Path to Marble Arch, Hyde Park, London. Photograph by Charles Weng

Valse Triste

I prefer memories to dreams. What I can remember are far more vivid, cogent and meaningful than random fantasies. Yet, ever so rarely, the impressions I chance upon during sleep do become poignant experiences of their own.

   What makes many of my dreams so memorable is the frequent appearance of a fond ghost: my grandmother Lee Hui, a kind, sweet little old lady I've missed dearly since her passing in 1994. Most recently, Ah-Ma and I were enjoying a cool, gray afternoon in Hyde Park, London, near the Serpentine and within sight of the handsome brick buildings surrounding Royal Albert Hall.

I wanted to move on, but Ah-Ma lingered by a bed of red poppies. For all my gentle nudging of her elbow, she did not walk any faster.

"Go on," she said in her soft, soothing voice. "I'll see you at the hotel."

Hours later, I waited anxiously at my hotel balcony overlooking the park, whilst sunlight quickly faded. It had not occurred to me that we were not staying at the same place. I was at a loss until I reached inside my pocket, and found a card. Its elegant gold print had only three words: 


The Invisible Hotel


Realising that I was caught in a Harry Potter predicament, I closed my eyes, and focused all my will upon finding myself in this hidden place.

I was not sure if I was still in London when I opened my eyes. Back in the daylight, I stood before a house painted in white, its front porch neatly lined with flowers. Smiling, my grandmother was there to welcome me, asking where I've been.

CW, 6 August 2003

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