Author’s note: I had this from my Facebook Notes. I don’t remember where it came from, but I still think it’s worth sharing.
I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes, I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.
By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. “It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.”
I used to live right on the beach. Our southward facing windows looked over the boardwalk, the sand, the ocean, and the horizon; as the days grew longer and shorter, I used to think about tracing, in white pen on the windows, the growing and shrinking arcs the sun followed as the days went by a la John Nash. There is nothing quite as naturally beautiful as the rising sun, and one of the mornings before I had to leave this home forever, I went out to sit on the sand to watch this marvel just before dawn.
There was a clear and cloudless sky with the stars silently twinkling at me. There wasn’t much wind that night, but once in a while, a gentle breeze would blow from behind me. It was strong enough to shift the sand dunes around me, but it wasn’t strong enough to cause it to kick up into my eyes as I sat there. The salty smell of the ocean was there, as always; a few times, I closed my eyes and tried to permanently capture this reassuring and consistent smell, along with the feel of the sand, mixed with small seashells and tiny pebbles scattered throughout, and the sound of the breeze, in my mind – this wonderful memory of my first real home outside Singapore. This nest that I had spent seven years living in. The place where I learned about a new culture and that I had finally felt like I had begun to belong to.
It’s been almost 10 years since it happened. For me, it was my first foray into this world of expressing my feelings of any kind. Being raised in a traditionally Asian household (well, that’s until we became pretty westernized…but more on that some other time), it was unusual to typically express emotions of any kind, such as “I miss you”, “I would like to see you later”, even much less “I love you.” Yes, I had had my “first kiss” while in camp when I was 13 years old, but that didn’t count because it was a dare. Callie, which is, of course, not her real name , was my first girlfriend, my first kiss, and my first love.
Why am I writing about this? Because this was the first time I ever really expressed such sincere feelings to someone else. Because you don’t ever really forget your first love, and I figured some people want to know a bit more about me. Because I rediscovered an old backup of my (god-awful) Xanga from that time-frame, and I thought it would make a good story.
“But, Guang Yi, you were 17/18 years old. How did you know you loved her?”
Trust me, I’ve wondered about this a great deal, and the answer is that at some point between high school Guang Yi and current Guang Yi, my definition of “being in love” with someone has changed drastically, yet it retains a few of the principles from back then. That being said, 17/18 year old Guang Yi definitely felt like he loved her.