Stories That Breathe

A Singapore Love Story

Chapter 6

Jurong East

The doctor said that I had a seizure, and asked me whether I had had one before. I said no. He then said I could leave the hospital. Mummy demanded an explanation from the doctor for my seizure. The doctor said that if I had one more seizure, I should consult a doctor immediately. Eventually, when the doctor realized that Mummy would not give up without an explanation, he went on to tell her the technical aspects of seizure in a measured tone. Mummy nodded as if she understood and turned to me.

“And you!” Mummy, a balding woman in her thirties, screamed at me. As she continued, she ignored the stares from the people beside us. “What were you doing alone in Singapore Polytechnic? Where were your friends?”

As Mummy was pressuring me for an answer, Daddy came in dressed in his suit and tie. He usually wore that suit when he had to go for some important meeting. I wondered what had really occurred. I did not want my parents to know that I had been alone with Michael; they would have killed me. I decided to continue the role of a shocked girl, and hoped that they would forget about all this soon. Time would be the solution.

“What’s wrong?”

“The doctor said it’s seizure.”

“Seizure? She bit her tongue or what? Why is she here instead of a normal ward?”

We were in the observation ward. The beds were all cramped in a small room. The patients around me were awake, wearing their own clothes.

“She’s still in shock,” Daddy said. I nodded immediately.

“The doctor said she could go home,” Mummy said. She then turned to me. “You owe me an explanation.” My parents went off to settle some paperwork. I continued to stare at the door. I wanted to ask the doctor if someone, a teenager with greasy centre-parted hair, had been the one who sent me to the hospital. Then I wanted to ask him if that teenager was still in the hospital. If so, I wanted to see him. But when a doctor came in, I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep.

Two days after my seizure, I still did not know what had happened that day. All I knew was that Sherry had told my parents that she was with me, and that she had gone off earlier that day. Time, I realized, had really solved the problem.

On the third day, during my gate duty where I had to note down the names of students who were late, I saw someone in crutches hobbling towards the school at eight. He was wearing the school uniform. As he struggled towards me, I considered giving him a chance since he was injured. When I saw who he was, I knew I had to give him a chance.

“Why are you late?” I said with a smile. The other councillor who was supposed to be on duty with me had gone to the toilet. “You’re late by forty minutes.”

“Miss Noodles Valerie Yam Yixin, when I was walking here, I saw a word on the road,” Michael said, panting. “It said, ‘Slow.’ So I slowed down. You know, I am already very slow with these sticks. When I slowed down, six ants and two snails overtook me. My ego was totally bruised.”

I giggled.

“I helped you,” he continued. “I bribed Sherry with one dollar and sixty-three cents, because I know your rich parents will not allow you to meet a handsome man alone. So, Miss Noodles, to thank me, just let me walk in. Say you never see me; that I’m transparent.”

“You owe me an explanation.”

Michael walked in crutches towards the gate. “Yeah, today, after school, meet me at the smoking area.”

“Smoking area?”

“The place you saw me smoking.” Michael took painful steps in. “And you owe me a meal. Do you know that if not for me, you’d be damn rich now?”

“Why?”

“Coz I’ll send you at least a million dollars. I meant, burn a million dollars to you.”

* * *

That day, I glanced at my watch every five minutes. Between lessons, when the next teacher was not in yet, I tried to complete as much homework as possible. Kimberly, one of the pretentious school beauties who sat beside me, asked, “Why are you rushing your homework now? Is there any good show on TV tonight? Or are your parents bringing you to ‘show off’ to friends again?”

“I don’t want to bring them home to do.”

“I thought your life is all about doing schoolwork in school, and homework at home,” Kimberly said.

When I was dismissed, I had completed all my homework. I hurried straight to the smoking area. I must have been the first student to leave the school that day. As I marched towards the smoking area, I took out my maths textbook.

Michael was early. I thought he would be late. People were supposed to wait for him; not the other way around. When he saw me, his eyes sparkled. “Why so late?” he yelled with a cigarette in his hand. “I’ve been waiting for you for hours!”

