The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 36 “After The War – 3 1/2 years later in a military academy”
Posted by inspir3d on February 20, 2005
Long ago, a stranger was seen crossing no man’s land, approaching the city on foot. Word soon spread, and many gathered along the battlements of this walled city surveying the approach of the stranger. Amongst them the clot of generals shifted nervously, words such as, “impossible” – “this cannot be” passed freely amongst them in hushed tones.
How curious the crowds were, for none had ever seen a man who should have died but by some curious stroke of fate cheated death itself. To be sure there was no mistake, the crowd noted, his strange demeanor as he walked towards them, the slight arc of his head, the length of his arms and legs, the size of his courage. And to be sure, no one mistook him for another other than the man who was supposed to die but somehow managed to live through it all, they all peered deeper to study his features, but the light failed them, it was dark so very dark on that moonless night and none could quite discern the true appearance of the approaching stranger. Somewhere after passing the statute of the Merlion just short of the shiny buildings, the distant figure stopped and stood silently waiting on the empty flats.
“He will complicated things.” Said one of the generals. The others nodded their heads in silent agreement exchanging conspiratorial glances. “Yes, he will complicate matters and we don’t need people to complicate our already complicated life’s do we, gentlemen?” – “What shall we do?” one asked. “Let’s see, if we make him a hero, then he will have to admit there was once a war and we can’t do that can we? Then again if we crucify him, we would have to admit there was a war also and we certainly can’t have that either mmh…..” – “perhaps” one of them said, “Go on out with it!” said another– “we should just ignore him and treat him as if he never ever existed.” – “what about all those people who died?” – “what people?” – “the one’s who died in the war?” – “what war would that be general?” Soon the generals began congratulating themselves on the purity of their will.
Still the stranger came no closer and as he remained where he stood, eventually the crowd grew bored and this time dispersed and when all remained quiet in the flats beyond the city gates. The stranger looked on.
Now let me tell you this: the stranger stood in the flats regarding the distant apparition of this splendid city of gleaming steel and glass towers, but presently it faded before his eyes, leaving only the emptiness and the unbroken stillness of the everlasting night.
The following morning after the strange dream, the man awoke earlier than usual, though it was normally his habit to begin the day with a 5 kilometer run. Sitting at the edge of his bed, he said to himself, “it’s not my fault” – he felt much better after that and soon the familiar balm swept over him, the one where he was content in the knowledge, he was connected with nothing, no one, that neither his presence nor his absence counted for much that he or anyone else needed to be dependent upon it. The days he thought to himself would move with the fluidity of a silk scarf drawn through a ring – if only he could hold on to the thought.
Huan Guan stood looking at the stranger in the mirror, slim with a flat stomach, narrow hips, the pectorals firm and well defined, like a matador – ageless and timeless. Since his return from Cambodia he had cultivated a curious relationship with the man who looked at him from time to time in the mirror.
Once or twice a day, if the circumstances warranted, he would approach the stranger in the mirror, as if delivering a message of great importance, statements such as “soldiers die all the time, that’s what they are supposed to do” or “it’s raining again.” Sometimes at twilight he would simply say, “I am going to sleep now, I hope they will leave me be.”
This was going to be his new life, this routine of daily tasks and chores. Whether he was happy did not seem important any longer, here in the military academy where the hours were divided precisely into neat little packets of chores and duties. The scholar did not need to think –
“that’s the beauty of military life, one simply carries out orders.”
So that morning as he stood before the stranger, he had enough time to deal with the tie, so he made himself do the knot calmly adjusting it carefully. He liked to move slowly, because his self control was a source of pride. In his dealings with the world he was constantly striving to avoid hurried gestures, an inappropriate word, an impatient move that might break the serenity of regulations, Even when he broke rules that were not his own – his superiors regarded him as a man with a mouth as tight as an oyster, someone who they described as “dependable as a Swiss army knife.”
Maybe that was why that morning, after regarding himself for a moment in the mirror, he removed the tie and white shirt and slipped on a Harley- Davidson T- shirt. As he turned to the stranger in the mirror again, he said, “I can’t take this anymore.” His fingers brushed the scar just above his right eye, a memento of the war that he never fought.
That morning as the commando guard on duty looked at the youth carrying his trade mark briefcase out of the camp, he snapped to attention and asked.
“Sir, it seems like it will rain today, will the officer require an umbrella for his outing, Sir!”
With these words the man continued walking calmly carrying his trade mark brief case, the first drops of the monsoon pattering against the concrete, the man turned his face skywards to greet the warm heavy drops of rain that had traveled all the way from the Indian ocean – his expression conveying the satisfaction of a farmer who finally says after a long wait,
“Yes, I have been expecting all of you.”
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