By Loh Guan Liang
I started seeing her after I moved into the neighbourhood. Two things about her stood out: the formless dress that she probably slept in, day in, day out, and that curious swaying gait like she had no knees. You would see her at the nearby hawker centre during mealtimes with her Fairprice plastic bag, foisting tissue packets at you. Three for a dollar. I always shook my head so she could totter to the next table.
After the wall fans have finished blowing her round the hawker centre, she would sigh into a seat. A can of Coke—or iced lemon tea—or Sprite, depending on the drink stall’s charity—would then appear. The stall assistant plays her game well; he pretends to keep the old lottery tickets she fishes out of her bag. Keep the change. She would grin her hollow, haunted grin.
The hawker centre patrons have watched enough television to know that tissue paper peddlers were against the law. Even so, no one reported her. All the stallholders bent the rules for her. Everyone bent their gaze away from her. Together we bent light around her so she could disappear.
Loh Guan Liang is the author of two poetry collections: Transparent Strangers (Math Paper Press, 2012) and Bitter Punch (Ethos Books, 2016). He also co-translated Art Studio (Math Paper Press, 2014), a Chinese novel by Singapore Cultural Medallion recipient Yeng Pway Ngon. Winner of the 2011 Moving Words poetry competition organised by SMRT and The Literary Centre, he updates at http://lohguanliang.weebly.com