before we go to the train station


before we go to the train station

our first stop is the crossing just outside school; our 
flimsy canvas shoes slapping sleepily down the steps, 
blinking critically low warnings on our laptops and 
the edges of our eyelids. we hang back only for a second,
mouthing dreams, the hopeless kind that make us run 
late for school—before our feet shift and we are stumbling

towards the big red walkman on the other side, blinking 
against his static screen with the big scary it flashing on 
his mask. we are too blinded to take notice; we stroll with
all the confidence of someone immortal and we make it
assuredly, safely, just as we always do. our second stop is

the next crossing before the train station, and we have one
breath to decide whether to throw ourselves into the race
for the green light or wait, on painful legs, for the next. as
we stamp across the asphalt it is a breathless, stupid, pointless 
sprint to the finish line. suspended in the crossroads; we get 
nothing in return but the promise of tomorrow. we make

faces at those still lingering in shadowy puddles of the tree 
where we learnt the sky wasn’t all that wide; where rain turns
luminous, slices skin for blinking photos, chews on souls until
naked and tender. for many of us that is our hidden second 
stop; where secrets are exchanged and placed in the fleshy
parts of our cheekbones. the third stop is the final, uneventful 
crossing, where the rain broke over us and we were sliding over

damp tiles as if the memory has already taken hold; cool and bright 
like a flinch. we wound up so drenched we made up a fourth stop to 
find the MRT toilets and strip sponges from our feet, wringing our 
umbrellas like laundry to dry. walking to the next stop we felt showered,
our shoulders a little easier. susceptible to the occasional giggle. our 
voices splintered, worn and fraying at the ends like on early mornings 
without coffee or anything to say so our nonsense comes singing;

a lightness we can only explain when it’s too late. as we took 
the travelator drunk on feeling a laughing mood, i lost count 
of a beat of my heart and tripped back as if expecting to be 
caught and instead finding bruises on metal ridges. my mouth
parted and i sparked with the pain of living. it was my birthday, 
and i loved it. then we are on the train home—to our fifth, last 

stop, the real destination. but no! no, wait i don’t want it to be. 
if we exposed the innards of our footsteps and took a closer look 
we would find all our individual maps; marking all the places we 
walked during the season of goodbyes, all the routes we take with 
our eyes closed and our hearts peeling, all the routes we choose to 
no longer take. we would find all the times our feet slowed, grew a 
little heavier, a little steadier in the half-glow of the outside. we would 

find all the stops we pass through quietly, listening to the sunsets, 
counting the days so far things have gotten better, in our heads 
planning to stay up to see how our dreams really begin but already 
falling asleep; yes, these stops, they aren’t just stops: they’re places. 
we may be on our own ways home but always we will arrive back to
our first stop, our second our third our fourth our fifth. go ahead, 
take my hand! i don’t care. we’ll make it back here anyway. 

Rochelle Lee Ruo Xuan (Class of 2022) is a Film student from the second batch of LA. She is a lover of bookstores and writing mood poetry. Her train poem may or may not be based on true stories.