V | '大哥'

The morning after the call
Ria blocked me on every social network
she could think of.

I don’t really care.

but I check just for fun.

Then, I think about whether I should
skip school.

My phone vibrates.

I pick it up too fast.

It’s not Ria.

It’s a childhood friend
I haven’t seen in a

long while.

I go to school.

I don’t see Ria at all.

It’s a peaceful day.

We’re sprawled in a corner
of the canteen
with plates of chicken rice.

It’s recess time.

The clock is moving slower than usual.

A familiar girl
with hair covering half her face

walks by.

I grab her hand.

The one holding a book.

It’s the same book.
The Bible.

She’s in proper school uniform today.

I smile.

‘Almost didn’t recognise you.’

She stares at me.

‘That would have been good.’

‘Wah, chiobu. Eh Clyde, introduce leh.’
I slap Kumar on the chest

and pull Rowan away from them.

‘Don’t be like that leh,’ I say.
‘Let’s go out for dinner. Payment for the kiss.’

The tips of her ears
peeking out from her hair

turn angry red.


‘I have questions to ask.’

‘It was my first kiss. I wasn’t going to… until I get married…’

A pause.

I can’t
what I’m hearing.

‘Are you serious? That’s so lame.’

She disappears

before I can think

that i should
take it back.

The third MRT rumbles past.

He’s late.

I sit on the flight of (forever unused) stairs
and text Brient:

          YOU’RE LATE WRU.

A kaleidoscope rotates in slow-motion,

multicoloured clothing,
multicoloured bags,
multicoloured hair,

the weaving and reflecting
peak-period crowd.

Colourful memories rotate
like the multicoloured people at the gantry.

Brient was two years older than me.

We grew up together because our mothers
are university friends
like girls in a cliché angmoh tv series.

Both of them married angmoh men.
Both of whom settled down in Singapore.

Brient and I played together a lot as kids.
He taught me

how to get in trouble.

All my bizarre pranks
were copycats of his.


putting soap in our home-tuition teacher’s shoes.

Like a good kid,
I warned him, ‘We’ll get in trouble.’

Then I followed him to the kitchen,
distracted my mother like he asked.

Brient squeezed out
almost the whole bottle of soap.

We got into trouble.

I cried when I was caned
but Brient took it without even flinching.

He told me
his mother beat him again
when he got home.

But whatever,

we should eat the oranges his rich neighbour puts out
for his dead father the next time I come over.

When was it
that I became just like him?

I used to be a scaredy-cat.

But after some time around brient,
I changed.

The world looked different
from his point of view.

Life wasn’t unfair or scary,

even when we got in trouble.

I always felt
Like we could do anything.

(And we did.)


It’s been awhile since then.

His parents divorced
and he moved
to the other end of Singapore

with his father

and his new wife.

I haven’t heard from him
for five years.

He changed his number.

But I kept mine

so he could contact me if he needed to.

The morphing shapes in the kaleidoscope
reveals a familiar figure

(brown hair, a wry smile and signature cargo pants)

walking towards me.

‘Yo, Clyde.’

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