Story by Lee Su Min
Men have always been fascinated by women.
I always wondered what Laura did after she walked out of my consultation room.
Outside Samantha Ling was holding the fort, keeping the patients at bay. Not everyone who came in to see me has a legitimate purpose.
I meant, some of them merely needed someone to talk to. When you have no one to talk to, you talked to your doctor.
I was not a psychiatrist but Laura Fong has come in to see me about twenty times by now.
The thing that struck me about Laura was her appearance. Yes, she was pretty but that was not what attracted me to her. The thing about Laura was that she always wore this black t-shirt. A black t-shirt was not uncommon or strange. It was the big cat on the t-shirt. It had crystal eyes and was very large. Whenever I met Laura, her black cat stared at me as though trying to communicate with me at the same time.
So much so that often I couldn’t decide if I were talking to Laura or her cat, I meant, the cat on her t-shirt. I knew that it was a t-shirt, but the cat looked so real! Yes, the cat was extremely distracting. It got me a few times. I almost wanted to ask Laura where she got this cat from.
The English has this tale about black cats …
Yes, I was Chinese educated. I learnt how to read and write the word “school” in Chinese before I knew it in English. And then only in the university did I learn about the whole concept of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The word “unequivocal” was alien to me.
No pets were allowed in the hospital, with no exception to black cats. I couldn’t see that Laura’s cat was not a real cat, and that it was just her t-shirt! I was completely besotted with Laura and her black cat.
I went home and did more research on black cats. And I became very excited about Laura’s cat. I knew that it was not real, but it seemed to have some connection there. Laura wore that t-shirt every time! And the eyes. The cat had yellow crystal eyes. Yes, I knew I was silly. It was just a stone sewn onto the material.
But this was not what I was trying to complain about today. The purpose of my writing to you here, was that Laura was not a sick woman. She looked at me when she talked, and her eyes were bright and cheerful, unlike those of my other patients who stared at me with hollow eyes. Some other patients even had dark rings around the eye bags, listless and puffy. I marvelled at the speed with which Laura often had to tell me about her problems.
There were altogether nine hundred different species of germs in this world. Germs multiply and transmit from human to human as though there were no borders and checkpoints.
I arrived at my clinic every morning looking forward to some new cases. A new kind of germs needed a new type of treatment. Although I was not at the forefront of the medical profession, I knew of a thing or two.
After all I was a physician.
My stethoscope I have it hung loosely around my neck. This was to indicate that I was a doctor and not anyone of those hanging around on hospital grounds. You couldn’t say that I was proud, it was just that I liked being known as a doctor. I worked hard for six long years in order to arrive at this status.
The minute I got home I went to the machine to weigh myself. I was very conscious of my weight, especially since I was a doctor Recently I found myself to be slightly on the heavy side. My weight had been on the raise steadily.
I saw that I was seventy-nine kg and I felt miserable instantly. In order to lift myself out of depression I had a cold shower and headed straight to the butcher. He sold the freshest peppercorn ham. I ate it without bread and butter.
I also logged into the website to see if I could purchase any slimming products. I didn’t believe in exercise and dieting as basically I was a lazy person.
Whilst I was having my shower my hand phone rang. I saw the number and was wondering if I should decline the call this time. It was Carman again.
“Hello,” I said, pretending not to expect her call.
“Listen, this time I really want to do it,” the voice on the other end sounded frustrated and urgent.
“DON’T DO IT!” I said.
And then I added, “You have no right to do so.”
“Think of the person at the other side, waiting for the organs,” Carman said.
“Yup, I know, but you have no right to play God,” I warned her.
“It is pure selfishness,” Carman was vehement.
“The guy can’t talk, can’t eat, can’t move, you don’t know if he was sleeping or awake.” Carman rattled on.
“Listen, I just got back, I need to take a shower and fall asleep,” I knew that the conversation would lead to nowhere, although I already had my shower.
Click, the line went dead. Carman was quick tempered, the result of her being efficient.
I put the phone on silent mode. If she rings again I won’t answer. I knew which patient she was referring to. The one in room 107. 107 is one of those in the intensive care unit. Tomorrow I would drop by to see how the patient was doing. Right now I just wanted my car magazine.
