Revisiting Guilt
Revisiting Guilt family stories
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woodylaui
woodylaui Community member
Autoplay OFF   •   2 years ago
It's never easy to feel guilty over family, particularly when that someone isn't available to talk to anymore.

Revisiting Guilt

It was a suitably overcast day, and even though the rain had stopped for some time, the

air was still damp.

“Here.”

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

mausoleum.

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

tea.

“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

efforts.

“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

walked over.

“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

strolled away.

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

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