Chapter 6: Mentor

How sunset look from the bedroom
I took two weeks off after Saavy Steve handed me the keys. "Go forth and slave," he declared. So I did.

Though the amount of work was tremendous for 1 x manpower, it was an awful amount of time to be spending alone, especially if you consider pain emerging here, there and everywhere after putting in prolong hours of unfamiliar work. I found myself whistling or singing songs that I both like and, oddly enough, hate. Other times, I would be mumbling to myself. Or repeating words I once said and regret before going, "Arrrgh!!!" Soon enough, I would be splashing paint around, cross fighting with imaginary foes such as walls that came alive or punching the stone that stung my knee unsuspectingly. I remembered asking myself if I was terribly bored or having hallucinations from poor ventilation.

Having said that, I could also recall telling myself I didn't mind painting someone's house as a side job, as I actually enjoyed working alone. I'm an odd one, I know. I even didn't mind spending a couple of nights at the place. Without furniture and stuff, it felt far from a warm lovely home. Instead, it felt like a construction site that looked like a residential unit. With hot water and blankets, I was fine with it. The place was surprisingly swarming with mozzies despite the insect screen already up. I woke up with legs looking like octopus. I told myself I had to do as much as I could, so that my family could move in with as much done as possible. 51% done was still better than 50% right?

I knew Jen didn't mind. That was the reason why I married her. Years ago, I was still single when I was working in NParks. So I could afford some late nights at work to clear up the public submissions. A few times, Mdm Yap and Ah Teck stayed as late as me. Those were the (only) two colleagues in my department whom I respected. I wouldn't elaborate about Ah Teck as he wasn't relevant in this topic and focus on how Mdm Yap inspired me someway or another. Mdm Yap was one of those motherly figure who treated everyone with respect, regardless of their positions in the companies. Unlike a lot of those working in stat boards, she wouldn't suck up to those in higher positions nor talk down to those below.

It was another one of those short sessions when we stopped to talk a break after putting in a few hours of OT. Mdm Yap asked me why I wasn't planning for marriage. Ah Teck, cheeky as usual, chipped in and asked if I needed help to "tackle" any girls in the company. I told Mdm Yap that I felt local girls were materialistic and wouldn't stand me as much as I wouldn't stand them. Mdm Yap explained that was because living standards had improved so much over the years, so expectations of people naturally increased as well. Then she started to related how her husband and her got married without fanfare and moved into their humble HDB flat in Yishun without flooring and painting done.

Everyday after work, they would grind a part of the wall and painted one wall after another before addressing the flooring, also on their own. She said they were too "poor" to hire any contractors to do it nor could afford any expensive materials. There, they lived and raised their son even after she was doing much better financially later on. That was one story I never forgot. I told myself that should I be able to find a woman with that level of humility in her, I would marry her, never mind if she fell short at other areas that a typical Singaporean guy expects (yeah we have standards too). The rest, was history.

I needed no one to argue with me when I said, "I've decided to do X tasks myself. Let's just get them to build us a skeleton." You'll be surprised how some women would whine and bitch about it, even though they were not expected to lift a finger in any situation. Moving into an "incomplete" house alone, is a sin that cannot be forgiven to those. The only sin a man can commit is to marry one of these specimens. When I asked Jen if she minded and she replied, "Have roof, no leak, can already," I validated my choice once again, thanking my mentor for sharing a meaningful life story.

The other mentor that gave me the confidence to take on these menial task was Steph of the Grove. Over the years, he filled me in with details how things are being done here. "Easy lah!" he would go. "They fucking hack shit, clear shit, fill this with shit, then compact shit, then lay shit and sprinkle shit." He made things sound simple not because he was big talking but that he knew what he was talking about. When I told him I wanted to save money and take on shit, he wished me good luck. I wondered if he thought I would break my back. Though Steph did not work with me for any of the projects, it was important that I had someone like that to turn to, lest something went wrong. At least so far, he has not told me to, "Zi gei bou zong," when I told him what problems I faced during my attempts. That gave me the confidence to take on a scope larger than what I initially thought I would limit myself to.