The pot belly, the Cheshire cat and oh, the stammer

Haha. Got introduced to many women yesterday. Let’s see… In fact, out of the twelve new faces, nine of them were women. Well-groomed, nice make-up, articulate, smart, bright and bilingual. Maybe I was so caught up with trying to put their faces to the names that I didn’t check if they had a ring on that important finger. Perhaps I wasn’t even thinking about opportunities anyway. I mean having been introduced to them in person, they couldn’t have missed that gigantic pot belly of mine hitting their in-and-out trays, knocking down some of their files and papers, or cause their work desks to wobble as though there was an earthquake…(although I did remember to rid my face of unwanted facial hair this morning)


Ok. You get my point.


I must admit that my eyes wandered once to that special area of one of the ladies’. It was something sparkling there that attracted their attention and I was drawn to it.


Ahh… Necklace with a cross – complete with small precious stones, twinkling under the white office fluorescent light – and without a figure.


I don’t know if she observed the sudden darting of my eyes to that sensitive area (cos if my pupils had gone any lower, I could have been a not-so-proud recipient of a tight slap and the impact of the skin of her palm hitting on my flabby cheek would have resulted in a sound which would surely resonate across the cavernous office where we were and immediately alert hundreds of pairs of ears). However, I kicked myself later (not literally, of course, although I could really have) for examining necks instead of observing fingers.


There was this reddish hue on her face that looked natural or nicely made to look natural. She had long straight hair – with a light brownish hue – that rested nicely on her shoulders. Because I didn’t check her fingers, I couldn’t comment on whether the nails had a nice gloss of paint. She was wearing a beige outer dress with flower prints, semi-translucent, and a white inner dress (can’t be a camisole, can it?).


Now, if this was any other bloke, some things might have happened by now. A flurry of SMSes exchanged. A frantic search for the nicest place on this wee speck of an island to impress a date. A silly grin to accompany every SMS received. An extra beat from the heart to go with that sudden vibration sound from the mobile phone. A shaft of bright light (think Mr Bean’s intro scene) to drive  the darkness away. A quick flip into the trusty “1,001 Jokes That Will Impress Your First Date Guide”. Numerous calls to florists to find out the market rate for roses.


The thing is I am no ordinary bloke. Something happened on the way to heaven a very long time ago. Like the scarecrow, the lion and the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, something went missing somewhere. So, I didn’t check the finger, suck in my stomach, rein in the “Cheshire cat” smile (I can do a very good impersonation of the classic MIB with it) and stop the stammer. I forgot even to wipe off the beads of perspiration from my forehead or to be more careful with showing too much of my pitifully pitted nails when handing her my name card.


I’ve even forgotten her name!


In any case, it’s not difficult for her to have classified me under the “Freak and Weird dudes” category (if not something close to the “MIB” category already). So, I didn’t get anything much out of this except to remember this as one of those quirky moments of my life.


Anyway, for some strange reason, the words “for all you know, she’s already married” kept repeating in my head.


* By the way, is there such a thing called a “loose slap”?

Fly and brakes

“And I’ll fly with you through the night

so you know I’m not letting go.

I’m not letting go.

My tears like rain fill up the sky.

Oh my love I’m not letting go, I won’t let you go.


Shed your heart and your breath and your pain and fly.”


- Fly, Jars of Clay




Moments after publishing the previous entry, that Fly song by Jars of Clay came on the iPod at around 9.23pm last night. Probably just two minutes after I groggily hauled my weary body up the bus, which was filled with strangers.


None of them was intimate though, except for the physical because I bumped twice onto the body of a woman standing next to me. She must have thought I either (a) conspired with the driver or (b) it was just my desperate (and contrived) bid to get some “action”. (I might have looked the part too with my belt straining under the weight of a gigantic pot belly, those unmistakable dark eye rings and that bit of unshaved facial hair).


As for me, I thought the driver was simply testing the brakes for fun and that those handle thingies were not designed for men who have no desire to etch themselves in someone else’s head as the much feared, ,much talked-about and much detested “Molester in the Bus” (or “MIB”).


In between trying to keep my body far away from the woman for fear of having my face (complete with the unshaved facial hair) plastered on the front cover of The New Paper (complete with a zany headline like “The New Paper MIB Face of the Year: Man, 34”), I was trying to read about a family’s search for the long-lost son of a woman who killed (or chopped) her husband (into pieces). It wasn’t really the best of stories to read after a terrible day at work, but curiosity got the better of me.


