There is a peel of laughter from the girls at the front of the bus as an elderly man in a gingham shirt with the pattern of a Christmas wrapper makes his way to the front, declaring the name of a popular all-girls’ secondary school. “When? When?” The man’s voice is crusty, but the excitement rings through. The two girls must have called out his name as I was engrossed in my Facebook news feed.
“I’m 23, so ten years ago?” One of the girls giggle. A sweet voice. She turns around as he approaches them. An equally sweet face, fresh, full of vitality. Even her shoulder length hair frames her hair in a youthful way.
They ask questions and desperately slip in information like long-long friends.
“D and T, right? I taught that every year. I’ve retired!”
“I remember your tutu kueh! When did you retire? What are you doing?”
Tutu kueh possibly refers to something other than the little steamed flour cakes with coconut in them. His big laugh fills the bus as he says that everyone remembers his tutu kueh.
Evidently, he was a well-loved teacher. He asks if they have boyfriends. They ask what he has been doing since he retired. He beams at them like a proud grandfather, telling them how some of his students are working, and how some of them still recognize him. He is a gregarious character, full of anecdotes and stories, a mix of coffee shop uncle and an aged ADHD boy.
They have a male university friend with him and the teacher asks if he was from the same school. They pause, realizing how time has gone by, and then, they laugh more.