5PM, 261116, Before A Family Dinner

Every time it happened you told me
that it was alright. That this is how
the two of you clicked, like gears in
some semiconductor. And every time
I would think to myself of harmless bickering,
like couples did in the dramas you watched.
I found it funny once, as though the more
you fought the more you loved one another.

And I believed it. I really did. I took pride
in my loudness. I saw it as proof that I was
a child of these two irreplaceable souls.
I bore it as a badge of honor. Like the
families in old Old Maid decks. And when
you fought I would just wait it out like
it’s not a fucking big deal, like every
family in every house does this all
the time. I really came to see it as love.
How can you scold someone if you don’t
love them, you would tell me. I really trusted you.

Yet today you fought again. Over
some completely, inconsequential, shit.
Some nonsense about a mattress, or
is it some garbage about a car? Who
even knows. Not like you remember
why you fight or what you fought over.
So now Mum’s locked herself in and you
lie on the sofa the face of a dejected man.

I am ashamed to be alive yet I say nothing.
What can I say? I can’t come over and scold you
for losing your tempers. I can’t say anything
because you told me never to talk back to you.
You tell me to talk to you but you guys don’t listen.
The last time I was so anxious I couldn’t breathe,
so depressed I just lay there staring at the ceiling,
you told me to stop acting crazy and start acting
my age. And now I am that way, always an actor.
One lie begets another.

Well now I must point the question back at you.

You all have betrayed me. You have lied to me.
This is not the family I was shown growing
up. This is not a family. This is but a mash
of people who are related by blood but nothing
more, nothing at all. The children of two broken
families will surely make another. I remember
you told me how lucky I was that my family was
not like yours. And I held onto that, like flotsam
in the wake of a crash. But it, too, sinks. When I
look at others, I wonder, are our lives really that similar?

I ask myself.
Is this really alright?
Is it really alright?
Is it really alright?

I remember that time your fist landed next to my face,
my back to the storeroom door, back in our old HDB flat.
Now I can no longer tell if you missed me because you
had some restraint, or none at all.

I have opened my eyes.
I have learnt. This is not normal. You
are not alright. I taught myself to be
like you and now I must unlearn it all:
what I understood to be okay,
what I once held to be true,
what I mistook for passion,
what I thought was love.

Fear Of Your Empty Beer Glass

Once, you asked me
what I would want for myself;
I answered as you would have wanted,
i.e. mark of a man, a six-pack, job
that pays good money etc. 5Cs
and COE, a happy family. Another
time you asked me ridiculous koans:
what is the sound of two butts farting. If
a NSman shits in camo does anyone see it.
Infantile and tasteless, but very you.
You probably don’t remember that.
But I do, more than I should – I do
remember the days when you would
curse at late hours of the night, asking
to quit. Asking yourself was it right to
have picked up this job in one hand and
these burdens in another – sickened
uncles, greedy half-siblings, the beer gut.
Bosses. Weight gain and hair loss.
These are things you came to love,
despite your reluctance. Nights alone
at the bar, then sleeping in on Saturdays.
Kopi O. Coffee Black – like kopi but whiter.
Paternal pragmatism. Marvel movie marathons
at 4 in the morning. You would have been 50 that
night. So many questions you have not asked and I
have not answered. Will they mix your ashes in the
martini at Clarke Quay? Or Ann Siang Hill?
Or should I honour your life with Guinness
Gao Black Dog Graveyard sipped through a straw?
Should I buy the lots next to Mum’s en bloc
or should I merge the two a la corporate downsizing?
Does the company know? Will they replace you?
Should I arrange for prayers? Do you even
want prayers? How many half brothers do you
want to show up, their hands pawing over your chest
as though to find their missing sorrow?
Do you know that I have forgiven you?
Do I need to show it? Do you remember?
Have you ever forgiven yourself?
When I think of you, mysterious man,
surely, the answer, in truly your style,
is the same: “no, no, no –
it is enough.”

Prompt for SPWM Day 4. Answering prompts from Day 1 – 4 at once.