Here’s the thing about being single: it’s all fun, frivolity and sunshine when you’re with your friends bar-hopping, eating out, settling down at the movies, and gossiping into the night. But when the chips are down, you know who the people most important in your life are when you’re laid low with an illness.
It crept up on us quietly like, to use Saffy’s immortal phrase, a pervert in a change-room. One minute, we were happily dashing about Orchard Road in the morning, inhaling a rojak in the evening, and the next, we were having a close and very personal encounter with the insides of a toilet bowl.
“Saffy, please hurry!” Amanda moaned as she leaned against the bathroom door. From behind it, we could hear Saffy retching while crying.
“God, it’s awful!” she wailed. “How did this happen?”
Amanda’s chest heaved as she threw open the bathroom door and rushed in, pushed Saffy aside and threw up.
“Oww,” Saffy said feebly as she curled up into a ball on the bathroom floor.
A warning gurgle in my stomach made me leave my place in the queue and I waddled hurriedly to the toilet in the maid’s bathroom at the back of the flat where I crouched, my head feverish and pounding with pain, and praying to die soon.
No one came to rescue us. Sharyn said stoutly over the phone that she was looking after her 75 year old post-stroke mother and she wasn’t going to risk it. Saffy’s boyfriend Bradley was away on a business trip. Our maid Ah Chuan said she had three houses to clean, but said she would leave us some soup at the door. Even Pooch, my beloved adopted mongrel dog, had been banished to our neighbour Lydia Kumarasamy.
From her bed, Amanda called me on the handphone and said that the way we were being treated, we might as well have leprosy, to which Saffy said, via conference call, that she wished she had leprosy because at least then maybe her head would drop off and stop hurting so much.
This all took place at 10 pm on a Saturday evening, a full three hours after our fateful encounter with that rojak. At 10.05pm, our stomachs turned over. Which is how we found ourselves sitting on the loo amidst thunderous explosions and toxic fumes and feeling even more sorry for ourselves.
We would take turns in the two toilets, crawling out of bed, one after the other, and then crawling back in, utterly defeated. At one stage, Saffy could be heard to moan, “How is it possible that it’s still coming out of me? I only had a few bites of rojak!”
“You had two plates, Saffy!” Amanda croaked.
“Oh, shut up, Amanda!”
Much later, when it was all over, Amanda said it was a miracle of sheer good luck that she’d remembered to stock up on toilet paper the day before at Cold Storage. “What if we’d run out? Can you imagine?” she wondered to the world at large.
Saffy said she’d never felt more alone in her life. And when Pooch returned to the flat, I scooped him up and hugged him tightly.
Of course, the whole sorry episode had two important consequences. One was that as soon as she could walk again in a straight line, Amanda marched down to the rojak stall and told the poor bewildered auntie that if any of us got sick ever again, she would feel the full force of a Harvard law degree. We’ve been getting free rojak ever since.
The second is that Saffy has been ruthlessly editing some friends out of her life. “Not even a phone call or a text message!” she said, her bosom trembling, as she deleted numbers from her handphone. “I could be dead for all they knew or cared! And to think I actually gave them two hundred bucks for their wedding angpow! Do you think I could ask for the money back?” she wondered.
Amanda said to me it was a good thing we’d all been sick together, otherwise our phone numbers would probably have been deleted as well. “Can you imagine?” she asked for the second time.
Saffy says it just goes to show that, when you come right down to it, despite the stats on Facebook, you can really only have a handful of good friends. They’re the ones who leave you chicken soup at the door. Or the ones who will happily dog sit for you. And they’re especially the ones who will move aside so that you can share the toilet bowl.