Thirty-eight. A 19-year difference; a new record.
And yet when she looked at him standing on the path under the coolness of the heavy black-blue sky, she didn't need any convincing to believe it was okay. Eyes stared into the distance as fingers lifted his cigarette: a lungful of nicotine. She would hate the day when cancer struck him. Hopefully he wouldn't suffer as much as Khin, when it did.
Her body lay in a sealed coffin. Oh, the irony-if it was sealed, how would you know it held her body, even a body? But it was sealed, and curiosity wasn't going to kill this cat (enough death, already.) Everything was yellow, the most garish kind that wouldn't look good even on white-skinned mannequins in shops. Where to direct her eyes? The yellow was confusing, and the numerous items that broke its engulfing, ugly brightness had no form of neatness, no semblence of order for this dead (enough death, already!) It didn't help that she would take much too long to decipher the olden-Chinese scripts of the phrases hanging around, tied up and down with pink raffia: cheap, commercial, crude.
/"Just stand there and observe a few seconds of silence. Just stand there and keep quiet for a while. Pay your last respects for a few moments." I wished mum would tell me exactly how long so I could get the "a while" right, instead of agitatedly flicking my eyes towards her every split second to check if time was up, and that she hadn't finished "paying her repects/observing silence/keeping quiet" and left me standing there like the lost idiot I was. I had nothing to think, nothing to-convey-to Khin. Khin was dead. I wasn't going to see her ever again. According to our beliefs, she wasn't in a better place...best not to think about it.
Both days, both times I paid my respects/observed silence/kept quiet, words struggled to form in my mind. At least, say something, I'm not that stupid- and then I was, and walked away confused and frustrated.
A frown as he exhaled, a gust of uncharacteristically chilly wind sending the nicotine/tar/cancerous kiss my way. Would I die? And that frown...what went through people's minds when they took their heavily-taxed hits?
The table topic had been lasik surgery and Irene's nightmarish 2 months of subsequent inflammation-dear God, what if she had gone blind!-when mum got him to remove his 700-degree spectacles ("Some people don't look good without their glasses, do you?") and I almost bit off my tongue to stop my staring eyes.
Damn FINE. It's official: whatever genes circulated amongst my maternal cousins, I flat-out didn't get any. If the Chinese race had classifications (it probably did, I'm just ignorant), I was Slum and he was Royalty. The kind who had a series of black-and-white photos in different poses: staring just to the side, leaning against a window pane looking out, and then (the romantic clincher) looking directly at the camera, close-up, light reflecting off the regal angles of his face and catching the darkness of his eyes looking right into your soul.
/His second can of Carlsberg now, cracking peanut shells open with long fingers as he leaned his elbows against the edge of the table in a way that made the line of his shoulders catch her eye. She remembered Thompson's joke, how beer was like having sex on a canoe: "f-king close to water". She wished he would send her home, on his bike. Vroom, vroom.
They sat together at breakfast on the day of the funeral, and she finally found out his name and age.
"1985." The easy enunciation of every syllable, the way he dragged his "n"s...
She refused to call him by his Chinese name. It seemed old, a reaffirmation of how they were generations apart despite being on the same hierarchic level. Something English?
"Kenneth," a grinning, almost charming predatory incline of his head. The black-and-white spark of his eyes told her he knew she liked it; he had known she would like it.
She rolled the name around her mouth, silently tasting the alphabets and syllables and relishing the sound of the "k" and -suddenly her heart found the words
"Kenneth..." Dark hair dark eyes undeniably Chinese but impossibly sharp features
"Kenneth..." A short lock of fringe ending at his eyebrow just above the burning eyes his eyes she couldn't get over those eyes
He blinked those eyes and frowned into the distance, was he thinking of the one breath that he had sweetly, unconsciously polluted with his nicotine kiss? Did he know how he had just given her-
She had closure. Goodbye, Khin.