"Well, I read quite a lot of serious stuff like Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True and Khaled Hosseini's Kite Runner."Myn Wee, in response to a question I asked her
"Never even heard of them, haha"Me
I'm allergic to serious.
Memories of people-you-know-little-of tend to meld into a bit of putty over time. Of course, I am not saying that we forget them outright but we tend to only remember them for their single most defining feature. It's like a great uncle from Penang I have who only visits once a year when I was little and stopped visiting about ten years ago, and the only thing I remember about him is that he loves peanuts. In fact, it was such a defining feature of him that I only ever refer to him as "fah sang kong" - literally, Grandpa Peanut. Actually, I also remember him for his daughter (first cousin once removed; the most beautiful woman I have ever clapped eyes on in my life, by the way), but that's a whole different thread of memory altogether.
Anyway, my point is people we knew and see little of becomes one-dimensional over the years, defined only by one or two distinctive traits in our minds.
When I was in the third or fourth form in high school, a classmate, Andre, was telling me about hot swimmer girls he met before and he told me about a certain Myn Wee who was one of the toppers in his book (I actually wrote whoppers instead of toppers, seeing that we're talking about bathing beauties).
Myn Wee was nothing more than a name to a pretty face in the yearbooks of her school1 to me till I was in the Fifth Form, when we chatted for the first time through that ancient communication device known as the ICQ. The smattering of conversations we had subsequently led to her borrowing a book from me, The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien. And even then, I did not get to meet her because the book was passed between us by a middle person.
Remember what I said earlier about one-dimensional memories of people? Here's my memory of her, for the longest time;
"Beautiful" is hardly the adjective I'd choose to call this book. I'm leaning towards "fatally dull".
It was that of a thank-you note slipped in between the pages of The Silmarillion when I got it back.
And there I was thinking that people who write thank-you notes have all but gone the way of the dodos. How sweet of her.
We bumped into each other a few times in college too but we never exchanged more than a couple of lines every time. If you're reading this, Myn Wee, I just wanna say tell you that those times I walked right by you without saying hi, I really didn't see you! Honest! I was pretty much lost in thoughts half the time.
Then for more than a couple of years, I heard nothing about her till someone told me that she got into some pageant thing;
And I found out (recently, actually - like a few minutes ago by reading her sash) that it was the Miss Malaysia World 2007. Third runner-up, no less, so she's now officially the fourth hottest girl in Malaysia!
My one-dimensional mental picture of her changed after that. On top of her being that hot swimmer chick who wrote a thank-you note back in high school, she's also the Beauty Queen.
So when the Beauty Queen called me earlier this week2 saying that she was in an MPH bookstore and wondered if I could recommend any good reads, I was incredibly surprised - mainly because I had not a flippin' idea how she got my number since I'm not even very sure of it myself3. And I was perplexed by why she would call someone she hadn't talked to in years for that.
Of course, the answer to the latter came to me almost immediately afterwards; her one-dimensional memory of me must be that of a pathological book nerd - I wonder if I should be sad or glad about that.
You may heard of that 'there is no greater joy of a person who loves books than to be asked for his opinion of them', and if you haven't heard of this particular saying, that's because I have never told it to you. Anyway,I proceeded to rattle off titles and authors from my mind that I supposed MPH may possibly include in their
Finally, she managed to locate George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones4, a book of high repute which I recently bought but have yet to start reading. I, being the soul of generosity I usually am, offered to lend her some from my little library ('the second greatest joy of a person who loves books is to make other people read their favourites').
Yesterday, I received an SMS that read; "Oy, Myn Wee here. Does your book offer still stand?"
It led to our first proper meeting at my usual wireless internet haunt of Starbucks in Mahkota Parade.
When she sat down in front of me with a green tea frappe, I confess I experienced a small niggle of disappointment. That's because I half-expected her to appear in her full pageant regalia; the sash, flowers, tiara... the works! Preposterous, I know, but it's just one of the perils of having these defining monochrome images of people you haven't met in a long time (and a distorted perception of reality, I was told - I think my Mom smoked pot when she had me). I also imagined that she speaks with a British accent, though I really have no bloody idea how that came about at all.
"So many books!" she exclaimed when she spotted the rather full Kinokuniya paper-bag I brought with me - twelve (or some number of similar magnitude, I didn't count) of my favourite reads which I thought she might like.
The conversation we had yesterday were inclined towards literature and the dreary existence of a medical student (a favourite topic of the calling, of which both of us got stuck in). I was delighted to discover that she had read my favourite novel and liked it for the same reasons I did. I also learned that she reads incredibly fast too (she already finished A Game of Thrones). It's always a pleasure to talk to someone who reads as much as she does. I mean, just how many beauty queens you know who like to read? I know just one5. In different circumstances, we might have been better friends.
As we talked, I noticed that she occasionally sipped from a small white paper cup containing what I assumed to be warm water. I supposed she did it to stave off head-freeze.
Darn, why didn't I think of that before? If you have ever seen a dude in his early twenties clutching his head in agony after every sip of his ice-blended in the Starbucks of Mahkota Parade, there's a very good chance that that was me.
She left at 4.50 pm to pick up her Francissy6 brother from school. There goes another old friend I'll probably never see again *Sigh*.
For some reason or other, the wireless internet in Starbucks ceased to function after that, and I was forced to leave myself. I forgot to ask her whether Mae's her real English name or was it something she made up for the pageant. If she did, she could have just used the nickname I gave her back in the Fifth Form.
Debbie sounds so much more like her, if you ask me.
Bye bye, Debbie.
Ticked "Have tea with a beauty queen" off
the list of things he wants to do before he dies,
k0k s3n w4i
1 Reading yearbooks from convent schools was a perfectly respectable way for a young man to pass his time in my days.
2 Or last week; my concept of time is a bit warped.
3 You should expect as much from a guy who doesn't know the day of the week.
4 The first book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series.
5Actually, I know only one beauty queen of any sort at all, not counting the Associate Professor of Biochemistry in Manipal, Madam Maya Roche, Miss Mangalore circa 300BC.
6 There is an ancient (albeit pointless) rivalry between my high school and the St. Francis Institute. Old enmities die hard.