Ask anyone who’s been single a long time about what she fears most and, chances are, she will tell you (if she’s honest, or failing that, drunk) that the one thing that keeps her awake at night is the thought that she might die old and still single. And by old, she usually means 40 years of age. (Ask a teenager, and he’ll tell you old is 30. He, of course, has no idea and part of me so wants to be around with a video-cam when he hits 30.)
It’s one of the cruelties of each passing year. And it really hits home when you’re filling in your personal details on the website and you get to the bit about your birth date and you find you have to scroll down for what seems like an eternity before you get to your year of birth.
And then it occurs to you that somewhere out there, like that Linda Rondstadt song, there are actually some people who were born in, say, 1997. That was the year ‘Ally McBeal’ first aired, way before Calista Flockhart was in ‘Brothers and Sister’; Lucy Liu was a nobody; and ‘Friends’ was still a fresh TV show. Especially when you remember that Jennifer Aniston hadn’t even met, married and divorced Brad Pitt yet. For these 1997 babies, 30 isn’t going to happen till 2027, by which time, you’re going to be…
Well, the thought doesn’t even bear thinking about, really.
But then, one dark night, when it’s storming outside and you’re stuck at home watching an illegal download of ‘Flashforward’, your thoughts turn to time and what you would do if you could predict your life 6 months from now.
“I’d better not be single,” Saffy threatened. “I’ll kill myself if I’m still living with you two!”
Amanda and I looked at each other.
Saffy said, “What? Why are you looking at each other like that?”
Amanda coughed. “Well, we’re not quite sure how to break this to you,” she began gently. “It’s just that, well…”
I’m a firm believer in ripping off the metaphorical bandage. “Amanda’s being sent to her Hong Kong office to work on that case of her’s for two months, and I’m going to London for a month with my parents. On holiday. It’s going to be horrible, but they’re paying for it. So, uhm…” I trailed off in the glare of Saffy’s disbelief.
As she told her best friend Sharyn the next day, “God almighty, those two might as well have just stuffed a pillow over my face, killed me and then shoved me down the rubbish chute! How can they leave me alone for two months! What kind of inhuman people are they?”
“Aiyoh, they not your husband, what! How can you stop them from going?” Sharyn said reasonably.
Saffy puffed up. “Excuse me,” she said in a chilly tone. “You don’t go and leave your poor single flatmate alone for months on end! If I wanted to live alone, I wouldn’t have had flatmates in the first place!”
“You come stay with me, lah!” Sharyn offered brightly though, as Saffy later reported, you could tell it was only a half-hearted offer. “I’m sure she thinks I’m going to seduce Alvin!” Saffy said and added, “In his dreams!”
“It’s only for a couple of months, Saf,” Amanda said desperately recently shortly after Saffy suddenly burst into tears at the dinner table.
Saffy sniffed into her tissue. “The scary thing is that I could trip and fall in the shower and nobody would know I was dead! Nobody! And by the time the smell from my rotting body seeps out into the corridor, it will be too late!”
“Pooch will call for help!” Amanda said. “He’s very clever!”
I coughed. “Uhm, I’m sending him to a dog hotel.”
Saffy looked up. “Good idea. Because I so don’t want him around when I’m lying there dead!” she declared. “He’ll probably start snacking on me! By the time you guys come back, I’ll just be a pile of neatly sucked bones!”
Amanda looked down at her beef stew, and pushed the dish away from her. Saffy sighed. “This is just great! I’m single and about to die alone, and without having had sex in nearly 8 months! I might as well be back at home living with my parents. Where is the justice?”
That night, she fed Pooch an extra serving of dinner. “I need all the time I can get for the emergency crew to get to me!” she told him. He never even looked up from his bowl.