XLVII | Trial

What does

take it slow



School’s started again.

I see rowan
in class everyday

but we don’t talk
(unless it’s for project work).

I still see her
by the rowan tree

at the end

Now that I’m paying attention,

I notice
she’s not always reading
the Bible.

she’s standing there,

up at the naked tree.

It’s stripped of clothes

but still
bearing fruit.

berries will decorate
the ground.

Singapore’s evergreen grass
will swallow them when they rot.

‘Let’s go out,’
I say to her.

Rowan turns her head.

She: Oh, you again.
Me: Yes, me again.
She: What do you want?

Me: Let’s go on a date.

‘We just went out last week.’

She turns back to the tree.
‘Also, there’s a test tomorrow.
‘Study for it.’

I spin her around
by the shoulders,
tilt her chin up.

She grabs my hand.

A grip stronger than I expected.

‘We’re dating.
‘We should go out at least once a week.
‘That’s how it works.’

She blinks.

I let go of her.

She folds her arms.

‘Then tomorrow.
‘After the test.’

I stick my hands in my pockets
and smile at her.

Her expressionless


A flash of a tender smile.

‘Come to my house.’

I wait for the smile
to flash away.

the tips of her ears
turn red.

Her eyes say no
but her mouth says,





‘Oi, Clyde!’

Ming pulls my bag
in the correct direction of the field.

‘What’s wrong with your head?’

Kumar grins at me.
He’s back in school
as if nothing happened.

Some of the dudes
found it hilarious

that he’s more energetic than ever.

Although most of them
don’t know what happened,

we all missed having
goofy Kumar around.

It’s not the same

without him.

He grins like a fool
and gets in everyone’s way

and we regret missing him.

But yesterday,

Kumar came to Ming and me
in a panic,

asking how he should behave
so the others don’t find out
what really happened.

I told him

to be his usual goofy self.

It didn’t matter.

He just needed
to be there.

Playing soccer
keeps my mind off Rowan.

(And tomorrow’s test.)




We collapse,

dripping wet
on the dusty concrete

in our usual empty carpark.

The ground is
still warm
from the sun.

Tom and Jerry are not here

They haven’t been coming
since the Blue Abyss thing.

Ming says
Jerry hasn’t texted him either.

It’s probably nothing,
I say.

People in love tend to forget
other people exist.

‘Speak for yourself,’
Kumar teases.

Then his face falls.

He’s worried
because he’s not been around
—he shouldn’t know.

But no one notices.

I snort.

‘I’m not in love.’

‘Let’s see how long she can put up with you.’
That’s Shuhui.

She puffs cigarette smoke
into Kumar’s face.

He coughs,
gives her the finger.

Pretti opens a bag of chips,
holds it out.

Everyone reaches for it at once.

A squabble breaks out.


‘What do you mean by that?’

I ask the cloud of smoke
obscuring her face.

With each puff,
the cloud grows bigger.

It doesn’t dissipate.

I can’t see her face anymore.

But I hear her voice just fine.
‘I wonder if you’ll
‘really give up first.’

Nora laughs,
eating a chip.

‘Duh, Clyde will give up first.
‘Someone like her
‘Gets boring fast.’

Like Ria.

I lean back on my palms.

‘When will you ask her to date you?’
That’s Jasper.

‘They’re going out liao. Since the holidays!’ Kumar reveals.

A lot of protests.

More noise
than I thought there’d be.

There’s hurt in Nora’s eyes.

‘You didn’t tell us!’
An accusation.

I sigh.

‘There’s a reason.
‘It’s her first time.
‘All of you will scare her away like this.’

The cloud of smoke

‘You’re the one
‘who scared her away last time.’

‘If she’s frightened,’
—Angie shrugs—
‘then she can just run away again.’

‘Jerry hates her,
‘doesn’t he?’ Nora says.

I shrug.

‘I’m the one dating her,
‘not him.’

‘He’s right about her though,’
the cloud of smoke says.

‘She’s a bitch.’

I think of what she said that day.

Hard to argue with that.

‘She won’t be interested
‘in any of your usual dating habits.’

I don’t deny it.

Ming’s eyes bulge
and almost fall out
of their sockets.

‘You asked?!’

Pretti: She didn’t slap you?
Angie: Or report you to the police?

‘You can’t report your boyfriend
‘if he hasn’t actually slept with you,’
Kumar adds pointlessly.


Jasper and Mike
leave early

because the smart kids
have a math competition.

Jasper takes my half-full
Red Bull can with him.

I tell him it’s mine

but he yells back
something about luck.


‘She actually agreed
‘to come to my house tomorrow even though
‘my parents are in USA right now—’

All of them in unison,




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