I could not sleep that night, so I began to count sheep, drink warm milk and study my economics notes. It did not help. After playing a loud slow song that woke Grandma up (she called it a din), I decided not to sleep. After all, I had to wake up early the next day for school.
It was, by then, four in the morning. Several flats were lighting up, getting ready for the day. I looked at my handphone to check for new SMSes. There was no new SMS. I frowned and SMSed Jacky, “Good night, good morning, Mr Wu.”
Why the heck have I done that? For fun? No; in my dictionary, the word “fun” does not exist. Argh.
I spent the next two hours surfing the Internet, checking my handphone, watching television, checking my handphone again, playing online games and checking my handphone once more. At last, at six, I received an SMS. It was from Jacky.
I deleted the SMS and then spent the next ten minutes trying to restore deleted SMSes. There was no such function. Silly me.
* * *
Jacky was “pretending” to be normal to me in school.
It was as if the long conversation we had had never occurred. He put on his trademarked smile to class as usual and joked his time off. When lunch break came, he bought me my soya bean milk and I could avoid the strangeness no more. I asked, “Why are you acting so strangely today?”
“Strangely?” he said. “I’m not! I’m not even acting.”
“You are,” I retorted, wondering if I had just accidentally “cursed” him. After thinking about it, I figured I had not, so I continued, “You used to be so…” I stopped. It was not him. It is me.
I had suddenly wanted him to pay more attention to me. To talk to me more. To joke with me more. He was just being himself. What is wrong with me?
“I’m sorry,” I said as I looked at my plate of rice, ashamed to face him. Something was wrong, but I chose to ignore it. “So, when is the…appointment?”
“I’m calling them later.”
“You’ll…come with me, correct? As you promised?”
Although I was not looking at him, I knew he must have been showing me that silly toothy grin again. “I promise. I’ll come with you for every session. Every single session. Every…”
“Good,” I said, “good, damn good.”
* * *
I woke up from my doze. The tutor’s monotonous voice was amplified to the entire hall. I took a few seconds to register my situation and looked up. It was Michael, one of my classmates who wrote the script for the play. He was sitting in front of me, his head turned. Jacky was snoring beside me, his cheek kissing the table. He was always sleeping in lectures.
“Hey, Joanna,” he repeated, as if I was still napping. “You there?”
“Are you okay?” he whispered.
I nodded again. “Why?”
“Well, it’s because—”
Jacky jumped out from his sleep and grabbed Michael’s neck. I had never seen him moving so fast before. “Don’t harm her!” he shouted.
His outburst attracted everyone’s attention. Students who were sleeping woke up. The tutor stopped talking and stared at Jacky with his eyes wide open, obviously surprised by Jacky’s action. Michael did not struggle. He was staring at Jacky in disbelief.
After a few seconds of silence, Jacky let go and sat down while Michael scratched his head. They did not exchange a single word. A few whispers from the students killed the silence.
“As you all can see, the point when demand is…” the tutor continued as if nothing had happened.
“Hey, Mike,” Jacky whispered. Michael wheeled round and faced Jacky. He did not seem afraid. “I’m sorry. I had a silly dream. You know, Mr Tan’s voice can turn a sweet dream into a nightmare.”
“I know. I understand. That’s why I dare not sleep when Mr Tan is lecturing. By the way, what dream did you just have? Who’s the ‘her’?” Michael asked.
“Yeah, who’s the ‘her’?” I asked as well. Must have been out of curiosity.
“I…forgot. It might be a ‘him’ or an ‘it’. You know, you always forget your dreams.”
Michael laughed. “Yeah. Anyway, Joanna, I was about to ask you…are you okay?”
“What’s wrong?” Jacky and I said together.
“Well, it’s just that…you’ve smiled five times today. And, I’ve seen you smile less than ten times despite knowing you for more than six months. It’s a bit…unusual?”
“Well, Michael”—Jacky licked his lips in delight—“she’s going to smile more in the future. I promise you that.”
And, all of a sudden, I smiled.
* * *
“It’s called Child Guidance Clinic, commonly known as CGC. This psychiatric clinic provides consultation and treatment to people aged nineteen and below. It’s under the Institute of Mental Health. The price is cheaper as the Government will subsidize a large portion of the cost. I’ve booked an appointment for you.”
Jacky passed me a sheet of paper. There was a map, a date and a time. “The clinic is in Singapore General Hospital. Pretty close to our school, so we’ll have no problem getting there after school. And this.” He passed me another sheet of paper. It was an official appointment letter issued by the clinic. “We’ll need that to enter the clinic.”
“Isn’t that place meant to be for children?”
“No, that’s the misconception that most people have. The CGC also accepts teenage patients, as long as you have the will to be cured. The age requirement is nineteen and below. And you qualify. Okay?”
I read the official appointment letter. The first appointment was on a Tuesday morning when we had school.
“No worries about that. We’ll be applying for an official leave from our school.”
“Well, on that day, we will both be ill. And we’ll ‘buy’ MCs from two doctors so that you can see another doctor, the psychiatrist. Isn’t that official enough?”
“And when the psychiatrist asks you to choose the next appointment date, give him a date that you and I can go together without missing any lesson. Okay?”
“Great.” As he was about to leave, I stopped him. “Huh?”
“Look, Jacky…” My eyes met his and I whispered, “Thank you. For everything.”
“My gosh, you’re close to tears.” He took a step closer to me and tapped my head. “Come on, it’s nothing much, okay? Cool it.”
“Hey, Joanna.” He turned serious. “You must understand, I’m doing this because I wanna help you, okay? I want you to believe in yourself and others. Just that. We cannot be a couple. You cannot be my girlfriend. I have my reason. So, don’t you ever fall in love with me, okay?”
Fuck. Damn. Ass. Bastard. Idiot. Silly, damn, fucking bastard ass idiot!
“I’ll never fall in love with you!” I yelled back at the top of my voice. “I’ll never love you! And you!” I pointed at his chest, and then pounded his chest repeatedly. “Don’t you fall in love with me! Don’t you turn back and tell me, ‘I love you!’ You hear me, Jacky Wu Zhong Xian? You hear me? I, Joanna Fung Wai Gwan, will never, ever fall in love with Jacky Wu Zhong Xian!”
“Calm down,” he whispered.
“And you, Jacky Wu Zhong Xian, you’d better don’t fall in love with me, ‘coz I’ll never love you!” I gave him a final punch before I stepped back. My heart was beating a lot faster and my body was jerking up and down uncontrollably. “You cannot be my boyfriend! I have my reasons! Okay! Don’t fall in love with me!”
I turned and ran off. A few tears fell. And as I ran, I tore up the two sheets of paper that Jacky had given me.