XCV | Burial

Adam makes me
run after the ball

until I’m out of breath.

It’s been a while
since I’ve played

so I go all out
with Adam.

He’s a good player.

Better than–

you know
who I’m talking about,

I blink sweat
out of my eyes

and we flop on a park bench

with (now warm)
isotonic drinks
from his bag.

There are no crickets in this place,
no street lights either.

We’re lit up

by the 
yellow stars.

It’s strangely
bright enough.

‘Is that Rowan?’

Adam points
at a figure far away.

I notice now
(too late)

that Rowan is nowhere to be seen.

Did she leave after
I started playing with Adam?

Or much later?

I really
didn’t notice at all.

The figure,
shrouded in the distance
by the night,

is pulling
a large trolley
behind her.

‘It is Rowan,’ Adam says,

standing up,
waving wildly.

How does he
still have energy?

I’m all spent.

‘Why did she come back?
‘It’s time to go home liao,’
I say,

emptying the last
dregs of my drink.

I crush the plastic bottle
with one hand.

‘She’s not responding.’
Adam sits down again.

‘Maybe it’s not her?’
I suggest,
turning to check.

It is her.

The stars light up
the tips of her ears

sticking out of her
black hair.

Even from here,
I feel the heat of her coal-black eyes.

I call out to her.

Her eyes meet mine
but there’s no recognition in them.

She’s stopped
the rowan tree.

She takes something
from the trolley
she’s pulling along

and plunges it
into the ground.

‘She’s digging a hole,’
Adam says.

‘Why is she ignoring us?’

We go closer
to see
what she’s doing.

Rowan doesn’t speak
while she digs.

So we stand
under the falling rowan blossoms
and watch the hole

grow bigger.

When it’s about the size
of a man,

she pushes her trolley
into the hole.

That’s when I notice
that her yellow trolley

is about the same size as the hole.

The jigsaw puzzle
forms a picture

and I’m striding forward,

ripping the shovel
from her hands,

throwing it as hard as I can
against the trunk
of the rowan tree.

I shout.
‘How could you, Rowan!?’

Her eyes
burn into mine,


Her mouth parts
in shock.

I push her aside,
using my hand
to clear away fistfuls of dirt

from the yellow

‘You can’t bury him!’
I yell,

voice echoing
through the soundless park.

‘His parents
‘should be the ones
‘to bury him.’

I’m unlatching
the coffin now,

fingers numb and raw.

Adam steps forward
to help me

but Rowan holds out a hand,
holding him back.

‘You can’t bury him
‘in this place that’s not Singapore.

‘Where no one will find him.

The lid swings open


And lying in a bed
of yellow satin
is a young rowan tree,


still clinging to its roots.

The rowan tree
that grew in the alley


It’s not ming.

I lose my footing.
Fall backwards.

The coffin
slams shut

and I fall
on my butt.

I just sit there,

numbly staring
at the half-uncovered

of a tree.

‘It’s not him.’

The relief is palpable
in my voice.

Rowan picks up
the shovel
from where I threw it

and wordlessly
burying her tree.

I just sit there
and watch.

All the sadness
that sank into the ground
when I played soccer

comes back
to the surface again.

When the yellow coffin
is fully
submerged in dirt,

Rowan turns to me,
shovel over one shoulder.

‘His parents have
‘lost him long ago.’

She stretches a hand
out to me.

‘I’ll take you home.’

I stare


at her



‘All of this
‘is Adam’s fault.’




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