March 22, 2017 Leave a comment
He was sixteen when he first saw her. Sixteen and bored and his mother had him attend a “summer” camp. Strange for a camp to be called a “summer” camp in Malaysia, which had just a monsoon and a dry season. Yet, “summer” camp it was, a collection of sixteen year olds sent to a out-doors camp in the quiet town of Sematan, with beaches to the front and a mountain to the rear. It was not a romantic getaway.
He barely remembered the camp, except for that one-day when he dropped a frog into the girls sleeping quarters, while they were bedding in for the night. The screams drowned out his own laughter, as panic ensued and frightened girls made for every available exit, whether door or window; it did not make a difference. The monstrous frog was going to slaughter them, digest them and make green goo out of their remains.
He exchanged high-fives with his laughing buddies as they stood behind the bush that grew along the front porch drain and then he saw her. This vision of porcelain skin, dimple cheek and a single braid cutting across her face. She had made it to the stairs yet tripped and fell. And in the chaos was being stepped on.
He leaped from his hiding spot, grabbed her arm and pulled her over to the side, as the stampede of girls rumbled down the yard and across the empty field.
Lights turned on and curious onlookers scrambled out to inspect the commotion. But it was all distant to him. He was here and here was with her.
“You want some chewing gum?”
Yes, the first words he spoke to her were about chewing gum. A pathetic first impression.
The memories of the camp were a blur, but he remembers writing her phone number on the wrappings of a stick of chewing gum. And losing that wrapper. And wondering where things would have gone, had he called her and told her how he felt.
This was the time before Facebook or Twitter, a time when phone stuck to the walls and not in your pocket. It was a time of change and though much changed over the years, the memory of her porcelain skin, dimpled cheek and that single braid cutting across her face kept appearing.
Fate did not give up on him.
He is thirty-nine now, and sitting alone at a table in a garden. He had stop smoking a year ago, and reverted back to chewing gum to curb the lustful sting for cigarettes.
And he smiled.
Nearing forty and with months to live, he reached out for support. Eventually meeting old friends from his child-hood and especially those with memory of that porcelain skin, dimpled cheek, single braid cutting across her face girl from “summer” camp.
He had scrawled her number on a chewing gum wrapper and this time, he kept it safe, tucked away in his wallet. He had called. She had answered.
“Do you still want the ice-bucket?” the waiter asked.
“You can take it away. But do bring another glass.”
The waiter smiled. Sixteen and already working tables, he thought to himself. I was sixteen and foolish. And I spent foolish years but at the time of my last year, I will make it right. His thoughts rambled along.
And then he saw her, porcelain skin, dimple on her cheek, with a streak of white hair cutting across her face. And he was sixteen again. And they were sitting at a table in a garden at a place called Summer House.