The Singaporean Sailor

With a flick of his slick-backed hair, he chuckled, salt air seeping in through the open window. What a find; it’s not everyday that he gets the chance to take a jaunt down memory lane, but what a fine day for such a trip. If he squinted slightly, the magnificent Marina Bay Sands disappeared from view and the gigantic flower sculptures became a fuzzy squiggle on the horizon. It might as well have been 1968. He turned the radio up high and let the sweet melodies of nostalgia wash over him.

He remembered her long locks and the way she’d twist and twirl one strand over and over again as he watched her from the docks. She knew he was watching her. She wanted to unravel the rest of her hair and run straight towards him, but she couldn’t. Her husband was on constant watch from his office and this terrified her. She would have to wait until Thursday again. On Thursdays her husband would be gone from the first bird-song until the market closed. And coincidentally, her Sailor arrived with those birds.

Every Thursday she awoke when the moon was still shimmering high, and slipped out of the sheets before her husband ceased his nightly snores. She would watch from their small patio as the sky slowly turned pink, becoming brighter and more vivid, mirroring her every heartbeat of excitement as morning crept closer. This moment of joy was always interrupted. She would hear her husband roll over, his arms hungrily outstretched, craving a quick fulfilment of her soft, delicate skin before his weekly morning on the tumultuous waves. She lay there forcing a smile, all the while holding her breath as the musky scent of too much beer emanated from his every pore. She would choose her rum-scented Sailor any day of the week.

She would choose his rum-smelling, sun-drenched coarse skin every day of the week if she could, but unfortunately Thursday was their only chance. For now. From the moment he left on Thursday at 12.26pm exactly, giving him just enough time to scarper down to the pier before the boat left, until his arrival at 7.04am the next Thursday morning, she would replay in her mind every single second of pure happiness they spent together. The way that every time she opened the door, he’d be standing there grinning, his hair windswept beyond belief from a week at sea, and always, without fail, he’d be holding a few stolen flowers from his four minute journey from the docks to her door. He never came empty-handed, but when he left he always took the flowers with him, tossing them back into their original flower patch. It was the sentiment that mattered, and anyway, the scent always lingered, a welcomed respite.

Their weekly rendezvous’s were of a simple, gentle nature. As soon as the flowers hit the floor (finding a vase and filling it with water was the last thing on her mind), they would let passion take over. They always cooked breakfast together after. Eggs from her garden and herbs from the many islands he visited during the week at sea. She drank her coffee black, with a spot of rum. This way, she could taste him for the rest of the day. Later, it became a daily ritual. Coffee with one teaspoon of sugar, one teaspoon of rum. She always chewed the mint leaves he brought her to avoid any questions from her husband at lunchtime. They longed to walk the streets together, climb the small mountain behind her house, even take a ride on his boat far out into the ocean. She dreamt of all the islands he visited, clinging onto his adventures.

During the long, cold winter days, they would light a fire and sit opposite each other sharing all their secret desires. She told him she wanted to run away with him. He laughed. He wanted it too. She loved the way his eyes disappeared almost completely every time he smiled or laughed. She thought about his family back in his land. Did he have a secret wife? Would she ever get to visit the mystical East? He would always catch her when she was deep in thought. She furrowed her brow and her lip quivered slightly. He’d pull her closer and serenade her with his deep voice, “Like a river flows surely to the sea, darling so it goes…”

“…some things are meant to be…”

He felt the old emotions sticking to him. He glanced in the mirror and took a good look at himself; all those years at sea, all these years driving a taxi, but it was still present. He smiled. He opened the door for his three passengers and welcomed them to Singapore; his home; his land. He turned the radio up even higher and continued to sing, “take my hand, take my whole life too…”

He sang to them the whole ride to the Botanical Gardens. He caught sight of his passengers’ eyes; they all shared that same thrill for life. Dropping them at the entrance gate, he picked up where he left off in the song and continued on his wistful way.

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