Since I mentioned Ern Sheong, I guess I should tell you a bit about the rest of the Malaysian ASEAN survivors in NJ.

Lunching with Emile and Yingxu today, we were talking about how we have influenced each others lives. I like what Yingxu said about roommates:

We live with our siblings, we squabble and fight, but that’s OK, because we grew up together after all. We have friends in school that irritate us or load us with their troubles, but we can escape their presence once we get home. But roommates are a whole new experience. We tread this ground carefully. We are strangers who have to get used to each others quirks, and it’s a 24/7 effort at that.

Yingxu has brought music back into my life. She plays percussion in the Chinese Orchestra. She always invites me to play the piano with her (she pays to book the piano room). She has introduced me to good movies and books, and allowed me to see physics in an alluring light. I love making conversation with her, and since this year our beds are next to each other, there have been many tired afternoons spent in pleasant chatter.

She is not my listener though, Emile is better at this. Yingxu hardly ever commiserates. In any case, I don’t share a lot of stuff with both. I just don’t feel at ease sharing with people whom I have to see all day and night; they might be too weighed down with my troubles.

But to appease my doctor and my mum, I have asked Emile to force me to take my medicine if I ever come to a stage where I am too angry to take them. (Bah.)

Emile. This girl unloads her moans and groans freely. When she does that, I tune out immediately, I hate it. And she likes to torment us with her singing. I pick up little habits from her: eating toufu, washing oily vegetables in soup. She is caring, the one who will make tea for me when I’m sick, give me strepsils, hug me when we part for the holidays. Oh she is a very capable person. But I will remember her as the overly enthusiastic kid.

I haven’t really spent much time with them this year; I am too absorbed in my own troubles which I don’t feel they understand. In a way, there has been an invisible curtain separating my side of the room from theirs. I have been very irritable, always snapping at them to turn off their music, stop chatting, stop complaining about school.

But yes, I will remember them fondly. Not forever–I’ve learnt that people come and go–but for a while. Our evening walks to Coronation Plaza for groceries, food hunts, movie outings, window shopping, and the rare occasions when 3 of us study together. (To tell the truth, this works out badly because Emile asks a lot of irritating questions.)

And guess what they said about me. They said my greatest influence on them was….

to cause them to study. They wished they were as hardworking as I was. I can’t believe that!

I must have been a really intense mugger last year. When tough times last too long they become blurred in memory.