A long march

'Excuse me. Do you know where the people are marching?' asked J.

The guy looked at J. He had a smile as warm as Ka-fai's. Ka-fai was J's classmate in his matriculation class. J has not seen Ka-fai for more than a decade. Like Ka-fai, this guy's eyelids pressed tight into convex grooves when he smiled. Muscles on his cheek formed deep folds too. In fact he looked exactly like Ka-fai in the school days. J did not venture to ask whether he was Ka-fai. J felt content and at home nonetheless.

This is a street. Most of the people are walking in one direction. Next to Ka-fai stood a short guy. J knew him too. He was also in the class and they had spent much time together then. J tried to remember what his name was. His surname might be Choy, J thought. But he was uncertain. J and Choy said hi and made an eye contact. J felt a little bit uneasy as he was still unable to call him by name.

'Let's go together,' said Ka-fai smilingly.


'Do you think we should ask somebody where the march will start?' asked J.

'Let's sit down have a drink and ask somebody,' said Ka-fai, by his shoulder pointing to a tea house by the street.

Sitting down, J realised the march might have started. He was very unhappy that he was sitting here while thousands of people were flowing through the boulevard like a stream of lava. The TV set above their heads are showing that.

'Hot tea.' A waiter placed the cup before J.

'Could you tell us where the march starts?' J asked the waiter.

'It's not far,' said the man as if J was the tenth customer asking the question. 'Hey, you are late already.'

'We know,' said Choy, 'but it shouldn't matter.'

'A friend of mine will come here in a moment. He is going to the march too. You may go with him.'

They sat there five minutes.

'Oh my god!' said J to himself all of a sudden. 'I have left my placard at home. I wanna go home get it. Bye.'


J got on a bus. He intuitively knew this bus would take him home. The placard said what he wanted most to express, without which it would be pointless joining the march. What's the name of the short classmate? Choy? Chung? Chiu? J could clearly remember that he had emigrated to a neighbouring country mid way through the class. He was not envied by anybody then but his decision turned out to be wise. And how about his first name? Did he have a western christian name? J looked at his watch. It was already one hour past the marchˇ¦s launch time. J felt more nervous.

J sat on a side bench over the left rear wheels of the bus, looking through the window of the opposite side. The sky was blue as the Mediterranean Sea. The bus was going down a zig-zagging slope to a beach. It was not where J lived. J might be on a wrong bus. He decided to get off at the next stop. He dared not see his watch. He was almost angry for his stupidity.

The bus stopped on the slope. As there were not any cars going up the slope, J had to walk. He was hoping for a ride or whatever to take him back into town where he could find his way home. 'My goodness,' said J. 'I have set out to join the march. It is only two hours late. It is still possible.'

[This is a piece I wrote two years ago. Recently I recall that the short classmate was called Choi Fai. He could eat as spicy as the head boy and I did. But Choi sweated more profusely than we two did. Dedicated to my matriculation classmates.]

Sam Mok