Shame

Written by Varrick Kwang
Art by Steven Arenas


I let myself relax in the hard plastic of the train seat as I opened my file to look at the piece of paper that I had won through five years of university education. I struggle not to fall asleep in this seat as the air-conditioner blows onto my sweaty body. I worked for a tech company part-time for the entire duration of university. I was a worker ant, a damn good one. But I am ashamed of that. 

Every one of my life decisions has been ruled by fear. 

I never stood up to the bullies in school because I was scared of fighting. I was scared of the pain. I was scared of the trouble I would get into. I was scared of getting yelled at by my teachers and my parents. If only I understood back then how it was the one who didn’t want to fight that got beaten up the most. 

I chose to work for that engineering diploma because of “job security” and because people around me say the money is great. I feared that I would be that poor guy starving on the streets if I went after my impractical dreams.

I remember vividly that I once told an acquaintance about my dreams of opening a cat cafe. The aroma of coffee beans, the presence of cats and the ambient atmosphere would make everyone happy. Cat lovers, young and old alike, would give the cats company, and the cats would have a joyful home with people taking care of them. 

I let him laugh and walk away from me, for I knew I did not have it in me to deal with the consequences I did not dare to face the possibility of him hitting back as well. Nevertheless, I stopped talking to him. 

Now, as I slump in my seat a little more, I bask in the light of the train’s ceiling as if I was sunbathing and let go of the tension I have been holding in my body. I lift my mask for a second to wipe the sweat that has condensed on my nose and cheeks before I shut my eyes. 

I let my mind reach beyond the traincarriage, to pretend that I am letting my soul travel the world. That I am no longer bound to the limitations of my neural-mechanisms of fear, the pandemic that has ravaged the world and the script of society that chains me to their demands. I saw the world in a minute without anything else other than my mind’s eye. 

Every one of my decisions I’ve made has led me up to this point- almost falling asleep in the seat, all alone. I’m still burning by my own cowardice in my soul.

I’m not getting any younger, I’m still afraid of what comes next.

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