Barbara

What is your name?
Timothy.
What’s yours.
Barbara.

I shook her hand. We were at the gantry. I handed her the heavy bag, and smiled at her. I was sad to see her leave. I was sorry I could not help her more.

How old are you? She asked bluntly, in heavily accented English. Put the same words in another person, and it might betray an off-putting clumsiness, but she was heavily pregnant, and had a brave smile that hid her weariness. I wanted to tell her everything would turn out all right, somehow. I was 25, and she was 26.

I shook her hand again and watched her leave. Walking away, I turned back and saw that she had trouble getting through. I paused and considered walking back. She tried another gantry and it lit green. I turned away.

As she was buying her ticket, I asked if she was from around here. She was from the Philippines, staying at Bedok, arrived 8 days earlier. She couldn’t agree with her landlord, or rather, the landlord didn’t agree with her. She asked me if I knew any place she could stay. For the second time, I told her apologetically I did not know. She was going to Tanjong Pagar to find a friend, and would only be in Singapore a few days more. I wanted to ask what she was in Singapore for, but it wasn’t my business to ask. The screen read $2.30. Ten cents put through the slot, but it fell through immediately to the collection tray. She searched her bag for more coins. $2.40. She continued rummaging around a compartment. A coin. Didn’t work. Another one. Nope. I fished out my wallet. But she tried another coin again. $2.50.

11 at night, after dinner at Raffles City. As I walked towards the Bus Interchange, a heavily pregnant lady stopped me and asked if I knew any buses that went towards Tanjong Pagar. I thought for a bit and told her I was sorry, I didn’t think so, maybe she could try the MRT. I continued to walk on but she stopped me again. My bag’s very heavy, could you help me carry it to the MRT? A moment’s hesitation, and I readily agreed. She looked like she needed help, and I wanted to help her. Walking along, we were silent. I put on a smile and looked forward. I could feel her looking at me, trying to find friendly words to say. Silence. Where do you work?

I wondered if all this would end up in her trying to scam me for something, but I quickly put that aside. I smiled and said Raffles City.  Do you work in computers?  Yes, how did you know? In Singapore, a lot of people work in computers.

At the escalator, with nothing to say, but feeling the urge to say something, I offered weakly, “Your bag really is heavy,” She laughed and smiled back.

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