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Reflections of Solace

I am a paralyzed man who has been confined to a bed or sofa for many years. For the past six years, I have lived in a small room overlooking one of the narrow side streets of Hong Kong's Kowloon district. A deaf elderly woman attends to my basic needs, while I earn a meager living selling my digital artwork online with the help of a friend. Despite everything, I am mostly content.


My room's only window is a few feet above street level. The building across the alley limits my view, but I can observe the reflections of its balconies and windows in puddles on the pavement. When I first moved in, I noticed the reflection of a young girl of about thirteen who sat on the balcony above, surrounded by plants and religious items, diligently working all day. Over time, I watched the girl's reflection grow up into that of a young woman. We began to take an interest in each other's reflections. One rainy day, I mustered my courage and waved to her. To my delight, her reflection waved back.


Over many months, we developed an unusual courtship, tossing flower petals to each other and watching to see if they crossed paths in the puddles before being trampled or washed away. Her gestures told me she was as alone in the world as I. Then one day she didn't appear. After a week, she returned in black and I realized her guardian had passed away. Weeks went by before a petal from her joined mine again. My heart sank when I saw her speaking to a handsome young delivery man. But I soon realized from her gestures that they were siblings and my heart was lightened.


I underwent surgery and was confined to full bedrest for many weeks, distraught that she would think I had abandoned her. But upon my return, I found she had left a flower petal for me each day, a sign of her concern. Her brother visited to congratulate me on my recovery and to formally introduce himself and his sister, Mei-Xing. He explained that Mei-Xing wanted him to convey how much my steadfast presence, even from a distance, had comforted her in her solitude all these years.


I was deeply moved, even as my heart broke a little to learn her care for me was one of compassion, not romance.


The next day, the delivery man came again, this time with a joyous procession. In the seat of honor was beautiful Mei-Xing in a wedding gown, blushing with happiness. She and her new husband visited me so that I could congratulate them in person. Mei-Xing kissed the silver cross I gifted her.


As they departed amidst celebratory singing, the fading music felt like a requiem for a love I had half-imagined. And yet, I was left with the glow of having been a distant companion to a kind soul, who had finally found her happiness.



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