Carman was right.
The man was already brain dead. If his heart failed, he would be pronounced dead. But I could see that the heart was still pumping. I wondered how long the body would continue. I knew where the switch to the life support machine was.
If I turned it off, he would only survive a few hours. And nobody would know about it. There was no CCTV in this room. This was not a first class ward.
Just was I was contemplating the door opened and a nurse in white uniform walked in. She saw me.
I quickly showed her my stethoscope. In a hospital, a stethoscope is like some kind of pass – an identification – to show that you were a doctor.
“Dr Carmen sent me here,” I said.
“Oh, you are a bit too late, Dr. Carmen has left for the day,” the nurse replied.
“I’ll come back tomorrow,” I replied as I walked towards the door, on my way out.
I went home and looked for the caller again.
Recently his calls became more and more frequent. I always waited until I was at home before I returned his calls. The man’s name was Simon. He told me that he was in the real estate.
But the purpose of his calls were unrelated to property buying and selling. Simon wanted me to find a liver for him.
“You work in the hospital, you must know someone who could spare this, I am only twenty-eight, too young to die,” I could still remember Simon’s words when he first spoke to me.
Normally I did not give out my phone numbers. And I didn’t know how Simon got hold of mine. It could be from the other patients whom I have seen. But my hand phone number was never given. So how could he have gotten hold of it?
I let the mystery solve itself.
In order to practise medicine, I joined the Florentine Hospital. They hired Samantha for me and they placed her at the reception counter just in front of my room. Yes, I have a room, and it was equipped with a desk, three chairs and a patient bed. I was also given a computer as well as a telephone. The telephone was old fashioned and came with a shrill ringing tone.
We were a small hospital and the grounds were not as wide as other hospitals. But we were interior designed. The floor was marble, imitation it might have been, and our toilets were wallpapered. You could find plants along the path as you walked from the entrance to my office.
My job was a boring one. As a doctor you met with people who were either sneezing, coughing or running a temperature. Patients have nothing to tell you except that they were feeling wretched.
Of course I was always at the receiving end.
But the outside was full of people. The entire area was bubbling with activity. You could see that the patients who came to this hospital were fairly well-to-do. The only thing that troubled me was that I wasn’t sure if Samantha was doing her work properly. She seemed to be distracted with something.
In order to break the monotony of things, I arrived at the Caramel Café regularly twice a day. This café is our in-house canteen where tea was always piping hot.
Laura always had some complaint whenever she came in to see me. Naturally, I was a physician. People came in to tell me what was wrong with them, and I made a diagnosis and dispense some medicine for cure. My medicine usually worked, and maybe that was why Laura came back to me every time, apart from my other two hundred and ninety-nine patients.
This morning my clinic door burst open with Laura walking in. She has her hair tied in a ponytail, but you could still see that it was very unkempt. In fact, the whole impression she gave me was very unruly, as though she had just got up from bed and had not cleaned up before she came. But that did not distract me from her black cat.
“Good morning, Dr. Nicholas,” she greeted me.
My name was not Nicholas. But I let it pass. She has seen me before, surely she should know my name by now?
Laura took time to unload herself, placing her bag on the chair meant for the patient. Instead she sat on the chair meant for the caregiver. I knew straight away that something was amiss. Nonetheless, I continued to act normal.
And I wrote the words on the case sheet: patient refused to conform. I knew very well that I could not record sitting on the wrong chair as an illness.
“Sit down,” I said.
She refused, and she began.
“I think you know what had happened to me,”
As a matter of fact, I didn’t.
But I said, “Yes of course I know,” pretending that I understood.
My job was to do doctoring not counseling even though I also took a subject in psychiatry. If she were ill I could dispense some medicine for her.
And then she began.
I know that it is in your hands,”
“What is?” I opened my palms to show that I had no idea what she was talking about.
“My husband is waiting for you to save him,” the woman dropped a bomb shell.
“How am I to do that? Certainly I will save him,” I said.
“He has been waiting long enough,” Laura complained.
“Waiting for what?” Innocently I asked.
“Several of your patients are in the ICU, and many are pronounced brain dead.”
I think I knew what she was getting at. So I quickly tried to stop her,
“Hey woman, this is not the place to discuss these issues.”
