Introduction – 6/11/19 – updated
Introduction II – 22/11/19
Introduction III – 6/12/19
Adventure begins January 2020.
if you flip through my report books documenting my progress as a student , you would see several remarks like this from my teachers.
“ Jackson needs to put in more effort “
“ Jackson needs more motivation “
“ Jackson requires the right drive to excel “
“ there is still chance for Jackson to Excel”
The teachers are just being nice.
The word they would love to use on me is lazy.
Jackson is the laziest student in class. That is a fact.
I could remember as far back as when I was in Primary two when my grandfather was called into the teacher’s office for behaviour problems.
The teacher complained that I always slept in class. She questioned if I was staying up late at home. My grandfather said no and that I go to bed on time at 9.30pm.
However he could not explain why I kept falling asleep in class.
After the meeting, he asked me why I kept doing that.
I simply told him that the class is boring.
Jackson : I already know and understand what the teacher is teaching…..
Grandpa : don’t be a smart ass…. You are not as clever as you think…
I just smiled.
I never argued with my grandfather. He is my only family and he practically raised me on his own. My grandpa had my dad when he was 18. My dad had me when he was 18. This meant my grandfather had me when he was 37.
What the fuck does this do to someone who is 37 ?
37 in this time and age, some of us have yet to become fathers.
Things could not haven been worse for my grandfather. I was an unwanted child. My dad is a sailor according to my grandfather. He met my mum, who is some sweet girl in a good school.
Their romance is something right out of a fairy tale.
Just that the fair tale does not have a happy ending.
I was an accident, it could not have been clearer than that. 1 month after my mum gave birth to me, she left me with my grandfather together with close to two thousand dollars and a weeks worth of baby supplies.
That was it.
My grandfather told me when I was older that she needed to go overseas to continue her education. A bright future awaits her and there was no room for a child in her life.
So at 37, my grandfather is saddled with a newborn, with hardly any idea of how to care for a child and make a living at the same time, he struggled. He really did.
There were few pictures of me when I was a child, even fewer of my grandfather. We simply could not afford pictures. My grandpa did odd jobs and together with the help of neighbours, we fumbled along and the next thing I realised, I was already in primary school with teachers scolding me for being lazy.
It’s true, I am lazy but I’m not stupid.
I just want to find the most efficient way to something with minimal effort.
It’s as simple as that.
It is exactly a mentality like this that got my grandfather an invite for another visit to the school when I was in primary 3.
I was already in the office when he came and I felt bad seeing my grandpa in his dirty work shirt having rushed over from the factory.
My form teacher laid out all my examination papers.
No, I did not get zero.
I got exactly 50 for all my papers except composition.
Wait a minute you say, 50 is a passing grade right ?
Low grades or the lack there of was not the reason my grandfather was invited down to the school.
I got 50 marks because I counted exacted 50 marks and only answered the questions that gave me 50 marks.
That was the mark to pass isn’t it ?
Of course, an attitude like this did not sit well with the adults.
I don’t see anything wrong with this.
Let me explain why.
The whole idea of examination is to make sure you comprehend the subject, and you are able to effectively apply the concepts learned.
You will then be graded.
50 is a pass.
50 means you are ok.
Why then do I have to answer all the questions ?
What did I do with the rest of the time during the examination you ask ?
Sleep of course. What else is more important than sleep.
After the lecture by the form teacher, my grandfather asked me why did I do something like that .
Grandpa : studying is good for you… it’s the path to a better future… do you want to end up like ah gong ? …. Doing odd jobs…. Earning so little money…. With nobody to love….. ??!!
I hugged my grandfather and he stopped talking.
Jackson : I love you ah gong…. With all my heart…. I love you….
My grandpa laughed as he stroked my hair.
Grandpa : ah gong will not be around forever… you must learn to be more mature… you must learn to take care of yourself….
Jackson : don’t say things like that Ah gong…. I will take care of you.. don’t worry…..
I patted my chest first and added,
Jackson : this is for my promise…..
Next I tapped my shoulders.
Jackson : this is for my responsibility….
Then I held up both fists in a mock battle stance.
Grandpa : what is that for.
I gave him a smirk look and added.
Jackson : for glory….
He threw his newspaper at me, cursing as I ran away into my room.
Grandpa : SI GINNA!! ( Irritating kid ! )
So if you remembered your primary school days, you will need to take some special exams that some adults come up with. The answers you put down on that paper determines if you are meant for the gifted program or if you are destined to become a farmer like the rest of the population in this elitist society of ours.
Since I was tired of my teachers saying I’m stupid and lazy, I answered all the questions.
When the results came back, my teach could hardly believed his eyes.
Yeah. Jackson is not a dumbass. He is just lazy.
So what if I got good results and an offer to join the program.
It’s not for people like me.
My grandpa is hardly making ends meet.
