Double Macchiato & Iced Latte

Teh Peng Extra Sweet
Teh Peng Extra Sweet
She likes some other guy. But instead of being apprehensive about her incessant mention of that matter, I still acquiesce when she SMSs a curt "wake up" in the afternoon for our daily jaunt to the 6th Avenue Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, where the café guy is as familiar with our routine as we are. A double macchiato and an iced latte to have here please thank you very much. Ditto at the Newton Hawker Centre, where a tousled blonde nod gets us two teh peng extra sweet. It has become an enjoyable habit, and as I said to her, much like watching sunsets. There's a certain comfort in the routine.

We talk about her problems, which, I suppose when you find someone likeable, you think mirror yours when you were young (or presently, if you're not as 'old and wizened' as I). So for every hiccup she's had with her life, I have two from the last century. She vacillates between being sullen and silent to being the worst case of verbal diarrhoea known to mankind. I become the sounding board for every little neurosis that she thinks she possesses when she gushes, and I grasp desperately for a quick witticism when she's quiet. Most days it seems I can neither comfort her nor make her laugh, and you know how useless I feel when that happens. But it was great when the other day, she muttered a very brief "thanks for the company". That's as far as she'll get. She's got a real problem doling out apologies or thanks. But heck, I'll take it anyway. I know she cares enough.

She sings with manic gusto to the radio in the car, and switches stations obsessively, hunting for that favourite three minute song with which to belt out at the top of her tonsils. Stress relief, she says. I should try it, she says. We fight over how loud or how soft the music is, while I am driving Miss Daisy all over the island, mostly through leafy, misty avenues. We've clocked up a few hundred hours and a couple of thousand kilometres in the last month in my car at night. I now know every nook and cranny on the island, but still don't know most of the lyrics to most of the songs to which she sings in the most charmingly tone deaf yowls, except when Billy Joel or U2 or Frankie Valli come on. At least I now know who Samantha Mumba or Standfast are. I can look for songs on Napster or Audiogalaxy other than John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder or the Buena Vista Social Club, all of whom she doesn't know from Adam, and doesn't care the faintest to know. So yes, she's a decade younger, and yes I feel my age.

I don't know why but I have a penchant for women who are already spoken for. Someone said to me that this is a neurosis of sorts, that I am conscious of it. I admit the notion that I knowingly pursue someone else's quarry bears some truth. Maybe I am cowardly enough to think this twisted way: that if there's rejection, its ultimately because of the situation, and not me. There 'tis. Guilty on this count and others.

When its my turn to be down in the mouth, she's kind enough to offer a palliative cliché or twenty, the likes of "just don't think about it, don't dwell on it, go to sleep and it will go away eventually", which, while ineffectual in themselves, are somehow comforting in the sincerity of their delivery. Or some shit like that. I told her she had a soothing effect on me, knowing full well that was what I wanted to feel. Well at least we communicate on some level, and might I add, I was impressed when she lent me Milan Kundera's Identite a month ago. (It's a short read, but I haven't finished it yet because there's something claustrophobic about Kundera's writing. Sure its beautiful prose, but I get cabin fever and "image burn-in", much like if you stare at a television screen or computer monitor for too long and when you turn off the lights there's a lingering green purple glow on the wall. One of the images that stick is that of his describing how an eyelid brushes over the eye like a windscreen wiper with a randomness and suddenness that startles and repulses at the same time. I have had that image in my head for weeks).

What else is it that keeps me enthralled by her company? Am I that bored? Am I that shallow that I like her only for her looks? Did I already tell you about her eyes? How the black of her eyes take up most of her eyes, making them inexplicably intoxicating to look at? Did I already tell you how she gets a thought nod from me just because she walks unlike most girls her age who irritate me with their round shouldered stumble, and instead walks assuredly, albeit with a slight shuffle of her flip flops, her footwear of choice?

Perhaps there's something to be said about her lackadaisical manner of speech. She mumbles through her teeth, as if straining tea leaves of her thoughts as they're spoken. Somehow still, despite being laconic there's no lack of conviction in what she says, even when she's agonising over the many complicated situations she gets herself into. Attractive, no?

After smacking myself on the head with my cricket bat, I decide, nah, that's not it either.

I will mull over it later. I've just received an SMS and it reads, "Coffee?"

A double macchiato and an iced latte to have here please, thank you very much.

I gave her my heart and she LOL'd at me

There are some parts of the United States that do not have SMS on mobile phone services. Lucky them, I say, because last week, my fingers slipped and a mis-sent SMS meant I had to endure the embarrassment of having coffee with my mother at this swanky coffee place in Holland Village where it isn't cool to have coffee with your mother.

A friend, Christian Lee, an American Chinese actor currently plying his trade in Singapore, has recently acquired RSI from SMSing incessantly, flirting outrageously, so he says, with some girl probably clutching her phone with a thumb over the keypad while riding on the MRT or something, vigilant and ready to stab at it with her thumbnail. He proudly showed me a message that read something to the effect of C U 2nite. Will brng my schl unfrm. He says he can't get enough of it, SMS, that is, and thinks that its been a boon to his social life more than anything else. I don't seem to get the same benefits from SMS, and I don't think its because I am not an imported expatriate Pan-Asian semi-celebrity. It's the phone, I tell you. Or maybe I should change providers from Singtel to MOne, because the people in their ads look like they really have more fun.

Maybe I am the only person on the island who bemoans some sort of loss at the advent of SMS, ICQ, IRC and other miscellaneous techno-gadgetry to do with communication. You can no longer sit on the bus and let your mind wander and wonder how your significant other is doing. You can no longer interchange visions of her smiling or frowning or gliding through fields of green, as and when you have that yearning to know about her. Because just as soon as you do, your thumb goes to work on the keypad of your trusty GSM phone, and everything you want to know about her or her state of mind comes back to that little screen in the form of a :)

I don't know about you, but I would suffer disturbing images of my significant other as a round smiley face bouncing through fields of green.

That is, if I had a significant other. Eager to try because all else hasn't quite worked, I took Christian's recommendation and tried SMS flirting. But of course, you first had to get someone's mobile phone number before you could do that. Somehow, I did, and clumsily started out with How now brown cow or something equally lame. The recipient took all of ten seconds to reply with LOL, ok. Encouraged, I launched into short, snipped quips about the weather, work and politics, all of which garnered the response, "LOL", sometimes followed with something like "OK" or "I like that".

Emboldened now, I thumbed "thnk ur really hot, cnt stp thnkg abt u", stumbling over what I thought were standard abbreviated spelling for this abbreviated prattle exchange.

There was a pause that felt like an eternity before I got a reply for that one. You know, just long enough for you to have the shrinking horror of wondering whether you've mis-sent a message to your mother again, because as far as I know (and that isn't too much of a distance) you can't tell if you've sent an SMS to the wrong person until you end up having coffee with your mother at Holland Village.

I don't have to tell you that she did finally reply, and the message was "LOL".

~April 2001.