Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Kids Stuff

Amanda says there was a time when she very distinctly heard the tick-tock of her biological clock. Apparently, it was maddening. Every time she saw a child in a playground, or a baby in a stroller, it was like Big Ben was going off in her head.
            “Deafening!” she told me through a blocked nose the other day. Scattered around her on her bed was a snowstorm of scrunched up tissues.
            I leaned weakly against the doorframe of her bedroom and sneezed. “Not loving kidth tho much now, I geth?” I lisped.
            See, that’s the thing about the whole propaganda of children. Everybody on Facebook is forever posting happy posed pictures of their children. The kid sleeping the sleep of the innocent. The kid blowing out birthday cake candles. The kid racing along the beach. The kid dressed as a Superman at Halloween. The kid dressed in Baby Gap.
            “But what nobody ever shows,” said Saffy, her nose rubbed raw and red from constantly blowing thick pea-hued phlegm and her voice sounding just like Darth Vader’s, “is when they’re sick! Because if they did, everybody would just close down their Facebook account!”
And what nobody ever knows either is that you should never ever visit friends whose children are sick.
Last week, our friend Anne-Marie invited us over for dinner. Anne-Marie is a great cook. She makes things from scratch. Like butter. Ice-cream. And shortcrust pastry. She’s that kind of cook. So when she invites you for dinner, you go. And she throws several dinner parties a week, all while holding down a job as legal counsel at a Japanese bank in Raffles Place. In other words, Anne-Marie is the sort of woman who makes Mother Teresa look lazy.
“Well, technically Mother Teresa is dead,” Saffy pointed out in the cab, “so she’s really not doing anything.”
“I wonder what’s for dinner,” Amanda murmured while expertly applying eyeliner in a moving vehicle.
“Aaron is sick with the flu!” Anne-Marie announced as soon as she opened the door. “He got it from Missy who got it from school and I think I’m coming down with it. I hope you don’t mind…”
“What is that divine smell?” Saffy said as she brushed past Anne-Marie and headed for the kitchen.
“We’ll be fine!” Amanda purred.
I should have listened to my instincts and run for the hills. But the smell of the braised boeuf Bourgignon was like meth to a cast member of ‘Breaking Bad’. It muffled the sound of my private alarm and pulled me in.
Looking back, I realize this was probably how the Black Death started: You sat down to dinner. Specifically, you sat down to dinner with Missy and Aaron, otherwise known to history as Patients Zero and One.
             They coughed through the whole meal. I guess when you’re five and seven, it’s pointless being told to cover your mouth when you cough. I also guess if this was an episode of CSI: Tiong Bahru, you’d see the sprays of contagion misting in slow motion over the pot of boeuf Bourgignon, settling over the mound of rocket salad, and catastrophically altering the DNA structure of the white whipped cream of the Pavlova.
            Two days later, we started dropping like flies. First, a tickling at the back of the throat. Which quickly became so painful it was like swallowing razor blades. Then the fever hit, the shivering followed by sweats that soaked through the sheets. At some stage during the delirium, the hacking coughs arrived, accompanied by thick gunks of phlegm.
            Amanda got it first. Then Saffy, then me, and then our cleaning lady Ah Chuan.
            “Those pestilential children!” Amanda raged. “To think that I gave them $50 for Chinese New Year!”
            “Ungrateful wretches!” Saffy croaked from the sofa, a blanket pulled up to her chin. She later told me that she was comforted by the fact that she only gave them $12 ang pows. “And even that was probably too much!”
            Anne-Marie was mortified. “I am so sorry!” she told Amanda over the phone.
            “Whatever!” Amanda said as she tapped off the call.
            Sharyn came over with home-cooked century egg congee, and chicken soup. “Aiyah, got children like that one,” she said, patting Saffy’s damp forehead. I noticed she was wearing hospital gloves and a mask. “Dat’s why, hor, I always larf when I see pik-cher on Facebook of happy chil-ren. Confirm not real one. Harf the time, hor, my chil-ren are sick and the other harf, I kena from dem! Why I give birth so many time I also don’t know!”

