At The Chinese Shop

2018-04-04 13.37.30 (1)

This afternoon, I found myself having almost an hour of free time after lunch in a shopping mall. My next meeting was in the next building. I remembered a shop selling artefacts, almost entirely Chinese, to mostly tourists. It is run by an elderly couple. They speak Cantonese and sometimes a brand of English I guess some tourists may understand. Last year during the mid-autumn festival promotion, I saw the husband exhibit their wares in the common area of the mall. I walked into the shop and the husband welcomed me. After a while, he mentioned something I bought from him years ago, perhaps to register he remembered me. The artefacts in the shop looked the same, not much has changed. I asked after his business and he said, same same, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. I looked around and was about to ask. He stopped me. And said, “她不在了.” She is not here anymore. He looked slightly pained but he looked straight into my eyes. I could not look away and kept the gaze, not knowing exactly what to say. After a while, I said I was sorry, but he perked up and told me not to say I was sorry. This was life and he needed to carry on doing what they did, just that now he would do it alone. I asked if he needed someone to help him. No need, he said. He could manage. By now, he had moved to the table at the end of the shop. He sat down. I saw food and realised I had interrupted his lunch. Before I could apologise again, he said, pointing to a framed photograph of his wife on the table, “she still has lunch with me.” His wife smiles widely from the picture. I was silent. Then this old man said something, almost like a parting shot. “I was sad. I allowed myself to be sad. But only during the time of mourning. She is gone. I am still alive. Sadness is easier because it’s surrender. I will not surrender. Not when I am alive. She will want me to live my life…”

1 Comment

  1. Ryo

    Lovely story… So little is spoken about managing grief… I guess that’s why films like Departures strike a cord across the globe…

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