Underground Man of Singapore’s Resort-Style Red Dot
He goes underground ... He goes underground tonight to save himself, with a gulp of whisky, bought on credit inside a half-lit pub. His bony face flushes a bit, his eyes roll a bit, and he's gone ... half a deity, who imagines burrowing into the ground, into the hard earth. And he moves below an alleyway, below a roughly carpeted budget hotel near Singapore's Joo Chiat.
Any sense of salvation within the cracks of the earth, within the cracks of each ticking moment? He's unsure. Coming out of the earth, he shakes away the soot and grime and tries to act young, letting down his long hair from the crown to cover balding patches along his forehead.
He's 38. That's politically significant for compiling statistics on the 'under-employed', which means those stuck in the low-income groups. Such groups are growing by the day and remain dismally under-employed.
And the underground man feels like a smallish insect, somewhere in a concrete forest, in a Resort-Style Red Dot for the Elites and the Rich. He calls himself a transgressive beetle-man who escaped last week after taking part in an anti-establishment demonstration near Raffles Place MRT.
Maybe to play the role of a masked beetle-man is better than a dehumanised cog inside a Corporate Machine?
(Never forget... it's dangerous to forget, there're electronic eyes and listening devices between these lines.)
At home, he spent what's little left on making a three-panel painting that sounds like A Post-Modern Bossa Nova. The painting gets up early every morning when the sun rays kiss it, and it wobbles around his heart.
His motto becomes: Don't shape these fragments into a sort of smallish reality. They contain macro-things that, sooner or later, change the present and the future. But he hates the existential facts: there're only passing, smallish pictures inside his quarrelsome brain cells.
Hunching over an ergonomic table at a dim corner in the Underground Einstein Cafe, he tries to convince himself 'E doesn't equal MC squared' since it doesn't take into account the enigmatic Intelligence that keeps everything from falling apart... And he comforts himself with his little breakthrough, as he finds the Superstring Theory or a pixelated reality too abstract. Ok, back to which reality?
Although secular hope is scanty, the underground man still has a commission-based marketing job, subject to strict three-month probation and stricter sales targets, a job no one wanted... since none can make it. (Don't worry, the electronic eyes and ears will delete this part.)
And he makes a whimper before he howls like an over-sized raccoon, inside the Cafe's toilet cubicle, 'Call me anti-Ismael... and call me Her Man who harpoons and slays a different howling whale.'
He shakes its head, almost determined to go high brow... when he remembers his literature class girlfriend who got married to his antagonist seven years ago. He was bringing her purple feng shui beads and roses, bought with borrowed one-dollar coins.
(Did you ask, what type of antagonist? The devious category. That suave Casanova guy who got his money from his connections
with two flamboyant and rich widows, and an old, reclusive tycoon. And he bluffs his bride by marrying her in an old Irish church, registering their legal papers in a country without proper Women's Charter and forgetting about her after a few seasons.)
The underground man drinks his psychoactive coffee now and tries to forget her. Can't spell out the technical names
of illicit chemicals in his coffee. (Remember, there're listening devices...)
And he goes hallucinatory... morphs into a jealous, yellowish spider, a Kletoparasite that resurrects after midnight inside a dreamscape, the two hooks near his mouth become his ninth and tenth legs.
'Buy me avant-garde cocktail with flames, to numb my face that's slapped by bossy tongues.'
Somebody gives him a drink to make him clear-headed, after he shows off his tattered cash cards, maxed out... in smoky July 2018 space-time. (This time, the electronic eyes and ears give up and shut down.)
And he's addicted to Cormac's novels. Perhaps safer to tread inside fictional, post-apocalyptic worlds where the Internal Security Act becomes redundant?
By the way, how deep is he underground? Measured by the depth of his cup? Is he drinking Singapore's glazed cups of Blood Meridian? In a corner of a half-seedy, paper-licensed pub? (The laminated licence contains the sweat and fears of a high-ranking officer, who keeps a mistress with two poodles, two chameleons and two domestic maids. One of the maids is more intimate with him compared to his mistress.)
Ok, back to which reality?
Does a place become a pub when a man's heart turns lustful?
Well, never mind, too late for regrets. Just pray, and go to the small happy hours, to pray some more.
But the underground man knows he cannot run away from the specifics of space-time. This is a non-negotiable Stephen Hawking's world.
Yet these lines scowl and disobey. They choose to grunt, cough and spit.
More coughing, choking and pleasurable sufferings inside the specifics of that half-lit pub. Is he dazed by aromatic smoke from Phuket's secretive green palms that sell well in massage parlours? Or balmy psychedelic tablets which look like cigars that mix well with hard Russian-sounding liquor? At a midnight corner of a different Clark Quay, made half-seedy for aesthetic effects?
And a drunken voice asks, "Do the girls need sleeker thighs?"
He goes underground not because of that. But because high-ranking officers get to read this. It has electoral consequences.
Jonathan Lee was born in 1969 in Singapore, to an odd-job worker and housewife. He studied at the National University of Singapore, graduating with a BA in English Literature and Economics in 1993. Subsequently, he obtained post-graduate degrees with distinctions in Finance and Accountancy. He has worked as a senior accountant and finance manager in Singapore for 24 years, and has two grown children. He was awarded a government scholarship to study advanced management and finance courses conducted by the University of Pennsylvania. He has been awarded prizes in poetry competitions in the United States.