updated 20 Jul 2013, 07:16
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Fri, Apr 12, 2013
Her World
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An unexpected reunion
by Jeanne Tai

By November, I was between jobs - I'd left my company in hopes of changing careers. With more free time, I set out to look for Eric. I still cared enough to want to know if he was all right.

I googled the name of his property and obtained a street address in Malaysia. I paid a taxi driver $250 to take me there. My friends advised me against it, but I went ahead anyway. Thankfully, my parents, who knew the whole story, were supportive, trusting I could look out for myself.

After two and a half hours, I arrived and started knocking on random doors in the area. I had forgotten which house he'd lived in. On the second try, I struck gold - his mother answered the door. Recognising me, she was surprised but let me in to see her son.

It was my first meeting with Eric after seven months and it was hardly a joyous reunion. When he saw me, he didn't bat an eyelid. All he said was: "Oh, you're here."

I was also shocked by his appearance - he'd lost 10kg and looked frail, bones practically jutting out of his skin. He told me that he'd returned to live with his mother and siblings in Malaysia as he couldn't find affordable accommodation in Singapore.

As for leaving work, he insisted he'd had a fever and had been "too sick" to call in for work.

In the past months, he related that he'd been living like a "zombie", trying to make ends meet. He was evasive about his work, saying cryptically that he had "fallen off the straight path".

After more probing, he finally admitted that he was doing odd jobs - one of which was as a runner for illegal moneylenders in Malaysia.

I noticed scars on his forearms, where he'd been cutting himself because of personal woes.

He was in credit card debt and claimed that banks in Singapore and Malaysia were chasing him for over $10,000. His problems and hectic work schedule were taking a toll on him: over lunch at his house, he mumbled to himself and appeared "zoned out".

Mid-way through our conversation, he even fell asleep at the table! His mother told me ruefully that Eric had been "out of it" for the past few months - he'd been absent-minded, walking around in a daze and muttering to himself incoherently.

She even admitted that he had been bringing home KTV hostesses. She was upset with his lifestyle, but unable to convince him to get out of it.

That night, at 10pm, he prepared to go out for work. I decided to tag along just to find out exactly what he was doing. He warned me: "Don't be surprised by what you see."

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