“I have to go to London for work. But I’ll be back in a week, babe. I won’t be gone for long.”
My girlfriend left on a Saturday night for a business trip and tied in a visit to her best friend who has been living in London for a few years. She often travels for work and while I’ve become accustomed to her absences, I always blow the opportunity to enjoy some productive ‘me time’ by slobbering on the couch in a drunken funk and watching television till 3am before eventually dragging myself off to bed to watch the roof spin sickeningly before I sleep.
“Not this time!” I told myself. “I’m going to seize the day! I’m going to reacquaint myself with Singapore and do some exploring, I’m going to hit the gym, stick to my diet, play some golf, catch up with friends and start blogging again. I’m going to use time, not kill time, damn it! I’m not going to just sit on the couch drinking beer and playing games on my Playstation in my underwear. I am going to carpe the living hell out of every bloody diem!”
Day 1 – Sunday
3.04pm: Been drinking beer and playing Playstation in my underwear since I got up four hours ago. I hate the way that toothpaste makes beer taste. Going to have to stop brushing my teeth in the morning.
5.49pm: Killing time by trawling YouTube videos for TV commercials from the 80’s. Saw that old infomercial for spray-on hair-in-a-can. The audiences in those infomercials are awful actors. I could feign surprise and awe far better than any them. Going to practice my affectations then contact my agent to get some acting work.
5.50pm: Remembered that I don’t have an agent.
5.51pm: Remembered that I can’t act.
8.33pm: Closest thing to food in the apartment is that blob of mayonnaise I left on the counter after using the last of the tuna and mayo for a sandwich three hours ago. Went to the 7-11 across the street and got some beer and something akin to dinner yet completely unlike food. Finally bought one of those Ballgus ready-to-eat sausages they always have on the counter. Always wondered if it was beef, pork or chicken. Tastes like eyes, lips and arseholes from a circus animal.
11.58pm: Woke up this morning with a mild tingle in my throat. The tingle has developed into a raspy cough. Was sick last week so I can’t possibly be sick again. Trudge off to my cold, empty bed.
Day 2 – Monday
7.10am: I feel like death but not in a sexy, “I’m a gleaming, glittery vampire who visits a sensual demise upon his adoring victims” kind of way; more in a “I’m about to cough up a gleaming, gelatinous pleura before dying alone in my apartment wearing nothing but old underwear and a three-day growth” kind of way. Drag myself off to work.
11.37am: Went to the office and coughed spasmodically all the way through Monday’s team breakfast. Told my boss that a slow, pneumonic death was imminent. No one likes the sound of a phlegmy cough when they’re trying to eat brekky. He took pity on me (or felt utter disgust – take your pick) and sent me home.
3.49pm: Air conditioner has started leaking very heavily. Water splashing everywhere. Perfect.
3.50pm: Tried logging onto Facebook but internet is down
4.28pm: Remembered that life existed – in some form, at least – before the internet. Decided to immerse myself in the rich literary works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Pulled out my favourite book, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and settled into the couch for a solid reading session.
4.29pm: Fell asleep.
4.55pm: Woke up. Bent the hell out of the book’s cover after falling asleep on it. Drool stain on page two. Opened my book up again and started in on my reading session.
7.13pm: No food in the house but I need sustenance so I have to get creative. Learned that there is no combination of honey, month-old cheddar cheese and cloves that works in a sandwich, particularly when the only two pieces of bread left in the packet are those unwanted, friendless end pieces. Maybe if I toasted it…
7.15pm: Toasting did not go well. Ring McDonalds home delivery.
9.16pm: Painfully bored. Mind wandered aimlessly until it drifted into that void in man’s collective knowledge, that place where the truly great, timeless questions hover like unexplored worlds over our heads: Why the hell does Donald Duck, who wears no pants, bother to wrap a towel around his waist when he gets out of the shower? Then he puts on a shirt, rips off the towel and struts down the street, sans pants, duck dick waving in the wind. What the hell is that? Someone at Disney really dropped the ball on that one.
11.12pm: Fitful sleep.
Day 3 – Tuesday
7.12am: Got up for work but there’s no way I can go. My cough is making me sound like a dying dog after a botched tracheostomy.
4.39pm: Got up and watched The Dark Knight Rises on DVD. Wondered why the Blu-Ray looked so poor. After having had the Playstation for a year, finally realised that it has a HDMI port (I know, mega-noob). Reacted like Jodie Foster’s Sagan-esque character in Contact after she was transported into space and witnessed the spectacular birth of a galaxy: “It’s a… celestial event… (awe envelopes her) no… no words… (unhinged sob)… poetry… (another wild, joyful sob)… they should have sent a poet!”
4.41pm: Played my new Playstation game, The Last Of Us, in HD for the first time. If I had found the HDMI port and this game before meeting my girlfriend, I might’ve still been single and living like Howard Hughes: never leaving my room, peeing into bottles and beyond any and all personal grooming. Hopelessly addicted.
10.33pm: Still playing the Playstation. Can’t stop coughing. Nose is running like a Kenyan Olympian.
11.01am: Sleep. I hate crashing in an empty bed.
Day 4 – Wednesday
7.01am: Not sure if I’m hot or cold but I can definitely say, without doubt, that I’m hot and cold. Cough and phlegm are worse. Each guttural hack sounds like a rusty chainsaw being started in a bucket of yoghurt.
10.42am: So hungry. Ate what can only be described as cardboard-based, flavour-free, party-in-your-mouth-and-no-one’s-invited bran flakes that my girlfriend bought when we started dieting. No milk, mind you. So low on energy, feeling so sleepyyyyyyyaasdfassdds[[asdayyyyyyyyyyyyya;'[==-oiko211rewsdfjjj
11.13am: Woke up on top of the laptop.
