There was a long silence. Jacky stroked me gently on my back, as if it would help to stop my sobbing. At that moment, I really wished I would wake up in the comfort of my bed and realize that everything, from my father’s death to Jacky’s hug, had just been a dream.
I guessed I had regretted telling Jacky everything. No one knew about all this except Landy. I had tried so hard to bury my past, but Jacky’s persistence had caused me to dig it out. I pushed Jacky away, knowing I could not lay my head on his shoulder forever. To my surprise, he was wearing a smile, not at all surprised by my story.
“And you believe that you caused the death of your mother? Because of the ‘curse’ that you have?” he said.
“Silly, Joanna. There’s a word known as ‘coincidence’. It just happened to be a coincidence.”
I shook my head. “A few days after my mother’s death, I had a quarrel with one of my friends. In the midst of the quarrel, I…” I paused again. It was hard to dig a past that had been buried for so long. “I said, ‘You’re so stubborn, your boyfriend is gonna leave you soon!’ A few days later, her boyfriend broke up with her.”
“Well, two coincidences.”
“I once scolded a taxi driver for reckless driving. I said he would soon get into an accident if he continued to drive that way. He ignored my warning and the next day, the newspaper reported that a taxi had smashed into a tree. Luckily, the taxi driver suffered no serious injury. I’ve always hoped they were just coincidences, Jacky. It’s not. It’s a curse. I’m cursed. Every bad thing I say will come true.”
“That’s the reason why you’re so quiet? So…introverted?”
I nodded. “More or less. Trust me, they’re not coincidences. There’re more examples of my curse. I dare not talk, for fear that I may ‘accidentally’ curse others. It’s not my fault.”
Jacky bit his lip. A few seconds later, he said, “You once said you’ve got friends outside JC. Is it true?”
“Just one. Her name is Landy. Strangely…” I stopped, wondering if I should tell Jacky about Landy. Since I have already told him so much, why not tell him about Landy too? “She isn’t affected by my curses. I have accidentally cursed her a few times, but she seems to be immune to them. Nothing happened to her after my curses. Hence, she has always been my best friend. She was the lady who walked past you earlier.”
I told him more about Landy, on how we first met and how she visited me regularly. “My grandmother will open the door for her when I’m not in. However, my grandmother always forgets that she has opened the door for her. She has poor memory and bad eyesight.”
“Landy must have been a good friend to come by for a chat.”
“So, she knows about your ‘curse’ as well? And encourages you to avoid talking to others?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “She has seen how people suffered from my curse. That’s the reason why she prefers me to keep quiet.”
“Okay,” Jacky muttered, then closed his eyes, obviously trying to think of something to say.
I stared at his closed eyes. Why have I told him so much? Maybe it was to tell him the reason why I did not like the idea of an impromptu play. Maybe it was also to tell him that my quietness was not my fault. Maybe to let him paint a better image of me in his mind.
“Remember your promise just now?” he suddenly said, interrupting my thoughts.
“Okay, believe in me now. Say this after me, ‘I don’t have a curse.’”
“Remember your promise!” he exclaimed. “Now, repeat after me. Say, ‘I don’t have a curse.’”
I guessed I just had to play along to humour him. “I don’t have a curse. Silly.”
“No! Just say, ‘I don’t have a curse.’ No ‘silly’. Come on, try again.”
I shrugged. Is he childish or am I too mature? “I don’t have a curse.”
“Good. Now say, ‘I am just having a minor mental illness that can be cured after seeing a psychiatrist.’”
“No!” I yelled. “No, I, you…you—” I stopped myself at that very moment. I was going to say, “You idiot,” but that would equate to cursing him. I just glared at him, wanting so much to scold him. “I’m not sick.”
“Believe in me. Remember your promise? Believe in me! Say after me!”
“I’m not sick.”
“Believe in me. Believe me! You’ll not fail if you believe!”
“I’m not sick. I’m cursed.”
Once again, I fell into silence. A minute later, I decided to give in. “I don’t have a curse. I am just having a minor mental illness that can be cured after seeing a psychiatrist.”
