This is the part where everything spiral out of control. The episode that makes you uncomfortable in your own skin, where you find heaviness pressing so deeply against your skin that you scream in pain, begging for release. But this is where it all began, this is how I shall write this particular story. My meeting with Mdm Teo started out in a rather peculiar manner. Our paths crossed while she was found lying on the ground and I, was busy trying to chase light. Yes, it is the morning light that I am relentlessly courting. All of the sudden, I heard a loud exclamation, ” Auntie, Are you okay?”. As my glance followed the source of commotion, my eyes found rest on an old lady, lying motionless on the pavements. This is Mdm Teo and never in my wildest dreams would I have known that the aftermath of events would lead me to one of life’s most important lessons. The Human Connection.
A crowd gather, all bleary-eyed. Everyone seem to be asking the same question, ” Auntie, are you okay?” As though in response to their incessant questioning, Mdm Teo recovered and sat upright. In one motion, I heard another voice screaming from behind, ” Oh My God! THERE IS BLOOD!!” Oblivious to the ruckus, Mdm Teo stood up and made an attempt to leave the scene. The scene of her own accident. Half-hearted attempts were made to stop her, offers were delivered to call for an ambulance, for help. But Mdm Teo adamantly refuses, shaking her head and walking away. Accepting her decline, people left. Fortunately, there was a young chap who was rebellious enough to hash out his mobile and made a call to the hospital.There I stood, in my own space, feeling a swelling force propelling me towards her.
I ran forward, expecting acceptance. Telling my patient repeatedly, ” Auntie, you need to see a doctor. Let me bring you to the clinic! ” But all my efforts came to naught, as I watch Mdm Teo’s small frame disappear into the crowd. Unwilling to let this resistance go, I leaped right into the crowd, chasing after Mdm Teo like a pest. I told her to just allow me to walk with her. Taking her silence as consent, we started a conversation.
Mdm Teo told me of how she would come to the bus terminal daily and she would sit at the same spot till 5pm. I followed her to the place where she dwells. We sat there, in a common space, strangers no more. At that seat, stories span between us. Her stories mainly. She told me about her retrenchment which had left her unemployed for 10 years and how her repeated attempts to find a job had been fruitless. She described a simple life with her younger sister and how when money was scarce, they would simply consume less. She told me of her fainting spells and how her accident this morning is a norm. She had $18.23 dollars left in her bus card. Her younger days were her joy, I watched as her eye lit up with every reminisce of her younger days. I held Mdm Teo’s hand, wanting to protect her with every ounce of my being yet feeling so helpless in my capabilities to do so.
Soon, the police and the ambulance came. Mdm Teo’s head was bandaged and nursed. Due to her deep cut, the paramedics cajoled Mdm Teo to go to the hospital for a further check up and stitching. Mdm Teo refused firmly and her refusal sparked off a string of persuasion from them. All efforts were futile, Mdm Teo was as stubborn as a mule. I later come to know that the reason why Mdm Teo refused to seek medical attention is because of the hefty medical bills. Her previous experiences with these medical bills have caused her to shun away from any medical assistance. This understanding hit me with the realization of the struggles faced by the common people, people who fall through the cracks in a thriving Singapore society.
My encounter with Mdm Teo left me pondering over the value of human connection. We have been shrouded with the illusion of having real connection through social media, platforms that celebrate our narcissistic nature and tell that this is the way human connection is all about when it isn’t. In actual fact, real human connection is scary. You put your whole self into another person’s space. You let her in and she, let you. There is a profound linkage between both and it can only happen because of trust. Real human connection needs you to put the other in front of self. You need to abandon this fear of being turned away from your offer of a human connection. You need to handle that without cultivating a sense of bitterness within. You need to show up time and again, always having zealousness and hope emanating from within. In a way, it is a kind of continual renewal. I have learnt that a real human connection garners fullness. This overflowing, never ending sense of worthiness, something that never empties but always fills. It puts you in a state of wanting to give your all not because of yourself, but because of the other.
Well, my story with Mdm Teo does not end here. A human connection established stays. I sincerely do hope that one day the world will be peppered with tiny bulbs of real human connection. One that will definitely make this world a better place to live in.