Wilson has become a close friend of mine. We were schoolmates in the 1970’s, but I don’t think we met. Our year had over 400 students; it wasn’t possible to meet everyone. Besides, I was shy and quiet, socially reticent. If we did meet, I would not have forgotten. After all, Wilson is not the unforgettable type. From many accounts, he was a hunk. A swimmer who represented school, state and country. It would not have surprised me if some of the more desirable girls had asked to feel his muscles as they admired his sculpted physique. A fall from my bike one early morning during the month of the hungry ghosts may have concussed me more than I realised – that would be my excuse for not remembering Wilson at all if we were in fact good friends in school. No matter, we are good friends now. He calls me brother, I call him Wilson koko on account that he is older. We are like brothers. Pre-Covid-19, when I was spending Sunday lunches with Ma, I knew he would be having lunch with his mum too. We are equally filial. I suppose this is a common trait of the majority of Chinese. We are born to respect our parents – it is in our DNA. How else can one explain this element that is so dominant in Chinese families despite the diversity of religious beliefs? It is only now that I have learned Wilson is also known as Willy. There have been hundreds of messages for Willy since late last night. Messages of condolences have been surging in like a torrential downpour of tears for his beloved mother. Willy’s mum passed away last night after being admitted to the General Hospital in the morning. She did not linger and suffer, none of her loved ones were able to be by her side due to COVID-19 restrictions. The deprivation of a last goodbye would be too difficult to accept. In his wisdom, Willy reckons his mum timed it to perfection – she is now with her husband, celebrating his birthday together in heaven today. I did not ask Willy if he meant his dad’s birthday was the day he was born on earth or in heaven. RIP, aunty.
Willy’s name made me recall the night I was accused of being wily. It should upset me but it doesn’t. I was not even affected when it was said to my face. Some will say I was silly to ignore it; to pretend I did not hear it. Why did I not defend my honour? Why did I not pounce on my accuser? Let it be. Let it be. The Mrs thought I was witless. She was a witness. It was during a family dinner with my siblings and our mother. Before COVID-19, we used to have weekly gatherings and often we would dine together. Ma’s enjoyment in life. A simple pleasure we all want – to have our children by our side and partake in a meal together. That is what families do. Why spoil it, I asked. It was easier to ignore the remark – to pretend it was not said. Ma was handing me some cash to settle the bill. I have a reputation for getting freebies, and maybe I could swing a special discount her way perhaps. A sister hijacked the money instead and said “No, he is cunning and may shortchange you, Mum”. So, this sister thinks I am a low-life. One who would cheat his own mother of petty cash? Maybe the word cunning is not in Ma’s English vocabulary. Maybe Ma’s hearing has deteriorated rapidly and she didn’t hear it or maybe she has selective hearing and didn’t want to know. Maybe Ma pretended not to have heard that cruel remark – that would nicely explain why she did not demand a reason from the one who spat such venom. I did not make a scene but I found myself surveying the landscape of my face from my bathroom mirror that night. What is it about me that even a sister would doubt my honesty? Is it my scruffy thu-fei bandit looks? My Rasputin-inspired hair? My frequent tales of woe? Investment flops? Business losses? The old bomb that I drive? The old bomb that The Mrs drives? My status as the only non white-collar worker in my family? The mirror is the one thing I normally avoid looking into. The Mrs reminds me enough times how below average I am, in looks as well as in intelligence. To compound my sense of inadequacies, I am informed I am hardly useful as a home handyman. The wall in the living room is still devoid of her paintings. The picture hooks broke off and need replacing. I am too embarrassed to reveal how long the wall has been bare. The lid of our ‘Victorian’ garden lamp post broke off after a night of vengeful gully winds. That was quite a few years ago. The Mrs finally got me to repair it today – I tied it up with blue string. A couple of years ago, I tried my luck on rewiring a broken light switch. Today, it is still the only switch in our house that works differently from the rest – up is on and down is off. Both fluorescent lights in the garage have not worked for over half a year – I was foolish to dump a whole box of brand new fluorescent tubes when our last shop closed down for good. There is no urgency to replace the lights – my phone has a torchlight app. Why look into the mirror when I can look into my memory to determine who I am? My motto in life is to sleep well. Nothing is worth giving ourselves sleepless nights. I cannot understand why I give the impression that I am cunning. I would be a broken man if I didn’t think I have a moral compass that guides me. It can be self-harming should I allow myself to dwell on this. But, I am old enough to know my true self. Let it be. Let them be. Willy, I know I can be silly but I am not wily.
Last week, U.S. unemployment numbers increased by 3.3 million and the Dow jumped 1,300 points. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) again rose 2.24% overnight, despite the weekly US unemployment figure doubling to 6.65 million – meaning at least 10 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past fortnight. As the jobless queue grows so quickly, does it not indicate the economy’s wheels have come off? Does it not tell us businesses are struggling when they embark on divesting their most valuable resource, their employees? It is true the Dow may have jumped upon news from Trump that Russia and Saudis have reached a deal to limit oil supply. But, can we trust any of Trump’s announcements? No matter, the experts did and the US crude price soared 35% overnight. When oil prices plunged in the second week of March, the DJIA crashed 2,000 points. So, the DJIA follows the oil price, it rises when oil price spikes. It crashes when oil prices collapses. It seems lessons learned from the 1973 sharemarket crash no longer apply. Then, the DJIA lost over 45% of its value following the oil embargo when crude prices rose by nearly 400%. The more money the US prints, the more valuable the USD is. The more the Federal Reserve borrows, the more sought after their currency becomes and its value goes up. The US currency moves in exactly the opposite direction to what my logic tells me. Willy, I have always been too silly to understand the sentiments of the herd. But Willy, that doesn’t make me wily.