Singapore Adventure

Thursday, March 30, 2006

by venitha

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, bad news travels quickly to Singapore. We learned of Jim's father's death over the phone, of his mother's stroke through instant messaging, of Maggie's kidney failure by e-mail. Engineering trumps time and distance when it comes to sight and sound, but it's not enough: I want to touch.

In times of crisis, I crave long hugs, tightly-held hands, and simple physical nearness, desires which, frustrated by distance, race chaotically around my Singapore apartment in frantic search of an escape. They land, of course, at last, on Jim, and have transformed our relationship, adding an unfamiliar physical dependence. He approaches me sitting and hugs me from behind. I walk past him and draw a hand along his shoulders. We sleep and press against each other, spooning.

Thankfully, our bad news has so far had good timing; while all arrived in the dark, Jim and I were at least together, had each other to lean on, to cling to, until with the sunrise, we packed up our emotions and soberly decided what to do. The answer may be easy, but regardless, the wait is brutal. At best, 48 hours elapse between receiving the bad news and delivering the pent-up hug.

Before returning to Singapore last week, I stored up months of loving physical contact. In saying good-bye to Marilyn, I hugged her and kissed her cheek, soft and smooth despite her years, and I was reminded of our Indian driver, Jittu.

He, too, spends seeming eternities away from loved ones and isn't lucky enough to enjoy all the benefits of technology that we do. Spotting his best friend, a fellow driver, in an oncoming car, he stopped and chatted in animated , smiling widely through his open window. After several minutes, he laid his hand gently against his friend's face, then dragged his fingers in a slow caress as he reluctantly accelerated away.