Guiltily Content (Bevin Ng)

First, the lizard, in the heat crusted room: laptop on one side and monitor on the other, its arms splayed out like mine, only it was plastered on the wall and I, stuck with a film of sweat, was on the floor. We’d just finished a long meeting. I’m going to let you go because lizards eat cockroaches. It seemed to notice my attention and skidded across the wall into the grey gap between the door. When it rained at last, I heard its rhythmic croak, I'm here I'm here.

Then I noticed the ants, little red ones - not fire ants - red like they’d eaten too many artificial strawberries, a pinkish hue. They crept along the shelf that I’d laid down to form a low desk and disappeared under the ant-sized gap between the floor and the wood. Was it because I had, against a decade of my mother’s threats, brought a bowl of cereal (with bits of dried fruit) into the room? They lined the kitchen sink too, queuing for morsels of hardened rice from the rim of a bowl or a drink from a fading rink of sweetened breakfast coffee. It’s not enough to squish them with tissue, you had to press them with your fingers first or flood them squirming with leftover soap suds. 

Twice, I was interrupted from video calls by cockroaches. It crossed the room audaciously then froze in shock under the shelf — I forgot my mask. I muted the call and shouted for dad who valiantly trapped it with his bare hands and danced victoriously downstairs to dispose of it. We’d broken the implicit agreement and now they were confused: isn’t this our home too? Maybe they were trying to meet their friends or make a foolhardy dash across the room for groceries. 

Then there’s the hair, so much of it in the room these days. Mine, black and with a wave, Ah Heng’s white and fine. I never see the nut brown or chestnut ones that grow out of his hind legs, or even the darker kopi-c splotch on his rump. He scuttles up obligingly whenever I say “toy” and fetches a chewed up rope, places it next to me or flings it forcefully back and forth between his teeth. Sometimes at dawn, he lays the germy thing by my head and runs noisy circles- wake up! We’re getting better at communicating, he’s learned another trick this month. When I say ‘kiss’, he rests his muzzle on my lap until I offer a piece of fruit - preferably watermelon - which he laps up gratefully and presses his nose insistently for another one. The trick works best when there’s food and it’s also become his way of saying, “I want some too.”


Bevin is presently examining stillness through performance and writing. She majored in theatre at SOTA and graduated with a B.A. in history of art from UCL. She is a public servant to the nation and a private servant to her dog, Ah Heng, whom she adopted in 2019.


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