Copyright © 1990 Patrick Khoo
Full Of Beauty And Joy,
But Only For A Moment,
For Then It Is Gone,
Leaving Only The Memory,
And A Broken Heart.
The sky was darkening and the wind was getting stronger. Cheng Bok was sitting contentedly at his table looking around him. Son of a rich tycoon, he was an over achiever, top athlete, chairman and committee member of half a dozen committees and a socialite. He was a teacher’s pet and the perfect gentleman, polite and immaculately dressed. He was envied by all his friends because he was almost perfect.
The pitter-patter of raindrops aroused him from his thoughts. He had come the Keat Seng Cafe in Burmah Road for its famous pork chops. In his new Proton Saga which was parked some distance away. He wore a light brown and white striped shirt and long grey pants. His face was friendly and helpful, always with a cheerful grin. His hair was cut to the latest style. Many girls would love to go out with him.
Lightning flashed and thunder rolled. What seemed like a passing shower had become a threatening storm. The strong wind blew off a piece of the zinc roofing that had long given shelter to the customers of the cafe. Some people screamed and shouted while other scrambled to get out of the rain. In the midst of all the chaos, Cheng Bok caught sight of her.
She had long hair that was well kept. Her face was enchanting and beautiful. She did not need make up for her natural beauty exuded aesthetic pleasure. She had on a simple white blouse and navy blue skirt. Her high heeled shoes were made of leather and a small handbag hung over her shoulder. Cheng Bok couldn’t help staring at her as she scrambled out of the rain into the shelter of the shop house proper. He wanted to go over and meet her, but for the first time in his life, he began to feel really nervous and afraid. What if she didn’t like him? What if she didn’t like his name? The name Cheng Bok did not exactly fit a person of his stature. What if? What if? There were too many possibilities. He stood up. He wanted to walk over to her but his legs just couldn’t move. His hands were shaking and he couldn’t think straight.
Cheng Bok knew he had to do something fast or lose the chance forever, but what should he do? What could he do? Meanwhile, she was standing there tempting him. She stood there amidst the din and confusion like a beacon of light in the dark night.
The lightning flashed again. There was a power surge that blew all the fuses and left the cafe in darkness. Cheng Bok lost sight of her for a second. When his eyes got used to the darkness, he looked at the crowd hoping to see her. She was nowhere to be seen.
Cheng Bok was frantic. His mind took control of his wobbly legs and pushed them forward. He weaved in and out of the crowd but she was no where to be found. Cheng Bok gave up. He had his chance and he blew it. There was nothing left to do but wait out the storm.
The storm, however, had other plans. The remaining metal and zinc roofing that covered the cafe compound was beginning to shake. The supports gave way. In that split second, Cheng Bok caught sight of her standing next to a large steel support and realised that the roof was about to cave in. A wave of strength and urgency passed over him. In two strides, Cheng Bok reached her side, grabbed her by the waist and jumped out of the way of the falling roof. The roof missed them by inches.
When she realised what had happened, she was shocked and truly horrified. She turned to him and thanked him in a whispering voice that was full of fear and relief. Though it was just two words spoken softly but to Cheng Bok, it was music his ears. Cheng Bok cleared his throat, not knowing what to say, mumbled a polite greeting. She heard him say something but didn’t quite catch it. Instead, she motioned him towards the mess of metal and bodies. They realised that were quite a number of people trapped under the roof. They ran out into the drenching rain and started to clear the debris. Several other people began to do the same.
They worked hard, shifting metal and pulling people out. They kept working until the emergency services arrived. They then stood aside in the rain and let the firemen rescue the few people who were still buried under the roof . Cheng Bok now was a good chance to talk to her. He took a deep breath, hoped for the best and put his best foot forward.
All of a sudden, two firemen stepped right in his path carrying a large zinc sheet. His vision was blocked for a second. When they passed she was gone. He looked around frantically, like a madman who had lost a precious jewel. He searched the crowd, but to no avail.
Who was she? He would never know.