It was a mistake right from the start, says the cabby who wants to be known only as Mr Wong.
He had agreed to this interview on condition that we do not identify him, as he is worried that this interview may set loan sharks on his trail. A relative had written in to alert this correspondent of Mr Wong's story.
His life had started to unravel after he agreed to a friend's request to be the local sponsor for a study mama and her 10-year-old son.
Mr Wong, 48, tells The New Paper on Sunday: "My life is in ruins, my wife attempted suicide twice and my daughters no longer talk to me." He looks to the kitchen, where his daughters, 10 and 12, are doing their homework on a foldable table.
During our two-hour interview, both girls ignore their father's presence. Occasionally, one child would approach Mrs Wong, who is seated on a thin mattress with her back against the wall for support, and whisper in her ears, then dart back to the kitchen.
Mr Wong sits on the cold floor in the two-room HDB flat he and his family have taken refuge in since last December.
The family-of-four share two mattresses in the living room. The bedroom is used by the "kind relative" who took pity on them and allowed them to stay with her without asking for any payment.
It is a far cry from their five-room HDB flat in the western part of Singapore, where the girls used to share a bedroom.
Mr Wong says softly: "The loan sharks kept harassing us and I was afraid that something would happen to my daughters."
He estimates that his initial loan of $10,000 has likely grown to about $30,000, since his payments have been irregular.
Part of the loan, he claims, was given to the study mama, Ah Bing, during the time when they were having an affair.
It started after the then 40-year-old divorcee and her son had moved in with the Wong family after they came to Singapore in 2012. Mr Wong says: "She wasn't particularly attractive or sexy, so I don't know why I was bewitched by her."
As Mrs Wong was then working at a fast-food restaurant, Ah Bing offered to prepare the family's meals.
"She kept saying she didn't want to be a freeloader," says Mr Wong. "She also took care of the household chores, so we all got along quite well at first."
Mrs Wong offers a weak smile, then says: "But you know, the woman's instinct in me told me that something wasn't quite right. "By the time I found out, it was too late. My husband was sharing our bed with her and he had already emptied our joint bank account."
The $40,000 was money that the couple had "scrimped and saved" since the birth of their first daughter.
Mr Wong blinks rapidly to stop the tears, then says: "It was money meant for my daughters' education. But their terrible father gave it away like a fool." He still feels that Ah Bing's move had been a well-calculated one. It didn't help that he had been having frequent arguments with his wife over her shift duty hours. "Ah Bing started by acting as the peacemaker and would advise me to be more patient," recounts Mr Wong.
Ah Bing was also caring and attentive to Mr Wong's needs, sometimes even volunteering a quick neck massage when he returned home for his lunch breaks. He cannot remember the exact date but one afternoon, he came home and found Ah Bing "asleep on the sofa", clad only in a towel.
She was "shocked" by his return and apologised profusely before hurrying into her room.
Mr Wong says: "I didn't say anything to my wife partly because I felt guilty that I liked what I saw." Ah Bing seemed to realise that and the same scene was repeated a week later.
He looks at his wife, then says: "All I want to say is, I reacted like a normal man under that circumstance. "I don't blame anyone but myself for the lack of self-control."
When she found out that the pair had carried on the affair "right under my nose for nearly a year, I went crazy". "I wanted to kill my daughters first, then myself."
But she "couldn't bring myself to do it to the girls" and ended up taking a cocktail of "different pills and tablets". She was warded for two weeks and was ordered to go for counselling. A week after she was back home, she uncovered another secret: That they were penniless and her husband had borrowed money from two loan sharks.
She tried to kill herself a second time and ended up with a warning from the police that she'd be arrested the next time.
"You are a woman. You are a wife. You are a mother. Tell me what would you do," she says, this time with her voice raised a little. Mr Wong hushes her, and says: "It was my fault. My mistake."
Ah Bing had asked for $50,000, claiming that she wanted to buy a small piece of land in her hometown in Chengdu, in Sichuan province. Mr Wong says: "I thought, since she had given herself to me, I should be responsible for her." Ah Bing, who had moved out two days after Mrs Wong's first suicide attempt, has since "disappeared" with her son.
"I was told that she gave an excuse someone died in her home and went back with her son," claims Mr Wong. He declines to provide more details of the boy or the school.
He says: "Ah Bing's son is innocent. Even if he is still in Singapore, I won't hunt him down.
"I only hope that I can quickly sell the flat and pay off the loan sharks, then start life afresh. I am lucky that my wife has finally decided to forgive me."
Mrs Wong says: "I don't know if things will ever be the same again, but for now, I am willing to try for the sake of our daughters. I am also slowly trying to help my husband mend his relationship with them."
But there is one thing from this "painful lesson" that Mr Wong wants to share: "I hope that all the married men out there will know that in the end, it isn't worth sacrificing your family for that moment of lust."
This article was first published on September 07, 2014.
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