XXVII | Someone Dance

I find Tammie later, easily.

Not in the study
where we used to play hangman.

I waited there a long time.


Got hungry,
went to the kitchen

for food.


She’s there,
along the length of the dining table—

beside Raymond,
Li Wen (his crazy girlfriend)

stealing his french fries—

empty bowl
in front of her.

Our eyes meet
but she doesn’t smile at me,
like I’m part one of the chairs.

Yet she waits
while I eat

even though the bowl in front of her
is already


When I’ve swallowed
the last strand of bee hoon,

she stands up

together with me.

Her grey eyes
meet mine again.

It is her eyes

that smile at you—

I realise this now.


I follow her
as she enters
the studio.

A mirror fills one wall,
a tall pole screwed from floor to ceiling

in the middle of
a sea of
leotards and CD players.

Tammie’s reflection

walks towards it

with no hesitation.

She touches it,
fingers curling gently,

          body embracing the pole,

like a lover meeting her beloved
at long last.

Her legs curl,
her figure distorts

and she’s dancing without music

like a swan

on a carousel.

Her bony legs
wrap around the pole,

pants riding up her thighs
as she hangs
upside down

to smile at me.

She stretches two hands,
reaching for me.

I walk towards her,

a magnet to a pole,

and her cold fingers
envelop mine.

That touch,
the strength of her grip,

the butterflies in her eyes

in place of a reflection
of me,

that instance

signals a truce,

like my sins
are forgiven.

You won’t leave again, will you?

My eyes ask her.


I won’t.


An apologetic smile.




I put an unbroken CD into the player
and it plays a ballroom waltz.

Tammie spins around
as if the pole
is her partner.

I sit on the wooden studio floor
watch her dance

          and twirl,

like a snake,

hanging upside down on a tree branch,
giggling at me

as though seeing the world
that way

for the first time.

Her shirt rides up her chest

and I see
every bone

of her rib cage,

the movement of her skin over them

while she laughs.

‘Why are you here?’


I learnt pole dancing instead of going for tuition.


She lifts herself up,
legs curling around the pole for one more hug

before spinning round and round

in a wordless

till her feet touch the ground
and her head tilts back

in a final flourish.


Tammie’s panting.
She’s breathless.

Where the pole touched her,
red bruises are turning blue—

she’s too skinny.

‘That’s not it,’ I tell her
with a vigorous head shake.

Tammie keeps her hands
wrapped around the pole

like it’s her life.

She leans against it,
scruffy hair ruffled from the exercise,

bending towards the metal.

Magnets drawn to a pole.

‘It must hurt,
‘to dance like that.’

A heartrending smile
lights up her face.


I chose to do this after meeting you.

Because I was jealous.


I lower my eyes
and mutter to the wooden floor,

‘It can’t even be explained properly.’

Tammie twirls
around the pole

I wince.

She stops.

Suddenly self-conscious.


You’re a beautiful dream.

Compared to that,

everything else felt the same.

So imperfect.


A cold chill
passes through me.

‘Is that…’

I pause,
holding my breath.

We just reconciled.

‘Is that…’

A blue butterfly dances in her grey eyes.

‘…why you purge?’

Her lips stretch
into her practised
apologetic smile.

Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Her eyes cry
and repeat it over and over and over.

Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Tammie nods.




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