A piece of memory from the past

Because of a conversation among some mummy friends of mine, about our younger days, a long forgotten memory surfaced. The first person who held my hand, albeit for awhile.

Everyone celebrates their present, but try to ignore their past… perhaps that is basic human coping mechanism. I don’t know.

Or we think we respect our current partner, so we try to pretend no one came before him/her.

Remembering doesn’t mean a piece of me is still in love. Remembering simply is remembering, because we are also made up partly of our life encounters. And because we can’t delete memories like how we delete files from our computers.

So here goes…. a recollection based on faded memories.

February 1997.

Not yet 16 years old, this was my final year in Chung Cheng High School.

Our school band was putting up an evening performance by the lake. This is the band I lived and breathed for… finally a decent size after a couple of rough years when the combined band was forced to split up. Alumnis were coming back for a gala event and we were one of the performances for the night. All I had on my mind was the performance. One of my last before we bowed out and focused on our O Levels preparations.

I saw a bunch of seniors from the band turn up too….and didn’t give too much notice. I remembered most of them from my Sec One days. The days when the band was a combined band between the two Chung Cheng High Schools. They wouldn’t remember me I figured.

And then the lamest screw up happened. Halfway across the school with the performance about to start and we forgot our coins. The darn coins we needed to tap on the music stands as part of a piece of music.

Desperate. So I went and borrowed coins from one of them. And it was there I spoke to him again. Nervous, not because I was talking to anyone I fancied. Just nervous because this was someone 4 years older. When you are 16,  a senior that much older can feel like 老祖宗! And he lent me the coins we needed. Didn’t think much about it, not even the good natured bantering during the conversation because too stressed.

It should have been the end, after that evening.

And then I got a phone call. I think. (back then we had pagers. And friends called your house phones. I wasnt even sure I got my mobile that early in ’97). Or was it that I called him to return the money? Also possible.

And so the phone conversations started.

How I spoke with ease with him, I can’t quite fathom. What we spoke about, I can’t quite recall. Me trying to be a decent percussionist on top of a trumpeter… him and some of the seniors and friends from the Branch school still playing music, having his band….family, his NS, my studies… I don’t know.

Meeting again.

To the world, it was an army boy walking alongside a girl in a school uniform. 

I asked him why he was serving as a clerk. And then I had the answer.

“Listen….” and with the side of my head leaned against him, I heard it for the first time in my life.

In my mind I thought, “How can it sound like an ocean?” The sound of waves, instead of rhythmic beats.

Hole in the heart.

Born with it. His doctor said his condition was probably more scary. He could do anything… run, swim, play basketball without issues, but the heart may give up without warning, unlike those who turned blue when exhausted.

I liked walking with him…. the big smile, the matter of factly way he treats things that came his way. It was always confortable.

As days went by, I felt an affinity for this person.

One who was once distant and who was simply “the Sec 5 senior” who was so good at his percussion and drumming  and just a little cheeky/playful in his mannerisms. And who liked another senior. 

And so it was that I would call him the first one, by accident. 

It didn’t last very long. We were always nice and respectful…. but the conversations ran dry…. and finally we both came to realise that deep down, 
I couldn’t replace of the ex. And he apologised. 

I don’t remember doing anything drastic like crying or being angry.  Which is rather unlike me. I guess without ever having dated anyone, one did not know what to expect, or what should a “typical” reaction br. 

We parted amicably. And I engrossed myself in my music and schoolwork, refusing to let the loss creep up on me. Eventually, when the reality finally hit me, it got to a point I felt I needed a bigger distraction. And so it was I forced myself to sort of move on. Date someone else. 

But for years 3 things kept their place in the depths of my drawer – a photo, a pair of earrings and that 20 cent coin I never returned him. Until sometime in university, I cleaned out my wardrobe and gave the earrings away and put the coin into a piggybank to be lost amongst other coins. And the photo too, was gone. 

Between 1997 and the time I did the final spring cleaning, I continued to wonder occasionally if he was well and fine. An ache that finally was eroded over time to nothing, until it was all forgotten. 

A relationship at a time where there was so little technology to connect us. 

No mobile phone , only pagers. When the best one could do was put a 10cent coin into a public phone and press “1771554” when in camp and let the numbers appear on the pager to convey so much in a string of numbers. It sounded cheesy, but it was enough then. 

At a time when there was no Friendster, Multiply, Facebook or Google+ to continue to stalk your ex after he had walked out on you…. goodbye meant goodbye for real. More so when we had almost no mutual friends.

You couldn’t call the house phone…. and paging became too intrusive… so you bottled up any random mad feelings and just simply stared at the photo, fiddled with the coin, then closed the drawer and continued with life. 

I finished my Os at the top of my class (the last class)…. and eventually here I am. With my own family.  

But the sound of waves, I never forgot. Because it made me realise from that day on, that one has to live each day to the fullest. 


人, 往往一直向前冲。。。日子一天,一天的过, 直到一天, 发现已过了20 年。

而岁月会不知何时, 替我们埋没一些宝贵的少年记忆。

或许老了…  突然今天偶然想起了你。

不是应为念念不忘, 或还对你有任何感情, 而是应为一种不知怎么形容的眷恋, 也是一些好奇。

你, 好吗?

你, 的心还在撑着吗?

你, 是否还是没有放弃你的音乐, 你的鼓?

到最后, 你, 有实现年少时的梦想吗?

我很好奇。也回想起, 从16岁起多年仍一直偶尔为你担心的我… 直到我忘了担心你。

是在什么时候, 渐渐放开了对你的操心与思念?

过了20 年了。我, 忘记了许多, 却还记得你的心的声音。

今天想起了你, 勾起了很多蒙蒙的回忆。

你, 现在长得怎么样了?

也会有丝毫担心。。。你, 还在吗?

听见 Beyond 的 《海阔天空》 时, 我还是会不知不觉的想到你。 

不管怎样, 仍是跟当时一样, 希望你, 健康快乐。


Every encounter, every relationship has shaped me … some broke me more than others, one particularly bad one led me to discover God when I almost wanted to give up on life  

Looking back, I am thankful that the first love was a nice memory consisting more of a respectful friendship than some turmultous 要死要活 kind of thing. 

And so he lives in my faded somewhat wonky memory, but no longer in my heart. Time has a way of setting things in order, and I hope one day, my child will believe me when I say it does. It really does. Strip away any romanticism and really only what is normal human feelings towards any old friend is what is left. 

May you be well, as always. 


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