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Gecko on the Wall

Words by Wayne Foo

Art by Mon

 

“Mummy loves you [Heart]”

I stood there dumbfounded, transfixed, stationary amidst a transient population of students rushing to their classes. 

The word feels familiar and foreign. 

Are we going to become one of those families that use it casually on a day-to-day basis without careful deliberation? Do I have to say it now every time I leave the house? Are we abandoning our subtle, indirect, traditional way of expressing affection? 

Mum was only leaving the city for a few days. Probably the first time since I entered adolescence, but still. I wondered for a split second whether this is a culmination of some sort, or if this is even opportune. I’ve always thought it would be a bigger occasion. But to be fair, it’s not like I’ve been able to picture it. 

Whatever I picture is never weighty enough. 

Rather than an elephant in the room, it’s more like a gecko on a wall in my Southeast Asian home. You know it’s there somewhere, but you might only be able to see it for a second if you’re lucky. You’re not scared of it per se, but you might flinch if it appears too close. It’s a little icky, I guess. 

I looked up and stared blankly at the ebbing tide of students, leaving me to drift further into the tricky waters of modern Chinese filial piety. 

Obviously, I love my mum. But we keep these feelings to ourselves, like a little treasure box. Ironically, we don’t always hold the key to it. Sometimes we do. 

Other times, we’re not even sure who holds it. In this sense, our deep feelings of affection are explosive, volatile, and stormy. A little like the stochastic movements of a gecko. 

I know the correct response. The letters connect themselves like one of many sequins to a dress, the needle traversing in and out in a consistent rhythm. My grandma cuts the remaining thread. A gecko appears in the corner of my vision. I snap my head towards it, catching it for a second, and it dashes off. I feel warm and fuzzy. 

“Love you too, mum”

Wayne Foo

The author Wayne Foo

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