Lending colour to our lives

Lending colour to our lives

Reflecting on happier times can be just the boost you need to keep you going when you're down.


Illustration: Jennifer Kwok

This is the seventh finalist in Young Post's 2015 Summer Story competition in which some marvellous books are up for grabs. Each week, we will publish one of the finalists' stories, with the winning entry appearing in Young Post on August 29. 

I read a story earlier about people not being able to see any colours except black, grey and white until they meet someone who they truly love. And when that someone dies, the world grieves for them in a cruel way - it reverts to a dull, colourless place. But, thereafter, when they stare at something hard enough, they might occasionally discover the remnants of colour. It might be a similar shade of green, brown or blue that used to be the colour of their lover's pupils. 

At first, I thought the story was sad but lovely. 

A year later I recalled the story and I wondered: do people live in a colourless world until they find their passion? It would be like karma - living in a repetitive circle over and over again as everything you see remains unchanged. 

If you are fortunate, you might eventually find a source of motivation and break through the void, allowing you to breathe in a colourful world.

The sky outside my room's dusty window was currently heather grey, cloudless and disappointing. I felt like I was staring into the depths of the still mountains in front of me. I suddenly realised that I was the only one awake at home at that moment. My phone vibrated, giving off the false signal that I might have company.

It was 5am in Hong Kong, and 10pm in London. My mind was in a swirl, as though it was locked in an endless maze. My computer continued playing Sodagreen's popular song Wo Hao Xiang Ni (meaning "I miss you so" in English), while I reluctantly started working on my public speaking script. The topic was smartphones.

It seemed that odds were trying to persuade me to give up my script. I lost the competition last time. Who cares if I lose again? 

My phone vibrated again.

"Are you awake?"

"Hey, you're still working on that script? Lol." 

I subconsciously scrolled up with a light swipe of my thumb and I saw the colossal amount of text messages between Karina and myself. There was a split second when I felt like I was sitting with her in her dorm in the UK, not caring about homework and all the deadlines. 

"Yes. How's your Lit coursework?" 

As soon as the tiny grey double ticks on the screen turned blue, I was bombarded with a few dozen of the same emoticon that resembled a black moon. I had a sadistic feeling of victory brewing in my heart - after all, the UK was not the kind of wonderland that we both dreamed of.

"You remember how easy IGCSE was? That was so deceptive. Now the GCE O/L is driving me nuts."

"Why would I give up so many things in Hong Kong? Cowboy, presidency of the speech and drama club, my band ... And my education fund! Gosh my dad had been saving that for me for ages."

I sighed at her messages. Everything she said was true. Cowboy was sleeping in my living room now because Karina asked me to take care of him when she left for the UK. Cowboy was a black and white cat who looked like the iconic image of happy cows on milk cartons. And he was a male cat. That was where the comical name "Cowboy" came from. My mum burst out laughing when I told her who Cowboy really was (she thought it was a code name for Karina's boyfriend). 

I imagined how Karina would be running the speech and drama club if she were the president. Karina was always the best speaker in our grade. She could talk anyone into anything, with her charming smile and charismatic tone. All the adjudicators would praise her as she won contest after contest with grace and confidence. While listening to their praises, she would occasionally nod her head and smile at them as though she was the adjudicator. She would then walk out of the competition venue with another golden trophy to take home. And at school she would think of feasible and effective ways to promote the speech and drama club. 

I must have been a failure in my schoolmates' and teachers' eyes. This year we only had half as many committee members as last year. After the third week of school, the committee members and I were collecting blank recruitment forms from all the classrooms. We were met with blank faces as we attempted to promote our club membership to them. 

If all those empty forms were folded into paper planes and sent off from my classroom's windows, it would be quite a scene. At least that way, the forms might be of some use, rather than simply being crumbled under piles of other attractive forms that were filled with names, leaving our form for the speech and drama club undignified and lonely. 

It was Teresa who eventually hugged me and whispered, "Everything will be all right", while I listened to her numbly.

Her words rang in my head when I finally broke down and fitfully cried for over an hour at home, locking myself up in my room. I could feel my mum's worried glances, but she never knocked and came into my room. I could hear her footsteps trailing back to her fort - her kitchen - where there was some hint of vibrant life. 

Almost half a year passed and these memories still haunted me. Karina tried to comfort me, saying that it wasn't my fault that we weren't able to recruit the apathetic lower-form students. They would not join the club even if she promoted it with me, she told me on the phone. 

Feeling distressed, I opened my drawer and there it was. I used to stick it on the left side of my bookshelf, where I kept my favourite books, but it kept on falling. 

Perhaps it was the wind, or perhaps the photograph was too kind to mock me. I looked so happy in the photograph. Gently, I wiped off the thin layer of dust that covered it.  This seemed to add more colour to it. 

When did things start falling apart?

Last summer I was so busy joining lots of extra-curricular activities, meeting friends every day and reading all of the books I had been eagerly waiting to dive into for the entire academic year. And there was one big event written on the first column of everyone's schedule. It was the IGCSE results release date. On that day Stephanie, Teresa and I sat at Karina's home until the fateful afternoon, refreshing the official webpage every five minutes. 

It was the first time we actually felt like we were being ushered to a new world of the unknown, full of possibilities of the future we craved. 

My heart skipped a beat as we looked at the results together. Stephanie and Teresa cried, while Karina and I tried to cheer them up with homemade desserts. As the two of them left to go home, Karina told me about her plans to study in the UK.

"I received an offer from Brighton College and I'm going to take it. They have the best teaching environment. And students can ride ponies there over the weekend! Isn't that wonderful?"

Hearing her excited tone, I still couldn't recover from the shock. In all honesty, I felt betrayed. 

We were partners in crime. Yet she hadn't even told me that she had planned to study in the UK. I knew that she was always aiming for Oxbridge, but I didn't know that we would be taking separate paths so soon.

"You're going to study at Oxford with me after the DSE, okay? And you're going to be such a great lawyer that my publishers will hire you to sue anyone who pirates my best-selling novels." 

It sounded almost like a plea from her. 

Though I knew it was impossible, I tried to give her a reassuring smile. She must have noticed something because her enthusiasm dropped and we stayed silent for a long time. The atmosphere was not awkward, even though we were both staring at the television screen with hollow looks, unaware of each other's thoughts. Perhaps we had become too accustomed to each other's presence. 

When I raised my head to look at the vintage clock that hung on the clean, stainless wall, it was the first time I realised that time could be travelling so fast yet so slow at the same time. Later, when Karina's mother came home, she got us to take a photograph to commemorate our success in the IGCSE. 

A low, monotonous vibration from my phone dragged me out of my wistful nostalgia. 

It was Karina again.

"Listen to this, okay? It's brilliant. Hope it cheers you up a bit."

She sent me a link to a video she uploaded to YouTube an hour ago titled Sunshine on My Shoulder. I hesitantly proceeded to the webpage and heard the familiar lyrics. Karina used to hum this song to herself whenever she felt nervous. It was her father's favourite, she said. 

"Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine, almost always, makes me high
If I had a day that I could give you,
I'd give to you a day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I'd sing a song to make you feel this way
If I had a tale that I could tell you
I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you

I'd make a wish for sunshine for all the while"

I replayed the music over and over again, until I found the courage to continue writing my script.

At last it was 6.30am and the first ray of soft, golden sunlight entered my room. As it scattered over the walls, the shadows shifted to different positions. I made a cup of hot chocolate and stared out of the window again, phone in hand, thinking about my next text. 

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Jasmin Tsang's Lending colour to our lives


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