The Queen and I

I met the Queen when I was little. She was on the back of a scalloped two-dollar coin. It was the 90’s, I was at a bustling street market in Hong Kong, and my tiny Hello Kitty purse was bursting with coins adorned with her minted bust.

That was before the British handed over Hong Kong in 1997, as promised. After the handover, the Queen’s bust could no longer be found. For a brief moment in history, it was replaced by fear. The fear uprooted many families and moved them to foreign places, like ants running for their lives. The exodus began in the 80’s.

For us, we tore our family apart in 1989. It wasn’t a preference, it was survival. We said our goodbyes and at the time, I didn’t know that it was forever.

Some changes were immediate, like our home, the weather, the time… But the changes that cut the deepest, happened gradually. The first time I chose bread over rice. When we bargained at the department store and my face turned red. When the police accused my mother of disobeying a stop sign, and I watched as she tried to defend herself in broken English.

One thing led to another and I went from 3 years old to my 30s here.

Visiting my family back home, nothing reminded me more of human mortality than watching my mom bend over slowly to pick up a sock, seeing kindhearted people give up their seat on the train for my dad, and those rare moments of mom and dad holding hands. Like they’ve finally put it all behind them, or they’ve forgotten the transgressions because of creeping dementia. Or maybe they’re holding on to each other because what’s at stake now is not romance or riches, but life itself.

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