24. March 2013 · Comments Off on Linda · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

Linda is a tai tai.  A tai tai is a lady who can roll out a full service household as smoothly as a silk scroll without doing any housework herself.  Some tai tai’s are bred for centuries, as in our family.  Some aspire to it.   Some are just born that way.

Linda tells her own story without any apologies.  Her family was not wealthy, but they were well to do until her husband became a slave to the opium demon.  To support his increasingly expensive habit, they exhausted all their savings, borrowed from their families and friends until all doors were slammed in their face.  Her husband sold the very doors to their house before he disappeared.

She had three small children to feed.  Like many others in her plight, she fled the loss of face in her village and found refuge in a city brothel.  Being my father’s common law wife allows her to be a tai tai again.

She is good at it.  She has worked out a complicated system of having all household chores done elsewhere and delivered daily. Cooking, laundry, cleaning, whatever, is delivered or picked up every day at just the right time.  There is literally no room for error.

I think everyone else in the family goes to bathhouses, but an exception is made for me.  I never ask why.

Every day, a small tub is carried into my room and filled with warm bath water.  An attendant waits to help me rinse my hair.   Then everything is carried out, including the towels and my soiled clothing.  Each school morning, my white school uniform, professionally starched and ironed, is on my bed, along with clean underwear.

Except for sleeping and eating, no one stays in the house.  My father goes to work and does not return until dinner time, after which he and Linda go out again.  I don’t know where my brother and the two boys go.  But each night they turn the boards into a sleeping platform and sleep in the front room.

Someone says that Linda spends a lot of time playing mah jong at the emporium.  Wherever she goes, she takes Ah Nui with her. Actually, I don’t know how Linda finds that much time to play.  I figure we are living in a sort of hotel.  It can’t be that easy to run a full service hotel without even a telephone. Besides, I’ve seen how nothing is purchased here without drawn out cat and mouse games of bargaining.

I don’t talk about Linda with my sister in the few times she comes back.  From the moment they met, there was an instant antipathy between them so thick you could cut it with a knife.

Somewhere, they are circling each other like wildcats defending their turf.  Linda knows that my sister is a threat if she decides to fight.  My sister obviously does not see this as a fight worth winning.

I think she comes back at all only because my mother said to take care of Doreen.  My sister’s loyalty to my mother is cast in stone.





23. March 2013 · Comments Off on A New Name · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years, O.Naming



Now that I walk down the street in my school uniform, back and forth four times a day, the girls don’t come to fetch me anymore.  It is not that they avoid me.  When I have time to hang out they don’t tell me to go away.  But I have very little time.

I am at school all day long, except on Sundays.  After my classmates go home, I stay and do my homework because our kerosene lamp, whose glass chimney quickly gets blackened by smoke, does not give enough light.

The schoolmistress, a kind and gentle nun, said that it would be useful for me to learn to read and write Chinese as my second language, instead of French.   French is still the diplomats’ language, which the European girls must learn, but Chinese will come in handier in my case.  I am the only European girl there who lives in Wanchai.  The front door of the school is on a road leading to the Peak.  No one else comes to school through the back.

I get my own Chinese tutor.  Miss Wu smiles easily.   First, she says, we have to invent a Chinese name for you.  She comes up with Meen Tau Lin.  Meen is the word for cotton.  Tau means wayLin just sounds like my name.   Now we start with the First Reader.

Miss Wu teaches me how to write with a brush.  You need a lot of practice, she says.  Saturday is a half day at school.  I think I can practice at home before it gets dark.  Children crowd around and watch me wield the brush and make graceful black characters.   In the morning, all my materials have disappeared.  From then on, I keep everything in my desk at school.

KeroLamp copy

22. March 2013 · Comments Off on The Broken Wall · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years, Take Bull by Horns


broken wall

Except for one small two-story concrete apartment building on either side of Star Street, our group of wooden houses is at the very end of the street.  Beyond us there is only the steep grassy slope leading up to a mansion in the distance.  We can see the mansion and a mesh wire fence, but we can’t see that it’s on the same road as our school.

I know because Amelia invited me to her house.  She lives across the road from our school.  After tea, we walked all around the road but we could not see our house from there.

Amelia and I talk about things that I can’t talk about with my street friends.  I know she will still be my friend at school even though I can’t invite her back.

There is a broken wall across the street from our group of houses.  It is what is left of an apartment building.   Most of the wall is about four feet high but part of it rises almost ten feet from the pile of rubble at its base.

