It has been a scorcher in Penang. Aloysius sends an emoji of a black person with his hand raised. “Why the dark skin?” I asked. “Moi got burned in the sun,” he said. Aloysius in his heyday was a globe-trotter, a corporate wizard in the financial world for a multi-national company. He litters his conversations with Japanese and French words. At least, I know what umami and moi mean. Aloysius did not get burned in the rush to leave the sharemarket this week. The longest bull run in history has ended. The Dow, ASX and others are now in bear territory. All it took was a living thing our eyes can’t even see – a coronavirus. The Mrs is right. Again. She gave her prescient warning to our eldest son just before the Chinese New Year. “Son, no one will see it coming!” When you least expect it, the sharemarket will crash. That is the cyclical nature of investments. For every winner, there is a loser. The Mrs did not know what “it” would be, but I wish First Son had listened. But, First Son is smart. He knows who to listen to and who not to listen to. The Mrs and moi, important we may be to him, are not his important investment advisers. We are no longer important to anyone actually – no dependants, according to our tax returns. Failed investors, still scarred from the last three Big Crashes, we are the least entitled to make a sound about the sharemarket. We were not of sound minds as we burned our savings not once, not twice but three times. The Black Monday crash of October 1987. Did moi use the word we? The Mrs won’t be pleased with that. It is not a blame game – let me quickly correct myself and just blame myself. Moi was also caught in the Dotcom bust of 1999-2000 during which I looked dumb as I burned from losses in LookSmart shares, an early starter amongst the search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Why did moi not put my money in Google instead? We were also there, burning our money when the “2008 incident” occurred. The incident? In a climate where big banks were too big to fail, Lehman Brothers was allowed to collapse causing the biggest melt-down in the sharemarket’s history since the Great Depression. This week’s retreat from the highest peak of the bull run to the paws of the bear took only 18 days, only three days longer than the one in 1931 that trumpeted the arrival of the Great Depression. 18 days ago the All Ords was at its peak at 7289 points. At lunch today, it has sunk to 4940 points, a crash of 31%. It was perhaps no coincidence that my friends warned me to be careful in the morning, it being Friday the 13th. But, this time I kept my shirt on my back. The Mrs warned me to stay away from the sharemarket unless I wanted to give half of everything to her in a divorce settlement.
I was only attracted to Moi Moi many years after I set my eyes on her. She was my violin teacher’s youngest sister. I started learning the violin when I was 9. My first love was football and Manchester United. When I was in primary school, Saturday afternoons meant watching the English football league on the black and white TV. Violin was a distant second and girls were classified as the despicables – therefore did not deserve a second look and definitely not worth a mention. When I was growing up, I was bullied by my sisters. They would disagree, of course. Ganging up against a brother was always due to a difference of opinions, but even this my opinion differs – I suspect it was always because of the difference in sex. I was the only boy at home. My brother, eleven years older than me was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he knew he couldn’t protect me even if he wanted to. Such was the ferocity of sisters with contempt for those they deemed inferior and dull. I was the unfavoured brother because I was the favourite son? The thought did cross my mind but our parents never confirmed it. By the time I noticed Moi Moi, she already had a boyfriend. Lanky, long legs and long hair. Shiny bright almond eyes. Full lips. Full of life. Moi Moi, a Hakka girl who never noticed me. I should have abandoned my focus on Man United earlier. The Hakkas call their daughters Moi, pronounced as Moy. Moi means girl, the Hakkas do not complicate matters. They don’t beat around the bush. Moi Moi, Moi Mah, Amoy, Moi-jai, Moi-tiang. “Tiang?” I asked. “Yes, a nail. Insignificant and plentiful. My father-in-law was a carpenter. I suppose he never ran out of nails. They called their girl Moi-tiang. A girl and a little nail. In those days when poverty was common and starvation as regular as a change in season, girls were unwanted. Many were disposed of (a kind word for killed), especially when the communists introduced their one child policy. When one can only have one child, let it be a son. The Mrs was disposed of too. She should consider herself lucky she wasn’t killed. But, all the same, she was scarred, for life. Sold at nine days old for nine dollars. It was many decades later that she found out she was not unwanted but sold to protect herself from harm. Her natural father, a brilliant herbalist and engraver, was a drunkard. They never could tell what a drunk would do to a screaming baby. She was flung out the window one evening. Her mother decided she had no choice and sold her to a childless couple. The Mrs was also known as Moi-jai or girl child. Her grandma was a tiny woman with big hands and big feet, necessary attributes of a farmer. “We never heard a word of praise from her”, The Mrs said. She used sarcasm to prod the kids to work hard, unlike the new direction teachers take today to heap praise and encouragement on children today. It won’t surprise me if that becomes a human right one day – the entitlement to undeserving praises. Her grandma was brutal with her words but her actions showed love. “Here, go eat and choke yourselves”, she would say whilst serving them a nice dish. The Mrs reminisces a lot about her childhood days. Then she was called Moi-jai or Moi-tiang. “No one calls me that now.” her voice tinged with sadness. Maybe I should call The Mrs Moi Moi. Then, it will be Moi Moi and moi.