“You know that it is morally wrong,” “to keep a dead person alive.” Laura was getting intense.
And I was also getting fed up.
“How could you say this?!” my voice was rising a little.
“My husband needs the liver.” Laura hit the bottom line.
So she was related to the caller who had been ringing me regularly these days.
I pretended that I didn’t know that it was Simon.
“The decision lies with the hospital, not me.” I became bureaucratic. I had no other way to deal with this.
Laura looked at me and smiled, saying, “I never said that you were in-charge. I was merely letting you know of my predicament.”
I looked at the woman, and I looked at the digital clock on my desk. Consultation time was up. We chatted eight minutes, and I was supposed to make diagnosis and give a prescription.
I had no diagnosis on Laura. She came here to see me about her spouse. What could I say?
Bored with no patients I went outside up to Samantha and asked her who told Laura that I was Dr. Nicholas. Samantha was always the most reliable source of information and I liked her very much.
“No, Dr. Goh, I didn’t tell her anything. And she went back to her computer.
I stood there for another five minutes and then I decided to go to Caramel Café for my tea again.
One of my hobbies was to play the piano at the Candlelight Lounge at the Royal Park.
I often dropped by the lounge in the evenings to play some of my favourite tunes like Chopin’s Etudes. Chopin was a difficult composer to master. That was why they accepted me on my first interview. Of course I hadn’t told them that I was also a doctor.
I was not supposed to be holding two professions at the same time, like in a marriage contract, you were not allowed two wives. But the lounge was not paying me, so the hospital could not dismiss me on the ground that I was moonlighting. Of course it was stupid to give up the prestigious hospital job for piano playing at a hotel lounge.
But I needed the relaxation and I particularly liked the appreciation that came from the audience - they liked my pieces. Even if I only had that few pieces. My repertoire was narrow. I didn’t know how to play jazz or pop.
In the lounge I actually used the name Nicholas. Was it pure coincidence that Laura called me “Dr. Nicholas”?
And then since my services was all for free, I got a warm beer and a red wine as consideration. Come to think of it, I never knew what brand of beer and wine I was offered. It must have been a Tiger. I liked Tiger. The red wine I would think was a house wine.
As I was playing this evening, a black cat jumped out of nowhere and sat on top of my piano. I was shocked, but kept my cool. I continued playing and the feline just sat there on top of the piano and stared at me. She was all black and her eyes shimmering green. I was almost afraid of her. I could see her black fur shinning and reflecting the light that came from the ceiling, like she was challenging me, telling me I had better stop playing.
Her fat tail was swinging about like a metronome. I was severely distracted, yet I couldn’t tell her to move away.
I ended the piece on a wrong note. And then I quickly stood up and bowed, signally that I was going to pause for the day. If this cat didn’t go away I would end the night after my beer.
I grabbed my beer and I went to the gents to take a rest.
One of the things I learnt in the college from my books was that you must make your patients like you. And this was the thing I was trying to do for myself as regards Laura.
I found that there was absolutely nothing wrong with Laura. Laura was not ill. She came to see me for the sole purpose of talking about her spouse. She wanted help to obtain the organ from one of the patients at the ICU for her husband. And only I knew which patient was near terminal. I was able to access the files in the department.
At night after I came home, I tossed in bed, turning from left to right, from right to left, and I got no answer for myself. In the end I fell asleep on my own prescription. As a doctor I could get medicine without any problems. The pharmacy assumed that I knew what I was doing. Doctors were allowed to cure themselves, apart from their patients.
I have used up all the excuses I had with patients. From mood swings to paranoia, from unreasonableness to bad character, although I was well aware that unreasonableness was not an illness at all. Besides I didn’t really want to send her to another doctor.
But I would miss Laura very much if she were gone, as it was always good to meet with a healthy patient.
Today as I was having my tea I heard Laura’s footsteps. Her footsteps were always loud and clear. No one could have missed it. And I was surprised that she found her way to the Caramel Café.
Normally I was attracted to pretty women. And I thought I liked Laura. But this time she intruded into my space. I was supposed to be having my tea break!
Laura carried a bag which was way too big for her. Her backpack was gone. So by comparison Laura was outsized. Laura was a small woman and very thin. The other thing I liked about her was her voice.
