NO LANGUAGE
By Cheng Tim Tim
 

Imagine dipping Indomie onto your black hair dye and imprint it on paper like a doctor’s prescription: would you enjoy it the way you laugh reading a tabloid upside down? I did not pay attention. We’re taught to ignore who you were. Granny didn’t think it could help us settle down in Hong Kong. Had you been the mutable Pisces according to your birth date, before you were great-granny? Had your life been intelligible to yourself, a maid sold to a Fujian landlord? Learned by ears for survival, your mix of Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese, Indonesian and simple English was not something I was proud of, until I met Umberto Eco’s Salvatore, who speaks all languages, thus no language. I just wanted the McDonald’s staff to understand your order. Did it make a difference when the stroke took away your speech? I didn’t know what to do by your sickbed until a pet-loving cousin tickled you on the side you still felt, saying or bi shi tung mai. dak shawe bu lu el in our horrible Cantonese accent. Were you thinking of the ducks you slaughtered for your hungry daughter when you rolled your eyes, grunting disapproval? I wish I knew you other than being a food provider. I wish we had another portrait for your funeral, not the grainy one enlarged from your I.D. card, where waves swam officially over your tight lips and your havoc of short curls in artificial black.