People-Watch: Suits and Skirts

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10.45 a.m | Eyeliner

I like my eyeliner to extend just a little, over the corner of my upper eyelids. I tend to draw them sloping slightly downwards, giving my eyes a gentler look. I usually choose liquid eyeliner, because they produce smoother, sharper lines. I draw it on carefully, following the curve of my eyes, ghosting across the eyelashes. Today, I’m keeping it minimal. Not too thick. Just barely there. For the finishing touch, I fill in the outer corners of my eyes with brown crayon liner. Next, I apply a peach-scented lip balm, shaped like a cute plastic cupcake. It was a gift from a friend. Then, I go over my lips with a sheen of plum purple gloss, to give it a dash of colour.

Next, hair. I pull it into a simple high ponytail. My clothes were set, too. I was wearing a sleeveless white, halter-neck top, and a black, high-waisted pencil skirt. Finally, I pulled on my flats. Black, with a ribbon at the tips.

I stared at my reflection. I looked like an office girl, with a 9 to 5 job, probably in a cubicle. My mouth tasted like apple crumble. It was the only thing I had for breakfast. Time to go.

11.45 a.m | ‘Ang Moh’ Couples

The train whirred clunkily, as it chugged along the underground subway tracks. Every now and then it came to a stop, and an unnaturally polite voice announced the name of the station, as the doors clicked open. People filed in and out. Everyone looked sombre, as if burdened by the weight of morning light. A pretty girl in a blue dress slept, in the seat opposite mine. Her salmon pink handbag lay vulnerable on her lap. I wondered if someone was eyeing it, waiting to grab it on the way out. An old woman and an old man chattered, two seats away from me. From the corner of my eye, I noticed the old woman handing the old man a ringgit note. The old man appeared bashful, but accepted it anyway. I overheard her saying, “Ini you ambil kasi family.” I wondered if they were friends, and what warranted her charity.

Two pairs of foreign couples came in. I noticed the women. In the first couple, the woman was wearing a grey top, and grey sweatpants. She had a regal look, with black hair, cropped extremely short. Her thighs and calves looked full and bulky, but her face was sharp and defined. I remember thinking about the stunning contrast between the white of her skin, against a backdrop of leathery brown, and tanned yellow people. The second couple appeared to be the polar opposite of the first couple. Where the first couple was understated and monochrome, the second couple was vibrantly technicoloured. The woman was brightly dressed, in a lilac tank top, and orange Bohemian print pants. Scarves hung down from her full waist. She wore strangely thick make-up, with sharply drawn, exaggerated eyebrows, and red lipstick. Both couples left the train before my stop.

12.00 pm | Wet Butterflies

I arrived at KL Sentral, a bustling hub of people. Some were dragging luggages behind them. They were probably transiting to the airport. Some looked like your regular office workers. Security guards and police stood on standby. I blended into the ecosystem of the station, and moved silently through the sifting crowd.

I recalled that we were supposed to meet in front of McDonalds. I made my way over to the gaudy, yellow sign. For a while, I stood there, unsure of who I was looking out for. A smartly dressed young man approached me, and asked if I was with TalentCorp. I nodded and mouthed a “yes.” He smiled and motioned for me to join them. Suddenly, I see an entire group of youth, dressed in work clothes. I see a flurry of blues and whites and blacks. Ties. Sleeves buttoned at the cuffs. Pinstripes and blazers. Pencil skirts to the hem. Covered shoes.

I wondered how many of us there knew ourselves, or what we wanted to do with our lives. There we stood, a group of baby-faced, round-cheeked youth, in stiff, formal adultwear. I felt out of place, like a butterfly ejected too early from the chrysalis. I was fully developed, in the physical sense, but my wings were still wet.

1.00 pm | Gentle Girl 

I am in a bus, talking to a girl. She has a gentle face, clean of make-up, except for brown contact lenses. Somehow, despite it being our first meeting, we ended up talking with ease. We spoke of the differences between introverts and extroverts, between thinkers and feelers. She tells me that she has a wide range of interests. She goes lecture hopping. She had a quiet, but thoughtful manner of speaking. Something about the way she spoke made me feel as if she was always deep in thought, thinking about something faraway.

