Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pain Threshold

I sometimes think it’s a miracle that I didn’t grow up with more issues than I already do. And I say this because if you’d ever met my mother, you’d think the same thing.
            My sister Michelle insists she’s spent a small fortune at the therapist trying to unravel all the tangled webs of emotional insecurities, and crippling feeling of maternal abandonment.
            “Hah, got such thing, meh?” Sharyn once said during an afternoon tea.
            “You have no idea, Sharyn!” Michelle told her. “I’m surprised I’m not more emotionally stunted! Maybe that’s why I’m still single! I am incapable of forming any healthy relationships. Even my pot-plants die!”
            Apparently, Sharyn went straight home and told her husband that the cause of all adult mental traumas could be traced directly to the mother.  Her husband said that didn’t surprise him in the least. “But my mudder the same what!” he said. “Cannot live with her, cannot live wid-dout her. Dat’s why my brud-der and me always so mung-zhung when we take her out to lunch!”
            “Oh, issit?” Sharyn replied, her mind naturally slinking off to her relationship with her children. “Then our chil-ren, how?”
            “Confirm got issue, one!” her husband told her.
            Sharyn breathed out, her eyes magnified by her thick spectacles into huge saucers. “Alamak!”
            I remember once I woke up with a spasm in the left side of my chest. It hurt to move. Even the smallest movement made me wince. By the end of the day, my whole torso had turned rigid, and if I needed to see what was happening on my right, I had to rotate my entire torso. Sleeping that night was practically impossible as I couldn’t move without the chest having spasms.
            As it turns out, my mother called the next morning to remind me it was Father’s birthday the following day and that I was to call him.
            “It’s in my diary, Mot…ow!”
            Mother paused. The line hissed. “What’s the matter?”
            “I’m in complete pain!” I said. “The whole of the left side of my chest hurts to move!”
            Mother’s dulcet tones floated down the line, the harmonics of repressed childhood memories plugging straight into the cerebral cortex. And not in a good way. “Honestly, you men are such babies! One little sprain and you go all to pieces. You want to know what pain is? You should try giving birth!”
            Michelle says in a previous life, our mother might have been the drill sergeant in the Spartan army. “If someone moaned he was in pain because his leg had been chopped off, she’d probably say he should try having his leg and his arm chopped off. Then he’d know what pain was!”
            We giggled about that for days.
            “Yah, my mud-der ever say that to me,” Sharyn said. “When I was twelve and I got burnt when I fry chicken, she say if I cry when a little hot oil splash on me, then confirm when I give birth, I will die one. I so scared! Dat’s why hor, I wait long long time before I marry and then when I give birth, I tell the doctor to give me epidural plus back up drug! Now, I think about it, is all my mud-der’s fault!”
            Amanda blinked slowly. “So, when you gave birth, you felt no pain?”
            “Dohn have! I very relak. Good thing, ah. My sister give birth natural way, wah, you can hear her scream from the car-park!”
            Amanda frowned. “So, what’s your point? It’s a good thing that your mother was such a hard-ass with you?”
            “Yah, lor! Make me so scared, when I give birth, I was so high and happy!”
            “I think you’re missing the point here, Shazz,” Saffy pointed out.
            “Aiyah, you go through life blaming your parents for everything, than how? Must live your own life, right? Like all those Singaporean complain complain about the gah-men! All day complain. Hai-yah, just get on with it, lah!”
            Saffy says it wouldn’t surprise her in the least if Sharyn’s children grow up with a bunch of emotional issues. “She’s so unsentimental, have you noticed?”
            “Well, she does have a point,” Amanda said the other day. “Imagine if we’d grown up with parents who indulged our every fear and insecurity.”
            Of course, Michelle is having none of it. “I’m sorry, but Mother doesn’t get off the hook that easily! I wish I was a songwriter. Then I could be like Taylor Swift and write all the emotions out of my system!”
            I frowned. “So that would mean, what, Mother is Calvin Harris…your ex-boyfriend?”
