Can you remember who is the first guy/gal you have a crush on? And how old were you then? 5 years old? 10 yrs old? 15 years old? Any age older than 15 years old, then you are either a nerd, wallflower, eye got stamp, dead wood or many other reasons I won’t dare to mention.
I studied in a Malay primary school. And when I say Malay, I mean Malay because I was the only Chinese girl in class. I have Malay tastebuds, loghat (slang) and only have eyes for handsome Malay primary school boys like a certain Fuad/Wan/Azhaar/Shaik etc.
So, from this cosy cocoon, I went to secondary school and ended up with these bunch of annoyingly annoying Chinese school girls and boys. Like it or not, we were different. Our thinking, manners, languages, characteristics and personalities. Gosh, I hate it when they spoke Mandarin! I retaliated by speaking loghat Penang. Depa bukan faham apo yang aku dok cakap. Menyampah tau, tak habis-habis cakap pasai matematik (which I got no brains for).
But then, some time in Form One, (woohoo, I was an early bloomer, ok), I saw Kheng. I was in the 1st class (clever mah) and he was from the 2nd class. I am not sure what I saw in him. He was toothless! But he got high bridge nose, tall and very shy.
No matter how I wish, he never got smart enough to upgrade to my clas s and I never became dumb enough to drop to his class. So, a crush remains a crush. From Form One till Form Five. Agonising! Yet tantalising.
Those days, I didn’t have Lizzie McGuire or Girls In Love or Sweet Valley High to emulate. Only Hardy Boys. So, even if crush, only shiok sendiri.
When we were in Form Four, I became the Head Girl who had a Head Boy, Teik as a couple. Both of us were head and assistant head prefects respectively. Kheng also became a prefect but dang, after a few months, he resigned because he told me he hated reprimanding students. I was the opposite. I enjoyed bullying the students. Since Teik was involved in every activities I participated in, there was little time for Kheng. We were like from two different worlds. The flamboyant/outgoing me and the humble, stay behind the scenes Kheng.
But the heart still yearned for him. Kheng, the humble one. The gentle one. The shy one. He rode a canggih, red/black Yamaha bike.
On the day when SPM exam was over, I wrote him a letter and passed it to my best friend, Norela, his classmate to hand over to him. Boy, was I thick skin. I gave him my home phone number and told him I would like to continue to keep in touch with him. I can talk to just anyone, but to go up to Kheng, I got tongue-tied, hence the letter.
Sure enough, not long after SPM, he did phoned me. Hey, who can resist anything written by 5xmom? And yeah! We got a date. My first date, at 17 years old. He took me fishing. But, the most heart thumping moment was he brought me to his father’s shop for breakfast. Oh boy, can you imagine how scary that was? Be introduced to the family, the very first time we went out? At 17 years old? *sigh* Kheng must be very naive or I was that special.
We then, proceeded to Gertak Sanggul for some hill climbing to catch garoupa fish with his older friend and his girlfriend. Hill-climbing means lotsa hand holding or else…I slipped down the rocks. To catch garoupas, you need to go to rocky beaches. *sigh* How romantic… The whole day, with nothing to do but getting to know each other. (No!!! girls and boys then don’t kiss or do anything like that, ok?)
After that garoupa session, we went out for real dates, watching movies. But…I had to start working. I actually started working at 17 years old as a clerk. It was tough in the first week because I had been sleeping at home and at work, I was dead tired.
One day, my friends told me Kheng was sick. I couldn’t visit him in the hospital because by the time I finished work, it was past visiting hours. Moreover, I was dead afraid of the Penang hospital as my father died there and I did not dare to step foot in it without other friends. I thought of going to see him only in the weekend when he got home.
And Kheng died. My two male classmates were very nice and came to my house to bring me to his funeral wakes and funeral. Nothing can described my feelings then. I was so heartbroken because though I had major crush on Kheng for 5 long years, I never dare to tell him. Though I knew he did eye me often, I had always been the ‘too popular/busy to bother about you’ girl.
I wasn’t sure of the cause of illness, probably meningitis. I only found out how special I was when his sister brought his things to be put into his coffin. My letter and things to him were there, in a nice box. Kheng had always remained in my heart. As someone who never hurts anyone, the kindest person and selfless.
So, if you like or love someone, tell them. Say it, show it, prove it. At most, you end up with a flat nose, not regrets. You can live with a little embarassment but living with ‘what ifs’ is a lot harder.
(Through my involvement with bereaved parents, I noticed that most of the people who died young have these special qualities like Kheng. They are angels on earth, making the most of their short time, doing good.)
May Kheng rest in eternal peace.