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BRUTAL END OF AFFAIR


--by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming and Reid Mitchell


HE: The steady pouring rain opened a new page of the raging night.

SHE: Our electricity paused; we forgot where we kept the batteries for the radio. Nobody could tell us which streets had been flooded.

HE: We did not know the time, but we thought we must make sure the Cheungs living next door had enough food for the evening.

SHE: So I thought I'd cook. I never realized before how little food, how little anything, how little everything, we kept. We might as well have been living on a railway platform, drinking tea and eating noodles out of styrofoam, as to call home this place we squatted like refugees, migrants, beggars and thieves.

HE: I told my wife there was no time for cooking. We should just go over to their place and see what we could do. Hard times were many and the old folks cared for us and lent us the little money they had with open arms, unknitted brows.

SHE: That's when I realized how little he had ever thought like me. Like--how can I say it without sounding awful--like us. Like normal people. When Mrs. Cheung let us in, she almost cried because without power, she could not boil water and offer her guests tea.

HE: The first thing I noticed was Mr Cheung's armchair. He always sat on it and I would sit opposite him and we would chat about the temperature or about women. That night he wasn't sitting on the armchair.

SHE: Mrs. Cheung said, "He's in the street, measuring the depth of the rain. He says he cannot remember what happened when it last rained so hard, but that I should pack everything worth saving into a suitcase light enough to carry in one old man's hand."

HE: It was then that I thought perhaps we needed to pack as well. I looked out of the window and saw his shadow rippling on the flooded street. He was waving to someone but there was no one else in sight.

SHE: But when we brought his woman downstairs, he was nothing but a hand out a taxi window. He loved her most, but he saved his old bones.

("Brutal End of Affair" was first published in Admit2, May 2007)