Caught in a traffic jam by the park

I got distracted by a couple of girls standing by, with cold soft drinks in their hands and even cooler long legs showing beneath their mini-skirts. Someone kic

I was driving by Morse Park at sunset last week. The traffic was terrible. My car was close to a stand still. My wife was starting to complain about the traffic and that we would be late. I turned and noticed the Park right next to me. The last time I found myself at the same spot was in 1972. The locality has changed since. My old school used to stare at the Park a stone-throw away. Now on its site, a 30-storey-tall building stands. Fifty yards away, the building I used to live in is also gone. A shopping mall has taken its place and is a favorite spot for Eastern Kowloon dwellers.

Of all my childhood secret hide-outs, only Morse Park has stayed. It still feels like yesterday when I found out I couldn't skate, swim, play basketball, play football or start a conversation with a girl, all in Morse Park.

I was five again. My mother went with me into the Park. We had a toy submarine to launch into the boating pool. I put it into the water. It sunk and started to move forwards. I was supposed to observe where it went and run to the other side of the pool to retrieve it. Bad decision. The water was cloudy from dust and children washing their feet. I learned my first lesson in letting go of my favorite things. It was not surprising that neither my mother nor I complained. It was, in fact, a perfect day for me. My mother had to work everyday, as a hawker, except on New Year day, or, as on this occasion, when her stock got seized by the hawkers control team.

The next time I experienced pain in the Park, it was both more acute and chronic. I was seven and was the goal-keeper in a football match. I got distracted by a couple of girls standing by, with cold soft drinks in their hands and even cooler long legs showing beneath their mini-skirts. Someone kicked the ball hard and drove it right into descendants’ home base. My parents were so sure that I would have problem fathering a child after the incident. They banned me from playing football for as long as they could have their way. That was time for me to switch to basketball. My own boys probably inherited this fear of the game from me and turned into good basketball players. So, as they say, everything happens for a good reason.

The Park also witnessed my first sins. I was eight years old. Pearl was the five year old girl in the neighborhood. She wasn't pretty but she was dumb enough to listen to me. She must have been either easy prey or really cute. I got this mini-play for her to act in. I would give her a bite of an apple. She would then pretend to pass out, just like Snow-White would in the fairy tale. I would bring her back to life by kissing her. All went well until I got clumsy and bit her lips. She bled and threatened to tell my parents. I had to do what the grown-ups do, bailing myself out with bribery. I bought her an ice-cream that soothed the pain, stopped the bleeding and the telling.

Later in life, I learned a lot more about the fairer sex in the park. I noticed that some boys were hiding something under the ping-pong table. When they were gone, I realized that it was a one of those magazines that would make boys blush and parents punish. As I read on, my heart was pounding away. My throat was dry and stiff. My face and ears turned red hot. I wouldn’t go on to describe other physiological changes, as that’s beside the point. I put the magazine back hurriedly and looked around me to make sure I was alone. You can bet that wouldn’t have been the only reading fun I had in the Park.

As time goes by, I committed other mistakes and learned other lessons. Some were more important, some rather trivial. I have forgotten many of these and yet still remember these moments I had in the Park. I guess I am growing old, especially when I remember the bitter-sweet taste in my throat, stopping at a traffic light beside the Park, staring at it.

My wife was relieved that the traffic was finally moving again. I found myself talking to the park, like the five year old I once was. "Bye, pal. I'll see you later." I knew I would be back soon. Certainly not after another thirty five years.

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