Nobody and Somebody

At a theatre/dance show recently, I was seated 3 rows down from Ivan Heng, and Ong Keng Sen sat almost directly in front of me. It felt like I was in a privileged circle of trust, but of course, only in my imagination. 

In the darkened theatre, as we sat waiting for the show to begin, Ong Keng Sen audibly whispered to his companion, “who’s that?” with his head turned slightly to the left and towards the back. People were still streaming in to their seats. He whispered again, “who’s that?” 

Knowing full well he wasn’t referring to me, I thought to myself, “I’m a nobody.” I’m a nobody in the sense that I’m not somebody that would prompt Ong Keng Sen to whisper and ask, “who’s that?” 

Walking out of the theatre, having witnessed from the corner of my eye how Ivan Heng had thoroughly enjoyed the show as he sat on the edge of his seat, I thought again to myself with a mixture of solitude and wistfulness, “I’m a nobody.” I am everybody, melting into the crowd, and nobody, an indiscernible face. I’m not somebody who would make a stranger sit on the edge of his seat, relishing my work.

But I’m also not Ivan Heng nor Ong Keng Sen, and in a way that is a blessing because I know people are not watching me like I was watching them, from the corner of my eye. And with that anonymity there is some semblance of privacy. 

Still, my vanity makes me yearn to be somebody, not just a nobody.


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