I’m back into my routine.
The same motherly Indonesian is still serving the same crappy food at the sidewalk cafe where I would sit for hours reading The Ambassador’s Wife.
There was nothing ambassadorial about this lady who says she is from Surabaya. But she laughs at my jokes.
‘Saya mao susu bisar.’ I’m practising my Indonesian again. And she says they only have milky tea or coffee, but no milky ‘big’ breasts.
How could I have spent so long here and even longer in Malaysia? I had a few books to prove it. Teh Tarik, or Milky Tea, was a title I was quite proud of it. It got a one star review. And to think all the milky tea and packets of cigarettes that went into that book. The indignity of it all wasn’t about to eat me up today.
I had even polished up a few other books, one on my travels in Central America, (the cover was the foyer of my hotel) another, One Eye Open: The Other Singapore, a book on my time here in Johor. Nothing, no reviews, no downloads. But it was a productive three months in Johor. Then there was ‘Batam & Bintan’, another short book on those two Indonesian islands south of Singapore. Nadar again, no one is reading my crap.
Don’t forget Tramadol Nights: Bali Dreaming.
Yep, I compiled that here too.
But it got a mention by Inspector Tay.
It certainly did. And I rightfully mentioned him a few times in Fear & Loathing in Singapore.
‘Lagi?” asks the toothless waitress.
Make it two more milky teas. I know it won’t do my type two diabetes any good, but fuck it.
I’ve got my duty free cigarettes out on the table. I’m looking down the busy road that crosses Meldrum Street. Taxis are beeping horns, Indians are roaming back alley ways to take a piss and I’m just surprised that I’m back here. It’s a nostalgic moment. It’s the only place where everyone minds their own business. There’s no justification for anything. If you can afford to pay your bills, everyone just gets on fine around here.
I’ll just sit here a while and take it all in. Now my Kindle highlights don’t work.
‘I couldn’t give a shit,’ says a surly Indian. Oh it’s Bobby who went to St. Pauls in Kuala Lumper. He’s the Indian that wanted to fuck me up the ass. When I didn’t return his kiss he wanted to report me to the police for smoking duty free cigarettes that weren’t that duty free.
‘Now watch yourself,’ I say, exerting my right to blend in with the other misfits of this end of the causeway town. ‘I’m one phone call away from the police.’ I put my phone to my ear. ‘It’s on speed dial. And before you can plead your racist drawcard, the coppers will be here to lock you up.’
Bobby moves on. I’m glad he didn’t forget me. Now before that distraction, I was going to look up a quote I failed to highlight. I input ‘hell’ into search on the first of the Inspector Tay series, The Ambasasdor’s Wife, a Jake Needham novel. There it is. The sweet was dripping off me, stinging my eyes. Rain was on the horizon. The skies were darkening. Sunset wasn’t far away. And Johor could well just be Singapore, only a two kilometre stretch of causeway separated them.
‘If he owned both Singapore and hell, he would rent out Singapore and live in hell.’
Bobby had returned. He wanted another go.
‘You so think you are a writer?’
Not lately, I said.
‘Well you aren’t. You aren’t’ even a blogger.’
I knew where this was going.
He was a piss head and he was gin-deficient.
‘Here, go and get another bottle,’ I said as I handed him a 50 Ringgit note.
Bobby’s tune soon changed.
‘There’s lot of stories in this town,’ he says. ‘If you want to tap into any of them, just let me know. ‘
He was long gone. I wouldn’t have to worry about Bobby for a while. I was hopping he’d drink himself to oblivion – I had given him enough for four bottles of that cheap nasty made in India gin – so I could get back to what I do best.
I lit up another cigarette and watched the smoke rise and race off to somewhere prettier. No one could say that Johor pretended to be anything else but shoddy. Sure it had its shopping malls and shopping precincts, but in terms of pure sleaze and honesty about the image it was trying to project, Johor was truly humble about it.
Without the self-regulating cops, they were content collecting their payoffs every Friday around the street side cafes when the mosques were giving heated sermons, Johor on the most part was left to her own devices.