XII | Effort

We’re playing soccer

in our usual park
(the nearest one)

when two of our buddies

from another school


arms draped around

each other

walking like drunkards,
laughing like drunkards,
in love like drunkards.

(They didn’t drink anything though.)

The sun hasn’t set

Kumar waves at them furiously.

‘Ooi! Tom and Jerry!’
‘Long time no see!’
‘Aeh, how’s school?’

the taller of the two,
has pale brown eyes

that make him look like he’s living in a different world.
He’s four years older than Jerry.

our secondary school friend
who went to a different junior college,
has curly black hair

(and always looks untidy).

His smile
always makes people feel comfortable.


Tom lets him go
so he can give us hugs and handshakes.

‘Eh bro, how’s life?’
Ming slaps him on the back.

‘Join us once in a while leh!
‘I keep asking but you never come.’

Jerry laughs.

‘We’ve been busy lah!
‘Wah, JC is on another level man.’

‘Who ask you study so hard and go to an atas school?’

The soccer game is abandoned.

We buy Red Bull
from our usual vending machine
(the nearest one)

and sit in the middle of an empty carpark.

There’s no wind at all today.

But there’s laughter.
There’s always laughter

when Jerry’s around.

Tom smiles all the way through—he doesn’t speak much,

it’s always awkward
when it’s just him.




Tom and Jerry leave

when the concrete gets cold,

and so do the
good kids.

Kumar sprawls on the gravel,
one hand blocking out
the glare of the streetlight
from his eyes.

‘I want a girlfriend too.’

Ming crushes his empty can.
‘Ask Clyde to give you one of his girlfriends.’

I snort.

‘Take your pick.
‘At recess.’

‘You say one ah.’

We lapse back
into silence.

‘Are you gonna get attached again?’
Kumar asks suddenly.
‘Now that Ria’s not…’

I think about

the feather

around my neck.


It takes effort to stare at the flies
drawn to the streetlight



looking down
at the stupid necklace.

I deserve a prize for keeping it on for so long.


‘Nah. The Ria effect is still working.’

Kumar squints at his hand.
‘Ah… being popular is hard.’

Ming smiles.

‘Clyde’s not that great.’

Me: Are you dissing me?
He: Yeah. Got someone who hates you.
Me: Who?
He: Rowan Lee.

Kumar sits up

‘That’s the random girl Clyde kissed, right?’

I snort.

‘Aeh, she where got hate me?
‘I’m the one who can’t stand her.’

‘She hates him? Really? There’s a girl who hates Clyde?’

The can in my hand creaks.
I almost throw it at Ming.

‘Of course I got girls who hate me.
‘I’m not Song Joong Ki.’

Kumar grins.

‘Did she slap you? She slapped you for kissing her, right?’

‘I’m the one who wants to slap her lah!’

Ming sniggers.
‘You only want to slap her
‘because she hates you.’

That’s not true.

But no matter what I say,
they just guffaw and joke about it.


Kumar gets up.

‘I’m getting another drink. You want?’

Ming shakes his head.

He turns to me.
‘She’s in your project group now.

Kumar pops open
his second can of
          Red Bull.

A devil’s grin forms on his face.
‘I bet you can’t date someone like her.’




I grab him by the collar playfully.
‘You shut up.’

Red Bull stains the concrete.
He escapes from my grasp,

yelling at the top of his voice,



Kumar has to stand by the vending machine
to finish his drink.

Ming’s eyes glow yellow
because of the street lamp.


He tilts his head to
look at me.

‘You can’t do it?’

I snort.
‘It’s not I can’t. I dowan.’

‘Means you can’t lah!’

‘You were just dissing me earlier.
‘Why now you think I pro ah?’

He stands up,
brushes off his pants.


Time to go home.

I grab my bag.

‘You always date girls who like you.
‘No kick, sia.
‘How bout putting in effort for once?’


I’m still thinking
about what ming said
when i wake up
the next day.




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