corridor

Guardian of the corridor

People know that I exist, but never seem to notice me much. This allows me to silently observe and be aware of all the comings and goings that happen in my block.

I listen to all the whisperings, but never contribute. I watch all the happenings, but do not partake in them.

I am visible, but invisible at the same time.

Perhaps it is in this way that I am not so different from the murderer. After all, the police didn’t have anything on him. He was an unknown stranger who walked amongst us, hiding in plain sight. Visible, but invisible.

Last week, he struck again. All the police knew was that it was a man who had been targeting females.

Claire was his most recent victim.

I overheard the neighbours talking it. “Her body was sliced open. Poor Claire. How could anybody be so cruel?”

I’ve been warned not to wander when it gets dark. “Jo, don’t go out past ten OK? There are so many perverts out there.”

I didn’t understand. Why should my freedom be curtailed just because some people are unable to control their impulses and sick desires? Don’t tell me not to wander, because that’s not the real problem.

Teach the killers not to kill.

***

A week later, the neighbourhood had seemed to move on from the murder and the block was buzzing with chatter about James.

It’s almost astounding how quickly the world moves on from one trivial event to another. Humans talk about how some animals do not have episodic memory, but don’t humans forget too?

James lives on the same floor as me. A Vietnamese woman had recently moved in with him. From what I understood, Ivy was his Vietnamese wife.

I heard a neighbour say, “James earns so much but so what? He can’t find love.” Another person added, “He can’t find, so he buy lor. The woman is just after his money.”

Unlike some of the more obnoxious neighbours who spread vicious rumours about the foreign bride, I find Ivy to be a sweet and good-natured. Sometimes, she sees me along the corridor and she stops to say hello. On certain days, she offers me some of the food she has prepared. We don’t talk because I don’t speak her language, but I understand her intentions when she gestures to the food she has made. Kindness is a universal language.

Ever since Ivy’s arrival, James’ face is no longer dull and ashen. His voice is upbeat when he greets us on the corridor.

Humans cope with loneliness and the need for companionship in different ways -Why do we not look upon the old lady who buys a puppy with disdain? Is love no longer love when dollars are forked out for the arrangement? What do we know that makes us worthy to judge relationships that look different from ours?

James and Ivy take care of one another and find joy in spending time with each other. From what I see, Ivy and James have plenty of love in their heart.

Sometimes that is all that matters.

***

Rumour has it that Kurt and Andrew are not just best friends, but lovers.

It started when Kurt moved in with Andrew – Kurt said this would be temporary because his flat was undergoing renovation. But Kurt never left, even after months had passed.

I was at the lift lobby when I heard a neighbour quip: “Eh, they gay ah?”

One neighbour said that he had never seen Andrew with a woman before, but added “But he looks straight leh!” Another had insisted that they were gay, because “If not, why they stay with each other?”

Perhaps I knew more than the neighbours did. For a split second, I had a glimpse into the private lives of Kurt and Andrew.

I remember it being a particularly warm night. As I passed their flat on the corridor, I witnessed them sharing a kiss on the sofa. A kiss on the lips typically signifies that two people share romantic affection for each other.

It was Kurt who noticed me at the corridor.

I stopped in my tracks and stared mutely at the pair, unsure how to react or proceed.

Kurt and Andrew exchanged glances, then broke into a chuckle. “I don’t think Josephine is the type to judge us.” Andrew said.

Kurt smiled at me. “Goodnight, Josephine.” He got up and closed the door behind them.

Kurt was right, I wasn’t the type to judge. There are many things I see about humans that baffle me, but we don’t necessarily need to judge what is different from what we are used to.

***

It was around five-thirty in the afternoon when I recognised Ivy’s scream. I dashed out of my house in the direction of the scream. It led me to the corner staircase.

Ivy stood face-to-face with a man. This man had a blade in one hand and a mask over his face. Lily lay splayed open on the steps as blood gushed from her wounds.

The man’s eyes widened in shock when he saw Ivy. He swung the blade at her and motioned for her to stay back. Ivy raised her hands and pleaded with the man to not hurt her. Distraught by the blood and the man brandishing his blade, she began to sob violently.

Afraid that this would draw attention, the man panicked and tried to flee.

I was quick on my feet. Running past Ivy, I leapt at the murderer and bit down hard on his calf. He let out a scream as the pain shot up his leg. As the man struggled to get me out of the way, this bought some time for Ivy to get help.

In the confusion of the tussle, he dropped the blade and tripped over his own feet, falling flat on his face. Kurt burst in just as the man was down on the floor. He seized the man’s arms and pinned him down. “Call the police!” He said to Ivy.

When the police officers arrived, Ivy explained everything. She lifted me up and carried me, stroking my head as she told them how I bit the murderer, buying her some time for her to get help from Kurt, who happened to be home at that time.

The cat murderer had finally been stopped by the unlikeliest combination of heroes.

I noticed that people have started opening up to Ivy and Kurt once they were recognised as the heroes of the neighbourhood. “They caught the murderer. They so brave ah? I heard he had a knife eh.” “Ya! Lucky got them.”

It started with a smile, and then small talk. Gradually, the residents started having conversations at the lift lobby, in the corridors. Then, they exchanged food.

While I am glad that the neighbours have grown closer, I also feel slightly confused. Humans are so strange – They needed an incident like this before they were willing to interact with Ivy, Kurt and Andrew. Yet, after talking to them, the residents have realised that they are like each other in many ways. They have hopes, wants and fears. They enjoy a good meal, and look forward to spending time with their loved ones.

All this could have taken place in the beginning if they had just talked to them instead of talking about them!

Since the incident, the residents have also started calling me “Guardian of the corridor”. Some would give me treats and rub my belly. These days I am not longer invisible, but I still quietly observe. I prick up my ears and pick up on all the murmurs that the wind carries.

3d775032-0e7d-4462-aa79-6e8b0d76b10c.jpg