According to the schedule we were supposed to hit the road again, head across the bridge, and then 200 kilometres into Malaysia but the receptionist at Urban Hostel must have put a hex on us or something because we both felt a bit ill, especially me. Although, granted, our health could possibly have been due to a combination of too much sun, too much beer and eating chicken that was so raw it was still pecking at the vegetables on the plate.
Whatever the cause, we decided it was necessary to change hostels and stay an extra day to recuperate. We were both aware at this time that we’d been lucky with hitchhiking through Indonesia. We were fortunate it was such a chilled out country. The police seemed to play by their own rules, which, that time, had worked in our favour.
Singapore, however, has a notoriously officious reputation. There are over 40’000 illegal offences many of which are innocuous, such as littering, leaving still water lying around your house or workplace, failing to lock up your bicycle when not in use, walking around naked in your house, and oral sex, unless, of course, it’s part of foreplay.
We felt lucky not to have to hitchhike in this environment. The receptionist at our new hostel had agreed to take us over the bridge, to the border of Malaysia, in the morning.
“I know some Malay”, said Michael, while we were killing time in one of Singapore’s numerous shopping centres.
“Oh really”, I replied, “What’s that then?”
“’Sayang’ means ‘love’”
“Oh right so that’s what ‘Sayang House’ [the name of Michael’s house in England] means” I said.
I was in the toilet, drying my hands, when a small Singaporean, probably about 45, pottered over to me. He was about 5”4, with gaps between every one of his top teeth. He was wearing a short sleeved shirt that was too big for him and a belt high around his mid-rift.
“Hello!” he said, enthusiastically, leaning on his heels with his hands behind his back.
“Hi,” I said, and we started shaking hands. “Are you new to Singapore?” he said.
“Yes”, I replied. We then proceeded to have a 5 minute chitchat conversation, just the usual kind of stuff. When he was listening to me, the little man had a curious habit of tilting his head and pursing his lips as if he was sucking on an invisible straw.
Suddenly and inexplicably he came out with: “Do you know any gay people in Singapore?”
It was at this point that I realised we were still shaking hands.
I took my hand back. Michael was now washing his hands next to me. I could see him sniggering at me in the mirror. “No. I’m new to Singapore”, I said.
“Do you know where I can find gay people in Singapore?” he said, taking a step closer to me.
“Ermm, no”, I said, nervously scratching my neck and looking around. “I’m new to Singapore. You could check the internet?’
The little man appeared to think about this and he took another step closer to me. “Do you mind if I do this?” he said, and he started stroking my shoulder. It wasn’t in an especially erotic way –it was more like as if he was brushing some dust from my T-shirt.
“Erm… I’m going to have to go now”, I said, stepping away, feeling like my personal space had been invaded a bit to far, especially considering we were in the mens´ toilets. “Great chat though. Let’s go Mike”
“One sec mate” he replied, “my hands are still a bit moist-” I grabbed him by the collar.
The little man followed us out of the bathroom, asking us questions about our lives. He didn’t come across as threatening, just a bit weird and creepy.
He kept trying to engage us in conversation as we walked through the shopping centre.
“What was your job in Australia?”
“Did you have you drive far to work” “
“Did.. errr… did you bring a pack lunch?!”
“Did you bring a pack lunch to work”
“Can I have your address?”
“Don’t give him your address, Richard,” Michael whispered to me,“He definitely looks like the stalker type”
Mike went into a shop to buy some sunglasses. “Can I write to you in England?” the little man said to me again.
“Pleeeease”, he said tugging at my sleeve.
“Fine”, I said, and I ripped out a page from my diary. “You can write to me in England”
He studied the address I had given him.
“Oooooooo”, he said, looking excited, leaning on his heels. “Do you know that ‘Sayang’ means ‘love’ in Malay?”