My First Love
By Rufina Fung
When I lived in an apartment complex, there was an unspoken pattern for children living on our floor: every Friday after school was our 'meeting' time. In a ten feet square intersection area of corridors, groups of neighboring children would play card games, skip rope or play a cooking game in their respective corners. Ming, Fong, and I would exchange collectables like stamps, stickers, and cartoon cards.
'Let's play hide-and-seek!' 'Let's play red light green light!' someone would suddenly suggest playing a group game. All the children would echo, pushing their games and belongings aside, hurrying to gather at the center.
One day, an old mattress was found. Many times, girls and younger children preferred to treat it as a trampoline while boys held wrestling competitions.
One time, a group of angry boys came to us from a lower floor, saying that we had 'stolen' their mattress. A tall boy, Fai, stepped forward. 'Let's settle it with wrestling.' He was new, wearing a cheeky smirk.
Two teams quickly formed. More and more children from different floors flocked to ours for the 'show,' circling the mattress with a few rounds. Unlike the professional rules, ours were pretty simple: the first one down loses a point. No dirty tricks. No pulling hair. No fingers poking into eyes.
The contestants went up to the ring, and soon the match started. They wrestled, stumbling around. 'Get him!' and 'Go, go, go!' the crowd shouted, yelled, waving their fists. Teeth clenched, the two grappled for a few more seconds, shaking, and toppled over. Cheers and claps rang out from one side of the crowd while the opposing side hissed and booed; then, the crowd quieted down.
One pair after another wrestled, and our team was losing, 6-7. The opposing side sent a stout-looking boy. Ming and I exchanged a sullen look, worrying about our team. In this boys' match, girls couldn't help. My neighbor, Fong, reassured; 'Here comes our hero.' Fai stepped up. After clearing his throat and stretching his arms, Fai closed the distance, tackled, and pressed the other boy down into the mattress. Loud cries swirled all over the little square, and quietly, I cheered in heart for his nice jab.
7-7. A tie breaker. Scanning the hall, Fai's eyes met mine. Taller than most of the children of my same age, with short hair, stout-sized, and a little plump, I was unexpectedly picked for the next match. Blushing, I kept shaking my head, reluctant to go. A great many pairs of eyes turned to me, encouraging and urging. Ming uttered, 'Chung is a girl.' Before the last word was said, I was pushed to the mattress.
My opponent was a boy about the same age, but skinnier and shorter. I wrestled hard. He fell to the mattress, and I quickly sat on him.
The crowd of children erupted into cheers and loud cries. Everybody rushed to me and thanked me. Fai pulled me away from the crowd and threw his wet arm around my shoulder, which startled me. I tried to calm my severe immediate reaction and remain aloof. Ming and Fong suppressed their giggles when our eyes met. They even winked! Down the
long corridor, the fluorescent lights twinkled and shone on our faces. Fai and I took the lead, walking shoulder to shoulder, following with throngs of exhilarated children dancing and chasing. I tried vigorously to remain poised and squeeze out a weak smile. Fai laughed with a mouthful of teeth, and his hot breath swept my face. He walked me home, and before leaving, he said, 'Good job. My brother!'
Once home, all night long, my left shoulder tilted inadvertently as I could still feel the weight of his hand; not knowing why, it's an irresistible feeling somehow.
After that day, I tried to search for him whenever I went out. I practiced rehearsing how to break the news to him that I was a girl. To shorten the embarrassing moment, I also decided to put on a dress whenever I went to that little square. Before long, with no sign of
him, I walked up two more floors at weekends, looking for old mattresses in the dimmed trash corners in hopes of a chance meeting.
Early one evening, I put on a new dress when I went out to do shopping. The midsummer heat was driven away as a light breeze wafted through the corridors. Fluorescent lights were off; the whole corridor was hued in a primrose glow. Once stepping out, a silhouette of a tall boy came by. It was him! My heart beat faster. I walked demurely, pretending to look
away but had my head slanted to where the shadow was cast. The shadow drew closer, stopped, and it darted away as a gazelle.
After that, I never saw him again.
My first love story, suddenly'ended.
About the Author:
Rufina Fung has co-authored the book, 'A Guide for New Converts,' and was one of the editors of an inter-college magazine, 'Critical Point,' in Hong Kong. She has years of experience in developing online content for handsets and web browsers as well as editing publications for a non-profit organization. Brought up and educated in Hong Kong, she holds a master's degree in Cultural Studies and is now pursuing her second master's degree in journalism at Regent University.