LVII | Study

Rowan finishes her coffee
before she starts studying.




She orders a second cup.


Her textbooks
and notes

fill the length
of the four people table.

‘You’re not studying?’ she asks.

A shrug.

I lean back
in my dark velvet seat.

‘Maybe later,’ I reply.

Her eyes
find a line on the page

and she disappears
into another world.

I can watch her
as I like now—

don’t think she’ll notice.

She doesn’t wear earphones
when she studies
like Nora and I do.

But she might as well have.

No matter who
leaves the cafe,

who’s talking out loud,

she doesn’t hear it.

‘Rowan,’ I whisper.

Her coal-black eyes
tear away from the textbook,
her pen goes still.

‘Yeah?’ she asks.

But one word from me
makes a difference.

It’s funny.

‘You’re really pretty in that dress.’

The tips of her ears
turn red.

She returns to the world
of study.

I push our cups of coffee

lean in closer to her.

There’s a slight furrow

her eyebrows.

I touch the spot on her forehead
with one finger.

She doesn’t respond.

The door is opened,
it gives out another tinkling laugh.

I put down my hand
and look over.

A couple is leaving.

(Other than us,)
there’s only one man left,

typing furiously
obscured by the fronds
of a plant.

Outside the door,
crowds of people walk to and fro

like sardines
escaping a can.

Orchard Road is always this crowded.

But Whimsical Coffee
is always empty.

I don’t remember when I first came here.

(It was in secondary school.)

The friend who invited me to church
for the first time

brought me here
before we went there.

The cheshire cat waitress
was here then as well.

I turn back to Rowan.

Her eyes meet mine.

to her notes.

‘You should study too,’ she mumbles.

I change seats
so that now
I’m right next to her.

‘We’re on a date.’

My reward
is an expressionless expression.

I look down
at her notes
written in tiny printed font.

Her fingers are so slender.

I wait for her
to let go of the pen

so I can hold
her hand.

I put an arm
around her shoulder,

along the back
of her dark velvet chair.

Her shampoo smells
like champagne




‘You’re too close,’
she says



her head.

I don’t move away.

She doesn’t either.

But maybe because
she’s already sandwiched
between the wall

and me.

‘Rowan,’ I say.

The tips of her ears

but she ignores me.


Her skin smells good.

I breathe into her ear.

She flinches,

tips her head
towards the wall.

‘Will you stop?
‘I can’t concentrate!’

I smile.

I’m sure this time
that I look just like a cheshire cat.

‘I can’t concentrate either.’

‘You’re not even studying.’

‘I’m trying to understand you.’

Her cheeks
are flushed.

‘You can’t understand people
‘by breathing down their neck.’

I take a deep breath,

blow gently
on her neck.

She turns towards me now,

her coal-black eyes
into mine.

I don’t dare to breathe.

‘I did everything you asked.
‘I took the photos,
‘I wore the dress,
‘I drank coffee.

‘I did everything you asked me to do,
‘so please let me study in peace for one hour.’

Her lips are forming
my name,

but I only see them moving,

I can’t hear her call my name.


‘Can I kiss you?’

I can hear my own voice
just fine, though.

Her eyes burn
an even darker black
than before.

She looks like she’s going to refuse.

There was frustration in her voice

This time,

I might have

too far.

I’m sorry,
I want to say.

But the words don’t come out

as easily as
they usually do.

Her lips part

and I hear her voice.



I wait,
unsure of whether

I’m the one

who imagined it.

‘Kiss me.’

She’s saying it.
Why is she saying it?

‘Do you mean it?
‘Then I won’t hold back anymore.’

My hand tilts her chin.

Her neck is hot.
Her eyes are blazing.
Her breath is wet.




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