Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lim Hui Jia (Part 2)


Hui Jia woke up, trying to make out his surroundings.

Right. It was a fifteen-minute break between classes, and he had drifted to sleep while thinking of ideas for the upcoming school essay contest. Right before Kevin, the bordering-on-obnoxious rich kid in class, interrupted.

"I'm having a birthday party at my place this Saturday. You wanna come over?"

"I'll need to ask my mother first."

"Adoi, mother mother. OK lah, you let me know asap kay?"


"You dunno what asap means ah? As swift as possible lah..."

"Oh, okay. Then I'll let you know...asap."

"Make sure you come kay." Kevin leaned closer with a smirk. "The girls are coming also."


"Ma, please! It's just a few hours."

"I know. But who's going to take care of the house while I'm away?"

"Why are you going to Aunt Mabel's house again?"

"Her house got flooded last night. She needs help sorting her stuff back. Hmm, in fact...I should ask you to come along as well!"

"Don't you dare! I have tonnes of homework!"

"Good! Then you can stay home to finish them."

"Maaaaaaaa...please, please. I'll be home early I promise. Once they finish, I'll leave."

She gazed at him, half relenting.

"Pleeeeeease. I've never been to a party ever."

"What time will you be back?"

"Ten o' clock. Sharp."

"You said it, okay?"

"Yes, promise."

"Okay then."

"Yes!" he pumped his fist in the air. "You're the best, ma!"

All she could do was smile.


"All right, who's game for the next round?" Kevin held up a precious free controller.

It was the night of the party. Everything was spectacularly novel to Hui Jia so far, from seeing his school mates all dressed up to the idea of unlimited snacking. Here, everyone seemed nicer and friendlier than in class, as though they shared a collective social awkwardness that brought them closer. Every joke became funnier, every conversation warmer, every thought simpler.

And now, after the cake cutting and opening of presents - for which Hui Jia was eternally grateful to his mother's sense in picking out a socially-acceptable gift - the people were starting to leave. Some of the boys, himself included, were still having a few rounds of Playstation something. It was all just too terribly exciting for him.

"Hey," someone called out to him. "Your phone's ringing."

Drat! He quickly glanced at the living hall clock. Nine fifty.

Of course, it had to be his mother.

"Hello?" he tried his best to sound proper.

"Ah Jia, are you still at the party?"

"Uh, yah. But leaving soon!"

"Okay, good."

She then proceeded to utter the best sentence in the universe.

"I'll be home later, we've still got quite a lot to do."


"Your friend will be fetching you home right?"


"Okay, so make sure you follow him, don't let people wait for you. If I'm not home yet when you sleep, leave the front light on."

"Okay, ma."

"Okay, bye."

End of conversation.

And the start of Need For Speed: Most Wanted!

"I'm in!" he grabbed the controller and pressed Start.

To be continued.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lim Hui Jia (Part 1)

"Lim Hui Jia."

A scruffy boy by the window rolled his eyes.

"Lim Hui Jia." the teacher repeated louder.

"Here." He raised his hand half-heartedly and quickly turned his gaze back outside.

Hui Jia, who had yet to settle on an English name, had despised his name for all thirteen years of his existence. Simply because it sounded exactly like 'go home' in Mandarin. And anyone with half a brain knows that in school, having a name that sounds remotely like any actual words is asking for trouble.

True enough, trouble dogged him. Most of the boys teased him to no end, incorporating his name into every sentence they conversed in.

"Hey, what time you hui jia today?"

"Haiya, you don't talk so hui jia lah!"

"Where's your homework? Hui jia already?"

Even the teachers chipped in, often complete with a hateful face of look-at-me-i'm-so-witty!.

He figured that it would stop after a while. But no luck, not even after years of schooling. Which to his teenage self was an eternity. And most likely a lifelong condemnation.


"Ah Jia! Get off your computer! Come eat dinner now."

Hui Jia slipped on his earphones, pretending not to hear.

Two minutes passed before his mother stormed into the room. She was a rather large lady, sometimes slow in movement but always quick and sharp with her tongue.

"HEY! I said turn off your computer!"

He glared at her before saving his game to shut down the computer.


"Eat your beansprouts," she scooped an oversized pile into his bowl.


"They're good for you."

He picked them up with his chopsticks, strand by strand, studying them carefully.

"Ma, why is my name Hui Jia?"

"How many times do you want to ask me? Did someone in school tease you again?"

He put down his chopsticks crossly. "What do you think?"

"Watch your manners. What's wrong with your name? Isn't it nice?"

"No way! You try going to school every day and having your friends go 'Oooh...let's hui jia! Heyyy...why don't you hui jia!' Hui jia this, hui jia that! So funny! I swear when I'm older, I''m going to change my name!"

She pursed her lips, allowing for an uncomfortable pause. "How about your mother? Do you want to change your mother as well?"

"When did I ever say that?"

"Your name reminds you of who you are and where you came from. If you change it, you're saying that you don't care about all that."

There was no winning. He mouthed whatever, stuffing the horrid beansprouts in.

To be continued.