“You said after school. We’ve just been dismissed.”

Michael laughed. “Idiot, it meant during the most boring period. That’s my rule. The hole next to the field is my gate. So you’re late!”

I shrugged.

“Say sorry!”

“Sorry.”

Michael laughed out loud. “People like you apologize for no fucking reason. You’re not in the wrong, you also apologize.”

“Whatever.” I sat beside him. Before meeting him, cigarette smoke always made me cough. However, this time, I did not cough.

“I’m having difficulties taking the bus, man. And I don’t have money to take a taxi. Can’t even work with this leg. Fuck, I thought walking to school is a twenty-minute walk. This morning, I spent bloody fifty-seven hours. I’m skipping school tomorrow.”

“That’s just an excuse,” I said. “You can get your parents to fetch you to school.”

“My parents have two cars, both Mercedes I think, but they can’t be used here,” Michael whispered.

During that time, I did not know what an off-peak car was. I only knew that some cars in Singapore could only be driven during the weekends, or at certain timings. Those cars were slightly cheaper. I presumed Michael’s parents drove those cars.

“You can’t skip school just because of that excuse!”

“Then what do you propose? You carry me to and fro school?”

I swallowed. “You can, erm, take the aeroplane. Just…come to school.”

Michael nearly choked. “The top student in Jurong Secondary School has a weird sense of humour. You must be one of those who cannot find a partner during PE lessons!”

“I can, erm…help you on the bus.”

“Don’t be crazy. You’ll need to come to the bus stop near my flat at 6.55 a.m. You can’t do it, because you can’t wake up so early. You’re so pampered. Every day your parents fetch you to school in an aeroplane.”

I slapped his bag softly. “I’m a student councillor, and I always go to school early. Tomorrow, 6.55 a.m. I’ll see you there.”

“Yeah, right. At 6.55 a.m., you’ll be at the bus stop near my flat. In your dreams.”

“Remember,” I whispered, “tomorrow, 6.55 a.m. at the bus stop near your flat. Late for one minute, and I’ll go off.”

“Yeah, right. If I see you there, Singapore will be snowing.”

I stood up. Michael shook his head and took another drag on his cigarette. “Well, then, let’s see a snowy Singapore. See you tomorrow, Michael Cheng Long Ming.”

I went home, did my revision and told Daddy not to drive me to school the next day. He was about to take me to the doctor when I told him that it was time for me to be independent. He smiled, patted my head and told Mummy the good news.

* * *

That morning, I spent thirty minutes to prepare myself, instead of my usual five minutes. I sneaked into my parents’ room, and when I could not find Mummy’s cosmetics, I rushed off. I was at the bus stop by 6.30 a.m., and Michael came at 7.15 a.m.—in a singlet and shorts.

“You really come?” He looked like he had just woken up. The bus stop was crowded with students looking at their watch repeatedly. When a bus arrived, the driver had to ask some of the students to take the next bus. Some adults in office attire did not even move towards the bus.

I flicked my fringe to the side. For the last three years, I had always tied my fringe back. That day, I let the fringe down. Many of my friends did that, and they were always caught by the teachers—or sometimes by me.

“Faster, go change into your uniform. We’ll take a taxi. Quick, five minutes!”

Michael pointed to his crutches. “Anyway, I haven’t brushed my teeth and shitted yet. I haven’t tried brushing my teeth and shitting at the same time before. I’m afraid I may brush my shit instead. And when I shit, I need to smoke. Go yourself, if not you’ll be late.”

When another bus came, almost everyone raced to board it. I strolled to an empty seat at the bus stop and sat on it. “I’ll stay here till you come down in your uniform.”

“Don’t be—”

“If you never come down, I’ll be waiting here forever. So, Michael Cheng Long Ming, are you going to go change or not?”

Siao char bor,” Michael whispered. It means “crazy woman” in Hokkien.

“I’m serious.”

“Then wait here forever.” Michael moved, with slow, careful steps, towards the lift.

That idiot.

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