2.03pm: Went to see my GP. Doc says I have a chest infection. Impossible, I tell him. I was sick last week, I explain to him, and there is no way I could have fallen ill for a second time in two weeks. Doctor’s retort: “You haven’t been sick twice in two weeks. You’ve been sick once for an entire fortnight, you daft Australian dingo-herder. Take some antibiotics and get the hell out of my office.” (Gross liberties taken while paraphrasing).
7.56pm: Reading a book I bought recently by a hilarious writer who’s begun playing golf again after a couple of decades away from the game. It’s easy to believe you’re the worst golfer in the world when your swing resembles a man trying to hold onto a greased broomstick as he’s falling down a flight of stairs. Reading about his struggles made me feel like I’m not alone.
10.05pm: Bed time. I’m over sleeping alone.
Day 5: Thursday
7.01am: Woke up feeling pretty shady but I can’t have another day off. Drag myself off to work.
8.45am: My desk is right under an air con vent that could stop the polar ice caps from melting. I’m sick as a dog and I’m freezing. Now is the winter of my discontent and I don’t even have a scarf.
8.46am: Check my inbox and the pile of work I have to catch up on.
6.00pm: Finally heading home. Boarded a packed MRT train. People kept their distance from me as I coughed wildly. Couldn’t help but play up to it. Leaned in and told a stranger “…and that’s all it took, six months in a Turkish gulag and BANG! Tuberculosis. What are the chances…” People reel away from me in barely-disguised horror. The upside to being sick has revealed itself on the train as I enjoy some rare peak-hour elbow room.
10.02pm: Reluctantly head off to bed. Not reluctantly because I’m not tired but because I never miss my girlfriend as much as I do when I’m lying alone in our bed.
Day 6 – Friday
7.01am: Not feeling 100% but I’m better. Remembered that today is payday. Started making plans to enjoy a few beers tonight before I’d even brushed my teeth.
6.00pm: Friday afternoon. Pay day. Just left the office. This is as close to heaven as you’ll ever get in Changi Business Park (otherwise known as The Place Where Naughty Singaporean Corporate Citizens Go To Die).
7.13pm: Hit the bar downstairs from our condo. Haven’t had a scotch in weeks. Love my single malt so ordered a double. I drink it like it was the cure to my life’s ills.
7.28pm: One more scotch for the road.
7.39pm: One more scotch for the road just down the road.
7.53pm: Roads seem to be wobbling a little.
7.54pm: Walk to Gerry’s to pick up a South Western feast: a full slab of juicy, saucy, waist-line-destroying ribs with potato salad on the side.
9.11pm: On the couch. Barbecue sauce smeared on my fingers and face. Empty beer cans crowd around my feet. A plastic bag full of clean rib bones is resting next to the couch. Stupid grin on my face. This feeling is the reason the word ‘satisfied’ was invented. Best time I’ve had all week.
10.49pm: I feel a little like one of those pitiful kids in the movies who’s sitting alone, in front of a birthday cake with a blower in this mouth and a party hat on his head, to whose birthday party not one person has come. But those kids can’t drink. I can. Burn, pitiful kids. Burn.
Day 7 – Saturday
11.37am: My girlfriend gets home tomorrow so I clean up the house. Spend the rest of the afternoon playing The Last Of Us on the Playstation.
3.17pm: Get a message from some friends inviting me out on a Halloween pub crawl. “We’re going to hit a few pubs. Want to come out drinking with us?” Yes. Yes, I do.
10.29am: My friends were all in costume. I dressed as a drunk expat, I told them, but it was the best costume there because it was the only one that improved organically throughout the night. We’ve hit three pubs and clubs already. Blown about $150 and have had too many drinks to remember.
11.43pm: China One night club. Ordered a double scotch and the bartender leaned in and said “It’s not worth it. You should just order a single.” Incredulity. I work, I thought to myself. I have money and I can blow it however I see fit, even on an extraordinarily expensive drink, if I so feel inclined! “How much is a double?” I asked him, with a derisive “psshhh, give me the double” at the ready. Straight-faced, he tells me that it costs seventy four #$%&ing dollars.
11.45pm: Ordered a single and left the club a few minutes later. Sitting outside having beers and some food.
3.42am: Just got home. Despite Clarke Quay being as packed as I’ve ever seen it, I enjoyed being there more than I have in a long time. I was with some good friends, the atmosphere was fun, swarms of revelers in Halloween costumes were crowding the strip, we were joined by old friend we hadn’t seen in months and we had some laughs and a good chat. It was good to have finally done something fun that week.
Day 8 – Sunday
3.01pm: It’s finally over. I’m at the airport and my girlfriend will be coming through the gates any moment now. I reflected on my week alone. I didn’t get out very much, I hadn’t become any more familiar with Singapore than I was at the start of the week, I didn’t have any really good meals or play golf or start blogging again and I didn’t visit the gym or stick to my diet. I spent the entire week feeling quite ill and still have several more days to go on a course of antibiotics. I didn’t carpe one single bloody diem, I did nothing productive, I probably weigh more now than when my girlfriend left but, quite frankly, none of that matters anymore because I know that the memory of the (almost) entirely dismal week is going to dissolve as soon as she strides through customs.
3.16pm: I saw her and my spirits lifted immeasurably. My best friend is home. She came out, let go of her trolley and gave me a rib-crushing hug. We kissed and I told her how much I had missed her. I grabbed the trolley and started pushing it towards the taxi stand. My love is home, back to normal, back to the way things should be. My heart swells with joy. “How was your trip?” I asked her. “So hectic but got lots of work done, it was really productive. Had lots of fun, too. Caught up with my bestie, we had a big night out. It was great seeing her again. Had such a good week. Oh, by the way, I have to go to on a business trip to Bangkok for five days next week.”