And so, one day, he knew he had to write for himself and maybe, to himself.
D W was born somewhere during the later part of the year somewhere in 1975. He has never been really proud of his entry into this world. It did not help too, the fact that he did not have very much of a choice. His parents chose it and at around 6 in the morning, his mother, wearing the green polka-dotted pyjamas which was what most female patients wore in the old British military hospital, endured loads of pain, much more than D W or his dad would ever realize, to bring that infant out from where she carried him in her body for nine months.
It was very much later in his life when D W found out how sickly he was as a child and how his parents must have been frustrated by the frequent trips they made to the hospital because of this sickly infant they conceived. The only thing he remembered being a sick child was when he vomited in the taxi which was to bring them to the doctor’s at Toa Payoh and his dad had to clean up the seats after they alighted from the vehicle.
D W was very much a loner during the formative years of his childhood. Due to his parents??belief that mixing with the neighbourhood kids would not be good and might influence D W the wrong way, D W spent a lot of time playing on his own. Whenever there were opportunities to interact with kids, he remembered spending time with girls rather than boys. So, he was not adverse to playing things like family and even played those cardboard figures which girls at his age would fuss over in terms of putting on dresses and accessories for the figures.
He could still recall his first official foray into the real world on the day he would step into Singapore’s education system. Primary One meant morning session and he could still remember putting on his newly polished white canvas shoes while his parents and even his paternal grandmother fussed over him. He could still remember the latter voicing her concern that the school recess times were too short and it was heartbreaking to see those little kids trying to finish up the food when the bell rang.
As his parents had high expectations on D W, being the eldest child (his sister, known now as the ex-sarong kebaya girl, was born five years later after his birth) and he felt the pressure as he progressed in school. Later, he would start to hate those Chinese tabloids which seemed to be earning that extra money from people by publishing some test sheets. His mother, in the spirit of competitiveness, made him do them, over and above those assessment books he had to slave over. Every year, D W was the top five student in class, but then again, his primary school was a normal neighbourhood school to begin with and even in his PSLE year, he was advised against by teachers to put any mission schools (or anything that starts with the word “Saint”) in the six secondary schools of choice.
The later part of his days in primary school was more memorable in a painful way for D W. Things were beginning to happen at home and his mother began to up the pressure on him (making him do Primary Six worksheets when he was only in Primary Five). He had some problems mixing with people in school and at times felt ostracized by the rest of his classmates. This drove him into a habit of pulling hair (trichotillomania). That habit became so bad that bald patches started to appear on his head. This made him feel like a freak amongst his other normal-looking classmates and even his principal had to haul him aside to examine his scalp. Unlike now, those were the unenlightened times and his worried mother did not suspect anything psychological that was the cause of the habit. She tried almost everything, from traditional Chinese medicine to the skin centre at Middle Road to making D W drink a cup of water with bits of burnt incense paper in it.
Needless to say, D W grew up as a confused teenager and the insecurities which would plague him for the rest of his life started making their presence felt.
D W did reasonably well for PSLE: 4As, but his mother, on looking at the results notice board, said she was proud of his achievement until she saw how others were getting 4A*s. He went to the school which was listed as his second choice and although he said he liked what he saw of the school when his family went there for a recee, he discovered later that the school was made up of a few dilapidated buildings with only two basketball courts and a volleyball court.
In Secondary 1, he was in an all-boys class. His PSLE score was just one point short of making him eligible for the worst class in RI (which happened to be his dad’s first choice of secondary school for him). Yet, in this school, he found himself in the top class. Being in an all-boys class meant that he would join the rest of the pre-hormonal-modified male species in swearing off girls for the rest of their lives. The funny thing was how as they grew older, most of them forgot about their proud denouncements and slowly got hitched with either girls from the other top class or girls from a convent school nearby.
D W’s hormones were raging by the time he turned 14, when he had a crush on his form teacher. She was replaced later by the girl in the top girls class in the dilapidated school and this thing went on as an open secret until Secondary 3 when one of his friends spilled the beans in class during a lesson. That same year, he stopped having serious crushes and despite the fact that the pulling hair habit had faded from his life completely by then, his self-esteem never grew. It also did not help that he was best chums with a guy who would be stopped in buses or on the streets by girls from girls??schools asking for his phone number.
D W remembered one night at his best chum’s house during one of those “O” Levels mugging sessions. There he was, lying on a spare mattress and asking his best chum what was wrong with him that he could not attract the girls like what his friend could. His friend could not give him an answer as the both of them lied in their mattresses in silence. He fell out with his best friend later that year on Secondary 4 and vowed never to have someone so close to him.
He thought he did reasonably well for his “O” Levels. If only all of his grades moved up one notch, he could have walked into any of those mid-range Junior Colleges. However, it was not to be and after spending a magical three months in a junior college which was infamously famous for having the highest abortion rates then, he found himself enrolling in the Polytechnic and pursuing the course which was basically his sixth choice (out of ten).
By his late teenaged years, D W became one of those blokes who never really belonged to a clique but could fit in any one of them. Even after so many years of reaching puberty, he never had a girl friend. There were crushes of course, but somehow the low self-esteem got in the way. So, he spent his days listening to modern rock, grunge, indie and non-bubble-gum British pop and exchanging notes with a chum of his in poly. Due to the influence, he started dressing like one of those modern rock wannabees who spent too much time at the Substation. Jeans and a T-shirt were what he wore to school. At one time, D W even came close to shaving his head so that he could look as cool as one of those indie stars, but it did not pull off that nicely for him because of the shape of his head. To cover everything up, he wore a beanie to school. It was only after years in school when he would receive feedback of how some lasses thought his dressing style was cool.
The people in jungle green called and he had to respond to the call. Buried in a sea of jungle-green clad blokes around his age, he spent the two and a half years trying to get an identity and grasp what he would want to do in future.
Just months after his release from national conscription, he found himself on a plane bound for Australia, where he would play more than he studied. Along the way, he thought he found love, only to lose it after his graduation. Those were easily the best days of his lives, although at the end of his stay there, he encountered depression for the first time.
D W came back to his homeland a graduate, but was more disillusioned with life than ever. He thought he had it easier than the rest of his friends who were trying to come to terms with life back in the hot and humid pressure-cooker called Singapore. Yet, getting a job within two months of his return did not mean that he would have it all made?? Little did he know that the things which he would grapple with sapped more of whatever that was in him than anything he could imagine.
Today, as D W pens this little meme, he will be marking his 34th year of existence on God’s good earth soon. Still single, still a little sickly, still suffering from low self-esteem, still never having held hands with members of the opposite gender (holding his gramps’ arm does not count), still trying to find his place in life, sessions with the shrinks and countless suicidal thoughts later, D W could not put his finger on any reason for his existence in this world.
Besides religion, his only solace would be to write and express the swirling emotions and thoughts within him. He would love to hear people’s responses to his writings, but more often than he thought, there were only silent observers.
And so, one day, he knew he had to write for himself and maybe, to himself.