LIX | Some People Fight

Li Wen scratches the girl
across the face.

They’re pulling

each other’s hair,



on the damp tiled floor.

Through it all,
she doesn’t let go

of her brother’s hand.

He tries
to help his sister

fend Li Wen off

but gets poked
in the eye

by her elbow.

With renewed strength,
the girl

pulls out

a clump of
Li Wen’s hair.

The nurses

are pulling them apart

I get to enjoy

more of the fight.

coat the steamy air

with thick black tar

and their screams

in a shrill climax

like the monsters
from my childhood.

Both girls are panting,

both cursing the other.

Li Wen
is kicking against

the male nurse

holding her back,

at the top of her voice,

‘You’re a slut!
‘Born from a bitch!

‘Rich, horh?
‘You bribe them one, right?

‘Perverted slut!
‘You sleep with him, don’t you?’

The pretty nurse

stands calmly
like a pillar

amidst the commotion,

to speak to Li Wen.

‘Patient data is confidential.
‘You can’t bathe with Raymond
‘because he’s a guy

‘and you’re a girl.’

Li Wen jabs a finger
in the new girl’s

general direction.

‘Her brother is also a guy what!’
‘This kind of pathetic


‘Did she sleep with you also?
‘I’ll sue you!’

With a nod from the pretty nurse,

Li Wen is


screaming threats.


The new girl,

who’s lost interest
in Li Wen

long ago,

is now licking
her brother’s eye wound

like a cat.

The plain nurse,
coaxing them

to stand up in vain,

waits helplessly.


I tell Tammie

the nurses should start typing
all this

on their phones.

It’ll be a long

She responds
with a giggle.

‘Go and bathe,’ the nurse tells me,

her voice

with irritation.

I don’t want to anymore.

I squat beside
the twins

and ask the new girl for her name.

She glares at me
without speaking

and continues

to lick
her brother’s wound.

What’s wrong with him?

I’m about to ask.

Why are you
protecting him
like that?

But I don’t want
a clump of my hair

to get pulled out.

So I don’t.

She whispers to him in Malay
when she’s done

cleaning his wound

until his grip

on their
wet bundle

of towels and clothes

and she

can take them from him
and pass it

to the nurse.

His coal-black eyes,
copy pasted from his sister,

meet mine briefly.

He smiles

in response
to something she says.




The show’s over.

The sound of water spraying
on tiles

fills the air again.

The nurses
have returned

to waiting

outside the bathroom.


is still standing there,


at the empty cubicle
that Li Wen

dragged him into.

It’s over, I tell him.

He doesn’t seem
to hear me.

I tap him

on the shoulder.

He turns his head,
eyes blank.

What is he thinking about?

Does he know

what just

She’s gone, I tell him.

She’s not going to force you
to bathe with her anymore today.

You can relax.

He blinks—

a sign of understanding.

His ears
turn red.

He bites the nail

of his thumb

and finds
the nearest sink



That’s not the problem though,


he mumbles.

With one hand
covering his pants,

he leaves.


Something unsettling
like a stone


to the bottom of my chest.




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