Stories That Breathe


Lilith Ng Xin Yi

In Oxford School Dictionary, “justice” is defined as “being just: fair treatment”.


In my dictionary, justice is not about giving that terrorist the death sentence.
In my dictionary, justice is not about jailing that rapist.
In my dictionary, justice is not about punishing that boy who bullied the girl.

In my dictionary, justice is about fighting for yourself. Just yourself.
In my world, Lady Justice doesn’t do her job; I do her job.

If I were born as a deer, I would hunt and kill tigers.
If I were born into a poor family, I would rob the wealthy of their riches.
If I were born without legs, I would break everyone’s legs.
If I were born hearing-impaired, I would slice off everyone’s ears.

That is justice.

My name is Lilith Ng and I am HIV-positive.


Soon afterward the young son of the king took ill. Said Nebuchadnezzar, “Heal my son. If you don’t, I will kill you.”
The Alphabet of Ben-Sira


(Almighty Lilith, oh Lilith, the seducer.)

Like a predator observing its prey, I eyed the man; my thumbs hooked on the pockets of my jeans. I watched how the man stole looks at me, how he tried his best to appear inconspicuous.

The pub was dimly lit, with loud music playing in the background. Almost all the seats were taken, for it was a Saturday night. A few guys sitting three tables away from me were giggling, with one of them pointing his chin in my direction.

“I,” I said. I had put on minimum makeup that day, having intended to go for the girl-next-door look. “Where’s my wallet?”

I bent down. The angle was perfect: His eyes would roam onto me, but his focus would be on my breasts. I pushed my hair back so that he would get a better view.

(Sow the seeds of justice.)

“Where is it?” I stood up, my eyes still scanning the floor. “Hey, did you—did you see a wallet?” Flustered, worried and angry: the emotions of a woman who has just lost her wallet. “Did you see a wallet? It’s a brown Gucci. I—it should be somewhere around here…”

“What happened?”

Finally, I lifted my head upon hearing his voice, my body still bending forward. “I lost my wallet. It should be somewhere around here.”

“Oh.” The man looked exactly like the perfect student union leader in university: a short spiky hairdo, chiselled jaw line, suntanned skin and an ensemble of branded goods—an Armani Exchange shirt paired with Levi’s jeans.

“Did you see it around here? It’s a brown Gucci wallet.” I, on the other hand, looked like the freshman he had always fantasized about in school every day: a low-cut T-shirt and a pair of leg-hugging Levi’s.
“No, not really.” He glanced around me.

“Oh my God.” I stepped back, blinking fast as if trying to control my tears. “It’s lost and I’ve got no money to go home!”

The man combed the floor around me and looked like he could lose his balance anytime.

(Let the world be equal.)

“Forget it. Forget it!” I thrust all my fingers into my long, straight hair. The man’s gaze moved from my eyes to my chest and then back to my eyes. “I want to go home now. First, my boyfriend ditched me. Then, I flunked my exams. My friend deserted me for her boyfriend halfway through our ladies’ night. And now, I’ve lost my wallet. There is not a cent on me to get a taxi home!”

“Erm, well,” the man said slowly, “if you don’t mind, I can send you home. I drive. I know exactly how it feels to lose a wallet. I’ve lost a dozen in my short lifetime.” He then chuckled.

“It’s okay.” I eyed the bartender. The bartender looked away immediately.

“Seriously, I would really like to send you home.”

“Really?” I scratched the back of my head as if I was hesitating. “That would be nice. But what about your friends who came with you…”

“They went home.” He had come in with three male friends who had gone out for a smoke just a few minutes ago.

“Let’s get out of here fast then,” I said. “I hate everything here.”

“Well.” He leaned towards me and whispered, “Me too. Except you.”

(Craft my soul the same shadow)

* * *

That day, my name was Catherine Lim Siew Fang.

“I’m currently an undergraduate at NUS,” the man said while we were in his car. He drove a two-door black Honda Integra, a model that had been discontinued. “I run a small business.”

“Whoa. Really?” I said. “Oh my God, you’re so talented. Young student entrepreneur!”

“Ha.” He turned the steering wheel with one hand and shook his head. “Nope, just bitten by the entrepreneurship bug. You? What are you doing now?”

“Full-time student at SIM,” I said. Before stepping out of my house that day, I had already crafted a complete new image of myself: I did not miss out a single detail, even down to the minute details of my previous “boyfriend”. “Lost my parents in a car accident when I was young. Oh, you know something? I’ve always admired guys who start their own business. Life is all about risks and I think guys who like to take the risk are”—I paused, as if trying to find a word—“sexy.”

(And mould their essence the same silhouette)

When we reached my carpark, I asked if he wanted to come up for a cup of coffee. “Usually at this time…my boyfriend would be with me. But he’s no longer here. I cannot stand the loneliness.”

The man, Zhi Wei, beamed. “Sure, why not?”

* * *

(And gravely due so.)

The moment we stepped into my room, Zhi Wei wasted no time when he saw that the house was empty. It was obvious what we wanted when we started to pet in the lift. It started without both of us being aware: One moment, we were discussing about his talent in juggling schoolwork and business, and when the lift reached the sixth floor, my hand was between his legs and he was groaning with pleasure.

He did not go for a bath and neither did I. Of course, we did not use a condom. I told him that it was safe. Our sex lasted for about thirty minutes and after it ended, he asked me about my life.

I then started to tell him about my so-called pathetic life: how much I missed my parents, how I often sank into self-pity and how much love I needed daily after my boyfriend left me.

But, of course, that is the life of Catherine Lim and I’m not any fucking Catherine Lim.


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