It was a suitably overcast day, and even though the rain had stopped for some time, the
air was still damp.
The red taxi halted suddenly upon the delayed request. The passenger paid his driver, and
stepped out. As he expected, he was alone. Rain in the midst of Hong Kong’s winters always
sent people back to the warmth of their homes. There was zero chance that anyone would visit a
His steps echoed through the corridors as the platforms of his black leather shoes
drummed the concrete floors. He made his way through a maze of hallways, feeling overly aware
of the thousands of people that surrounded him. He kept his head hung low, as if to avoid eye
contact with the deceased.
“For fuck’s sake Jay, get a grip.” He mumbled to himself.
Guilt rippled through Jay’s body. It had been fourteen years since his granddad died, and
only once had he visited. Over time he blamed inaccessibility, but since he had visited his grandpa
multiple times, there was no escaping the uneasy feeling that festered within.
Jay stopped in front of a plaque that had a black and white photo of a man who was
grinning at the camera. It was the familiar face of the granddad Jay remembered- hair reduced to
silver wisps, and several teeth missing in almost a caricatural manner.
“Hi granddad. Long time no see.” Said Jay in Cantonese. It was a language he spoke
fluently, and while he was more comfortable in English, he felt as if he owed his granddad at
least that much. Jay reached into the plastic bag he was carrying and took out two take-away
cups. He placed one on the floor.
“It’s um, milk tea. I don’t know if you like it, I don’t really remember anymore. But
grandpa always has.”
Jay took out a small carton box as well and opened the lid. “There’s also egg tarts. I
suppose you remember that they’ve always been my favourite.” He looked out a window. The
rain was beginning to pick up.
“Jesus.” He said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come back to visit you.” He paused,
then picked up his train of thought as if answering a question. “It’s been... fourteen years? Since
you’ve been gone I mean. So twelve, I guess. Since I’ve last visited you.”
He laughed as he turned away, partially ashamed, but also relieved that he was making
amends. “Mom and dad always said that you’d understand. But I guess I never let it go myself. It
was hard the night you passed away. Afterwards there were questions as to why I wasn’t there in
that moment, and... I didn’t have any good answers.” Jay sighed. His eyes were already welling up
with tears. “I was barely seven years old, what could I have known?” He looked into the
mischievous eyes of his granddad. “I’ve missed you though, it’s hard to forget how well you
treated me as a kid. I know I was always the foreigner, using forks instead of chopsticks,
speaking English instead of Cantonese. Maybe that wasn’t always appreciated by the family, but
you never cared.” Jay covered his mouth to steal a moment to compose himself.
“You would still buy me ice cream and toys all the same.” Jay sniffled and thought back
to the boxes of childhood memorabilia that used to sit in his parents’ basement. “All those
Hotwheels cars.” He laughed and blinked away the tears. A drop fell into Jay’s open cup of milk
“You know. You never taught me how to whistle through a leaf.” He stared at his
granddad’s photo, and for a moment smiled back at the silly grin. Then his expression became
more solemn, knowing that he had something else important to say.
“My parents are doing well, I think they’re still trying to get used to not having me
around the house, but otherwise... when was the last time dad visited you?” Jay stood in silence,
expecting to hear a response. “Yeah. I guess I don’t know either.” Jay knew that he was stalling.
He took a deep breath to push the emotion out of his voice, but he could feel the futility of his
“I um, wanted to- wanted to apologize too.” His voice choked, and he realized how
much he had been dreading this apology. He continued, his voice barely audible through the
airiness and squeaking. “Sorry for visiting grandpa more than you. I’m sure you know that I’ve
been to his place a few times.” He took an arrhythmic breath that did nothing to quell his crying.
“It’s not that I loved you less or anything...” His words were unintelligible. He crumpled down to
the floor and sobbed into his tea.
When he had composed himself he looked around. “People must think I’m crazy.” He
said. There was one man dressed in a groundskeeper’s uniform, who was standing at the other
end of the hallway, though Jay was sure that he had heard his entire conversation. The old man
“It’s not that crazy.” The groundskeeper said to Jay. “It’s far more interesting that just
the ordinary prayer that people normally say.”
Jay wiped his eyes. “I was going to do the prayer too.” He said sheepishly.
The groundskeeper shrugged. “Tradition is tradition. I’ll leave you be.” He said and
Jay smiled. “A friend of yours granddad?” His phone buzzed. The taxi he had ordered
was arriving soon. “Do you want some other dessert next time? I realize that these tarts are really
more for myself.” Jay moved to sit down against a wall and closed his eyes. For the next ten
minutes he would just spend some quiet time with someone he hadn’t spoken to in over a
decade. “It’s good to see you.” He whispered.
Woody Laui 2018