XCIX | Stalemate

While we were gone,

the sun had set,
the street lamps came on,

and the moths
have come out to play.

‘You don’t know
‘what love means,
‘do you?’

I tell Jerry.

He shrugs.

Tom gives him
a can of Red Bull.

‘I don’t particularly want you
‘to tell me what you think.

‘You’re free
‘to disagree with
‘what I’m saying.’

I face him

Jerry’s always been

but maybe my comment
about the tunnel

he’s trapped in


Believing there’s a definite end
but not finding it


No one knows this
better than I do.

I also
have no way
of proving

a truth more complex than me.

I can’t show him evidence.


if it exists,

why does it need to be defended?

‘Same here,’
I say instead.

‘I still want us to be friends
‘but if you really hate

‘who I’ve become,
‘who I’ve decided to be,

‘then I’ll respect that.’

I’m not giving up.
Jerry stares at me.

I stare back just as seriously.

Looking at him
like this,

he’s more mature
than I remember.

His dark eyes
carry heavy conviction,
his mouth slightly
curved upwards,

as if he’s already won
the argument.

He usually does.

I don’t know why
I bother fighting with him

about what he knows
better than I do.


A hand reaches out,
tugs me away
the same time
the voice

calls my name.


She stands between
Jerry and me.

I start to protest
when I notice
Mr. Ahmad’s smug expression,

its tail languidly waving
in the air.

Damn cat!

Jerry smiles
when Rowan intervenes.

He looks less intimidating,

I win, he says.

As though we just had
a staring contest.

Rowan’s hand
tightens over mine.

‘No,’ she tells him quietly.

‘You’ve lost.
‘But when you find out,
‘it’ll be too late.’

I pull my hand
away from hers.

‘Oi, Rowan. What do you mean?
‘Why would it be too late?’
I defend Jerry.

Jerry sticks his hands
in his pockets.

‘I don’t mind,’ he says.
‘It’ll be too late for you too.’

Rowan ignores Jerry,

her coal-black eyes
are angry,

burning at me.

‘You should pick the battles
‘you fight.

‘Something like this
‘isn’t worth it.’

Tom and Jerry
glance at each other.

‘What’s she saying?’
‘That’s ironic coming from her.’

It’s like Rowan
doesn’t hear them
when she says,

‘Choose kindness instead,
‘because that’s what love does.’

But the tips of her ears
turn red

so I know
it’s affecting her:

their words,
their stares.


I always thought
it was because
I was staring at her.

I’m conceited,
aren’t I?

I take off
the donkey feather
I still wear
around my neck

and hand it
to Jerry.

‘This is precious to me,
‘so I’m giving it to you.’

He glances at Tom,
then at Rowan
(who’s doesn’t react),

then at me.

‘We’re together you know,’
he points at Tom.

I nod.

I know that.

Tom shrugs.
He’s different from Jerry.

He’s just watching
that’s happening

without a word.

Now, he picks up
his bag and Jerry’s.

Swings it over one shoulder.

‘Let go home,’
he says.

Tom takes Jerry’s hand
and they walk
in the direction of the tunnel.

They leave
without saying goodbye.

I stop the words
before they come out of my mouth
because of Rowan:

Aren’t they just gonna
end up back here?

Kumar asks this.

And the rest of them
sit there,

waiting for them to reappear.

Shuhui puffs smoke
in Kumar’s face.

‘Are you an idiot?
‘They’re going home.
‘We should all

‘go home for today.’

Mike sighs.

‘It’s still early.
‘Much earlier than usual.’

Nora shrugs.
‘You can stay and be the third wheel
‘if you want.’

Her eyes flicker
to me
for a brief moment.

I can’t tell
what she wants.

Instead of the bus stop,
everyone’s walking
towards the tunnel

that Tom and Jerry disappeared into.

This feeling
in my chest…

Rowan’s hand
slips back into mine.

It’s not loneliness.




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