“Tragic”, was my immediate thought. Then, my mind wandered again, playing with thoughts about how the world is a tragic place, that everyone carries a tragic tale and the truths about that “I care, but I don’t care” phrase uttered by the pastor during last week’s sermon in relation to how involved he gets in another person’s problem when he counsels.


By that time, the bus had stopped at one of the more crowded stops and my attention was temporarily distracted by the vast spread of junk food sold at the pasar malam stalls.


At the end of the bus’ five-minute stop, discipline won the war of the bulge for me. As the bus pulled away from the stop, I gave the tapioca cakes, the Taiwan sausages, the Ramly burgers, etc, an imaginary wave (for a real wave would result in a vast change in classification of my persona in the mind of the woman who was still standing next to me).

Being totally irrational, I had to turn back to look as I got off the bus. For my efforts, I was rewarded with a long, icy stare by the woman who had the unwanted and probably vomit-inducing honour of coming into contact with my pot belly (albeit only sideways) not once, but twice.


I guess the night of 29 July 2008 will go down in history as the time my face found its way into the annals of someone else’s life as the quintessential MIB. I can imagine the rage on her husband or boyfriend’s face when she recounted her horrendous bus ride that night.


Maybe I should just write a letter to the forum pages offering some (not sure if it’s going to be constructive) feedback about how transport companies should really discourage bus drivers from playing with brakes.

How cliches are the hiding places of evil

“The night is darkest before the dawn.”


How do you measure the darkness at 9pm or at 5am (just before dawn)?


Or is this one of those clichés that means something when it is bereft of any logic?


How long has my night been? A decade? Twenty years? I cannot put my finger on any definite date when dusk turned into night. It happened somewhere, sometime. Perhaps it started with when the bursts of joy from life got shorter and shorter. Then, the memories of them became more and more distant until they turned into myths. Before I knew it, I was in this long and obviously dark place called “night”.


I could have substituted “place” with “tunnel”. However, in the absence of any light source, I have no idea where the exit of this tunnel is. So, it will stay a place. And perhaps with the absence of light for the longest time, like a tunnel without exit, here is my night without a dawn.


While it is cold in here, little bits and pieces of life warm me. Like family. Like how my gramps would grasp my hand tightly whenever visiting hours at the old folks’ home were up. Like the occasional kiss she would plant on my hand when it really should have been the other way round. Like observing the glow from the warmth of love emanating from the face of the ex-sarong kebaya girl as it looks certain that she has found “The One” in her life.


Other than all of these, it is cold. I’ve learnt to live with it, really. In fact, I love the cold – the colder, the better. It can sometimes gnaw at me, reminding me of the harsh realities of life and waking me up from my dreams. It bites at me, enhancing greatly the isolation that envelopes me.


However, a far worse torture than this is silence. Of course, if I tread very slowly like a thief in the night, the beats of my heart would break it. Yet more often than not, it is this almost never-ending silence that deafens and sears. It can happen anywhere too, like the time when I found myself trawling unfamiliar faces in a city of seven million or in the quiet of my room, when everyone slumbers and I stare at my computer screen, while thoughts flutter in and out of my mind, and images – faces, scenes, colours and lights – flicker on and off inside my head.


“Nothing is impossible” is a lie.


“Why isn’t it possible to do something you really want?” is a question that can either lead to enlightenment and joy or despair and sadness.


Both are clichés, used by those who cannot find the right words to say in the shortest space of time just to shatter the otherwise comfortable silence. They paint rosy pictures which can host the sinister elements of life that can destroy all hope and joy in an instant.


When one finds his dreams shattered little by little and wakes up one day with the realisation that nothing of them is left, the desire to return to innocence will grow.


But this desire will remain unfulfilled. Because no one can turn back the clock. Just like how no one can trace their way back to the “entrance” of the “tunnel”.


Just like how there exist some nights when the dawn will never come.

Tapping the glass

“I guess you’ll know when a woman is in love. Or specifically, in love with you,” he smiled wistfully.


“How would you know?” I asked.


He pursed his lips. He was now deep in thought. Unlike the declaration he made a few seconds ago, it seemed like he wasn’t too sure about what he said.


“Her eyes,” his voice was soft, almost like a whisper.


“They’ll sparkle. They’ll light up. They’ll let you know that you’ve become the best thing she has ever set her sights on,” an explanation before he sniggered. “It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not.


“A smile would come naturally too. Maybe a shy one, if she’s a little afraid of showing too much. Or a confident one, if she’s very sure of herself. It’ll be a comfortable smile. From her heart, no less. Genuine.”


He sniffed as he spoke the last word. Then he gazed out of the window while his fingers were tapping gently on the glass which held the whiskey he ordered a few moments ago.


It seemed like he was composing his thoughts again.


