A Final Farewell

Monday, December 16, 2019

A Final Farewell 

Dressed inconspicuously in a loose black blouse and a pair of navy tights, Sandra walked hesitantly towards the HDB void deck. It was her first time back in years. This was a placed filled with memories of bicycle-riding lessons with Papa at six-years-old, which later functioned as an overnight shelter during her teenage years when she got thrown out of the house whenever she tried on Mama's dresses and heels. 

This time, the open space was temporarily walled with yellow tarp, indicating the demise of a neighbour living in the block. It also offered a semblance of privacy for those attending the wake. 

Beyond the bright partitions were the intermittent ringing of Taoist chants sung by monks, done to ensure a peaceful send-off for the deceased. Grief was muted by the cracking of peanut shells at every makeshift table, done to pass time as relatives kept vigil. 

As Sandra came within sight of the attendees, a split-second of silence fell amongst them. Then, murmurs in a mix of Hokkien and Mandarin ensued. 

"What's he doing here?" 

"He actually has the audacity to come back?" 

"Doubt he'll be able to leave in peace now." 

Seemingly unperturbed by the commotion, Sandra took a deep breath. Do it for Mama, do it for Mama. As she walked closer to the photograph displayed at the casket, she was reminded of the distinctive facial features of the deceased which matched her own – the same pair of eyes she had not seen in years, but which greeted her whenever she did her makeup in the mirror. 

Just then, a woman of around seventy years of age lunged at her in an embrace. "Thank you for coming, Papa will be so glad you came," the woman whispered. 

Breaking away from the hug, Sandra took a good look at Mama. Mama's eyes were brimming with tears – sad droplets from missing her husband, mixed with happy ones from seeing her child again. Her child was born as "Long Sheng", as masculine Chinese name that directly translates into "dragon-victory", but whose personal identity did not correspond to his assigned gender. 

Sandra stood in front of the casket and lit three sandalwood joss sticks. This was the first time she has appeared before her father as a transgender. As she bowed in his direction, she thought about how listless his embalmed body was, a far cry from her last interaction with him before she left home for good, where he vowed never to acknowledge her as his child, if she were to identify as female. She clenched her fists. Do it for Mama, do it for Mama. 

Slowly, the flames burned away the last bits of the incense sticks that Sandra placed in the brass urn. As she turned to leave, Mama grabbed her hand. 

Papa wanted you to have this." 

In Mama's hand was a gold locket with an old family photo within. Inscribed on the locket was a design of a phoenix, a Chinese mythological symbol for female grace. 


(Attempted a 500-word short story for a storytelling university module two semesters ago, and decided to post this here because it touches on a topic that means a lot to me.) 

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