"He remembered when he was a child, maybe about nine years old, massaging his mother’s feet. Pressing his little thumbs into her rough, calloused flesh as hard as he could. Feeling the warmth and softness beneath the dry, crackled skin and trying to smooth out all her tension and worry. When did the quiet comfort in each other’s company disappear? He loved his mother. Very much. It was just that she loved his brother more."
Excerpt from Rashid at The Sail, a story in my book, We Rose Up Slowly
In this story a young man, kicked out of home by his mother, retreats to his brother’s luxury condominium at The Sail to work out what to do with his life.
The story was written in 2014 and 2015 and was inspired by:
- my personal trainer, Rizam. The basic plot and characters were developed with Rizam while i worked out in the gym. Rizam was my first ‘non-work’ friend in Singapore back in 2002.
- a Tessa Hadley story in The New Yorker, Experience
Rashid at the Sail:
- is set at The Sail in the heart of the modern corporate core of SGP, Marina Bay, where you can literally walk 70 steps to work. When I worked at One Raffles Quay I used to eat pasta once a week from Da Paola at the foot of The Sail
- is about family, loneliness giving birth to exploration, breach and consequence, with an unethical act leading to a new place, and ultimately reconciliation
- Other themes include yearning for something more, taking responsibility, looking to escape ordinariness, trying to find purpose, how to live - not just go through the motions, being envious of a brother & wanting to break out to be your own person
- “He didn’t even glance at the Merlion.”
In some ways this is an anti-Merlion story. The Merlion (that consumer staple of Sing Lit) means nothing to our protagonist whose inspiration is gained from another SingLit icon: a kite, representing the independence and agency of individuals rather than a contrived, 'marketing driven solution'. See Dave Chua's, The Beating & Other Stories, for a story with a Kite in it.
- “He fell hard for this vision of himself, built on the shifting sands of selective nostalgia.”
Rashid finds purpose in idealising a relationship from the past. This gives him a new role for the future: to mean something to his brother's son.
There are also references in this story to:
- TV studios at Caldecott Hill. I went there several times during the first season of Singapore Idol in 2004 to watch Jeassea, Rizam’s ex wife sing
- The Biggest Loser - Asia. I’ve never seen it, never wanted to see it. Pass me another beer please.
- Hibiscus Royal Slings, are a cocktail at Lantern, the chill out bar on the top of the Fullerton Bay Hotel. This is where an FX Trader lost his life jumping from the roof after a few too many drinks.
- Expat Life is a typo - it should be Expat Living
- A plastic diorama of the Petronas Towers - representing a connection with Malaysia
- Those infamous on line sites: The Online Citizen, The Real Singapore & SammyBoy
- A magician in Bradford - famous for Cleo the girl in a goldfish bowl - and a wrestler from Atlanta, Georgia who share the same name as your favourite author
- Another lunch time eating place, Lau pa sat
- Bromsgrove. My mother taught there. We lived nearby until I was 11 when we emigrated to Australia. Bromsgrove houses the National Telephone Kiosk Collection and is close to the Lickey Hills.
- tapas at Duxton Hill Road, KopiO at Everton Park, Milo Godzillas beside the infinity pool at Ku De Ta, poetry readings at BooksActually, live music at Haji Lane.
- the presents, designer underwear and a fountain pen, are a reference to gifts from a student to her law lecturer