An Old Lady’s Touch of Kindness

On July 2014, I’ve embarked on a trip abroad—the first in my adult life. I was excited and scared at the same time. For the most part, I would try not to show these mixed feelings; I guess I wanted to look ‘casual,’ as if it was my nth time of travelling.

Singapore was quite intimidating. The buildings were taller; the roads wider and cleaner, even the trees that lined up the sidewalk looked majestic! The mix of culture, race, and religions made up for a list of things to learn and do during my stay in the merlion country. Yet, I was eager to learn and to fit. My fascination for the country grew as my sister continued to cite practices that were particularly thoughtful. One of these practices was giving your seat to the elderly in the bus or train. I have a soft spot for old people, yet, I am not good at expressing this side of me (as I am to any stranger). Since giving your seat to the elderly is customary in the country, I thought I could easily express my care for them during my stay.

On a bus trip one morning, the opportunity to follow that custom arrived. My sister and I were seated near the bus’ door, which is why we immediately saw her—an old lady with a well-kept hair. We stood to offer our seats: my sister, who was seated beside the glass window, stood up to offer her seat to the old lady. I, on the other hand, stood up to give my seat to my sister, but she declined. So I stayed seated while she stood beside the silver railing.

Our trip to the mall was short and safe. I stood up to get ready for the exit. However, I was mildly surprised to feel another’s hand touching my right hand. It was the old lady! She took my hand into hers and gave it a squeeze. I was so surprised that I immediately scanned her face, only to find her kind expression and simple smile. I’m not sure how I collected my wits but before I followed my sister, I managed to smile in return. My sister noticed our exchange and asked me what it was about, so I told her what happened—how the old lady took my hand and gave it a squeeze. I felt something glow inside me; perhaps, it was the old lady’s warmth that had seeped from her hand to mine.

Until now, I wasn’t sure what it was about. Yet, I do remember how it felt, how it lifted my anxiety as a first-time traveller.

Those Three Words

 

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from the More Hugs project (Ken Lo)

I ceased to belong to myself

the moment I met you.

My name sounds too foreign, too alien

yet, say it once — even in a whisper

and I’m home.

(Fun Fact: These ears collect my name from your lips;

it’s in that clear-glass jar

swimming with the sands of time.)

 

My hands are not mine

they are slaves that itch to uncover

those parts you always hide

—tucked at the sleeve and hem

of insecurities that with my touch

break free

like flakes of dead skin

My hands are slaves.

 

My spine is yours to summon

ask for a hug—it concaves

beg for my touch—it convexes

cry like a little child whose balloon slips

from chubby hands

and my spine stands erect

firmly planted so that you can lean

and still weep without falling.

 

My pen’s ink is a devout lover

each stroke it fills,

each space it occupies on the sheet

breathes adjectives,

your quirks, your moods,

collects definitions

just so no doubt could ever cloud

what it is I mean when I write

those three words.