Thursday, January 17, 2019

Cold Front

It’s been so hot lately. Every day, I poke my head out the window to scan the sky, hoping for the slightest sign of a dark gathering of rain clouds. And every day, I see the same bright blue dome and shimmer of heat that promises another scorching day. 
            Of course, it hasn’t helped that the unreliable air-con unit in our lounge room decided to pack up again. As did the one in Saffy’s bedroom.
            “What is wrong with these machines?” Amanda said the other day as she stood under the unit in the lounge, looking up at it with the kind of dissatisfaction you normally associate with the arrival of the scrawny male stripper at the bachelorette party. “This is the third time this stupid thing has conked out.”
            “I couldn’t sleep last night,” Saffy moaned as she lolled listlessly on the sofa, trying to find a cool spot. “Even with the fan on full blast, I woke up in a pool of sweat!”
            I pointed out to Amanda that it’s been two days since we rang the air-con man. “Where is he?”
            “He’s coming on Friday.”
            Saffy struggled up onto her elbows, her forehead shiny with sweat. “Friday! But it’s only Wednesday today. Why is he only coming on Friday?”
            “Do I look like Mavis from Panasonic Service Centre?” Amanda snapped. “How should I know? That was the only time she had when I called up.”
            “Did you tell her it was an emergency?”
            “I did and she said every client who calls her up tells her it’s an emergency,” Amanda said. Apparently, you could tell that Mavis was sick and tired of other people’s cooling emergencies. 
            Saffy collapsed onto her back. “Oh. My. God. You know, I can’t stand it another night. I’m just going to have sleep with you tonight, Jas…”
            “…Amanda,” Saffy went on smoothly. She went on in a rush as Amanda opened her mouth. “No really, you can’t say no. I have an interview for a job promotion on Friday and I need to look my best. I simply cannot afford to have bags under my eyes! You don’t want it to be your fault I didn’t get the promotion, do you?”
            Later that afternoon, Amanda texted me in a major mood. “I don’t know why you don’t sleep with her!”
            “I’m embarrassed. I wear a mouth-guard and drool in my sleep,” I replied. Hand on my heart, both true. 
            Needless to say, Saffy’s sleepover didn’t go too well. Because the next morning, both girls emerged from Amanda’s bedroom looking like sorority girls who just woke up inside a trash bin with no memory of the last 18 hours. Amanda went into the bathroom to pee and when she emerged, she said, “I look like a mug shot.”
            Saffy slumped into a chair at the dining table where I was having breakfast. She reached for my coffee and took a noisy slurp. 
            “I’m going to lose that promotion,” she sighed into the cup. 
            I chewed my muesli slowly and looked from one to the other. “But the air-con worked, right?” I asked.
            “I didn’t sleep a wink. Amanda snores like a bulldog in heat!” Saffy reported. 
            Amanda stiffened. “I don’t see how that’s humanly possible since I didn’t sleep a wink either! Because you talk in your sleep!” She turned to me. “She talks. And it’s not random sentences, either. It’s a complete conversation with both sides speaking.”
            I frowned. “What…”
            “As in, she speaks one sentence, and then she replies to herself and then she replies to herself replying to herself! It’s the craziest thing!”
            Saffy’s bosom inflated. “I do no such thing!”
            Amanda rolled her eyes. “Oh, yeah? Then how do I know that you love it when your boyfriend Bradley sticks the last two fingers of his right hand into…”
            Saffy’s hands flew to her mouth as her eyes widened in horror. 
            Amanda pursed her lips in satisfaction as she went on. “That’s right! And as he’s doing it, you say, ‘Who’s your hot sassy bi…’…”
            “Shut up!” Saffy screamed in panic. “Ohmygodohmygod!”
            Amanda glowed with righteousness. “All night!” she told Saffy. “All night, I had to listen to you replaying your dirty sex talk with your boyfriend! And it went on for hours!”
            Mortified, Saffy immediately got on the phone with Mavis at Panasonic and spent an hour begging her to move the repair appointment up. Eventually, in desperation, she told Mavis about her inadvertent sleep sex-chat to Amanda. Saffy says Mavis must have blabbed because when the aircon guy showed up that afternoon, “He kept twitching his fingers and giving me funny looks!”   

