Sharyn rang me at work the other day. She was in a state of mild excitement.
“Aiyoh!” she began by way of greeting. “How you live with her, ah?”
I cradled the phone in the crook of my neck as I kept typing. “Who?”
“Your Saffy, lah!” Sharyn barked.
I was instantly bored with the conversation. “I’m very busy, Sharyn,” I began, but, as these things do, I found myself a little bit intrigued. “What’s she done now?”
For a month or so now, Saffy has been suffering a severe case of constipation on account of her usual fried bee-hoon vendor going off on her annual holiday.
For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with Saffy’s history of gastro-intestinal woes, after many years of trial and error, she’s discovered that the only thing that keeps her regular in the mornings is a plate of fried bee-hoon from this particular bee-hoon stall down the road. No one knows quite what it is that the auntie puts into her wok, but whatever it is, it works like a charm on Saffy’s bowels.
“Maybe she puts in a mild laxative?” we once speculated. Admittedly, we were, at the time, at a pool party and we were blind drunk. But even the next day, through a painful hangover haze, the idea that the auntie was slipping a splash of Senokot into every portion of fried bee-hoon intrigued us.
“But it doesn’t affect the rest of us,” Amanda said. “At least, I don’t think it does, I’ve always been so regular!”
Saffy’s formidable chest expanded. “All I know is that if I skip even a day of that bee-hoon, I’ll be stuck. Literally!”
So, in anticipation of the auntie going off on her holiday, Saffy had started stockpiling packets of bee-hoon in our freezer.
“I can’t believe hawker vendors actually take holidays,” she grumbled as she opened the freezer to inspect her stash in much the same way a Colombian drug lord surveys the cash and gold in his office safe. “Whoever heard of such a stupid thing?”
Our friend Mark from London stayed with us for a week recently and he must have discovered Saffy’s stash because when she came home from an overseas work trip and opened the freezer the next morning, the entire supply was gone.
A full fifteen minutes of indiscriminate blaming followed – “I did not eat your stupid bee-hoon!” Amanda said hotly – before it dawned on everyone who the culprit was.
“Oh my God!” Saffy moaned. “How could he?”
“Well, how was he to know?” I pointed out.
“Seriously, what am I going to do? I need that bee-hoon! Nothing else works! I’ve tried every single stall on this island!”
That was three days ago, and Saffy’s been blocked up the entire time. And as if that sad state of intestinal trauma isn’t bad enough, her constipation has been accompanied by epic farting.
“Honestly, Saf!” Amanda said in the middle of dinner.
Saffy looked up miserably from her rojak. “What? It’s just a fart! And anyway, it’s only lightly scented, so stop making such a fuss about something so natural!”
“Please take a laxative!” Amanda begged. “Put us out of our misery!”
Saffy was indignant. “I love how you keep making this about you when I’m the one who is chronically blocked up! All this rojak is turning into concrete inside me!”
Amanda said if that image didn’t put us all off rojak, she didn’t know what would. Which is why the next day, she instructed Sharyn to take Saffy to Eu Yan San to look for a natural remedy.
“The Chinese invented gunpowder and silk. Surely, we must have also solved the problem of constipation!” she reasoned.
Sharyn reported that the first thing Saffy said to the herbalist at Eu Yan San in Paragon was, “I haven’t been to the loo in days and I am also very gassy.”
Apparently, the elderly auntie stared at Saffy blankly. Clearly, this was not the sort of thing the regular Eu Yan San customer might say.
“Would it help if your diagnosis if you sniffed one of my farts?” Saffy offered. “Maybe you could diagnose something off that?”
I nearly dropped the phone. “She did not say that!”
On the other end of the line, Sharyn sighed. “Hai-yah, why I make dis up? Where got people say such thing, one? In Eu Yan San, some more! Aiyoh!”
Saffy doesn’t know what the fuss is about. “Honestly, if you can’t say it to a TCM herbalist, who can you say it to?”
Amanda said that would make a great tagline for Eu Yan San’s next corporate branding exercise.