Go with a smile!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The long drive home

Just before I was about to leave for the States, my cousins held a farewell dinner for me. It was a fairly posh place at Dempsey. It’s funny, that was only 3 months ago, but I can’t remember much of what was said that night. Maybe I said a few things about how I was about to get ready for the trip. It was a little noisy. Much of what happened in my last month in Singapore was about cleaning my room out. For the years I spent in Singapore between my graduation from Snowy Hill and my going to Mexico, I hadn’t been very disciplined about keeping my room neat and tidy and now I had to make up for it.

We did talk a bit about the good old days. We talked about the cousins who weren’t there, one, a scientist who was doing pretty well. Another, a doctor somewhere in the midlands of England. Another, my sister. And I was going to join them overseas, except, unlike my sister and the doctor, I would never earn the title of Dr.

I was the only guy around, same as it was when we were growing up, and we used to meet up on Sunday afternoons. The “eminent” scientist was also a guy, but he wasn’t available. We had a generally good time.

I have to remember that for 1-2 years, my life has been leading up to this, what I am doing today. Most of that time, there was a lot of lugging around a notebook and going to the nearest Ya Kun, plonking down either $2 for a big kopi, or $4 for a full breakfast set. And it was always a little too noisy to study properly. Something happened in 2008, and what happened was the transition from paper to e-reader. Except that I didn’t use an e-reader. I used a laptop and it was a very heavy e-reader. I was thinking to myself over and over again – wow, last year in Singapore, last year in Singapore.

I’m not sure I’ll ever fully adjust to life in the states. I think I was happy about leaving my work, happy about the fact that that enterprise had come to an end. But I missed a lot of the other things about Singapore: the people, the food, the places. “Mexico” is a little sterile.

I didn’t always have a good relationship with those cousins, even though this was back in primary school. My mother was the only English educated one of the lot, and I’m the one who sucks the most at Chinese. Everybody speaks English at work now, so we all speak English to each other. But I always stood out for being an English speaker, and a guy.

They are a strange bunch. Of the 4 elder cousins, only the scientist is married. The other 3 – they don’t look ugly, far from it. But they never had the temperament for marriage. And much as I envied them in their childhood for having such a happy time playing with each other – with dolls – I don’t envy their adulthood, which for 2 of them still involves playing with each other and their dolls. Well then again I was a music junkie in my teens and that hasn’t changed. I used to envy what I thought was their more idyllic teenage years, but I don’t envy their adulthood. It just seemed like so much shopping, doing of hair, gossiping about colleagues – I don’t know if they were just letting their hair down or if they were really happy to do all this bimbo stuff.

Later on, I drove one of those cousins back home. She was a good person, the friendliest among the lot, we talked quite a bit. She told me about the quirks of her brother the scientist. I sent her up to her place in Hougang. For some reason, after all these late nights out, I usually think about the van driving its way down ghostly, almost deserted streets after midnight, making its weary way home – except that home was probably an empty house. Your Ang Mo Kio Ave 5, your Buangkok Greens, you Yio Chu Kang Roads.

We were both entering middle age. For all intents and purposes, 3 of my older cousins have expired body clocks, and are destined to be childless. That cousin of mine enjoyed playing with my youngest cousin so much when they were kids – how did she end up not having kids? Anyway I don’t know why but it always did seem that middle age was about that van making its weary way home after a long night out.

After I dropped her off, I pulled into a carpark, parked the van and slept in it. I only woke at 5, and was lucky not to have a parking ticket. And after that, it was off to the Salvation Army drop off point to donate a lot of useless stuff that had piled up at home. After college, after moving house 4 times in 4 years, I finally learnt that you do not keep your physical possessions forever. You should only have a few souvenirs with you, everything else is expendable. (I have moved house 10 times in my life, at last count).


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