Rarity

The moon turned blue and stayed that way for two years from 1883 when Krakatoa erupted. It was blue again in 1927 when the Indian monsoons were late in arriving, and again in 1951 in North America, when bushfires in western Canada smoked out the skies.

Some things happen so infrequently and unpredictably that when they do, you cannot make heads or tails of it. All you know is that you're inexplicably consumed by the occurrence, for however long it lasts. If the moon were to turn blue tonight, I'd stare at it till my eyes dried out.

And so I received an MMS of a grainy picture of the moon, obscured partially by some clouds. The accompanying text read: Halo round the moon. Fxxking fone cam only 4x zoom!

A few days after, there was the SMS that read: Greetings from Rayong, Thailand!

I had initiated this mutual habit a few years earlier of messaging from wherever I was, as long as it was abroad. But seeing as I hadn't been overseas for a good number of years, I assumed that this arranged exchange, like most self-forged traditions, had un-forged itself and petered out.

But back when I was traveling, I'd send an SMS from the arrival hall of whatever airport I had just landed at, as soon as my phone hooked up to that city's local network.

Greetings from Beijing... Greetings from Shanghai... Greetings from sunny Denpasar!

And more often than not, a reply would be forthcoming:

WTF r u doing thr, bastard?!

And there'd be a short SMS conversation, usually ending with her texting: well, hv fun! or chk out e scene 4 me!

And that was just it. We didn't meet in person for a few years. The last time we did, though, she'd been sitting on the couch in her office, feet upon the table, as was her habit, and bitching about her boyfriend in that casual way girls often did. I thought nothing of it, till she fell silent and quiet tears streamed down her face.

I sat quietly and tried not to look at her but there was something compelling about that sudden display of grief. Before I could lose myself trying to figure it out, she had dragged the back of her hand over her eyes, looked up, and asked Wanna grab dinner?

We grabbed dinner at Halia at the Botanic Gardens, and while she still looked like she'd been crying, there was no more of that quiet anguish. Instead, she offered a characteristically offbeat opening:

Sometimes, I don't know where it's leading to, or what it's all about. Why can't I just leave this all and go to India and join an ashram and practice yoga and meditate and be happy with that?

It takes an effort to respond to that, but before I could even decide whether to do that or to make a joke, she added,

You know what I feel like having? Needlers Cookies and Cream Flavoured Truffle Milk Chocolate. Tastes as bad as it sounds. Flavoured! Not the real thing!

Candlelit dinner, fine wine, lush gardens and Ginger Snaps. - That's all she ever thinks about, riding with the wind...

Hey thanks, I don't feel as on the verge as when you first came to the office.

She'd come back round again, and I looked long into her eyes which had just been crying. We quietly finished the rest of our dinner. And for some reason, that was the last time I saw her for the next few years.

Her friends call her Skip, and for every incongruent thought she made you ponder, she had half a dozen more she'd launch at you in the space of five minutes, and mostly when you were slightly off-balanced from processing her previous quip.

Skip's got spunk. Skip's a babe. Skip's uber cool.- Anyone who knew her would either be saying these things or agreeing with them.

Now, I wouldn't know fashion sense from a stack of bricks, but it seemed as if Skip had this knack of putting anything and everything together and looking really good. A friend of mine who met her briefly agreed, saying she could wear a welder's mask and make it the next must-have accessory. And it was true. Anything that would've looked outlandish on anyone else looked like native dress to her.

I'd have complimented her a lot more if only I could've gotten a word in edgewise. Skip looked good, but she could talk. And she had that unaffected way of speaking that was terribly rare in a country where you either spoke the local patois or put on what you thought was an American/British/Australian manner of speech. With any other person, I'd say if you spoke the way Skip spoke, you most probably have that mission school pedigree. Your parents would have gone to ACS/MGS/SCGS, sent you to the same schools and you'd marry someone from the same circle, send your children to the same schools, and your children would end up speaking like you. You'd have your lehs, lahs and lors, but you'd also have proper grammar, and be able to quote from a dozen or so Western influences.

But Skip, though she did sport that pedigree, had that added spark of confidence in her manner and tone. You'd be able to listen even if she were whispering. And you'd want to.

That is why it was surprising that in the very few times we've met up, Skip would occasionally trip on her words, especially when speaking directly to me. It was as if she was ever slightly self-conscious around me.

Fuck! It's all your fault lah! You and your hammed up Singlish! I only talk like that when I'm with you!

Also, she would accuse me of taking the mickey out of whatever she said. And whatever compliment I managed to eke out in her direction was thrown back with suspicion.

Are you taking the piss? You're too smart for your own good, fucker!

Most times, I'd sit and watch her as she told me stories about her friends, whose names she'd throw at me as if I knew who they were. The Pauls, Michaels and Eleanors and Jameses and their fabulous love stories - right out of a book, she'd say. The Jasons, Gunthers and Daryls, and how she'd been seeing them for a short time, and how those didn't work out - the bastards, she'd hiss.

So, I figured that when she sent an SMS several weeks after the Rayong, Thailand one, it'd be more of the same, though that wasn't a bad thing in my books. It's not very often one gets to sit and watch and listen to someone as easy on the eye as Skip was.

Free for coffee?

