My phone makes a sound
across the room.


I run to the nameless chicken rice shop.


I reach the door
and pause,

one hand on the cool metal handle,

my reflection panting
in the black glass.

The door is opened before I am done composing myself.

I stumble inside,

into Rowan’s
expressionless eyes.

She doesn’t speak

and I don’t say anything either.

‘He’s upstairs.’

She brushes past me,
carrying her National Day tote bag.

I take a deep breath
when I reach Rowan’s room.

But there’s nothing to prepare myself for.

Kumar looks good.

The usual smile
on his face.

‘You’re fast, man,’ he says,
‘I just texted half an hour ago.’

I cross my arms.

His grin grows wider.

What else was I supposed to do?

I received a text
from an unknown number
that said:


Of course, I called a Grab
and ran like the wind.





‘How are you?’
he asks.
‘What’s been happening?’

I’m supposed to ask you that.

What do I say now?

‘Nothing much,’ I say.

‘I’ve been resting too.’

I decide to ask.
‘How are you?’

It feels blunt.
Not smooth at all.


Kumar looks down,
scratches his thumb.


Silence again.

Then he says,
in an attempt at conversation,

‘Rowan’s pretty nice,
‘despite what Jerry said.’

I nod absently.

‘A bit weird, the way she reacts and thinks.
‘but… I guess I’m grateful.’

A pause.

‘Also, thank you.’

I give him a bitter look.

‘For what?
‘Rowan found you.’

I point at the bed.

‘This is her house.’

His smile doesn’t falter.
It makes me

want to punch him.

‘She said you talked to my parents.’

He looks back down
at the blanket over his legs.
Bunches it up
in his hands.

‘Guess you know what happened now.’


A nervous laugh.

‘So, how are you going to spend your holiday?’
he asks.

Why are you thinking of that?

Aren’t you going to tell me
how you really feel?

I feel like
I don’t have the right

to ask him that.

‘Did Rowan tell you,’
I say instead,

‘That you’ll be staying here for the rest of the holiday?’

He nods.

‘I heard. Thanks.’

I look him over.

He looks normal
like that night never happened.

can’t be seen
at all.

‘Are you hungry?’ I ask.

He nods.

‘Chicken rice,’ is his order.


I’m sick of chicken rice.

He smiles. He’s like a kid.
                    He’s still a kid.
                    We are all still kids.

‘You can have Rowan if you want,’
I tell him.

He laughs.

(I can’t tell if it’s sincere.)

‘The great Clyde Darling
‘is giving me one of his chiobus?
‘What day is it?’

I mean it,
I say with my eyes.

His eyes turn sad.

He looks away.

‘You should listen when she talks.
‘She’s different from the christian girls we know.’


I don’t want to be in a relationship.
Not right now.

Hands in my jean pockets.

‘Don’t nag like her.’




Rowan tells Kumar
her father is downstairs if he needs anything

and we leave.

Rowan takes me
to the nearest hawker centre
because I don’t want to eat

chicken rice.

‘Where’s your bodyguard?’
I ask.

‘You’re not allowed
‘to be alone with me, right?’

She’s checking the bus app
with red ear tips.

‘He’s at camp.’

‘Got post already?
‘Where? What’s he doing?’

She: SCDF. Some medical thing.
Me: He’s no good at that leh.
She: Yeah. It’d be good if he gets better at it.
Me: NS is just two years of slavery, man.

The bus comes.

‘Now that life’s so peaceful,
‘and we have so much control over everything,

‘good things become bad
‘all because

‘our desires change.’

The bus sighs
and stops.


We aren’t going to the hawker centre.
We’ve been in the bus too long.

I stare at Rowan.

‘Not yet,’ she replies,
head never turning.

We alight at IMH.

‘Why?’ I demand.
‘Does this have anything to do with kumar?’

She doesn’t say anything.

It does.

We walk past the glass cube
to the building
where we volunteered before.

Rowan goes up to the counter,
asks about the man from that day.

What the #*%&?

We have better things to do.
Like getting lunch.

Her voice haunts me like a ghost:

Good things become bad
all because our desires change.


After a long wait,
my stomach is growling

Rowan’s clenched her hands so hard,
they turn white.

A nurse with a clipboard
looking frazzled,

smiles at us.

She reminds me of Kumar.

Is this the nurse from that day?

‘Rowan Lee?’

We walk over.
Rowan repeats her request.

She gives us another smile.

‘Sorry, he’s no longer here.
‘He’s passed on.’

For the second time

I see an expression
on Rowan’s face.


There’s no air-con in here
but the air turns cold.




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