LXIX | Dull

‘Oi, Clyde!’

Ming’s voice.

Ming’s arm
is around my shoulder.

‘Why you not in school uniform?’

I look down at myself,
then around me.

It takes me a while

to get my bearings.

The chameleon cat is here,
blending into the roots
of the rowan tree.

The tree is smaller
than I remember

and the hollow we emerged from
is gone.

I’m not at the white museum,
or the yellow park.

I’m in school.

The school’s back gate
sits in the distance
like it always has.

Ming lets go of me,
sticks his hands in his pockets.

‘You’re in trouble, man.
‘You can’t take the paper
‘wearing that.’

I make a face at him.

‘Stuff happened,
‘don’t ask.’

He slaps me on the back.

‘I can lend you pens and stuff
‘but I can’t do anything about this.’

There are bright green leaves
and white flowers

on this rowan tree too.

But what happened?

What day is it?
Why is there a paper today?


Too many things
are happening at once.

I follow Ming
into the school.

Rowan’s standing
in the corridor,


The world slows down
for a moment.

I remember her arms around me.

She holds out
a plastic bag at me.


I take it.

Her coal-black eyes



She walks past
and I hear her whisper:

‘All the best, Clyde.’

Ming prods me
in the side.

‘Why are you grinning like an idiot?’

I close my mouth
and wave
the uniform Rowan gave me

in Ming’s face.

‘My girlfriend
‘washed my clothes.’




To celebrate
the last paper,

we’ve gathered at the park
for the first time in weeks.

Some of them
(like Nora and Pretti)
are in home clothes

because they didn’t take
the paper today.

Tom and Jerry
are here too—

their prelims already ended a week ago.

Tom kicks the ball into
the air,

I feel alive.

As though I’ve been sleeping
for the past 17 years of my life.

I hesitate
about drinking the Red Bull

I just bought.

Ming’s watching me.
I’m staring

at the chameleon cat.

It’s ignoring me,
licking its paw.

I put the can down.

‘What’s wrong?’
Nora is the one who asks.

I shrug.

‘I don’t need this after all.
‘Gonna get tea instead.’

I hear Shuhui
asking if the exams
have cooked
my brains.

Red Bull is my favourite drink.

But today,
I’m craving something


Kumar’s excitedly
talking about
the game we just played.

I didn’t think
it was that great.

I’ve been looking forward to it
since Kumar told me we’d play

when the paper ended.

But now, I feel restless,

like the game



The girls are talking about

or shoes,

some article of clothing
that’s popular right now.

Did they always
talk about things like this?

Why does it sound
strangely meaningless today?

Jerry starts
telling us about
some music festival
that happening

I remember it
from last year.

It’s where
he met Tom.

We ponned school
to go.

Ming and Kumar didn’t come,

so they’re listening
intently now
as Jerry tells the story
once again.


heard him tell this story


but today,
it’s annoying to listen to it.

I want to talk about
the flowers on the rowan tree.

About the expressions
in Rowan’s eyes.

But Jerry hates Rowan.

he doesn’t hate her.

He said so
last time.

But even though
he said that,
I think he dislikes her a lot.

The carefree smile he gives Tom
used to be something I envied.


it doesn’t look real.

But he’s always smiled
at Tom
like this

—in this cute, adoring way.

I tilt my head.

Why is everything
different today?

The cat is watching me
with flat green eyes.

I get the impression
that it’s grinning.

But cats



There is something wrong
with my world today.

In this peaceful scene
where my friends are gathered,

where we have fun,
          just us
          in this abandoned carpark

with the setting sun


they look desperate lonely somehow.


Have I always

drowned my sorrow

this way?

Shuhui takes my abandoned can of Red Bull
and drinks it in one shot.

Angie is laughing really hard,
holding onto Nora
to keep from falling over.


whose mind runs on a different frequency
from the rest of us,

is making disjointed
comments as usual.

Trying to fit in.

But he keeps smiling.

I never noticed
these things before,

because I was
too busy
fitting in.

Why do I

not fit in





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