The broken wall is probably left there to keep people from falling down a gaping hole, several stories deep, which the gutted apartment house left in the ground.

ShuttlecockI am kicking my feather shuttlecock.  A few small children count as I kick.   They stop counting even though I don’t miss.  They are looking at two street boys who have climbed up on the lower end of the broken wall.   One boy glances down nervously at the other side of the wall and quickly jumps back down to the rubble on the street.   He lands on a small hole and twists his foot.  He limps away.   He sits on the street, rubbing his foot.  The other boy calculates better and lands firmly.

A few more boys approach the wall.   Two of them climb up.  One pulls himself up to the higher section.  Carefully, he walks the length of the wall.    Everyone is watching him.  He does not turn his head.  He does not look at the pit.  He keeps his eyes on his feet.  Then he scans the rubble and moves one step to the side.   He stretches out his arms like a swallow and leaps into the air.   The children gasp.

The boy lands firmly.

Wah!  Wah!  The small fry are in awe.

I run towards the wall.   I climb up.  The boy still on the wall lets himself down.    I struggle and pull myself up to the higher level.  I turn and stare down at the pit.  I walk to where the tough boy had stood.  I spread out my arms and I leap.

I land just as the boy did.

What was I thinking!  I don’t know.  I just wanted to do it.

Small rocks start to fall on the street.  They’re coming from the direction of the mansion on the hill.   All the tough boys run towards the hill.  At the upper part of the slope, ten or twelve children, boys and girls in party clothes, have come down from their fence and are hurling rocks at us.

We start throwing rocks up at them, which don’t get very far before they roll back down.   The snooty brats think this is hilarious fun.  They keep throwing rocks at us as they back up towards their fence.

Suddenly, flames shoot through the grass on the far side of us.  I am startled at how fast fire travels through the grass up the hill.  We rush down before the flames change direction.  We can never outrun them.

When the children on the hill see the smoke they leap over their fence, shouting, and race back to their mansion.   I hear the fire engines up on the Peak road.

The tough boys have scattered.

As I run towards our house I see that there is no one on the street.   An empty street in our neighborhood.  I’ve never seen that.

The next day, as I enter the orphanage to pass though their garden, one of the tough street boys stops me.  He tells me that he knows a shortcut.  It’s a dirt road on the hillside which does not zigzag like the garden steps but goes straight to the backdoor of my school.

A few days later, the same boy approaches me in the street.  He must be the gang’s messenger boy.  He says that Old Kwok has fresh cow’s milk in his restaurant if I go there tonight, after his customers leave.  Before I can thank the boy for the tip on the shortcut, he dashes off.

It happens to be Saturday when I can stay out late.  I go to the restaurant and watch as Old Kwok’s last customers leave.   I go inside the restaurant.  I ask Mr. Kwok if it’s true that he has fresh cow’s milk.  He says to follow him to a back table.

I hold out a few coins and ask if that’s enough to pay for a glass of milk.  He says someone paid already.   I say no, I must pay.  He takes one of the coins.  Is that enough?  More than enough, he says.

Kwok comes back with a tall glass of warm milk and a teaspoon.

I stare at the milk as though it has come from a place where I have put all the things that I have lost.   Things that appear now only in my dreams and disappear when I wake up.  I put my hands around the thick glass, feeling its warmth.  I skim off the milk skin with my spoon and eat it.

With both hands, I pick up the glass of milk and take one deep, satisfying swallow after another.

As I walk home, I pass the bakery at the corner.  I can see the cakes in the glass case, but the roll cake with the cream filling is not there.  All during the day I had found excuses to pass by the bakery and gaze at that cake as much as I dared to.  I wanted that cake.  I knew just how it would taste.   There were other cakes in that case.  But I wanted that particular cake so much I was plotting for a way to get a slice of it.

The puzzling thing is that I never had a cake like that.  With all the cakes that were served at teas and parties, I had never seen a cake like that.  Years later, I learned that it was a crème roulade, a French cake.   It is even more puzzling to me because it was the same thing with that glass of milk.

The tough boys assumed that a quailo girl would miss her milk.  Actually, I don’t know when I ever had a glass of fresh milk.  The milk available to us was usually powdered milk.  Every afternoon, I had seen my cousin’s amah stir up a glass for her.  I didn’t like that milk.  I put a little milk in my tea, but it was evaporated milk, which was served everywhere.   My favorite drink is plain water.

