XXVIII | Some Are Sick

Time’s as stunned

as I am.

In the choked silence
that follows,

I realise I’m supposed to say something

          but I don’t know what to say.

Something comforting?
Something remorseful?
Caring about someone else…

Have I done that


Tammie shatters the awkward pause
with a shrug of her shoulders.


It was long ago—
you didn’t notice.


‘I was there?’


‘While it happened?’

Tammie’s apologetic smile
feels annoying
all of a sudden.


You didn’t notice anything.

How could you?
You were already sick then.


Her grey eyes
are accusing me.


You don’t even remember me now.
Or any of our memories.


‘Do you hate me?’

I whisper.

Sounds echo
in this studio.

I remember there are nurses watching me

from a distance.

Tammie lets go
of the pole

and drops onto her knees.

They hit the floor
with a sickening crack
but she

doesn’t seem to feel it.

She’s leaning close,
deliberately breathing into my face.

I flinch

because of the foul stench.


It doesn’t matter.
It happened.
You can’t erase it.


Her smile
is merciless.


This is your punishment.

You’ll have to feel guilty
for the rest of your life.


‘A punishment, huh…’


What happened

          back then?




The nurses call my name
a second before

Moonlight Sonata diffuses through the walls.

We walk to the main hall

without a problem.

Tammie smiles
like she knows what I’m thinking.

It’s almost like the first day
when I came.

My eyes meet

She stops braiding her grey hair
to give me a knowing


I search the colourful chairs
for faces I recognise.

There’s Raymond,
staring with unseeing eyes

away from

Li Wen leaning over
her armchair,
whispering in his ear

and laughing to herself.

In front of them,
Gavin’s eyes are screwed shut

(lids flickering),

pretending to be asleep,
pretending not to see.

His fingers moves to the rhythm of the sonata,

tapping silently,

on the cap of his knee.

His eyes open
when I walk past.

He’s watching Fatima
who’s frowning at him

in the biggest

head high, brows furrowed.

She’s clutching a large stuffed rabbit
close to her chest,

stroking its long ears
like a storybook villain.

The one I normally sit in,

nearest the kitchen
(where the plastic knives are),

is taken by a boy
I don’t recognise.


The eighth patient.


I thought I’ve met all the patients
in the asylum

but I guess not.

This boy is small,
hair cropped close to his head.

If I want to,
I can push him out of the chair
and take it for myself

but there’s a male nurse
behind the chair,

eyes following me like a CCTV.

He’s sleeping,

head propped up with one arm,
revealing a plastic ear

where the real thing should be.

‘Over there.’
The plain nurse points

at the empty chair

where the boy should have sat.

I’m about to give him
the finger
when Tammie starts laughing

behind her hands
clapped to her mouth

amidst the solemn


Then the nurse behind him
wakes him up

for his turn in the medicine room

and the timing is lost.

I sit down.


‘What’s wrong with you?!’
I demand as we walk to the bathroom

after medicine time.

Tammie starts laughing again,

the smell of vomit
becoming more concentrated
for a moment.

I really

don’t understand.

She stops suddenly
and looks long and hard

at me.


You’ve forgotten, haven’t you?
You’ve forgotten

the one who was replaced

because you escaped.




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