Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
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Vol. 1 No. 1 Oct 2001

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By Lin Hongen

He did not dare to open her letter.

Standing on the MRT platform, red Outdoor duffel bag at his feet, leaning on a ceramic tiled pillar, soft breeze in his face. For the umpteenth time his free hand straightened his white shirt, cursing silently when his hand brushed roughly across the edges of his college badge, pinned limply on a corner of the shirt pocket. Undeterred, the free hand went on with the task of pushing every stubborn strand of hair into conformity. Task accomplished, the free hand descended to nudge his spectacles up the ridge of his nose, already slippery with sweat.

And in his other hand, five fingers clutched tightly at the white envelope.

It was not the first time he had faced such a dilemma. A dilemma of both wanting and not wanting to open the envelope, afraid of the contents; fearful of the consequences; aware of the potential heartbreak.

A flicker of movement caught his peripheral eye, and he turned to find yellow letters on the previously empty message board. " Marina South S01". The train was arriving soon.

He looked down at the envelope as the train pulled into the station, seemingly unstoppable until it came to a muffled, controlled halt. His gaze was transfixed on the envelope he held, not caring for his hair, coaxed to untidiness by the wake of the incoming train. He could only think of the letter, and what turn in his life it would bring. The envelope was bare, but he knew whatever it contained was addressed straight to his heart.

A mechanical swoosh, and cold air rushed out to embrace him, beckoning him into a fast-moving, unrelenting, sanitised world.

I'll read the letter on the train, he thought, stepping away from the afternoon heat into the chilly confines of the MRT train. He put down the bag and leaned against a pole, straightening his uniform and smoothening his hair. As his fear grew stronger, his heartbeat faster, as trepidation bit into his self-composed confidence, only one thought flashed mindlessly in his head.

Yes, on the train.

That schoolboy's wearing those expensive new shoes. Those yellow linings... doesn't fit with his all-white uniform. Looks out of place. Keeps adjusting his uniform. His hair too... my hair is still all right. Maybe when I reach Orchard MRT station I'll put some more gel. That watch he's wearing... isn't that a... metallic silver Rolex? I can't believe it! A student wearing a Rolex! Rich kid.

Look at him... the label on his pants... he's from one of the top colleges. No wonder he looks so snobbish. That's an envelope he is holding. Wonder what it is. Some scholarship or bursary maybe, judging from the way he holds it. So tight. Knuckles are whitening.

Oh no. What time is it already... five thirty. Phew. Can reach Orchard on time. Really scared that she will not be there. Wonder if she really meant it when she said yes last night... sounded so distant. Hope she hasn't found a new boyfriend. No she better not... but she's so pretty... wonder if we can be together again. What if she likes someone else now? What then?

Bought her this bouquet of flowers, like what I used to give her in the past. Later bringing her to her favourite Japanese restaurant. She likes that restaurant very much. Buy her a teddy bear later from Isetan Lido. Try to tell her how I feel. That should patch things up.

I hope.

*I'llbeyourdreamI'llbeyourwishI'llbeyourfantasyI'llbeyourhope I'llbeyourlovebeeverythingthatyouneedIloveyoumorewithevery breathtrulymadlydeeply*

(He's definitely going to meet his girlfriend.)

*IwanttostandwithyouonamountainIwanttobathewithyouinthe seaIwanttolaylikethisforever*

(Maybe she's not his girlfriend. Nobody buys flowers unless it's Valentines' day, the first date, or when things get rough.) [Sardonic chuckle.]

*Thetearsofjoyforallthepleasureinthecertaintythatwe're surroundedbythecomfortandprotectionofthehighestpowersin lonelyhoursthetearsdevouryou*

(Things were never like that with Jennifer around. She was such a nice girl... did what I say hurt her so much?)

*IwanttostandwithyouonamountainIwanttobathewithyouinthe seaIwanttolaylikethisforeveruntiltheskyfallsdownonme*

(How long has it been? Three years? Goodness...)

*She'stakinghertimemakingupthereasonstojustifyallthehurt insideguesssheknowsfromthesmilesandthelookintheireyes everyone'sgotatheoryaboutthebitterone*

(That long.)

*Butsomewhereinaprivateplaceshepacksherbagsforouterspace andnowshe'swaitingfortherightkindofpilottocomeandshe'll saytohim*

(How long do I have to hide behind these sunglasses?)

*She'ssayingIwouldflyyoutothemoonandbackifyou'llbeif you'llbemybabygotaticketforaworldwherewebelongsowould youbemybaby*

(That girl seating there on the row opposite the guy with the flowers... she's wearing sunglasses too.)


(Nobody wears sunglasses in here. Not unless they have something to hide.)


(Like me.)


Oh my goodness. It really is him.

Oh no.

Does he know I'm here?

No. He doesn't.

He doesn't know I'm here.

Thank goodness for my sunglasses and my new haircut.

He can't recognise me.

He still looks the way he was months ago. That gelled hair... so artificial. Wonder why I ever liked him. Was it those cheap flowers he always gave me... goodness! He has a bunch with him right now... or the way he tried to act posh by bringing me to that Japanese restaurant?

How could I have ever liked him? Just look at him. Can't believe I actually mixed around with people like him. What was it in him that I found so attractive about? Shapeless body... unlike Phil....

I should have known better. Why did I ever agree to go out with him last night over the phone? Must have been mad. Out of sheer boredom? The weekends I spend with Phil.... so much better than those days with this idiot with gelled hair. My Gucci sunglasses; Reds haircut; Prada handbag: Omega watch; Lancome make-up. Could this man who could only indulge in flowers and Japanese food cared for me like Phil?

I was happy with the times I had with him.

But I am happier with my tangible wealth.

If not for Phil I wonder where I would ever be now... probably enough flowers to bury myself in....

I love you for what you can give me, Phil.

Now, if only you could listen to me the way this fool could...

Five forty-five already. No need to worry. Won't be late.

How am I going to tell her that I love her very much? And that I really missed her for all these months we've been apart? Of the long nights I spent lying awake in wonder?

So much I want to tell her. So many thoughts. But yet all my words will choke when I come face to face with her. Always this problem talking to her. Stammering all the time.

I hope she has been well all this while. Couldn't ask her over the phone last night. Too nervous. Hand was shaking like a vibrating pager. Always been like that. I'll try very hard to change all these today. For her I'll willing to. It's a new beginning after all.

Sure miss those times we spent together, especially those evenings on the breakwaters along the beach, quietly listening to her telling me about herself, her childhood, and her aspirations... those were the days.

What was it that broke us up? We were so happy together.

That shiny, sparkling ring I saw on her finger when I unexpectedly met her last week. A gift from someone? She told me once that she loved diamonds... but she always said that having any didn't matter, because it was the relationship, the happy moments we spent together, that would matter the most. Diamonds you could lose. Memories you could not, lest you forgot.

She left without a word, and that was what that hurt me the most...

That guy standing there. Wow. His Walkman is really turned up loud. I can hear his songs even from here. Crazy fellow. And he's wearing those brand of sunglasses with mirror-like lenses. Very stylish. I'll buy a pair someday. Have to save some money first.

The boy wearing the all-white uniform is finally opening that envelope he has been holding. His deliberate slowness...

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QLRS Vol. 1 No. 1 Oct 2001


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Other Short Stories In This Issue

Jasmine's Father
By Paul Tan.

Frenzy and a Dinner from the Fridge
By Ng Shing Yi.

Even the Air is Still
By Daren Shiau.


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