LXI | Parrot

‘And you just let her be?’
I ask.

Aspen picks up
his phone

from the ground.

He clicks the torchlight on,
shines it at me.

In what world
would Aspen allow

Rowan and I

to be together till 1 am
in the night?

‘Of course
‘I don’t like it,’ he retorts,
‘but she’s Rowan…’

A pause.

I watch his face
as he realises how


he is.

‘You’re so sheltered,’
I laugh.

‘Both you and Rowan.’

I don’t see the punch.

I only taste

from where his fist cut my lip.

Aspen is weak.

A nerd
with no strength.

But I touch my jaw

It hurts.

‘What did you do to her?’

I stop his fist
before it hits me a second time.

‘Both of you are #*%&ing idiots,’
I spit.

And I punch him back.

His phone
clatters to the ground

‘You think you’re strong,
‘you’re always right
‘—everything you say and do—
‘well, you’re wrong!’

It’s not my fault
that his knees lose strength

and he falls
onto his butt.


But he’s lost interest
in me.

His eyes
are fixed
on the rowan tree
behind me.

‘It’s about time you realise
‘Rowan is a bigger liar than me,’
I hiss.

Retract my fist.

‘Don’t blame me for everything.’




There’s no bus.

I’m not in the mood

to go back to my house
where there’s two people

who fighting as well.

So I’m at the park,
staring at the spot between the bushes
where Rowan and Aspen
found Kumar.

That day,
my world started to change.

If I was ambivalent
to the existence of God before,

then that was when

I started hating him.

A loving God
in this kind of world?

What a joke.

Right and wrong can’t possibly exist
in this sort of cruel reality.

If it does,
then there’s

no hope

at all.

I’m definitely not wrong.

the crickets
are singing,

to the different rhythm
of my breathing.

I want to punch
someone again.

It felt good to hit Aspen.

are most painful

But I think of Aspen’s expression
after he fell.

His expressionless expression

that appeared to be seeing things
I knew nothing about.

Eyes that reminded me
of things
I never used to
think about.

My beliefs,
my reality.

Everything I knew
—why does it bother me now?

It’s my life.

I can think whatever I want.
Who cares?

‘You know who.’

That’s my voice.
But I didn’t speak.

I look up.

High up in a tree,

a white parrot
stares at me
with beady red eyes.

‘#*%&. #*%& you.
‘You’re looking for Rowan.’

I’m not.

I’m just waiting
for buses
to start running again.

I’ll just drink Red Bull
and sit here
until 5 am.

The parrot flies off.

I stare at my phone.
Time is not moving.

I stare at the vending machine.

Put in the coins.
Click the Red Bull.
A whirling sound.


I kick the machine.

The light flickers.
The parrot flutters back.

Lands on top of it.

‘There’s no time left,’ it says.
‘Give me my Red Bull,’ I reply.

The parrot flies away,
circling my head,

disappearing into the trees.

I follow it,

through bushes
and park longkangs

even though
there’s a perfectly good path
to take.

The sky doesn’t follow
the rules of the ground.


A taxi waits
beside the road,

lights flashing.

The driver in his seat
seems to be waiting.

The parrot flies over it,

then it turns away,
down the length of the road.

I get into the taxi
and find myself saying
I never thought
I’d ever say:

          ‘Uncle, follow that parrot.’


          A blank stare.

I jab my finger in front,

at the hazy white patch
between the street lights,

swaying like a kite.

‘That one. That one. Faster, can?’

          Another blank stare.

The taxi accelerates.

The uncle follows
the stupid instruction
I gave.

The taxi drives
for a long time.

Mostly in silence.

The taxi driver
doesn’t try to talk
to me.

I wouldn’t talk to someone
who asks me to follow a parrot

Unlike in the park,
the parrot keeps to the road.

We travel on highways,

into dark, deserted HDB estates,

between skyscrapers
that never sleep.

And I realise
the parrot is just wasting

my time and money.

I get more anxious
with each hour
that passes,

with each winding road
that passes.

We never drive through
somewhere we’ve already been before.

I’m watching,
I’m watching the whole time

so I’m sure.

Singapore isn’t this big.
This isn’t Malaysia

—we never go through customs.

‘Aeh boy,
‘Where you want to go?’
the taxi driver asks at last.

Not sure, I think instinctively.

My answer
surprises me.

‘I’m looking for my girlfriend.’

‘That’s gonna cost you.’

Numbly, I respond
(to the driver/to myself?):

‘If I don’t find her now,
‘I’ll lose her forever.’




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