XCI | Wonder

Facing Rowan now,

at our project meeting
knowing what I know,

I can see the difference.

Her hands
tremble slightly,

her expressionless expression
now and then

when she thinks I’m not looking.

Things I’ve never
noticed before.

We have brainstormed
a few useless ideas

on how to motivate people
who don’t want to live.

But there’s no alternative

for someone with no hope.

So, we’re stuck.

None of our action plans
are feasible.

There isn’t a better alternative,’
is the only helpful thing Rizwan says.

Followed by,
‘I think we just killed ourselves
‘by choosing this project.’

‘Don’t give up now,’
Rowan says.

‘Let’s think a bit more.’

If I didn’t know
what she’s feeling inside,

I’d roll my eyes
like Julie.

But her bossy tone,
seems like plastic today.

‘People aren’t really hopeless,
‘they’re just at their wits’ end.’

(even me)
has a dumbfounded look
on their faces.

Rowan ignores it
and keeps going—


as if to herself,
‘Death is scary—
‘an ending is unnatural for being who thought
‘they have forever.

‘That’s why
‘there’s so much hesitation,

‘so many opportunities
‘where we can give them hope again.’

Julie sighs.

‘I have no idea
‘what you just said.

‘What book of the Bible did that come from?’

Rowan blinks
blankly at her.

‘It’s not from the Bible.
‘It’s from my brain.’

Julie leans over,
whispers in my ear,

(Rowan tenses up),

‘She’s got a tumour in her brain.’

The class is noisy.

I can’t focus
on this project.

So I stand up
to get Rowan’s attention.

Her coal-black eyes
burn into mine
just like they used to.

I gain strength from that.

And sit down
when it people start

to look at me.

‘I’m going to put my all
‘into this,

‘so Rowan,
‘please be my girlfriend again.

‘I won’t let you
‘give up on me.’

Rizwan groans.

‘This is Singapore, man.
‘So cringy sia!’

She ignores him,
eyes fixed on me,

voice soft.

‘It won’t work.
‘You’ll give up again.’

There’s a glassy sheen
in front of her eyes.

‘It’s not going to get easier.

‘you might lose
‘even more
‘than you already have.

‘This isn’t even
‘the worst of it yet.’

I’ve held onto tightly until now…

That i’ve lost…

It’s not the worst yet?

I can’t comprehend
of losing anything more.

Thinking of the bigger picture
instead of just myself—

‘—To try to be compassionate
‘and kind
‘and being hated for it—’

—There’s a challenge
          in her eyes—

‘—Accused of not understanding,
‘of being a crappy human being,
‘of not loving enough,
‘of judging too much,
‘of being ignorant, proud…

‘this is the kind of person
‘you’ll become.’




Fog is seeping
through the doors
of the classroom,

filling up the space,

turning everyone

by the time she’s done speaking.

I can’t see
but her.

I can’t hear
but her.

‘Are you prepared
‘to live like this?

‘Isn’t it better
‘to believe in a lie,

‘live an easier, 

‘half-hearted life?’

Yes, I want to say.

Of course it’ll be much easier.

You also,
should live like that.

‘I can’t,’ she replies
to the words I don’t say.

‘I know the truth already.
‘I know the truth
‘and I can’t unknow it.’

The fog


and sound returns.

Discussions on project work.
Mrs. Lim giving ‘advice’.

Someone mowing
the grass of the school field.

is scrolling through
her phone
under the table.

balances a piece of paper
over his face.

‘What do you think?’
Rowan asks.

Her voice
is soft,


of my answer.




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