Monday, April 30, 2007

And So He Died, Jackie

You know how he died. It's like we always thought he would.


With nobody to help. Hold his hand. Call an ambulance.

An animal mowed down by a truck in the middle of the street, messy roadkill to be cleared up and disposed off.

Did you know when they broke the door down, they couldn't find his wallet? His IC? It's like he didn't have an identity, didn't really exist. More than 20 years in that tiny room with few friends, walking out for meals, coming back and stripping to his big underwear, trapped in the closeness of his room.

Some of Igor's friends came after, and they ransacked the room. Helped themselves to the pitiful trinkets there. He had no family. At least, none around. They left him to die alone in a tiny room, after all. I saw one bottle of Brown Brothers wine. Probably saved for a special occassion. In the hands of a Malay boy who advanced threateningly on Elliot who backed away barking.

I came up and stood next to Elliot, arms folded, face menacing.

"Ada apa?" (Is there anything?) I growled, thankful for my imposing girth. The Malay boy with the stolen wine bottle (two sins, not one, you fucking hypocrite!) backed away arms raised in a conciliatory manner. I remained there, glowering, until he left with the rest of Igor's thieving friends. Elliot took refuge behind my legs and continued barking. Maggotty remained under Mom's car, uninterested.

The boy who lived in the next room, the one who gave Maggot and Elliot the rubber duckies, the one who displayed his trophies in the window for us to see, the one who looks at us with eager friendliness, said he heard the gasping, the coughs, the grim rattle of death. He told the (ahem!) landlords who declined to do anything.

"Leave him. He has heart problems."

Julie contended that this inquisitive boy could have called an ambulance on his own volition. Or at least knocked on the door to ask if everything was OK. Could have done something at least. But in a house full of rented rooms, everyone is shut off in their own sealed compartments. Their lives don't intersect.

So he didn't.

And so the old man died, Jackie. Exactly like we thought he would. Alone in that room, a heart attack, a black body bag (Mummy says it was like the garbage bag she buried Bobby in), a stained mattress.

And that's it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Drama Queen, Dominatrix, Dead Rat; What is it with me and D words?

A dead rat rotting away under a heavy cabinet spreading its ordure throughout the house. It invades my nostrils, my stomach rushes to my throat, I run back and forth from the airwell (I thought it was in the washing machine) towel pressed against my nose and the stench invades, my mouth, my throat, my skin.

Dadda falls back against the smell. We empty the cabinet of champagne flutes and jars of tea and sugar and cinammon and cloves. We press our bodies to the unyielding wood, hold our breaths, and push. Julie, who is red-eyed and weak from the flu comes to help push and the cabinet creaks, inches forward to reveal the poisoned rat, curled under heavy shadows, being consumed by maggots but not fast enough. It's been four days.

Dadda gags, I run, and Julie looks at it and shrugs in resignation. "I have the strongest stomach. I'll clean it up." She removes the rat. Dadda boils water to attack the maggots. I take refuge in the hall, answering Dadda's mobile which has decided to go off just then. It's Ivan. He's e-filing Dadda's taxes. Julie goes back to her soup. Like she said, a strong stomach. I couldn't choke down food now if you paid me. (I think having a rat under your heavy kitchen cabinet is a good dieting mechanism if you're into those kinda things)

And then there's the tiredness. It's like my body perishing from exhaustion. My eyes, still unspectacled or contact lensed despite my advanced years, feel like they're giving out. Pain in the head, weariness of the body. My limbs ache, long to crawl between blankets and expire. A little Wilkie Collins cos I need something suitably mindless, but no, it's not mindless, I take note of the hypnotic devices he employs in his text, the silent commands that compel you to go on reading, sending thrills...I am writing a website, I need to do it hypnotically - for the first time I have to wonder about converting browsers to buyers...selling, with every breath, with every breath...

And I start to wonder if I am becoming a saleswoman, a fake, are my relationships defined by what I have to sell...I'm tired, I pull away, leave me the fuck alone, I want to crawl under a kitchen cabinet and expire for a while, leave me alone.

And the boss tells me he's going to fire me after the probation period expires and I can't help but to feel that he's being sensible. I retort saucily because when pride's involved I have to be "I don't give a fuck" about anything. But I do care. And I don't. And I do. And I don't.

And I watch the guys in the company falling into line. When one of the bosses comes by and yells or claps them on the back encouragingly, they cover their crotches in the accepted "I'm in the presence of a superior male" attitude.




For the moment.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Across the Causeway

Jack, I thought you might like this.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The PC

It was all about the build-up.

Invitations, calling up to find out if the invited were going to show up because very few EVER bother to RSVP, event management (I didn't do this my colleague did and I observed her increasingly furrowed brow and swore to myself that I would never deal with hotels), the event itself, welcoming people, and then MC-ing the whole bloody thing with a script written about an hour before it was delivered.

At about three o'clock on the day itself, my friend Mary received a call.

"Angelchild? What's up?"

"Um Mares, I'm supposed to be MC for this thing."

"Yes, yes, I'm sure you'll do a fantastic job!" (She was enthusiastic. I, a little less so)

"Thing is, um, I don't have a script."


More silence.

"Can you help?"

Mary, calm as ever asked me to run through the programme.

"OK first you gotta greet the VIPs....Yang Berbahagia, Yang Mulia...etc, etc). Do you have a list of the VIPs?"


"Then you have to introduce the event."

