LXXV | Flesh

‘Thanks for bringing me home.’
Rowan’s coal-black eyes

burn into mine.

I shrug.

The words
I want to say to her
are stuck
in my throat
for a moment.

I haven’t spoken since
answering her question under the rowan tree.

My throat is dry.

‘Thanks for taking me to see Ria.’

The tips of her ears
turn red.

‘Don’t think about it for
‘too long.
‘The past is over.’

She’s still there though.
And it’s all my fault.

Her crying face.
Her pain.
I couldn’t do anything about it now.

‘Why is God
‘not doing anything about it?’

Rowan’s pushed open
the door to the nameless chicken rice shop.

She turns to look at me.

The smell of chicken rice
drifts out.

So does
the melody of a hymn.

‘Don’t worry.

‘He’s working.
‘He’s been doing something about it
‘even before you were born.’

She gets intercepted
by a customer
inside the shop

so now I’m staring at my reflection
in the door.

What is He doing?

Why don’t I see it helping?

Are you sure
he’s not just watching
and judging us all
from the other side?

Is he going to punish me
for everything I’ve ever done?

Am I looking for meaning
          or purpose
          or destiny
when there’s nothing to be found?

The door opens again,
and Rowan’s back,

coal-black eyes
burning into mine.

Her chest,


‘Sorry about that.
‘You want dinner?’

She pulls me
into the nameless chicken rice shop
that’s usually empty.

it’s crowded.

Everyone’s smiling.

Some of them
have obviously fake smiles,

artificial lights in their eyes

—but they hold onto
the people beside them,
all around them,
to find their balance again.

I’m seated at the counter,
beside a dude

I met
at Rowan’s church picnic.

The one obsessed about soccer.

What’s his name again?
‘Adam,’ he says.

‘You’re Clyde, right?’

I make some kind of sound.
He smiles wryly.

‘Rowan’s been so happy recently
‘because of you.’


‘She’s been praying for you a lot,
‘you know?’

Rowan puts a plate in front of me.

‘Adam,’ her voice is tinged
with warning.

He ignores her.

‘Tell me later,’
I tell him.

He sniggers.

He’s wearing knee-high socks today too.

Rowan says she’s gonna go
finish homework.

I reach over the counter,
grab her arm.

‘Go out with me.’

Adam whistles.
I think of Ming.

A bitter taste rises in my throat.

This is why
I hate
chicken rice.

Rowan’s ears
are red.

I smile through the bitter taste
and hope she doesn’t notice.

‘Who’s asking?’
she whispers

and I hear her even though it’s noisy.

‘The good guy.’

Adam whistles again.

I tell him his chicken rice is getting cold.
He laughs.

‘No sex,’ she says.

‘Okay,’ I reply.

‘No kissing,’ she says.

I hesitate. ‘But–’

She smiles.

‘Think about it,’ she says.
She turns away.

I pull her back.
‘I want to argue.’

‘I want to wait.’

‘Why? You’ve kis–’

Her hand is over my face.
My lips are warm.
My mouth is closed.

‘Shhhh!’ she hisses.

Rowan runs upstairs
before i can embarrass her
some more.

Adam laughs
until his sides hurt.




‘She’s holding back for you,’
Adam explains.

I say I know,
that I don’t understand why.

‘To save it for the person she loves most.’

‘I want it now.’

He nods.
‘I understand.’

I tilt my head.
He doesn’t.

‘If you don’t give your body to one person,
‘it’ll belong to no one.’

‘Not true.’

‘People who only have sex with their beloved
‘are more sexually satisfied.’

‘Even if the person sucks?’

‘You wouldn’t know
‘if you have nothing to compare with.’

‘That’s just ignorance.’

‘That’s commitment,
‘a special, unique love for one person.

‘if you just want good sex,
‘then don’t call it love.’

He leans over
and whispers into my ear,

‘Also you get to see
‘all her embarrassed expressions.’

Why is he comfortable
having this conversation
over dinner?

‘You?’ I ask.

‘I’m human,’ he replies.
‘I don’t want to wait either.

‘but I’m wanna 
‘becoming a better person first.

‘You’ll have plenty of time
‘for sex later.’

‘Not true,’ I tell him.

Adam gestures
to the people around him.

‘Everyone is human.
‘Everyone is flesh.
‘But on their death bed

‘they won’t be thinking
‘about how much sex they’ve never had.’




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