The Odds Are Good But The Goods Are Odd

Sunday afternoon I had coffee with Karen, when her mother called and asked to meet her at a shopping centre nearby.

Karen asked me to accompany her for a few minutes. I thought nothing of pretending to be her boyfriend for a while so her parents can think that yes she’s not loafing around taking drugs. I was introduced to her mother and her aunts and one of her aunts kept looking at me for the longest time.

That aunt asks me whether I am Hainanese and whether I live in Holland Village. I say yes, how you know? She asks if I know a Muriel. I say yes, she’s my ex from 15 years ago or so. Karen's jaw drops with a clang. Muriel is her cousin. That aunt of Karen's is also Muriel's aunt and she remembers me very well.

Apparently, I have met Karen before in that previous life. In that life, I was a scrawny teenager who had a relationship with her cousin that was both tumultuous and hilarious. In that life, Karen was a bratty 8 year old girl who ran riot around her grandparents’ house which I stayed over at on occasion.

I have not seen Muriel since we broke up and I swore never to contact her again. Looks like another grand plan got thwarted, and the ghosts of Christmases past have been haunting me all this while. I should have known. Anyway, that aunt said to me, “If you think Muriel was bad, this one is worse”, to which I said, “Don’t worry, I know, and I’m not dating her anyway”, to which she said, “Don’t worry, I don’t interfere with her affairs”.

That few minutes turned out to be an hour plus, as that aunt started telling all and sundry about how I was like when I was 18 and 19; about how Muriel used to torture me; about how she had to drive me home because I stayed too late; about how I snuck over and stayed over thinking she didn’t know, but she did and kept our secret; about how I used to paint t-shirts and how one of those t-shirts she saved and gave one of her grand-nephews to wear last year; about how I unceremoniously ended the relationship when I found out Muriel was seeing someone else.

All this while, Karen was picking up her jaw from the floor and trying to see if the Cartier watch was nice enough to buy.

All this while, I’m thinking, if this was some elaborate and diabolical plan to tell me this relationship was one meant for the ages, it certainly was elaborate and diabolical.

My head is still spinning.


The cat purrs,

The spatula on a wok clangs,

The fan hums,

The spoon against a cup clinks,

The kite flutters,

The raindrop on a window splats,

The leaf rustles,

The neon light on a signboard buzzes,

The thunder booms,

Phones ring, birds sing, children chatter, puddles splatter,

But her smile on my shore gently laps,

And there’s nothing I can do about it.