            Saffy says Sharyn should be a family planning counselor.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Phone Etiquette

You know how 8DAYS magazine runs a ‘Whatever Happened To…’ column at the front? Invariably, my initial reaction to the people they profile is either, “My God, I thought she was dead!”, or “My God, he hasn’t aged well!”
            Just the other day, Amanda suddenly looked up from her iPad and said, “Hey, whatever happened to that cranky old ang moh?”
            From the comfy depths of the sofa, Saffy struggled up onto her elbows. “Can you be specific? There are lots of them around these days.”
            Amanda waved her hand. “You know, that guy who was harassing that poor kid in the MRT for wearing that tee-shirt.”
            Saffy immediately lost interest and collapsed back into a horizontal position on the sofa. “Oh him. Who cares? He reminds me of this guy who keeps harassing me on Tinder.”
            Amanda’s eyes met mine immediately. As one, our eyeballs rotated around to Saffy.
            You’re on Tinder?” Amanda said finally. Very slowly, careful not to make any sudden moves that would attract attention, I tapped my iPad, poised to start taking notes. You’d be surprised how much good material is out there if you’re prepared.
            From the sofa, Saffy’s bosom inflated like the emergency life-raft on a plane. “You say that with such judgment!” she complained to the ceiling. “What are you saying?”
            Amanda looked at me and then back at Saffy. “Uhm, that you’re dating Bradley?”
            Saffy sighed. “Honestly, that’s just like saying to someone, ‘But you’re already reading a book right now. You can’t go into Kinokuniya!’ Hello, I’m allowed to browse!”
            You could tell that Amanda, who took philosophy at Harvard and got an A for it, knew there was something very wrong with Saffy’s reasoning, but she was also unable to quite put her finger on it.
            “How does she do that?” she later complained to me.
            “It’s definitely a life skill,” I told her. “But wouldn’t it be funny if the guy stalking her is the same MRT ah-pek bully?”
            Amanda frowned. “It’s so strange that he was never tracked down. I swear, these days, you can’t even sneeze without someone filming you and putting it up on YouTube!”
            Sharyn says that she has had to beg her husband, renowned up and down Bishan Street 11 for his fiery temper, to not lose it in public.
            “Wah, the udder day, hor, I ask him go to Tiong Bahru and buy rojak and the uncle don’t give him enough tau pok, like dat also can scold people!” Sharyn’s eyes, already unnaturally enlarged behind her thick spectacle, widened to alarming proportions. “I tell him he lucky no one film him, ah. Sar-denly on Facebook, chiam ah!”
            “It’s why I am always dressed nicely in public these days,” Saffy said, even as she looked down at her impressive bosom, presently encased in a tight tee-shirt that read ‘I am an accountant and these are my best assets’.
            “You just never know who’s out there stalking me,” she added happily.
            Sharyn rolled her eyes. “You wear tings like that, confirm you are followed by chee-ko-peck, one!”
            Saffy puffed up. “Excuse me, but we’re in the 21st-century. I should be allowed to wear what I want without being objectified as a sex object, Sharyn!” 
            “Oh, issit?” Sharyn replied calmly.
            My friend Barney Chen says he’ll just die if he ever gets uploaded onto YouTube. “You have to be on your best behavior all the time!” he complained, his deep voice rumbling like boulders being rubbed together. “Especially anywhere that’s crowded. Like at the airport. And don’t get me started about toilets!”
            Amanda squealed. “What do you mean!”
            Barney’s impeccably groomed eyebrows knitted together. “Oh girl…don’t you know? You can’t even pee in peace these days. Especially if you’re a guy. I was once standing there just minding my own business when I suddenly noticed this guy a few urinals down pointing his phone in my direction!”
            Amanda breathed out in horror. “Shut. Up. People do that?”
            “When you look like we do, of course!” Barney said, somehow managing to look both affronted and pleased at the same time.
            Leave it to Sharyn to have the last word on the topic. “Hai-ya, you wear tight tight clothes like that Barney, of course people take pick-cher, lah! I oh-so take pick-cher, ah, I tell you. He so gorgeous. Like George Crooney! You see me, I look like auntie, what chee-ko-peck will film me in the toilet, I ask you?”
             Saffy patted her arm. “Don’t worry, Shazz. You’re a niche market. Somewhere out there is a weirdo with a phone who thinks you’re really hot.”

            “Aiyoh!” Sharyn said.