Setting the sun...


Crowds: Mr. Tang Part One

Hello Armoury! Welcome to Mr. Tangs first chapter, this is the first of five chapters and it will run over the next couple of weeks on my blog! Enjoy the fresh new look, my fourth new character in this series and keep your eyes peeled!

It wasn’t until he had reached Hughesdale Station that Mr. Tang remembered that he was supposed to get off a couple of stops ago. Then again, things like this were beginning to happen more frequently with him. Memory lapses, that is. Sometimes he’d forget something as simple as the day of the week when he woke up in the morning and other times he’d forget what one of his children had just asked him the moment they had finished asking the question. ­Nevertheless, Mr. Tang had a pleasant ride on the train – he didn’t go on public transport that often, but when he did, it brought back memories of when he first came to Australia as a teenager.
He had left Vietnam at the age of fourteen. His parents, his two sisters and himself escaped one night when the war had gotten all too much. He remembered arriving in Sydney on a scorching hot day. His father wiped the sweat off his forehead and as tears swelled in his eyes, his father said to him, “Trung, we’ve made it. Now we’re going to live a happy life.” After a couple of years, once his parents had made enough money, they eventually made the move to Melbourne. His mum had gotten some work in a factory and his Dad took up manual labor. They even eventually had enough for a car. They then packed up the little they owned and left the Harbor and the Opera House and made the big move.
One of his first memories of the city was travelling into Flinders Street in the middle of winter. He had been wearing two jumpers, a coat, a scarf and a beanie, and still his teeth were chattering. His parents took him and his sisters out for their first official big dinner in Melbourne’s Chinatown and he absolutely loved it. The tendrils of smoke from the kitchens that wafted above like wispy dragons caught his eyes, the delicious smells of familiarity propelled his hunger and the colours and culture warmed his  chilly bones.
Mr. Tang caught his reflection in the window as the overhead computer-generated voice announced that it would be shortly arriving at Hughesdale. He chuckled, his wife always told him that he looked like a potato, and he had to agree. His skin was tan with a wrinkly shriveled texture to it as if he’d be baking in the oven for a few hours. The shape of his head was oval and slightly lumpy in spots from the years of wear and tear, and he was almost completely bald. Little grey wisps of hair covered the sides and back of his head in a U-shape and his forehead was liver-spotted and freckled. He didn’t mind his deep-seeded wrinkles, which veined throughout his face like roots on a tree, he was proud of them. In his heart, Mr. Tang was a happy man, with sincere dark eyes that always twinkled no matter the occasion.
Fetching out a hanky from his pocket, Mr. Tang patted his withered up lips as the train rolled into the station. Getting up slowly, he managed to maneuver his way through the busy young people and took himself (and his yellow balloon) out of the carriage. He knew people would stare at him, a old silly man with a balloon, but he didn’t care. He also didn’t understand why people were so consumed with their gadgets and technology. He’d watched them, tapping into their screens furiously, checking their phones constantly, then their tablet, and then switching their music, clicking monotonously from one song to the next. He muttered to himself as his house slippers trotted along the pavement and over to the other side of the platform. He just didn’t get it. Why did people need to suffocate themselves with those things? Why did people need to constantly distract themselves from living in the moment? Why couldn’t young people, or just people, really, live without sharing it, posting it and re-spamming or twitting or bookfacing or whatever his children called it.
“Excuse me,” he said, putting his hand up to the young man in a sharp business suit with an expensive haircut who waited beside him. “If I am just switching trains, do I need to tap in again?”
“You mean touch on?” the man corrected him. “No, just touch off when you get to the station you want to go to.”
“Ah, yes, thank you,” he nodded, scooting a few steps away from the man to appear less of an imposition. The man half attempted to smile and him before glancing away nervously.
It was sometimes very difficult for him. He had been living in this county for fifty-three years and still, to this day, he never managed to fully master the ‘Australian’ accent. The first few years of living in Australia he couldn’t speak a word of English. Boy, did he envy his youngest sister, who was only two when they first arrived. By the time she was five her English was almost better than his, even more so with the ‘correct’ accent. The schwa, that ‘twang to the voice’ that he could never properly grasp. Now that he was an older man, he didn’t imagine he’d ever really be able to get it.
Once he was on the train that was heading back to Springvale, Mr. Tang sat opposite the business man. He pointed at the yellow balloon and asked, “What’s the occasion?”
Mr. Tang smiled and replied proudly, “It’s my wife’s birthday today.”

  • Mr. Tangs’s story [Part Two] continues on [MON/OCT/05].
  • This narrative was edited by my wonderful editor: Kayla Marie Murphy. Contact: for any inquiries.
  • Creative Credit for Mr. Tangs’s image goes to the wonderful and supremely talented Jinny Park, whose Instagram feed you can check out at: Thank you so much Jinny for this wonderful collaboration!
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