As per her quarterly quota, once again my paternal grandmother asks me if I was seeing anyone.
She has been feeling under the weather, but her voice noticeably perks up when I tell her I am indeed seeing someone new.
Of course she asks me about him, and as usual asks if he was Henghwa. I tell her that like all my other boyfriends he isn’t Henghwa and that he is in fact Cantonese.
Is he working? What is his occupation?
He works in interior design in Hong Kong, I tell her in Mandarin.
In Hong Kong? Not in Singapore?
No, Mamah. He’s actually a Hongkonger, born and bred.
There is a long pause on the other end of the line.
We’re doing a long distance relationship thing. I try to explain, recalling a conversation we had three, four years ago before bedtime when she asked about another boyfriend, an ex who was a sailor:
How long have you two been together?
It’s been maybe about seven months now, I think? But he’s often away on overseas missions, sometimes for months at a time. So we actually don’t see each other a lot like most couples.
So what do you do when he is away then?
Erm, pretty much the same thing I do when I’m single: chill, hang out with friends.
Your friends are both girls and boys?
Yes, both girls and boys. [beat] I have platonic male friends, Mamah. And yes, I do hang out with them both in groups as well as one-on-one.
… Do you two plan to get married?
To be honest, I’m not sure. I’m not sure if we are actually a good fit. And even if we were, at this point of time I don’t think I even want to settle down at all. If I ever marry, I’d probably marry quite late, like my 40s maybe?
She stopped thumbing her rosary. Slowly, she collected the beads one by one in her palm, before laying them silently in her lap and saying:
Very modern arrangement, you.
Back to this balmy 2017 night, she now asks haltingly: Does DL have any other girlfriends? Are you seeing anyone else? Do you have any other boyfriends?
No lah, Mamah. We are in an exclusive committed relationship. I am not seeing anyone else, and he isn’t either (he better not; otherwise I’ll kill him).
I know I’m a “modern” girl and not a romantic, but I am no floozy lah, Mamah.
Don’t worry lah.