XIX | Zoo

I haven’t visited the zoo since primary school.

It’s stupid.
Singapore imports all the animals.

We buy tickets
and go inside.

Rowan’s wearing a bucket hat,
a long black skirt.
She looks like an auntie
with that free National Day tote bag.

I don’t know where
I’m supposed to look.



I told her about the kid
at the petrol kiosk

and his/her parents who vanished.

Me: I think the kid is from the golden city?
She: There are no children in eternity.

In her world,

eternity means an
ageless society.


‘The kid told you to visit the zoo?’
she’s asking this now

after we’ve wandered


for half an hour.

I stick my hands in my pockets.
‘Not really.
‘But the kid mentioned a lion.’

It doesn’t make sense
but Rowan nods.

We walk in silence.

A tram rambles past.

I’m following Rowan
but I don’t think
she knows where to go.

‘Does she even exist in your world?’

Rowan looks at me.


I think about
how to phrase this

I give up.

‘She died.
‘No matter which “world” it is,
‘isn’t she gone?’

‘She’s not gone,’
Rowan says.

‘Even you exist in my world.’

Another tram
runs past.

I pull her to the side of the path


Hot air stirs her long hair.

Grape shampoo
is hard to breathe in.

We’re too close.

I’m suddenly conscious
about how much I’m sweating.

Our eyes lock.

The smell of the tram exhaust
fills the air.

Then, the smell of leaves and dirt.

Shadows shift
like water over her face.

‘By God’s grace,
‘She’ll be saved.’




We’re almost at the lion exhibit
when my phone vibrates.


I pick up the call.

‘Ming. What’s up?’

‘Aeh, where did you go yesterday?
‘why never check Whatsapp?’

‘Sorry bro. Stuff came up.’

Rustling sounds.
A grunt.
The creak of a swivel chair.

‘Clyde, Ria disappeared a month ago.’

But she came to our class on Wednesday.’

‘Scary, right?’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Haah? You were talking to her!’

‘No, I mean
‘Are you sure it was one month ago?
‘They announced
‘at assembly on Thursday.’

‘My mum’s in the Parents Support Group.
‘She said her mother said

‘Ria disappeared a month ago.
‘Right after you broke up with her.’

So who did we see on Wednesday?

‘Creepy, right?’

I’m holding my phone so tight
I hear a crack.

am i hearing him clearly?

‘Where are you now?’
Ming asks.


I glance at Rowan

who’s watching
tourists walk pass.

‘At the zoo.’

Ming snorts.
‘Tell your new girlfriend I said hi.’ 

He drops the call.
I stare at my phone.

‘I talked to Ria on Wednesday,’ I tell her.

Rowan looks at me.

A relieved smile bursts out
on her face.

‘That’s good.’


For the first time in my life,
a smile made my heart skip a beat.


‘That means she’s been saved.’

We walk

weaving through tourists,
primary school children,
parents holding wailing toddlers.

The zoo is crowded today.

I see the lions now,

perched on a stony ledge
watching tourists with bored eyes
tails moving lazily.

They look dead,
half-asleep on the rocks.

I guess watching lion king

makes you think

all lions are big and majestic.


Rowan begins

to look through the crowd

but I
grab her arm,
pull her back.

I’m angry.
Something doesn’t make sense.


‘What do you mean she’s been saved?’




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