C | Abyss

We’ve stare at the hole in the ground
my friends disappeared into

          for a long time.

‘I’ll walk you home,’
I tell Rowan.

I don’t let go of her hand.

Mr. Ahmad climbs onto my shoulder,
stays perched there like a bird.

You did well,
its voice unusually loud
in my ear.

A side glance.
‘How nice of you.’

We follow the winding paths
through the park.

The shadows on Rowan’s face
morph and change

as we pass by the streetlights
keeping watch
on each side of the pavement.

‘What’s wrong?’
Rowan asks without looking.

‘What if…’


I don’t know
whether to say it.

‘Just, what if,
‘the golden city we saw
‘that first day we met

‘isn’t real?’

The cat purrs.

Its weight warm
on my shoulder.

‘What if Jerry is right,
‘and beyond this world
‘there’s nothing.

‘Just nothing.
‘And death is really the end.’

Rowan doesn’t reply.
Neither does the cat.

We walk most of the way
in easy silence

that I forget
I asked this,

that she hasn’t replied.

We reach
the dark glass doors
of the nameless chicken rice shop.

She turns to face me,

a faint smile
on her face.

‘This weekend,
‘I’ll show you what nothingness is.’

She lets go of my hand
to go inside.

I stop her
and give her a kiss
on her cheek.

‘Goodnight, Rowan.’

Even in the dark,
the tips of her ears
turn red.

‘Goodnight, Clyde.’




I make it to the weekend.

Things between my friends
are getting better.

We play basketball
instead of soccer

and sit in the empty carpark
like we did before.

Tom and Jerry
are bickering today

because Tom wants Jerry to focus on study
but Jerry doesn’t want Tom to get a ‘real’ job.

I forget that Tom
is an adult

since he’s always hanging out with us.

Rowan texts me
to meet her
at the bus stop.

So after a quick shower,

I pack some clothes,
a torchlight,
insect repellent.


Rowan’s not alone.

I should have
expected it.

Aspen grins
and gives me a fist bump.

Let’s go,
he says.

Where are we going?
I ask.

‘Bukit Timah railway station,’
Rowan says.

‘It’s on the map,’
I tell her.
‘It’s not nothingness.’

It’s nothingness,
she insists.

It’s being redeveloped,
so it’s nothingness right now.

We get there
and it’s not nothingness
like I said.

The old station’s
a small building

all fenced up
with grass growing all around it.

Looks a bit eerie
in the dark
          but that’s it.

It’s not nothing.

The railway tracks left
look more like props
than the actual thing.

They’re dusty,
caked with dirt,

plants growing
inside them
like nose hair.

A large area is boarded up
with tall green barriers
the colour of the trees.

But no one’s fooled.

Everyone in Singapore
can tell the difference

between a construction site
and a forest.

I think.

I’m not sure anymore.
It’s dark.

Aspen and Rowan
take me to the tall green barriers.

Rowan’s torchlight
lights up a sign that reads:


Aspen locates the door,
unlocks it

and takes a helmet
hanging inside.

We all wear helmets
and face the nothingness.

looks like a dark void
just like how space
and black holes
are usually described.

Things thrown into it
make no sound
as they fall—if they fall at all.

Maybe they just disappear.

Because if they’re still there

it can’t be nothingness, right?


We shine our torchlights
into the dark abyss

that was blocked off
for obvious reasons.

The light’s not bright enough
to show everything.

I make out
a dip in the ground,

the colour of dirt
giving way to

Metal poles gleam
and then lose interest

in reflecting the lights we flash at it.

Everything I think I saw
isn’t there anymore

when I shine my light
over it

‘What do you think?’
Rowan asks.

‘It’s a construction site,’
I tell her.

‘How do you even have access to this?’

Aspen grins.

‘Humans don’t own the edge of the world.’

This is Bukit Timah,
I’m weary of repeating it.

We’re in Singapore.
We’re at the centre of the earth.

It’s only after we lay out sleeping bags,
talk until we drift into sleep,
wake up and watch the sun rise,

then looking at the construction site again,

and see

the large ditches and slopes,
metal poles with no bottoms,
in solid colours and forms


I think

I understand

what Rowan
is trying
to demonstrate.

Everything is nothing.

Because everything keeps changing.




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