In Orchard Tower young men and women with slippery voices ask me if I want to come into their shop for reflexology. The shop is dark and a little creepy, so usually I just wave and pass on by. Once I surprised them by accepting their invitation to come in and put my feet up. It was a soft massage, a soothing rub that, while relaxing, was ineffectual. The woman hunched over my feet seemed to be making things up as she went along—little circles around my heel, an up-and-down stroke between my toes; in general, a lack of commitment that was sad. Reflexology calls for resolve. It demands strength coming up from the toes, through the back, across the shoulders, and all the way to the tips of the fingers. I’ve had reflexology treatments that dug into my arches so hard that I had to bite my lips to keep from bleating in pain. A good reflexology session will teach you a thing or two about torture. But in the end it’ll make your feet and lower limbs feel twenty years younger. It will make your sleep heavier and your dreams fine and colorful.
Back to the people who hang out in Orchard Tower. The building itself holds many shops—tailors, spas, massage parlors, travel agents, florists. On the weekend these small businesses take a back seat to the bars, of which there are several. The whole corner on Orchard and Claymore booms with music. The air is heavy with smoke and belched beer. On Saturdays and Sundays David and I often cut through the tower to get home from our errands on Orchard Road, though we could easily walk around, and I don’t know why we don’t, except to say that maybe the energy of the place reminds us of the time in our lives when we hung out in bars and smoked and rubbed our bodies against other bodies in dark corners.
So, speaking of bodies in dark corners: Three weeks ago someone who has a say in these matters decided to clean up Orchard Tower, which led to Monday morning declarations being posted outside the building. These notices stated how many were arrested over the weekend, and what they were arrested for. First weekend—Thirteen people, Outrage of Decency. Next weekend—Nine people, Outrage of Decency. Next weekend—Seven people, Outrage of Modesty.
The numbers are going down, so it’s doing what it was meant to do. This difference in the naming of the charge is confusing. To outrage decency, or to outrage modesty—which is worse? Another thing to be considered is that these people have nowhere else to go to do their groping. They’re imported workers. The men work in construction and the women work in homes or shops. The domestic helpers stay in the homes of their sponsors. The constructions workers live in shared and crowded apartments.
Maybe Orchard Tower needs to start renting out rooms by the hour.