The Jason Hahn Files: Let's Talk About Silk...

"You could tell her mind was now mentally cataloguing all the expensive silk scarves hanging in her wardrobe, some of which still had the price tag attached to them because they were just too beautiful and expensive to be actually worn."

As some of you may know, Saffy and Amanda have been dallying with the vegetarian cause for some time now. Which is to say that in public, they delicately eat steamed tofu and brown rice, but in the privacy of our little flat in Toa Payoh, they basically inhale char siew and roast duck.

“What is the point of telling people you’re vegetarian, then?” I complained the other night as I watched Amanda vacuum up a plate of lor bak. It was like a scene out of Van Helsing

Amanda raised a finger as she chewed. After she swallowed, she dabbed the corner of her mouth and spoke. “I am a vegetarian, but I’m also an occasional carnivore. Besides, I need some meat in me, otherwise I’m at a higher risk of dementia! It’s a medical fact!”

“Told to you by your aunt,” I reminded her, “who the last time I checked, was a tai-tai and not a trained gastro-biologist.” 

“Yes, but she has children who are in the medical field and I’m not even sure gastro-biology is actually a thing.”

As I later complained to Sharyn, it was like talking to a climate-change denier. From behind her Coke bottle-thick glasses, her abnormally enlarged eyes blinked slowly. “What is climate-change denier?”

“Someone who says it’s not true that our climate is changing because of human-caused pollution and habits.

”Sharyn blinked again. “Who say?” I paused. “Uhm… they do? The climate-change deniers.”

She shook her head. “This world is so strange hor? Ay, that remind me, I must tell Amanda about her silk scarf!” 

She whipped out her phone, tapped a few buttons and pressed ‘Send’, and went back to sipping her soya bean milk drink out of her plastic straw, looking like the cat that just finished licking the bowl of cream.  

That evening, the minute Amanda stepped in the front door, she began waving her phone at us. “Did you see what Sharyn sent me?”I told her I had been there, but I didn’t know what she’d sent. “It’s this horrific video about silkworms! Have you seen it?” 

Amanda asked Saffy, who sighed.“She sent it only to you! I really do wonder how Harvard ever gave you a law degree. Did you sleep with the dean or something?”

Amanda ignored the jibe. “They boil the worms!” she exclaimed in the same ringing tone one normally associates with a horror movie. Silence descended on the room as even Saffy hesitated, trying to connect the dots of this conversation. 

“Uhm…” she said.

Amanda sighed impatiently. She tapped her phone and passed it to Saffy. A few minutes later, Saffy put the phone down and sat back against the couch cushion. “Oh. My. God. Is that how silk is made?”

“They boil the worms!” Amanda repeated, her eyes glazed. You could tell her mind was now mentally cataloguing all the expensive silk scarves hanging in her wardrobe, some of which still had the price tag attached to them because they were just too beautiful and expensive to be actually worn.“

Ay, I thought you know?” Sharyn said innocently the next day. “I thought you say you go to Har-vhat? Even Jason know what. Hor, Jason?”

I nodded virtuously, though I couldn’t help but be aware of a certain unspecified insult lurking beneath the question. “I had a dream last night,” Amanda said, her eyes puffy, “that Saffy was in a bathtub, and Jason poured boiling water all over her and then pulled a silk thread out of her bum!”

Saffy put down her folk and pushed her plate of zhee cheong fun away. “Seriously, Manda, that is really so gross!”“How did I not know that’s how they make silk?” Amanda shook her head of glossy hair. “I am so seriously disturbed!”

“And you have an entire cupboard full of silk scarves,” I said, rather enjoying myself.“A cupboard full of death! Slow, screaming agonising death by boiling!” Amanda pronounced slowly, like a woman in a trance. “Aiyah, is okay lah,” 

Sharyn went on. “You tink your fi-lay mig-nyon oh-so die peacefully meh? Confirm the cow not happy when he die one!”

As I later told Saffy, Sharyn’s performance really was a masterclass.“I know,” she said, her bosom inflating. “It’s why she’s so good at firing people. A few choice sentences here and there and the person practically resigns on the spot. I feel so sorry for her husband and children.” 

“Amanda says she’s going to stop buying silk,” Saffy told me. Meanwhile, Sharyn says she’s waiting for the precise moment to send Amanda a video about how they make leather.

This story first appeared in 8 DAYS issue #1452 (Aug 16, 2018). 

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