Four Years

It is four years now, four years –
Of everything, where I made my own breakfasts,
Learned to cook, and had McDonald’s for both
Lunch and dinner, where I had
Lonesome tummy aches,
And put myself to bed when sneezing and stormed
With a cold and a brain full of mush,

And then Shuyi happened, and I never felt
Lonely anymore, except when we are apart,
And my days are spiked with a longing
More poignant than I have known.
She made my life in Shanghai complete,
Oh, how we dated, danced and dined
When before it was mostly company with Misery.

Here I first met Genevieve, a long-lost friend
She still called me Guano, and brought me out
Introduced me to this world of fake liquors and
Crazy parties; we first met in a Belgian Bar
And she already was a veteran, loving this city
Too much, oh man, I don’t think that
She is ever going to leave.

Through Gen I met Nevin, one of the closest
Shanghainese friends I would have
We would go out almost every weekend
To some new debauchery, him most-times
With some new girlfriend
When there was trouble, I got his back
And we paid for that.

Then I met Andrew, together with Lys,
But Andrew was here to stay, and Lys was on holiday.
It was at Xintiandi, the bar next to the fountain,
I had a Guinness while they had whiskies
With quiet chatter and pleasantries
I didn’t think I would see them again
I couldn’t be more wrong.

I think Andrew could have been as lonely as me
And having McDonald’s for dinners as well;
It was a Friday night when I called him, he was
Not in the city, but flying back that night.
When he got home we hit the town, and thereafter
We hung out in bars, and clubs, sipping whiskies,
I don’t think we ever met in the day.

Then Lionel arrived, fellow Singaporean
Always excited by the prospects of good food
And relentless in his pursuit of finding
All the best restaurants and kat-bab roadside stalls
He wouldn’t turn down a chance to try something new
And wouldn’t turn down a good whisky
So we started going out for dinners as well

And then there was Phyllis, Eunice and Kadhli
The first time we met we went to so many different bars
I don’t remember the last one, and Lys took home my jacket
They cooked Singaporean food and we went to their place
Cuddling with Kadhli, and listening to
Phyllis’s words of encouragement to me
On learning how to cook (although it involved diarrhoea)

Then there was a summer night, I remember we were
Not dressed warmly, I was in
A t-shirt, and it was one of those nights
I was couple clubbing with Andrew
It was late, but we were just started;
Muse 2 (the old one) was not enough
And Muse 3 our new destination,

But being homely boys, we had no idea
Where it was and how to get there.
We were out on the streets, at the
Foot of the building housing the club
There were party people all around us
And taxis in a line, their signs green as they waited
To send the drunken people home

Here it was where we found three kind persons
Lucy, Angela and Gloria,
Smart in the ways of Shanghai and the scene.
They went out of their way,
Beyond giving us information
We took two taxis, and that was the first time
We all partied together at Park 97.

It was far from the last time, too,
We just went to muse 1 (the new one),
Three years later, and Angela would have been there
Had she not have returned.
We would go to Muse, and Monkey,
To party in Hong Kong, of course
And I got to drink all their drinks.

I still remember Angela and how we were going
To Hong Kong, we met at my place
But she went to the wrong block, and rang the door bell
Of a random person, while carrying her baggage,
That was a great moment.
Angela’s long gone, back to the states, and currently
Holding the title of worst pen pal ever.

Gloria is always so serious, yet with bouts of sudden
High-pitched laughter, tempering her meticulousness
With a great sense of fun
I remember how she’d reprimanded that guy
At the club, when he tried to confront me
And get me out of his table.
Well, I did; we all did, even while he apologised.

Lucy drinks, but never gets drunk
So good at exercising self-restraint that
Clearly most of us lack,
Even while getting challenged, dragged, and
Coerced to down another shot.
Everytime she tries to leave, oh,
How we will try to force her to stay.

Finally Lys moved here, and here for good,
And just as well, she was flying here so often
She might as well have lived here
Sweet Lys, always the friend you could count on
She knew everyone, and everywhere,
Enjoying brunches and parties and drinks
And in her heart, you could find a beautiful friend

That was what I found in Lys, and thereafter
When Shuyi got here, it was the same, and so quickly
They became fast friends, at times I almost felt
Like an outsider! They would have their girls’ night out,
Oh, but we all had our brunches and dinners,
Crazy parties and sleepovers playing card games
We’ll miss you, Lys.

Carmen came shortly, so young yet so travelled
But her party energy betrays her age
It is like she answers alcohol with sleep,
Her bed-time sometimes seems to be ten-thirty.
Then they somehow became a couple, L&C
I still don’t know what happened, but it was swift,
Man, Lionel is efficient.

I met Rebecca the first time at a shady restaurant
With meaty deals at suspicious prices
We were all there and agreed never to go back again
And one day at dim sum, we were chatting
About where we lived back home,
And found out we were neighbours, just one street down!
The world can be so small at times.

In People’s Seven, I first met Jet,
Brought along by Angela for someone’s birthday party
(Was it yours, Angela?)
He loves birthday parties, or so he claimed
But I suspect he just loves parties, any kind,
Even now, married, with a daughter,
Even with his curfew… in his heart.