I scratched my head in perplexity. "It was supposed to be a signing ceremony. Then an announcement of a new shareholder. Shareholders in question objected. Now I don't know what to call it."

"OK don't worry, you'll figure it out."

Hmmmm, there's only like 55 minutes to go, so I wondered....

Anyways, we ran through the programme, and I took note of the normal stuff I was supposed to say. Introduce my CEO for a speech. Thank him for his speech. If possible comment on it (which should be easy since I wrote the damn thing, then coached him as to how to deliver it, being very bossy and exacting about pronunciation and emphasis and smiles and hand movements)

(Thanks Mares, you saved my life. I mean it!)

Anyway the reporters started trickling in. The first one arrived an hour early, looked at his watch and hoped aloud that we wouldn't start late.

"Aiyo, the thing is only due to start at 5.30lar. Chill!"

Some of the VIPs started to meader in as well. One took my card and raised an eyebrow. "Strategic communications? Are there communications that aren't strategic?"

I was accustomed to the question. So I cocked an eyebrow in turn and told him that corporate communications smacked too much of PR and I had none (PR that is, along with tact and diplomacy and the whole shebang).

Anyway I swirled in and out of the crowd feeling increasingly queasy. At one point, close to the start, I actually felt dizzy and the room started to spin. You see, our simple little event was assuming gigantic proportions. The guest list was like a Who's Who. Tan Sris rubbed shoulders with Datuks. Quiet policymakers and company head honchos were quietly observant. Words of wisdom fell like jewels from their lips. "Eh bugger! What is thislar?" Our seating was so far from adequate that all our staff stood at the door to leave room for guests and media.

I dragged my reluctant footsteps to the podium. Swallowed once or twice. Invited everyone to take their seats. They ignored me (maybe they didn't hear me) and continued the chattery buzz. My colleague signalled that nobody was moving. I raised my voice and barked in stentorian tones (I was after all, a school prefect once upon a time): "LADIES AND GENTLEMAN WILL YOU PLEASE TAKE YOUR SEATS. WE ARE ABOUT TO BEGIN!!!!"

They sauntered in and did so. The VIPs made their way to VIP seats. The lesser mortals to the lesser mortal seats. I stood on stage, surveyed the crowd, tried to imagine them all in their underwear, took a deep breath and decided that was not the way to go and launched into the welcome.

"Be funny!" my bosses had said.

"Tell jokes," my bosses had added.

"But, but, but, it's a serious event," I had faltered.

Now up on stage, I wondered...

"Anyway ladies and gentleman, welcome to our tagline unveiling ceremony. Thank you for braving the traffic and stormy weather (I had wanted to say inclement weather, but didn't think anyone would understand. I was right) to be here with us today.

Our chairman who had never met me before leaned over and whispered to the COO. "You paid for an MC?"

Our ever-cost conscious COO, negatived this vehemently: "Our stafflar!"

Anyway, I told the crowd that our event would be short and sweet. "No frills means never having to say you're bored."

And then I introduced our CEO who would be giving what was supposed to be the only speech for the evening. It was exactly eight minutes in length, punctuated by exclamations, laughs, invitations to the audience to clap, and snide remarks about our new shareholder.

He took the stage and went at it like a pro. I was so proud of him. The audience laughed appreciatively. This was not a boring speech by a stuffy finance-related CEO. It was sort of short, very punchy, and funny.

Reading the speech the first time, he said: "This does not sound like me."

He attempted some changes.

I amended his amendments, telling him to keep it punchy and stop going all over the place. "Be direct!" (Financiers are never direct. Their cardinal rule seems to be, if I can say something in one word, let me use 10).

Anyway, he cracked them up, and descended to a storm of clapping.

I took the stage again: "My CEO ladies and gentleman, give him another round of applause." I commented on some of the points of his speech. Then I introduced the chairman, who would give an impromptu speech.

It was one of those mind-blowing experiences. He spoke so well....without any preparation. Sure, he repeated a lot of things the CEO had said. But he did it with such panache he seemed to make it his own. So this was the famous man everyone was always going on about.

When the chairman descended to thunderous applause. I went through the rest of the thing...went like a dream. Then I asked the guests to depart for a simple repast while the press stayed back for press conference. The guests looked at me blankly and didn't move. Simple repast is not in the Malaysian lexicon. Refreshments is. I repeated myself more simply. Guests took off and media remained to ask lotsa questions. I was chuffed that there were both foreign and local press there.

After the PC, a fake reporter tried to elbow his way in. Thing is, everything had been taken down and the guests had departed (wonder of wonders, we kept ourselves to the time limit and the event was in fact short and sweet). My marketing manager dealt with him. Kindly but firmly, she refused to introduce him to the rest of us, saying we were not relevant to his purpose (whatever that was) and asked him to drop her an email. We watched her deal with the big lug glad it was not us. The head of one of our business units remarked: "If that was me, I would lose my temper." I nodded. As would I. A colleague said later: "Gosh, I would have threatened physical violence." In short, we were a little less than sympathetic.

We adjourned to the lobby to repair the tissues. One colleague told me: "I don't want this to come out the wrong way, but you are kind of a dominatrix on stage."

I pondered this for a while, wondering how to take it. Pretty exhausted by now. Other people said kinder things.

One made a pass.

And so it goes, and so it goes.

Oh yeah, and we got brilliant coverage the next day.

Simply outstanding.