XVI | Seat

I skip assembly today.

I’m not the only one.
Half the class did too.

Most of them are already in class

So hardworking.


My seat is occupied.

I find myself looking
into Ria’s eyes.

She’s wearing lipstick
or I’ve already forgotten the colour of her normal lips.


She stares at me as soon as I appear.

‘Hello,’ I say.

Her arms are folded,
legs crossed—
skirt halfway up her thigh.

‘How are you?’

Her smile is bitter.

Or maybe that’s her usual smile.
I guess I really

don’t know her




In sec one,
Ria was my table partner in class.

Brient had just

from the face

of the earth.


All my newfound courage,
the careless carefree attitude

I learnt from him

together with him.

It took two weeks for me
to learn her name.


It took one month for me
to talk to her.

She was pretty.
          Is. She still is.

Sitting in my chair,

trying her best to look angry
trying her best not to cry,
her restless hands
knead at her elbows anxiously.

She has a small waist,
a well-developed chest,
a high ponytail.

She’s a pale Ariana Grande
with eyebags and no makeup.

Even back then.


I wasn’t popular or friendly then.

After I got used to sitting

next to her,
I began to notice

how she talked to everyone.


Even to those who
disliked her.

In my memories,
she was always kind.


A girl who would try anything.
A girl who didn’t give up when it got difficult.

Some bespectacled girl
(with big boobs)
once spread a rumour that ria was a slut

with fourteen ex-boyfriends,

who even dated her cousins.


who read cliché romance novels

and doodled
along the borders
of her

She held her head high
and didn’t mind
talking about the rumour

and telling people it’s not true

when she heard them
talking behind her back.

She was quite cool.

She was my first friend in secondary school.

She was kind.

With her
as my friend,

I met Ming
who sat behind me

and Jason,
and Elliot and Shumin
(they sat in front).

The number of my friends increased,

and eventually I realised
I’d stopped thinking of Brient.

A friend is easily replaced

is what this thirteen-year-old boy




Not matter what other people said,

she wasn’t my friend

because I was the only one
who didn’t believe the rumour about her.

I didn’t know about the rumour
because I didn’t talk to anyone.

i didn’t think she was my friend


When we started dating in sec four,
I found out

she cried every night
because of the rumour.

She was insecure inside
just like I was.

Looking at her now

made me suddenly think of this.


To the me who was sad that Brient vanished without a word,
she was my first friend.

She was kind.


‘I hate you,’
Ria says to me now.

She doesn’t get up from my seat.

‘Sorry lah,’
I say carelessly.

She clenches her hands into fists.

But eventually they relax
and her arms slides limply

off the table.

(It’s like she’s given up pretending to be fine.)

But I know
she’ll be kind to me again.

No matter what happened
in secondary school,

or what names people called her at the moment,
she’ll smile and pretend to be kind.

It’s not like I did anything wrong.

We were
friends for a while.

Time passed.

We should move on.


‘Clyde,’ she says, ‘I want–’
‘Get out of my seat,’ I say wearily.

That smile
or frown
or whatever
on her face

is what I think about

for the rest of the day.

Her first





Ria never looked for me to finish
that sentence.

I also didn’t see her for the rest of that day.

The next day,
I had a fever and didn’t go to school.

So I’m the last one
in the whole JC

to find out

that Ria Yung
went missing.


She never went home the day before.

No one saw her after recess.

Like a ghost,

she disappeared
without a trace.

Like Brient.
Like Brient.
Like Brient.

And I remember me saying to her,

‘I never said I loved you.’


I also remember

being the one
to suggest doing something about “suicide”
for project work.

For some reason
I feel relieved

because I remember Rowan changing the topic

to “happiness”.




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