It was good enjoying her easy going manner, and I mustn't have spoken very much, because after a while, she said, how long has it been? Three years? You've changed. You're a lot more composed and deliberate when you speak.

As if I were going to risk speaking with such reckless abandon so she'd up and leave for another three years.

It turned out to be the longest coffee we had ever met up for, though not for catching up on the last three years, because there had always been the intermittent SMS and MSN wassups and howsitgoings. Instead, Skip had a business plan. But for the first time, I didn't flinch or shift uncomfortably in my seat at the mention of it. It was Skip's business plan, and it had to be interesting.

You know how you have watches under brand names which dont normally make watches? Like A|X and Guess? Well, I've sourced several reputable watchmakers in China, and they'll make anything to order.

And we spent the next two hours discussing how we would be able to brand our own watches, who the target market was, how to package them, how to prevent knock-offs make it limited edition, manufacture the base product in China, ship it to Singapore, then stamp each one with a unique number and certificate and put them in a nice box. The China factory can make surplus stocks for all I care.

She pulled out a couple of watch magazines and pointed out several designs and went on to describe the types of movements used in them, and why they were good or bad.

Did you know that it was a watchmaker who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time? Something that Galileo and Newton never solved?

Yeah, well, someone with the boring name of John Harrison. I'm learning so much from these books and mags! Anyway, I'm meeting some guys from the industry tonight to get more information about the market and the players. Come with me?


And that was how we went from being intermittent friends to collaborators on a business plan.

We met up when work permitted, and that was only during the weekends. We spent most weekend afternoons poring over details and contacts and leads getting involved. Weekdays for me began to change. I was soon sorely tempted to send the occasional SMS with some contrived business angle, just so she'd respond, just so I'd know I was still involved.

One Saturday afternoon, we met at the Beach Hut on East Coast Park, and probably because of the long work week, didnt feel like discussing our business plan. Instead I nursed my beer as I stared past her across the cycling track and at the sea.

Something the matter?

Not really.

Not good to keep it all in, you know?


Before I knew it, I had unloaded everything in my head and heart and guts, and every little stupid thing that had troubled me before, and was still troubling me then, got articulated, spent and projected across the table, where I had somehow hoped it would be well received.

You know how awkward you feel when you suddenly realize that for reasons unbeknownst to yourself, you've gone and told a stranger all the bad things you're feeling. And I told her that.

Hey, who says I'm a stranger?

But this is about Skip, and after struggling with a few platitudes - you're not old, I dated someone older than you -she decided it was her turn to tell me her stuff.

You know I've been trying to get a start in this fuckin' business, and one of the contacts I met up with, you know, well, he's been asking me out. Sweet lah, but a bit on the young side.

This is still about Skip, but I found myself stating in that staccato way one does when one tries to cover up something else: So what if he's younger? Nothing wrong with that. First time for everything. You might have fun. You never know. Enjoy the company. You never know.

John Harrison's invention hadn't mattered before, and it didn't matter anymore again. Skip's business plan, as I imagined, would fade and die the ignominious death it deserved. It had always deserved it, except when I was involved.

Suddenly, everything about Skip became simultaneously significant and insipid. She was gone as far as I was concerned because we were no longer collaborators on ourbusiness plan. But the sound of her voice grew significant, the glint in her eye brightened, and the nearness of her suddenly mattered.

I flinched as if her fingers were branding irons when she grabbed my arm in excitement at a sudden brainwave. And we ended our afternoon with an agreement to keep working on the plan.

It was pretty clouded over this weekend, and as expected, neither Skip nor myself arranged to meet up, and I didn't bother to send an SMS or look to see if she was online on the IM.

But this evening, I got an MMS with another grainy picture of clouds and a fuzzy white disc, accompanied by text that read: Halo around moon again, but too cloudy and my phone cam sux.

As with all unforeseen and rare things, the significance of the occurrence is usually only evident after the fact. And I am now trying to convince myself that being an observer and a witness is something greater than being involved.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Ruok said...

Hmm, Miyagi-san, reads like you are falling in love. Why dun the both of you give each other a try?

Thursday, March 10, 2005  
Anonymous kariecarri said...

*wistful sigh*

Thursday, March 10, 2005  
Blogger k said...

Skip? Hop and laugh, away.

I've been in Skip's position before and it's not easy.

There are so many men one knows that one could go out with, just that these men don't do anything for you. You know in your heart that you could make any one of them a good girlfriend, that you could make them deliriously happy, maybe even a good wife. Convince yourself that you're happy with them, that you feel what they do.

Then there are the moments of supernatural clarity when you wake up in the night, or in the morning, next to them, the heavy, slumbering bodies next to you. You watch them sleep, the slow rise and fall of their breathing. Soothing, slow, wrong. You're not deliriously happy, never were. You're a good girlfriend. And you don't really like him. But you bury that away and think, I have a nice life with him and things are going well. I'm imagining things. YOu turn and go back to sleep. A warm body is a good thing.

The moments happen with increasing frequency.

Thursday, March 10, 2005  
Blogger ivan said...

go on... jump into the deep end of the pool... take a chance.

Thursday, March 10, 2005  
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Wednesday, October 12, 2005  
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Thursday, October 27, 2005  
Blogger Living in Thailand said...

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005  

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