My conversation with Ho Li-Fuk

Introduction:

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

Since the short story wasn’t coming along too well, I procrastinated and read 50 pages of the novel in the communal area on Level 3. Halfway through the last pages, I saw a Chinese man approaching 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 a skill that you need to learn for the purpose of remaining creative. I never learned 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:                  Do 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 going to 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 going to 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 going to 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 the winter?

 

Me (I drop my book.):

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 5″2.

 

Me (glaring at him again.):

 

Ho Li-Fuk:             You should be with a Chinese guy, someone with black hair and the 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 going to work.

 

Me:                    Oh, 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 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 P-chan (c) October 2013

 

 

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