Singapore Adventure

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Personal Space
by venitha

"Personal space," Jim amends the growing list of what we're looking forward to at home, then laughs when I take an exaggerated step away.

"Not from you two, silly!" He pulls me back beside him, leans to kiss my ever-expanding belly.

With his daily commute to and from work, pressed against commuters on a crowded bus or MRT, Jim suffers from this over-closeness more than I do. But I can relate. The book in my bag to give me patience in endless queues, the river of slow-moving shoppers flooding Orchard Road, a view arrested by highrise next to highrise: all have become the norm.

The following morning, a rare Monday when I've got an early appointment, I remember our conversation as I'm packed tightly among my fellow passengers on the MRT.

The crowd thins at Dhoby Ghaut, and I gratefully snag a single empty seat, tucking my bulk and my too-many packages between a svelte young woman dressed all in lime green, furiously SMS-ing with one thumb, and an old man, dozing peacefully.

As the train speeds on, its momentum presses me firmly against the softly snoring Rip Van Winkle. The warmth, the human contact, is pleasant, is reassuring, a welcome connection in this busy, distracted, impersonal city. I yawn widely and stifle an exhausted impulse to rest my head against a fatherly shoulder.

The train arrives at City Hall, spurring a mass exodus. The commotion jolts Rip into consciousness, and he looks frantically out the window to identify the station, then stares sidelong at me in wide-eyed alarm before propelling himself smoothly across three just-vacated seats, down the blue plastic bench to fall back asleep immediately, snuggled against a cold metal bar and a hard plexiglass barrier, far, far from me.

As the train accelerates toward Raffles City, I move my bags from my lap to the empty seat beside me and take comfort in the caress of the tunnel's cool wind.