Transferring school ? New uniforms ? School bus ? new materials ?
Fuck off .
I’m happy if I could have food on the table and spare change for a candy at the end of the week.
I continued my wayward ways with my examination papers and when I was Primary 5, my grandfather got another invitation. This time it was to the principal office.
The same scenario happened. From Math, to Science, to social studies.
I answered exactly 50 marks worth of questions.
I got a 95 for composition though.
Again, the same lecture only this time round, the principal put the fear of PSLE into my grandfather’s head.
PSLE I tell you, it’s just an exam but to a illiterate old man charged with raising his grandson, PSLE sounded like stage 4 terminal cancer.
I shit you not.
My grandfather was worried as hell. He took on extra shifts and wanted to get me a tuition teacher. I refused.
I insisted that he stop the extra shifts or I would stop going to school.
He was at his wits end until I sat him down and told him don’t worry.
Jackson : ah gong…. Look at me…. I give you my word…. There’s no way I will mess the PSLE up… ok ??
He relented eventually.
I scraped through Primary 5 and when the faithful day comes for the dreaded PSLE, I answered all the questions.
Yes I know, there’s the bell curve, the averaging and shit but I don’t care.
I just didn’t want my grandpa to worry.
Grandpa : did you fill in all the blanks ? did you answer all the questions ??
Jackson : yes ah gong… yes… I did… don’t worry… hahaha
To celebrate the end of the last paper, my grandfather brought me out to parkway parade. Wywy wonderland, that place is magical.
Grandpa wanted to change $5 worth of tokens for me to enjoy myself but I said just $2 is enough.
Jackson : It’s not easy to make money….
My grandpa smiled and ruffled my hair before pulling my body against his.
Grandpa : If only your father is half as good as you…. If only…
When my results came back, I had 280 out of a score or 300.
My score was only 3 points short of the national record then.
Within days, letters of offers came from schools that the sons of ministers and businessmen go to. Expensive schools.
Ok expensive aside, schools that are far away.
Schools that need to take long bus ride.
Why the fuck would I want to go to a school so far away, when there’s a secondary school just a fucking 5 minutes walk away ?
I don’t care about schools and grades.
At 12, I only want what’s convenient.
And I know saving 4 years of bus fare travelling to and from school would save my grandfather a lot of money.
And so that it. The nearest school, for the laziest kid.
It did not take long for the teachers in my new school to realise what I was up to.
It was a big issue. I’m talking detention, counselling, more invitation for my grandfather.
By then my grandfather had sort of zoned out of the lectures by the teachers and principals. He just nodded and smile, says that he will keep a closer watch on me.
At secondary two, I had a particularly nasty form teacher.
He has a poisonous tongue and he spits words that cuts deep into your skin.
Now, given how thick skin I am with my don’t give a fuck attitude, I was immune to what he says until during a parent meeting session he insulted my grandfather.
That was when I snapped.
Teacher: aiyah…. This kind of kid… from broken family… raised by odd job labourer… sure no future one la….. I’m sure the grandpa outside also lazy lazy kind…..that’s why the grandson follows in his footstep…. Whole family no future and hope one…. … he’s going to fail all the way till his ‘O’ levels….
He was saying it to another teacher but we were well within earshot and he knows it.
I could see it hurt my grandpa and something snapped in me.
I blocked his way and demanded an apology.
Jackson : my grandfather raised me single handedly….!!! He did more for me than anyone ever has….. who the fuck are you to say things like this about him ??
Teacher : what did you just say !!! ?
I repeated my words as my grandpa dragged me away, apologising for my behaviour.
Jackson : fuck you !!
Okay, okay, you don’t need to be a genius to know what the consequences are for a student to give the ‘f’ word to his teacher.
1 stroke of the cane was melted out but oh boy, that’s not all.
That’s not all.
I waited till all the papers were over for the end of the year examinations.
And during one busy recess period where everyone is enjoying their food, I walked right over to my form teacher who was happily chatting with a full plate of food in front of him.
I lifted his plate and smashed it onto his head.
The screams and cheers that erupted etched itself into my head.
Jackson : that’s for insulting my grandfather….now…. watch me fail all my paper….
I walked away as bodies parted for me. My form teacher shouted at me and in a slip of his tongue , mouth obscenities in the middle of the canteen, causing the cheers and jeers to go up a notch.
Other teachers tried to calm him down but the damage was done.
A teacher reciting a string of expletives in front of the whole school ?
Good luck to him.
And as for that dumb act of mine, another 3 strokes of the cane, in public this time, on the fucking stage.
I took all 3 strokes and endured a 15 minutes of shaming and scolding in front of the whole school.
It didn’t bother me at all.
I don’t care.
After the discipline master was done scolding me, I was made to remain on stage for the rest of the speech and prize giving day.