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Hot Topic

Saffy says she’s always wondered why fashion retailers in Singapore bother with their whole spiel about their spring/summer and fall/winter collections. 
            “For starters, we’re not American. So, it’s ‘autumn’, not ‘fall’!” she said the other day as we trailed Amanda around Louis Vuitton like beggars who’d accidentally wandered onto the set of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’. 
            “Unless you’re a Singaporean radio DJ with a fake American accent,” I pointed out.
            Saffy’s bosom inflated with enthusiasm. “Yes, that’s a very good point. I mean, we’ve discussed this since forever, but really, what is with that accent? And they can’t even keep it up consistently. I was in the taxi yesterday? And the radio was on, and this DJ was rolling her ‘r’s like she was from east LA but she kept slipping in a Singaporean ‘right’?”
            By then, I’d lost interest in the conversation because I suddenly remembered where I was. “Oh God, why are we here?” I moaned, my entire spine going soft as I looked around for a place to sit. “We can’t afford a button in this shop!”
            Just at that moment, Amanda sailed past with an armful of clothes, heading for the changing room. “Please behave. You guys are embarrassing me!”
            Saffy eyed the pile of clothes. “Seriously, you’re going to buy all that?”
            “Not buy. Try!”
            “But why?” Saffy pressed. “Thick coats and sweaters. Where are you going to go in them? Katong Shopping Mall?” At which she and I fell about laughing. 
            Amanda floated up closer to us, her head barely visible over the pile. “Seriously? If you guys can’t behave, you should go!”
            Saffy perked up, swiveled on her heels and headed for the door. “We’ll be at Muji! C’mon, Jason.”
            “But I want to have ice-cream!” I whined.
            “The cafĂ© there has cake!”
            Later, as we wandered the pristine, calm setting at Muji, fingering the cotton tee-shirts and stroking the spines of the lovely notebooks, Saffy said she just didn’t understand how Louis Vuitton made any money.
            “I mean,” she began as she ran her fingers over the soft fabric of the bedsheets, “who buys anything there? Everyone I know who has an LV bag and wallet has just come back from Bangkok, so we know where their stuff came from. I don’t know anybody who buys their books. So, what does that leave us? The clothes and shoes. How does that even pay their rent?”
            “I think Amanda pays LV’s rent,” I said. 
            “And Prada’s, I think,” Saffy said. She bent over to sniff the scented vapour of the diffusers. “Last weekend, she came back with three huge shopping bags. She buys all this stuff, but all she ever seems to wear or carry is Gucci!”
            “She’s paying their rent too,” I told her. 
            “One of the things she bought was this gorgeous sweater, but she’s not going anywhere cold,” Saffy went on.
            Which reminded me of one my aunts, Su-ling, who spent so much time in Switzerland as a child that she only ever felt comfortable if the ambient temperature was below 12 degrees. So, you can imagine how trapped and suffocated she felt when she returned to Singapore where the only time the temperature hits 12 is in the cinema, or on the 105 bus to Toa Payoh. 
            One day, when she was at Fendi in Rome and was so taken by the fur coats on sale that she bought a full length mink sable and then spent the next twenty years trying to hide its existence from her husband. 
            “How did that work out?” Saffy asked.
            “She kept the coat in a commercial cold storage facility.”
            “That’s a thing?”
            I shrugged. “If you have enough money, anything is a thing.”
            “Well, it seems like such a waste to keep something so expensive locked away,” Saffy said.
            Not so much, as it turned out. Her husband, my uncle Raymond, was always away for work. The minute the chauffeur drove him out of the driveway towards the airport, Auntie Su-ling would get the maid to collect the Fendi fur, crank the air-con down to the lowest setting and then spend the next few days walking around her Binjai mansion rugged up in 70s chic. 
            And when she died a few years ago, she was buried in the Fendi. “It was an open casket as well!” my mother reported after the funeral. “I felt hot just looking at her!”
            “She looked fabulous, though,” Auntie Wai-ling said. “That woman always had style.”
            Saffy says I’m not to repeat this story to Amanda. “It’ll give her ideas.” 

