XCVII | Stunned

The sun sets
before Tom and Jerry arrive.

‘What’s up with everyone?’

Jerry asks,
smiling broadly,

hoping we’d follow along.
Hoping the mood sticks.

It stirs,
gets lighter

but that’s it.

The two of them kick the ball
between themselves.

Their eyes fixed
on each other.

In the reality
they’ve created,

is everything fine so long as
they have each other?

‘They know Ming just died,
‘right?’ Pretti asks.

Jasper nods.

‘There’s no way he’s forgotten.’

Shuhui lights a cigarette.

The ball rolls over
to the bench.

Jerry runs towards us
to get it.

‘Aren’t you sad at all?’

A puff of smoke
obscures his face
for a few seconds.

He smiles through the smoke.

‘He’s not the only one
‘who’s suffering, is he?’
Jerry says.

Tom calls to him.

Jerry kicks the ball too strongly.
Tom goes to retrieve it.

Jerry feels it too.

We’re more alike
          than you realise.

There’s no way he doesn’t.

‘But he’s dead,’
Mike points out.

To that,

Jerry stares
and nods.

‘Yeah. So?
‘Should we all stop living too?
‘Did any of us bully him?

‘Should we all feel guilty
‘when it’s all his–’

he points to me,

‘–his fault?’

A crow caws again.

This time, another bird
with a high-pitched voice


‘We should at least
‘remember him,’

Kumar says.

Hands on his hips,

Jerry nods
with a beautiful smile.

‘Okay. Let’s do that.

‘We know him after all.
‘It’s not like other people die.’

Nora’s so dumbfounded

she almost spits out
her soy milk.

‘We’re his friends,’ she says.

‘Of course we’d be more sad what.’

‘Are we really his friends?
‘Do we really know him?
‘Did he, even once,

‘share with you, tell you anything
‘that he was going through,
‘that would have made you realise
‘what he felt inside?’

Crickets begin to sing
their nightly song.

‘No, right?

‘You’re all just thinking
‘morbid thoughts on your own.

‘When other people suffer in silence
‘and we don’t know them,

‘it’s okay to just continue
‘being happy
‘and live in the moment,

‘but when someone you know

‘you cry and start to think
‘about the meaning of your life
‘and how fleeting it is?’

‘He did say it,’ I tell Jerry.

‘But we were all too busy
‘with our own problems
‘to care.’

I wait for him to say—

you’re different,
you’ve known him longer,

he told you things
he never told us

so you should have
done something about this—

but he doesn’t.

Tom comes up 
to find out
why Jerry stopped playing

and his eyes flash
with sadness
I’ve never seen before.

Ah, so Jerry too,
has been suffering

but no one


No one heard his cries
for help.

There’s no rowan tree
in his world,

no escape
from the hell
of his reality.

‘Are you happy
‘living like that?’ I ask

without having to be prompted
by the chameleon cat.

A sad smile.

Sad because I
wouldn’t have
noticed it was sad


‘I’ve been living like this
‘for so long, there’s no alternative, Clyde.’

You can go searching
for a portal into the real world.

‘There’s no such thing as truth.
‘This is all the life there is.’

I’ve found it.

‘Then find it for me.’

I glance at Mr. Ahmad.

It has already
sprung off the stone table,
turned from stone to grass,

staring up at Tom and Jerry
with unfathomable
green eyes.

I’ve been leaning against
a random tree
a distance away
while talking to him.

I stand

in front of them.

‘Okay,’ I say,
‘Show me what you’ve got.’




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