He was tucking into his brunch of rice when suddenly a thought struck him. It was one of those strange yet familiar, so close yet so far ones that would plague his mind for the rest of the day.

It was the fuzzy scene of him tucking into a home-cooked meal at someone else’s home. And that someone else was a gal whom he corresponded with over mIRC. She had been in Perth for the past six years of her life, having exchanged Singapore’s stifling and competitive education system for a more laid-back but fulfilling time at high school and then college.

They met only because he was in the first semester of a two-year stint to get a degree from a university in Perth. All hopes of romance were dashed because they were from different denominations.

She lived alone. In fact, she had been on her own since the day her parents sent her to a boarding school in one of those girls-only colleges. He admired her for the fact that she had pulled through it all.

As they ate, they talked about the people they knew from the particular mIRC channel they visited regularly. Then the conversations took on a more serious tone as she shared about the struggles she faced when she first arrived at the college, fresh-faced and about to plunge into the culture shock of her life.

He remembered how insensitive the twenty-odd-year-old version of him was when he commented about how good it was to have all the freedom of living on her own. The image of the response on her face was something that was still fresh in his mind – her hand close to her mouth, slightly gaping, and her eyes, which expressed her surprise.

Her mIRC nick was “Hushpup” and he would visit her again for a meal, once more at most, before they would lose contact of each other.

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