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Class System

Every January, Saffy and Amanda ring in the new year with a vow to get fit and healthy. For a few days, they get out the juicer and make a mess in the kitchen as they whizz up oddly coloured vegetable and fruit combos including, one memorable year, a carrot and bean sprout mix.
            “Eeee,” said Sharyn when she was presented with a glass of it. “Care-lot and dau-gay? Are you sure or not? So disgusting!”
            She took a sniff and immediately gagged, a sight that made Amanda push her drink aside. Saffy took a big swig and spent the next ten minutes in the toilet throwing up. For the rest of the January, every time she saw bean sprouts at the hawker centre, she dry-retched.
            This year, the girls got a second wind round about August and decided to try again, though this time they decided to do something considerably less damaging to the stomach. The solution? A six month membership with Como Shambhala.
            “The studio is amazing,” Amanda gushes to everyone. “They only do yoga and pilates and everybody smells fabulous!”
            “It’s hideously expensive!” Saffy told Sharyn, who, being a true blue Singaporean, immediately asked, “How ex?”
            “Four figures!” Saffy whispered, a little embarrassed by her unaccustomed profligacy. “But low four figures!”
            Sharyn sighed. “Wah lau! Four figure for six month? Siao, ah, you two!”
            Saffy bristled defensively. “Well, it’s their unlimited package, Shazz. You can go to as many classes as you like!”
            “And how many you go to so far?”
            Saffy paused. “Well…you know, I’ve been so busy at work, and…”
            “How many?” Sharyn pressed.
            Saffy’s bosom inflated. “God, you’re so bossy! Three, alright? I’ve been to three classes. But they were each ninety minutes, which is longer than the usual one hour, so that’s really, uhm, like…” she paused and struggled to make the math stretch. “Like…five classes!”
            “Ay, nearly two month or-redi and you only do three class, ah? Wah, so waste money!”
            “Amanda hasn’t don’t that many either!” said Saffy, Stool Pigeon of the Year.
            When this bit of treachery was later reported to Amanda, she stiffened. “Excuse me, but I go at least three times a week! This week, I’ve been four times, and it’s only Thursday!”
            “How you find it?” Sharyn asked. “I go online and look at picture. Wah, so cheem the way dey describe the yoga! Got power this, lah, got hatha that, lah. Wah!”
            “I did this advanced class the other day?” Amanda said, her eyes shining. “The teacher is mega hot! He has the most amazing body and he hides it all under loose clothing. If I was running the place, I’d make sure he had to wear short shorts and a tight singlet.”
            Saffy clapped her hands. “Oooh, I know the one you mean! They should make him teach with his shirt off!”
Amanda moaned. “Oh my God! Can you imagine?”
“I did his class too once,” Saffy went on, “but I didn’t realise how advanced it was till he said, ‘Ok, let’s do the blah-de-blah-asana’ and I was like, ‘What did he say?’ And suddenly everyone went from a crow straight into a handstand!”
            Apparently, everyone who takes Mega Hot Yoga Teacher’s advanced class is a freak of nature. 
“I think it’s a prerequisite that you have no bones,” Saffy told Sharyn. “There was this little Japanese girl next to me. You could tell she only eats a lettuce leaf for dinner because she looks like she would just blow over if you breathed on her. But when the teacher said we were doing the yak-de-yak-asana next, she just spread her legs to 180 degrees and folded her whole body forward onto the floor! It was so unnatural!” 
Sharyn, who can barely touch the top of her knees, was impressed. “Ay, I ask you, what is this blah-de-blah-asa-what-ah?”
“Oh who knows? Every other yoga class I’ve ever been to will say ‘headstand’ or ‘cow pose’, but they’re so strict at Como, they only seem to use the Hindi term which means I have to see what other people are doing first before I try it.”
“Wah, so cheem, hor?” Sharyn repeated.
“Tell it!”
Amanda says she is going to make friends with the Japanese girl. “I need to learn how to do the splits, too! It’s such a useful life-skill!”
Saffy is unconvinced. “If you had a boyfriend, it might be,” she said the other day. “Otherwise, what would be the point?”
Sharyn says it’s better than nothing, especially if you’re paying a low four figure sum for it. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Sweep Stakes

