Singapore Adventure

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Minutes To Spare
by venitha

"How are we doing timewise?" Jim asks as we pass the No No No No sign and break into our bag of dried mango.

"8:30. Minutes to spare." We're both looking forward to the bright red cherry atop our Father's Day sundae: our weekly 9:00 dose of motherly love.

"Want to walk?"

I stuff another piece of dried mango in my mouth and change direction, veering away from the escalator that leads down, under the street and toward to bus stop. I aim instead for the one that leads up, out into the heart of , athrob with life as Singapore gyrates riotously through its last hours of Sunday freedom before Monday's responsibilities mire the ground.

"Actually, I think we want this one," Jim says, escorting me in a gentle crack-the-whip about-face to the third exit and deftly relieving me of the mango bag.

We ascend silently into the soft warm evening, lost in our individual thoughts, and emerge amidst dozens of empty gaping coaches, waiting in the gloom to swallow thousands of Indian workers and regurgitate them upon their worksites for another week of sweaty physical toil. "I'm glad they're not after me."

We swim against a stream of rambunctious children - "Where are their parents?" - and I am captivated by a little Indian girl with enormous brown eyes, pierced ears, and a merry, tinkling laugh. The hair that has escaped her Pebbles 'do sticks damply to her face and neck. I lift my own hair off my own neck, then release it. "It's really very pleasant tonight."

The sharp, industrial incense of fresh tar fills the air, and our sandals grow sticky from the refinished pavement in spite of the wide berth we give to the workers re-topping Keng Lee Road. Our proximity to their tar stove and its open flames no longer astound the litigious Americans in our hearts, now buried beneath Singapore's humid blanket of... "personal responsibility or unvalued life or evolution at work: you decide." Our fairy godmother, a man scatters reflective powder on bright white crosswalk lines. "What did you wish for?"

We grow bored with the unchanging angry red man glaring at us across a deserted street, stride boldly though the intersection, and round one last corner to our home. Dawood nods good evening - "How 'bout those Hurricanes?" - and bathes us in his familiar cackle. As the elevator whisks us to the 19th floor, we lean back facing each other with tired but contented smiles, and I look at my watch.

"Minutes to spare."