for Kopin Tan, who renounced his Singapore citizenship in October, 2018
The questionnaire required him to rank
his top three reasons. Children's education.
Property prices. NS. CPF.
Thinking the answers only acronyms
for the good life defined by Singapore,
he chose to write next to the label Others.
He could have said he was the very first
gay Asian columnist for Barron's, with
tens of thousands of followers, death threats
for dumping on the casinos, and he
threw over the stock market for his novel.
Or, more facetiously, he could have said
he liked Tate's cookies. Or, more tellingly,
the pictures of his SG friends and wives,
but when he posted on Facebook holiday
snaps of his husband, deafening silence.
They liked his cheesecake photos well enough.
They did not like the pics of Tom and him.
Being an aspiring writer, he could have
added the grace note of that special time,
his teens, nose in The Swimming Pool Library,
he read about sex in the changing room,
another swimming pool in an elite school
floated to mind, also the swimming trunks
suspended at the back of the classroom
to dry (hearing him speak, I saw again
the wing-cowering, petroleum-covered birds),
what made the younger female teachers blush.
The trunks spoke volumes: he the willing scribe
could just outline their bios in this form,
enough to rub some noses in the pubes.
Or else he could have added, for the record,
before reason number one, before zero,
he was a block away from World Trade Center,
doing an interview with some big shot,
in Marriot's Room 1703,
when the first tower chased a falling man
down to the ground, and everything the dust
covered turned white. Sprinting down, he was
out on the street to cover the event,
following his reporter's nose. Bodies,
or what could be identified as bodies,
leeched the life blood from his face. Strangers stripped
their dress shirts off for masks and doused them
from bottles given free by hotdog vendors.
The smoldering smell persisted on Wall Street
more than a month later. Once in a while
the subway car would hear a cry, and sob.
He bonded with his city then, I thought,
reading his article, a hymn of love,
a declaration, a new constitution
drawn up, and ratified by meeting Tom
in Therapy, the bar and not the shrink,
and marrying in New York's City Hall.
He could have said, gaily, and that is why
I'm turning in my passport and IC,
one long expired, but the other not,
and what he declared would have been a lie.
It would not have taken into account
the sad little bar squatting at the top
of Lucky Plaza, where men fell each night
into their drinks and could no way be dried.
The lonely hours of driving in a shell,
where was no standing up or lying down
but offered escape still, no questions asked
but Whitney's "Don't you wanna dance with me,"
on Nicoll Drive, which ran beside the coast
but wrote and rewrote O, number and letter.
Because of those drowned mouths, he was to write
for his one reason on the questionnaire
the criminalization of homo…
quantified those hours as 377
and graded his own answer with an A.
Note: 377A: The section of Singapore's Penal Code proscribing sex between men.
By Koh Jee LeongQLRS Vol. 18 No. 2 Apr 2019
Copyright © 2001-2023 The Authors