LVIII | Some Are Allowed

There’s no

when a new patient arrives.

No friendliness.

The rest of us

ignore them
like we
ignore each other.

It doesn’t

after all,

whether there’s one more,

or two,
or three.

Our lives

don’t change

very much.


The only one
who seems


by the arrival of the twins

Li Wen.




From where I’m painting


by the window,
I see Li Wen

glaring at them

walking into the hall
holding hands,

the girl leading with two sandwiches.

I’m eating

with Tammie,


Li Wen

watches them
from Raymond’s lap,

sharing an armchair,


each other’s ears.


During medicine time,

she ruins

the melody of
Moonlight Sonata

by whispering curses

and insults

about them.


What’s her problem?
I ask Tammie

as we get ready to shower.

They aren’t after Raymond.
Why does she care?

only smiles



the wall.

I have to get her clothes
for her.

The twins

the guys bathroom

without their nurses.

It’s bizarre to see
a girl not Li Wen
inside the guys bathroom

that we can’t help

peeking over.

Li Wen

from one of the cubicles,

a slight smile

on her face.

Even I know
her head

is full of nothing

but Raymond.

But when she
notices the two of them,

hands interlocked,

one holding

the other, towels—

like extensions of each other—

she rolls her eyes
and scowls.

They enter
the cubicle

she just



The door swings


behind them.

Li Wen
stops it

with the flat surface of her palm.

It swings back open.

The girl
glares at her

with coal-black eyes,

taking a step
to block Li Wen

from her brother’s view.

I notice

he squeezes
her hand.

‘This is the guys bathroom,’ Li Wen tells her.

The new girl tries
to close the door

with her foot.

Li Wen pushes against it,
so it crashes into the wall

with a loud smack.

‘You can’t bathe with him!’
she yells.

The plain nurse
pokes her head

into the guys bathroom

to see
what’s going on.

‘Who are you?’
the new girl demands.

It’s the first time

I’m hearing
her voice.

She has a slight Malay accent.

I wouldn’t
have guessed

their skin is so pale.

Li Wen laughs.

The air

turns cold.

‘I’m telling you nicely.’
She speaks each word


‘So you better listen up.

‘This is how
‘things work

‘around here.’

The new girl

looks down

at her hand in her brother’s.
And I see


flash briefly
in her eyes.

The plain nurse
puts a hand on Li Wen’s shoulder.

Attempts to placate her.

‘It’s okay,’
she says.

‘They’re allowed.’


Wrong answer.


Li Wen’s eyes

Her curly hair

seems to stand up
with the static
of indignation.

‘Allowed?’ she spits out. ‘Why are they allowed?

          ‘How come

‘I’m not allowed
‘to bathe with Raymond?’


Like a rom-com,

it’s at this moment

that Raymond
walks into the bathroom.

His ears turn red,

and he

begins to

But Li Wen’s seen him.

She grabs him by the arm
and pulls him into another empty cubicle.

‘we can bathe together!’

The nurse
is the one who

pushes against the door,

dragging Raymond,

then Li Wen,

with more strength
than I thought she’d have.

‘Stop behaving like this, Li Wen!’
she scolds.

‘It’s totally different.’

The new girl,
who’s handed her burden of clothes to her brother,

uses her free hand

to make a rude gesture

at Li Wen.


For the first time
in my life,

I see all hell break loose
while I’m sane.




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