An explanation

He must be one of the last few on this island to have not caught some sci-fi flick that raked in the billions – according to a news report he heard over the Beeb this morning. The running joke that he had been boring people with was how The Dark Knight was the last film he watched in a movie theatre. It didn’t matter he has no idea with whom he had watched it. This is notwithstanding the fact that one of his co-workers had been reminding him every other day to watch the film about blue aliens.

To end that discussion, he would quip back with “remind me when it’s shown on Channel 5”.

So the torrent of recommendations from people to watch it made him uncomfortable. Sometimes, he was tempted to just tell some of these people off about they could just throw out an invitation and chances are they could choose who they could scoot off to some spiffy movie hall to catch the latest blockbuster, but not him.

Have they forgotten about the existence of social beggars? He would rage in his heart.

Over an MSN conversation a few days ago, a friend based in China commented that he shouldn’t be a silo. “Go out and embrace the opportunities!” his friend advised. “I’m but a loner,” he reminded for the umpteenth time.

There are many things he wouldn’t mind doing on his own. He found lunching alone one of life’s better pleasures, just because it would eradicate the need and possibly the strange temptation for people to talk about work during that hour’s break from it. There was no need for banter, off-colour jokes and the occasional small talk just for the sake of being with co-workers during lunch. Or worse, being put in a position where he had to reveal stuff about his private life (e.g., “What is the circumference of your girth?”).

He could walk into the church every weekend, sit at the pews and then shuffle his feet out two hours later unnoticed. He would choose to sit among strangers, minimising the need for more small talk. There wouldn’t be the usual delay and hanging around while waiting for people to do their rounds of catching up among their friends. There wouldn’t be a need to say how great his week was to people who asked, when he had the most horrid time of his life.

He could travel alone too. In 2005, he spent six days visiting the ancient temples of Siam Reap without a companion. From 2006 – 2009, he would make his yearly “pilgrimage” to Hong Kong where he would fade into the sea of millions of faces. In the day, he would wander around the streets of Mong Kok, visiting the Hong Kong version of Sim Lim Square, poking around the back alleys which may just be one step away from a gastronomically pleasant discovery, haggling with loud-mouthed youths for discounts on dri-fit T-shirts, and settling down for some early afternoon dim sum at restaurants. At night, he would retire to his hotel where he would doze off to those old black and white Cantonese films shown on the telly.

So, yes, there are tons of things in life he could do alone. But not watching a movie. The sight of the staff at the ticket counter cocking her eyebrow when he announced that he only wanted one ticket; the feeling of walking into the dark theatre hall on his own; the thought of being the subject of an innane conversation among couples in the hall about how this weird guy was catching a movie on his own; the possibly unhealthy practice of having to negotiate a packet of popcorn all by himself; and – this is more horrifying than the rest – having no one to dissect the film with after walking out from the hall; simply put him off watching a movie on his own.

If there was one activity on God’s good earth he couldn’t do alone, it would be to watch a movie.

The Rain

They told him tales of angels, of heavens, of milk and honey, of people living happily ever after, and of places where the sun doesn’t set.

He grew up loving the rain and all of that bleakness it brings. The sound of pattering drops, the flashes of lightning and the gentle rumblings of thunder in the distance. He hadn’t an idea why he gravitated so much towards something that is totally the opposite of a peaceful sunny day.

Perhaps that was how he defied semblances of a normal child and delved into a world where it might have shaped him to be who he is today. And if anyone were to point the accusing finger at him attempting to blame anyone but himself for this fracas of a life, they could not be anything further from the truth.

Truth is, he was all ready to accept responsibility for how things turned out. In fact, he was happy to embrace it.

The hard part for him would be to do anything to unravel all that he had sucked up since he was that wee boy lying in bed during any one of those stormy nights when he decided he loved the rain more.

Slowly as days passed, angels, heavens, milk, honey and their ilk were so distant from his world that they became lies. And that was when the seeds of cynicism and skepticism on stories of hope, joy, love and all things nice under the sun were sown.

It could well have been vastly different, especially with kids having that tendency to fantasise about those que-sera-sera-esque things. It’s akin to the “what ifs” we have always thought about during the course of our lives.

Mind-numbling activities only make him oblivious to the voices in his head. They drown out all those voices, which mock at him about how he was simply the expired piece of shit sitting on the shelf at some forgotten corner of the mama shop. They start the moment these activities end.

But not the rain. They calm him. They bring him back to a time and place when he was simply the wee boy all wrapped up snugly in the blanket, moments before he would decide how he would grow up loving the rain.

It was a time when thoughts of the grim life of a man being held hostage to his hopes and fears were a universe away.

Given the choice, his desire would be to fade into nothingness.

Of polka-dot dresses and animal documentaries

She was wearing a black dress with white polka dots – smallish, not the big round ones. It was sleeveless, and was not so low as to send the minds and imaginations of males into overdrive. Just the slightest hint of a cleavage, and it fitted her so well that it accentuated her good figure.

His gaze fell on her the moment she appeared. The fact that she wore a nice, well-managed bob was a bonus. Somehow he liked women with short hair (but not overly short that would suggest to him that they were of another sexual disposition).

For a man who had lived all his life with only pathetic spurts of being in a relationship (let alone anything physical in nature), the hankering began. The restless voices resonated in his head and they grew louder every moment.

“Gee, I sure wished I had someone I call my own wearing something like that!”

“What are the odds?”

“Zilch. You’re better off continuing your research on your list of mating agencies which specialise in girls from Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia.”

“How nice it would be if I had a girlfriend who wears this when I’m out on a date with her?”

“You’re repeating yourself!”

“Bummer!”

The conversations, or rather the ill-disguised monologue, in his head raged on, until a few seconds later when the sight of a youngish bloke, decked in immaculately ironed and sharp white shirt with jet black pants, appeared. His skin colour, a thousand times darker than his porcelain-white complexion, suggested he might be one of those regular dragon boaters, or at least someone who wouldn’t mind getting himself nicely charred under the sun. Like his female companion, his hair was well-tended – short, spiky but trendy. Most of all, he wasn’t lugging an overgrown paunch.

The conversations stopped the moment he appeared.

Something just shrank in him in the presence of this handsome male.

He felt like one of those old and slow lions – often seen in documentaries about the animal kingdom – which just shriveled and slinked away in the presence of a far-superior male specimen. Tail behind his legs, while the far superior male specimen just stands there, with his great mane being ruffled by the wind.