Tales of a traveling wallet


After five days of being away from home, away from this insane city, and away from this country altogether, I realize that I don’t quite know how to describe my most recent vacation. Everything is running in together in my head, and it has all become a series of events all blurred into one.

Notice I don’t have any photos up.

While it was one of the best trips I’ve had in a long time — diving trips notwithstanding — it was also one of the most hectic, and the most traumatizing. Running around ceaselessly, from the chaos of Orchard Road to the dumps of Queenstown, from the quaintness of Haji Lane to the glitz of Clarke Quay, it was a whirlwind of activity marred by the absence of the photographs I had actually bothered to take with the camera I had actually bothered to bring along. The photographs which disappeared along with the camera that had been so artfully snaked out of my bag when I wasn’t looking.

So it didn’t matter that we had our pictures taken at the Esplanade’s 7atenine after the Lea Salonga concert — which, by the way, reignited my childhood dream of becoming (or at least sounding) just like her — where I downed two glasses of champagne to dull the pain of seeing the lost love of my life flash, quite literally, before my eyes and retreat into the part of my memory that I never dare visit. It didn’t matter that Afham insisted on taking my picture walking down Haji Lane, which has now become my favorite place to shop in Singapore, or that I had fun taking his picture standing in line waiting to be admitted into the newly-opened Bathing Ape store at the Mandarin Gallery.

It was a bit of a cliché that my wallet was stolen — for the very first time in my life, I might add — at Far East Plaza, known as the Singaporean version of Sungai Wang, quite possibly the shadiest mall in Kuala Lumpur. The loss of the money, which thankfully wasn’t much to begin with, was far overshadowed by the loss of the wallet and its contents, right down to the tiny little piece of paper that had been scribbled on and slipped into my bag months ago as a surprise.

After retracing my steps to the last three stores I was in, I resigned myself to the fact that I had become the victim of a pickpocket. And I was so distracted by the disappearance of my wallet that I only discovered three hours later that my camera had been swiped too, a discovery that could not be consoled by the phone call telling me my wallet had been ‘found and turned in’, sans cash, or my new acquisitions from Charles & Keith, Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo. For the first time in my life, I realized the importance, if of the superficial kind, of a camera, because Afham’s happy quips about this being ‘our first trip’ just made me all the more guilty for not being more careful with my belongings, thus causing the loss of every physical memory of this trip.

But regardless of that stroke of misfortune, it was a good trip, and given the current calamities of my job, it was a much-needed break away from everything. I may have lost my voice — for the first time in three years — all muscle function in my legs, reminiscent of the marathon, my money, and my camera, but I found a little bit of happiness again, and the glimmer of a new will to better my life in the coming year.

And as if to cap it all off, during the coach ride home I heard the completely inarticulate attendant shout in the face of a passenger (not deliberately, but more to accommodate his hearing which was impaired by his headphones), “Sir, are you virgin?” She meant vegetarian. I succeeded in not guffawing out loud.

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