            Saffy says if that isn’t seriously disturbing, she doesn’t know what is.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Regular Delivery

I don’t need to tell you that we’re living in a world turned upside down. It’s now no longer safe to even be on Facebook. I know this because that’s usually the first place I read that someone has died or something awful has happened. If it’s not poor Chekov, it’s some kid that gets dragged off by an alligator or a gorilla. And if it’s not Brexit, it’s Zika. And if’s not the season finale of Game of Thrones, it’s Andy Murray winning a tennis tournament. Seriously, the bad news just keeps coming.
            And just to drive home the fact that nobody and nothing is safe from what I’m now calling the Curse of 2016, Amanda recently announced that she is constipated.
            Of course, she had to bring up the subject over breakfast at our dining table.
I remember the moment. We were all on our respective tablets, ignoring each other like honest to goodness children born in a year beginning with ‘20’. I was reading all about Donald Trump’s plan to bring back torture, while Saffy was inspecting the abs on the new Tarzan.
            Amanda looked up from her iPad and sighed dramatically. Saffy’s eyes swiveled up from her screen. “What’s the matter?”
            Amanda sighed again, turning her head to the side to show off her lovely long neck. “I’m constipated,” she said in the same tone of voice a child might use to tell you she’s bored in the fifth minute of an 18-hour flight. 
            “But you’re always so…regular!” I pointed out, temporarily abandoning the Donald.
            “I know, right? You could set the clock by my number twos!” Amanda pouted. “I just don’t know what it is. My diet hasn’t changed, mealtimes are still the same, so what gives?”
            “How many days has it been now?” Saffy asked in a frosty tone. I glanced in her direction.
            “This is day three. I’m feeling very bloated and heavy!”
            “Uh huh.” Saffy’s lips disappeared into a thin disapproving line.
Amanda, clearly preoccupied by the stationary status of her lower intestinal tract, didn’t notice. Like a pregnant woman who’s a week past her due date, she heaved herself out of her chair and schluffed towards the bathroom. “Excuse me, but I need to go sit on the loo for a bit. Maybe something will happen. Gawd, I feel like a rock!”
The minute the bathroom door closed, Saffy leaned towards me over the table.
“Can you believe…”
“What is wrong…” I began.
“…that woman?” she hissed.
“…with you?”
We paused, and waited for our sentences to catch up.
Constipation?!” Saffy said, practically spitting out the syllables.
I was perplexed. “What about it?”
            “Constipation is my thing! She couldn’t get her own illness, she had to steal mine?”
            “You’re seriously crazy,” I told her. “You can’t steal someone’s illness!”
            “She’s just doing this for attention!”
            “You have got to get a grip on yourself!”
            Saffy sniffed, clearly unimpressed by my conflict resolution skills.
            Later that night, at dinner with Sharyn – Amanda having decided that in her current state, it hardly made any sense to eat more food and add to the blockage – it was all she could talk about.
            “Aiyoh, like this you must also compete! You very free, issit?” Sharyn said. If she could have rolled her eyes any higher, we would have only been able to see the whites.
            “I am not competing, but I’m known for my constipation!”
Saffy complained in much the same tone Louis Vuitton might use when suing a knock-off distributor in Shenzhen.
            “Aiyah, poor thing, lah. It’s no joke, you know, when you cannot go toilet! I ever kena before. Wah, I tell you, can die, ah. My mudder-in-law, she so bad, she stand outside the toilet and tell me I should drink more water!”
            Saffy gave her best friend an icy look. “That’s would be really fascinating, Sharyn if we were talking about your hurt feelings, but you really need to focus on me!”
            Sharyn, long immune to Saffy’s barbs, shrugged.
            Just then, our phones all pinged at once. Saffy tapped her screen and read. “It’s from Amanda…‘I took a laxative and it’s all out!’ Smiley face…”
            “Aiyah, good lah! Now, you can have your constipation all to yourself again!”
            Saffy pursed her lips. “Yes, but I hope she’s not going to make this a habit! She’s tall, rich, thin, gorgeous and a lawyer whilst I, on the other hand, have so few USPs of my own.”
            “I love how you think having constipation is actually an interesting character trait!” I told her.
            “Hannor!” Sharyn said.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Hot Stuff

It may have escaped your attention but it’s been rather hot these past few weeks. And there’s hardly any air, so everything feels so still and heavy. You sweat like a pig just sitting and not moving.