Another similar thing puzzled me.  My sister had taken me to visit our relatives in Kowloon.  While having dinner at Aunt Sarah’s home, I noticed the wainscoting on the wall.  I felt a strong longing for a place I couldn’t imagine and didn’t know.  None of the houses we lived in ever had wainscoting.

I explained to myself that maybe because I had lost almost everything familiar to me, I was longing for random things just for the sake of longing.  But this was the kind of thought that I couldn’t tell even Amelia.


cream cake

Creme Roulade

20. March 2013 · Comments Off on Mr. Jones · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

It is Christmas.  I suppose it was Linda’s idea to get a few Christians together on this day.   We are at someone’s house with a better view than ours.   We are sitting outside.  We are midway up the hillside, and the city is sparkling and twinkling beneath us like a Christmas tree.

My father has been small talking with Mr. Jones.  I’ve heard my father say more in the last hour than he has in months, although Mr. Jones is the garrulous one.  Mr. Jones is a kind faced American who is almost as tall as my father.  He drinks as steadily as he breathes.

My father does not drink socially anymore.  He doesn’t smoke either.

Mr. Jones turns to me and says he has children too.  Two boys, must be in college now, back in the States.  He remembers dancing the waltz with his wife, and he starts singing Now or never and forever I love you.  Have I told you as I hold you I love you.   He gets up to dance.  He stumbles, and Dolores leaps up and catches the glass as he slumps against her.

It is time to head down the hill.

Dolores lets me hang out in their apartment near the China Fleet Club.  Mr. Jones is always home.  He never talks about his wife or his sons or much of anything.  That garrulous Mr. Jones was a visitation from the ghosts of Christmases past.

I asked around and pieced together Mr. Jones’s story.  I think it is wildly romantic.  He fell in love with a famous courtesan.  She was a White Russian.  She was exquisitely beautiful.  She had a kind of careless, vulnerable quality that drove men crazy trying to take care of her.   But one day she became seriously ill with syphilis.

Mr. Jones stayed by her side until she died in a hotel room.  He has been drinking ever since.

One day Dolores gets a taxi to take Mr. Jones downtown.  She has done this before.   She doesn’t want him to leave her, but she knows that if the American doctor does not put him in the hospital or send him home to America he will die.

Dolores asks me to come along with them.    We stay in the taxi while Mr. Jones goes into the building.  Then she asks me to go inside and take the next elevator up and tell her if he goes to the doctor.   She thinks he just pretends.

I know why she hides in the taxi.  Even though she looks more like the women who carry buckets on their shoulders than the ones who flirt with the sailors outside the bars, she was a professional before Mr. Jones came to live with her.  She did not want anyone to recognize her in this swanky building and make him lose face.

I go into the building, but I stay in the lobby.  I don’t want him to see me spying on him.   I tell Dolores I didn’t see him, which is true.

Not many weeks after, Mr. Jones turned his face to the wall and died.

Men come from the American consulate and ask for his possessions.  They say it is the law that everything be sent to his wife.  I stand in the hallway with Linda and the others.  Dolores points to the wooden box under the bed.  The men pull it out and open it.

They shake out a large, dusty old American flag.  There are a few books and papers.   Is that all?  Dolores points to his shabby clothes hanging in the wardrobe.  They decide against the clothes. They take the box with them.

Dolores is crying again.  She says why did he have to drink so much, he drank so much his liver was hard as a rock.

Mr. Jones died of a broken heart.  His heart never healed, but it didn’t harden.  It was his liver that turned into stone.

trams Central

19. March 2013 · Comments Off on Slivers of Light · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

My sister says that our father is not the same man.  She thinks that Linda drugs him.  But I think that the last thing Linda will put up with is another slave to a drug demon.

Whatever is happening with our father started before he met Linda.  I saw it the day our mother put my brother and me in a rickshaw to visit him, and he sent us right back without even a hello.

Our father is walled up in a dark shell, but there are slivers of light.

We have no birthday celebrations, but he remembers my birthday and quietly gives me money “to buy paper dolls.”

Just once, Linda packs us all off to the beach.  The hot sand is like an overturned anthill swarming with people as far as I can see.

My father realizes that I never learned to float.  He makes me lie on the water while he supports my back.   Just as I think I can do this he takes his arms away.  I swallow a bucket of salt water, but before I drown I actually learn to float and even to dog paddle.

Chilled orange soda will never taste as good as it does today.

For no reason, my father gives me an old anthology of English poems, a narrow book made to fit the breast pocket of a man’s coat.  It has a worn navy linen cover.  It is something he has carried around for a long time.

