Due to the client had some last-minute problems, Mrs Jumabhoy said no need to go to office today. Work from home lah she said. As though there is any work to do from home. She says work from home and I say sleep until eleven o’clock, get up and eat two packet Maggi mee, wash it down with one big bloody Milo ais, see TV until four o’clock, go back to sleep.
Call it my spa day. Discount me-time. I’m preparing to meet my maybe-maapilai, you know or not? I wasn’t in any hurry to find a man, but Ma’s pestering got more and more Tamil-movie dramatic. Went from we Indians must get married, otherwise who is going to take care of you when you are old? to I won’t be able to die happy until I see you settle down.
As though all round us children are washing their elderly parents’ feet daily. Who will take care of anybody when they get old is an unknown until the time comes, but I knew the real problem: the whole rest of her life Ma would only see my unused babybag, dried out as an old passionfruit, whenever she looks at me. Cheh, wasted only, she’ll think each time. I started to feel so bad for her, I thought why not. Fast forward a few short months and Bert Lancastor Emmanuel and his parents are coming all the way from India to have a look-see at my real life face. No joke. Of course if I’d suggested to Mrs Jumabhoy that she give me the day off for that reason alone she would’ve shot back, One so-called spa day is not going to work any miracles, my dear girl. Well, just so happened the client’s driver had stomach upset, so here I am upgrading my Milo ais to a Milo dinosaur to celebrate my day off and my hopefully upcoming nuptials. The eve of a suitor’s arrival, bigger than Christmas or birthday, I tell you, those come round once a year, but this only once or twice a lifetime at most for a girl like me.
You’re not getting any thinner, the client likes to tell me when he drops his own backside like a sack of onions in the worn out chair on the other side of my desk. Each time the chair will let out a long sigh and its spongey springy insides will spill out even more.
No need to name the client by name: we got only one client. Who goes to travel agencies nowadays?...
« If a story just like that one — dying babies, divine retribution — had come back to me from childhood memories, it would have seemed fantastical, unreal. »
« He rolled down the window, went back to honking the horn, and started waving my underpants out the window. »
« I guess it all began, » he said, « because of that weak-headedness my father sometimes had. It just rubbed me the wrong way. »
« —Tot va ser, passe a creure—començà—, per enfellonir-me d’aquella mena de fluixedat de cap que agafà al meu pare. »