Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Back To Mine

Is it possible to scrub away memories with a rag, a bottle of Quikclean and sheer upper body strength? No, but tomorrow I will try.

I’m not sure why I invited him to come and stay at my apartment in the first place. It was one of those intemperate gestures of largesse made on the spur of the moment when I was flush with endorphins and the discoloured memories of him were still freshly manifest on my inner thighs and knees. Obviously post-dirty weekend.

The invitation was intended for the weekend of the Rugby Sevens, which took place last week in Hong Kong. He was flying in with a mixture of friends and colleagues, for a long - and predictably big - weekend, of which I was to be a highlight.

He called earlier in the week to double-check the arrangements for the weekend.

“I’ll be flying in on Thursday. And I’m staying with you right? You sure that’s ok?” He had even made that line sound persuasively unsure and hesitant – bless his conniving little heart – such that any retraction on my part would put him in the category of Wronged Plaintiff and me in the category of Evil Indian Giver.

“Of course it’s ok!” I said a tad shrilly, knowing that I had now officially committed myself to delivering on my impetuous promise.

My mind was racing. Did I have enough sheets, enough towels? Did I do my laundry last week – if so, where was it? Should I tell the maid to come in on Wednesday instead of the usual Friday? Where should I store my empty shoe boxes? Was the stuff on my shelves up to snuff – did it accurately reflect my (ahem) oh-so well-rounded but eclectic tastes in literature and music? And most importantly, how the hell was I going to get my recently-bought miniature oven off the couch? Shit.

To those of you that think I was being a typical woman and making an awful fuss about nothing, I would probably have to agree.

It’s not that I have never had other people over in my apartment. No, I’ve had both visiting friends and family stay with me with nary a complaint. I’ve even had dinner parties where my friends were more than happy to sit around a coffee table placed in the middle of the floor - listening to Pink Martini, eating pasta, drinking wine and wiping their bums with Kleenex because of course, I had run out of toilet paper.

But then, since when Sash, have you even had toilet paper, they tease me affectionately.

So what then is the problem? I’ve never had a man, any man, and definitely not the man who gets me more hot and bothered than all others, in my apartment. I mean I don’t usually let most men stick around long enough, anyway. And if they do, what is wrong with their place – so I can come and go as I please – or failing that a lush designer hotel suite? Before, when I used to live in Singapore, “back to mine” was not even an option given the consideration of my parents’ continued health and longevity.

But having hopped across quite a few apartments in my time (I prefer to think of this as an efficient way of ‘house-hunting’), I know that observing a person's habitat often reveals more about their character, priorities in life and predilections in the sack without one having to explicitly ask.

If you must know, I once dumped a man who arranged his CDs in alphabetical order because predictably, he was only any good as a missionary-style fuck. Another had vats of protein and creatine supplements lined up in his kitchen instead of normal olive oil, pepper, salt and garlic. He turned out not to have a single hair on his body (and I’m talking chin, hands, pubes, armpits, toes – nothing!) and loved to fuck in the mirror.

So what sort of real estate gets me wet? I like residences with big hot tubs on the roof, well-stocked kitchens, huge libraries, coffee table books, cosy shagpile carpets, lived-in colonial furniture, houseplants, quirky designer chairs, cool audiophile sound systems, contemporary art (preferably drawn by you), the list goes on but you get the idea. These don’t have to be lavish postal code 10 or 11 addresses – just homey-homes that are clean, interesting, original, tasteful, full of character and well, you.

I wondered what my apartment said about me. But first, let me give you a little more by way of description: I do not live in a fussy apartment. In fact having moved to Hong Kong with nothing but 2 suitcases of self-belief and good intentions means my home is more sparse and unfurnished than anything else.

Second, I do not have a painfully stylish pad straight out of the pages of Vogue Living. My mother sealed its fate when she convinced me that my holding out for a Minotti-style red suede couch was plain silly and talked me into buying an infinitely more practical sofa bed instead. In the rousing shades of charcoal-grey, no less. (I still have regrets about this and will apologise for my couch’s uninspired existence given the slightest opportunity.)

