Chapter 23 - Blind Date With My Soul Mate

During one of our numerous holidays on Pulau Rawa, Rick and I made friends with fellow holiday-makers among whom was an Australian family attached to the Australian Defence Force based in Sembawang, Singapore. [Pulau [Rawa is an island 16km off the coast of Mersing, Johore, Malaysia, discovered by Tengku (Malay prince) Mohammed Archibald who in 1971 built Rawa Island Resort with chalets and bungalows - a perfect getaway destination.] The friendship with Judy and Warren continued until they returned to Australia. Before their departure, we were introduced to Rae and Gavan who had arrived to take their place. My friendship with Rae meant that I was never short of "guinea pigs" during my hairdressing and beauty course as she could always be relied upon to bring along her friends as models for me to practice on - from facials to hair-removal.

It wasn't long before we became firm friends as Rae would often come visit me in Changi for girlie activities (especially shopping) whenever Rick was away. During one such visit, she noticed I was rather down-in-the-dumps and voiced her concern. Even as I weakly mumbled, "I'm alright," I could feel the tears welling in my eyes and finally, as if a dam had burst within me, I broke down and started bawling my eyes out. In between bouts of sobbing and several cups of tea, I confided in her the true state of my seemingly happy marriage - how low and undesirable I was feeling, my despair at having to pretend all the time and so on. Rae, being a perceptive lady said, "I have noticed for quite a while now that you are unhappy, I just didn't know why." She tried to reassure me every way she could and finally exclaimed, "I'll bet you anything that you still got it in you to turn any guy on!" "What you need, girl," she continued, "is a night out on the town. Forget that you're a wife and mother, just go out and have fun for the night. It'll do you a world of good!" I explained that I was not in the habit of gallivanting by myself but undeterred, she insisted on arranging a blind date for me real soon.

The very next day, she phoned me to tell me to expect a call from a RAAF friend of hers. "Don't worry, he is single!" she giggled before hanging up. Within the hour, the phone rang again. With a pounding heart, I picked up the phone and after a brief verbal introduction, I agreed to meet this gentleman that night. It was obvious that we were both too nervous to think straight as we had hung up the phone before either of us had arranged a way of recognizing each other. When the phone rang again I quickly answered it and in unison, we both asked, "How will I recognize you?" I told him to look out for a nervous-looking Chinese chick in a black outfit and he in turn told me, "I'll be the only bloke at the bar with a beer-belly!"

Immediately afterwards, I started having second thoughts and was on the verge of contacting Rae to get her to cancel the date but managed to calm down enough to ask myself, "What's the harm, anyway? It's not like I have to sleep with him or anything like that! It's just a date, for goodness sake!" I then decided to just forget about my woes and enjoy a night out, not as a mother and wife but as a woman. Deciding against getting my brother to babysit my children to avoid an interrogation session, I called upon Amy, a friend of mine, to mind my kids for the evening. As I began to get ready for the date, I couldn't help but feel a little excited - a feeling I had not felt for a very long time.

At 7pm on August 9th 1980 (Singapore National Day), I tried to appear nonchalant as I sauntered into the bar of the Hilton Hotel in Orchard Road. I noticed a couple of blokes at the bar but neither gave any sign of expecting company so I did a quick turnaround and beat a hasty retreat to the ladies room. "Now what?" I asked myself. "Oh man, I should have asked him to wear a name-tag or carry a sign! Maybe he chickened out? Bloody hell, here I am, all dressed up with nowhere to go. What a bloody waste of make-up!" I had two choices - get a taxi and go home or be brave and approach the guys at the bar and hope that one of them was my date. I chose the latter.

Back I went into the bar and approached the first bloke... "Hello, is your name Ross or Russ?" The gentleman leapt off his bar-stool and said, "No, I'm Ruff," to which I replied, "Close enough, you must be my date!" After this brief introduction, he bought me a drink and we spent about half an hour getting to know a little more about each other. When I am nervous, I tend to talk a LOT so in that half hour, I learnt a fair bit about my date: He told me his real name is Wayne and in turn, I told him that I didn't like his nickname because "Ruff" sounded rather canine to me and I would much prefer to use his real name, if it was alright with him. His Sun Sign is Cancer, he was born in the Chinese year of the Dog... "Oh goody, both our Sun Signs and Chinese years are very compatible so we should get along just fine," I responded. He has never been married... "How come?" I asked and his quick reply of, "Because no woman has ever asked me to," told me that he's a bloke with a sense of humour. He wasn't attached to anyone... (What a waste, I thought to myself, an eligible bachelor with a wicked sense of humour, good job and impeccable manners...) and he had agreed to our blind date as most of his drinking buddies were out of town. I also found out that he didn't make the first move because he didn't want to risk getting slapped on the face. All Rae had told him was that I am a Chinese friend of hers married to an Australian and that I am a mother of three who needed a bit of cheering up. He did see me out of the corner of his eye but he was not optimistic that this slinky Chinese chick could possibly be his date! He had been conned into blind dating someone's rather plump sister once... After we finished our drink, we sauntered down the road to Jack's Place for dinner: an entree of escargots in garlic butter and a main course of succulent steak with salad and vegetables. During the walk to Jack's Place, I slipped a fifty dollar note into his shirt pocket and said, "This is my share for the evening." (Back in those days, $50 was more than enough to cover the cost of a nice restaurant meal and a few drinks.) He tried to return the money but I insisted by saying, "This way I am not obliged to kiss you goodnight if I don't want to!"

