A woman looks out from a two story window as we pass through the streets of Chinatown. Aliens; this entire city is made up of aliens. An old man tells us, “Here, in Singapore, we welcome all people from all nations, races, and creeds. We only ask that you abide by our rules.” Here, in this place, one truly can dissolve into the jungle.
“Where are you going?” They ask. “Where do you come from?”
Travelers congregate in the crowded bars of Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, and I think of the time when Singapore was only a small British trading post, a settlement literally hashed into the jungle. Travelers and merchants came in, perhaps on their way up to Canton to trade Opium for Chinese silk and spices. It still has the feel of a place that men come and go, perhaps because it is still a hub for international trade, only modernized. But within that built-up, glittering world remain the seedy echoes of the under-world, lit by garish neon signs and made sensual by the enticing faces of those certain women, luring businessmen and sailors into the dimly lit, well-worn hallways of their bars and parlors.
We sit at an orange plastic table with yellow plastic chairs in Chinatown, talking with friends of ours who have been away in the Middle East 8 months on business. Funny we should all meet by chance here in Singapore. The waitress comes and brings over cold Tiger beers, along with steaming plates of noodles, spicy chicken, and duck. We talk of our experiences and we drink to the paths that our lives have taken us down. Rain pours down like millions of pearls scattering upon the brick walkways as vendors frantically hurry to cover their merchandise and welcome tourists in from the rain.
I am no one here. I am everyone here. I can disappear into the night and blend into the crowd of 5 million faces during the day. Everyone is a specter that lingers for only a second.