CHORUS His name is Ken. He’s from Muar, Johor State, Malaysia, Southeast Asia. He came to work in Macau a year ago.
He came to Macau a year ago, to work as a casino fixer.
Ferry tickets, hired cars, hotel reservations, route planning, keeping clients company.
On call twenty-four hours a day.
Always by your side, keeping you happy. . .
CHORUS Ken’s girlfriend is Sara, Macau born and bred.
She’s studying hotel management.
Became a casino promoter in her first year of college.
One of those girls you see at customs and the ferry terminal, with the good-fortune cars.
Bet, call, hit, double, split.
Time for a commercial break. Here is Ken and Sara’s Macau love story.
Ken and Sara at their separate jobs, speaking to each other across the stage.
SARA Hey, Ken, Malaysia has casinos, too. Why aren’t you working at Genting?
KEN Genting is boring, and if I were there, I wouldn’t have met you.
SARA Hey, Ken, Singapore has casinos, too. Didn’t you say everyone from southern Malaysia ends up working in Singapore?
KEN Singapore is boring, and if I were there, I wouldn’t have met you.
CHORUS Their words are full of joy-nuggets.
Small, concrete pieces of happiness. Murakami said:
“A person with no dreams is no different from a piece of salted fish.”
No, that was Stephen Chow.
Without these joy-nuggets, life would be a barren desert.
SARA Wow, a Rolex! Gorgeous!
KEN I’ve just paid off my student loans, so I bought this to celebrate. Am I swell?
SARA So swell you’re fit to burst! What about me?
KEN Next, I’m saving for a round-the-world trip.
SARA That’s my dream too. I don’t want to be stuck in Macau, I want to go everywhere.
KEN Good. We’ll go together, when I’ve earned enough.
SARA We’ll ride a hot-air balloon round the world!
KEN Yes! When we have money, we’ll ride anything we want!
SARA Then I want a horse-drawn carriage!
KEN All right, I’ll get you one of those Cinderella coaches!
SARA So cool! I’ll die of happiness.
KEN This world is our pleasure palace.
CHORUS Ken and Sara are in an oasis.
In order to find the joy-nuggets of life, we need a certain amount of something like self-restraint.
Like if I hand you a glass of water, it’s nothing special. But if you’ve been jogging and you’re dying of thirst, then I hand you one—
Wow, this is amazing!
I understand. You have to give up in order to gain. It’s only valuable if there’s a price.
I understand. You have to put up with suffering today for happiness tomorrow.
I understand, self-restraint, or in a word—
Customers try to get Ken’s attention.
CHORUS Ken! Kenny! Hey, Ken boy . . .
KEN OK, OK. A coffee, beef noodles? I’ll get that for you, Miss!
OK, OK, LV, Gucci? All yours.
OK, OK, I’ll deal with it, you keep playing. I hope you win!
OK, OK, the hotel’s booked, everything’s arranged. Don’t worry, it won’t be a northern girl, I’ll get you a Korean. Gwiyomi!
OK, OK, it’s that time of month? No problem, no problem, I’ll go get you one. Back in a minute.
SARA Why aren’t you answering my calls?
KEN I’m busy.
SARA You don’t care.
KEN Not true.
SARA I saw on the news that a woman . . . she jumped . . . from the old Hotel Grande.
SARA The building’s been closed a long time. How did she get in?
KEN She had two legs, she walked.
SARA You don’t find it strange?
KEN You think they hauled her up there, then she jumped?
SARA The building’s boarded up. How did she get to the roof?
KEN What’s your point?
SARA I heard that people used to jump from there all the time.
KEN You think it’s haunted?
SARA Aren’t you frightened?
KEN People die every day. They jump off buildings, drown themselves, hang themselves, take pills, slit their wrists. One more death or one less makes no difference to the world. Earlier today, a customer lost everything, howled and wailed and wanted to die. Luckily the security guards got him outside quickly. Just a little fuss, then it was like nothing had happened. Everyone went on gambling. (pause) I tell you, people at these casinos only think of winning. It’s only when they wake up that they realize they can’t afford to lose. You need money to be here. When the money’s gone, you get thrown out like trash. Garbage. Lucky I don’t gamble. (pause) Was she from Macau?
KEN Malaysian, like me?
SARA Taiwanese. Didn’t leave a note.
SARA Ken, Macau’s so small, and though we’re together, this feels like a long-distance relationship. Don’t you think?
KEN It’s like that for everyone.
SARA I want to go to your place tonight.
KEN No way, the landlady doesn’t like me bringing people home. Didn’t you have another promoting job?
SARA Yes, I shouldn’t have signed with two companies, it’s too much! Holding up all those signs, smiling constantly. My classmate works at the racecourse. Only works three nights a week, and there’s air conditioning. So much better.
KEN But sweetheart, she earns much less than you.
SARA That’s true.
SARA Macau is so fucking boring.
KEN I know, I know. Didn’t we say, just a few more years, till we’ve saved enough. Macau has so much money. We should earn while we’re young. Anyway you haven’t even graduated yet.
SARA When I finish school, I’ll go full-time, and then I’ll never leave.
KEN So quit your job.
SARA I can’t, everyone wants this job, there’s a long line of people waiting for me to go.
KEN Then let’s have some fun before you go full-time.
KEN If we have money, we can go anywhere.
SARA I don’t want to go to Malaysia.
KEN Malaysia’s fucking boring too.
SARA I want to go to Europe.
KEN Great, Europe is bankrupt now, they have even less money than we do. We’ll go live there when we’ve earned enough.
SARA I want to go to Poland, the city of music.
KEN Darling, the city of music is Venice.
SARA When we have money, Poland will be the city of music if I say it is.
KEN OK, we’ll live in Poland.
SARA Amazing. I’ll study music . . .
KEN I’ll learn to paint . . .
SARA We’ll get married …
KEN We’ll live together . . .
SARA We’ll have a little baby . . .
KEN It will be just the two of us . . .
SARA We’ll be so happy . . .
KEN We’ll be so happy . . .
© Koh Choon Eiow and Mok Sio. By arrangement with the authors. Translation © 2018 by Jeremy Tiang. All rights reserved.