XLI | War

It’s two days
after the incident
at Blue Abyss

when I visit Kumar at Rowan’s house.

I hesitate
at the bus stop,

suddenly remembering how she cried.

Tears flowing from
expressionless eyes.

Jerry had been insulted

but she had cried.

I texted her,
the number Kumar used before.

No reply.


Jerry said afterwards

the incident was fuzzy in his mind,
that he’s used to
people criticising him
for his sexuality

—there’s no way
he’d react so violently

towards a girl,
even if that girl was crazy Rowan.

Her opinion of him
doesn’t affect the truth,
he’d said.

That sentence sounded familiar.

Ming glanced at me,

He had seen it too.

But I let it go.

It was also a bit
in my head.

And anyway,
she’s not replying me.

‘Kumar’s there, right?’ Ming pointed out.

‘Go and say you’re visiting him instead.’

So here I am,


in front
of the nameless chicken rice shop.

The one who sees my silhouette
from inside
and opens the door
is Kumar.

I give him a big hug

and keep my arm
slung over his shoulder.

There’s a relaxed grin on his face now,

his eyes bright and goofy.

‘It’s been a while, man!
‘How’s everyone been?

I sit on the barstool by the counter,
looking into the kitchen.

He goes behind the counter.

‘Want some chicken rice?’

That’s when I notice
he’s wearing an apron.

‘You’re working here?’


A bit of light
from his eyes.

‘Mm. Uncle Lee is really nice.
‘He’ll pay me in advance
‘so I can repay the debts properly.

‘In return, I’ll help out here.’

That’s good news,
isn’t it?


A flicker of fear.

But it’s gone
before I can confirm it.

I feel a sense of deja vu.

‘He wants me to give them the money personally.’

Kumar hides his hands
in the pockets of his apron.

‘And it’s time for me to go home.’

The squeaking of the fans
fill the silence.


‘I’ll go with you,’
I say without thinking.

He stares at me.

I think about
what I’ve said.

Then again,
‘I said I’ll go with you.’

like the rising sun,

hope returns to his eyes.

A faint smile.

‘I heard you, Clyde.’




I ask him about Rowan.

He asks what happened between us.

Rowan didn’t tell him anything.

‘Just that she doesn’t want to see you,’
Kumar says.

I tell him
what I remember.

‘I think you should
‘talk to her.’

‘Where is she?’

I knock the door to the apartment

then realise
it’s probably
a bad idea.

Everyone else
walks right in

since they live here.

I’m the only one
who needs to knock.


I fling the door open.

The apartment is silent.

I call her name.

Silence replies me.

standing behind me,
scratches his head.

‘Eh? She was here just now.’

I pat him on the shoulder.

‘I know where.’

Out the back door,

in the alleyway,

beside the rowan tree

growing out of the concrete.


Rowan’s reading
a book.

It’s not the Bible.


She doesn’t look up
even when I burst through the door.

even when I call her name.

I snatch the book from her.

Her coal-black eyes
burn into me.

Her face expressionless.

She doesn’t speak.
The rowan leaves whisper.

I don’t see Eeyore anywhere.

Her voice is cold.

‘Why,’ I demand.
‘You’re the one
‘who made a mess of everything.’

I see the tear

fall down

her cheek

before she can hide it


her curtain

of hair.

What now?
Why is she crying again?

‘You’re the one
‘who criticised Jerry,

‘why are you behaving like this?’

A sniffle.

So she’s human after all.

‘You’re a selfish person,’ she says.

‘Your friends are all judgmental and close-minded.
‘The world doesn’t revolve around you.

‘I wish I never met you.’

Her coal-black eyes are visible again.

I fold my arms,
refusing to crouch down.

‘You’re not that different, pretending to be better than everyone else.’

She looks up at me.

her coal-black eyes look angry.

‘At least I’m trying to be good!’
she yells.

‘I’m doing my best!
‘But you all
‘just keep
‘making fun of me.

‘If being good is so easy,
‘why don’t you do it?’

I snort.

‘There’s no such thing
‘as good or evil.’

‘I’m not an idiot.
‘You brought me there for Jerry to get revenge.’

Her eyes flash.

No such thing as good or evil?

But then,
her eyes water again.


I don’t feel


for her.

I’m angry.

‘I brought you there
‘to show you what the outside world is like.

‘What peace and happiness can look like.

‘Someone like you
‘who’s created a bubble to live in

‘is the one who needs fixing.’

I bend down
so I can whisper the phrase,

‘Wake up, Rowan.’

She keeps
wiping tears away
but they keep


Her chest is heaving
but there’s no sound.

Finally, she gives up,

covers her face with her hands.

‘I hate you!’




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