CIV | Fruit


there’s progress
in our relationship!

Rowan and I
are sitting

under the school’s rowan tree.

She’s leaning
against my shoulder,

Her sleeping face…

I don’t want
to share it with you.

I want to keep the memory of it
all to myself.

Rowan is the one
who taught me
to treasure
little things like this.

And it’s one of the
only good habits I’ve developed.

Nothing else

about me

has changed.


‘You’re wrong about that,’
Rowan says.

I glance down at her.

Her eyes are still closed.

‘You’re not sleeping?’

She opens one eye,
then the other.

A big yawn.

‘What time is it?’

‘Not late enough,’ I tell her.

The tips of her ears
turn red

and she pushes me
away from her.

‘What are you thinking about?’
she asks.

I tilt my head.
‘I thought you knew.’

She frowns.
‘I’m not a mind-reader.’

‘But you said—’

I sigh.

The rowan tree
above us
has begun to bear fruit.

A tangy smell
surrounds the tree
all the time now.

It’s a fresh,
new-plant smell.

‘What are you thinking about?’
she asks again.

I tell her about what happened yesterday
at the supermarket.

Rowan watches her winged donkey
peering out the school gate.

(It looks exactly like Eeyore from here.)

I’m tempted
to tie a ribbon to its tail.

‘You’re pretty cheerful
‘for someone who’s witnessed
‘one more death.’

Her coal-black eyes
burn into mine.

A warmth fills my palm.

Her hand
slipped into mine.

‘I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

‘But when I woke up this morning,
‘it feels like it didn’t happen.’

I don’t speak

for a while.

She waits even though
I have

no more words left.

‘I wonder if Jerry is right.’

The real world
doesn’t look real at all.

The real world
I live in
is almost entirely
my own creation.

‘Since I’ve decided
‘to accept the truth,

‘my life has been a confusing mess.’

She squeezes my hand.

I gather my courage
to keep speaking.

‘I keep thinking
‘that if I didn’t believe you,
‘if I didn’t listen to you,

‘would Ming still be alive?

‘Would I be happier?
‘Would I have a reason to live?

‘Would I feel
‘less pathetic?’


I turn to her
and smile

so she knows
that’s all I can say

without my voice

Her expressionless expression
comforts me
in times like this.

‘You’re growing,’
she says to me.


I say I feel weak and stupid
and you call that growth?

There’s a
patronising smile
on her face.

The patient kind
she puts on

when dealing with the little kids
at her church.

I want to kiss her
so it disappears.

I haven’t grown at all.

‘Today everyone’s telling each other
‘to love yourself first,
‘prioritise yourself,
‘think of yourself first.

‘That you’re the only one
‘who can believe in yourself.

‘You’re the only one
‘who can change yourself.

‘What you saw at the supermarket
‘is humanity.

‘A world created by humanity.’

She reaches out a hand
to catch

a falling rowan flower.

She holds it out
to me.

‘When we put ourselves first,
‘we forget we’re small, helpless,
‘useless and weak.

‘Our insecurities
‘should make us humble

‘but instead,
‘they make us proud
‘and arrogant.

‘So I’m glad

‘you’re admitting
‘you’re weak,
‘that you have doubts.’

‘I won’t give up the truth again,’
I tell Rowan,

holding up my left hand,
the one
with the water ring
she gave me.

She removes her hand
from mine

and holds hers up too.

On her fourth finger
is the exact same ring

made of
the same cold, wet immaterial

She wraps her left hand
around my left hand.

‘It’ll be hard.
‘You’ll suffer.

‘But don’t feel hopeless.’

She tilts her head
to examine my face.

‘I think that’s what
‘Mr. Ahmad was trying to tell you.’

I furrow my brows.

I think
of the voting,

of the majority and the minority,
          the man who shot
          the man who got shot.

Rowan’s expressionless


‘There’s no hope in humanity.

‘But there’s a golden city
‘in our future.’


I remember the lion and the lamb
carved into the gates.

I remember the ageless, genderless

I remember the queer army
surrounding the sanctuary.

I laugh.
I laugh for a long time.

The cat stops licking its paw
to glare at me.

But I can’t help it.

‘I always thought
‘you were alone, Rowan,’ I tell her.

‘The day I kissed you,
‘I did it because I was sure

‘you were alone.’

She nods.

‘You’re right.
‘I’m alone a lot.

‘But I’m not lonely, Clyde.’

‘I really,
‘want to kiss you.’

The tips of her ears
turn red again.

She stands,
picks up her bag—
ready to run.

She takes a deep breath
and I wait

for her to speak.


‘Me too,’
she replies.

My world spins.

I’m giddy.

I reach out to grab her

but she runs towards the school gate,
ponytail flying,
school bag flopping,

the tips of her ears
still red.

She pauses once

to glance at me
and stick out her tongue.

I smile
and run after her.


People turn to stare at us
but I ignore them all.





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