Letter From HW by Clarissa NG

22nd July, 2002.

Dear J,
How’s everything?
I hope that my sudden disappearance didn’t cause you too much trouble. I know you can handle the company by yourself, though you’ve got to work double hard. Who knows, you may be mad at me. So I decided to write a letter instead of calling. One-way communication is always a safer bet.

As you may have already guessed from the postage, I send this letter from my wife’s home town. She was always fond of the sea. Don’t come looking for me. I am only going to be around for a couple of days, to scatter her ashes.

This town is an eight-hour slow train ride from the station near our office. The journey is hardly picturesque, industrial buildings and warehouses amidst dry, cracking soil. The first time I took the train five years ago, my wife and I were both drifting to sleep in less than ten seconds. But when you sit alone with an urn on your lap, it’s hard to fall asleep. I was awake until the train stopped.

I don’t want to meet my wife’s parents, so I stay at a cheap motel. They still harbor ill feeling towards me. As if it was my fault that their one and only daughter committed suicide. Well, maybe there is some grain of truth in it, though I’m not going to admit.

I went to the beach with the urn inside a paper bag on the first day. Seeing how things changed, I’m not sure if my wife still loved the place. Let me try to explain why.

The last time when we were here, the place was a long stretch of white sand. The summer sun shone on the water. It was always sparkling. Old couples walking hand in hand, teenagers grouping together with guitars, lovers holding hands, families with their dogs in tow. A typical beach holiday postcard. It tricked me into believing that summer would last forever. Oh, what a fool. A happy fool I was.

I remember taking a long walk with my wife, my arm around her waist. Our bare feet dug into the warm sand. My wife was smiling, she was happy. Or I at least, that’s what I thought. I had that beautiful scene etched in my memory entitled, “The Summer We Were Happy”. I would replay that scene each time my wife and I quarrelled. Or when I found her secretly crying inside the bathroom.

But now, thing has changed. The small quaint holiday town is no longer there. A thriving industrial complex replaces it. Factories and worker dormitories are standing side by side, hardly any space in-between them. One of the factories manufactures chocolates, so there is always a lingering rotten smell in the air. I have to take out my handkerchief to cover my nose whenever I pass by the area.

As for beach, it’s already gone. The developers used the sand for construction. And somehow, they managed to extend the land to create more spaces for factories and dormitories. It must be profitable business, don’t you agree?

There is still sea, of course. But it is dark and murky. If you walk pass the row of buildings, you’ll eventually reach the water. You can even sit on the jetty and dip your toes in it, though nobody will do that. The water smells funny. I can bet all my savings that more than half of the factories secretly dump their waste there. It’s certainly no place to scatter ashes of one’s beloved wife.

But I decided to open the lid and pour the ashes under the cover of the night. Yes, into that filthy water. Truth is, I’m still angry. Not ready to deal with her being gone. So that was my final acts of childish revenge.

We both knew that my wife didn’t love me. She might have loved me in the past. But the last few years, there was someone else. Someone I didn’t know until recently.

When cleaning up her personal belonging after the funeral, I found a pair of movie ticket stubs hidden inside her wallet. They were from three years ago. Why would anyone keep a pair of old ticket stubs? Surely there was an explanation.
I remember buying those tickets, but I didn’t watch the movie. I was busy, so I asked you to accompany her instead. There you are, mystery solved.

Now, my friend, I’m not blaming you. You probably wouldn’t find out about it if I had not told you. As a matter of fact, I don’t blame her too. She was probably as helpless as I was, when I found her body lying lifeless at the bathroom’s floor. We’re victims. All of us are.

But knowing that, I couldn’t help myself not to feel angry. After all, I did really love her. And you’re the closest friend that I have. You’re like my own brother. Out of so many people, why is it got to be you?

I need to distance myself from all these mess before I go crazy. I’m going to leave the city tomorrow afternoon. Yes, now it’s no longer appropriate to call this place a ‘town’. When you read this later, I would be somewhere else. Where to? I’m not going to say. I need time and space to process everything alone. So don’t try to find me.
But when I do return if ever, let’s pretend that nothing ever happen. You and I, together we run the best translating company in the universe. Isn’t that what we trick ourselves to believe in our younger days? I miss those days when we were young and foolish.

Your friend,
HW.

PS. Don’t forget to file the company tax. I’m not going to be around to do it for you this time.

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