“We don’t sell scones, ma’am,” I heard the waiter said.
“And why not?” I heard her ask.
“It is not in our menu, ma’am,”
“Show me your menu, I don’t believe you,” Laura said.
At this juncture I stood up. I could imagine the waiter’s frustration.
I felt it was time I interfered.
“Why are you sitting at my seat?” I walked up to Laura and asked. I didn’t know why I said that.
“Show me your ticket,” she wasn’t perturbed or surprised.
I haven’t ordered my food yet, so I had no receipt to show her.
“There you are, you have no proof,”
“No proof of what?” stupidly I asked.
“No proof that I am taking your chair,”
I didn’t know why I did all that. This was outside the scope of my practice.
With a certain amount of composure, I walked away, leaving the entire Caramel Café at her disposal.
And then I went back to my office, sat there for another forty minutes to make sure that I had no other patients, before I went into Laura’s profile and wrote the words: unreasonable behavior, then logging out of my PC to leave for home.
Samantha made sure that she saw me off before she left the hospital. It had always been the case. I took no notice of the fact that she had a mug with the words, “Marry Me” on her desk.
Laura Fong was … there was a certain quality about her. I couldn’t begin to describe … maybe she was pretty, sweet, or perhaps even attractive. But she was supposed to be sick! I knew people who were sick, you did not deal with them. They were often unreasonable, difficult and demanding. And once you tread on their wrong side, they could hate you for no reason.
And also I must be careful not to allow the others to create rumours that I was courting Laura. There was no evidence to suggest otherwise. I had been seeing Laura more often than I should. The only witness was this PC right in front of me which I used to key in the records of our meeting the result of my observation.
I knew that I was in a danger zone.
So that even if Laura were not sick, I must pin a reason for the all too frequent consultations. I must either discharge Laura or declare her ill.
I pondered on a prescription.
Nothing alarming so far.
Until I saw the black cat at the Caramel Cafe. I couldn’t be sure if it was the same feline. But sixth sense told me it was the black cat at the lounge. This was confirmed by the ribbon with a bell around her neck. It was bright pink with a charm attached to it. Unless her owner put on the same collar. But if you studied statistics you would know that the probability was one in a million. Black cats didn’t come easily.
But why was she here? Was she spying on me?
As I locked my clinic this evening I took my steps gingerly. I saw my own shadow on the ground for the first time. Only then did I realise that my lot number was 64. I had been parking here relying on my own sense of direction to get to my clinic. And I always found my car.
I unlocked my car and went in.
The window was slightly wound down. I took no notice of it. I put my key in the ignition the engine started without difficulty - that’s one thing about a new car.
Just before I drove off, I heard a meow. And then as I wound down my window I saw a black cat run out from my car.
Superstition has it that if a black cat ran over a coffin, the dead body would wake up.
I have no dead body waiting to be resurrected at the moment, so there was no need to engage the services of this black cat, who seemed so ready for company.
I was in a dilemma. People lived and people died. It was like every one of us was on rotation. Today Lawrence died and a Mr. and Mrs. Chang has a new born son. Florence passed on and a new baby girl was born at the hospital. Our spirits rotate as though there was a time machine recording where our souls went.
I could not say with all honesty, that the guy on the life support machine ought to give up his life for Laura’s husband, or any other man for that matter. Who was to say that the value of the guy on life support was lesser than another’s? Life was not a commodity that is quantifiable. We were not at liberty to put two lives on a scale to determine which held more weight. Not one of us has a right to determine who should live and who should die. We were all humans.
And so, I stopped going to the ICU. I realized that I have no right to play God. It was also best I avoided Carman completely.
But the story of black cats played on my mind. I was thinking of Laura’s cat. Why Laura had to wear that t-shirt all the time whenever she came to see me? I believed that it wasn’t coincidental.
But I thought about it and realized that her words weren’t supposed to be taken seriously. All I needed to do was to turn her down. There was no need for me to insist that she was ill, either physically or mentally. I was a doctor after all, and I was supposed to cure.
