Lying between the western port and the smokestacks of Jurong Island are the Cyrene Reefs, a temporal expanse of coral rubble and seagrass meadows. The reefs are exposed only at low tide, when they emerge from the murky sea to reveal a world of sand and serendipity. The Malays call it Terumbu Pandan (pandan reef) after an aromatic coastal tree (did screwpines once grow here when sea levels were lower?). Etymologically, Cyrene rings of cold, hard walls and hints at the reefs' possibly unwelcome status amongst seamen hoping not to run aground on flats that lie invisible at high water, beyond sight but not fragile hulls (today a ring of floating beacons gives away the reefs' position and aids boatmen attempting to dump a horde of reefwalkers on the shore just before dawn).
At least six species of seagrasses have found a niche here, forming a green network of petioles long and lesser that shelter creatures both crabby and puffy. We found patches of blooming sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) and the remnants of flowering Enhalus acoroides, as evidenced by empty bracts and fruit that have not expelled their seed. Sheltering in the meadow and fringing reefs are countless crabs and armies of snapping shrimp. The fanworms here have not yet learnt the meaning of fear, retreating not even when molested by my duck. Beneath the sulky sky, bright stars shone in the sand, taking the tube route to their daily hangouts and tempting my duck to rest his head on a pretty pillow for a nap on the nautical map. I resisted, knowing that to succumb would render my duck vulnerable to the neighbourhood urchins eager to take a stab at my soft and squishy parts. Having failed to lure via slumber, the evil echinoderm entourage tried seduction instead, drawing my duck to a hotsandbed of sperm shooting stars in unabashed embrace. Arms and tube legs entwine and exhort my duck to join them on the soft substrate. Fortunately, my duck, though no chaste bird, wasn't in the mood for a grind on the ground – stray silicon belongs in hard drives not my hard dive.
With so much sex taking place right within sight of the nation's engines of economic growth, the reefs of Cyrene are likely to find few fans in this city where moments set aside for recreation and even procreation must be regarded as opportunity costs lost to more productive toil. What more when the reefs pose a permanent hazard to sea lanes and impose an untenable toll of several minutes – a detour that would render these waters inhospitable to international commerce and uncompetitive in a world where time is a commodity too precious to be wasted on wishful wet dreams and living wealth that cannot be counted.