LXII | Remorse

A tap on the shoulder.
A shake.
A gruff voice,
‘Oi! Boy!’

I open my eyes.

The taxi has stopped.

The driver
is not in his seat.

He’s pulled my door,
gesturing me to leave.

I blink.

The clouds are slightly blue.


‘The bird stopped liao.
‘Faster, go!’

A shooing motion.
(As if i’m the bird.)

I take out my wallet.

‘How much?’

He waves me away.

‘Dunnit. Dunnit.
‘Paid already.’

As soon as I
get off
the taxi,
he closes the door,

gets behind the steering wheel,
drives away.

‘Who paid?’
the parrot asks.

And I realise,
the idiot bird
brought me to my apartment.

          ‘Where’s Rowan?’
          I demand.

The parrot preens its feathers.

          No reply.

A stray cat walks by.




This is it then.
Just like Ria.

She’s gone.

But Rowan’s not like Ria.
She’s different.

She’s annoying
—but she’s different.

Now she’s gone.

This is worse than people just dying.
At least with death,

the memories,
the possessions,

every trace of
the person,
is burned away over time.

But Rowan,
and Ria,

they crawl under my skin
and take root there

like parasites.

By the time you realise,
and you want to scrap them off,
you can’t.

They’re a part of you
like a wound

that hurts

with every touch.




When I open the door
to my house,

my mother is cooking.

The angmoh is reading the newspaper.

There’s a smell of
fried bacon.

The white parrot flies in
through the open door,

takes a seat
on the dining table.

It’s set for breakfast.

It’s never set for breakfast.

‘What’s going on?’
I ask.

The newspaper is folded.
There’s a smile
on his tired face.

‘Let’s have breakfast.’
He sips a cup of coffee.

I stare.
‘All together?’


I pull cereal down from a shelf.

The woman says,
‘Eat the eggs and bacon too,

I retrieve milk
from the fridge.

This is weird.

I sit down
and start eating without

A smile

is plastered
to his face.

‘It’s been a while,’ the man says.
You don’t say.

‘Don’t both of you
‘have work today?’

He shakes his head.

Public holiday.


The woman sits
at the table.

The same table as the man.

There’s eggs and bacon and
toasted bread
—and temporary peace.

‘How’s prelims going?’
she asks.

Since when do you care?

‘I studied. It’s fine.’

‘Make sure you take breaks,’
the man advises.

Are they
to be

I’m too old for this.

But the parrot is watching me.
They never glance at it though

and it sits at the fourth place
at the table.

It looks like a toy
propped on the table,
red eyes

          never moving.


Is Aspen watching me?

They ask more
about school.

I talk about it, a little.

The woman turns to the man
and they talk about school

during their time.

The man tells a story
about his friends
—senior year of high school.

I’ve never heard this before

and neither
has the woman.

She’s listening,
she’s looking him in the eye,
she’s smiling at him.

If the parrot turns into Brient,
then it’ll look like
our family

has returned to normal.

The woman
tells her story

It happens a year after his,
just before they met.

They don’t ever mention
the moment they met,
and I think I’ve never

heard that story.


I thought that
I never well.
But now,

(I cram a whole slice of bacon into my mouth)

maybe I’ll have a chance.

The world
for a moment,

words become muffled.

It’s warm.
It hasn’t been warm
in so long.

My mother laughs
at something my father says.

There’s a faint smile
on his face.

We’re a perfect family
for today.

Can it be today forever?

‘Is this a dream?’ I ask.


‘What do you mean?’

I gesture
at the table,

afraid of the answer.

The sun
rises slowly,


behind us.

‘This. Breakfast.
‘We never eat breakfast together.’

Not even when I was little.

My mother smiles.

There’s affection,
somewhere in that dark brown pond.

‘Isn’t this fun?’

Maybe I’m tired,
that’s why I think

her voice sounds high-pitched,
and a bit desperate.

I ask to try
the coffee my father brewed.




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