I smiled at the next teacher coming up on stage.
She’s that motherly teacher that you wished is your form teacher. If there can ever be a standard mould for moulding a mould that moulds the future of our nation, Mrs Koh should be that mould.
She’s soft spoken, always polite and all the students respect her.
Respect is something you earn.
I’m not talking just about the studious group of kids, even the most badass gangster in the school bows and speaks properly to Mrs Koh. Students will go out of their way to help her with the books or files she is carrying.
That’s the amount of sway she holds in school .
Mrs Koh started the ceremony by announcing the top student for our cohort that year in each subject.
I saw her shot me a look and it was a particularly awkward moment for the teachers.
Mrs Koh : 1st….. in English….. Jackson…
I did not have to get up from the floor to go up the stage.
I did not have to walk pass rows of students to get on the stage.
I did not have to walk pass teachers sitting at the side of the hall to get to the stage.
I am already on the fucking stage.
The thunderous applauses I got was the small act of defiance my classmates could show. Nobody liked our form teacher and he was nowhere to be seen.
Whistles and cheers rang out as Mrs Koh continued.
Mrs Koh : 1st in…. Literature…. Jackson….
It didn’t stop.
It never stopped.
History, geography, science, Chinese, higher Chinese.
Every fucking subject there is, I aced it. It’ not that I’m smart, it’s just that the bar is low. Half the school is not studying, we’re at the age where we just want to have fun.
From that day on, no one bothered me again. Ever.
Even in secondary three, I did exactly what I used to for my exams.
No more, no less.
I was marked of course.
Marked and labelled.
Jackson, the problem child. Leave him the fuck alone to his own demise.
Someone probably has a note like this somewhere on my name.
Not only did teachers left me alone, even the school drop outs hanging around with their so call gang members gave me a wide berth. They raised their cigarettes and nod at me as I walked past the void decks where they hung out in droves.
What about the girls ? Of course I got the girls.
Girls like bad boys, they always do.
I have girls lined up stabbing each other in the back to be my girlfriend.
I’m not a robot, I’m a growing kid. I am not immune to growing breast and shapely legs. Especially not when the girls chose to wear fancy cross back bras or those in bright pastel colours while tucking in their white blouse so tight, I wonder if they deliberately bought it a size smaller.
I’ve touched enough breast and kissed all the hottest girls from those in the 1st express class to the Ah lian in the last class.
Upper secondary is definitely an enjoyable period for me. My grandpa finally got promoted to a full time staff in a supervisory position after so many years of doing odd jobs at the factory.
It seems by taking on all the shit that no one wanted to do, my grandpa eventually because the only person to know what is going on.
The factory owner’s son saw the effort my grandfather had put in over the years and the first thing he did after taking over the reins was to give him the position and pay he deserved.
$2900 excluding bonus.
That is a lot of money for my grandpa after having worked and survive on less than 1k for so many years.
Things were finally starting to look good for the 2 of us.
I got Mrs Koh as my form teacher in secondary 4. She knew what I was up to and the only thing she said to me was not to hesitate to ask her anything, if I need to. She left me alone when I slept in class but she would always do one thing the other teachers never did.
She would wake me up after her period was over, asks me a few questions to make sure I understand the essence of that chapter or what shew as trying to teach. If I got it right, she would nod her head.
There are times I got it wrong though and she would smile, before retracting it and throwing me 3 hours of after school detention for me to revise.
I enjoyed her class and I enjoyed my last year in that school. I love it.
The school, the girls and their fancy bras and their sweet smelling hair.
O levels came and well, there’s not something you want to fuck it up. So I did it properly.
Straight As and this time round, invitation letters to some of the best junior colleges in the country.
My grandfather was doing a lot better now as a supervisor and if I wanted, I could go to a JC and then on to university but I didn’t.
I did not want to.
At 16, all I wanted was for my grandfather to rest more while I take up the burden of supporting us. I started work part time after school ended at a landscaping company.
I went the polytechnic route and I worked whenever I had no classes at the same landscaping company. The extra income I brought home, I gave half to my grandfather and the other half was my own allowance.
I love landscaping and plants.
The plants don’t complain, they don’t bitch about people. You can’t have office politics with plants. It was my kind of work. I love getting my hands dirty too and I’m not afraid to say I have green fingers.
Plants thrive under my watch.
You might have bought something from me too if you frequent the landscaping companies located in Kovan just beside the carpark.
I know the plant species well and during Chinese new year, my salesmanship and my business acumen always put the widest smile on my boss’s face.
I sell them, I plant them, I nurture them.
I fucking love them.
Selling plants is considered boring on many fronts, it’s one of the most uninteresting jobs ever.
However, my life was about to change because of my love for plants.
I just did not know it yet.
My love for plants would eventually lead me to a house.
A house where the chapters for the rest of my life would be written.