Saffy’s latest gripe is that just as she was coming to terms with how expensive the iPhone X is, along comes the iPhone XS to blow up that world view. 
            “O. M. G!” she said the other day. “It costs like a milliondollars! Who do they think is going to buy it?”
            “Lots of people,” said Amanda, as she reached for her iPhone X to call her broker to place an order for another lot of Apple shares. “And when they do, my shares will go up in value and I’ll get me one as well as a bonus.”
            Saffy turned to me, her bosom inflated to a dangerous volume. “Are you seeing and hearing this?”
            I shrugged.
            “You,” said Saffy, pointing a chipped fingernail at Amanda, “are the reason why poor people all over the world are revolting! You’re sucking the life out of all of the working class!”
            Amanda arched a perfectly drawn eyebrow. “Says the woman who just got off a business class flight from Dubai!”
            Never one to stay focused on any subject for any length of time, Saffy turned pink. “Oh, Emirates!” she moaned. “Seriously, that was the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me in my entire life! Well, except for that one time my boyfriend Brian did this thing with his little finger? Oh my God!”
            “Speaking of amazing, how are you finding our new robot vacuum cleaner?”
            Saffy moaned again.
            A few weeks ago, when our cleaning lady Ah Chuan went off on her annual holiday back to Malaysia, Amanda said she was far too busy to lift a mop, never mind scrub a toilet. So, she went online and bought one of those round vacuum cleaners that hums around the house sweeping up dust. 
            The first one we got earlier this year had literally blown a fuse one day and stopped dead in its tracks. What got Saffy mad was that it had only done half the flat when it died, but because she’d not been paying attention, she didn’t know which half was still dirty. 
All of which meant that she had to get out the Kao Magic Mop and do the whole flat all over again, which she said was such a waste of time. “I could be watching Dr Pimple Popper now,” she muttered as she crouched under the sofa, her arm working the mop like a piston. 
            The minute she laid eyes on our new LG Home-Bot Turbo+, she declared she was in love. “It’s way better than that Chinese vacuum we had before,” she tells everyone. 
The other morning, I found her telling Uncle Yuan, our aging security guard downstairs, how life-changing the Home-Bot was. “It was always chatting to me in Chinese and I had no idea what it was saying! I always felt like I was in a Crystal Jade restaurant! Was it telling me it needed to be changed? Or that it had lost its wi-fi connection? I didn’t know! So stressful!”
            You could tell poor Uncle Yuan was completely lost, because he kept nodding helplessly. Every so often, he said, “Issit?” 
Much later, when he caught me coming home, he said, “Ay, your old maid from China, issit? I thought Ah Chuan was from Muah?”
The other feature of the Home-Bot that Saffy has fallen in love with is its built-in camera, which can be linked to the handphone. All of which means that she has spent valuable hours at work, remotely piloting the machine around the flat. Endlessly. From room to room. Like Wall-E in the tropics.
“But what are you looking at?” Amanda asked. “There’s no one home!”
Saffy shrugged. “I don’t know. I just love the fact that I cansnoop around my own flat. And if someone does break in, I’d be there to see it! If only the camera can actually takephotos!”
            Against her better judgement, Amanda asked why. 
            “Well, if your husband was cheating on you, you’d have hard evidence you could give to the divorce lawyer! Oooh, LG should also put in a microphone, so that if there’s a break-in, you can say, ‘The police are on their way!’ while you’re walking to lunch!”
            Which then led to Saffy’s other brain-wave that LG should install a motion sensor that triggers the camera and sends an alert to the handphone if something moves in the flat.
            When she heard this, Sharyn, who is still in post-Ghost Month mode, asked, “What if it can see ghost? Den how?”
            Amanda says that would make a truly terrifying Korean horror movie.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Seeing Things

