Telling Stories (Part 3)

Read: Telling Stories (Part 2)

Flora described how Mr T stayed with her family for a while, before he and Mom got married. My youngest uncle surrendered his mattress so Mr T could crash in their living room. Flora’s job paid well. After her boss got locked up, she bought his BMW from his wife. “Its engine always switched off at random, but your dad managed to sell the car, turn a profit, and gave me back the amount I paid.” Soon after, Mr T got a job as a driver for a former member of the Legislative Council. His employer was an influential man who held many honours. Mr T gradually became more than a driver when he helped his boss with real estate. “Your dad had a way with mainland Chinese clients. His excellent Mandarin was a plus”, explained Flora. Mr T’s ancestral home is Ningbo. He grew up in Hong Kong with six half-siblings. His family was so impoverished, Mr T never made it to secondary school. “I worked with mechanics and carpenters. See this scar?” He pointed to a small dent above his right eye. “One night, I was alone in the shop when two thieves tried to steal a very valuable antique chair my shi fu was fixing. I fought them off, and walked away with nothing more than this tiny cut.” He never saw eye to eye with his brothers, who, by the time Mom and Mr T got married, had moved to Toronto. One of their wives gave me an illustrated book on Disney princesses. “I heard you like reading, Stevie, and that you have very good English”, she said, beaming. I thanked her and accepted the pink book, but knew I was not going to give up the The Da Vinci Code for that.

Mr T borrowed a lot of money from his brothers when he started his own company producing 3D images. “Watch this fish disappear.” Mr T tilted a 3D card with an aquarium printed on it. I was three. I took the card and held it parallel to the ground. “There’s the fish!” Mr T borrowed a lot of money from the wrong people, promising them returns when he completed his “projects”. Among his grand schemes were the Tsing Ma Bridge and the Chek Lap Kok Airport. “My men built this bridge with their bare hands,” he said one time when he took Mom and me on a ride on Tsing Ma Bridge. “Wow.” I was impressed, but Mom always remained silent. He sold cars, and always took more than his cut. That was how he paid for our apartment on the mid-levels in North Point when I was two. “Sea view, sunsets, every day”. Mom summed up our apartment. Not long after Mr T bought the North Point apartment, my parents sold it to buy property in Singapore. It was during the time in the 90s when people in Hong Kong worried about what would become of the city after the British handover. Mom never told me why Mr T stayed in Hong Kong, but somewhere down the road, I understood. Halfway through our eight-year stay, trouble tracked us down. Mom and I had to move so we would appear not to exist.

Over the years, Mr T and Flora’s husband, George grew close. George was the first to learn about Mr T’s son when he told him he had to bring diapers and other baby supplies back to Shenzhen, where he lived with his mistress and their child. Mr T should consider himself lucky that it was long before the government imposed the two-can export limit on infant formula. Mom stayed single. Her singleness did not matter to me until my godfather told me how close my parents were. He knew them before they had me. “Back then, your mom was different. She was very happy with your dad.” When I grew older, I wanted Mom to be happy again, but she seemed to have spent her youth taking care of me. Her happiness was elsewhere.

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  1. Pingback: Telling Stories (Part 4) – stevie tsui

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