LIII | Toilet

I’m leaning
against the railing,

looking over the boardwalk
at the sea.

Sunset pigments
and watercolour clouds.

The wind mumbles incoherently,

I listen without responding.

Or maybe it’s not the wind,
it’s that dude
in knee-high socks.

Apparently his name is Adam.

And he really enjoys playing soccer.

          (Knee-high socks,
          football jersey.)

‘So you’re Rowan’s JC classmate.’

It’s been
like five minutes

but he’s already done
with two packets
of chicken rice.

I tell him what I think of that.

He gives me an expressionless expression
that looks eerily similar

to someone’s.

‘Uncle Lee’s chicken rice
‘is the best in Singapore.’

‘you’re supportive of your own kind.’

It’s an exaggeration.
There’s better chicken rice out there.

‘We’re all rooting
‘for the same team.’

He’s not talking about soccer.


I turn to Adam
but his mouth is full
of chicken rice.

Not him?

Rowan’s by the pile of garbage bags
just before the boardwalk begins,
tightening the knot on the latest addition.

Adam raises a hand,
a wordless greeting.

The wind whistles,
blowing Rowan’s hair
all over
her face.

They just stare
at each other,

a conversation without talking.

Then, Adam leaves,
patting me on the back.

‘Sorry I haven’t talked to you
‘since the picnic

She’s still out of breath.

I have a rubber band
on my wrist
from the chicken rice box

so when Rowan
leans against the railing,

coal-black eyes
reflecting the watercoloured sunset,

I brush her hair
into a ponytail
with my hands.

Goosebumps form on her neck

when I touch her.

She reaches a hand,
pulls her hair from my fingers.

‘I’m all sweaty.’

‘Shut up.’

The tips of her ears
turn red.


Her hair
is like
silk threads

in my

She: I’ve been busy.
Me: I noticed.
She: Haven’t eaten.
Me: Kumar has yours.

‘Thanks for coming,’ she says.


A click.

Someone presses
the pause button,

my hands


in her hair.

The sounds of the picnic
behind me

fade away/
the thumping
of my heart.

The strands of black silk
pass through my fingers—

now she’s facing me,

her face

her eyes
against the bright sunset.

Sound rushes back in
like the waves
against the boardwalk:

high-pitched whining,
hearty laughter,
overlapping conversations.

She tilts her head,

The ponytail I tied
swaying in the whistling wind,

hands behind her back.

‘Thank you for coming here with me.
‘I know it’s hard for you
‘so I’m really grateful you did.’

Before I know what
I’m doing,

I’ve taken
her hand in mine.

Dragging her
across the boardwalk

—she has to run
to keep up with me.

The door

to the handicap toilet
flies open,

locks behind us.

My arms are around her waist,
chin on her shoulder,

her pounding heart
against mine.

A choked, surprised voice.

‘Put up with it,’
I say through gritted teeth,

‘If you really know
‘how hard it is.’

We’re breathing in
pungent air freshener,
the smell of ordure.

‘There are other places…’

I pull back
so I can see
her face.

‘You told everyone
‘I’m a classmate.
‘where else can we go?’

I cup the side of her face,
fingers touching her ears,

press her cheeks
with the base of my palms.

‘What are you doing?’

Her hands peel mine off her face
but they don’t let me go.

‘I told you I’m lonely.
‘I can’t get along with religious people.’

A faint smile.

‘I realised that today.’

‘You should have known that
‘just looking at me.’

I press my forehead
to hers,

back her up
to the wall.

‘Was this a test?
‘Are you trying to convert me?’

She pulls her hands away
but I’m expecting that

and hold on tight.

Her breath is salty.
Like the sea.

‘Yes, it’s a test.
‘Yes, i’m trying to convert you.

‘So am i.’

‘–so are you.’

I smile.

‘You’re being honest about this.’

‘We can only live in
‘one real world at each time.’

‘Yeah, that’s right.
‘And we’re in my world right now’

–I gesture at the
foul-smelling handicap toilet we’re in–

‘so let me kiss you.’

Her lips part,
her hands relax
in my grasp.

I need to hold her.

Make sure she’s real.

Her eyes reflect only me,
she’s seeing only me.

She leans forward
before I do.


‘Rowan! Where is she?
‘Her dinner is cold liao.’

Aspen’s voice
is close by.

Footsteps. Other voices.

Someone presses
the pause button

her hands

go cold

in mine.

I’m pushed backwards,
our hearts stop beating.

Her hands are over her mouth,

there’s tears
in her eyes.

What? What?
What did I do?

She turns towards the door,
then back again.

‘You’ve set your limit,
‘I have no power over you.’

Her voice

does all the crying

she’ll never do.




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