Yes, I was good looking. Many people liked me. I earned a good income, and I was still single. I have every reason to marry. But I was married to my profession. I loved sick people. I loved the look of hope on those sick patients. I wanted to cure them all. I didn’t believe that anyone was born sick. No one disease was incurable. And no one should be sick forever.
I was beginning to think that Laura feigned illness to see me.
And so I finally plucked up the courage to ask Laura who recommended me to see her.
“It’s Brandon Chow,” “Brandon Chow was my neighbor,” Laura said. And then she continued,
“Do you think that my husband would die soon?” Laura fired me point blank today. In order to avoid the topic of giving her husband the organ, I said to her,
“Frankly, I don’t know if God is going to call your husband, or whether He has outsourced the job to the devil. And I have no idea if he was going to heaven or to hell,”
“But if you insist on asking me, at this moment precisely, I think the chances are that He has left the premises.”
With that I intercom Samantha for her to come in with the appointment card for my next patient so that Laura could leave.
I knew that I was in a dilemma.
Laura came without any baggage. Her husband was dying. She would soon be available. And Laura was my dream girl.
Yes, I was single. I was thirty going on forty and I was a bachelor. I had planned to stay single but Laura changed everything. Laura fitted the bill, but she was my patient. Apart from the fact that Laura was married, a doctor could not have any relationship with his patient. For otherwise he would flout his professional ethics code.
Err, it was like “God forbid.”
I was not a Christian. So it was difficult for me to confide with God. I did not pray, I’d rather exercise. And if you have prayed often enough you would probably know what I was talking about.
Instead I climbed the Hollywood Hill every Sunday. The hill was high. And on a Sunday many people were there.
When I walked, my footsteps were fast and brisk. The sky was dark and the rain came. I had to seek shelter somewhere, and at the pavilion there I saw Laura.
Laura was alone!
In the end the rain poured before I reached the foot of the hill. My shoes were soaking with muddy rain water and my track suit was sticking onto my skin making me uncomfortable. I quickly went to get my car to drive home. If Laura had greeted me I would have offered her a ride home.
Laura missed her appointment today.
Has she gone overseas without letting me know?
I sat waiting for time to pass. Outside Samantha was paging me and I could see my intercom blinking.
I realized that I must see to my other patients. Laura Fong was not my only patient. I still had my other two-hundred-and-ninety-nine patients, waiting to be diagnosed.
I had always known that Samantha liked me. As far as I was concerned, it was good to get along with your receptionist. But that Samantha was slightly too fat and matronly. I also disliked the way she tied her hair in a bun making her look shorter than she should. But I was diplomatic, I couldn’t quarrel with her.
Samantha was always there to greet me in the mornings and there to say, “Have a good day!” before I left for home. She was my support and I was grateful for that.
It never occurred to me that Samantha entertained the thought of marrying me until the day she appeared at my office with my favorite tea which I usually got from the Caramel Café. It was as though she was trying to stop me from going to the café.
But of course Laura and I had not made any appointments to meet there. Like I said right from the beginning, doctors and patients have a certain telepathic link. Once we read each other correctly we never failed to misread.
As I was walking towards my car I felt something strange happening under my nose.
And then my suspicion was confirmed as I sat on a black cat!
She was as soft as she should be, but the strange thing was that she did not protest. I meant, I was over seventy kg, surely she would meow! I quickly jumped up, and then I found that she was motionless. I put out my hand to ruffle her. It was a little cold. The weather was cold today as it had been raining, so it was not unusual for the black cat to be cold. But that she did not move when I touched her. Her body was kind of hard, but she was still breathing.
This was Laura’s black cat!
I quickly put her by the passenger seat and drove us to the nearest hospital. I scanned my memory … Mt Elizabeth Orchard, Gleneagles Hospital, Tan Tock Seng, SGH … which was nearer? As I was driving I headed towards the Gleneagles, which was the most natural thing to do as it was my habit to drive in that direction since I lived in town.
As I reached the Gleneagles, I let the valet park my car, my keys I left in the ignition. They were in a bunch together with my clinic door key.
I carried the black cat, I walked up the flight of steps three steps at a time and I literally ran towards the A & E Department.
“Is there a doctor on duty?” at this hour maybe there was no doctor on duty immediately, so that I asked again,
“How long do I have to wait?”
