THE INTELLIGENT SINGAPOREAN

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The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 16 “Life in a Wheelchair”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

If you have never been beaten up before, you probably wouldn’t understand what I am talking about – so there you go, I am not even going to try to explain – though if you have an imagination and should you decide to hold my hand and follow me into this world of human wreckage – I may choose to recount to you what transpired after the temple incident.

That same evening Jeannie and I eloped London by train, I barely had the strength to walk, couldn’t remember the date or for that matter even why I found myself rubbing the two earrings which were in my pocket through out the journey. All I remembered was tearing through the night, flashes of lighting on the tracks as I slipped in and out of consciousness – all the time – immersed in a blur.

Though I was only 23, for all intents and purposes, the beatings had turned me into an old man – one of those invalids one sees from time to time shuffling in half steps while holding on to a flimsy metal frame. Even at that slow pace, walking proved painful, unbearable and hardly worth the effort. All the while Jeannie propped me up, whispering.

“Go on you can do it – one more step – there you go my love.”

“In three to four months you be running like a rabbit.” She beamed.

Being in pain all the time meant I didn’t believe her, but like I said, I didn’t really have all that much of a mind to even resist her even if I didn’t quite believe her – so I began to with small outings, no more than a block or two from the weekly paid studio apartment somewhere in Manchester – for some reason Manchester seemed like a good place to hide and recover – the old man’s men would be looking for me and so would the rest of the four houses and certainly the elder Lam, since their daughter had been spirited away.

Manchester being Manchester was simply too flat and spread out to stick out like a sore thumb providing one didn’t show one’s face in Manchester China town – so it was good that the studio apartment was located just off the old industrial area of Manchester where the rent was cheap and hardly anyone visited the area except purposeful men who wore industrial safety shoes and hard hats – hardly the place where a man would be seen wearing a dark Armani suit, with his hair slicked back sporting a pair of black sun glasses and pistol with a full clip of bullets – here, we would be safe for two months after that no guarantees, I reasoned, till I could really recover, get a new identity and move on.

While I stayed in the apartment during the day time – Jeannie worked in a nearby bleach factory. It was an hourly paid job – people usually came and went without much in the way of questions – no need for filling up forms and that sort of thing – and in the first few weeks, though this new life was so completely removed from her last – like her chapped hands with the first layer of fresh white skin being scoured clean off like tracing paper, leaving her with the wrinkled rough hands of an old maid – she hardly even managed a winch or complain and only said from time to time.

“Heal my love, heal.”

On one occasion, I caught her sobbing quietly in the night and when I turned to her, she simply said,

“I love you…..do you love me?”

“Yes, I love you.” I replied. After that she simply wiped her tears dry, made me breakfast and went off to work.

What else can a man say when he is confronted with a sad pair of hands, except to say the things that needs saying?

In this new life, where Jeannie worked in a bleach factory while I sat all day in a wheelchair in my pajamas – it was life – to say, I didn’t think much about the third wife would not be true – she never left me even in her passing – neither for that matter did the idea of revenge smoke in my mind from time to time, but like Jeannie’s hands which were once white as snow and had now come to resembled a darken shade of tanned seasoned leather, I simply wasn’t the man I used to be – not before I healed myself at least, just as a man simply has to cut off a his rotting arm to save the rest of his body – I had no choice but to simply put all these thoughts into a shoe box and slide it beneath the bed somewhere in my mind – a mind of a man who sat all day looking out at the world imprisoned in his own body, doesn’t have much else to do but to allow time to wash past him while he looks on – from time to time, he may even contemplate the size of his tiny courage, but that really is all he can do – my life now was with Jeannie and though I didn’t love her, she loved me and that to a half man is enough – you see, a half man doesn’t have such a thing as a choice – he simply needs to be the man who he needs to be for whatever reasons and even if those reasons don’t really add up, it doesn’t really matter either – that is how a man who sits all day in a wheelchair staring out of a window makes sense of the world.

You may not understand this, because you don’t know how to read hands like I do, but as I looked at Jeannie’s hands – I realized only too well, this was the way it was going to have to be – she had after all made a decision to follow me into the depths of an uncertain future – one where we would probably have to get a new identity and emigrate, if we wanted to be escape certain death – though I never asked her, the very thought of leading such a life must have secretly terrified her no end – Jeannie was after all so very different from me – yet from time to time, as I held her hands to my face – they spoke only of misery, misery that simply told me she had fallen in love with me even if it meant the possibility of pain would be part of our communion – so you see, there was nothing else for me to do but to pledge myself to her.

In this new life where I spent all day sitting in my wheelchair – I realized the man who carried the money for the four houses was dead – from now onwards it would be only me and Jeannie – the woman who I must simply learn to love.

darkness 2002

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