The other day at breakfast, Sharyn suddenly observed how pleased she was that Ghost Month has finally come to an end. 
As comments go, it’s not the most head-turning thing the woman has ever uttered, but still, it did cause Amanda to pause her spoonful of chicken congee halfway to her mouth. Her eyes swiveled towards to Saffy, who merely shrugged.
Sharyn, who raised three children and therefore notices everything, noticed Amanda’s look. “Is true, what!” she said. “Every Ghost Month, I get visitor! Damn sian!”
Amanda put down her spoon. “Wait, are you talking about your perio…”
Sharyn waved her hand in exasperation. “Aiyoh, no lah! Got ghost visit me!”
Amanda’s eyes popped. “Like in ‘The Nun’?”
“Not so scary,” Sharyn offered, “but same same!”
Amanda stuffed a clenched fist to her mouth. “Shut up!”
According to Sharyn, every year during Ghost Month, she gets at least one night of disturbed sleep when someone – or to be precise, something – physically molests her and not, in her words, in a good way.
The first time, she says, she woke up to the sensation of someone shaking her shoulder, as if to say, ‘Wake up!’
“At first, I thot is my husband or maybe my chil-ren, but den I remember, ay?, dey are all at my mudder-in-law, so cannot be dem!”
“Oh my God!” Amanda moaned. “Then what happened?”
“Naah-ting!” Sharyn drawled. “I keep my eyes shut and say a few Hail Mare-lee, and then he stop shaking me.”
            The next year, she said she woke up to the sensation that there was someone at the end of her bed. “And den, hor, I feel he get on the bed and crawl up over my body! Aiyoh!”
            Amanda turned to Saffy who was still casually slurping up her zhwee kueh. “How are you not reacting to this?” she demanded. 
            Through a full mouth, Saffy mumbled, “I’ve heard it all before. Why do you think my bedroom is covered with crucifixes and Buddha statues? I couldn’t sleep for days when she first told me this!”
            “And den, one year,” Sharyn went on, “I wake up and someone is sitting on my chest and I cannot breathe! Lagi cannot open my eye or scream for help. I so scare! In my mind, I shout and shout! Den sah-dun-lee, he go away. But wah! My heart! Tum tum tum!”
            “And this happens every year?” Amanda asked. As Saffy later remarked, if her face had been any whiter, SKII would have come calling to make her their newest spokesperson. 
            “Some year, no one disturb me, but most year, got! Dis year, dohn have, but I tink maybe is because I go to St Ignatius every day for a month before Ghost Month and ask for blessing!”
            “You know, I always thought you were Buddhist!” Saffy said.
            Sharyn shrugged. “I am, lah, but I try every ting! Last year, I go to Kuan Yin temple for blessing. This year, I go to St Ignatius. Next year, maybe I go to Sri Mariannam!”
            Later, back in the apartment, it was all Amanda could talk about. 
            “I swear, if a ghost visited me every year, I would just die!”
            “So would I,” Saffy said. “I know they can’t really hurt you, but still, it’s all so creepy! And I love how Sharyn is so practical about the whole thing. ‘Oh, this year, I got blessed at St Ignatius! Oh, next year, I’m getting blessed at Sri Mariannam!’ I mean, seriously, that woman is my absolute hero!” Saffy’s eyes shone with admiration. 
            A thought occurred to Amanda. “So have you had any visitors? During Ghost Month? You never talk about it, so I’m assuming all the charms in your bedroom are working?”
            Saffy knocked twice on our dining table. “Touch wood, no! But I have to say that they may be blocking not just ghosts, but also potential boyfriends! I’ve just realized that I’ve not had any luck dating since I started putting up all those crucifixes!”
            “I don’t think crucifixes repel potential boyfriends, Saf,” Amanda told her. 
            Saffy was unconvinced. “You don’t know that. I mean, who’s to say that boyfriends aren’t really bad spirits? That last guy I dated? Tim whatshisface? Three great dates and then suddenly, he doesn’t reply to any of my messages. He basically ghosted me!”
            “Well, I don’t have anything in my room and I’venot had any dates recently!” Amanda pointed out.
            “Our rooms are next to each other. Maybe my charms are so powerful, they’re affecting your love life, too!”
            “Wah lau!” Sharyn said when she heard this.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Like and Cher