“Excuse me, Sir,” the nurse in green uniform said.
“Pets are not allowed in here,” woman stared at me.
“I am …” I stared back at her … OMG …
This was a normal hospital! This was not a veterinary clinic!
I had forgotten that the black cat was an animal and required animal treatment!
Quickly I composed myself, “Oh yeah I forgot, err, yup, I … I … err … I go back and put her back in my car …”
I rushed out of the hospital, back to the valet.
No one was there.
God! I couldn’t find my car now. And then now I have to go to the Police to report loss. But never mind, the car could be retrieved easily. So long as I have the log book, no one could run away with it. I was sure that they couldn’t drive it out of Singapore. But then, … it was possible!
However, the black cat was in my arms now. Between the black cat and my car, I had to make a choice. Ok, I had no sentimental value attached to the car. A car was a car. The black cat was a living thing. And if I delayed any further it might not be a living thing anymore.
Automatically I walked towards the main road, and I hailed for an empty taxi. In the dark, no driver could see that I was holding a black cat, so that I got a taxi easily.
I arrived at the veterinary clinic and literally dropped the black cat at the reception counter as my next immediate task was to look for my car. I needed also to report to work the next day so I rang Samantha to ask her to come to the clinic early to open my room, before my first patient arrived tomorrow morning.
Samantha was a good girl. She was drinking coffee with her mug when I arrived. I saw the words “Marry Me” on the mug and asked myself: is she trying to ask me to marry her? I stood there for her to open my clinic door, before I shrugged the crazy thought away. Girl couldn’t have been serious.
I entertained at least twenty patients before I left for the Candlelight Lounge tonight. None of them were Laura.
Since the black cat incident, I never saw Laura at the clinic again. I went to the hill, I had tea at Caramel Café more often. But fact was that Laura had disappeared from my life.
Of course I missed Laura. She was my dream girl.
Yes, I was a doctor. I was supposed to be even tempered and sound, I knew that I wasn’t ill, I was just falling in love. But that the subject of my affection wasn’t reciprocating. I doubt if Laura knew of my intentions at all.
I tried my best to forget about Laura when she was not physically present. I told myself I did not talk to her unless she was right in front of me.
Yes, Laura had unwittingly entered into my world. She was unreasonable, she was sad, but she was challenging. I knew that she was here for a purpose, but that the purpose was not very well defined. Did she want me to prescribe her with medication? Or did she merely wanted to see me? If she liked me she could declare now. I won’t have minded.
I flipped at the appointment cards, wondering what the next patient Gerald Soh’s profile was like. Laura was well, there was no doubt about it, so there was no reason for me to see her anymore. Maybe Laura had discharged herself. We, doctors, didn’t turn away patients.
I went back to the veterinary clinic. And I said to the girl at the reception,
I started by saying, “Excuse me, the cat.”
“What cat, Sir?”
“I left my cat behind,” I said plainly.
“Oh you mean the black cat?” “She died.”
The woman dug out a note and placed it in front of me. And she continued,
“Here is the amount, please settle before you leave.”
Without so much as glancing at the bill, I rushed out of the veterinary, leaving the premises as though it were a house on fire.
In the hot sun outside, I did not know where to go. I allowed my skin to be burnt by the scorching heat. Then I recalled once again that I did not have my car with me. If the thief had taken it, he would have left the causeway by now.
I picked up my phone and rang Samantha. I have been calling on her more often these days as I seemed to be needing help from her all too often. She answered the call at one ring.
“Your patient is waiting for you,” Samantha said.
“Who was it?” I half hoping that it would be Laura Fong.
“It’s Laura, the one you like,”
“Tell her I am out of town,” I couldn’t go in today. I was feeling quite sick. I was afraid to face Laura. I didn’t know how to explain the demise of the black cat.
And I couldn’t understand why Samantha had to describe Laura as the one you like, as though she could read my mind.
Now Laura and I were playing a cat and mouse game.
At midnight I woke up when I heard a voice,
“You killed my cat.”
I heard Laura talking to me.
“No, I didn’t.” Meekly I replied.
“You killed my cat.” Again the voice said.
I was too weak to reply. I let the voice fade before I fell asleep again.
