Maybe it’s because I wanted to stay here in Singapore, even when I lost my job right as when the collective shit hit the fan. My parents, out of concern, want me to be back home. During my weekly Skype calls with them, they’d oh-so subtly hint at them—that there are still plane tickets back to Miri, that the borders might close, that my Social Visit Pass would soon expire. It’d be my last chance. My father would continue on reassuring me: he still has his job, there’ll be enough for all of us at home. At the very least, we’ll be together. My mother would look at me intently, her lips pursed, her frown as deep as my father’s.

I was adamant about staying. They weren’t happy about that. I understand. A parent would want their child to be home. But I was done with their constant insistence about what they think is best for me. Yes, I know it’s out of love. But I needed to get out, to stop having their voices questioning everything I do, from how I spend my time to whom I hang out with. They’ve been doing it for literally my whole life now. Once, I screamed and kicked the dashboard of my father’s car, because he wouldn’t let me go to Bintang Megamall to meet my friends, even if it was a school holiday.

Go ahead and call me a spoiled brat. Besides, what have I got to lose by staying in Singapore?  The pandemic too, will pass.

So what do you do when you’re the extra in a science-fiction movie about the world ending. I often wondered about those people in those movies. What can you do when you’re not the protagonist, when it’s someone else’s movie? When who you are and everything you do probably doesn’t matter that much in the whole scheme of things? Do you just go home?

You don’t need to wonder too long about what’s at the back of my mind when there’s a daily count of the infected, and those who passed. I keep telling myself: it’s a small town, there’s no crowding there, it won’t spread that badly, they’ll be fine, I don’t need to go back, that they are not that old yet, they can take care of each other.

I didn’t want to just leave. When we came to Singapore for the first time when I was twelve, I was immediately in love with all the office towers at Raffles Place. I began drawing them at school, imagining one of my creations breathing among them. Then I set out to prove that I could do it, acing my Physics, and my English exams—since I heard that from an uncle that Singapore was a stickler for the language. I’ve seen those Singaporean TV shows where they frowned upon those who can’t speak properly. I already knew that it’s an unspoken expectation, that they can smell it.

I wanted my slogging through four years of architecture course in KL to mean something. Only last year I found an opening here, an assistant at a second-rate landscape architecture firm. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I knew I was getting close. Soon I would be creating something that’s worth putting on the front page of some magazine or newspaper, or at the very least I’d be designing a newfangled HDB block. I remember I looked at the overwrought curves of all the Zaha Hadid creations. I wanted to bend the world around me just like that. To have others solve my earthly needs, so I can move on to bigger things, so I can have better things.

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