Oranges and Lemons
The Dhobi Ghaut metro station was empty. It was the odd hour. Most people would be at work. Celine was going home after cooking lunch at the Chinese restaurant. She got into the train and sat close to the door. It would be easier to get off.
At Serangoon, the crowds poured in like torrents of sudden tropical rain. She loved the crowds like she loved the rain.. When attentive, she could isolate the familiar voices: the schoolchildren, the couple, the mother with her kids, and the group of co –workers.
Four more stops to go. She listened to the conversations around her. She heard the couple smile as they spoke. The woman was doing most of the talking. Can we buy the larger red lamp for the Chinese New year? Her voice was persuasive. You know my parents will be visiting us and we need to buy gifts for them and my sister. The man sounded apologetic. What do we buy for ourselves? She had a pout in her voice. A pair of oranges for you and me, is that not enough? He tried to placate her. This year too? The woman sounded disappointed.
The public system announced Celine's destination. She could have missed her stop. She got up and moved to the door, reaching out instinctively to counter balance the movement of the train, careful not to step on another’s foot. She often thought of herself as the ballerina of crowded trains.
At the neighborhood fruit shop, she bought herself an orange. Back home, she walked with impatience to her desk. The dialogue between the couple offered her a different subplot . She reached out to her keyboard with its keys in Braille.
As the clock chimed eight, the cat leaped onto her lap and mewed. She laughed as she got up. Too bad the cat does not like oranges, she thought as she made her way to her kitchenette. Fortunately, they both liked fish for dinner.
Pratima Balabhadrapathruni is a poet and writer from Singapore.