My conversation with Ho Li-Fuk

Introduction:

October 2013: I had two things in mind at VPL this afternoon, which was to continue working on the short story and also finish reading The mind of Mr. Soames.

Since the short story wasn’t coming along too well, I decided to read the last 50 pages of the novel and took a seat in a communal area on level 3. Halfway through the last pages, I noticed a Chinese coming towards me saying that he’d been watching me for a while.

He must have been in his mid-fifties judging by his receding hairline, the sideburns turning gray. He was slim and somewhat weakly built and carried a rucksack.

I’m not much of a liar, though I wish I had lied to him right from the beginning. It’s just a language that you need to learn, requiring a calm state of mind and even creativity. I never learnt about his name, though I’d like to call him Ho Li-Fuk.

Here’s the fictionalized and shortened version of our conversation depicting what a bad liar I am. At least strangers believe me. However, it doesn’t change the fact that he did catch me off guard. (Translated from Cantonese.)

 

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  You speak Chinese?

 

Me:                             Yes.

 

Ho Li-Fuk (takes a seat across from me.)

You from Hong-Kong?

 

Me:                             Something like that…

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  You either are or not. Where are your parents from?

 

Me (pause.)

Singapore.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  You’re from Singapore?

 

Me:                             No, I’m from Germany.

 

Ho Li-Fuk (looks impressed):

Germany? Interesting. So you speak German and Chinese!

 

Me:                             Yes.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  And English!

 

Me (eyes fixed on my book.):

Yes.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  You look well educated. You must be in your mid twenties?

 

Me:                             28.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  Wait, what’s your Chinese zodiac?

 

Me:                             Ox.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  So what are you doing in Canada?

 

Me (looking up again):

Working and travelling.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  Interesting. How long you here for?

 

Me (looking around me.):

A year.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  Nice! You in Vancouver for a year?

 

Me:                             No.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  You going back to Germany after?

 

Me:                             Yes.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  How long have you been in Canada?

 

Me:                             A couple of months.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  Why aren’t you staying in Vancouver?

 

Me:                             I’ve found a job elsewhere.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  And where’s that?

 

Me (pause.):

Toronto.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  What kind of job?

 

Me:                             Hotel.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  Nice! You can easily find a job here, too.

 

Me:                    I don’t think so.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  Of course you can.

 

Me:                   Well, I don’t want to stay here.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  How come, you have a boyfriend in Toronto?

 

Me:                    Yes.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:             Is he a white guy?

 

Me:                     Listen…

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                I bet he is!

 

Me:                    It’s none of your business.

 

Ho Li-Fuk (scrutinizing me from top to bottom.):

Trust me, it’s not gonna work out.

 

Me:           Excuse me!

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                Trust me. You’ve only been here for a couple of months. You’re rushing into things…

 

Me:                 Please…!

 

Ho Li-Fuk:        How old is he?

 

Me:                 I think I’m done here…

 

Ho Li-Fuk:         Is he in his thirties? Trust me, it’s not gonna work.

 

Me (glaring at him):

Ho Li-Fuk:           You need someone much older.

 

Me:                   You insinuating something?

 

Ho Li-Fuk.          Trust me, I know about these things. It’s not gonna work.

 

Me (shaking my head.):

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                You’re an ox. You need someone at least 10 years older. When’s your birthday? In winter?

 

Me (my book falls down.):

Summer.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                  You see? You need someone older. Someone who has lived through winter, so he’ll know how to protect you. But you’re rushing into things, it’s not going to work.

 

Me:           Listen, you have no right to say any of these things.

 

Ho Li-Fuk (scanning me from top to bottom again):

Besides, why white guys? They’re all blonde and tall. Looking at you you can’t be taller than 1.60m.

 

Me (glaring at him again.):

 

Ho Li-Fuk:             You should be with a Chinese guy, someone with black hair and same skin features. But I understand, you grew up in Germany, so you must have been with Germans only…

 

Me (grinning.)

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                And it seems like you’re rushing from one relationship to the next, which is why it’s not gonna work.

 

Me:                    Ah, really?

 

Ho Li-Fuk:           Yes, it’s because you’re dating western guys. They don’t have the same mentality; they won’t understand you.

 

Me:                    But you do?

 

Ho Li-Fuk:            Exactly.  We’re a good match. Fate will be on our side, too. What you have in Toronto is not worth it; it’s doomed to fall apart.

 

Me (laughing.)

 

Ho Li-Fuk:               Trust me.

 

Me (packing my stuff):

I’m going…

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                May I have your number?

 

Me:                  I don’t think so.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:               How about I give you mine and you contact me when you’ve split up?

 

Me:                            I’m done talking.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:           Don’t you believe in fate?

 

Me:              No, but destiny, at least there’s a choice.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:                 And what’s that?

 

Me:            Bye-bye.

 

Ho Li-Fuk:               Ok, I wish you all the best, maybe fate will lead us back together one day. All the best, take care.

 

Me:             You, too.

 

 

by Paula Deckard (c) October 2013

 

 

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