Friday, November 6, 2009


"Hi!" He says cheerily. He is beaming, an honest smile on his face. "What're you doing here?"
"Oh sir, hello. Working part-time only sir, only on weekends sir."
"You sure?" He asks, concerned, because he truly does want to help.
"Oh yes sir, it is okay sir. I only live there." He points straight ahead to government apartments, his mind turning over images of his family, his children.
His boss relaxes, pats him on the shoulder and goes off to pay the bill for filling his Lexus up with a full tank.
As he keys in the numbers and fills the tank up with gas, he strains to peer through the window of the passenger seat; perhaps he might steal just a glimpse of this fortunate man's life. An imagery he can use, when he's lying awake and dreaming of how much better off he could be.
She squirms a little bit, brushes fringe out of her eyes and runs her left hand briefly over face.
This life, it's not hers. It doesn't belong to her, this life. It doesn't.

She balances her 13-month-old on her hip, rummaging through her handbag for that piece of paper. Giving up, she smiles weakly at her friend, sipping her caramel frappe right across from her. She watches her friend light a menthol cigarette and turns away for a second, before turning around to smile. Eying the O level students at the next table, and the stack of manila folders her friend has shoved under an arm, she says,
"You're lucky," pauses to think, sifting through her words carefully. "You have a long time yet."
And her friend, she stares at her, at her little boy, at all that she cannot have. But this life, it's not hers. It doesn't belong to her, this life. She's stolen it and it not hers, not really.

"Hey doll, you gonna finish that?" His words are slurred and his breath reeks of vomit and alcohol. There are spaces in his clothes where pockets should have been, iron-on patches of teddy bears, where expensive brand names once were.
He grabs the bottle of half finished beer even before I've finished shaking my head, curls up on the corner of Smith street and pulls a trash bag tightly around him like a blanket.
But this life, it's not mine. The means to pay for this beer, the handful of chips I leave unfinished on the table. This life, it is not mine and it is not mine to take for granted.

"And I was just wondering if you've got a minute to spare," her voice is posh, crisp, light. "Oh I've got more than that really," comes the reply, "I just wouldn't like to waste your time, you know?"
"Oh no," she laughs, "it's my job, really."
"Well," the person on the other line says, shuffling papers on his desk, "I'd like to arrange for a meeting with your director anyway. Whether or not you give me the whole spiel. Because honestly, I've wanted to call you guys for ages."
After the phone call she stretches, wanders to the window of her office. She stares at the empty ashtray, and glances over at her duffel bag which she knows doesn't contain any smokes.
But oh this life, it's not hers.
It's stolen, taken by force. This life, it's not her at all.

She's lying in a bathtub filled with warm water that's gone cold. A huge vertical line across her left wrist, and her journal, open to the last entry, balanced precariously on the lip of the tub. The bathroom, oh it's such a mess and surely grandma will fret over how to clean it all up. But there's just a hint of a smile on her face, her clothes soaked to the skin and a flash of silver on the floor of the bathtub, quiet and used.
And all she has are scars. Horizontal lines that are proof of her failings.
And this life, oh this life, this life, it's not hers.
It's not hers to have.

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