LXXXVI | Other Side

The cat only touched me.
I’m sure of it.

So why am I falling over?

(Arrghh, so embarrassing!)

No, I’m not falling.

The cat is the one
floating upside down.

Back to its normal size.

The flickering light is gone.

The drinking group of teenagers
has gone quiet.

Even the void deck
of my block
is gone.

We’re in the nameless chicken rice shop.

I know
even though the lights
are off.

I know this place
by heart now.

Go upstairs,
the cat says without speaking.

I open my mouth to ask why
but the words
don’t come.

You can’t talk here,
the cat says again in my head.


This is a vision,
the cat comments

—looking up at me now that it’s small again.

Why do you need
someone to explain
everything to you?

I lean against a table.

I feel it
but I don’t leave a mark.


We’re upstairs.

The cat is annoyed.

In this vision,
the cat has yellow fur.




The house is dark.

Rowan’s father is asleep.
But there’s light
seeping through the gap

below Rowan’s door.

The cat
walks through the door.

I follow.

The strangest sensation.

Aspen is tossing and turning
on his mattress on the floor.

Rowan’s face down
on her pillow.

A sudden sniffle.

Aspen stares at the ceiling.

A burst of muffled crying.

Aspen glances at her,
then back at the ceiling.

He doesn’t know what to do.
He sits up.

‘Rowan,’ he begins.

The crying stops.
A sniffle.


He looks down at his toes.
‘It’s okay.’

Another burst of crying.
It doesn’t stop.

In fact, it escalates.

He kneels beside her bed,

Hand jerking awkwardly through the air,
patting her shoulder.

As if touching a hot pot.

The shoulder he touches

Sadness fills the air,
and his movement becomes

‘Sorry,’ she cries.
‘I’m sorry!’

He looks out the window.
‘God, what do I do?’

‘I’m sorry!’

She lifts her head
from the pillow,
hair plastered to her face,
obscuring it.

Doesn’t matter,
what I see is gross enough.

What the heck?
I say without saying.

The cat squints at me.
I glare back.

Why is she crying?

She broke up with me!

The crying is sharp now.
Almost like screaming.

Aspen hugs her.

She buries her head in his chest,
hands over her face.

Muffled sobbing again.

I almost don’t make out the words.

‘I want him back
‘I’m gonna give up believing
‘I want him back!’

Aspen’s face turns black.

‘No, Rowan.
‘Don’t say that.
‘Don’t say that!

‘Remember what happened
‘the other time?
‘Do you know how painful it is
‘to see you like this?

‘Do you know how painful it is
‘for the rest of us?’

She just cries harder.

He holds her tighter.

‘I don’t want to be saved
‘if he doesn’t want to be either.

‘Let’s just perish together.
‘It’s fine if I die
‘since that’s what he wants.’

Aspen pulls her away from him.

She’s hysterical,
gasping for breath.


I don’t want that.

I feel helpless.

Her crying
turns into screams.

Her fingers are clawing
at the bed.

Her body lurching,
tipping back and forth
back and forth.

Like she’s trying to expel a monster
from inside her.

‘Dad!’ Aspen yells.

The door flings open.

I feel something strange
as her father walks right through me.

He bends over her.

His hair in disarray,
his eyes blurry,

half asleep.
(He’s still blinking it from his eyes.)

Rowan’s hands are clutching
at the air
in front of her.

They both offer
their helpless hands
for her to hold.

She holds them,

still crying,
still screaming,

I hear my name.


‘Come back!


The cat waves its yellow tail at me.

What the heck, you said?
Its voice dripping with venom.

I reach out

as hesitantly as Aspen,
as her father,

and lay one unseen hand
on top of hers.

My fingers brush over
every straining vein on the back of her hand.

Her father is telling her to breathe.

To calm down.

She cries even harder
screaming for God

to do something.

I sigh
and curl my hands
over hers.

Unable to touch.

You’re the one who’s not honest, Rowan.




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