There was a methodical and habitual movement in each person’s routine. I was of no exception. My ‘movement’ would be ‘observation’. The close proximity of flats cultivated the temptation to peer into others’ rooms. These were excellent pockets of voyeurism, where if one examined them carefully, all contained a tale or two.
My wife had always complained about the way I interfered with others’ business. “You shouldn’t keep spying on others like this. They don’t like their privacy to be intruded on,” she would often say, resignation in her tone. She already knew I was going to proceed with my ‘observation session’ anyway, so she could not care less but to go to work.
Usually, my ‘observation session’ would involve surveying the morning crowd, where the cacophony of uses unloading the schoolchildren added to the neighbourhood atmosphere. The screams of the children playing football in the void deck and the maids scurrying after their charges all added to what would otherwise have been a dull monochrome neighbourhood. Soon after when the morning crowd has dissipated as the merciless heat of the sun settles in, I would then continue my ‘observation session’, I prefer to call it, peeping into others’ privacy with my handy little binoculars.
It was one of the mornings when I conducted my ‘observation’ session which left its mark on me, when I discovered that something was amiss in Mr. Soh’s house. It was routine for Mr. Soh to be home to watch some movies, since his jobbed at the press required him to produce movie reviews, but apparently, he was not at home. I took a look at the usual car park slot he occupied- his car was there. Having been in this estate for some ten years, my knowledge of Pasir Ris Estate 12 was boundless and infinite. I knew every single nook and
cranny, the names of all the children of block 341, and I even took the liberty to name the stray cats which roamed the blocks. But the presence of Mr. Soh’s car was beyond my comprehension. He would never travel without his car, and he has never had an MRT card.
Perhaps my wife was right. This whole ‘observation’ session was making my
imagination run wild. I stole a last glance at Mr. Soh’s room with my binoculars, my expectation to see Mr. Soh waking up was invalidated when I saw a Spiderman rummaging through Mr. Soh’s closet.
A grown man with a Spiderman mask on the streets would have been hilarious, but to see one in someone else’s house was definitely nothing funny at all. The first thought that assailed me was the very word: “Burglary”. As though the sight of a masked intruder set off the smoke alarm in my body, I began to perspire instantly. Heart pounding in my chest, I took deep breaths to regain my composure.
But then again, Mr. Soh had never been much of a friendly neighbour anyway. There is no reason whatsoever as to why I should help him and stop the burglar! Eyes narrowing with malicious intent, a vivid recollection of how Mr. Soh had been so disrespectful to me in the past as a succession of images flashing through my mind only served to spark an irrepressible fire within me. The flames of anger and hatred writhed and twisted, evolving and expanding as more and more of our sour encounters cascaded from my memory vault.
He never replied when I greeted him at the coffee shop. Neither did he help out at the annual Happy Neighbours Fair 2009. And particularly exasperating about him was the fact that he always parked his car irresponsibly, occupying not one, but two lots, just to get the residents to get to notice how wealthy he was.
But oh, the internal turmoil! It was never hard to make a decision, especially so if it involves a rude neighbour. A small insistent voice of reproach surfaced, determined to get its message across. If I could not even fulfill a duty and promise of a helpful neighbour, what use is it to help out at the Happy Neighbours Fair 2009? If I did not help Mr. Soh, my pledge to be a utilitarian would just be a pretence, a masquerade. If I sit and stare and do nothing, I am nothing different from who I detested most- Mr. Soh.
Gripping my binoculars tight, I continued observing the burglar. A deep sigh escaped through my lips as I picked up the phone and dialed the police hotline. After giving the particulars, I proceeded with my monitoring of the burglar’s activities. That poor burglar! He must have thought that Mr. Soh was a rich man, but alas, he never was! The big talk about his inheritance and the number of factories he own was all a façade! The paucity of the find obviously irked the burglar, as all he could find right now were perhaps some watches, but definitely not the real ones, I assumed. But resolute as he was, the burglar never gave up on his rummage, despite yielding disappointing results. Subconsciously I was wishing that the burglar would leave earlier, lest the police caught him. Mr. Soh would really need a lesson on neighbourly cooperation, soon after he learns the concept of neighbourly respect. But then again, I have already rang up the police, there was nothing I could do but to watch the drama unfold.
The familiar red and blue of the police car made their contributions and together conveyed an aura of intense drama. My eyes following closely to the movements of the police squad, a surge of exhilaration and adrenalin rushed through my veins. I was nearly jumping on my seat! An ambush was laid and the policemen waited in patience for the hapless burglar to emerge from the house and into their trap. As sure as fate, the burglar, disgruntled after a disappointing find, walked straight into the ambuscade.
Ten minutes later, one of the policemen knocked on my door and thanked me for my vigilance. At a corner, I could see Mr. Soh running towards me, sweat coursing down his face. Maybe he did have a conscious after all. However, instead of thanking me for assisting the police in their capture, he blatantly ignored me altogether.
“Thank you sir, for informing me! I am sure the burglar did not discover my safe’s code, did he?” Mr. Soh insincerely questioned.
“Well, he did open your safe, but he found nothing inside,” explained the policeman calmly.
Upon realising that his secret has been revealed, Mr. Soh decided to spare himself from further embarrassment, “That was impossible! You must search him, again! I have to go now! Got a billion-dollar deal meeting on! I trust that you would handle the situation appropriately.”