For Tabitha [18.04.06]

There are people everywhere on the lawn. The day’s light is that overcast shade of just perfect, voices humming mutter all over the place and then you see them, as if the sun was casting a 5-second spotlight for introduction’s sake. Arm in arm.
The man is in his late forties, maybe early fifties. The woman seems almost there, if not slightly younger. Their faces creased with laugh lines, they are bespectacled, flecks of grey lining the roots of their hair. They clutch tickets in their hands, one to a person. Age has barely touched them for instead of moving with the formal frailness of seniority they do otherwise, gracefully; they are as close as they were on their wedding day, dressed in their Sunday best. The man stops at the entrance to the lawn to adjust his tie — the usher checks their tickets, and then guides them in. Cloaked figures mill around. A sense of buzzing excitement in the air.
The sun seems to smile in approval.

Afterwards the occasion is like an elaborate ritual of the ages, those covered in black and red going to the front. There are smiles, cheers, tears of happiness, bright flashes of light as those related take remembrancers inside receptacles of metal, faces living in digital ones and zeroes as long as the medium does. Time seems to stream around the aged couple in a flow erratic and irritable, for it seems to them like it’s forever getting to mid-alphabet. A few faces are recognised, a far cry from the photos shown to them. But it is all irrelevant, they weren’t there for anyone but one and then there she is, says the husband, the wife raises her own camera in response-

-Their pride and joy. A girl, more of a woman now than a girl but their girl nonetheless; her eyes are bright and her cheeks flushed with the weather, a boisterous pink. She is shorn in the garb of scholars, the very image of education. Her hair tied in that ‘practical’ way she used to scorn, now a hairstyle she finds comfort with. Her name is mentioned, she steps forward, and for that moment she looks to where her parents are, smiles at them for the camera, smiles for them in gratitude. Then she takes the paper from the dean, small bold steps to where her mum and dad wait, arms outstretched.

Later mortarboards fly, newly-made alumni going through an ancient tradition. She throws hers as hard as she can and it seems to her for a moment in that glare of light that she’s seeing herself young again: holding a ring she still wears, glances smses and flowers, the SPM results, dim scribbles on the side of a book, the A-Level results, almost crumpling her offer letter, tears shed in his shoulder, hands clutching for comfort; then jet lag, forlorn goodbyes and hugs at the airport, struggles with homesickness, lonesome nights of studying, the unforgiving weather, exams that grated nerves, assignments, the once-a-year trips back home, words of “I miss you” over and over, webcams and headsets.

And everything, everything she’s gone through suddenly seems worth it.

 

 

 

 


Tabitha Lim is sixteen. I call her Tabby, prefer to call her that not out of familiarity like some are prone to do, (because I hardly talk to her, let alone know her) — but because Tabby is a whole syllable shorter than Tabitha, thus easier to pronounce, less stilted and formal. I also happen to be a cat person. As I was saying, she’s sixteen. It’s a nice age; you know everything, everything and then nothing at the same time. You’ve got responsibilities and yet people don’t expect that much responsibility from you, not yet at any rate. I heard she wants to go to Harvard. I don’t have a time machine, so this would be the closest I have; my imagination — her graduation. Here’s to her success.

Back to being sixteen: I think it’s a nice age to be, for the record. And it’s sweet. Why would this age be attached to it otherwise? Sweet sixteen, a coming-of-age coming-of-age. Two years from growing up, another three from being an adult.

So she’s sixteen, and this is my gift. It’s not much, to be frank it’s nothing compared to the stuff I’ve been writing recently and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be much compared to the other gifts she’s going to receive, but it’s something to me, and I hope it’ll be something to her. It didn’t occur to me till recently to give people bits and pieces of writing as gifts, and when it finally did occur to me her birthday was around the corner, the first one I realised I could write for. And I have.

Happy Birthday.

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2 Comments on “For Tabitha [18.04.06]”


  1. hey tanks.. very creative and nice of you.

  2. Owen Says:

    It was nothing, really. You’re welcome. (:


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