I took the bus today. I much prefer it to trains sometimes. Mostly because it seems less crowded, and in a smaller space of a bus versus a train sometimes you get to see and watch people better.
I boarded it just outside my office, to head to an afternoon lunch class, and it was pretty full. There were two seats empty across from each other on the lower aisle, I took the one on the right purely because the sun was shining on the one on the left.
Next to me was an old lady, an Ah Mah.
For most of our journey I didn’t pay her any attention. Then almost 5 stops in to the bus ride, she starts coughing. She must have choked on her own saliva, as most old people tend to do.
I offered her some water from my water bottle but she had her own, so she smiled and said no need, thank you. 不用，谢谢。
She took out a pack of sweets, the Himalayan salt and lemon ones everyone’s been crazy over! I thought that was so cute, this ah mah being right on trend with her choice of candy.
She kept coughing anyway, and my initial reaction was to want to move away from her because I’m traveling next week and what if she’s sick and I catch something!!!!!
But felt like it would make HER feel bad about coughing and so I didn’t.
The next thing I know, she’s rummaging through her bags for something, and as I’m reading something on my phone I don’t pay attention to it too much.
But then suddenly, I smell it. She’s taken out a vial of medicinal oil and rubbed it under her nostrils.
It’s the very same one my grandmother used to use for everything. She would rub it under her nostrils, rub some into her temples. Dab some into a tissue and sniff at it all day.
She always smelt of it. That’s the smell that’s missing from her home now, when I go to visit my uncle (who used to live with her but now lives alone).
I remember taking naps in her bed some afternoons when I went to hang out with her, and her pillows all smelt like that, faintly her and mostly of the medicinal oil.
I remember hugging her and having the smell on my own clothes, too. I never minded it, because it smelt warm and spicy and comforting.
And on that half full bus, I really longed for my own mamah. I want to hold her wrinkly hands, and have her buy me really ugly and cheap costume jewelry, and give her foot rubs. I miss spending weekend afternoons at her place with my mom, just listening to her complain about her sisters and those gossipy women in her taichi class.
As I got off my bus, I smiled at the ah mah. I hope she’s loved by a bevy of grandchildren who realise how lucky they are to still have their grandmother.
Tuesday, 19 Mar 2019
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