Some twenty years ago when he was 18, I was 15, we had a our first romance in this small town known as the Pearl of East. I was in St Cecilia’s Girls, he was in St Mary’s Boys. These schools are next to each other and sharing the same bus stop – somewhere we went to every morning and left from every afternoon.
His name is Benny. He is short in average. He has the hair style that split at one side, a pair of big eyes and they were very charming when he smiled. He smoked ciggies and it left smells on his fingers. He liked to wear collared tees in plain color, such as dark green. He lived in one of the nicest residential area in town near to the beach. A boy who did not like school but had a beautiful handwritings. He was an artist. He did sketches, that’s like the only thing he did in school, if not sports. He did not get into good class, only in the bottom lines classes, in his repeated year and almost dropped out of school.
Nana was our mutual friend. When Nana and I went shopping, we have often bumped into him, then Nana and him would talk for a while while I waited aside. He told Nana that I was cute, called me the Cutie Girl or in Cantonese, “Dak Yi Mui 得意妹”. Some special feelings that I felt for the first time: Attention and Confirmation. Most importantly, just like something from the novels: the Romance.
On one of the beautiful, sweaty hot summer days, a neat, italic and beautifully handwritten letter landed on my palms- he asked for my phone numbers and mailing address. We then started writing to each other by posts. Stamps on envelopes and ink on letter pads. I remember myself writing to him when I was in class while teacher were teaching in class. I had it covered by books standing on my desk. I was mad and excited.
One day when Nana and I went for the St John’s Ambulance Indoor Badminton Court for a game, Benny was there with his friends as well. They played so well and we were amazed. He teased us by commenting we played like Catching Butterflies撲蝶, one of the famous activities by ladies from the ancient Chinese history, describing they don’t move much of their bodies.
We went for drinks together, sometimes with everyone else, sometimes just the three of us. He and Nana talked a lot, and laughed a lot. I was quiet, not as witty as they were. I laughed too if I caught the jokes, most of the time I can’t. Nana liked him a lot and told me that Benny had been eying on me often. They spoke Cantonese, and my mother tongue is Hakka. I was starting to learning Cantonese since I love Leslie so much. They both love Leslie’s main competitor, Alan.
One day, he asked for my photo. I gave him one of the photos in school uniform. I was skinny and the smile was innocent. A week later, he handed me a rolled-up art paper, tied with a ribbon. It is a sketch from my photo: the most romantic gift I have ever received, of course, the first gift from a guy. One of our favourite hangouts is the Cherry Records. The lady boss had long hair, skinny body and beautiful smile, and in her mid 30s. She had a secret service provided for some VIPs, like us. We submitted a list of 10 songs and she would tailor-made those songs into a cassette for us after few days. Benny made me one, he wanted to share with me about his passion from the songs, both are his favourite singers. I do not remember exactly how did Nana stopped joining us, maybe because of this cassette. Vaguely remembered that she became quiet and soon she had a new boyfriend.
Everyone saw us in the street as a couple. The smiling boy and the shy girl. The smoking boy and the “Christian” girl. The “bad” boy and the “good” girl. Our friends were happy for us, and teasing us, in street and in schools. I was too shy to response to anything, he would response with some unreserved smiles, jokes and even attacks back to them, I felt protected and loved: something I have always wished for. That smile – a charming smile with his beautiful eyes, is something I can still remember until now, something he has only when he was with others. When he has this smile, I know he was “out” of us. When he was with me, he is more relax and With Me and I did not see this smile.
Benny and I went to a beach nearby to where he lived. We were sitting on a big rock. He asked if he could hold my hand. I blushed. So much blushed. Cheeks were burning like hell. The whole body was frozen like hell. I barely breathe. I kept looking down on the sands. And not talking. He took it as a Yes and gently took my palm into his. Maybe it was the same day or it was the next time. He asked if he could kiss me. I had the exact same reaction again. He took it as a Yes. I heard his breath became heavier near my ear, then my burning cheek was touched by his cold nose. I had to close my eyes, a mixture of shock, worried, excited and happiness. Butterflies in the stomach. And when lips were touching lips, we kissed. I smell the indescribable smell, it is not a bad breath or anything bad, but I might want to call it as the smell of Oxygen. The first time. I had never been this close to another human beings. He was a good kisser. We forgot our time but enjoyed the kiss. I heard the birds, the splash of waves, the blue sky, the white clouds and the love scent.
Sometimes I laid on his laps while we kissed. For hours, we were adjusting the postures ofsitting next to each other. For the first time, I realised I dont live alone in the world anymore. I walked, sat, stood, with someone else.
One day, we bumped into his best friend, the Big-Eyes. Someone he had always hangout with before we met. He signed Benny over and secretly talked to him for a minute. Big-Eyes told Benny his girlfriend was very nice and he should have done some adults things with her. I saw that smile again when they were talking. “He was protecting me”, thats what I thought when I saw it from far.
Benny’s house has a nice front yard with plants but we would never take each other to our houses. The romance were all kept discreet, only known among our good friends. No parents should know anything about dating. He showed me his house and a little apartment tower next to his house. He took me to his apartment, somewhere he and his brother had been staying sometimes at nights. He put me on his bed and kept kissing me. And he asked if he could touch me. I said, “Why do you have to asked every time? You know my answer”. However, things did not go on well. He was soft. We gave up. A few times of trying with the same outcome. I did not know what’s going on. I was laying there and waited until he gave up each time. He did not allow me to look and I did not want to look neither.
Smiles on his face were lessen each time we met. Finally, he has stopped calling me. Not a word for me. I called him, and he did not talk much. I had no way to get him talking to me. I bought a very nice letter pad with lots of cream roses on it. I loved it very much. It was like my love for him: pure, innocent, unreserved and beautiful. I wrote him something from the bottom of my heart. It was poetic but empty, just like our romance. It barely scratched anything. I was not satisfied but I have done my best and it was at least 10 pages in length. No response from him. Not ever.
I left town the next year for college in KL. Many years later, I visited one of the besties, Fion’s, new home. It was at the opposite of Benny’s parents house. She said he still lived there and they talked once in a blue moon, and that he is still single, while I was married. We have another mutual friend, his ex-classmate, SV. Last year, when I was back home for 3 months, SV, the only one of my friends who is still single, was free to keep me entertained. We chatted over phone, he took me out for ice cream at nights. One day, I asked if he was still in touch with Benny. He said yes. I asked if I can have Benny’s phone number. He was shocked. “What do you want to do with him”. I said, I just want to get in touch with an old friend. Few days later, he gave me a number.
I wanted to tell Benny: “It is OK not to make love with me. It doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it. Even if it is something wrong, it is OK not to make love with anyone. You deserved to be happy. And I will still love you and love the memory. I will not forget you” Of course, when I thought I have finally gathered a good chance in town for long while the past years were in rush, a phone number in hand, the courage- I could not do it. Maybe he will hang up on me. Maybe he does not remember me anymore. Maybe I would put him in an awkward memory that he wished to forget. Who am I to remind him something and and maybe leave a scar in him. No matter what I do now, it will not make a difference. Even if he doesn’t, what would it mean to him. He will not understand my broad love for him, he might get misinterpretation. I will just wish for him for far.