XXI | No Choice

The barista
who made our coffee
is new,

Shuhui says.

That’s why the coffee’s so badly calibrated.

We’re in the handicapped toilet.


It’s cold.
A bit dusty.

I got her
to leave her cigarette

Her lips still taste like ash.

Ash and crayon.

She smells like flowers though.
‘Life sucks,’
she whispers.

For some reason,
that sets me on fire.

I don’t know
how much of what I remember

is her voice

and how much
is my thoughts.

If I could do anything in the world,
I’d die right now.

There’s so many things I haven’t experienced
but we’re stuck in this #*%& hellhole.

I’m rotting.

You’re so pretty.
It would be nice if everyone’s like you.

Existing would be less horrible
if we get to do whatever we want.

I always knew
that we were very much alike.

If I was different
maybe I could have chosen
a different option.

But this is

who I am,
and this what I did.

We made love
in a handicapped toilet

in an empty cafe

in a lonely district

somewhere in Singapore.




After that,

we sit and watch one lone star
drift across the sky

—it’s the biggest star i’ve ever seen.

We’ve overshadowed
by the height of the office building.


cigarette smoke would
add a film of clouds to the nightscape

but otherwise,

we were small Lego people
in a still, unmoving world.


‘It’s not a star.’

Shuhui breaks the silence.

A puff of smoke.

‘It’s a plane.’

Bile rises in my throat.


the whole time we were curled around each other

I was looking behind her

at the slimy corner
where the wall meets the floor
in viscous

Her flushed face,
Her smile after climax,

I don’t remember it.

The whole time

she was breathing
she was speaking
(or was that me?)

I was looking at that corner.


It’s not a star.
It’s a plane.



She points at it with her cigarette.

The star
has moved an inch

across the sky.

The new barista who can’t make coffee
tells us to leave and locks the café door.

He’s closing up.

We sit in the atrium of the basement,
watch him leave.

A panicky feeling
rises in my chest,

like that breathlessness
when I ran from Rowan.

What happened to her after I left?

‘Shuhui…’ I begin.

She turns to me.

I don’t know what to say.
We’re just friends.
What will she make of it?

          Rowan and I are friends?
          Like you and I?

A thin white string of smoke
defies gravity.

Rises from her cigarette,
dissipates against fluorescent lights.


Her yellow contacts
remind me of the moon.

There’s no moon today.

There’s usually no moon.

We leave the building.

the crickets sing.

She loses interest
in walking forward
and turns

to the invisible symphony

in the lightless fields
beyond chainlink fences.

The hair curled over one yellow eye
sways languidly.

She turns to the darkness
beyond the chainlink fences.

Her beautiful back,
bathed in light,
yellow eyes glowing.


‘Hey Clyde,’
her voice disturbs the crickets.

‘I’m not going to school next week. Wanna join?’

Me: Where?
She: Just around Singapore.
Me: How long?
She: The whole week.

I think about Rowan.

I think about our project work group.

I think about the feather.

When she took off my t-shirt,
Shuhui had asked about it.

I told her about Rowan.

While we #*%&ed.

She laughed.
She laughed for a long time without stopping.

I had to kiss her so she’d shut up.

You’re so romantic,
she said.

‘Can’t. Sorry, Shuhui.’

She put the cigarette back into her mouth.

‘I knew you’d say that.’




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