Old post: ทองทิว (Tong-till)
He always sat there, at the same bench, under the same tree, at the same time, every day after school.
He sat there staring out at the football field, at his classmates playing football and wondering what the ball would feel like when he kicked it.
Mom and Dad would come and pick him up at the same place, at the same time with the same car and with the same eyes. The eyes that always filled with love, care, understanding and pity.
Dad was a doctor so he knew damn well what his son’s condition was, but he refused to give up. Dad tried everything he could afford but it only made the family poorer and brought him more suffering.
Every day started with hope and ended with hopelessness; but it carried on.
Me? I didn’t know him that well. I found it was difficult to talk to him. I didn’t know where to start and what to talk about, so I just looked at him from behind a tree, far away.
Years passed, and we grew closer. He became one of my classmates but once again we were separated by distance. He sat at the front and I, at the back of the classroom.
There was not much going on between us; apart from the fact that he was always there, at the side of the pitch every evening.
One day, he was not there.
And I missed him.
I wonder where he went, but no one wanted to say, so I kept my wondering to myself.
After a few weeks, he was back.
He was walking, with his new legs.
He loved walking.
He walked toward me and smiled at me.
I have never seen a smile like his before, it made me feel happy for him, and at the same time sad.
We started to talk, not frequently or in depth. But we talked.
He started to catch up on things that he had never done before, and he loved them all.
Sometimes I envied him a little, that the simplest things could make him so happy.
And it came the day I had to leave, I said goodbye to my class and to him.
Days and weeks were gone, months and years followed.
We kept no contact.
The next thing I knew about him. It read ‘Tong-Till is now in hospital, his condition is getting from bad to worst’ on the letter from my friend.
I wondered what was going on.
I returned home for the holidays, and my friend took me to see him.
He laid there on the bed at the corner of a shared ward, with other sick ones. He was starring out of the window while his mom sat at his side peeling fruits (which I don’t know if it was for her or for him) when I rudely interrupted with a ‘hi’.
He turned around and greeted me with a smile- a very dry smile it was.
We had a little chat, which was mostly about my new place and myself.
I found it even more difficult to talk to him; I chose my words and topics very carefully.
As we were talking, his body caught my eyes and I noticed that his legs had no distinct features. My nose picked up a strange smell when he whispered his words, and as I shoke his hand. I felt the coldness of the meat; I realized then that he was in a worse condition than I thought.
We were talking quietly until an old nurse walked in and interrupted our conversation with a loud cough.
“ I better leave”
“Thank you for visiting me, Goodbye Top”
I gave him a little wave back.
I left the country once again.
We didn’t keep in touch.
I went back six months later and,
I met an old friend of mine over a meal and was trying to catch up on everything that I missed during the six months I was away, when he suddenly said, “ Tong-till passed away, tomorrow is the hundredth day after his funeral ceremony, would you come?” I was shocked, but somehow expected it.
His mom greeted me with a smile – she still remembered me although we only met once.
She said “ Thank you for coming,” I didn’t know what to say, so I gave her a thin smile and paid her my respects.
As I walked into the room where the coffin was, something in my stomach started to move around. I tried to retain myself, but my friend could see something was wrong. “ Let’s get this over with” he said and that was just what we did. We paid our respect to the deceased, and went out quietly.
I caught up with myself once again, after getting some fresh air in front of his house. My friend went back into the house, came back with a glass of iced water and two booklets. I finished the ice water at one go and then I looked at the booklet. (See note 1)
There was a picture of him on the cover with – Tong-till, his name and his date of birth.
I read on, nothing interested me much until I turned the last page over. On the back cover, there was a little note. The little note which was written with his very own handwriting. It summed up his feelings toward the end of his life:
วันที่ 17 กย. 38
“Mom and Dad, please come to me
I want to be near you, Mom. I miss you.
Days and nights are so cruel
17th Sep 1995”
I wish I knew you better.
Note from the Author
This story is written purely from the author’s memory, apologies if there are some mistake in the translation and the content of the story.
May you kindly take a minute of silence thought, to pay a tribute to my friend Tong-till and many others whose lives are so unfortunate that they can’t live a moment doing what they want to do- like us all.
Note 1: Booklet about the deceased and some Buddhism teaching, which is very commonly given out at funeral functions.