When I started going back to Hong Kong in 2012 since leaving in 1998, I wanted to see my doctor from the 90s, the same doctor I wrote about in my memoir, Good Chinese Wife. But for some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to go up to her office. I got as far as the lobby of her building, but I couldn’t go into the elevator. Maybe it’s because I didn’t change her name in the book and was worried about that, or maybe it was because I was afraid of breaking into tears if I saw her again. I visited Hong Kong two more times and didn’t attempt to see her.
She was a maternal figure to me during those years, so last year when I visited Hong Kong I finally walked over to her office, book in hand. When I arrived, I met her office staff and learned she was in with a patient. I could hear her voice behind the door and realized she didn’t remember me. I had no reason to think she would. It had been 18 years, after all. I left the book with her office manager, who had actually read it already and said she loved my description of Dr. Levy. She said she would make sure Dr. Levy got the copy I left for her.
I felt less anxious after talking to the office manager and said I would return later that week to see Dr. Levy. But when I returned just before lunch a few days later, Dr. Levy wasn’t in and wouldn’t be back until later that afternoon.
I wanted to see her before I left that week, but I didn’t. I think deep down I was still afraid. So when I went back to Hong Kong this month, I was ready–almost–to go back and see her. At first I didn’t know if I would have time, but found myself with a free morning on my last full day there. So I took the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui and retraced my steps from the mid-1990s. I was still nervous. Had she read the book since I’d left it for her last year? What did she think about it? Would she even want to see me?
Hankow Road looks almost the same as it did 20 years ago.
And Hankow Centre, the building where Dr. Levy’s office was located, was recognizable from afar.
I even found her name on the ground floor directory, the same directory I spotted back in 2012 when I first went back to Hong Kong.
So I took the elevator up to the 4th floor and made my way to room 412. Her name was still on the door, but the office was dark.
I figured the guard on the ground floor would know if Dr. Levy would be in that day. So I took the elevator back downstairs.
The guard was very nice, which was nothing surprising, and I asked if Dr. Levy would be in later that day.
“I’m afraid she’s retired,” he said.
“Do you know if she’s still in Hong Kong?” I figured I might still be able to see her if I could find out where she was living.
“No,” he said. “She returned to the UK.”
My heart fell. “Do you know when that was?” I asked.
“More than half a year now.”
I thanked him and left her office almost as sad as I had that fateful day in October 1996 when I was forced to reassess my marriage. But as I walked toward Kowloon Park, another place I liked to visit in the 90s, I actually felt all right.
I’d given Dr. Levy a copy of my book the year before. She didn’t remember me the year before. So I’d done what I could. If she read the book, she would know I cherished her honesty at a time when others so much closer to me couldn’t even give me that.
Do I regret that I didn’t see her last year or the other years I’d visited Hong Kong? Yes. But I’m happy she had a long career in Hong Kong and hope she’s enjoying her retirement in the UK. That’s all I can wish for now.