After a lovely dinner, we went to the nightclub at the top of the Mandarin Hotel and danced till past midnight before making our way back to the Hilton Hotel multi-storey carpark where we spent at least 15 minutes walking around in a search for his Honda Civic. By this time, I was feeling slightly peeved as not once did he attempt to get fresh with me while we were dancing cheek to cheek at the nightclub! Maybe he's gay, I thought to myself, or perhaps it was the garlic breath or maybe I just have to accept that men no longer find me attractive. Halfway through the drive back to my place and before I could stop myself, I asked him point-blank what he thought of me. He quietly said that I was attractive and that he enjoyed my company immensely! That certainly boosted my morale no end... Before he drove off, he gave me his phone number and said that I could call him anytime I wish.

The very next day, Rae phoned me to ask how the date went and what I thought of Ruff. I replied that he was a perfect gentleman with a great sense of humour but a bit on the quiet side. At that, Rae burst out laughing and asked whether I gave him a chance to open his mouth to speak. Hmmm... good point! Would I be seeing him again? Who knows? I mustn't forget that I wasn't footloose and fancy-free...

A few days later, Wayne called to enquire if I would like to go pub-crawling with him and his Cathay Pacific Airways mate who was in town. I eagerly accepted and boy, did we have a blast. This led to more "dates" and it wasn't long before I realized to my dismay that I was growing rather fond of him. It came as no surprise to Rae when I confided in her and she somehow managed to include Wayne in a couple of get-togethers so as to introduce him to Rick. Soon he became a friend of the family with my kids addressing him as "Uncle Wayne". To my delight, he and my kids got along like a house on fire. He was a terrific "uncle" who would cheerfully take the kids and I to the movies at the drop of a hat when Rick was out of town. By this stage, my conscience was bothering me big time so to ease it, I decided to play match-maker. I arranged an introduction to one of my girl-friends, Sue, who was single and the three of us went to town one night. At the end of the evening, I tactfully asked to be dropped off first so as to give them a chance to get to know each other a little better. It was hard to describe my feelings as I watched them drive away - I was glad that they seemed to get along well but I also experienced a strange feeling of emptiness. That night I cried myself to sleep.

Not wanting to find out anymore about their evening after my departure, I refrained from contacting either party until Sue phoned me the following evening. She found him to be very nice indeed, a gentleman in every sense of the word but she knew earlier on during the evening that she didn't stand a chance as he had eyes for nobody else but me! That was when it hit me - I had fallen in love with him and what I had felt the previous evening was jealousy mingled with fear at the thought of losing him. What a sorry situation to be in... I had met my soul mate a little too late.

What could I do? I didn't want to sever all ties with him as I couldn't bear the thought of not seeing him again and yet, I was not a free woman who could openly enter a relationship. I decided to leave my future in the hands of Fate. I gave up the match-making idea and we continued as before - long telephone conversations, pub-crawling with his mates, fishing boat trips, family bbq, social functions at the Naval Base and so on. It was during one of our pub-crawling sessions with his good mate, John, that I realized how much Wayne had come to care for me. While he was away in the used beer department, John asked me how I felt about his good mate. He said he had never seen Ruff behaving the way he has been with any woman before me. If I felt the same way, would I leave my husband to be with him? I had no answer...

Later, alone in my bed, I made up my mind to throw caution to the wind and live my life as described in the Kenny Rogers' song, "Daytime Friends". This state of affairs continued until the end of his RAAF service term with the Singapore Air Force in early March 1981. [He was on loan to the SAF as an instructor to the local Flight Engineer Officers.]

On his last night in Singapore, he placed a 'wedding' ring on my finger as we pledged our love for each other and promised to keep in touch. The next morning I went with little Nina to Paya Lebar International Airport to see him off while Deej and Sharon were at school. It was a heart-wrenching experience for all three of us - I was unashamedly weeping, Wayne was trying to hide his sadness and Nina was crying and reaching her arms out to Wayne as he reluctantly left us at the departure lounge to board the plane. I said goodbye to my happiness as I nursed my broken heart.



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