Before I knew it, the bus rolled to a stop. We were at our designated office.

I decide that I like her.

This doesn’t happen too often.

3.00 pm | Don’t Understand

I am sitting in an office pantry, a few good floors up, in a towering glass building. We are discussing a case. The room is hushed, and everyone is listening intently. An ex-Yale Professor is talking about FTAs and how industries collide, like interstellar galaxies. He spoke quickly and decisively, never missing a beat. There was a complicated looking graph, projected on the screen. I wondered how many people in the room were following his train of thought. Perhaps that’s the thing with confidence. If you speak fast enough, everyone will think you know exactly what you are talking about. This professor definitely seemed to know his stuff. His explanations sounded extremely logical, and yet the concepts weren’t quite meshing in my mind. I only captured the gist of it, at the very end.

I glanced outside the window, and memories of someone’s laugh lines flashed in my mind, for some reason.

5.00 pm | Regrets

The second office had walls of marble and cream. We were in a meeting room. A collected young woman is presenting in front of us. She had a round face and a grounded manner of speech. Somehow, she reminded me of a good friend. She wore a blue dress, with a silver pendant dangling from her neck. She was a civil engineer. Now she is a consultant. The topic shifted to one of happiness.

“When we talk to the top CEOs, all of them legends in the field of consulting, with highly successful careers, they all say the same thing.”

She paused.

“They wished they spent more time with their families.”

8.00 pm | Pleasant Strangers

We are having dinner, sponsored by the company. The waiter brought out pizza, plates of canapes, fish rolled in pita bread, salmon, calamari rings, and pasta.

One of the consultants is sitting opposite me. She is young, pretty, Indian. Small nose, short hair. Wore a yellow dress. We attempt to make conversation. It goes a little awkwardly at first. We simply asked questions that required no effort to answer, like dispensing data. I felt a part of my brain tune off, as I grappled to make a connection.

Finally, we hit the topic of personality types, and MBTI. Something in me sparked, and we began talking with more ease. My new friend, the gentle girl from the bus, joined in. I could see she was taking interest in the topic too. We chatted about the differences between Feelers and Thinkers, and how they complement each other. We also spoke about misconceptions people usually have of introverts. Something about being able to give and receive genuine insight excites me.

The conversation petered out, but I still enjoyed dinner.

9.00 pm | Chinese Soaps

The industry insight session has long ended. I felt like my social tank was exhausted, but in a good way. I learnt new things, and made good connections. I decide to pull down my hair, and walk to the bookshop. I particularly love this place, with its bright lights, classical music, and wooden floors.

I passed by a paper diorama, by artist FeiGiap. It was a pop-up, featuring old town coffee shops, akin to the sort you would see on Malaysian streets. His buildings were extremely detailed, down to the rust of the windows, or the peeling paint on the walls. In contrast, his human figures were simple; doe-eyed schoolgirls in pinafores. I appreciated his aesthetic a lot. There was a deep sense of nostalgia from looking at his drawings. I was happy that somewhere out there, an amazingly talented artist shared my sentiment on the evocative atmosphere of looking at buildings, and old architecture.

After that, I grabbed a book on problem solving, and another on “Kawaii Things to Do in Japan.” It was written by an Australian artist from Sydney, who runs a blog titled “Hello Sandwiches.” I sat down by a corner to read.

Before I left, I stopped by a shelf of Chinese soaps. They were all an earthy, brown hue. Some were slightly yellowish. Some had blocks of texture in it. The labels looked interesting. Tea-tree. Pinewood. Mandarin orange. Wild Patchouli. Jars of diffusers were arranged above the soaps. They were labeled with things like “Calm”, or “Revitalizing.”

Wild Patchouli was my favourite. When I inhaled the soap, I was overcome by a deep sensation of calmness, spreading throughout my body. The scent was gentle and earthy, but also refreshing. It distinctly evoked the imagery of brown parchment paper, a Chinese medicine shop, and 1930s China, for some odd reason.

Then, I thought about my late grandmother.

10.15 pm | Goodnight

It was time to go.

I bought myself potted milk tea (oolong, with oreo crumbs), and called it a day.

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Good Night! ❤

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