Wednesday, April 18, 2007

邻居

I bumped into him a few months ago when we both took the same lift home late at night. I remember thinking it had been years since I last met him, and we exchanged pleasantries and he said he had been overseas helping out his brother's business. It was very successful and doing well, he said. I was still in ST then, and had to quickly explain why I had a camera slung across my shoulder.


The same thing happened again tonight. I recognised his shape as I approached the lift, and smiled as he turned around and recognised me.

"Where's your camera?"

More small talk as the lift chugged along slowly. It turns out he's in real estate now.

"Here take my namecards and give them out."

"Ok I'll call you if I ever have to interview a real estate agent."

He handed me too many, and I used my foot to keep the lift door open and tried to return some.

"Ha, its fine, I've got thousands of these."


Was it really more than ten years ago when we were friends? Sitting next to each other on the around the green table in our chinese tuition teacher's house, egging each other to slack off? A decade since we took turns to lie on the couch and rest as the other was having 听写?

We used to race downstairs after tuition, to see if the lift could beat a human sprinting down 13 flights of stairs at breakneck speed. As far as I recall, it never could.

I can't remember why we had classes together. Maybe the timings was mixed up. It didn't matter since we were the same age and learning the same things.

There was an incident when we were hanging out at the staircase metres away from my flat and I fell on the stairs and hit my ribs on the edge of the steps. I was in so much pain I begged him to call the ambulance, but he just looked slightly shocked and didn't. I think I was pissed off. But the pain subsided and so did my anger.

I don't remember talking to him much after that period. We grew up I suppose, that awkward secondary school phase when you didn't smile unless yhou had to.

Well, not until tonight anyway. I thought it was nice. I liked the idea of interviewing my neighbours.



I reached home and gave his namecards to my Mom.

She took one look and raised an eyebrow.

"Oh so he's released already?"

"Released? From where?"



So it was all a lie.

When I throwing waterbombs and living out the next awkward phase of my life in JC he was robbing and molesting women in my neighbourhood. He was convicted, dealt a jail sentence too painful to consider for someone at that age and a horrifying number of cane strokes.

I dug it all up online and read the details in disbelief. It wasn't just petty theft. It was violent and horrific. He attacked one woman in the lift, led her to a staircase landing, bound, gagged, stripped and molested her.

His namecards are still stacked on my desk in front of me.

Its still the same face that sat across from me as we read aloud dizzying chinese characters in a small HDB apartment.

So as I had my first boyfriend, got drunk in clubs, contemplated which career I'd go into, he was sitting in a jail cell waiting to be released on good behaviour. I can only try to imagine what it is like to have lost all those years.

Our lives ran parallel once. Where did it all go wrong?


I don't know how I'll react if we meet in the lift again.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

are you judging him

panaphobic said...

i think he's been judged enough already.

Anonymous said...

hi. i wasn't thinking abt doing anything to you while in the lift. i am a changed person. when will i ever get the chance to show i can be a good person?

Anonymous said...

...when you learn not to lie.