Third, my apartment is definitely not in the fanciest residential district – my walk to work every day takes me along streets of antique shops and the sights and smells of the bustling wet market. It is in an old building with tiny little grey-and-red Chinese tiles and has few working modern amenities i.e. no bathtub, no washer, no oven. But it has oodles of character and is a hive-reaction from the unrelenting uniformity of peach-brown pantones foisted onto my retinas by competent Singaporean urban planners at birth.

I don’t intend to stay in this apartment forever, but when I do eventually move, I will have moulted and shed a skin.

Every possession I have in my home survived the initial journey to Hong Kong with me and I love them all like a parent loves their idiot offspring. I have my favourite CDs – and yes, Michael Jackson (who incidentally I think is a maligned musical genius) is one of them. I have the books that sustained me over the past few months in Hong Kong, my most loyal friends in a new city and my salvation when I needed respite from unforgiving reality.

And that? That over there is what one calls a shoe collection. Oh yes, the force of Imelda is strong in this one.

“They don’t build shoe cupboards big enough for 70 pairs of shoes”, I pertly informed him, as he regarded a diamante-encrusted pair curiously. He had just breached the maidenhead of my apartment and was now looming threateningly like a conquering crusader exploring the 700 square-foot spoils of territory.

“What do you eat, girl?” He had poked his head into my fridge but gave me no chance to retort or reply because he had already moved onto a different part of the room. Damn him.

“Mmm, 50 Floor Fillers! And a little bit of Michael…” he said, with a bemused laugh in his voice, which I immediately interpreted as mocking derision of course. It was all I could do to keep myself from unceremoniously ejecting him and suggesting that we check into the nearby Four Seasons.

“You are too ‘man’ for this apartment,” I wailed, somewhat self-consciously.

And he was. His tall frame had to fold up to fit into the contortionist box of my bathroom. The pinstriped Paul Smith jacket that hung hanging casually on the rack jarred with the other lacy, sparkly frippery that was the norm. We bumped into each other twice from the corridor of the living room to the kitchen and back again.

I gulped back the tension building in the back of my throat. We had to leave, but not before I reached into a small box by the door and pulled out something with a familiar clink.

“For you,” I said lightly. “In case you get lost.”

I did not want my gaze to betray the significance and intimacy of the gesture. Rather I just dangled the bunch of spare keys deftly in the space between us. It surprised him. But also pleased him inordinately. From then on and for the rest of the weekend, he would insist on beating me to my front gate just so he could grandly insert his keys into the lock and hold the door open for me.

During his stay, we broke in different parts of my apartment. First of course was the bed – on which we fucked, cuddled, slept, played, filmed and chatted on. Then, the kitchen counter table – on which I perched with my legs spread-eagled next to the microwave as he very patiently (and torturously) taught me step-by-step how to eat pussy. The bathroom – in which we washed off sweat and semen together and where I took the first leap of faith and told him about this blog(!!!). And finally, the couch – where he laid naked on top of me until daylight, alternately kissing and stroking, whilst I read aloud in a hoarse, subdued voice what I wrote about him.

My favourite activity all weekend was to watch him lazily stretch out in bed or use my computer in the living room whilst I busied myself cleaning up or getting dressed. These were Martha Stewart moments – picture-perfect pockets of comfort and normalcy – rare in a relationship like ours. And thus, all the more treasured.

Then, as quickly as he came, he is gone.

But my apartment has traitorously and indelibly retained the feel of him. I smell his sweat on my towels, and the trace of Issey aftershave lingers hauntingly in my spare room. He is on the empty champagne glass, and most CSI-certifiably on my sheets. He has used a reasonable amount of my mouthwash. And I miss the unmistakable ivy-creep of masculine garments from his bag to the counter stool to the clothes rack.

Presently, I stand back, objectively surveying the damage. My apartment suddenly feels cavernous. A shabby, yellowing, old shell that was temporarily colonized and now abandoned, threatens to crumble to dust. Thanks, but no thanks.

Today I will let it grieve. I will sleep on the outer side of the bed – and imagine the full-length of him outstretched beside me in a diagonal imbibing the sounds of Hong Kong construction into our collective subconscious. I will keep his champagne glass by my bed – and think about our last night together and the peculiar visitor who came to make it special. I will keep my vibrator visible on my bedside shelf – and envy the little mauve protector-bag that somehow managed to accidentally fall into his luggage and now travels with him.

And then tomorrow - I will clean and do the laundry.