We needed something to cover the naked floor
delighted though we were with the concrete space
having moved from a smaller box occupied by others.
When a relative offered unwanted linoleum tiles
we gratefully accepted and my five-year-old arms carted
manfully the light and dark brown squares to the taxi.
With no floor plan in mind, my dad tore the paper off
and stuck a sticky tile experimentally to the floor.
The horizontal stripes were improvised side by side
before mother suggested an alternating pattern,
a prettier pattern. By then too many had been laid down
to start all over again, as a compromise, they co-existed.
We made the conscious aesthetic decision to tile
my parents' bedroom with light brown, which ran out
before the door and so the last square was the darker shade.
Tiles crawled out of line because of earlier mistakes
impossible to correct without ripping up everything.
I cut strips of tiles to complete the jigsaw dishonestly.
I remember my father stopping work. He went out
to the corridor to smoke a quiet cigarette, looked through
the doorway to see the whole extent of the work.
Afterwards, the inevitable flaws appeared: slits that seemed
trivial in the heat of work became permanent fissures.
That came later. Tiling made us simply grateful.
By Koh Jee LeongQLRS Vol. 2 No. 2 Jan 2003
Copyright © 2001-2023 The Authors