Sitting on a bench in a dimly lit garden by the city hall, waiting for a film show which was still 45 minutes away, I urged myself to write something. On that cold and humid spring evening the garden was soulness except me, the music in my earphones, a house cat from nowhere dashing across the sward now and then and some passers-by hurrying home seemingly in grudge after doing unpaid overtime work in the nearby offices. I wanted to write because first, I should not waste my time, second, I had been able to write something admirable (by myself) under similar solitary circumstances in the past and I was afraid that that ability had deserted me like other abilities had, and third, earlier on that day I had downloaded a picture of a cute duck head with an intention to make it an illustration of a web page that I should make.

From the bright entrance of the hall at my 10 o’ clock direction a woman walked towards my corner. Another solo watcher awaiting the show, I supposed. To my surprise she approached the bench I was sitting. By the outline I could tell she was wearing a suit with skirt and holding a rucksack by her right hand over her right shoulder. She sat down on my bench by two feet to my right although no fewer than five or six benches were unoccupied nearby.

At the moment she crossed my sight I found that her suit was charcoal, or may be navy, in colour. I was not sure which. But to my delight it was definitely not black. On the way to the city hall I had sauntered into a shopping mall in the central business district. There I was depressed by the sight that about 50 per cent of people in the mall were wearing all black while the rest were black and white. Worse still, I was no exception. Therefore, any tinge would be a treat to my eyes and a symbol of courage, individuality and subversion. Even charcoal could be a hue.

I had a feeling the lady had an intelligent face.

The lady having sat down and unshouldered her rucksack, I swung my head to dart a glance at her. Yes, she looked astute and mannered.

‘Why do you look at me?’ she asked instantly, evincing neither annoyance nor appreciation.

‘To check if I know you,’ replied I in a frail voice, for I had not spoken for a few hours. Otherwise I was satisfied by my reaction, which was prompt, succinct and sensible.

‘Had you prepared this answer before you looked at me?’

I had not thought the promptness would betray me so brutally. Just one question and answer and I was disarmed. I unwound my neck. Staring at the empty space again I said ‘Yes. If I had not thought about that I would not turn my head. Gambits like these—I have several in my mind. They are the products of much mental work and rehearsals.’

‘Aha. Isn’t it awkward if you keep looking straight ahead as if I am non-existant?’

‘Yes, as awkward as swinging my head to look.’

’. . . . . . I have run out of things to s—‘

I wouldn’t let her finish the sentence—‘I would have closed my eyes as if in meditation.’

I waited for her follow-up. But not any. I slowly turned my head, forcing a smile in the way, to catch her eyes, which turned out to be apologetic. Immediately I closed my eyes.

I sat stone still like a buddha. My mind was in turmoils. My heart and pulse raced, not knowing whether that posture would make her feel easier or otherwise. It might have been half a minute later when I mustered up courage to open my eyes. The place where her feet and black leather shoes had been had become empty. She was gone. My watch let me know it was only 15 minutes before my film would start. Thank you for helping me beguile the time, I said to her in my mind.

In the theatre, I found the lady sitting by herself right in the middle of the first few rows, that was my favourite film-watching area too. Since she was there, I sat myself abour ten rows behind her, right behind her back, because I wanted to be in a position to observe her and yet not to care to look at her. That was what I did eventually: I sat stiff erect like a goal post, as if I was pressing my chest onto an X-ray machine, closed my eyes and meditated---until the light went off for the film to start. It was not meditation proper. For I saw the same things before my eyes as it they were open.

After the film ended, I fixed my eyes upon the screen until the last moment of the credits. Then I lowered my head and left the theatre without looking at any faces.

Sam Mok