Coming Home

Dear Helene,

Sometimes coming home isn’t easy.

When you’ve been away for a bit too long, you no longer know what to expect. Fear creeps in. Doubt begins to gnaw. What was once a sanctuary – a place of safety – now seems like a treacherous network of dark, foreboding tunnels. One wrong turn, a careless miscalculation, a hesitant pause could all spell disaster.

This is how I feel coming back to ‘Tea and Scones’.

I hardly recognise the neighbourhood anymore. Sure, the names are familiar and the sights are still vaguely the same. But something tells me that things have somehow changed. Exactly how I don’t know.

What did I expect? A welcoming committee? Hardly. But I never dreamed it would be this hard. I think I’d still know my way around the old neighbourhood. I think I’d still recognise the faces in the windows.

But would you still recognise mine?

As I write the words of this paragraph, I begin to realise that it is not the neighbourhood that has changed. The neighbourhood’s still the same one. The ugly, deny-it-if-I-could fact is that it is I who have changed. I hope that I haven’t changed too much that I seem too much like a stranger.

But most of all, dear Helene, should we meet again – and if I asked you really, really nicely – would you come sit with me on that bench in the park?

And we’d write again. Like we used to.


Frank Doel


21 thoughts on “Coming Home

    • Hi Rovitah

      Thank you, ma’am. As I take my first tentative steps again in this old neighbourhood I find it’s not as scary as I thought it would be.

      Good friends usually have this effect on me.

      Thank you again, ma’am

  1. …welcome back, sofi…but everything changed, sofi..the environment.. us..the children have grown, and saplings have gone on to bear fruits….except, perhaps, the tax returns..:) and if I am to have my rathers, I rather have u as a wordsmith than as a picsmith..cheers..

    • Hi Pakmat

      True enough. There’s quite a few unattended Borang B at the doorstep of this address, my old home. But I intend to make good on them.

      Guess what? It still reads ‘wordsmith’ in the space after ‘current occupation’. A little grandiose, may be. But it still says ‘wordsmith’

      We’ve got a lot of catching up to do Pakmat

  2. Only the prodding of Elviza will make you come back to writing, huh? Typical of macho men… heheheh….

    But as you said somewhere else, it’s a seamless transition between writing and photography. Don’t see why you can’t do both.

    BTW, I have a similar pic of that Melaka river. Lovely place for night photo shoots.

    • Hi Oldstock

      It’s the story of the little boy who discovered Legos after knowing only “stack ’em up” building blocks all his life. Now that he’s older, he realises that they are NOT that dissimilar – and that they each have their special place in his life.

      I’m getting the old blocks out again and mixing them up with the Legos as I write. Nope, there’s no reason I can’t play with both.

      Elviza? Well, my friend, everybody has somebody out there who can light our fire…

  3. Hi Mat-san,

    It`s really been a hiatus,eh?Welcome home.You are worried about changes?The only constant in life is change, tomodachi-san.We can`t do anything about that.And changes could be for the better or for the worse.Whatever it is, life goes on, and we go on living, in tandem(hopefully).Perfection is something we all aspire towards, but sometimes circumstances and events get the better of the best of plans and hopes.

    PS:Before you took your sabbatical, I had many,many beautiful evenings basking on a similar bench as yours in that Utopian-like park, with my own Helene,hand-in-hand.Aaaah!That has receded forever into the horizon,never to be re-lived.Such is life.But,Sir, I must get on with my life.Your writings will certainly help me do that.Of that, I am certain.

    Cheers, my friend.

    • Dear Azman

      And get on with our lives we shall.

      The finality of you tone tells me we will never get to glimpse into that magical though fleeting world that you shared with your own Helene. Be that as it may, I am so happy that you had a chance to live that moment. May you live those moments again – even though they might seem too distant today.

      And cheers to you, too, my friend.

  4. Pingback: Letter to Phantom II « Write Away

  5. Azman,

    Selamat sore.

    You are a very lucky man. The real Helene Hanff and Frank Doel never got a chance to hold hands, at least not in their lifetimes.

    They were platonic friends who corresponded via snail mails between New York and London, mostly about ordering and sending books across the Atlantic. New York was too cold for Helene, she refused to go out. She spent her adult life instructing Frank which books she wanted until the day Frank died.

    Tell me Azman, where is this Utopian-like park? I’d like to write my letter to my Frank Doel from that park.

    Have a good day.

    • Dear Helene,

      In that hallowed park,only dreams and hopes(almost all unattainable,sadly, due to prevailing constraints)and that intensity of feeling we call love,do freely abound.Writing a letter in such heavenly circumstances,would certainly be quite out of line with the mystical aura pervading that Valhalla.Even words struggle to exist,lost in the total euphoria of sensing one another`s presence, and luxuriating in the rarified surrounding.Feelings between me and my Helene are just conveyed,silently.Aaaah!Love, as they say, is a many splendoured thing.It`s the April rose, that……….Have a nice day, Maa`m!

  6. Salam Bro.,
    GREAT to have you back! I did “drop” by your blog few times… “ketagih” your ramblings and what not… alas, noted the same old posting… well I haven’t given up and YES! Today I got rewarded! Welcome back and I can assure you your ramblings DID & DO make a difference to many people’s lives…

  7. Once or twice a year, I get to go to a meeting right in the middle of the park, and i always look out for that blue bench and my mind strays back here…so, sometimes, some things can bring us back.

  8. Great to have you back, dear sir.

    Please don’t stop writing. I’ve been missing you for such a long, long time and it sure felt good to be able to just let myself wallow in reading your every words.

    Welcome home sir.

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