XLV | Guilt


I have
something other than research
on my mind.

But Rowan comes with the

          project brief,
          notes on our initial brainstorming of the theme
          research on integration and motivation.

‘If you bring so many things
‘we can’t borrow any books,’
I say.

has gone back
to normal.

She gives me a look over,
head to toe.

Her eyes pause

at my empty back,
at the hands stuffed in my pockets.

‘Your hands are free,’
she replies.

Bossy as usual.

I tell myself

there’s no need
to worry.

We wander around the library.

Rowan’s seriously searching for information
so I’m giving her ‘helpful’ ideas.

Let’s go karaoke after this.
Let’s go to my house.

my role is to carry the books.

I left my brain at home—

it’s too early in the day
to use it.




Her hand runs along
the spines on the bookshelf

like a pianist
over the keys of his piano.

She has nice fingers.

They pause
in the middle
of the row.

Her head turns to me.

‘Why aren’t you looking for books?’

I raise an eyebrow.

‘I’m looking what!
‘I’m looking at you.’

The tips of her ears

turn red.

She turns back to the shelf.

‘Faster find the book.’

Her voice
isn’t expressionless
like her eyes.


I hear it,

and suddenly,
I know she’s worried.

‘We’re here for research,’
she says.

She sounds
a bit panicky to me.

You don’t have to draw a line,
I know you’ve come to my world,
I am about to say.

But now I realise
is all about.

‘You didn’t tell anyone.’

I stand behind her,

cornering her against the bookshelf,

my hands
on either side
of her.


I examine
the person

in front of me.

Her coal-black eyes,
black hair like a cloth,

her small chest,
her red skirt,
her shapely legs,

Bata sports shoes.

Have I taken the doll
out of the doll house?

She presses

a book

into my chest,

pushes me away.

My fingers tighten
for a moment
(just a moment)
on the shelf

but that frantic look in her eyes
makes me let go.

I smile and playfully fall
like she intended me to.

Spinning around
so her skirt rides up her legs
(too little),

she’s back to searching
the catalogue again.

I look at the book she gave me.
It’s the Bible.

No library sticker.
No call number.

Immediately, I get angry.

So that’s why
she’s going out with me.

What did I expect
from someone like her?

But right now,
she’s speaking.

I try to listen.

‘If you don’t want to find books,
‘read this one and find the section
‘on happiness.’

Her hand
pats the book
she gave me.

The book in my hands

is a psychology book—

not a Bible.

I open it,
flip through it.

‘This book turned into your Bible just now,’
I tell her.

She stares at me.
Then at the book.

A flicker of shame.


She takes it back.

I don’t think anything of it
until we sit down
and she flips through the book herself,

writing notes

on the subject of cognitive behavioural therapy.

It’s really not a Bible?

She doesn’t see it

Did she really give up on the ‘real’ world
she tried so hard to convince me

—just like that?

I can feel smug now, right?

I did it.

It’s my fault.

It’s so easy.

It doesn’t exist
after all.

I lean forward,
chin in the palm of my hand,
propped up on the table.

This part of the library is


You can hear
the sound of her pen

scratching paper.

I breath in the breath she’s been holding
since our ‘research session’ started.

‘I won,’ I whisper.

Her confused expression
meets mine.

I let out
a disappointing

‘I really can’t change,
‘so you don’t have to
‘turn your back on your world

‘just for me.
‘It’s enough if you’re saved.’


No one noticed I spoke.

Her eyes
are bright.

There’s a glossy sheen
over burning black coals.

the fire.

I don’t feel smug at all.

On the contrary,
I feel like
I’ve just made a big mistake.

Today at least,
I think I shouldn’t

be so selfish.




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