An Old Friend

Family Member Matters


Subject: Hello from Singapore!

Dear Hong Kong,

Hey! Long time no talk. I just wanted to reach out, see how you were all doing. I’ve been so busy with school and whatnot. Moving is always so difficult. But Singapore is a lot like Hong Kong! I’m sure I’ll like it here.

Should I be writing this message? I don’t know. What time is it? Oh, it’s late. What’s the date? Oh. It’s been almost two years since I was in Hong Kong. What was my dream about last night? Oh, I know! Let me write it down:

We were at that one place where the streetlights dimly lit the winding roads for us and it was raining.

I don’t even remember the details. Delete that.

I’m still getting used to Singapore. I tried to adopt some slang. Like saying “can” instead of “OK.” I can’t bring myself to say other Singaporean slang words, though, like “sia” or “lah.” I’m not sure why. It feels like if I did, I’d be appropriating them in some way. Maybe it’s because I’m an “ang moh.” That’s more slang. It means foreigner—I think. I’m not sure.

On the plane ride here, was I naive for thinking we’d stay friends? No, I was just holding out hope, I think. Have I had a friendship last before? Wow, I don’t think so. Probably the life of every Foreign Service brat.

When you deal with so much adversity, you begin to create subconscious mannerisms to deal with the change. Mine is burning bridges. Humans bask on the notion of being secure. We weren’t made to enjoy change. We’re usually scared of it—scared of the unknown. But change is inevitable, especially in my world.

Because of adversity, I hugged loneliness. Its skin was cold, its breaths were short and tremulous, and its nails dug into my flesh. Its embrace was hardly an imitation of warm-blooded humans. But being lonely meant not having to lose anyone, so I held on tight.

Wait, no, delete those two paragraphs. Too poetic. What time is it now?

I saw those pictures you posted. You guys look great! Who are the new people? Are they new students? The other day I saw your name pop up on my phone. Thanks for wishing me a happy birthday!

Did I reply to that? Gosh, I am so bad at replying. Is it rude if I reply now? No, I’m acknowledging it in this email—that’s good enough. Right? Wait, how many times have they texted me? I’m so tired.

I’m doing great, by the way! I’ve been super busy (hence the lack of replies!). You know, moving is always so difficult. I’ve done it eight times and it only seems to get harder. But Singapore only gets better by the day. You promised me that I would love it here.

You were totally right. It only took a few months.

I think I missed your special day. So sorry. I wasn’t on my phone all week. Still getting adjusted to the schedule here! I hope you had a great birthday. I wish I was there to celebrate with you!

What did they write again? “Happy birthday! Miss you! How are you?” That’s sweet.

Happy birthday! Miss you! How are you?
Happy birthday! Miss you! How are you?
Happy birthday! Miss you! How are you?
They’ve probably given up on me by now.

I promised I would make a schedule to keep in touch. I never did. Do they remember me making the promise? I don’t mean to ignore them, but it just makes it easier—just forget they ever existed.

I was going to see you last year. But the Hong Kong protests were happening. Then I booked my ticket for April. But then COVID-19 happened. Hopefully, I can go back sometime again, but who knows?

I haven’t heard much from you lately. Hope you’re doing all right.

Anyway, let me know when you’re free to call or something? Miss you!

This time I beat them to it. This time I won’t get hurt. This time I will be ready. This time I won’t be tethered to an old home.

I wonder though, was it easy letting me go? It wasn’t for me. I wonder if their eyes were swollen, head was pounding, or if they also slept on a pillow that was damp from all the tears. I hope they’ll still see my face in places we used to go to. Even if the lights are dim.

I’m sorry, Hong Kong.

Yours truly,

Brianna Hogan is a college student in the United States who comes from a multicultural background with Thai and American parents. She has lived in seven countries so far. She wrote this piece, a reflection on her transition from Hong Kong to Singapore, as a high school senior at the Singapore American School.