WIP: Essays to the Departed


I’ve always wanted to write a book and on Sunday May 24 I started on what I hope will be the book.
These are the first words, and they’re dedicated to my dearest friend who departed too soon.

Gerald Ho. 1982-2000.

Hey man, how’s it going?

God, it’s been such a long time since you left.

You should’ve been 33 this year, like the rest of us Fairfield boys. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if you were still around. You always looked like the doctor sort of guy, or perhaps a mad scientist, or perhaps a biochemist – definitely something related to the sciences. I remember you were brilliant in physics and chemistry. I remember I’d always ask you about chemical bonds and equations and how on earth that worked. I remember how you’d explain it to me like it was the simplest thing to comprehend ever, but I never got it.

You were a smart kid. A sensible kid. A good kid gone too soon.

I miss the conversations we had over the phone. Was it a near daily affair? Ah, all those things we chatted about – the crushes we had, the plots we would hatch to overthrow the boyfriends of our crushes, what we wrote on those Pass-It-On cards we’d give to our crushes. You know, people don’t chat on the phone anymore these days. We simply send text messages, and I don’t even mean SMS. There’s this thing called Whatsapp that almost everyone uses. It’s free to send text messages, and you can even send smiley faces – they’re called emoticons – and a whole bunch of animated stuff. It’s pretty cool, really. But it’s also somewhat impersonal. I could send a message and it would be perfectly fine for someone to reply four hours later. It’s odd isn’t it? Why don’t we just call one another get an immediate response? Haha, I don’t know.

Can you imagine if this was the case back then? You asking me a question to my face, and me taking four hours to reply you?

Speaking about girls, none of us actually got together with the ones we were so madly in love with. Okay, maybe a more appropriate word might be ‘infatuated’ since I doubt we truly understood what love was back then as an adolescent. Vincent never got together with Cheryl, who is now married with two kids. I never got together with Shiyan, who is now also married (nah, she didn’t marry that senior from school). In fact, most of us are married now, well, except for Vincent – but I doubt it’s because he’s still secretly pining for Cheryl – and a few others.

That classmate you were so crazy about, Madeline – she’s also married now. Based on whatever she posts on Facebook, I don’t think she’s got kids. Oh, right, Facebook – it’s this website that everyone has an account with. You can access it on your computer or your phone (yeah mobile phones can connect to the freaking Internet now) and it’s sort of like a virtual you. You get to chat with friends via the site, add new ones and post updates about your life. I know, it’s crazy, but everyone’s obsessed with telling the world about what they’re doing and how they’re feeling. Friends can then click a button to ‘like’ your status updates.

It’s really as if everyone is a voluntary victim of voyeurism these days.

It also explains why many people don’t bother chatting anymore these days. In a way, we’re all expected to know about how our friends are doing just by reading each other’s status updates. We’re all like walking whiteboards in this digital era. We write about ourselves on ourselves and parade in this circle of friends, hoping someone walks by and draws a thumbs-up on us. Odd isn’t it?

I think you would’ve been married now too. I reckon you would’ve been a father now as well. I wonder what your wife would be like. Probably someone with porcelain white skin and a soft voice. I don’t know why but that just seems like the sort of lady you’d marry. Me? Yeah I’m married too, and for about six years now. She was from the same polytechnic as me, and in a nutshell we hit it off after I tried to mediate an argument between her and the guy who became the best man at my wedding.

If you were still around, you’d definitely have been invited to be in my wedding entourage. Brian and Vincent were. The rest of the guys were my pals from poly. Yeah, I still keep in touch with some of the friends from Fairfield, but it’s mostly via Facebook. Ah yes, Facebook, again.

You know, if you somehow found your way back into this realm again, all you’d need is Facebook to update yourself on everyone’s lives. But first you’d have to add us as ‘friends’ and I would imagine that to be a rather disturbing experience for the recipients. But don’t worry about it buddy, you can always just ring me up and we’ll catch up.

The old school way.


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