THE INTELLIGENT SINGAPOREAN

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The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 33 “Take me away now Huan Guan.”

Posted by inspir3d on February 20, 2005

Chan Sim’s eyes were brown, that’s her name. A dark chocolate brown flecked with traces of light golden threads, perhaps some hints of even orange as well. They were complex eyes, eyes that changed according to the intensity and timbre of the light that fell on them at a given moment, and the first time I saw her that morning after slumbering out from sleep in the rented room, she was there resplendent looking at me with all her fullness of being.

It occurred to me then when I looked at her, I had never met a woman who exuded such a measure of composure, such tranquility of bearing, as if Chan Sim, who was not yet twenty nine at the time, had already moved on to some higher state. A plane where she saw the world clearer than even all of us – it was an inexplicable feeling one that just feels so right, like finding a comfortable park bench or when one just finds the right book and it’s effortless to see it through to the end. You know the feeling right?

So when she leaned forward that morning in McDonalds and looked at me with her reserved cool, the same one with the silent radiance burning within and whispered,

“Take me away now Huan Guan. Let’s just pick up and run like the wind.”

I looked at her searching for signs of madness, only to discover a startling pool of calmness free from even the slightest signs of inner struggle. I found myself searching for the right words, but like I said, it just felt right, too right for me to even say, no.

“Where?”

“Anywhere, let’s just get into a taxi and we will decide from there.”

I nodded and no sooner after stepping into the cab, when the driver quipped,

“Where too guv?”

“Train station please.” The third wife injected, while looking back nervously straightening my collar.

“Which train station would it be ma’am? Paddington, King’s Cross….”

“Choose one. Hurry please!”

I bought tickets for the seaside resort in Brighton, she said, “it was a good idea.” While slipping away she said to stock up on some toiletries. It a nice getaway for the time of year and as I turned the corner after purchasing the tickets it happened.

I saw one of them, a lone figure, broad-shouldered, dark- headed figure, a crisp black silhouette among the listless cheerful colors of holiday makers. I recognized the searching look and the slight tenseness around the jaw line. I looked towards the train which had by now begun to signal the last call and wondered whether she had gone ahead of me. Yes, perhaps I’ve find her in the carriage, moving furtively through the crowd, I turned my collar up (after all that what they do in the movies right!) and began to make for one of the carriages. As soon as I entered, I caught sight of a second figure out of the window that was not moving at all. Tall and dressed in a fine dark tailored suit, standing quietly on the platform, he was too far to make out his features clearly, but I caught sight of a metallic object peeking through his crumpled newspaper.

I raced to back to the carriage, she wasn’t there. The train had begun to lurch forward. I raced towards the window in the last carriage and that was when I saw her standing on the platform looking straight at me – I pulled the door handle, it was bolted shut – I tried to pries it open – kick it loose – but it was useless, I turned to her in the distance, when her eyes met mine, she suddenly lost that look of pensiveness and soon her expression changed completely transforming into one of relief and a soft smile swept over her, as if she had succeeded in an enterprise she hardly cared to share with me. As if she had released a bird and seen it take flight taking with it all her dreams and hopes – that afternoon as I held on to the image of the third wife who slowly receded away, I stretched my hand out of the carriage. I felt the wind tear away at me – the sound of the roaring engines drowning out my voice as I called out for her, before she disappeared, a circle of men in dark suits closed around the solitary figure and that was when she vanished right before my very eyes, as if she never existed.

As I stood watching, a wave of loss passed right through me – then my grief reached me, and unspeakable fire. An unspeakable fire………..

—————————–

Four Years Ago Somewhere In The Jungles of Kampuchea.

(One afternoon during a monsoon storm in Kampuchea along the Mekong North of Stoeng Treng. 205 miles from the Laos border. In a secret war history has forgotten.)

Throughout the day, the Vietnamese had poured into the sector and were moving fast cutting off the path of the retreating Khmer militia. Earlier in the morning, villagers had streamed through the this sliver of land where the Mekong was narrowness and by evening when the monsoon storm slammed the peninsula, the Mekong had swelled bursting her banks, her breadth increasing nearly four fold, threatening to cut off the only escape route.

Tying two bamboo rafts together a group of men proceeded towards the river bank. They made a good entry despite the rough waters, but somewhere along the middle veered slightly off their line, but the man who held the sweep seemed to have managed to pry them free from a nasty eddy.

Along the three quarter mark just when they were about to reach the safety of the banks, a large tree trunk suddenly charge through the raging waters upstream like a battering ramp and ploughed hard into both rafts, throwing a few men overboard.

For an instant the man who held the sweeps was himself nearly thrown overboard while the rest gripped the sides of the rafts as they were thrown into another eddy, both rafts reduced by this time to wooden toys circling a bathtub drain. Though the man with the sweep tried to pry them out into another line, it was useless – the currents were strongest near the banks threatening to pull both rafts under – water flooded in – the rafts quickly losing their shape as they begun to flex and bend– their cords fraying – the men screamed.

Suddenly the unimaginable happened, the man with the sweep drew out his machete, he appeared to be struggling with a few of his own men who were trying to bring him down, but he was too strong and with one sweep severed the rope tying the two rafts together – that evening as one the rafts bearing the wounded drifted unmoored into the wide channels sweeping uncontrollably downstream at breakneck speed.

The men who I can only describe as the damned shouted and screamed for their comrades, their outstretched hands and faces describing the horror – all except the man who held the machete, standing erect, his expression lost in darkness he slowly lowered his head – that evening as the other men scrambled to the safety of the river banks, the man looked on at the other raft, bobbing in the distance, it raced away downstream, yet even when it disappeared from sight, the man looked on as if he had been transformed into a bronze image, one forged by an unspeakable fire …..only the damned knew…..the unspeakable fire.

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