Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bingo on a Saturday Night

My oldest boyfriend, George, is in town. He's pushing 90 but still sounds robust on the phone. He called to tell me he landed in KL amidst a flurry of tragedies. A stroke, cancer, bipolar disorder. I listen sympathetically. KL ain't what it used to be, huh? Unhealthy place now. He laughs. He left in the 60s. A war hero. He's back for a World War Two Memorial celebration in Singapore.

George is a man of few words. I interviewed him for a project, getting his story for my collection. He doesn't take to many people but he took to me. Which was a mercy. And always called up to invite me for Dutch Burgher get-togethers at the Anglican church hall after that. Was fun, despite the fact that nearly everyone was twice my age.

Of course, they were curious, seeing as I wasn't the daughter or niece. They couldn't figure out the connection. And with a certain generation, connections are important. You need to be placed on the grid, so-and-so's daughter, so-and-so's granddaughter, so-and-so's niece. I was utterly, utterly unrelated to anyone. I was off the grid.

And I wrote the following after one such night out.

A Saturday Night

Bingo on a Saturday night
Old faces, eager young eyes
People I don't know.
Look at me in surprise.

Who is she, they ask Hyacinth
who walked in with me
George's new girlfriend,
she replies.

George is her husband.
George is 82.

She's very young,
Of course, says Hyacinth
What would he want
with another old woman?

Don't you mind?
Hell no.

What's your name dear?
Where are you from?
Are you related to so-and-so?
Their voices flutter,
Butterflies in my hair.

And then the bingo.
Pat calls out the numbers
22 is double chooks
and 11, legs.
(They always whistle when she says that)
8 the fat lady or gentleman.
Sweet 16 and never been kissed.
She chokes at 69, then accuses an old guy
of being obscene when he sniggers.

Bingo on a Saturday night,
Old faces, eager young eyes.

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