LXXIX | Amateur

‘Hey Rowan,’

I ask one day,

‘what’s your dream date?’

The tips of her ears
turn red.

I stick my hands in my pockets,
feeling very proud of myself.

‘Bible study with my boyfriend.’

I bow dramatically.
‘Sorry for asking.’

Walk away.




Me: Why did I agree to this?
Cat: Because you want to impress her.
Me: She’s late.
Cat: You came early.

I’ve planned more elaborate dates
than this

but I think
this is the most nervous
I’ve been.

‘You’re just excited,’
a cat-shaped lump of patterned tile says.

I texted her that
I’d pick her up from her house

but she said no,
it’s embarrassing.

So I’m here,
waiting at a crowded MRT station,

sifting through
varieties of auntie attire
to find Rowan.


I’m sure my eyes widen.

She’s wearing
the red dress
I bought for her

during our first real date.

I didn’t expect
to see this dress

‘What’s wrong?’ she asks.

She’s wearing clear lip gloss.

I scratch an itch
behind my neck.

‘Didn’t expect this.’

A smile on her face.

She reaches into her National Day tote bag,
puts on a dark grey jacket.

‘Hey,’ I protest,
‘take that off! You’re ruining it!’

She stalks off.

‘Don’t do this leh.’
I catch up to her in two strides.

She’s laughing at me!

‘I thought we’ve made it clear
‘that we’ll wait until the rest of you

‘is committed to this?’

I wriggle my eyebrows.
‘Did we?
‘I don’t remember.

‘Also, this dress is very modest liao.
‘You wore it before.’

The tips of her ears
turn red.

She stops walking
to pout at me.

‘I was wrong, okay?’ she huffs.
‘My intentions weren’t good then.’

She walks off abruptly.

I catch up to her.

‘Mine still aren’t good.’

She glances at me sideways.
‘Hence the jacket.’

My turn to pout.

The tips of her ears
turn redder.

She looks away.

‘Focus on the date
‘instead of my body, thanks.’

I take her hand.
It’s a bit cold.

I feel bad for not considering that
she might not be used to

wearing sleeveless clothes.

I squeeze her hand
so she can’t escape.

‘This is for practical reasons,’ I explain.

‘Holding hands is fine,’
she mumbles,

‘since we’re dating.’

I don’t get it at all.




We eat sushi.

She’s never had it
at a conveyer belt restaurant before.

‘We’ve only eaten supermarket ones,’
she says,

eyes fixed on the conveyer belt
and the plates that float past.

‘But even that’s really expensive
‘so one in a while only.’

‘It’s $1.50 per plate,’ I point out.

She stares at me
like I’ve grown horns.

‘Our chicken rice is $3
‘for the whole plate.

‘and you only need one plate.’

I laugh.

‘Then you better eat as much as you like
‘since I’m paying.’

The tips of her ears
turn red.

I decide to count how many times
that happens.

Rowan’s favourite sushi
is the one with the sweet omelette.

She likes camomile tea
more than green tea.

She’s bad with spicy food
but chicken rice chilli is fine.

Her favourite subject in school
is physics.

She thinks math
is the language of the divine.

‘What does that mean?’ I ask.

Her coal-black eyes burn,
cheeks flushed,
hands clapped together.

‘When we express ourselves,
‘we use words to explain.
‘But the definitions of our words
‘are always changing.

‘Our universe, our bodies,
‘everything God created

‘is in a different language.

‘That language

‘is math and science.

‘And its definitions and structures
‘never change.’


I stick a whole piece of sushi
in my mouth.

She smiles.

After lunch,
we go to Whimsical Coffee,

the cafe
with the books in the walls
and chessboard tiles.

This time,
we actually do

Bible study.


While she talks,
I’m wonder
if the one with the ulterior motive

is her.

How can
something like this

be more fun

than sex?




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