I moved out of my parents' home to stay on my own in my early-30's. My decision was based on an accumulation of unfortunate family events that spanned years. The final push came when I was told by my mother to share a tiny condominium room with my younger brother because my mother had unilaterally decided -- eerm, maybe not unilaterally, but also with my elder brother's silent consent -- that our family would upgrade to private property, with the monthly maintenance fee paid by me and (maybe) my elder brother.
I started plotting my move out. This was back in the early 2000's when a single Singapore citizen not staying with his/her parents (but renting a room from someone else) was a rarity. Potential landlords eyed me with suspicion and put up long lists of restrictions (e.g. cannot cook or at most only instant noodles, must not be out late at night, etc). Fortunately, a colleague took pity on me. She had learnt of my family issues the year before, when I often fell asleep at work due to insomnia caused by my parents endless middle-of-the-night quarrels over my younger sister's wedding banquet. She spoke to her parents and they kindly rented me their empty apartment.
Since I did not want to spoil anyone's Chinese New Year's festive mood, I waited until after the 15th day of the Chinese New Year to inform my mother of my plan. To put it simply, my mother had an attack of hysteria -- it was all about her. E.g. "We did not ill-treat you, how can you do this to me?", "What will the neighbours think?", "How am I going to explain to the neighbours?" It ended with her screaming/crying angrily and labelling me as “反骨” ["reversed bones", i.e. "traitor"]. I had observed my mother's past hysterics, so I was too emotionally numbed to be affected by her current show. In addition, only just a couple of years ago, my elder brother had angrily called me the same “反骨” ["reversed bones", i.e. "traitor"] when I refused to pool my CPF with his to help him achieve his condominium dream. [He pretty much demanded me to do it, without considering that I was unemployed and in the midst of depression at that time.]
My dad was awesome. For some unknown reason, my mother wielded power at home. My dad kept silent throughout the debacle. Then on the morning of my move, when my mother was away, he came out of his room to offer help. He looked at me with pride, told me in Cantonese that, "Moving out is good for you", and even gave me the thumbs-up.
Given the above dainty situation, I did not want to implicate anyone from my immediate or extended family with my move. In addition, I had to time my move during the window period when my mother would be at the market (that timeframe varied day-to-day depending on my mother's mood), i.e. so that she would not be present to kick-up a scene. Thus, I had to find people who were prepared to appear within moments of a phone call, and yet not probe too much, and would be discreet about the matter. A JC schoolmate of mine in the construction industry arranged a lorry to deliver my things. Now I only needed 2 men to help with the load.
Part 9 - 藕断丝连
[literally "the lotus root has broken apart, but its fibres still connect them together", i.e. "apart but lingers on"]
Sometime during the millennium year, AL was seconded back to Singapore again. The duration was not confirmed, but predicted to be a couple of years. Initially, he migrated to Singapore while 6Snoopys (now his wife) remained at her Hong Kong job. There was a couple of times when he contacted me to hang out. I kept the face-to-face rendezvous to a minimal, and when we hang out, we returned to being buddies.
Once again, AL took me as a confidante and shared with me about the problems he faced. As I had predicted, AL had a tempestuous marriage with 6Snoopys. The major issues that cropped up repeated were precisely the ones that I had highlighted to AL in my desperate bid to stop his marriage. Their differences over the major issues spilled-over into other menial matters of daily life.In the early 2000's, when I needed help with my move, I knew instantly who I could count on. I asked AL. He promised me that he would bring along a friend (who turned out to be another of our colleague). With my friends' help, I moved out successfully without any scene at home. I thanked him (and my other friends -- if my memory didn't fail me) over a meal.
I started turning my rented apartment into a home for me. There was lots of stuff to be done. Recognizing the physical limitations I faced given my petite size, AL kept asking me if I needed any help (especially with the lifting/carrying things home) and came over voluntarily to help set-up my home. To cut to the chase, AL once again gradually began acting more like a boyfriend and less like a platonic friend. Finally he took action and brought eros back into our relationship again. In public, he would be very careful and discreetly check that there was no familiar faces around before he even held my hands. In private, we went as far as being totally naked with each other, but without sexual intercourse -- not that I did not want to, but AL refused to because he did not want to take my virginity.
I questioned my own (lack of) morals -- in knowingly being with a married man. I was not proud of my actions, but back then I rationalized to myself that men had multiple wives in the not too distant past, so what we were doing then wasn't that much different. I was willing to play the "concubine" role. I thought, "So long as I am with the person that I loved, and we are both happy, what does it matter?" Yes, I was so madly and desperately in love.Some months later, AL's wife 6Snoopys quit her job and joined AL in Singapore. For a while, AL went missing from my life. Then he re-surfaced with lots of complains about his life with 6Snoopys. I missed him badly, so I allowed our relationship to continue. However, sometimes when we were hanging out, 6Snoopys would text/call AL and he would return home to her soon/immediately. Initially I thought that I would not mind -- after all, I was only the "concubine" (albeit one who is financially independent). After a while, it happened more and more often, and I began to feel jealous that 6Snoopys almost always had priority over me. Given my brush with depression, I refused to let myself fall into jealousy again. I began reduce our time together by staying at work for long hours and giving AL crappy excuses of why I was not available to meet up. If and when we did meet-up, we still indulged in non-penetrative sexual activities -- but with more resistance from me, which required more persuasion from him.
Gradually, I decided that I would have to end this relationship someday -- "Just move on. Don't fight with another woman over a man". A birthday gift from AL seared into my mind that he was too wishy-washy to make a tough decision that would temporarily hurt any party involved, in exchange for the long-term happiness of any other party involved. Thus, if any of us (AL, 6Snoopys, and myself) were to regain happiness in life, it would have to be me breaking the triangle.
That "someday" came in the form of a trip to France where SMS won me over. [Ok, I am over-simplifying this. Nevertheless, SMS is a different love story and it would take too long to write about it here.] When I returned from France, I told AL that we were over. He asked for a final hug and kiss, for the memories. I stiffened up, crossed my arms in front of my chest and refused to let him hug or kiss me. He went away looking very sad -- I felt torn too, but I was determined to move on.