Thursday, January 21, 2010


I sit on the recliner reading a book I borrowed a while back about how America's slowly losing the game of maintaining the moral high ground in a post-9/11 era when suddenly a rather loud blaring of Josh Groban's You Raise Me Up plays outside the left window. It's probably Ngee Ann Poly having some random fair, I think, as I move to look out the window.

I hear none of the cheers that followed a similar performance at a fair the polytechnic had a few weeks back of Jason Mraz's I'm Yours. Instead I look at the road beside the HDB blocks in front of the polytechnic and see two vans, a bunch of people - mostly Malays - and a few black-suited men. On the front of the frontmost van is a greyscale photograph of a rather old man, frame adorned by red and white flowers. The people are too far for me to clearly make out the emotions hanging on each of their faces. Some look forlorn to me. The black-suited men around the front van look solemn. The entire scene is silent save for Josh Groban.

The clouds are overcast and the rain begins to set in. It's a silent rain - the solemn kind you don't usually notice if you're looking elsewhere. From the third storey looking down you can see the stone pavement slowly turn a darker shade, drop by drop by drop. To an spectator, it almost feels like teardrops.

It doesn't seem the same for the people following the van, though I can only speculate as to their thoughts and feelings. One of the black-suited men directs the people onto a bus parked on the left (which I noticed only then) and opens up an umbrella for them. Another gets into the driver's seat of the front van, and the last one hurriedly picks up the photo from the front of the van and puts it just behind the windscreen - even the dead need shelter from nature. The frame remained at the front of the van, and a few flowers drop off from the top-right corner of the frame onto the roadside. No one seems to be concerned about the aesthetics of the frame at this point.

The road seems entirely empty now, save for the two vans, the bus and a black Mercedes following behind; probably the family. Josh Groban's still singing while the rain slowly gets stronger. The 3 vehicles slowly begin to move off. As the front van turns the corner, I see the casket. It's a beautiful one, though I cannot help but find it an inappropriate term to describe it. The wood is a deep auburn; newly lacquered with a subtle sheen to it. In the center lies a small golden cross, a lucid shine on a solemn surface.

Josh Groban sings at his loudest just before the van fully turns the corner and drives past the wall and my line of sight. The second van follows quickly, and the bus and Mercedes trail behind a slight bit. The windows are slightly darkened on the Mercedes and I can only see a faint silhouette of the family inside as it drives by - a silhouette as deep a black as the car, and perhaps themselves.

Silence comes almost immediately. The rain begins to lighten up the moment the cars disappear; an amazingly surreal transition. The sound of construction works starts again in the distance, along with what sounds like grass-cutting. Not a single person was left. Nothing of the twenty-over people that were just there moments ago. The only remains are a slightly wet pavement that's beginning to dry up and six flowers in the middle of the road - three red and three white.

After a while I look out the window again. There's a woman slowly walking from Ngee Ann Poly over, walking on the road. It's a perfectly normal day. She'd probably find it rather strange that there were six flowers lying on the road randomly, if she even noticed them in the first place. She never does - it doesn't ever cross her mind, even subconsciously, to look at the road on her right for any reason whatsoever.

It's probably a normal day to her - cool weather with a slight drizzle that conveniently cleared up the moment she left the polytechnic, little people along this path, a mostly empty carpark, and the faint sounds of construction works in the distance.

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