Every morning, I have to walk through an underground passage from my apartment to the opposite bus stop to take a bus to work. It’s a short walk, five minutes at most, but this narrow corridor with its dirty yellow walls that complements the often-stained dark brown tiling, gives out a claustrophobic feeling that isn’t pleasant for one to linger and stroll around. Here, all you want to do, which is what everyone does, is to exit to your destination as soon as possible.
Besides the crowds, there are three other people who occupy this corridor every or every other morning.
The first is a Malay mother and son couple who unfailingly try to sell their curry puffs packed in a large rectangular styrofoam box. They take turns, so one day it’ll be the mother, and on another, the teenage son. Every morning, I can’t help thinking how undesirable the puffs are. Why the thought? Maybe it’s the packaging – of how they stacked possibly a hundred puffs all in one box? Maybe it’s the dubious hygiene issue, selling food in the often-dirty corridor? Maybe it’s just due to the yellow walls in the corridor? In any case, I choose to walk past them.
The second is a middle-aged Chinese woman who just sits near the wall, and asks people to buy napkins. Since I avoid using them unless absolutely necessary, and since I have yet to understand why a woman of her physical abilities would want to just spend her time sitting and waiting for others to buy tissue paper from her, my reaction to this woman is the same with the first. How can I empathize and help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves?
The third one is a middle-aged man. Very skinny and very tan, we the passersby know of his presence even before we see him. He would come by on alternate days to strum his guitar and sing to earn a living. He always sings English songs. His diction is not great, guitar-playing mediocre, but there’s this element in his singing that makes me like it. I guess, it’s his voice. He has a voice like a country singer, not deep, not choirboy sweet, but just melodious in someway of its own. Every morning, I hurriedly past him by, always wanting to contribute something to him, but always walking by because of excuses like the inconvenience of pulling out my wallet, having no small change, or I will miss the bus if I stop. And then, every morning, I will say, I will donate the next morning. This had been going on for two or three weeks, I think.
Today, I had enough. Today, though I was carrying two heavy bags (I’m going home for the weekend), I dug up my wallet, and gave him two dollars. I even said, “Thank you,” but since I get very shy when I approach strangers, I might have mumbled it and he couldn’t have heard it. Then, he said, “God bless you.”
I was surprised. Because of his brown skin, I assumed he was Malay. And, with that assumption, whenever he sang Christian songs, I always found it humorous because it was strange, I thought, that a Muslim man was singing Christian songs to make a living.
I’m still unsure whether he is Malay or not. It doesn’t matter, anyway. I feel an intense relief that I finally did what I told myself I had to do for weeks.
So, now, it’s a check and done, and I can put this away in my mind and move on to other things.