Today begins the first day of my study leave. I was surprised that I didn’t stay in bed past 10 a.m. given that I don’t have to work today.
Anyway, I picked Kin up for lunch and printed some study materials at the office.
Forty minutes later, I arrived home with my takeaway lunch – combination fried hor fun from Malaysian Gourmet at Broadway. I was just walking towards the stairs when one of my neighbors, an old man approached me and said, “Would you be able to help me with… with… with…” while gesturing our security side gate.
“The security gate?” I asked.
“Yes. Yes. That.” He replied.
I agreed immediately. Never been happier to help. So we both walked to the door and I ran through the whole combination code thing with him. I slowly recited the numbers and made sure he repeated after me. I was thinking it’d be easier for him to remember the combination that way.
All the time, I thought to myself, he must have forgotten the code because he’s too old. Poor guy.
After he thanked me, I walked away, ready to head upstairs so I can have my lunch but my heart cringed as I walked further and further. As I reached the stairs, I turned to see if he was doing alright. There he was, his tall, skinny frame standing by the side gate. I could see he was slowly punching in the numbers but I wasn’t sure if he had the combination right this time.
Meanwhile, my neighbor who lives directly underneath me (an old man as well) just got back from lunch and was heading upstairs too. I think he saw that I was watching the old man attempting to open the security gate and so he stopped behind me and watched as well.
I turned and said, “He’s forgotten the security codes.”
He let out a soft sigh.
Poor guy, I whispered to myself.
The old man behind me then continued walking upstairs. At that moment, the old man by the gate turned around and wandered around with a look a desperation on his face.
Oh gosh. He must’ve forgotten the code again. And my heart sank.
He walked to the parking lot and I think he was looking for me because just as he turned around and saw me watching him by the stairs, he looked so relieved and happy, almost. I hurried myself to him and he said, “I have forgotten again.” My heart sank even deeper.
I offered to write the combination on a piece of paper for him and asked if he’d like that.
“Would you be able to?” he asked kindly.
“Sure!” I said. “I’m just gonna pop upstairs and grab a pen and a piece of paper.” And so he nodded his head and waited for me.
I ran upstairs, into my unit, frantically thinking to myself, PEN & PAPER! PEN & PAPER! PEN & PAPER!
I have so many pens on my table but I didn’t know which to choose. I reached for an ink pen and thought, bad idea, if the paper comes in contact with water, my writing will be smudged and he won’t be able to read it. NOW WHERE IS MY BALL-POINT PEN!
When I finally got what I needed, I ran downstairs again and was glad to find him where I left him. I scribbled the instructions on the piece of paper and handed it to him. His face lit and he thanked me again and again. Once again, he turned around and walked to the gate to try to open the gate. Meanwhile, I was watching him from the stairs as I was walking up. I saw him punching in the numbers again and this time, I see him opening the door and I felt really, really happy that I smiled to myself.
He repeatedly opened the gate for two to three times then stopped. He then turned around to walk to the other security door, to try if the combination will work on that door, I suppose.
After making sure that he was alright, I quickly ran back home and told Wing Kin what happened.
Several minutes later, I decided to step outside to check on him once again. Just as I was looking for him from upstairs, I saw him walking towards the stairs to his unit. I quickly ran to greet him and asked if everything is alright.
He said yes, with the piece of paper I gave him, he’ll be alright. He then proceeded to tell me this, “I’ve just got cancer. I was okay for a while but then now… now… now I’ve just lost it all.”
Right then, I think someone tied my heart to an anchor and threw it deep underneath the ocean bed. I wanted to give him a rub on his arm, but I didn’t. I didn’t know what to say when I looked into his blue eyes. He’s a sick, dying, old man who is living all by himself. I felt so sorry for him yet there was nothing I could do. He could tell I had a look of sympathy of my face but I don’t think that was what he wanted.
“If you ever need my help, I’m just at unit xx,” I told him, unsure if he would actually remember it.
“Thank you. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome.” I then turned and walked back home.
I will pray for you every night from this moment on.