“Do pigs really sweat?” Saffy wondered aloud during a recent observation about how hot it was.
I cocked my head. “What?”
Saffy’s bosom swelled gently. Even it could tell it was too hot to inflate to maximum capacity. “Well, people are always saying that they sweat like a pig. I’m just wondering if pigs really do sweat.”
            I blinked. In much the same way that I don’t normally think too hard about how my mail arrives in the letter box, I’d never given the matter of porcine sweat glands much thought. “Well, I guess they must do, otherwise, why would people say it?”
            “People say a lot of things, but that seldom means they know anything,” Saffy observed.
            Just then, the front door bell rang.
            “Oh, thank God,” Amanda said, struggling out of her chair. “Saved by Sharyn. Honestly, this conversation was starting to give me hives.
            “So rude!” Saffy murmured to me as Amanda opened the door.
Sharyn walked in, struggling with several bags of dinner that she’d da-bao’d from Old Airport Road. “Wah, so hot, can die, ah, I tell you!”
Behind her came Barney Chen, struggling with various plastic bags of drinks. “Girl, tell it!” he rumbled, his voice like boulders colliding under water.
Sharyn paused in unloading her packets of goodies to look at him. “Tell what?”
“Ignore him,” Amanda said. “Did you get the rojak?”
“Gawwwwt,” Sharyn drawled. “But must wait twenty minutes. But I get my girl to queue up for the char kway teow and my son, he buy the ohr luak, so not too bad, lah!”
“So where are they?” Saffy asked as she brought out plates and cutlery.
“Go home, lor! They not invited, mah!”
“Your children are going to grow up with issues, Shaz,” Saffy told her.
“Aiyah, orredi got so many issue, add some more, can, lah!”
“We were just talking about how hot it is,” I said, anxious that we return to the conversation.
Amanda sighed. “God, really?”
“We were also wondering if pigs really sweat!” Saffy said.
Barney frowned. “Why?”
“Well, Jason was saying that he sweats like a pig in this heat and then I wondered if that’s actually true. Do pigs sweat?”
“No, lah!” Sharyn said, scooping the rojak onto serving bowl. “The pig sweat gland, useless one! That’s why, hor, they must sit in mud to cool down!”
Amanda looked at Sharyn with admiration. “And you know this how?”
“I got A in biology, OK? I almost became a…what, ah….ventri-loh-kist!”
Saffy turned to me, her mouth already full with roti prata. “I’m telling you, the woman is an idiot savant!”
“Ay, you don’t anyhow call people stupid, can?”
            Saffy waved a hand. “I’ll send you the Google link!”
            Amanda looked dissatisfied. “So why do people say pigs sweat then?”
“Oh, I know that one,” Barney said. “But wait, lemme finish chewing.” The thick veins in his neck practically popped as he swallowed his mouthful of rojak. He smacked his lips. “It’s because when you melt iron ore, it becomes something called pig iron which you have to pour into these moulds that look like a bunch of piglets suckling the mother piggy. And as they cool, these moulds start to sweat.”
Sharyn literally put down her fork and clapped. “Wah, you so clever! How you know this?”
Barney Chen turned pink. “I dated this Australian once who worked with an iron ore company. Hot as hell, but terrible kisser, though! We broke up after two months.”
Later, after Sharyn and Barney had left, disappearing into the evening’s humid warmth and we were cleaning up, Amanda said it’s a shame that Barney spends so much time in the gym. “Imagine if he devotes the same amount of energy to something a bit more useful. He’d probably have discovered the cure for cancer by now.”
“I would be speaking fluent French if I didn’t watch so much TV,” I told her.
“You aim high. I’d be happy to just speak fluent Singlish!” Saffy said as she scrubbed a plate. She blew a wisp of hair out of her eyes. “But here’s the other thing I don’t understand. Why are kitchens in Singapore not air-conditioned? It’s so hot in here, right now! It’s ridiculous!”
“We should ask Barney the next time we see him,” Amanda said. “He’s probably dated a hot Argentinian architect once.”
Oui, voila!” I said.
Hannor!” Saffy said.