“She’ll engage you in a conversation – one that she’ll try to delight you with. After all, it is your company that she seeks,” he muttered after the five-second gaze outside of the window.


“For all other instances,” a grin was now flashed on his face, “I’m afraid you’re in her ‘friend-zone’.”


Now if AOT is likened to a human being, I guess it is safe to say that it has been going in and out of a coma. Well, there is one big reason for this but underlying it are many reasons.

“Bugger it all with the writing.”

There, I’ve said it.

As a human being, thoughts flutter in and out of my mind constantly. But they are now enveloped by the daily fear and worry. That is the environment in which they exist now and unless something drastic happens, it will stay that way.

Together with the occupational hazard that comes with having to churn out words at a fairly alarming rate so that they string themselves in the new universal language of the world – “Corporatespeak”, any urge to tell the world (not as though there are many who listen) about these thoughts is basically non-existent.

So AOT is basically like a patient in a coma.

Other than that, I guess I have never quite gotten over a little shock I received late last year when bits of my life that I spew here are read by people whom I have no intention (then and even now) of sharing them with. That basically sucked the life out of the need to use this as a sounding board. Not their (these well-meaning people that I know in real life) fault of course since I didn’t do a good job of maintaining anonymity. But things happen.

Anyway, now that AOT is barely awake again, I could talk about what I have been up to. Unfortunately, there really hasn’t been much. I can talk about some blog awards going on but then it would only make me sound like a self-righteous prick if I were to spill my thoughts about it online. I can also talk about a new blog being set up where people share their stories about Singapore (great idea and effort) but patriotism no longer runs in my veins (with rising costs, I’ve completely embraced forced-upon materialism instead). I can talk about how I was basically a prisoner in my own little world in a city of seven million (on one of my recent pilgrimages to a place I have always loved).

Then again, who cares?

I can talk about the changes in my attitudes towards some things in life. An example would be how I used to baulk at the thought of signing up as a member of those spiffy dating agencies. Unlike now, when temptations run through my mind every night as I lay my head on the pillow thinking how it may just be dosh well-spent for a bloke in his mid-thirties having never held the hand of a gal (which is an experience different from holding my gramp’s).

I can talk about my three visits to a place where blokes would never dare tell their girlfriends or wives that they’ve been there. [Self-righteous prick mode on] Not that I enjoy going there to get molested (if you are still clueless where this place is, it is where blokes pay to sing and get molested), it is an eye-opening experience simply because a thousand thoughts race in my mind when I see rings on the fingers of some of these blokes and think about the forlorn pinings of their women who might be wondering where their blokes were and what they were doing. Oh, and not to forget, the sheepish look on every male face (including mine) when darting eyes greet each other in the toilet.[Self-righteous mode off]

I can talk about the absurdities with regards to the politicking at my previous companies but then again, everyone already has their long list of absurdities at their workplace.

I’ll leave you, dear reader (if there is one!), with a tale of irony witnessed.

It happened one fine evening after I got off from work. The moment I got on the bus which would bring me home, I heard music. No, it wasn’t one of those trailers of locally produced sitcoms (forced upon the masses) shown on those lovely square boxes on board buses of the red company. No square boxes on the buses of this beige / orange (damn… what’s their corporate colour) company.

But there was the music! And it was loud enough for everyone (from the back to the front) on board the bus to enjoy. It came from one of the passengers, or specifically his phone.

Now being a self-righteous prick and someone who has always put his phone on silent mode, I had some choice words for this particular passenger. However, I kept them mostly in my head for fear of having a photo of my crushed jaw plastered on the front pages of tabloids.

So everyone in the bus had to listen to the choice musical selections of this passenger (they seem to be enjoying it though, since no one bothered enough to make a hoo-ha out of it and risk having their jaws crushed). For me, I protested silently by taking out my noise-cancelling earphones and plugged them into my iPod.

However, I could still hear the music above the strains of George Michael.

This went on for quite a while until a ringtone (as loud as the music, mind you) went off. It wasn’t before long when we could see that this passenger was sitting beside his friend and that call was for this lovely music-sharer’s friend.

Within seconds of this companion saying “hello” into his phone, there was dead silence. Our dear friend had switched off the music! Basic courtesy practised! Where’s Singa when you don’t need him? Although everyone on the bus is now forced to become captive eavesdroppers, I thought I saw some relieved faces.

In any case, the very considerate music-sharer and his companion alighted from the bus not long after. Nevertheless, the silence didn’t last long as it was replaced by the chatter of a group of aunties who boarded the bus. Barely tolerable, but still, it is better than music on repeat mode.