III | Some People

I turn to the woman
who brought me here

to give her
a piece of my mind

but she’s not there


The pretty nurse with long hair
leans close to me.
I can smell her perfume.

I raise one hand.

She catches it.
Her grip is cold.

I gather spit in my mouth
to spit at her

but she turns my hand over
and says,

‘You haven’t eaten, have you?’

Then she lets me go.

She doesn’t grab me
or yell or lock me up
in a room the size of a coffin.

We just

stare blankly

at each other.

says the plain nurse,

after a few moments
of awkward silence.

‘Come, we’ll show you where’s the kitchen.’

She doesn’t grab me
or yell or lock me up
in a room the size of a coffin.

A kitchen?

What asylum
lets patients into a kitchen?

I follow them.


We weave through
a maze of armchairs,

the gazes of the other patients,

through a wide hallway,
into a real kitchen.

I open the fridge

to make sure
it’s real.

I do the same
with the microwave.

The cupboards
below the counter

as well.

They’re warm.

the plain nurse explains.
‘To keep the food warm.’

‘This place is my new home?’ I ask.

The nurses nod together
but don’t say anything more.

I choose
a box of nasi lemak

and they lead me
to the dining table.

It’s big
and round.

The seats are too far
from the table

but they’re screwed to the floor
so I have to make do

and sit on the very

Two patients
on the opposite side,

both eating french fries.

One of them
watches me
open my box of nasi lemak.

‘There’s more in there if you want,’
I tell him.

The pretty nurse
whispers their names from behind.
Raymond. Urei.

He doesn’t ask me for mine,

just continues
staring at me.

I am about to

throw my plastic spoon
at him

when a female patient prances toward us,
hair wild, flowy dress billowing.

She sits on the tabletop
next to Raymond,

giggling coyly,

stealing a fry from his bowl.

Li Wen.

She giggles.
Pats Raymond’s head.

Comes over to me.
Pats mine.

I don’t know why she’s happy.

She giggles again.
‘He’s mine,’ she hisses.

Her voice doesn’t match
her laughter.

She’s still giggling.

She skips away.

Raymond finds his fries more fascinating than me
for the rest of his meal.




The nurses tell me
my bedroom is upstairs

but that I should
stay down here

and meet the rest of the patients.

So I climb
the squarish spiral stairs

and try to make sense of the abstract paintings
that line the walls of the stairs.

The nurses

follow me

although they don’t
try to stop me.

(I’m starting to think
that’s all they’ll be doing
in the foreseeable future.)



there’s an open sitting area
without anything to sit on

surrounded by doors

with names on them.

I try the door with
written on it but the knob

doesn’t budge.


They’re locked.


I turn around
to ask why

but the voice

didn’t come from the nurses.


A girl
with scruffy short hair
tilts her head

and waves her hand at me.


The doors only open at bedtime.


My heart starts to beat faster.

I am about to ask,
Do I know you?

but what comes out instead is a name,





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