In this dream, I am in Taiwan and attending an expo for Electronics engineers. The expo itself is conducted in a large Chinese pavilion that's about a third of a Suntec exhibition hall; it also reminds me of a building in Singapore's Chinatown. On this particular day, there are not many people around.
Esther (an ex-colleague) is there with me. We go through the pavilion looking at the many gadgets and components on display there. Men in suits are keen to show and explain their wares but we quickly move on. We seem more interested in what's new in the field of Manufacturing.
When it is time to go, Esther and I take the same minibus back to where we live. Our hands find each other and for the first time, we let them clasp. We turn to look at each other and that familiar longing returns. It has been like this since the day we first met. It was in the passenger lift of our office building, the one we always rode from ground floor to our office on the third. Our eyes had met and we both smiled... Like two old friends from an age long ago. We are that familiar with one another. Or feel that way always.
Now in Taiwan and free from prying eyes and gossip, we could finally express how we feel without restraint.
I slip my fingers into Esther's own and lock them together affectionately. Holding hands like this we continue our journey. A real gladness starts to glow in my heart as if I had finally righted a missed opportunity. I now realise my initial attraction to Esther was a genuine one borne out of an ageless love and concern.
The starts to climb a hilly two-lane road. Cars and small pickups whiz by. As the bus tutted to the crest, we reach a small apartment building that is partially set into a hill. Usually such a building would be a temple of sorts but this was a condo instead. By the cavernous entrance, a lift.
Esther then signals to the bus driver to alight. She grabs her coat and motions to the exit which is just a seat away in front. I watch as she crosses the road. I like the confidant and womanly way she walks, something I have always admired when I watch her disappear between cubicles back in our office.
Upon reaching the other side of the road, Esther pauses at the lift landing. The hill cliff and its plants hang high above her head. She looks back across the road towards me; there is a longing in her eyes. She seems a bit sad that we are parting. Whenever she feels like that, her rosebud lips would part a little into a hurt/uncertain pout, making her even more endearing. Oh, Esther! As I call her name out in my head. My heart feels pained in a moment of intense affection.
But my revelry is interrupted as the bus lady suddenly shouts. She is dressed in a blue shirt and wears protective sleeves to shield her arms from sunlight. She also has a white sweat towel around her neck to occasionally dab her brow with, a fashion statement typical of most blue-collar workers or bus conductors. I won't be surprised if that towel is a typical Good Morning brand one that's super cheap and found in most hair salons too.
I suddenly discover that Esther has dropped her name cards in the minibus. I cry out to our bus lady to stop, half shouting. The minibus jolts to a stop and I try to quickly gather up the cards to return to Esther and then rushing out of the bus and dashing across the road in my haste.
Ahead, a blind spot. I am lucky no errant vehicle is hurtling my way. I turn and shout back at the bus driver lady to wait. The bus is now parked in gravel of the road shoulder, its dirty exhaust smoke puffing away impatiently.
I feel very happy running up to Esther, like two lovers meeting again.
Esther beams as she sees me and holds out her outstretched hands to welcome me. I kiss them and give her back her name cards. We do not speak but you can tell by the gleam in our eyes that there is much affection between us. I wish then I could take her home!
Back in the bus and on the way again, the driver and her husband start to chat. The husband offers me a small cupcake wrapper with a tiny snack in it. The wrapper is small like those for a French magdaleine. Inside, stuck to one side, is a delicacy of ikan bilis on some hardened paste. The paste looks like Thai green-red table chilli, the sort used on fried fish especially. To eat, I am supposed to bite on the small ikan bilis and peel the thing off. It is less than bite-size but quite delicious. We eat quite a few more and continue to chat about food from the region until the journey wears thin and I reach my destination.
Today, I am back at the expo. I meet a lady dressed in a dark blue silk cheongsam who seems rather well-off. She is impressed by my invention, a kind of signal processor and asks me about its support components. I realise then that this is her trade and business. At the end of our conversation, she invites me back to her office.
Mdm Molly's office is in a row of five-foot way shophouses. The office front is typical of those found in 70s Singapore, i.e. bottom half corrugated aluminum siding, top half glass. Its double doors are the same. We push through one side and enter. There is another fella who is along with us. I recognise him but can't place where he is from.
In the lobby in front of us is a long table. On it are several books upon each we are all expected to signed in. Each book is of a different theme and each book comes with its own designed pen.
I stop at the nearest guest book and prepare to sign in. I remember discovering a very thin and flat pen that reminded me of Qing Dynasty costume jewelry in terms of its design and metal element used. You know, stuff made out of brass and enameled in blue, green, red and white. Cloisonné design is what it is called.
Soon we all finish signing in and climb up the stairs to the office. The wall tiling are those nail-sized tiny blue square mosaics popular in the 70s.
Upstairs, the place is wide and spacious and decorated in Shanghai style. There are rosewood side tables and a rice-white plump sofa embroidered with red flowers with black vines. It is altogether rather charming.
I see a young girl doing her homework and working with a piece of tracing paper.
Mdm Molly calls me over and asks if I can offer help to the maid. She appears to be having trouble emptying two pails of used tea leaves without clogging up the drainage system. I wonder why there is so much used tea leaves and start to guess what they are being used for.
After the filtrate system has been loosened and removed, we manage to flush the used leaves down the drain with ease. The maid is visibly relieved, as am I. The young girl in the center of the hall continues with her tracing homework. Mdm Molly beams a smile in my direction. She seems to like me. For some reason I cannot wait to get back to the Expo.
The dream ends with me riding that minibus back to the Expo in the bright sunshine of the following morning. Esther and I are looking at each other and wishing the journey would never end. And that we need not get back to Singapore anytime sooner.