Jacky nodded. “Good. I’ll call the psychiatrist tomorrow, and we’ll book an appointment, okay? I’ll accompany you to the psychiatrist.”
“What?” I yelled instantly. “No way!”
“Look, Joanna, there’re still five more minutes to the hour. You should still believe me, okay? You need a doctor.”
“No, I don’t!”
“Then prove me wrong! If the doctor can’t cure you, then I’ll give up!”
I had never seen a psychiatrist before. To me, a psychiatrist looked like the beautiful Kelly Chen, the actress who acted as one in the movie Infernal Affairs. She would just listen and the patient would do the talking. The patient would feel better after taking some medication and he or she would be cured. Silly, isn’t it? How can anyone’s mental illness get better after saying something and popping a few pills? I could not believe that Jacky had just suggested me to do that.
“No,” I said.
“I’ll go with you. Every appointment. Please.”
He will go with me? I pondered on that. For the longest period, I had always been alone. Suddenly, a silly weirdo had just proposed to accompany me for those silly appointments. I frowned, lowering my eyebrows.
“Are you trying to break my routine? Change my life?”
“Yes. I wanna break your routine. I wanna change your life.”
That was getting sillier. What could he possibly do? I guessed the best he could do was to mess up my life. Like suggesting that I should see a psychiatrist. Silly, silly Jacky. Really silly. Asking me to believe in him, to believe that he will be able to change my life…
“… for the better,” he added suddenly.
For the better? I looked up. Maybe I was trying to avoid him. But all of a sudden, I said, “When is the first appointment?”
Wait…what the hell?
He told me he had to check everything first. Upon our agreement, we descended the pyramid and made our way to the bus stop. After waiting for a few minutes, we realized that it was close to one in the morning.
“Sorry, I don’t have enough cash with me,” he said.
His face brightened up. “Then I’ll walk you home, and I’ll walk home after that!”
I wanted so much to smile. To laugh at his silly antics. However, I just nodded. We were at West Coast and my house was at Jurong West. It would take more than an hour.
We started the long walk talking about many things. This was the first time I had spoken so much to another person other than Landy since my parents’ death. Jacky said that he was the only child in his family. His father had died of cancer when he was just seven; hence, he had a very close relationship with his mother.
He said he had learnt many things when his father was dying. He told me how precious life could be, and said that we all came into this world for a purpose. “Happiness and sadness are not caused by your surroundings. They’re caused by your thinking,” he reasoned.
When I asked him about his plans for the future, he gave me an answer that surprised me. “My plans for the future? Make you smile. Do something meaningful.”
We reached my house after an hour. He was totally exhausted: His forehead was peppered with beads of sweat, but he was still smiling despite his tiredness. “I’ll call you,” he said. “I’ll call you and tell you when we’ll meet up for the appointment. I’ll…see you around, eh?”
“Yeah,” I said. I realized he still had a long way to go from my house to his house at Jurong East. “You want me to get some cash for you to take a taxi?”
I had expected him to say yes. He was massaging his neck and looked as if he wanted to vomit. However, he kept his pride and muttered, “No, I’ll walk home. It’s good exercise.”
“Well, good for you. See you.”
After he left, I took a bath. Landy was in my room, sleeping soundly on my bed. After my bath, the doorbell rang. It was 2.15 a.m. Who could it be? I looked through the peephole. It was Jacky.
“Hey,” he said, resting his back on the wall. His face was ashen, as if he had just seen a ghost. His lips seemed to be wet and he smelled of puke. “Can you lend me twenty dollars? I’ll return it to you tomorrow.”
I passed him the money. “Return me something else. Not the twenty dollars. Something else that is worth twenty dollars.” What am I talking about? Sometimes, I felt that I said stupid things to him.
“Okay,” he said, saluting. “I’ll return you something else. Something that twenty dollars can’t buy.”
With that, he went off. I stared at the last of his shadow and, before I closed my door, I did something I had never expected myself to do.
I smiled to myself.