I saw Samantha’s face when I opened my eyes. She was all smiling.
“Simon, your wife is here to see you.” Samantha said.
“Wife?” I was very sure that I wasn’t married.
“Who is my wife?” I was a little louder.
“Laura Fong,” Samantha said.
“Which Laura Fong?” I tried to be composed.
“You will know when you see her,” Samantha was encouraging.
I heard the loud and deliberate footsteps again.
And then they stopped right in front of my eyes.
It was my Laura Fong!
The Laura that I missed all this while.
“He woke up,” “So he is good,”
“Let’s check his blood pressure,” the nurse standing by the side said.
She took a gadget and used the pad to wrap around my arm. Then she recorded the reading on the gadget.
“120 over 70,” she said.
“Normal” Laura pronounced.
I was very happy that I saw Laura again. But I couldn’t quite recall the events preceding this. So I asked,
“How did I come here?”
“Someone called the ambulance,” Laura said.
“Oh I see,” that meant that I actually fainted.
I must have very sick, sick with worry that Laura had disappeared from my life.
Laura was not wearing her black t-shirt today. The one with the black cat. Which reminded me, “where’s your cat?”
“I don’t have a cat,” Laura declared.
And then I woke up from my dream. It was a midsummer nights’ dream.
In order not to allow people know my thoughts and how crazy I had been, I merely said,
“Oh, sorry, I meant what happened to the t-shirt that you usually wore,”
“Oh, the cat t-shirt, you meant,” Laura was kind. She knew that my thoughts were sick, and I knew that she knew that I was ill. I was sure that everyone knew about me and my black cat. The veterinary clinic must have told her about their experiences with me.
“I will settle your bill for you,” Laura said.
“You mean the cat bill?” I blurted out.
“Whatever,” Laura muttered under her breath. But I heard.
Today I was at the hospital seeing patients as usual.
Several patients were waiting to see me, I looked at the card:
1420: Fiona Ng Lay Kuan (Weight: 53 kg, Height 1.54 m)
The door burst open and the patient walked in. Her hair was unkempt and she carried a backpack too large for her. She sat on the chair meant for the caregiver, and she said to me,
“Dr. Simon, I have a complaint to make,”
My name was Cecil Goh, not Simon. So I said to her,
“There is some mistake here, my name is not Simon,”
“Ok then, Dr. Fong, I feel breathless all the time, and I am unsure if I got the pneumonia.”
“It could just be asthma,” I said, before I took out my stethoscope.
“Yes, I’ve had this since I was a child,” the woman said.
“You could be suffering from mere influenza.” I tried to allay her fears.
“Oh, Dr. Fong, if you could give me two days’ medical leave I would be just too happy,” again she called me wrongly.
“By the way, my name is not Simon Fong,” I said quietly.
“Then … what is your name?” she asked, curious.
“I am Laura Fong’s husband,” and then I added,
“Simon passed away recently.”
“Huh? You are not Simon Fong?! The receptionist outside said that you were Simon Fong.”
“Just call me Laura Fong’s husband.” I was too tired to argue …
If you believed in old wives’ tales, then the black cat I carried to the hospital had served the purpose of resurrecting Simon Fong’s soul into my body. Laura’s cat on her t-shirt was a symbol of the real black which found its way into my car and then died on me. It seemed that the feline carried the soul of Simon and passed it onto me whilst I was carrying it on my body. And then it martyred.
Carman still called me on and off, and it was always regarding the same issue. The last I heard was the patient in 107 was still alive.
But that his bills hadn’t been settled for months. He could have saved Simon. But that won’t have benefitted me.
Simon’s departure brought Laura and I together, and so we must remember never to play God. Even the devil can work in our favour in same situations. We were only passers-by in the cosmic universe.
I had no idea that Laura was attracted to me all the while, and she coming to see me as I was the prospect to replace her husband. Since I was Chinese educated, let me quote you a Chinese saying, “A woman’s heart is like a needle at the bottom of the ocean.”
Laura was waiting for me at home. She made the nicest peppermint tea which was brewed to my perfection. And it was always piping hot. I stopped going to the Caramel Café, and I stopped playing the piano at the Candlelight Lounge.
Laura has also stopped wearing the cat t-shirt.
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