Then Shuyi came to Shanghai, her first night
On the bund, we all went to Prive
Popped a few bottles, and I would
Henceforth probably stop leaving
My jackets in the clubs,
And going home in a t-shirt
In the middle of winter.

When Shuyi moved here I was so happy –
Happy as a lark to share the city with my love
Happy to have a beautiful date every day.
And it was soon clear I’ve found the right girl;
Everyone loves her, probably more than me
And it was great how we were all friends
Not mine, not hers, but ours.

Past this was all a blur – we rolled
With good times and gathered more moss
I started to lose track of when I met whom,
They were mostly liberally sprinkled with
Wine, beer, champagne, whisky
Festivals of dark and light, of clubs and bars,
Brunches and singing and food.

Our friendships were founded on the same bases
Of being here alone, mostly, in a city strange and foreign
Far from home, and family, we did what we could
To make this place our home
And while our friendships were young, raw and new
Perhaps it worked when we never
Took each other for granted

I must have met Benji quite a while ago
But honestly have forgotten when,
Though I remember when I first saw his happy family
Sebby in the middle, noisy as usual, and Chrystal
Sitting by the side; funny, that was at the Roof,
The day we gathered together
To say goodbye to Andrew.

I can’t recall when I first met Eddie, but I remember
How we were drinking sake at Lucy’s birthday dinner
At Kagen; we were all there, and I was so drunk
On sake, that I went home after.
We would go to KTV and do the supporting vocals
In a beautiful synchronized sashaying on the stage
While Winnie belts out Adele.

I remember Winnie at Kota’s Kitchen, after the
Jason Mraz concert. She said that wasn’t the first time
We met, but it was always a blur.
Winnie does the sweetest stuff, like that video for Eddie
And you should hear her drunken siren blaring.
Now Eddie has left, and I will miss his headlocks,
And Winnie made me a scrap book I will keep.

Then there was Kat, who gave me her name card
In Eden, supposedly; Kat with her easy smiles
And laughter, and how she types it with a K.
So funny how she’d smile and wave at me
Even if we were sitting at the same table since
More than an hour ago.
She does that all the time.

There was Carrie, and we met at KTV,
Probably Taipei Chun, just across the street
From my place – I remember telling her about
The Changzhou Dinosaur park – so geeky.
She impresses me with how she handles her beer,
A pint in five seconds? You could never tell
From how sweet she looks.

There was Zack, who loves Jaegerbombs
And always dependable to put in the effort to get
His best dress on, like his Gingerbread man suit
And his school uniform, oh man,
That was some effort right there.
The way he drinks is awesome because
He would get so happy.

From Taiwan as well, there was Grace,
Crazy Grace, as we would call her,
Valiant and indomitable in the face of drinks,
She’s also a KTV queen
I remember once she asked me to pick songs to sing,
That they just got there and haven’t started picking
What? There were already forty seven songs in queue.

There was Gwen and Aslan, as well,
Brave spirits now living in a desolated
Wasteland called TEDA, or so she would
Describe it, getting her baijiu fix on with the
Northern Chinese; while I wonder what happened
To Aslan, that mischievous spoilt puppy
Maybe she likes Tianjin more than Gwen.

I met Leonard while we were all dressed up
Fine dining with Lys on her birthday party.
Now I’ve come to realized how amazing Lenny is
At evading drinks with a ponderous dexterity
Now well known in all Shanghai as the
Famous alcohol escape artist,
We’d put cats and leaves next to his face on photos.

Gera would shout at him and make him drink,
We made her the class monitress for that reason
That she can, and she will make people drink,
And drink herself, sometimes she reminds me of
Officers in the army.
Gera, amazing in her own way for how she climbs up
Seven storeys of stairs in whatever condition to go home.

There was Jiawei, one of the first times we met
We drank so much soju; that guy is energetic
And somehow ever ready for anything
First to reach, last to leave; great values healthily tempered
With a good appetite for wanton fun.
It’s too bad I met him so late,
For he makes a great buddy, sober or drunk

There was Hannah, I first spoke to her seriously
When she had a bit too much to drink
After some school themed party,
In a KTV, she said she was happy for me and Shuyi.
Now Hannah is asking me to consult my conscience
How we can all leave at the same time?
I wish it were that easy.

I could hold on to these beautiful memories
Crafted through these years of solidarity
And I will hold on to these beautiful people
Whom I count myself lucky to call as friends
I will still have these photos, these notes,
The errant group chats; I can try to immortalize
All these into this bunch of words

Yet now I must leave, with an understanding
That those are all that they will be,
And while we all hold on,
It will never be the same, for me.
And now when I leave, I will leave
Some part of myself, here in this city
Here, where I learned, and loved, and lived.

I always say I love this city, in truth,
Maybe it’s not the city, not here, with all the
Cigarettes, bad traffic, and spit,
Where months can pass before a blue sky;
No, maybe it has always been this group of people,
And when I leave, I will think of all of you
And smile at how we rocked this city – thank you.