I found him standing next to my grandmother at the Causeway Bay MTR station, puzzling over a map that was printed too small for either of them to read. They didn’t quite understand each other, and apparently had been waiting for me to act as a translator/map-reader.
His name is Graeme Large (大), and he is 82 this year. He was looking for the Craigengower Cricket Club, and we were at the completely wrong exit. He has lived in Hong Kong for 50 years, and I’ve been here all of 9 days. We neither of us knew where we were going, but were game enough to give it a try.
The three of us made our way to the club as I traced the route on the map. Up and down stairs and through the busy streets we went, Graeme leaning on his cane. When we finally reached the club he invited us in and treated us to a drink each, introducing us to his friends.
Graeme is a member of the Hong Kong Volunteer Regiment, and had been involved in handling the Maoist riots in the 60s. He had also served in the British Army during the Second World War. As an accountant he had been posted to 4 different British colonies (Singapore, Nigeria, India and Hong Kong), finally ending up at Hong Kong University (the only university in Hong Kong at the time). He finally retired 10 years ago.
His memory of the last 5 minutes was a little fuzzy, but he could remember all the things he had done in his youth, and had so many stories. He spouted names of his friends and colleagues past and present as if I should have known their names too. When he told his stories, you could see the pictures unfolding in his mind, as if he were back there again.
“I will remember you forever,” he said, touching his lips to our hands as we said goodbye.
Perhaps that’s true, perhaps it’s not. I know he meant it, and when I repeated the sentiment, I know I meant it too. And that will just have to be good enough – a memory of each other that will be as random as the happenstance that brought us together in the first place.
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