LXVIII | Some Conscience

Even though Asher said
he’ll be my friend,

nothing changed.

A new patient is brought in

on a stretcher—

carried up to her room
like a corpse with a pee bag


from between her legs.

The nurses
call her Valerie.


to pretend I don’t exist,

and when I

talking to her,

she smiles blankly,
a wide hostile grin

that reveals repulsive rotting teeth,

and ignores

my attempts
to reconcile.

Asher, because he’s male,

can’t cuddle with me in my bed
like she could

so I’m back to sleeping


like I’ve always



Having a new friend,
I decide after a week,

is not the same

as having your best one.




I’ve also




I don’t realise it at first,

by the presence

of Asher,

by the questions

he asks.

How old are you?
How many times were you hospitalised?
Which part of Singapore are you from?

What’s your favourite colour?
What’s your favourite food?
What’s your favourite song?

Do you wear your left or right slipper first?
Do you prefer black or white?
Do you have siblings? How many?

All the basic

friends need
to know about each other.

The little details,
Tammie called them.

I need time

to think about
my answers.

when she asked,

did I also

take this long
to think?

‘What about you?’
I remember to ask Asher

after giving him my answer.

She taught me


My vision blurs.

Asher has
no problem

answering me:

He’s 26,
hospitalised twice before,
lived in Bukit Timah.

He likes orange,
Man In The Mirror.

He wears his left slipper first,
prefers black,
has four siblings. 

We learn a lot

about each other
but at the same time

nothing at all.


She means a lot to you, huh?


he says finally,

after a long silence.

I smile,

forgetting his most recent question
after thinking in circles.

The canvas—
which was empty before—

is painted now,

with colours that don’t match.

I can make out—


—Tammie’s apologetic smile
among the colours.

I drop
my paintbrush.

It coats the carpet
with blue acrylic.

I should have laid paper on the floor.
I have been scolded for this before.

Asher picks it up.

Holds it out to me.

Asks another question.


Have you had sex before?




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