"I'm at the airport. I'm going to Singapore. I have no place to stay. My flight will arrive at Changi at about...errr, 10 minutes after midnight. Could I crush to your couch tonight?" I desperately called my sister's friend, Richard, just a few minutes before boarding. I could not get into him via mobile phone. I was using a public phone in the airport which charged me a lot for every single minute.
"No problem, I'll pick you up." Richard answered succinctly.
"Thanks a zillion," He had saved my nerves and money.
I waved to Richard in the arrival gate and he looked at me with a slight shock.
"Gosh, I thought you were a Vietnamese maid!" (Trust me, Richard never really sees any Vietnamese maid for whole of his life. He said that only because I was carrying a cone hat)
"Really?" Opposite of my expected reaction, I sounded especially proud. "I'm starving. Shall we go for food?"
"Ngg...yes, sure," Richard checked out the time on his wrist. "I'm surely up for an extremely-early morning breakfast. But it's much more expensive to eat here. Is it OK if we wait until we're near my flat? There's a good-priced food stall open until 4," he suggested.
"Cool," I said light-heartedly, but just before I saw the queue for taxi. Four planes had landed at the same time, leaving three rows queue snaking down for about ten metres long. God bless my stomach!
Still, it was a nice dinner (or breakfast for Richard).
"Last order!" the waiter cried. I thought his appearance was quite distinct: a long white bleached hair, a massive necklace chain (with a name tag?! Ex-prisoner?), tight polo T-shirt and shreded blue jeans. Put that altogether with a typical chinese face of a man in his 60s. Quite distinct eh?
"Hey, Richard, is he the guy in the banner?" There were four big banners in the food stall. Each had a big picture of someone: a cute girl dressed up like a pole dancer, a man with a football costume, the waiter guy and another pretty girl dressed like another pole dancer.
"No way. That banners are everywhere in food stalls," Richard said absent-mindedly, but then he looked closely to the banner then the waiter, and again, and repeated it several times.
"Oh yeah. You're right! And also those girls standing there next to the taxi!" He happily identified more people from the banners. The night was not young, the foodstall was almost closed but the girls still hovered around a taxi on the road.
"This place is a bit weird," Richard murmured when he finally gulped down last of his food. Yet I thought he's local.
"I have to wake you up at 8 tomorrow morning," Richard told me while preparing a makeshift bed in the livingroom, "My landlady will come tomorrow to collect the rent. It's coincidence, you come in the exact date. She always collects money on the 11th," he explained.
"OK," I said.
"She never allows a female guest to stay in this house. You see, I share this house with two other guys. One day the guy next to my room invited his girlfriend to stay a night. In the morning, the landlady told him off and posted a notification on the front door. She lives downstair,"
"Oh crap," I mean it. I hope Richard mentioned this earlier, because I don't want to make him in trouble, but I was also thankful for him to take the risk.
"So could you hide in the next room tomorrow?" he asked.
It was a smooth escape for the landlady was only around for a few minutes. Richard knocked on my door and said that she's gone. I took out my rucksack and started doing my laundry. Well, actually Richard did it for me when I said I had no single clean clothes for the next day. Since I needed clean clothes desperately, Richard put my laundry out of the window to dry up under the sun.
"It'll be quicker," he said.
Then we went for a walk around Singapore. We had coffee, we ate, we talked and we scanned a CD store after a book store, before Richard got a phone call. From the landlady!
"I found knickers flying from your flat," she said coldly."I am wondering if you always wear woman underwear because I also found a flowery bra hanging on your laundry line,"
After making a lame excuse that his mother came visiting the previous day, Richard told me that it wasn't very clever to hang the clothes outside. As if we had not had enough trouble, suddenly it started raining so heavily! Then we knew that all my laundry must be drenched. And so were we when we tried to get home in a taxi.
We sipped another cup of coffee in Richard's flat. I had taken my laundry back in and we laughed at the landlady for caring too much about someone's laundry. Richard said she had nothing else to do but being a landlady, and that's what a landlady does: spy the laundry!
"I think I love Singapore," I said.
"Oh yes. You're very much welcome," Richard replied assuredly.