My Army buddy Tat Kai (the one who slapped his own balls trying to kill a mosquito) called today to say the on again off again reunion of mates could be on again if he could get hold of Foong and Ho Yeo.

Foong had to have dinner at his in-laws and Ho Yeo wasn’t answering his phone till about 7pm, try but Tat Kai managed to arrange for all of us to meet at Ho Yeo’s office at 8pm.

Foong, Ho Yeo, Tat Kai and I were bunkmates and crewmates at 46th. Ho Yeo was the big bully that initiated everyone transferred into the platoon by beating them up. Foong was the most unlikely looking combat trooper. Looked like a 9 year old when he was 19, but won all the awards there were to win in the Army. Tat Kai, well, he slapped his own balls trying to kill a mosquito.

I got to Marina South at about 8.15pm, and couldn’t figure out where exactly we were to meet, as I had never been to Ho Yeo’s office, and only know vaguely that he works for his father’s company, which owns the Superbowl and Super Funworld chain of entertainment outlets (bowling and video games).

Tat Kai and Foong were standing at the bus stop outside Super Funworld, and the food outlets outside there were packed to the brim full of Sunday night diners taking advantage of the Sunday night steamboat and barbecue special for $12 per person. It was so bustling I thought it was the Festival of the Gas Canisters or something.

Ho Yeo met us outside Super Funworld and brought us into his office. Unlike most of my former Army mates, he looked trim and fit, prompting Tat Kai to comment that we could no longer call him Tua Bui (Big Fat) Yeo Yeo, his nickname then, but San Por (Skinny) Yeo Yeo.

Ho Yeo’s office at the back of the video games arcade was much like the gangster back office you see in movies. Glass windows to watch over the arcade, and desks and shelves stacked high with magazines and tapes and an ancient VCR and TV for which to play them on. Ho Yeo himself was still very much the thug, and it was strangely nice to hear him put so many swear words into every sentence. I kept being half afraid everything I said would be taken badly and I’d get my head smashed into a video game machine, but thankfully, he’s become more conciliatory these days.

The gist of the catch up session was the usual amongst my peers these days: Married? Kids? House? And as usual, for me, no, your honour, none of the above, not even close.

“You have a lot to do to catch up to where we are, but take your time”, is what Tat Kai and Foong said. And I feel like I’ve been left out of the race, still using the old marker flags from ten years ago as guides.

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Talking army again

At ten pm Friday night, E called and asked for tea as per usual. I drove to pick her up and we had a jolly good time at a different location this time. We went to the beach at East Coast Park and had beer and chicken wings, cooled by the sea breeze and I would like to have said, lulled by the waves, but the resident Mat Rok band at the pub put paid to that notion.

While we talked, a man around my age (can tell because he’s soft around the middle) walked up and called my name. I looked up and recognized him and we spoke a fair bit, exchanged numbers and promised to catch up. He was a company mate of mine in the Army and the last time we saw each other was when we ROD’d in June 1991.

At a little past midnight, the beers and noise were getting to us, so we decided to call it quits and head home, and while driving her home, E’s boyfriend calls to ask what we’re up to, and she tells him, and she suggests meeting him for more supper. He says he’s tired, and she hangs up. She had wanted to have Chee Cheong Fun with him at this place up north in Sembawang. The mention of Chee Cheong Fun makes me peckish, and I suggest we go there anyway, with or without him. As courtesy, she calls him to notify her intentions, and he grudgingly decides to come along. After all, his girlfriend can’t always have fun without him, right?

We get there, order food, he comes, we eat, and we’d have gone home, but he starts talking. Normally, he and I would have nothing to talk about. But here’s the Singaporean commonality, the glue that bonds all Singapore males. Nothing in common? Talk Army. Always works, always has. Tentera Singapura. Yang Pertama dan Utama.

We spoke of getting lost in Thailand, hiking hills in Taiwan, getting sand in our eyes in Australia and so on. We were about to go full circle and talk about getting lost in Thailand again when E very abruptly said “Go home, can?”

I am very thankful she did that. Else I’d be stuck in Army lingo land with her boyfriend, just like I get stuck in Army lingo land with just about every other Singaporean male who has had combat training in the Army.

At least, tonight, the Chee Cheong Fun was good, it was the melt in your mouth variety, and certainly a lot easier for E to swallow than our conversation.

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The Odds Are Good But The Goods Are Odd

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

ST 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 Leedon Park. I say yes, how you know? She asks if I know a LJW. I say yes, she’s my ex from 15 years ago or so. ST’s jaw drops with a clang. LJW is her cousin. That aunt of ST is also LJW’s aunt and she remembers me very well.

Apparently, I have met ST 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, ST 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 LJW 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 Jee Wei 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 LJW 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 LJW was seeing someone else.

All this while, ST 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.

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The cat purrs, pharm

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.

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I have a business idea

I have a business idea. I think it will work because there are a lot of people who would want to buy this.

Nine out of every ten conversations with A begin like that. Nothing much out of the ordinary coming from people of this ilk, order as there are always men with business ideas who need to tell other men who would listen. Except with A, no rx the business idea is likely to be so far fetched, and so original it either deserves to be listened to for being original or it deserves to be dismissed immediately for being far fetched.

You buy a boat. You buy guns. You hire mercenaries, soldiers of fortune, ex-Special Forces troops. You sell berths on your boat to rich, perverted tourists. You take the boat to remote islands, inhabited by backward tribes. You land on the islands. You get the mercenaries to be kwai lan and antagonize the natives to the point where they will retaliate violently. Then they get back on the boat. Then you take the boat to the other side of the island and wait till nightfall and for the natives to come look for your boat. And when they come, the tourists can use the guns and kill them.

I think there is a market for it. What do you think?

It never matters what I think. The conversation then meanders into the murkier waters of the eternally unresolved issues about my love life before flowing back into clearer, simpler channels of how business is going, and ending with a platitude or twenty about how doing business is always like that one lah.

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