It was a night of frenzy: of cool water washing me clean, rhythm and oblivion where even children's laughter faded away at the end of a summer evening. My hair was tied up in a pony tail and yet the water dripped, leaving shadows like large, seeping teardrops on my shirt.
The building I live in is at the back of an alley. The moment I push the gate open, I stumbled and crashed into--I don't remember what it was, for it was only a momentary void from which I re-emerged to feel a slight pain in my navel. Back home I put my hand on my belly and a piece of my broken navel ring fell onto the floor.
The navel ring was a birthday gift I had had on my body for six years. It had traveled from a foreign country and come to me in a padded envelope. It was a simple design and a bargain from a small shop. I am someone who likes simple adornments. Once I have a relationship with a piece of accessory, I like to keep it for a long time.
For the next ten days I carried that missing weight. It grew on me: at night when I laid in bed and put myself to sleep; in the morning when I examined strangers' faces on the train; at any moment of the day when I drifted around a shopping mall, on the street, into a cafe to get my pick-me-up coffee. Six years. Now an absence.
The lady who pierced my navel half a life ago, her name is Anna. Through the glitter of the display window I looked for her. She was a tall and slim figure standing on a fold-up chair. I could not tell if she was cleaning or decorating her ceiling, but she was attending to something. Something to make her shop shine.
I saw my new navel ring. A silver bar and a heart-shaped crystal. When I failed to put it on myself--for some reason I could not see or sense clearly in that alien setting--Anna put on a pair of plastic gloves and took over. She rubbed the bar with a bit of ointment and swiftly inserted the bar into my piercing. I did not watch.
I did not watch the first time. When she pierced the sharpened steel bar through my skin, I was reading a UK music magazine. I managed to stay perfectly quiet and still--my piercing did not bleed but only showed a hint of blood, a moment of satisfaction for a piercing artist who dealt with nervous or whiny customers half of the time.
Years later Anna and I shared that space again. Only she did not know that I had often thought of her and that moment. That I was both delighted and disappointed to see her. Anna, now older, is more subdued in her attire and presence, though she is still the artist who guarded her passion in a small shop at a dark shopping arcade.
Year after year, Anna has been there and she will remain. She has long, flowing hair and she is good at what she does. Our town knows her--she has been in most newspapers and tomorrow night she will be on the TV screen again. I know this because she asked for my email address on Facebook when I said, you did this for me a long time ago.
'Watch me on TVB this Saturday night,' she said. Even her smile seemed a lot more down-to-earth than what I remembered. It was her and it was me. She is here and I am here again. And I no longer carry that missing weight.