I wake in the night.  It is raining sheets outside, blowing sideways against the walls of the house.  Bright lights shine into our windows.  My father answers the knocks on the door.

Two men in uniform come in.  The light comes from their flashlights but also from the headlights of their jeep parked on the street.   They are MP’s.  They ask questions.  My father says Linda is his common law wife and shows them a document.  They say sorry to bother you sir and they leave.

This must have happened before because although my father goes to the door, everyone else pretends to be sleeping.   I know that the houses behind ours are part of a large brothel, and I guess the MP’s think this a good night to catch the women inside.

As soon as the headlights move away, there is another knock on the door.  My father opens it.  A distant flash of lightning shows a very young woman standing in the rain wearing nothing, not even slippers.  She is dripping wet.

I recognize her as the shy woman who lives alone in a tiny house tucked into a corner of our street.   They say that the others in the brothel threw her out.  She is beautiful and delicate as an alabaster doll.

Without a word, my father gets his raincoat and drapes it around the woman’s shoulders.   She huddles by the door, watching.  After the MP’s have driven away, she turns to give the raincoat back, but my father says keep it.  She runs off into the night.

Inside his wall the dad I knew is still there.


September Morn by Paul Emile Chabas 1910-1911

18. March 2013 · Comments Off on Too Far To Go · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years, The Beast

Green trams

The developers are tearing down our house.  We move to Shaukiwan, too far for me to walk to school.  We are in a temporary apartment, waiting for our house to be built.   It is going to be in the yard inside the walls of the church.  There is already one house there.

I wake up very early, wondering how much time it would take for the tram and then the walk up the hill to school.  I have final exams.

I see my school uniform soaking in a bucket in the corner.  Linda says she is not going to wash it.  When did she ever wash clothes?   I’m panicking.  Can I wring it out and iron it dry?

Linda says no because she is not going to give me tram money or lunch money either.   Before I can catch my breath she goes into a rage.  It seems she was expecting some money when we were dumped on her by our mother’s rich family.

She spits out ugly things about my mother.  Then she grabs the framed photo of my mother that is my sister’s and smashes it on the floor.   Before she can hit me I duck and kick her in the shin.

She screams for my father.  She kicked me, she kicked me!

He comes into the room.  Without even asking what happened, he slaps me in the face, hard.

She insulted Mommy, I cry.

My father says, “Your mother ruined my life.”

It does not sound like heartbreak.  It sounds like anger, a thousand furies held back behind clenched teeth.


17. March 2013 · Comments Off on Saving Face · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

I find a quiet spot on the hillside.

While I was going to school I could still imagine a different future.   While I met with a wall of indifference I could still hope for glimpses of caring.  But now I see that the wall my father built around himself is there to hold in his rage.

Linda too, rages inside.  They keep to a narrow, joyless, zombie existence but they are partners.   I am the interloper.

At this moment I feel that I am, after all, an orphan.

I feel utterly hopeless.

I know I need to tell Mother Superior why I am dropping out of school.   I go back to the apartment and I write her a letter.

I do not want her to know how helpless I feel.  I know it isn’t anything I am doing wrong or can change, and yet I feel shame.

First I thank her and everyone for their kindness.  Then I invent a mission for myself.  I ask her to pray for me as I do the Lord’s work here.

Somehow it makes it tolerable if I am in this wretched situation by my own noble choice and not because I deserve to be in it.

I mail the letter.   Immediately I wish I could take it back.  It was false and a poor attempt at saving face.  Maybe the letter will get lost.

I didn’t think I could feel worse.   I was wrong.


16. March 2013 · Comments Off on The Tram · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

Our new house is not much better built than the old one.  It has thin walls and a concrete floor.  It also has three rooms, but they are much larger.  The front room is in the center, and there is a bedroom on either side.  All the rooms have windows.

We also have a tiny out building propped against a large tree.  There are trees all around.   A similar older house is at the other end of the yard near the entrance from the street.

We can see the small church and walk to the rectory from our house.  The priest is old and has a white beard.   He is gruff but I can tell that he is kind.

I go down the slope to the big road.  It is not the same as the old neighborhood.  I don’t know anyone, and I don’t see any groups of girls either.

Trams go by.  I see people standing on a little island between the tracks.   They are waiting for the tram.  I go there to see what it’s like.

The tram comes.  People push from behind.   Before the tram stops, the door folds open and hits the back of my shoulder.  Someone catches me before I fall towards the tram.

