Callus by Janet Tay Hui Ching

Callus by Janet Tay Hui Ching

Sometimes it is hard to answer simple questions – where is a person’s homeland? Where did he come from? What kind of culture is his native? In the modern world, all countries and nations have mixed up too much to give a definite answer. Two young people meet at the university to dance together. The man is African. The girl is Asian. Everything happens in Africa, in the girl’s hometown. The man came from far away. Which of them is a foreigner? And should we look for an answer to this question? A fashion band is playing on the stage. The vocalist is also Asian. He is singing a very fashionable foreign song. Under the stage there are few girls in bright clothes. Another group of girls is standing at the end of the hall and waiting for chairs and tables to be released. The room is very hot.

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Callus by Janet Tay Hui Ching

Some people don t find it easy to talk about their feelings. If they have never talked about them, it can be hard to begin. And year after year, it gets harder and harder – just like a callus on the skin.

Callus by Janet Tay Hui Ching

A wife watches while her husband packs his suitcase. A great change is coming into their lives, but maybe it is easier to talk about the suitcase…

She watched him pack his clothes and his wedding suit into his old suitcase. She could smell his cologne. When did he last wear cologne? Ah, at their wedding. It smelt strange then too. She never wore perfume. What use was perfume to a working woman like her? And married women who wear perfume are looking for lovers, trying to catch other men. That’s what people say. She already had a good, hardworking husband with a shop of his own. What more can a woman want?

She began to feel better now, thinking about her good luck.

Lost in her thoughts, she jumped at the sound of the suitcase shutting. His eyes went slowly round the room, looking for – what? She looked up at him.

‘I put out all the clothes that you need,’ she said. ‘And you can’t get any more in. It’s a small suitcase.’

He looked at her for a moment. A Chinese girl like any other Chinese girl – small eyes, flat nose, smooth pale skin, and long straight hair, now pinned up tidily, in the way of married Chinese ladies. She wore her usual light blue samfoo. No, she was not a beauty, he thought, but she was a hard worker. His family was right when they said to him, ‘She will make a very good wife, work hard for you, give you many sons.’…

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