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

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Dysfunctional
Page 2

*Slipinsidetheeyeofyourminddon'tyouknowyoumightfindabetter placetoplay*

(That guy with the flowers is looking at me. No way he can tell I'm looking back at him with my Oakleys on.)

*Yousaidthatyou'veneverbeenofallthethingsthatyou'veseen theyslowlyfadeaway*

(Yellow AirMax95s. That student is wearing them. Doesn't match his uniform though. And that red bag. And that silver Rolex! Obviously trying to beat everyone else wearing Tag Heuers... wonder what else he has inside his bag. But... everything he has doesn't match with everything else. He looks like one of those who buy things looking at price tags.)

*SoI'llstartarevolutionfrommybedcuzyousaidthebrains Ihadwenttomyheadstepoutsidesummertime'sinbloomstandup besidethefireplacetakethatlookfromoffyourfaceyouain't evergonnaburnmyheartout*

(He's reading a letter.)

*Andsosallycanwaitsheknowsit'stoolateaswe'rewalkingon byhersoulslidesawaybutdon'tlookbackinangerIheardyousay*

(Strange way he's doing it, reading a few lines and then looking away for a while.)

*Takemetotheplacewhereyougowherenobodyknows wherenobodyknowsifit'snightorday*

(He doesn't want to read it.)

*Pleasedon'tputyourlifeinthehandsofarockandrollband who'llthrowitallaway*

(That glazed look. I've seen that before.)

*It'syouthatIadoreyou'llalwaysbemywhoreyou'llbethemotherto mychild*

(He's holding back his tears. Good job.)

*Lovelygirlyou'rethebeautyinmyworldwithoutyou therearen'treasonslefttofind*

(That despondent look... hadn't I seen that before two years ago, in the mirror one miserable Saturday night?)

*AndI'llpullyourcrookedteethyou'llbeperfectjustlikeme you'llbealoverinmybedandaguntomyhead*

(You'll get over her buddy. It'll be difficult... but you'll see through your folly.)

*InyouIseedirtyinyouIcountstarsinyouIfeelsoprettyinyou ItastegodinyouIfeelsohungryinyouIcrashcars*

(Or you'll end up like me.)

*Drinkingmercurytothemysteryofallthatyoushouldeverseek tofindlovelygirlyou'rethemurderinmyworlddressingcoffins forthesoulsI'veleftbehindintimewemustneverbeapart*


I'm not going to get off at Orchard.

I'll get Phil to change our telephone number.

I don't want anymore of the dumb flowers or crappy Japanese food. Phil will learn to listen to me sooner or later.

Phil's diamond ring is just like the happy moments I had with this guy. Except that others can admire and drool at the diamond ring, whose envy can fuel my pride.

With barely happy thoughts my happiness is fleeting.

I'm not going to get off at Orchard.


*Icouldstayawakejusttohearyoubreathingwatchyousmile whileyouaresleepingwhileyou'refarawayanddreamingIcould spendmylifeinthissweetsurrenderIcouldstaylosttothismoment foreverwelleverymomentspentwithyouisamomentItreasure*

(What does my surroundings sound like?)

*Idon'twannaclosemyeyesIdon'twannafallasleepcause I'dmissyoubabyandIdon'twannamissathing*

(I want to know.)

[He cautiously removes his earphones, and finally hears what the world around him sounds like -- carefully muffled screeching of the train's rails; children weaving between the metal poles oblivious to their mothers' raised voices; announcements by a disembodied voice, informing him of his imminent arrival at his destination. He stands silent, unaccustomed to all these seemingly foreign sounds. He shakes his head and puts the earphones back on, returning to his fast-moving, unrelenting, sanitised sonic world.]

*Idon'twannamissonesmileIdon'twannamissonekisswell IjustwannabewithyourightherewithyoujustlikethisIjust wannaholdyouclosefeelyourheartsoclosetomineandjust stayhereinthismomentforalltherestoftime*

(What noise.)

*I...I...allmybagsarepackedI'mreadytogoI'mstanding hereoutsideyourdoorIhatetowakeyouuptosaygoodbyebut thedawnisbreakin'thisearlymornthetaxi'swaitin'he's blowin'hishornalreadyI'msolonesomeIcoulddie*

(Why are my earphones so soft now?) [Pushes earphones deeper into ears.]

*Sokissmeandsmileformetellmethatyou'llwaitformehold melikeyou'llneverletmegocauseI'mleavingonajetplane don'tknowwhenI'llbebackagainohbabeIhatetogo*

(Must have adjusted the volume.) [But the volume is already at maximum.]

*I...there'ssomanytimesI'veletyoudownsomanytimesI've playedaroundItellyounowtheydon'tmeanathingeveryplace IgoIthinkofyoueverysongIsingIsingforyouwhenIcomeback I'llwearyourweddingring*

(Then it must be the batteries... need to change them.) [Self-deluded, he does not see the battery power indicator cheerfully display full battery power.]

*Nowthetimehascometoleaveyouonemoretimeletme kissyoucloseyoureyesI'llbeonmywaydreamaboutthe daystocomewhenIwon'thavetoleavealoneaboutthetime whenIdon'thavetosay...*


I'm five minutes early. Good. My hair is perfect. The flowers are still fresh. There's so much I want to tell her... and yet so many feelings that I'll never find enough words for all of them... just to see her again... I can hardly wait...


His luxury of hope was gone. It was as certain as the departing train behind him; as surely as the neatly written words he had read over and over again in the past half an hour.

The first few words said it all: "I'm sorry, but we can never be together... Another line drove the nail home: "...I'm really not worth waiting for... Who was? He replaced the letter in its envelope, and put it into his red duffel bag.

For such an unceremonious end to months of speculation and hope, he was shocked that he felt nothing at all. Perhaps it was the realisation of the cost he had paid to arrive at this conclusion -- the responsibilities shrugged off; neglected assignments; impending examinations... matters he had so conveniently ignored to devote his time and energy into such expensive an episode. Opportunity cost, he had heard someone say before.

The escalator brought him away from a fast-moving, unrelenting, sanitised world into another.

At the MRT station there was a lot of people. Plenty of executives hurrying around. Students too, some holding hands. He unconsciously grit his teeth when he saw that, but he was already to numb to it, hardly aware of the distant emotions those images evoked.

Above him, the glass dome showed the fury of a tropical storm. His fast moving, unrelenting, sanitised world was about to become a wet one.

But all of the sudden his footsteps ceased, an awkward figure stationary in the middle of a crowded station. People banged into him from all sides, unaccustomed to someone not in a hurry as they were. After all, life was one constant flux of motion, hardly staying still unless they were waiting, seated, or asleep.

He stopped at his realisation, finally making an observation of the picture he had been in all his life.

Plenty of people everywhere.

People casting frantic looks around them, holding delicately wrapped bouquets; people leaning on the ebony marble pillars, waiting, watching; people with earphones and sunglasses, melting into other groups of people.


And strangely, even the people holding hands, adult or otherwise.


Everyone everywhere -- that same look on their faces.


Surreal, he thought.


Because none of them was smiling...


...and leaning on an ebony marble pillar in front of him, the sharp eyes of a dressed-up teenage girl traveled from the silver Rolex, to the yellow AirMax95s, and to the college badge before returning to the Rolex. She tried to imagine the weight of one on her wrist and, enjoying the sensation, immediately decided to stand differently.

Slowly, she took confident, well-practised steps forward...

...and on her powdered, photo-perfect face, an ambitious smile was beginning to form...

[Page 1 | Page 2]


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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