XXXIX | Persuasion

I only came to school today
because there’s a stupid project work briefing

Kumar asked me to attend.

It has nothing to do

with the rebuttal
I came up with last night

to infuriate Rowan.

Nothing to do


wanting to see her either.

Project work
is an A Level subject
that can get me

into a good university.

To support my point,
most of my friends

(the ones so busy partying they didn’t contact me)

are here in school too.

In any case,
Rowan doesn’t even
look at me
even though
I’m sitting
in the same row
as her.


The briefing ends

and i’m surrounded by friends
who blot her out of existence.

Nora’s smiling.

‘Did something good happen?’
I ask.

‘I got a new phone,’ is her reply.

She wants
to take a picture
of all of us.

Ming is surprised that Kumar’s not here
but I am.

‘Usually, it’s the other way around.’

He sniggers.

‘Kumar taking notes for you.’

He elbows me.
‘You’ve got it bad.’

A cold glare in return.
‘You’ve got it wrong.’

It’s no surprise that we see
Jasper and Mike.

They’re the good kids
who don’t play with us much.

Math Olympiad,
top scorers in every subject,
very busy.

Mike puts an arm around Shuhui.
‘Glad you came.’

She scowls.

Says something about project work being important for A Levels.

‘I don’t come to school,
‘but I’m smarter than Kumar, ass!’


Arms around each other,
Jasper’s climbing onto Ming’s back,

the girls making
weird hand gestures,

Nora snaps the photo.

Pretti yells for her to be in it too
and she gets someone else
to take the photo.

She squeezes beside me,

hand holding my arm,

face close to mine.

She’s still using the same shampoo.

It’s nostalgic.

I miss them
even though it hasn’t been that long
I last saw them.

It feels like





And also,
I feel a bit out of place.




We’re leaving school together.

It’s too hot
to play soccer
so we go
to an arcade

where it’s loud and bright and noisy

but with machines
instead of people,

with games
instead of alcohol.

Ming leans over and yells over the noise,

‘Jerry wants us to go to Tom’s bar tonight.’

‘Let’s go!’ I yell back.

Ming disappears
behind the flashing lights
to tell everyone.


I see someone

I don’t expect

to see here.

She’s staring at a claw machine
moving on its own,

the claw has gone crazy

snapping at a toy, pulling away,
snapping at a toy, pulling away,
snapping at a toy, pulling away.

She’s transfixed.

‘What are you doing here?’
I ask.

‘Did you follow me?’

Her expressionless expression
reveals nothing.

‘The machine is spoilt,’ she says.

I can see that.

‘What did you do?’

She shakes her head.
‘I put in a token. Then, it went crazy.’

I push on the joystick.

The claw moves a bit

and stops.

I gesture to her.

She gives me
an incomprehensible look.

I stick my hands in my pockets.

‘You haven’t been to an arcade before,
‘have you?’

She shakes her head.

‘There’s a way to get extra tokens.’
I whisper in her ear.


The tips of her ears
turn red.

She’s so simple.

‘You brought me to your “real” world to see

‘but you yourself don’t know
the truth.’

She tilts her head up.

‘I do.’

She’s shorter.
There’s no way

she can look down on me.

I lean close to her face,

trapping her
between my arms
and the machine,

‘Come with me tonight,’
I whisper into her ear.

‘I’ll show you the truth.’

She pushes my head away.

I smile.


‘Where are you going?’
A demand.

I shrug.

‘It’s fine if you have church activities

‘Go hang out with your donkeys.’

I start to leave.

Shuhui’s watching me
from the other side.

‘Even after what you’ve seen
‘that’s what you think?!’

She’s yelling.

I want to look at her expression
but I only

turn my head slightly.


‘You’re a christian, right?
‘Hanging out with people like yourself
‘is what you do best, isn’t it?’


Her voice is soft.

I almost don’t hear her
over the screaming

‘Loving people,’ she says.
‘Caring about them.’


I walk up to her again.

There’s no expression
on her face anymore.

Missed it.

I threaten her,
‘Then why don’t you love me?’

She’s quiet.

I tilt my head.

‘Why? Did your God
‘reject me already?’


I’m startled by her


I corner her with my arms again.

‘Then why don’t you take a look
‘at the truth of my world
‘and love everybody in it?’


like hot coals.




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