Linda wants to know what I was doing on the tram island in the first place, but she brings a healer to the house.   She makes a strong smelling poultice and tells me I have to keep it on my back for I don’t know how long.


15. March 2013 · Comments Off on The Visit · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years, Out of the Blue

Everyone has left the house as usual.   I am lying on my stomach feeling miserable and hoping that this is the last day for the vile poultice on my back.

Someone is coming.  I wonder who.  I sit up on my bed.  Mother Superior comes in the door.   Close behind her is Amelia.  There is another nun, but she stands outside.

Suddenly I see how squalid the house is.  How pitiful I must look.  I can die from shame right there.

Amelia says don’t be ashamed, Doreen, we lived like this when we were in Indochina.

I don’t remember the rest of their short visit.   I only remember that everything changed.  There were no promises and no motivational sermons.   They were just there, just long enough.

Somehow, I feel connected again.

14. March 2013 · Comments Off on Another Summer · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

There are a few European families in this neighborhood.  My brother hangs out with two brothers named Donald and Ronald.   We go hiking in the hills above our neighborhood.  After we discover the tunnel with the trick entrance and the barrel of bones, there are always a few children who want to go hiking with us.




Doreen&Ah Nui


The people in the other house in the churchyard are devout converts.   They keep to themselves, even though I’ve been in their house with my brother.  They have a teenage son, a little older than my brother.  He is shy and doesn’t say much but his English is good.

I am surprised when he stops me on the path and gives me a small box.  Inside is a gold necklace with a little gold cross.  He just wants me to have it as protection, he says.  I accept it.

I had a gold necklace like that, but all my bits of jewelry have disappeared, even the gold earrings that Ah Seem gave me when she came to see me at my grandmother’s house.

The family across the street has a gramophone in a room where we can dance.   Their door is always open.   We hear dance music, stop what we are doing, and drift towards the music.  Then we all dance.  It’s like a scene in a musical.   I learn to do the jive and jitterbug, rumba and tango.

Some friends my sister made invite me to a house party.  They even give me a hand-me-down dress for it.  The dress is made of a white shiny fabric with red buttons and ribbon trim.  It has a full skirt that swirls when I spin around.

The party is in a large house set back in a wild looking garden which reminds me of the jungle that Tarzan and Jane live in.  We dance all night, even on the verandah, until the parents turn the music off and tell us to rest.  We find spots to lie down in a big room with mattresses covering the floor.

Then we all get up and go together to the earliest Sunday Mass at our church.  We have the shortest walk home.

HC church

13. March 2013 · Comments Off on A Beach of my Own · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

Someone shows me the way to a beach.  From the main road I turn up a wide, winding road, all the way up until I see a stone drinking fountain on the left side of the road.   Instead of continuing on the road which bears right, I follow a dirt path straight ahead.

The path leads down to a little beach.  I am the only one here.

The beach is small, surrounded by hills, but there are lots of rocky areas to explore.   At one corner, there is a small concrete structure that gives a little shade.

I go there almost every day.



Once in a while, two or three children come by.  They are farmers’ children.  They never come to swim.  They stay only for a short time because they have chores to finish.

They tell me horror stories, all about the Japanese occupation still fresh in their minds.  They say that the concrete structure was a guardhouse.  Japanese soldiers tied British soldiers there to burn in the hot sun until they died.

They show me where if I dived down in the water I would see the soldiers’ bones.

From then on when I am in the guardhouse I think of those soldiers.  I see them as brave young men whose suffering is over.  I know the soldiers aren’t down there whether or not there are bones.   I don’t want to see bones.   I don’t go in the water there.

12. March 2013 · Comments Off on Typhoon · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

storm clouds

The sky turns into many shades of crimson warning of imminent danger.   Howling winds, drenching rain, thunder and lightning to wake the dead.    But this is subtropical Asia.  We are used to it.

It is also nature’s way of breaking the sweltering, suffocating heat and bringing a little relief.  We do not wait for the storm.  We go to bed.

I wake to a loud cracking noise.  My hair stands on end.   I sit up in bed just as the roof lifts up at one end and then the whole thing peels away.

Rain pours down.  It feels cool.  I let the rain wash down on my face, sticking out my tongue.   Since I was a small child I have been fascinated by storms that I watched from the highest window I could find.   But I was never actually in the middle of one.

My brother is yelling something and pulling me away.   We are going to the rectory.    I run along with everyone else.