Well, clearly, this one is a historical post, but just pretend it's current affairs, ok?:

News that Cher is about to drop an album of ABBA covers has been greeted by my friend Barney Chen with the kind hysteria one normally reserves for the sighting of, say, Cher’s first scene in Mamma Mia 2.
            “September 28!” he said the other day at Toast Box. Fresh from a two hour work out at the gym, he was looking impossibly buff as set down a bowl of ten eggs that he then proceeded to crack open, carefully separating the whites from the yolks. 
            “How are you eating that stuff?” Amanda said frowning.
            “Honey, you don’t think I look like this…” he paused to clumsily gesture one hand, currently clutching half an egg shell, up and down his torso, “…by eating that, do you?” With his head, he nodded towards her stack of kaya toast. “It’s all about the protein, my darling!”
He noticed Saffy watching his biceps bounce up and down beneath his tight black tee-shirt. “You can touch them, if you like.”
            Saffy shook herself out of her hypnotized state. “It’s just such a shame I’m not your type,” she sighed. 
            Barney leaned over and laid a hand the size of a Subway sandwich over Saffy’s. “Yes, it’s a shame you’re not Bradley Cooper…Speaking of, oh my God, have you seen the new trailer for ‘A Star is Born’ trailer?...”
            “Seriously,” Amanda exclaimed, “have you always been like this? It’s like you’re on speed or something! Rewind, rewind! What’s this about September 28?”
            Barney sucked in his breath and put down his bowl of ten egg-whites. “That’s when Cher’s new album is being released! Can you imagine it? ABBA covers! Cher and ABBA! It’s like all my Christmases are happening at the same time!”
            “All your Christmases happening at the same time would be if Cher and Barbra Streisand did a duet of ‘I Will Survive’ and Bette Midler was singing back-up,” I said reaching for another tile of kaya toast. 
            “That would just killme,” Barney promised.
            Later that day, back in our apartment, Amanda put on the soundtrack to the new “Mamma Mia 2” soundtrack, which was basically just an excuse for her and Saffy to dance and sing at the top of their lungs in the middle of our lounge. 
            Eventually, they collapse onto the sofa, eyes shining, faces flushed, and voices hoarse from the multiple key changes in ‘Dancing Queen’.
            “You know,” Amanda said, breathing heavily, “they just don’t write songs like that anymore.”
            “Nope,” Saffy said, her face a bright shade of pink.
            “I mean, I tried listening to this guy Troye Sivan the other day? Because Apple Music said I should? All I could think of was, what is going on? What is he saying?”
            Saffy turned her head to look at Amanda. “What do you mean? It wasn’t in English?”
            “I have no idea! I couldn’t understand a word he was singing. All I kept hearing was ‘seventeen’ and everything else sounded like mumbo jumbo!”
            “Well, Sharyn’s kids introduced me to this guy called Blac Gangsta?”
“Black gangster?” Amanda said. 
“No. Blac as in black with no k, and gangster but spelt with an a!”
Amanda closed her eyes to work out the spelling. 
“It was so rude and full of swearing! All I could think of was,” Saffy went on, “do you talk like that to your mother? Seriously, I would be mortified to play that song in public!”
Amanda nodded. “Whereas you could play ‘Waterloo’ at your aunt’s funeral and it would be perfectly appropriate!” 
Sharyn, when Saffy told her about her children’s inappropriate song choices, barked out a laugh. “Not Blac Gangsta, lah, aiyoh! Is call Blac Youngsta!”
“Oh my God, you’ve heard him?!” Saffy shrieked. 
“Aiyah, nowaday, ah, my chil-ren oh-nee listen to this kind of music!”
“But he’s so…so rude!”
Sharyn shrugged. “What to do? They say they like, so they listen, lor! Early on when I complain, my mudder say, when she young dat time, she love the Beatle, but her mudder say, why must listen to ang moh with long hair and take drug? So I tink, yah hor…every generation sure got people sing song that their parent dohn-like, one. Is liddat, lah! As long as dey go to university and become doctor can, orredi. Who care if they like Blac Youngsta!”
            Saffy’s bosom puffed up. “Well, I don’t get it,” she said firmly. “I had to have a shower after listening to two tracks! And not in a good way!”

