XXXV | Some Friend You Are

as long as

I can remember

I’ve only wanted

to die.

Wanting to live—
that’s something
that’s not

crossed my mind in a long time.

I’ve never

to ask myself

a question like that.

Living’s hard.
I don’t like living.


I pretend not to hear
the tune of Moonlight Sonata

calling the patients


Outside the window
of the main hall,

there’s a full moon.

It’s small

in the large expanse
of Singapore’s sky.

I sit in my armchair and close my eyes.


come sit with me.

I want them
to give me

an injection

or whatever
they were doing in the past

that didn’t require me
to get out of bed.

Is this counted as wanting

to die?
Or live?


I think of her suddenly
and open my eyes.

She’s sitting in her own armchair,

watching me.





Do you want to die?

I think about that

as I recount
the twelve pills

in front of me.

I curse Gavin for making me think about
a question with an obvious answer.

The two masked nurses are breathing—

I see it today:
the crinkling of their masks
as they inhale.

If I refuse to swallow this medicine

that gives me
the reflexes of a zombie

will it count as wanting

to die?
Or live?

I drink the water in the cup,
prolonging the inevitable

until there’s

no liquid left.

The masked nurse on the left
slides a second cup

towards me

from under the table.


Let’s get this over with.




Do you want to die?

‘What if
‘I starve myself to death?’

I ask Tammie.

We’re in the study now.

She’s looking for a book
on pole dancing.

I want to pole dance,

she said suddenly,
after we bathed.

So I followed her

and now

I watch her conduct
her futile search,

water dripping from her wet hair.


They’ll give you calorie and vitamin pills.
And glucose injections.


Tammie moves on to the next shelf.

She’s nonchalant

As if her book’s more important
than our conversation about

life and death.

She climbs the bookcase
with her bare feet on the edge,

deep into the shelf

for a book trapped within.

‘Have you tried?’


She freezes.

in that position,
she looks like an archer minus the bow.

(Only her clothes are too frumpy.)

She pulls the book out
and lands on the floor.

A curse.

It’s not about pole dancing.

‘An asylum wouldn’t have books on pole dancing,’
I tell her.

Tammie snorts.


They have a stripper pole
in their dance studio.


‘It’s not a stripper pole.
‘It’s a–’


I still do it, you know.


Pin-drop quiet.

I say nothing.


Purge. Starve. Whatever.
They let you eat whatever,

to create the illusion

that you’re getting better.

With just medicine time alone,
they can control


Isn’t Wonderland perfect?


Tammie smiles.


And climbs the shelf again.


You can’t die without permission.


I almost tell Tammie:

Don’t die.
I don’t want you to die.

But I don’t,

I don’t remember her.

I don’t know if she wants to die.

It’s none of my business.

We’re just…



There’s no need for us to live together.


I hate people.

told me that once.

          I‘m remembering it
all of a sudden.

Was it Tammie?

Even if it was her,
so what?

When we knew each other,
I didn’t care enough

to notice
that she was struggling.


You were too busy being sick by yourself. 


waves a book in front of me.


‘It’s not about pole dancing,’
I point out.


I’m discouraging her.

(It’s stupid.)

We’re not even…


She’s flipping the book—
past coloured pictures

depicting different kinds

of dance.

It’s one page.
          Only one page

with no pictures at all,

at the top
in Lucida Blackletter font:


And she starts reading it.

I call her name
but she’s really, actually

reading it

like it’s a treasure map.

It probably
isn’t even what she’s looking for.
(Techniques? Routines?)

By tomorrow,

or a week later,

she’ll give up
once she realises

pole dancing

is asking to be





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