Writer . Editor . Author
His hands are so beautiful. They caress the steering wheel, lightly and gently. A large silver band shone on the middle finger of his right hand, as the dark of the night seeps through his side of the window. Darkness, light. Darkness, light. The glow from the freeway’s lamp posts washes his face an occasional orange.
The HTC on his side of the dashboard says 10:57. Phone, clock, music player, it’s his three in one. It stays 10:57 for the longest time. Even when the radio clock turns 11:07 it stays at 10:57. Maybe time never passes in his mind. Or maybe I’ve been watching him so long it has frozen in my mind.
Is it ok if I drop you at Pasir Ris MRT? Sure. I have to get this lorry back by eleven. Latest by eleven fifteen. Sure, I say again. It’s not like I have a choice you know. The words ANNAH come into view as we look ahead onto the road. They are written in bold black alphabets, reflected in reverse from the dashboard onto the windscreen.
SAVANNAH, I remember, is the name of his vehicle. They are always female, he said to me once. Cars may be girls to boys but to girls they are always boys. Mother Mary is not here with us tonight. The last time I was in this vehicle, she had been a sad laminated figure strewn carelessly on the dashboard. Today she had been replaced with LED running lights.
Were they lights for wearing around your running shoes when you go on a marathon? Oh boy, they were the lights that danced above our heads, like ants on staccato beat, playing tic-tac-toe. All these happened as the three of us sat in the front row of his papervan, bouncing quietly along the KPE Tunnel.
The lights above our heads were arranged in squares at an angle, in order to look like diamonds. They make him blue, then make him red, then make him green sometimes. But underneath the colours the dark brown of his skin remains.
I hate this feeling, he says. I tried to sleep but I couldn’t sleep. Is that what you drink to stay awake? I point to the can of POKKA Sports Water on the dashboard’s cup holder. That’s not mine, he says. Oh yes, I forgot. I pick the can up to examine its contents. This van is not entirely yours.
NISSAN had angel wings that stood snugly and silently on the dashboard, listening to our conversations and reading my inner thoughts. A metal badge the size of my palm’s width, it reminded me of the angel wings on the FedEx package in Cast Away. Maybe it’s a sign of love to come. Or unrequited love that’s about to fly far far away.
The two packets of Winston reds by his meter dashboard were not really listening. One had already fallen asleep on his side. The other was standing up, but both have the picture of the carious teeth, large and undetering to young men like him. They were both dressed in crimson red and white fonts. Even if they heard our secrets they wouldn’t speak, for their teeth had rotted away.
His left hand rests on the fabric of his light blue jeans. The jeans look clean, washed. His fingers long and smooth, they move from his lap to the luminescent gear shift that is so big it could hit his passenger’s face. Transparent with hardened air bubbles moulded inside, it looked like the insides of a man’s hair gel, with little circles frozen mid-air.
He brings his hand away from the gear stick and back onto his lap, but not before moving the length of his hand across the gear shift, caressing it like it was the smooth female arm of a marbled statue. The van jerks forward onto a lower gear.
The seatbelt’s soft padding runs across his chest like a beauty pageant’s sash. He wears a white singlet – a wife beater they call it. The beep of the speed trap meter rings in one second intervals because he is driving past the speed limit. But he is unfazed. He’s comfortable with himself, just as he is.
HEAVY VEHS KEEP LEFT. We are on Lane 3 in the KPE Tunnel, the longest underground tunnel in Singapore. It spans twelve kilometres and costs apparently 1.8 billion to construct in Singapore dollars. Upper Paya Lebar Road to the left, says the bright orange dots of the signboard by the side. But when we exit we are already in the far east of the island.
Where is the lorry? Came a voice through the radio’s speakers. I’m in Tampines, he says. His uncle hangs up. I take pictures in the dark. I take pictures only because I don’t want to forget this moment. But the moment I snap them, I know I’ve lost the memory. I never want to look at those pictures again, except to send them away or to delete them.
His eyes go back to the road. The radio clock reads 11:10.