, she used to touch him the same way when animated, though that stopped after she fell in love with Daming. It is only natural for him to get emotional now.
‘You haven’t changed, not one bit,’ he says in a choked voice. From the affection in his eyes, Ziqin can tell he still likes her.
‘That can’t be, it’s been thirty years. I’m in my forties now. Time doesn’t give anyone a pass.’
That’s what she says, but she is thrilled to hear him say she is still attractive.
‘You seem like quite the Hong Konger now.’
‘I’ve been here thirty years now. I don’t seem like a Hong Konger, I am a Hong Konger.’ She wonders as she speaks what a Hong Konger seems like.
‘I’ve been to Hong Kong a few times. I didn’t know you were here.’
‘Six million people live here, it would have been quite a coincidence if we’d run into each other.’
© Balestier Press
by Yeng Pway Ngon
from Unrest (2018)
published by Balestier Press