She held the steaming packet of braised tofu in her hand, half consumed, dangling it in front of me.

“Do you want some?” my cousin asked.

I nodded, swallowing a gulp of saliva, my eyes never leaving the packet. A thin slice of home-made tofu braised in sweet soy sauce hung suspended in black goo. It was one of my favourite treats. Sold by vendors who, among other things, hawked ngap kiok pau, a popular Chinese delicacy of duck feet wrapped around a small piece of liver with an edible string, brewed in a combination of sauces, this bizarre snack was what people ate at the movies in the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s in small town Ipoh.

Like those cinemas, this delicacy is now just a memory.

My cousin, this girl of 16 or 17 whose ground I’d worshipped (I was about six or seven), looked at me, and then took two huge bites of the piece of tofu, even though she was already full from the last two pieces she’d eaten. She handed me the packet, which had only a small crumb left.

I took it and poured it down my throat, sauce and all, shaking the bag to make sure I got every scrap.


For some reason, this memory reared its ugly head in recent days. For a long time, it had stayed buried under other memories, happy and sad. After all, I was only six or seven. How could I still remember such a seemingly unimportant thing?

But it was not unimportant, for this is my first memory of betrayal. From someone I loved with all of my six-year old heart. Like a tree that appears small but with roots so far reaching it could encircle the earth, this old wound still throbs with an old, familiar pain. And I am surprised how fresh this memory has remained.

Of course, that cruel girl is not who my cousin is today. And braised tofu is not my favourite treat anymore.

And yet, I am remembering. Why now?

Maybe it’s because of the power I have over my own kids. Perhaps it is to remind me, that I should be mindful of how I mete out punishment and rules to my girls. Of what I say and what I do. I rack my brains, trying to remember if I’ve somehow betrayed Raeven by abusing my power as her mother in recent weeks.

Honestly? I can’t remember.

Maybe that’s why this memory has resurfaced. To remind me that some memories, some experiences, particularly the really bad ones, can last a lifetime.

Please God, let the answer be no.