Thomas worked in the engineering department. Tall, smart, dark suntan skin, and had a beautiful voice. You can tell even when he was humming. Sometimes you can hear him humming in the shuttle bus; making the boring shuttle time shorter. Everyone knew him as “the humming Thomas “. He was not only a hummingbird, but he also was a ping-pong champion! People said he won the championship in college.
At the one-hour lunch break, most of the time, Jasmine would finish her lunch quickly and rush to the ping-pong room!
There was only one ping-pong table in the room, however, to let everyone have a chance to play while they waited by standing against the wall, they play doubles. Jasmine was lucky to have Thomas to be her partner the very first time she picked up the ping-pong paddle. From then on Thomas became her partner. Since James was a ping-pong champion at college, they were always the winner even if Jasmine was not a good player at all! She was so happy to have a great player as her partner! She meant to say something to James sometimes, to thank him for being her partner, but she was always too involved in watching how people catch the ball and how to hit it back. She wanted to learn more and to become a better ping-pong player.
Well, actually at the ping-pong room, it seemed there was not much time for the players to chat. Everyone was concentrating on watching the other players play, and to watch for who will be next. When it was their turn, they would watch where the ball goes! Finally, when the bell rang, everybody rushed to each one’s office.
The office was located in the countryside away from the city where the employees lived. The shuttle buses would pick up everyone in the mornings and take them back to the city in the evenings.
It happened one morning, Thomas sat next to Jasmine on the shuttle.
“Good morning, Jasmine! My name is James.”
“Good morning! Thomas!” Jasmine felt it was unnecessary for James to introduce himself. Everybody knew who he is. But she was surprised how did her ping-pong partner learn her name? She had never told him. She did not realize “the rose” incident had made her name well known.
The conversation did not carry on that day. Maybe it’s because the bus was too quiet! It seems that everybody was still not quite awake. James usually talked cheerfully and humorously. But when he was sitting next to Jasmine, he just could not find any suitable word to begin the conversation! Even himself could not understand why he becomes a person of few words. He had heard the story about how those roses had offended Jasmine. He admired her straightforwardness, but to offend her would be the very last thing he wanted in the world.
If Thomas could only realize that opportunity knocks only once, he would grab it by all means! He was transferred to another city before long.
After Thomas left, Jasmines felt sorry that she had lost a wonderful ping-pong partner. None in the ping-pong room could compare with him.
Jasmine was about to leave her job to take a new position offered to her as a teacher.
A farewell Chinese dinner was arranged for her. There were almost 30 people signed up for the dinner. They were from different departments.
To Jasmine’s surprise. She found there was a seat reserved for her at the dining table. Thomas sat next to her! On the other side, sat another young man whom Jasmine occasionally met at the shuttle stop.
During dinner, that evening, Jasmine’s plate was never empty. It was always piled up with all kinds of food offered by those two gentlemen who sat next to her. No matter what kind of food or if she liked it or not!
When it was time to post a photo, Thomas pushed his way out to get a place next to Jasmine. After the photo was taken, He said to Jasmine seriously, ” When you get the picture, don’t forget to ask for everyone’s autograph. Here is my address, I hope you will mail me the photo. I should have my name on it too!” Then he continued in a rather sad voice: ” I miss those good days at the ping-pong room! Don’t forget to mail me the photo. I promise to mail it back to you right away.” He looked at Jasmine with a very different look filled with hope and longing.
But to Jasmine, she felt farewell! Sad! After today, She will only see Thomas in the photo with those good memories of the ping-pong time!
Thomas paused a little. Hopelessly he said: “Wish you good luck in your new job! I have to leave now to take the night train back! Don’t forget to mail me the photo.”
Reluctantly he walked out of the restaurant. Kept on looking back at Jasmine. Even all he could see was Jasmine’s back!
Many years later, sometimes what had happened at the farewell dinner encircled Jasmine’s heart when she looked at that picture. The people in the picture came alive as if they were in Harry Potter’s movie! She forgot most of their names if she did not look at the autographs on the back of the photo. But Thomas. She never mailed that photo to the address that Thomas gave her. His name was printed on his face!
Actually, Jasmine never did ask for any autograph of anyone. When the photo was given to her, the autographs were already there!