“Token” by Alvin Chia

– By Alvin Chia –

Lim have lived through the golden age of Singapore. He often boast during the years he was well that he shook the hand of Lee Kwan Yew when the premier was a young politician cum lawyer. He saw the years of fire and riots and later growth and prosperity. He had a wealth of historical knowledge as he was there then first hand. None of that matters any more. Mr lim was 94 and as frail as a any man his age could be. Time….hmm….he often pondered….what was time? Ever since his wife died at the age of eighty six he could not concentrate on the chess games he used to play at the void decks before his time said no more.

He romanced Su Ling as a child. They were betrothed and later married. Su Ling’s ice cold coolness in times of stress was an opposite contrast to his hot headed temper. So different yet so much in love. When he retired after he turned sixty he began to send lots of time at home admiring how Su Ling kept his house in order. From the maids to his children, everything was systematic and he secretly thanked his wife for managing the home so could have achieved all he did during working years having a peace of mind. He remembered Su ling as a grinning teenager who seemed fearless. While other kids ran away after letting off fireworks out side weird Tay’ kampong Su ling would simple stroll off gracefully. What a girl!
He rubbed the tears that formed in his eyes. No using thinking of the past. That was done. Over. Su Ling was dead. A groan left his throat as he remember the saddest part of Su Ling’s departure was nevertheless the fact she died but rather the slowness in which she departed even after she was cremated. He returned home to his empty house after the funeral and sat in the living room they have livetqq v v. Gulch d and loved in. His maids left him alone that day. Su Ling’s smell permeated his nose and made himt choke with memories and helpless agony. He started staying home a lot as her smell was a comfort but little by little over the months the smell left. He yelled and screamed for her but still she went. He remembered the only way he could have her smell was to open her closet and bring her old clothes to his nostrils. Ah…..sweet relief which brought nothing but more tears poured down his wrinkled face.
Time as they say makes a fool of every man. In time even her locked up closet lost the smell. By these time no maids would work for him and his children refused to come back from their new lives overseas to take care of him. All he needed was to nurse his memories was her smell. He let out a long pitiful groan when he realised her smell was almost gone except for that brief moment of recognition that his brain went through every time he set foot in his living room after an errand outside.
After he turned 94 he suddenly had a wonderful solution. A solution to kill the misery. It suddenly dawned upon him in a sudden moment of realisation that left him feeling suddenly happy in years. With the help of his neighbour he went down to the local POSB. Every body was shocked at his sudden desire to do some banking. When he for home he was panting, tired but very happy. Almost elated. All his money in his life, almost twenty three thousand dollars was divided into three envelopes. One envelope was addresses to his son, next to the butcher at the market who since last year has been insisting although against his memory that he owes twelve dollars for a pigs liver and the last envelope was to pay for his small event coming up, he grinned. Each envelope was meticulously sealed and addressed.
He struggled to remove his pyjamas. A simple task which takes any young man ten seconds was for him and uphill battle of more than fifteen minutes. He turned on the water in the bath and just before he close the bathroom door, his hand froze the door while he went out to grab Su Ling’s photo. He frailly placed the glass frame on a chair facing the bathtub and got in. Ah….the water was not to hot. He leaned back and stared hard at her photo. Still staring he let his buttocks slide forward. Water rose to his neck and later his jaw. He gathered his last ounce of energy and willed himself to the level of courage for what is to come. He let himself totally submerge and he opened his mouth and took a deep breath….
…..hazy white lights shone over his eyes. He was disoriented. Why? Why wasn’t he….

Streams of light and sound were super clear. A blast of music nearby almost knocked him off his chair. The sounds sounded so familiar like that of an arcade…but what was he even doing in such a place? Someone was holding his hand….squeezing it…..he pulled off the plastic device over his eyes…..and sat up.
He was totally unprepared for his next surprise…Su Ling was beside him. She looked exactly like she was when she was 17 on the day he married her. She was so beautiful and so lovely and he stared at her for seconds….she smiled and pulled him up….he for up and looked around and at himself. He was wearing a pair of jeans…something he never wore in his lifetime. Lifetime? Was he dead?
“Honey lets go….moms cooking….!”

“Hey are you ok? It happens sometimes….take your time to orientate!”
He blinked. His goggles fell off. Su Ling led him up by his hand. He looked around. He was in an arcade…none like the kind he had seen in recent times….but what then was recent times? All sense of time and space seemed hay wired. Su ling gave him a drink and grinned. His eyes followed the goggles which fell off earlier….it was connected to a long wire which linked up to his seat. The ride that he apparently got off had large blinking words on the top….”Real Life Simulator!” It screamed….
His hands touched a bulge in his pockets…coins….no….tokens!
Confusion. Greyness. Darkness yet with light shooting through this open eyelids.


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