The Auction, Shanghai, March 22, 2014
Waiting For The Bus
Every morning, the mothers and grannies of my neighborhood hustle their children out of the house before day break to catch the bus to school. The Zero South bus would take them to the Gong Guan Depot and there they would then scatter, each taking addition bus lines going to their own school. It would be the first of several long bus rides before they returned home in the evening with their heads crammed full of lessons that hopefully would bring them each a better future. They were lucky.
Many years later while passing through the Shen Zhen airport I ran into Shiao Pang. I hadn’t seen her in decades and with only minutes before our departures, she inhaled deeply and gave a quick account on the whereabouts of our neighborhood students.
“Remember the Lai brothers? They started a trading company exporting electronic parts. Their third sister got her Masters and now lives in Houston.”
“Lu Ching Wei has a toy factory in Dong Guan and his Da Jie is the head of nursing at University Hospital. If you ever get sick you should call her, she has many connections. Li Li started the Forever Bright Travel and Tour Company. WA! She made a fortune when the travel restrictions were lifted. You know, Li Li was always crazy for Lai Da Ge but he got married and Li Li just started to travel. I think she poured her whole heart into Forever Bright!”
“Little Kite is a merchandiser for a shoe company. She has really good fashion sense. Chen Deng Hu studied literature abroad and was a professor for many years but he retired and came back to look after his old granny. His oldest sister is a middle school teacher and Chen mei mei wrote a romance novel but she used a penname so nobody knows it’s her. Ha, so tricky!”
Her chuckle was interrupted by an announcement blaring over the loudspeaker. Shaio Pang, no longer chubby, listened as she checked the time on her phone and snapped it shut when I asked her, “What ever happened to Tan Di Di? Did he ever get well?”
“Oh yes! He is fine. Chinese Medicine cured him. He writes songs for advertising company now. His older sister is an accountant. They sold their Gung Gung’s land long time ago.” She stood, drawn to the line forming at the gate, gathered her tote bag with so much still unsaid.
“Shiao Pang, what about you? What happened to you? You look so well,” I said honestly.
“Ai ya Shiao Ming, don’t you know? I married Lai Er Ge and we have three children. They are all in school and doing well. I keep after them about their homework and I find them a very good tutor to improve their English. Hey! Maybe you could teach them!”
Shiao Pang’s flight was called. My childhood friend handed over her boarding pass, turned and waved goodbye to me. But before she disappeared, I called out, “Shiao Pang, do your children take the bus to school?”