Author: Until Love PM
We weren't Jo March and Laurie, nor were we Katie Bell and Oliver Wood; but somehow, in the midst of a successfully foiled matchmaking attempt, we clicked. A lighthearted window to my country, Singapore.Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 1,108 - Published: 10-11-12 - id: 3064799
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A/N: A Shoutout to fellow Singaporeans; and to everyone else. I'm writing this short piece as a literary window/exploration of this 'paradoxical' situation native to Singapore.
For some reason, local authors here appear to like to emphasise and integrate all things Singaporean in all their works. This used to irk me quite a bit (although not so much now) because it always seemed that they're trying too hard to 'localise' their stories. On the other hand, perhaps because many of us here grow up speaking English as our first language and devour classics and novels written by native westerners, I've also come to realise that it's more convenient for many a Singaporean writer (of the few I know on fp and fanfiction) to base our plots in a foreign setting that many of us know little or nothing about, but which the rest of the world can relate better to. From this angle I see the motivation in the abovementioned efforts of local established writers (often older people-and I say 'older' relatively; because I'm turning twenty this year, and the youngest established local print authors/poets I've ever come across are in their thirties).
Also, from catching up with ex-classmates who've gone abroad to the UK and the States for Uni, I get the impression that some people still think that Singaporeans are less-than-proficient in English-and are surprised at our language ability (once they get past the difference in accent). I'm not offended in the least, nor do I mean any offence towards native speakers, but I do sometimes wonder about how Singapore is perceived internationally, or if we are recognised by name at all. From that POTC installment where Chow Yun Fatt, in his King Pirate getup, uttered that "Welcome to Singapore", I get the feeling that the world thinks that Singapore comprises floating boat-houses tied together. (For the record, that scene sent the entire theatre into peals of laughter when it aired here.)
Anyway, to cut my rambling short, this is exploration into Singaporean prose, despite my initial discomfort about the over-emphasis on it.
(P.S.: And to clear up misconceptions; most of us do actually have official English names, and not all Chinese girls are called 'May-Lin' ;))
I cleared my throat unconsciously, darted a glance at his figure and began, "So if I'm right in asserting that you're as unwilling a party as I am in this, let me just say that I'm sorry about Aunty Wong."
Another brief appraisal granted his acknowledgement in the hint of a smile.
Wrenching out whatever false bravado I had within me—I seemed to be on a roll—I thrust my hand out in an offered handshake. "I'm Katherine. Kate."
For a moment, as he stared incredulously at my outstretched hand, I was torn between retracting it in embarrassment and smashing my palm into his face to scare him away. Fortunately, I acted on a third option.
"We could shake hands like good fellows, or we could say 'hi' and sneak glances at each other like freshly match-make-d teenaged pansies from ancient China," I commented in ironic humour.
This earned me a full-fledged grin, followed shortly by a firm handshake; and a questioning brow— "'Good fellows'?"
"Erm, literary reference," I explained sheepishly. "Too much Little Women. Sorry."
"As I remember, Laurie did end up somewhat romantically-linked to Jo. Are you sure you haven't any ulterior motives?"
"Ulterior motives, my f—" I began, then realised something. "Wait. You read Little Women? You, of the male species?"
"Yes; me, man. You, woman. Me read book. Comprende?"
I was at a loss for comebacks, still pleasantly surprised that I had found a real-life fellow (somewhat) fan—in a male, no less (who were typically averse to literary pleasures, especially of the romantic genre).
"Is it so surprising that I read Little Women?"
"But it's a romance."
"So? It's also a Classic; and a family story."
"It's still a romance." I repeated. "Are you gay?"
"You have a warped sense of logic," he proclaimed in exasperated amusement. "But no, I'm fully heterosexual as far as I know."
Conversation ceased abruptly after that.
Suddenly—"I'm Oliver, by the way."
"Oh," I responded tentatively. "Hi?"
He coughed unconvincingly. "Chinese Pansy."
"Hey, you're Chinese too, if you've forgotten."
"Fine; Pansy-from-ancient-China, then."
A grin seeped across my face, and I subconsciously marvelled at how quickly and naturally we took to friendly bickering.
"I'm truly sorry about Aunty Wong, you know," my mind quickly wandered back to the pushy, albeit well-meaning mother-figure responsible for the semi-awkward situation at hand.
"It's fine; I understand how you feel—I'm betting that my mum's her fellow conspirator in this," he replied wryly. "With all the dating agency ads she's been placing strategically around the house, I'm actually surprised she hasn't frog-marched me to a blind date yet."
I couldn't help a bark of laughter from escaping, but immediately sobered up in case he was offended. "Sorry," I muttered, sneaking a glance at his expression; but to my relief, all I detected was a grin followed by an impatient gesture to wave away my apology.
"She's even taped Sunday's newspaper feature onto my bedroom window—you know, the one about how dating agencies are getting more popular?" He snorted. "All this even before we've finished unpacking—I'll have match-making fliers as wallpaper after we actually do."
I grunted in sympathy—we were in the same boat, then. "Well, potentially-awkward situations averted, at least," I commented, smiling wryly. "Sooner or later they're bound to concoct means of pushing us together in hopes that we'll get married and start a baby-production-line. I fully disclaim all responsibility of any pending situations we may find ourselves in, and apologise in advance for Aunty Wong."
"My sentiments exactly,"
And that forged our kindred-bond.
A/N: If you're not Singaporean, the thing about dating agencies isn't exaggerated-the thing that tickles me, even until now, is that we have a 'Social Development Network'-which is essentially an organisation to encourage people to pursue relationships and eventually marry. From a more sober perspective, because the population is so small, the growing popularity of singlehood/decision to not have children affects the country rather drastically, and is a valid cause for concern, I suppose.