Sometimes, I thought, strange things happen.
After Mum’s death, I had not celebrated my birthday. I would spend the day daydreaming or watching television. Landy did know when my birthday was; but strangely, she never once made an effort to celebrate it with me.
However, that year, it was special. I had gone to school as usual; absorbed in the tutor’s voice, immersed in the countless tutorials and listening to Jacky’s snores. When school ended, Jacky approached me. He was half smiling and not looking into my eyes. That was the first time I saw embarrassment in him.
“Hi, Joanna, well…” He opened his bag and took out a wrapped box. It was rather small and the wrapping was done exquisitely. It was tied with a red ribbon. “Happy…happy bird—bird-day,” he said and held the box with both his hands towards me.
I took a step back, inspected the box and then eyed him. A long silence took over. Jacky’s head was still hanging low. After a few seconds, he bit his teeth and whispered, “Take it, quick! I’m going to pee if you don’t take it!”
Finally, I took the present. “Thanks,” I said. It was light and the box was hard. It had to be plastic.
“I’ve got to go,” he said and went off, leaving me alone with the box. “I’m not embarrassed! I’m really not embarrassed! I just need to pee! Just, just wear it every day lah!” he yelled as he was far away from me.
Hey, idiot, the toilet is not that direction.
I went home and, with Landy, we opened the present. It was a branded watch. From then on, I wore the watch almost every time I went out. It became part of my life.
That silly guy. What’s there to be embarrassed about?
* * *
Jacky accompanied me when I went for my next appointment with Dr Ong.
“How was the therapy with Mr Kam?” Dr Ong asked.
“I cursed him.”
Dr Ong did not seem worried. He wrote something on his file. “Good. Okay, I remember you once said you’ve got a best friend called Landy who is ‘immune’ to your curse?”
“Can you get her to meet me on your next appointment?”
“I don’t think there’s a need—”
“Doctor’s order. It will help a lot. Okay?”
I nodded reluctantly. When I told Jacky about it, he said he was eager about meeting Landy too. And I felt something. Like some minor anger, with Landy’s image
Is that feeling…jealousy?
* * *
When more strange things happened, I knew my life had changed.
On one of the days, I woke up very early in the morning. Having nothing to do, I took out almost every food in the fridge. Then I took three slices of wholemeal bread and began to make a sandwich with all the fillings.
I completed my ten-centimetre-tall sandwich after fifteen minutes and packed it into a box. Before lunch break that day, I had intended to pass Jacky the sandwich. But Jacky, as usual, ran to his favourite stall the moment we were released, so as to be first in the queue. After we had finished our meal, I passed him the sandwich.
“You made it?”
I nodded, not looking at him. But I was curious to see his expression, so I stole a quick look at him, and I saw the most beautiful expression ever.
His eyes were red. He was munching the sandwich as if he had not eaten for days—when he had just finished a large bowl of noodles. He kept looking at me.
“Is it nice?” I asked.
“Too nice,” he said, and suddenly I could hear his breathing. He was blinking a lot faster, as if to fight any tear. Maybe from eating too much. “Too nice. Just too bloody nice.”
* * *
“You made a sandwich for him? But you’re such a lousy cook! I meant, two months ago, you tried cooking instant noodles with egg and you didn’t even bother to crack open the egg. Wait a moment.” Landy leaned forward to me. I could not tell whether she was serious or not. “Did you actually use bread to make the sandwich? Or did you use sand?”
I pushed her away and laughed. “Bread. And yeah, by the way, Dr Ong wants to see you.”
“Me?” Landy crossed and uncrossed her legs a few times. “Why me?”
“I don’t know. You’re my best friend. My only friend. Maybe that’s why.”
“Can I…not go?”
“Come on, go. You’ll be able to see Jacky.”
“Oh, I know it now,” Landy said, throwing a few Mentos sweets into her mouth. “Jacky here, Jacky there. Okay then, I’ll go for you. Tell me, is that Dr Ong handsome? Is he married?”
“I didn’t see a ring, so I think he’s single and available. He has a body of steel and a nuclear-powered mind. But be careful: He spent his campus life learning how to read people’s mind. You won’t wanna play with his heart.”
“I love challenges.”
* * *
I was having my breakfast that day in school with Jacky beside me when my handphone rang. It was a nurse from CGC. After confirming my identity, she said, “You’ve got an appointment with Mr Kam this afternoon, right?”
“Yes,” I said and looked at Jacky. He had stopped eating and was staring at me. Mr Kam was the therapist I had cursed not too long ago.
“Mr Kam is on sick leave. He’ll be back next month. I’ve checked with Dr Ong, your doctor. He said he’d appoint another therapist for you. You’ve an appointment with Dr Ong tomorrow, right? He’ll brief you more on that. Therefore, your appointment with Mr Kam for this afternoon is cancelled.”
I nodded; I had been expecting that. Jacky’s mouth was wide open, trying to read something from my expression. I must have been frowning.
“And yes, Dr Ong reminds you to bring your friends along.”
“Friends?” I asked. I thought it was just Landy?
“Yes, that’ll be…Miss Landy and Mr Jacky.”
Oh. Jacky is just a friend.
“I will. Will do. Thanks.”
After I had told Jacky everything, he shrugged and then smiled. “Dr Kam must have a very high fever.”
“He broke his arm.”
“The nurse said that?”
“No, I didn’t ask—”
“Then let’s just presume that he has a very, very high fever, okay?” Jacky argued. “Please, Joanna. Mr Kam has a very high fever. Come on, repeat after me. Mr Kam has a very high—”
“—fever,” I said, feeling like a primary school child.
“No, you must repeat after me. Every single word. Mr Kam has a very high fever. Come on.”
“Mr Kam has a very high fever,” I said and then realized something.
When I was with Jacky, I felt like a child in a kindergarten. And he; he was neither the teacher, nor one of the children. He was the big brother who always stood outside the room, looking through the window, smiling, encouraging and giving me tips. And throughout the whole day, I would be staring at the window, wondering when I would be able to be with him again.
Oh shit. Have I lost my mind? What the hell am I thinking?