09. May 2013 · Comments Off on Narrow Bridge · Categories: N. Grail School Year, The Beast

There is going to be an evening of entertainment.  We are continuing the World Vision theme.  Each one of us is expected to contribute a song, a story, something from our own national culture.

Officially, my nationality is British.   But I’ve never even been to England.  Nor have I been to my mother’s home country, Portugal.  Our Eurasian culture in Macau is a hybrid and hard to pin down.

Then a light bulb comes on.  I know what I will do.

When my turn comes, I tell the audience that I will say a poem in Cantonese, which I learned with my tutor, Miss Wu.

I am wearing my mandarin jacket with the gold dragons, which Oona overlooked.

I tell the audience that the poem is from the Chinese Fourth Reader.  Chinese students habitually memorize all the poems.

This one, my favorite, is about an old man, feeble in mind and body, who struggles to cross a narrow bridge.

 The bridge is tall, the boards are narrow.  The old man’s knees weaken, his heart flutters, and he falls.

A young student sees him and rushes to his side.   He lifts up the old man.   He calms him.   He helps him cross safely to the other side.

I say the poem in Cantonese.

I remember the poem, word for word, even though it has been four years since I learned it by heart.   Or as Miss Wu would put it, since I learned it in my heart.

The audience loves it.

As we are leaving the hall, Leitha steps out of the shadows and takes me aside.

We need your jacket for our member Connie, she says.  She is Chinese and needs it for social events at our city center.

I say nothing.

Leitha starts to take the jacket off me.  I shrug out of it as quickly as I can and hand it to her.

I can’t get away fast enough.



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