I left the office at around 2am today, and asked the colleague kind enough to give me a lift, to stop at a petrol station, so I can get my packs of cigarettes for tonight and tomorrow.
There was a woman at the counter. She's of Indian descent. I didn't ask for her IC or passport to determine whether she's Malaysian or not.
She wore, on her face, a look of fear. As if she was a rabbit that was just chased by a fox and barely managed to get into her hole in time. I recognise that look, and the emotion it most probably stems from. Insecurity.
"Marlboro Menthol Lights," I said, motioning to the cigarette shelf, through the glass case separating myself and the store.
She gave me a pack of Marlboro Lights.
Me: No. This is Marlboro Lights. I want Marlboro Menthol Lights.
She: Oh, Marlboro Menthol.
And she gave me a pack of Marlboro Menthols.
Me: No. No. It's okay. Nevermind.
I was thinking of convincing my colleague to stop at 7 Eleven so I can get my Marlboro Menthol Lights. I felt my pockets, and the almost-empty pack of Marlboro Menthol Lights was there.
I don't know why, but I fished it out and showed it to her.
Me: This one. This is Marlboro Menthol Lights and you don't have it -
Before I could finish, she fished out a pack of Marlboro Menthol Lights triumphantly and held it to me.
Me: Ah, yes.
The woman displayed much joy at this. She rang up the cash register with pride, thinking perhaps that she is indeed good at her job.
I mean, she could have had a hard life, and that job at the petrol station was probably the only thing she could do. Maybe she has three kids at home, and an abusive husband. Who knows?
I am smoking those cigarettes now, as I type.
I inhale and I think about all those people, desperate for jobs. For money. Desperate. Devoid of hope, much less desire. And I count and thank my lucky stars that I have been blessed with such good fortune that I do not have to scramble at the whims of a customer looking for a pack of cigarettes.
Many would not understand, or be thankful of what they already have. They have been conditioned as such to whine and complain about everything, as if doing so would get them the things they think they need.
Well, good luck to you.
Petty squabbles, and pettiness in general. Ruinous ambition. Poisonous Desire.
And now, I do not know how to end this.
I might go on with recollections when I worked as a cashier at a pharmacy, working with supermarket lifers - those who would spend their entire lives working at supermarkets.
Or how I was turned away from working at Dome, San Francisco Coffee and even KFC for being overqualified. I mean, I went to walk-in interviews at these outlets, speaking English braying about my dreams of writing comics. No wonder the managers immediately felt insecure.
Is it any wonder, that the manager for the pharmacy I worked at sought to get me to quit, because she felt threatened. She was and perhaps still is an idiot. If I wanted her position, nothing could have stood in my way.
But my dream was not to be the manager of a pharmacy, or to run a supermarket. I wanted and still want to write, and get paid for it. And there are so many things to write. Articles. TV series. Books. Movies. Many, many, many things.
I guess I am blessed that I now possess the skills I pretended to have. And that I am no longer the woman behind the counter, groping for a pack of Marlboro Menthol Lights which I know not what it looks like.