These days, everyone is a friend. Meet a random stranger in an office meeting, and suddenly, they’ll be sending you a friend request on Facebook. Snap a picture of your lunchtime char kway teow and suddenly even your cleaning lady is hearting you on Instagram. Everyone wants to be your friend and before you know it, you find yourself endlessly checking your profile to see how many people are following you on Twitter.
But here’s the thing. The reality is, you really only have a handful of friends. If you’re lucky, you’ll use up all five fingers on your right hand counting them. Don’t believe me? Then, get sick.
It’s only when you’re sick that you really get a full measure of who your real friends are. And, by the way, friends are not the ones who say: “Take care, babe!” on your Facebook page and then go back to posting selfies of themselves on a beach or at a bar.
No, sirree. Those aren’t friends.
Friends are the ones who call to see how you are and if there’s anything they can do for you. Friends are the ones who immediately show up at your doorstep with fresh, home-made chicken noodle soup and a stack of gossip magazines to keep you company as you lie in bed moaning pathetically to yourself.
“Wah liau, is that Saffy?” Sharyn asked the other day when she showed up in the little flat I share with Saffy and Amanda. Behind her was Siti, Sharyn’s very harassed Indonesian maid, burdened with several tiffin carriers and a pink plastic bag of magazines.
From the direction of Saffy’s bedroom came piteous moans, interrupted occasionally by the sound of a phlegmy hacking cough.
“Yep, that’s her,” I said, and sneezed wetly into a handful of soggy tissues.
Sharyn backed up a step. “Hah?! You o-so sick, ah? Alamak, how like that?”
“Don’t get me started, Sharyn. We’ve been like this for a week now. It’s just not going away! Amanda gave it to us and she’s been coughing for two weeks!”
“Aiyoh, you don’t give to me, ok? I cannot afford to get sick. My eldest boy just recover from the flu and now my useless husband fall sick. Ay, Siti, why you just stand there? Quickly, take everything into the kitchen, lah! Aiyoh, everything must tell you what to do, ah?”
“Yes, mum,” Siti replied meekly as she drifted off into the kitchen, leaving Sharyn with a frown as she tried to work out which part of her scolding Siti was saying “Yes, mum” to.
Just then, Saffy’s voice came floating out. “Shazz, is that you?”
“Yah, it’s me!” Sharyn called out cheerfully. “Wait, ah!”
She rummaged inside her handbag and whipped out a face-mask and goggles which she proceeded to put on.
“Uhm, why the goggles, Sharyn?” I asked finally.
“All the virus in the water droplets in the air, mah!” came the muffled reply. “Get into the eyes, also sick, what!”
“Oh,” I said weakly.
“Siti, hurry up with the soup!” Sharyn barked as she marched into Saffy’s room, fully armed against any possible contagion. You almost got the sense if she’d remembered to pack a rain-coat, she’d have worn it too.
Later that night, Saffy, Amanda and I were at the dining table sipping the last of Sharyn’s outrageously good chicken noodle soup when the doorbell rang.
“It’s only me!” Barney Chen growled from the other side of the door. “Don’t open the door! I’m not coming in as I’ve got a hot date tomorrow night and I cannot afford to be sick! I got my mother to make you guys some fish congee. It’s still warmso you can eat it now if you want to!”
“God,” Amanda coughed. “It’s so unfair he doesn’t fancy me! Not a single one of my boyfriends has called to see how I am, let alone brought me fish congee!”
Saffy poked her head out the front door to retrieve Barney’s containers. “And he’s also brought the latest issue of Vogue! The American edition!”
Amanda clapped her hands. “Oooh, the one with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West?”
“Seriously,” Saffy said. “Amanda’s right. Why can’t we ever meet men like Barney Cheng? Besides the fact that we’re not men, I mean?”
Amanda coughed wetly. “Excuse me, but you’ve got Bradley!”
“Uh huh, and where is he now?”
“Uhm, on an overseas trip in America?”
Saffy sniffed. “Pitiful excuse! If he really loved me, he’d have flown straight back to look after me!”
“You should put that up on Twitter,” Amanda advised as she reached for the Vogue. “It’ll go viral!”