Tonia Wong

Daily idol-worship and star-gazing at specific time-slots (TV series); regular scriptural studies (magazines, newspapers & books); and the payment of tithes and offerings (monthly subscription fees). There’s more: High priests of cool (supermodels) and hotshot evangelists (super salespeople) preaching the saving message of consumerism (buy one, get one free). Why buy? Because we¹re worth it. Yes, it’s definitely a religion.

It’s belief is simple: the more you possess, the closer you are to paradise. I thought I had finally arrived: A beautiful home, big car, great job and lots of money. These were rewards from my lifetime of devotion to the almighty power of hedonism. Materialism offered a glowing sense of contentment and wealth was my blessed assurance of salvation. But of the holy trinity of wine, women and song, it was one woman who brought me the most secure feeling in the world. Her name was Chloe. Long straight hair, later short, then permed then long again, I’ve seen them all. Just a whiff of her favourite perfume, Poison, would conjure up multiple images of her in my mind arched when delighted; the curvature of her full lips when she smiled; and the hidden marks and moles that were on her body. 15 years is a long time to be together.

How complete my life was as I possessed every creature comfort of the good life, including the ideal person to share that heaven with. Every moment of time would be spent together in the private sanctuary of our home. We read each other’s minds, knew each other’s passions, desires, timing, location and drank of each other’s wines of success. It was like that for a long, long time. Then omens of impending doom started to appear. At first, it was the odd minute or two. Then she needed to spend the day together with that mutual friend of ours, shopping for a gift. “Another afternoon shopping?” I mused. “That’s so unlike the homebody she is. Maybe she’s just going through a phase.” I should have realised what was happening but I was not the suspicious one. On hindsight, it could have been denial on my part because mulling over our many petty quarrels was extremely unpleasant. “No need to deal with it, can’t be that bad,” I would often reason our squabbles away.

An occasional outing soon became a long weekend, then with increasing frequency, she made excuses to be away from me. “It’s over; I’m leaving,” Chloe scowled as she combed the house to separate our things. All at once, I walked through another dimension of time. In one second, 15 long years of bliss replayed in my mind. “How can it be ending? It¹s all too sudden. Surely it’s not happening!” A stuffed NTUC plastic bag with all my belongings hanging out assured me of its reality. A bra flew in my face. Then my pearl earrings.

For months, my mind lingered on that humiliating moment of rejection. All the peace, happiness and security I¹d ever known had flown out of the window. “Ungrateful, @$#%-ing, two-timing snake! Is this my reward after all that I’ve done for you? I’ve given you nothing but my undivided love and devotion.” Chloe had wronged me with adultery, even if it was an unholy
liaison involving three women.

A year later, the confident and optimistic person whom I used to be had become wretched and bitter. The venomous sting of betrayal was unbearable as my head and chest throbbed with pain from an agonising constriction every few seconds had experienced was discovering a tiny scratch on the bumper of my brand-new BMW. How it contrasted with the stabbing gashes from a dagger that had plunged deep into my heart.

All my worldly wealth could not comfort me. Who cared how many types of crystal apples I owned! How shallow it all seemed now. Nothing mattered any more, not even the exquisite flavours of food which I had enjoyed so much.  It was completely tasteless now. For an eternity, I did nothing but wallow in my own vomit of self-pity, appalled at how much has changed since then.  Chloe was gone, I had been retrenched and my mother had been stricken with a deadly disease. As I lay motionless on the cold marble floor of my empty house, I eventually saw the light. It was a sacred moment of revelation as streams of living water coursed through my body, soul and spirit. Through hazy eyes, for a brief but lucid moment, I saw the naked truth of divinity fleshed out in human form. Chloe had been my god.

[From the book, FOC: Freedom of Choice by Leslie Lung (Singapore: Aquanut Agencies, 2000). Used by permission. All rights reserved.]