The priest has a room for our father and Linda.  The rest of us spend the night sleeping on the pews.

The next day, I go to my beach.  There is a huge boulder on the sand there.  The boulder has been split in half, as if someone took a knife and sliced through an apple.  I am shocked at the power of lightning.



11. March 2013 · Comments Off on Rising Water · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years, Take Bull by Horns

I have been coming to this beach all summer.  I know every rock and sea creature that is likely to scurry about.   I decide to explore further along the rocky coast.  I am delighted to find a small sandy cove nestled against the steep rise of the rocky hillside.

I climb down and sit on the cool, wet sand.  I have a whole new view of the sea here.  I watch the clouds and daydream.

Suddenly, a rush of water startles me.  Instantly, the water is up to my waist and rising.  To my side, the water is rising over the rocky coast.  There is no time to go back that way before the waves start dashing me against the rocks.

I know what I must do, immediately, before the next wave comes in.

I throw my body forward and swim out towards the sea.  I have to swim past the rocks before I can turn back in to the beach.  I don’t wonder if I can do it, I just do it.

I don’t remember swimming back to the beach, which of course I did.  I also don’t remember feeling fear or panic.

Once I read about a man whose head was in a lion’s mouth when he was saved.  He was asked what he felt when he was that close to sudden death.  He said that at the last moment, his horror and fear were replaced by a sense of complete euphoria, and he felt no pain.

I sometimes wonder if something like that happened to me that day.

girlWater copy

10. March 2013 · Comments Off on Summer’s End · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

My sister comes back.  When she unpacks her suitcase she finds her money is missing.   She gets into a fight with Linda.  They go at it  hammer and tongs.

My sister goes to the police station and comes back with a detective.  He searches the house and then looks around outside.  He finds my sister’s money stuffed into a dead hollow tree that’s lying on its side.  Linda’s new amah confesses.

My sister tells me that someone at the police station has an empty apartment she can afford, and she is taking me with her.

No one objects.

We go even farther down the road, all the way to where the tram circles back.


The apartment house is also up the hill.  We have the upstairs apartment.  It looks new.  It is small, but it has everything that we need.   It has a bedroom, a living room, and a Chinese style kitchen and bathroom.  It has a balcony overlooking a creek.

A European woman and her daughter live downstairs.  Her daughter’s name is Loretta.  She is a little older than my sister.

09. March 2013 · Comments Off on Turnaround · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years, Out of the Blue

After my sister leaves for work early in the morning I have nothing to do till she comes home after work.

She buys magazines.   I read detective stories, Photoplay, Vanity Fair, and psychology stories.   I am captivated by stories about schizophrenia, manic depression and Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.   I think I’m getting an inferiority complex.  I read the magazines from cover to cover.

Then I have nothing to do.

Hanging around down on the main road is even less fun than the last neighborhood.   But I go there anyway.

I watch the tram slowly make the turnaround to go back into town.   It stops, and a woman jumps out and runs towards me.  It is Anita, my mother’s friend.

She wants to know what I am doing here.  She is appalled that my sister and I are living by ourselves and that I am not going to school.

She had missed her stop, and she stayed on the tram to circle back to it.   We kiss goodbye.  She gets back on the tram.

 neighborhood tram

08. March 2013 · Comments Off on Going Home · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years, Out of the Blue

Two days later, my sister tells me that Titi has sent for me.  I am to go back right away.

Anita had taken the next boat to Macau and gone straight to our grandmother’s house.   Anita demanded that Titi take us back.  Titi was not moved.

Anita threatened to tell “all of Macau” that Titi, herself living in a mansion and protected by such an established family, was allowing her sister’s daughters to be thrown to the wolves.

Titi agreed to take me back, but only me.

My sister explains things to me.  She says that Uncle Pedro offered to send her away to school but she couldn’t go because of me.

She says Titi is a monster.  When I go back, I will have to prove myself.  I will have to be First of the Class just as she was.

I guess I look as stunned as I feel.

My sister continues.  Don’t worry about her, she says.  Remember the fortune teller who predicted our futures?   He said that the man she marries will reach the top of his profession.  He also said that I, on the other hand, have open hands.  Wealth will just flow through me.

I believe that my sister will succeed in anything she wants.  As for my having open hands, I have no idea what the fortune teller was talking about.  I hardly remember him.

But my sister has given me a condition: I have to be First of the Class.   I don’t even think of questioning it.

Ferry old copy

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Penha, our neighborhood in Macau