LXXXIII | Heavens

I open the note
that appears
on my desk halfway through the day.


Rowan stares at me
with her expressionless expression
across the room.

I can’t help smiling.
I wink at her.

She looks away,
the tips of her ears
turning red.

She bends over her desk,
trying to look more focused
on her worksheet.

I balance my head
on one palm,
elbow on the table.

For some reason,

Rowan is more amusing
day after day.

I give up on
on school

for the rest of the day.

in the same class,

but Rowan says
not to make a big fuss

even though
I tell her
everyone already knows
we’re together.

She waits for me
under the rowan tree,

an expressionless expression
on her face.

I meet her,
after talking
to my other friends in class.

‘Why don’t you
‘talk to other people in class?’
I ask.

We’re holding hands now,
crossing the road.

She makes a

‘I will, when the time comes.’

‘You’re not avoiding anyone on purpose,
‘are you?’
I joke.

Her coal-black eyes
fixate on me.


And I think
that it’s more likely
that other people

are avoiding her.

I squeeze her hand.

‘It doesn’t bother me anymore,’
she says.

‘Anymore?’ I ask.

She tells me
about secondary school,

how she was from a girls’ school
where students were very


‘I was open about my beliefs
‘and became someone they picked on

‘whenever they could.’

She shrugs.

‘I’m used to it.’

I remember
how I also

mocked her
for being


Ah, embarrassing times.

‘It’s easier to judge
‘those who are trying to be good
‘for not being good enough

‘than it is to try yourself, huh?’
I comment.

A faint smile
breaks the serenity
on her face.

‘You’re unexpectedly wise




Rowan takes out
a soccer ball
from her bag.

My jaw drops.

She kicks it to me.

‘I kick like a noob.
‘So please put up with it, okay?’

I can’t stop grinning.

Doesn’t matter!
I think I yell.

It’s just fun
play with my friend and a soccer ball.

We’re in a different park
from the one
I go to with my other friends.

This one

is the one
with the yellow pavements,

the one I didn’t know
how I got to,

the one that doesn’t seem
to be part of

The one that


led me back to Rowan.

We lie under the rowan tree,
sweaty and panting
from running around

for more than an hour.

‘Not bad,’ I say.

She glances at me,
then up at the tree.

‘Don’t need to flatter me.’

So I grin.
‘Not bad for a noob.’

On the way here,
we went to the supermarket
and bought

ready-to-eat sandwiches,
bottles of tea
and cut fruits.

Now I empty the plastic bag
onto the grass

and we eat in silence,

listening to the rowan tree whisper

watching the sun set
among pink and orange clouds.

I point out a mountain
on the horizon.

We’re definitely
not in Singapore right now.

She looks where I’m pointing
and contemplates.

‘You’re right,’ she says.
‘But we didn’t cross a portal.’


Somewhere in the distance,

I hear faint sounds
of a broom
being scraped

across pavement.

It’s rhythmic.

Like the NParks cleaner
from last time.

Rowan swallows her sandwich
with mouthfuls of tea

and turns to me.

‘Where’s your guide?’

I almost choke
on my sandwich.

She hands me
a bottle of tea.

‘Mr. Ahmad?’
I ask when I can speak again.

Her head’s cocked to the side.

‘Is that what you call it?’

I grin.

‘Don’t like it following me everywhere.
‘So I named it after a teacher I hate.’

Rowan smiles.

We talk
until the sun sets
and the stars

come out.

‘There are no stars in Singapore,’
I say.

‘Mn…’ Rowan replies.

We listen to the crickets sing.

Rowan’s leaning against a root,
eyes closed,
chest rising and falling gently.

‘I’m so tired,’ she mumbles.

‘…too excited
‘for today.’

The rhythmic broom-scratching
has stopped for the day.


It’s just another ordinary day.

‘Hmm?’ She opens her eyes.
‘Ah… I fell asleep for a moment.’

I lean against the tree trunk,
shift her head onto my leg.

Her ears turn red.

There are so many stars
in the sky.

So many colours
of white.

It’s pretty.

I can’t stop
staring at them
even though
my phone has more
dots of light
compacted together
and form pictures

that actually make sense.

‘Why are there stars here?’ I ask.

‘We can’t see stars anywhere else
‘in Singapore.’

She turns towards me.

Her eyes drift close,
then open again.

A faint smile.

‘You can see the stars anywhere,
‘you just need to switch off

‘the other lights.’




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