LXXXVII | Affection

She can’t see you,
the cat says.


I know that.
If she could,
I wouldn’t comfort her.

Since she’s always been cold
to me.

I stumble
and pass through Aspen’s leg
on my way to the door.

I want to leave.

The world
blurs like an unfocused video.

I blink,
stand up.


I’m in school now,
standing with the cat
under the rowan tree.

The national anthem plays
in the distance.

School is starting.

I follow the cat
into my classroom.

I’m there,
sitting on Kumar’s table

staring into the distance
while he talks

to Ming who ignores me.

I notice
Ming’s eyes


flicker up
at me
then to Kumar

where they stay.

Rowan’s not in the classroom.

This is tomorrow,
the cat says.

I am about to ask
how this is supposed to work

since it’s still today.

Rowan walks into class

with her usual

There’s no trace
of her meltdown

last night.

She takes out her notes,
prepares her table.

Her hands shake.

(the me who is watching her
from the corner of my eye)
can’t see that.

Class starts,
but Rowan

doesn’t write notes.

Her fists clench
and unclench uselessly.

Her palms are red.

What’s wrong with her?
I ask the cat.

But it’s a cat.
It doesn’t ever give a useful answer.

What do you think?

First lesson ends.

Rowan disappears to the toilet.

I follow
because I’m not really here right now.

The girls’ toilet
looks just like the guys one
but without urinals.

It’s empty,

nothing interesting
to see.

Rowan is leaning against

the inner wall of the handicapped toilet stall,

hands clutching her chest,
tears falling down her face.

She’s whispering
to the toilet bowl,

‘Why does it still hurt?’




She tells me to be honest
but she herself isn’t.

That’s called being a hypocrite.


Rowan doesn’t stay in the toilet
for long.

She crouches down,
whispering to herself


she wipes her tears
and leaves.

She does this
a few times


the rest of the day.

But I stop following her
after the third time.

Maybe sometimes,
she just goes to the toilet normally.

It doesn’t matter.

At first,
I’m just following
the cat
around the school

to different scenes
that it wants me to see.

But after some time,

I take the lead
and follow Rowan around.

As if we’re still dating.
As if it’s normal.

It’s like there’s two of her.

She goes through the motions of studying
like everyone else

but when she’s alone,

her eyes grow distant,
her shoulders droop.

She turns into
a glass doll

that has dropped from a shelf
and lost its shape.

When school ends,
she takes her place under the rowan tree

like an NPC,

sitting there
with a book on her lap,

eyes on it
but not turning
the pages.

Clyde comes,


also like an NPC,
following his friends.

A little distance away,
trailing behind the conversation.

His eyes turn to her.

A curtain of hair

hides her real expression.

When he disappears
through the gate,

she looks up,
blinks furiously,

back of her hand sweeps over her eyes.

A deep breath in.
A shaky one out.

Knees to her chest.
Head on top.
Hands wrapped around her legs.

‘I don’t want to do this.’

She lifts her head again,

looking to the winged donkey
crouched beside her.

Her hand clutches her chest.
‘How long will it hurt?

‘You’re so powerful
‘but you won’t take this pain away.

‘And you won’t force him
‘to accept me either.’

The donkey
glances at me.

The cat waves its tail
at it.

I don’t realise I’m holding my breath
until it hurts.

But neither creature
says anything.

White rowan petals


like snow.

Students walk past,
never glancing at the tree
nor the girl underneath.

the donkey whines.

Rowan’s hand
sinks into its mane.

‘You don’t mean that, child.
‘You said before that you wanted him

‘to choose you.’

She tries to smile.

Her smile
has always been beautiful
even though

it was always

But this smile
never quite materialises.

Her lips go straight
into a grimace

and tears spill over again.

It’s your fault,
I say this time.

The world blurs again.

I think it’s just the scene
changing again,

but when I rub my hand
across my eyes

to focus
on my new surroundings,

they come away,



I’m back
at the void deck
below my block

Rowan’s standing
at the bus stop,

staring at me.

I call out to her.

She’s staring right through me.

I’m not here.

It’s yet another day.
It’s yet another vision.




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