Thursday, December 06, 2018

A Shred of Evidence

In my lifetime, I’ve been called many things by unkind people. Usually, they say things like, “You cannot be that dumb! Is that really the best you can do?” or “You are ungrateful! If your grandmother were alive today, she’d turn in her grave.”
            To which I usually say, “Leave me alone, Mother.”
            But the one thing no one has ever called me is a hoarder. Because I don’t hoard. Long before Marie Kondo came along to tell me to throw something out if I bought something new, I was already living her mantra. Hell, I could have written that book of hers because nothing gives me a bigger thrill than to pull something off a shelf and pop it down the rubbish chute. 
            “Where’s that magazine that was on the coffee table?” Saffy once asked.
            “You mean that two-year-old copy of 8DAYS? I threw it out!”
            “Oh my God! I was saving it for that hot Shirtless Guy of the Week!” she shrieked.
            “I cut it out, laminated it, and it’s in your bedside drawer next to your electric, uhm, massager.”
            Safft turned pink and muttered, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. And will you please stop opening my drawers!”
            My bedroom looks like no one lives in it, it’s so empty of unnecessary personal belongings. I have no duplicates of anything. When I run out of shampoo, I buy a new one, unlike my flat-mates who have multiple bottles of everything.
            “I’ll never understand how you use just the one bottle of cleanser,” Amanda said the other day. 
            I was astonished. “But I have only one face. Why do I need two?” It was apparently a question that highlighted what a Neanderthal I am. 
            But the thing that still defeats me are my financial statements, receipts, tax records and bank statements. Every year, I empty my files, neatly bundle up the papers and put them away in my cupboard. Over the years, those piles have grown and multiplied. They now take up over half the shelving space.
            “It’s a fire hazard,” Saffy said the other day. “If you ever lit a match in your cupboard, this whole apartment will just blow up like a Dwayne Johnson movie!”
            “Yes, because paper has such a combustible quality!” I replied in as sarcastic a tone as I could manage. But my heart wasn’t really in it because I knew she had a point. 
            The thing is, I have no idea what to do. I can’t just throw those documents down the rubbish chute the way I would anything else. I’ve read stories about rubbish collectors selling this information to identity thieves. 
            “It’s got all my bank account details and everything!” I told Sharyn. 
She looked at me exasperated. “Aiyoh, you tink you are Bill Gate, issit? You make so little mah-ney! Who want to steal your identity? Or hack your bank data?”
“Wow, way to kick someone when he’s down!” I said. 
Sharyn shrugged. “Is true what!” She paused and gave the matter some thought. “Why you don’t buy a paper shredder?”
“I have financial records going back 15 years, Sharyn. Each year is about a foot thick and shredders do two pages a time. The last time I tried, I got to March, and the machine starting smoking!”
“Professional company, leh?”
“They want big loads, not little piles like mine!”
“And you doh wan to just trowdown the bin?”
“Nope. I’m not risking the karung guni man, either!”
“Aiyoh, how liddat?”
Leave it to Saffy to come up with the solution. That evening she burst into the flat. “It’s Ghost Month!” she announced. “Everyone is burning stuff! We’ll just wait till it’s late one night, and we’ll burn all your papers in one of those bins downstairs in the garden!”
A quiet silence settled into the room as we gave the matter some thought. 
“But,” I said eventually, “you’re supposed to burn stuff that you want to send into the afterlife to keep your ancestors company. You don’t want tax records and bills to go up into heaven! Such bad luck!”
Saffy waved her hands. “No, no! It’ll be bad luck only if we burnt the stuff when you’redead, but you’re not dead yet, so those bills will be someone else’s problem!”
I turned to Amanda for help. She shrugged. “It’s got a certain twisted logic to it.”
“Really? You think?”
“It’s that or run the nightly risk of being burned alive when your stupid tax returns catch fire!” Amanda said.
“You spend too much time talking to my mother,” I told her.